Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Play Ball! (part 1 of 3)

Time to take a day off from any/all anti-Islamo-fascist posts, take a day away from Hillary condemnation and ridicule. Time to pour oneself another Lemonade and watch Baseball's All-Star game, held last night in San Francisco's AT&T park, and relish in simply being American.

No one who has read my little bloggie here much, can doubt that I am just the biggest Baseball fan around these parts. I am fortunate in that I am a huge fan of the game itself, liking two or three teams especially, dislike two or three teams in the same degree, but overall, I renew my adoration and my astonishment on a daily basis, of this game, the world's most unique game.

There is something which is subliminally pleasing, satisfying about Baseball; on one level, it is a reverence and a high regard to the individual against the world, in seeing a batter wage his war against 9 foes. Moreover, the skilled individual playing defense in the field has the opportunity to show off his talent in stabbing a line drive hit his way, or the diving catch of a sinking fly ball in the outfield. Also, it is a delicate demonstration of teamwork in both the exquisite turn of a double play, or throwing out an opponent trying to steal second base; the brilliant logic in a successful hit-and-run, a successful sac bunt or a suicide squeeze.

While other American sports are enjoyable, no question, neither football nor basketball relies to the same extent as baseball does, in putting up one batter, one guy, against the best of the other team.
There are just so many unique rules of baseball that make the game America's national pastime (Pass Time?), and Once Upon A Time, one of America's Hippie-Dippy comedians, George Carlin had a hilarious but true comedy bit about the differences between the pastoral, serene Baseball game and the regimental, militaristic Football game. Carlin explains it:

Baseball is different from any other sport, very different. For instance, in most sports you score points or goals; in baseball you score runs.

In most sports the ball, or object, is put in play by the offensive team; in baseball the defensive team puts the ball in play, and only the defense is allowed to touch the ball. In fact, in baseball if an offensive player touches the ball intentionally, he's out.

Also in football,basketball, soccer, volleyball, and all sports played with a ball, you score with the ball and in baseball the ball prevents you from scoring.
In most sports the team is run by a coach; in baseball the team is run by a manager.

I enjoy comparing baseball and football:

Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park! The baseball park!
Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everythings dying.

In football you wear a helmet.
In baseball you wear a cap.

Football is concerned with downs - what down is it?
Baseball is concerned with ups - who's up?

In football you receive a penalty.
In baseball you make an error.

In football the specialist comes in to kick.
In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness.
Baseball has the sacrifice.

Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog...
In baseball, if it rains, we don't go out to play.

Baseball has the seventh inning stretch.
Football has the two-minute warning.

Baseball has no time limit: we don't know when it's gonna end - we might have extra innings!!

Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we've got to go to sudden death.

In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there's kind of a picnic feeling; emotions may run high or low, but there's not too much unpleasantness.

In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you're capable of taking the life of a fellow human being.

And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:
In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.
In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! - "I hope I'll be safe at home!"

Likewise, I could reprint "Who's On First", the cleverest comedy routine ever conceived by the duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, but if I did, I'd be a giggling loon soon afterward, unable to complete this long blog entry.

I'm very proud to own the 9 volume set of Ken Burns' brilliant documentary "Baseball", which I watch yearly if not more often, to "tide me over" until winter becomes spring, and the season, and teams are magically reincarnated, and hopes are reborn for a better year than the last.

As I have said, I love this game.

And the best way for me personally to demonstrate this, is to remember the 2004 baseball season:

My favorite team overall, the St. Louis Cardinals had made laughingstocks of all other National League teams, winning 105 games in the regular season, dispatching the Los Angeles Dodgers and then the hot Houston Astros in the NL playoffs.

Meanwhile, my favorite American League team, the bedeviled Boston Red Sox trailed their bitter rivals the Yankees all season long, and eventually met them in the ALCS. The Sox were down 0-3 in the best of seven series against the Yanks, but incredibly won the next four games, to earn their way to the World Series. A berth which they had visited many times since 1918, but had never won.

But against the electric Cardinals, they never stood a chance to win it that year either.

EXCEPT, OH MAN, HOW THEY CAME THROUGH!! I was totally dumbfounded by both teams play, and the series went only four games, as the Red Sox finally broke their jinx against the best National League team in over 30 years.

It was the most strangest feeling that fall, that winter; but put concisely, I was thunderstruck by the 2004 World Series results.


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