On baseballPosted: Friday, June 27, 2008
What is it about baseball, or base-e-bol as The Baby calls it? (He says it almost like Chico Escuela‘s “beisbol been berry berry good to me,” which Sammy Sosa would sometimes pay homage to in 1998.)
What is it about a late afternoon game under sunny skies and lightly breezy temperatures, about sharing a game with two people you adore and love, about a guy walking around with cold beer to sell you, about hot dogs, about soft-serve ice cream in miniature helmets, about no matter how much The Game pisses you off because of steroids, big-ego players and (shamefully) most of my fellow Yankee fans (not the Bleacher Creatures of the ’90s before alcohol was banned in Sections 37 to 43, but the loud-mouth and obnoxious ones lugging along in SUVs with Yankee decals on their trailer hitches; perhaps many Red Sox and Mets fans feel the same way about their cohorts)?
Despite all that, what is it that makes the game still great to see live, even if your toddler can only sit still in awe for an inning and-a-half? Is it the clichéd pastoral nature of a game that for the formative years of its inception was really a city game1? Is it summer evenings under a waning sun? Is it the pure simplicity and complexity of the game, the only major team sport without a clock?
Whatever, we took The Baby to his first real game last weekend. He can’t stop talking about it. Though this was his favorite part:
Hoboken, the birthplace of another American institution, Francis Albert Sinatra, has lobbied to be considered the home place of baseball [possibly the first big recorded game took place there on June 19, 1846, some 162 years ago last week], but its urban grit and anonymous proximity to New York City make it a poor competitor with upstate Cooperstown for the honor. In the minds of the American builders of baseball, the game needed the appeal of the woods and pastures, with the players retaining the posture of farmers and outdoorsmen. This image was more myth than reality: baseball was a city game.
Within a few miles and short ferry rides, the Knickerbockers could challenge teams like the Empires, Atlantics, Eagles, Putnams, Washingtons, Gothams, Eckfords, and Phantoms in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and New Jersey, whose rosters included men from the shops, factories, offices, and civil service of the metropolis. Some clubs were organized along ethnic lines, like soccer teams of future generations, but others represented trades or companies or neighborhoods.