Just to hit the ball and touch 'em all –
a moment in the sun; It's gone and you can tell that one goodbye!
John Fogerty, Centerfield.
For at least nine years we have run this post. Baseball is important to us.
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Ohhh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come. Terrance Mann, Field Of Dreams.
Baseball follows no time. It has a rhythm of it’s own. It’s the only major sport without a time clock. The strategy is to control the man. Control the match up.
No matter how you play it, its 3 men up and three men down for nine innings.
It’s a game of statistics- do you bring in your right handed reliever to face the other teams big right handed hitter? The stats say yes. And yet…
it’s a game of hunches. When Tommy Lasorda called an injured Kirk Gibson off the bench in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series in the 9th inning, one on, two out, the Dodgers behind 4-3, and the future Hall of Fame Pitcher Dennis Eckersley on the mound , he did so on a hunch. Announcer Jack Buck called the home run, and was moved to exclaim “I don’t believe what I just saw.”
It’s a game of senses.
The glimpse of the green grass in Centerfield when you first walk into Yankee Stadium.
The smell of cut grass and fresh dirt.
The sting of a foul ball off a wood bat on a cold March morning.
The sound of the pop of the ball in the catcher's glove.
Little boys learn when they hurt themselves in the game, to rub some dirt on it.
Is there any more valuable lesson in life?
The moments are magical, yet simple. It's why memories remain so clear in the rheumy eyes of old men who once played the game.
To take the wide turn past second, stretch a double into a triple, dive in head first, stand up, and dust yourself off.
To move to your own rhythm while you crouch with your glove off of third base, (the hot corner) each hand on a knee, eyes wide as the ball comes off the bat. You scoop up the one hopper and make the throw to first.
Roberto Clemente in game 7 against the Orioles catching the ball in deep right field, whirling and firing a strike to third base- the best throw in the history of the game.
Willie Mays stalking center field, gliding under a fly ball.
Hammerin Hank Aaron hitting another one out.
Pudge Fisk hopping and jumping and waving that ball fair.
Mets/ Red Sox. Game six, 1986. Do we need to say anything more?
October 13, 1960. A fading fall light in Pittsburgh. Seventh game of the world series. Ralph Terry on the mound for the Yanks for the bottom of the ninth. The game impossibly tied at 9-9. Bill Mazeroski, the Bucs light hitting second baseman takes the first pitch for a ball. The second pitch sails over a dejected Yogi Berra in right field as the city explodes and Maz dances around the bases in the only seventh game-9th inning walk off home run.
Young Dwight Gooden throwing heat, and then snapping off a curve (uncle Charlie, or Lord Charles) for a called third strike. Close your eyes and you can almost see Bob Gibson, standing on the mound in 1968, glaring, before throwing a hard high one inside.
Reggie hitting one out with his first swing on a cold October evening against the Dodgers in the 77 Series. And then another one with his first swing. And then, impossibly, another one with his first swing. Three swings, three home runs. In the World Series.
Any three guys turning a 4-6-3 double play, but Tinkers to Evans to Chance being the best.
There comes a time in a boy’s life when he stands there at home plate. It's hardball in an organized league. His first real “at bat.” The pitcher is a year older, and maybe thirty pounds heavier. The first pitch comes in so fast he can barely see it. It’s hard to believe anyone can throw that hard. And yet the boy stands there, rubbing some dirt on his hands as he re-grips his bat, kicks his cleats into the ground, and waves his bat. Hopefully menacingly. Just like he's seen it done on TV.
The pitch comes, and suddenly it's in slow motion. He can see the seams on the ball rotating. He can almost smell the ball as he swings. The bat glides across his hips and the plate. It all seems so simple, as a line drive bounces safely in the alley. He turns at first, saunters back, takes off his batting helmet and glove, and puts his foot on the bag, feeling it crunch beneath his foot. He may not know it, but his father is crying in the stands, and he has given himself a memory for life.
Young boys grow up and then grow old. They do their life's work and the game begins to fade away.
But every now and then, right around this time of year, they rummage through their closet and pull out a glove. Or maybe they go to the sporting goods store and buy one for themselves and one for their son or daughter. Then they sit with their new glove that first night, showing their kid how to oil it up and put a ball in the pocket. And maybe it’s a family tradition to fold that oiled glove over a ball in the pocket and put that glove under your pillow.
And you smell the oil, and the rawhide, and you dream.
Just to hit the ball.
And touch them all.
A moment in sun.
It’s gone and you can kiss that one goodbye.