They call it the great American pastime. Frankly, I can’t understand the fascination with watching nine men on a hot summer day trying to hit a ball zinging towards them at ninety-eight miles per hour. Nor do I understand a season that begins in March and doesn’t end until late October, during which no less than one hundred and sixty-two games are played. Please understand I have attended some high-profile games in my life: summer of ’62, Washington Senators versus the New York Yankees at DC Stadium, Whitey Ford pitching, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris at bat. What do I remember from that game? Summer in Washington, hotter than hell, unbearably long, and couldn’t wait for the game to be over. In retrospect I saw some pretty great players, but at the time they were nothing special to me.
As a kid I tried out for Little League. My mother, having been a pretty formidable athlete in her own right, convinced the coach to try me out for pitcher. First pitch, batter hits a line drive right to my head. I’m practically out cold and crying like a baby as I limp off the field. As a teenager I tried out for Teener League. I’m catching, the batter swings and lets the bat fly – in my face of course – resulting in several stitches above my eye. Again, not a good start. The next year during tryouts a fast ball hits my right thumb and my hand swells up like a grapefruit. I’m convinced that baseball is a curse!
Now for a little more background. I was an unwitting baseball brat. My mother played semi-pro women’s baseball similar to that proclaimed in the film with Geena Davis as “A League of Their Own.” I was the team mascot, or the team pain-in-the-ass, depending on who you asked. I had to attend every game, and in the seventh-inning stretch my job was to pass the hat in lieu of admission. I sat on the bench with the players, had a very short attention span, repeatedly pissed off the coach, and needed a player assigned to keep an eye on me during each game. I could never focus enough to watch a whole game even though, like the Major League game in Washington, there was some pretty great baseball being played. In fact, my mom was hailed as one of the best pitchers in semi-pro ball in the east and was even recruited for the professional league. For me it was always another long, hot summer and I had better things on my mind.
In some ways I enjoy America’s pastime – like when the season draws to a close, fall is in the air, and the greatest sport in the world is reappearing on gridirons across the USA. But for now it’s only March, and another less-than-intriguing sports season is under way. Might as well hunker down for that inevitable long, hot summer. I do have other things to accomplish. If I can stay focused, maybe I’ll even write a book…