(Editor's note: Since our hero will be winging his way to spring training camps in Florida as this goes to press, he has requested permission to reprise a column he wrote earlier on the eve of a baseball season, a salute to baseball, a hymn to yesterday. He says you don't have to read it if you don't want to.) I like songs like "Girl of My Dreams." I like books by Charles Dickens.
I like country roads and moonlight, homemade fudge and ocean sunsets.
I like Christmas carols and Easter parades, jelly beans and black-eyed peas.
I like pumpkins on Halloween, turkey on Thanksgiving, and church on Sundays.
I like old photographs and paper planes, potato salad on picnics and umbrellas on the beach.
I like trolley cars and old trains, cowboy movies and college musicals.
I like Fourth of July fireworks, campaign speeches and cotton candy, Ferris wheels and merry-go- rounds.
I like kids on Christmas morning, boys fishing and puppies in the yard.
I like political conventions, not primaries. I like pictures you can understand hanging on the wall--landscapes, not pipe-fittings; museums, not junkyards; the Mona Lisa, not graffiti.
I like love stories and happy endings, Norman Rockwell and grand opera. I like diamond rings and high heels, men who smoke cigars and wear hats. I don't like lawsuits, lockouts, liars and loopholes.
So, I'm glad baseball is opening again.
You see, I also like home runs and double steals, strikeouts and tight infields. I like hot dogs and seventh-inning stretches, pennant races and magic numbers, doubleheaders and double plays.
I like Fenway Park and office pools, Casey Stengel stories--and even pitching changes.
I like the home team, the "crucial" series, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," bugle calls and bobblehead dolls, bedsheet banners and squeeze bunts.
I like, "Three strikes, yer out!" I like, "Four balls, yer on!" I like sacrifice flies and the hit-and-run, nine innings a game and the game's never over till the final out.
I like Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan. Pete Rose going head-first into third. I liked Casey Stengel and Bill Veeck, the Sporting News and Walter O'Malley. Our crowd.
I like Bat Night, the national anthem, organ music, Ty Cobb's spikes, Babe Ruth's bat, Cooperstown, 3-and-2 counts, even exploding scoreboards.
I like Vin Scully, Harry Caray, Joe Garagiola and that Shakespearean announcer in Yankee Stadium. I like George Steinbrenner and Peter O'Malley. I like every coach who ever hit a fungo. I like fungoes.
I like Stan the Man and Leo the Lip, the Big Train and Ol' Diz. I like the Iron Horse, any Lefty, the Babe, and Old Teddy Ballgame, the Thumper.
I like players like Country Slaughter and Junior Gilliam, Maury Wills and Bad Henry. The wonderful Willie, Double-X, and Jackie R.
I like to read "The Boys of Summer" or other things by Roger Angell or even play-by-plays. I like the minor leagues and the sports pages and postgame interviews. I like umpires. I like leather-lunged fans because they care. I even like boos because booing is a form of caring.
I like to look down on a field of green and white, a summertime land of Oz, a place to dream. I've never been unhappy in a ballpark.
I like to look down and see the same geometry my grandfather saw. I hate change.
I like one o'cat in the sandlots, bubblegum cards in the schoolyard, batting practice and trade rumors. I even like artificial grass.
I like baseball. Because it's always 1910. I like 1910. It was a better time.
I may grow up some day.
I hope not.