Category Archives: America’s Pastime

IT FEELS LIKE CHRISTMAS EVE….

Baseball’s Showcase or Fall Classic as it has been historically termed,  comes to life beginning tomorrow night. After 162 regular seasonFB_IMG_1445889516448 games and two playoff series, only two teams remain standing. The World Series is also, in many ways, baseball’s last stand before the NFL seizes the attention of sports fans until next February when the cycle renews itself and 30 teams arrive in Florida or Arizona with the sole purpose of being one of the two teams here in 2016.

For fans like myself, it usually doesn’t matter whose playing. MLBtrophyBut this year, it feels like Christmas Eve now because we can anticipate a series of gifts that may leave us gasping for breath – as was the case last year when the Royals took the Giants to the final out of the seventh game with a final score of 1-0.

The first gift I want to see opened is the contest between the Met strike out pitching and the put the ball in play Royals. Remember, the Royals don’t walk a lot – but they also don’t strike out a lot either. In fact, the Royals struck out the fewest number of times of any team in baseball ( beating the next closest team by almost 300 fewer whiffs). 

The other gift I can’t wait to see opened is the one with the image (1)fans wrapped inside. These are two great baseball cities and the players are excited about performing in front of them. You may not realize it but Kansas City is an integral part of baseball history and their fans know it. The Monarchs were the vanguard team in the (then) Negro Leagues. And there is a must stop visit to the Negro Baseball Museum in Kansas City that is a must for all fans. And the Mets, of course, have New York City as their backdrop. And judging by the newspapers and the amount of ink being used around here, this is BIG!

Indeed, Christmas comes early for fans of baseball……….

CENTER STAGE TODAY – THE CUBS AND WRIGLEY FIELD

With no disrespect to the New York Mets and what promises to be an electric Citi Field,  the centerj of the baseball universe today has to be Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs. Opened in 1914, this venue (along with Fenway Park and the old Yankee Stadium) stands as a Mecca for baseball fans – including myself in 2009 – across America. Even today, after the “lights came on” few years ago, a Friday afternoon game at Wrigley is reason to leave work early and bask in the bleachers Sun on Addison Street.

For Cubs fans, today is also a day to bask in the setting sun of a 96 game winning season (the third best in baseball) and to welcome home a team that carries with them a hope and a prayer that this just might be the season when all doubts spanning numerous decades are cast aside – and a long awaited Championship comes to the Southside of Chicago.

Excitement and drama of this kind draws itself from a long history that dates back to 1876 when the Cubs became an original franchise of the National League. Interestingly, they were known in those days as the Chicago White Stockings (not to be confused with the White Sox), not taking the name of the Cubs until 1902. And yes, the last World Series won by the Cubs was in 1945 – a drought long enough to span the years of the team’s oldest fans.

But today, all that changes or it at least moves to the back of everyone’s mind as Jake Arietta takes the ball  to face the St. Louis Cardinals, a team much different from the Cubs. For while the Cubs field a team stacked with very young home grown talent, the Cardinals present a team of veterans who have a storied history behind them with the second most Championships (only the Yankees have more) to face the hottest pitcher in baseball today. 

It doesn’t get better than this. The steel beams erected more than a century ago will be rocking and shaking at Wrigley today. You couldn’t tell a better baseball story than the the one being played out in Chicago this afternoon.

 

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CC SABATHIA – MANNING UP

Every once in a while we get a jolt that reminds us that the men who play the boys game we love so dearly are just that……men…..who like us all have frailties. We may tend to look at (and want to believe in)  the caricature we see on the playing field day in and day out as though they were some kind of a wind up toy you send out there until the batteries fade or die out completely. That mirage often coincides with the image of baseball as America’s Pastime and pastoral ambiance. It works well until it doesn’t……..

You might recall, for instance, the piece I wrote about Wilmer Flores who was captured on camera New York Yankeesweeping when he thought he was being traded to another team, when in fact all he was doing is expressing his humanity. It is in this same vein that I believe we should look at the events of the past few days pertaining to CC Sabathia.

CC Sabathia is a man who carried the Yankee’s pitching staff on his back from the Championship season of 2009 through last year when a knee injury and resulting surgery virtually left him for dead with many scribes (including myself) wondering if he would ever pitch for the Yankees again. In truth, he probably struggled with his  need to to learn how to pitch again without his 95mph fastball as much as the illness that was challenging him. These are the stories we will never know……the why and the how……and have no right to know (Shame on the story in the N.Y. Post today). 

All we need to know is that CC is taking care of business for his family and loved ones. Are we shocked and disappointed about the timing of his move forward to rehab with the Playoffs looming? Of course we are, but you can be sure that everyone in that Clubhouse supports his decision to a man because they are the “robots” who go out there to perform for us……….and they get it because they know what it’s like to be on stage in “The Show”.  Good luck CC and we look forward to seeing you on the mound next year……….healing and healthy.

BASEBALL AND THE 4th OF JULY

More than any other professional sport in the United States, shutterstock_71439202baseball is entwined with the culture and history of this wonderful country. Nowhere is this more evident than in the celebrations occuring at ballparks across America today and tomorrow. 

Fans of all ages – together with families and friends – will gather togetherimage to see a ballgame played on a diamond and green grass. Minor League Ballparks imagewill offer discounted ticket prices and 25 cent hot dogs. Cotton candy will be sold out by the fifth inning. Young fans of tomorrow will hear that unmistakable crack of the bat for the first time as the ball meets solid wood. 

Dad will tell stories (his wife has heard countless times imagebefore) to his children about when he could play the game too. He’ll point out some of the intricacies of the game to his family too….hoping that they might come to appreciate the game he has come to treasure and love.

And he’ll shamelessly sing off key during seventh inning stretch and Take Me Out To The Ballgame with promises to the kids that the game is almost over and the fireworks display is almost ready to begin. And he’ll remind them to put their gloves back on cause you never know when a foul ball could be hit our way……

image  And the fans will rise and cheer when that player who looks like he has been chiseled from stone and blessed with a myriad of talent strides to the plate for the final time in the game. Will he strike out or hit one of those heat seeking missiles into the stands to win the game……….

It really doesn’t matter because it’s baseball played on the 4th Of July in the United States of America. 

THE RITUALS OF BASEBALL

   In addition to the intrigue and mysteries of the game itself, there is a whole lot more to witness while enjoying your stay at the ballpark. Among these are what I term as baseball rituals. No matter what ballpark you visit, these rituals will be choreographed in a manner so precise that you will find yourself following the beat of their serene rhythm.

Rule number one (gloriously there is only one rule) is to get to the ballpark early – as soon as the gates are open. rituals5Not only is this often a good time to snag an autograph or two, it’s the best time to Restwatch the players go about their ritualistic way of “doing business”…….or to put it another way…….their job.

From the stretches loosening the hamstrings to the soft long tosses by pitchers strengthening their arm……..to the quiet conversations between a manager and player………and on to the endless banter between men playing a boys game you will see and hear it all. Continue reading