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Baseball '90 PREVIEW : Stars & Stripes, Bats & Balls Forever

April 09, 1990|JIM MURRAY

Baseball is take-two-and-hit-to-right. Baseball is Don't-give-him-nuthin'-good-to-hit-but-don't-walk-him.

Baseball is America.

Baseball is open trolleys, straw hats--but it's also designer jeans and BMWs. It's always 1910 in Baseball. Baseball is turning back the clock to a kinder, gentler America. Baseball is not "Kill 'im!" or "Dee-fense!" It's "Let's go, Mets!" or "We want a hit!"

Baseball is Babe Ruth calling his shot, and it's Fred Merkle forgetting to touch second. Baseball is to err. Baseball is human.

Baseball is Lou Gehrig standing on a pitcher's mound as he was dying and saying he was the "luckiest man on the face of the earth. It's Babe Ruth hugging him with tears in his eyes.

Baseball is caring. Baseball is involvement. Baseball is a game in which you record every single incident on a scorecard and, as the philosopher William James asks, "(In) What other sport do you do that?"

Baseball is for life. A father takes his son to a game. And that son takes his son and so on down a long line. Baseball is a shared passion. Baseball is tradition. Baseball is ancestor worship. Baseball is a family game.

Baseball scorns change. Its geometry is Euclidean, changeless. Football changes its rules every series of downs. Basketball changes every eclipse of the moon. Baseball makes a rule change every century. And then only in one league at a time. Baseball does not have a three-point rule or a two-point rule or a tiebreaker. A man returning to earth from 1869 would find the same game he left 121 years ago. Baseball is hot dogs and peanuts and nachos and beer. Baseball is where you're always 25 years younger again, and the mortgage and the job and the cares of the marketplace go on hold. Baseball is Willie Mays' hat falling off as he catches Vic Wertz' three-base hit at the wall, wheels and doubles the guy off second.

Baseball is Cobb taking his vengeance out on the world because his mother shot his father.

Baseball is Jackie Robinson making America live up to its promises, because if it won't do it on the baseball field, it won't do it anywhere.

Baseball is The Iron Horse and the Big Train and the Yankee Clipper and Big Poison and Little Poison, and it's Yogi and Yaz and The Meal Ticket and the Big Six and Roy Hobbs and Ol' Diz. Baseball is heroes.

Baseball is the real field of dreams: part-sport, part-fantasy. Part illusion and part delusion.

Baseball is Mickey Owen dropping the third strike, it's Heinie Zimmerman chasing the winning run home in the seventh game of the World Series, it's giving Mantle a fastball in Ebbets Field. Baseball is mistakes.

Baseball is the pitcher saying the batter only hits mistakes, the batter saying the ump got him out, the pitcher didn't and the fielder saying he lost it in the lights. Baseball is excuses.

Baseball is: Who played third in the Tinker-To-Evers-To-Chance infield? Baseball is: Who pinch-hit for Ted Williams once? Baseball is trivia. Baseball is fun.

Baseball is loyalty. Baseball is where you root, root, root for the home team, and if they don't win it's a shame. Baseball is not for frontrunners. Baseball is the Cubs.

Baseball is umpires, a pond of integrity in a sea of greed and meretriciousness. Baseball is where owners and players have been banned, but an umpire has never been involved in a scandal. Baseball is nicknames. Baseball is where pitchers are named Hooks or Huck, infielders are Rabbit, power hitters are known as Moose or Hondo or Hoss. Baseball is Rapid Robert and Sudden Sam. And guys named Leonard are Dutch.

Baseball is characters. Baseball is Casey Stengel with his own language and gnarled frame that looks like something that came out of a tree house in the Black Forest. Baseball is Connie Mack in celluloid collar waving a scorecard in a dugout. Baseball is Leo Durocher kicking dirt on Jocko Conlan.

Baseball is "The game is never over till the final out." Baseball is no slave to a clock. Baseball is where you still have a chance with no one on and two outs in the ninth, two runs behind. Just ask the 1986 Mets. You don't fall on the ball in Baseball. You don't run out the clock. Baseball is always sudden death.

Baseball is humility. Baseball is where the greatest hitters of the game fail seven out of 10 times, the greatest teams lose a third of the time, the greatest pitchers get knocked out of the box. Baseball is practical. You play to win on the road but for a tie at home.

Baseball is where there's joy in Mudville even if Casey does strike out because Baseball is "Wait'll Next Year!"

Baseball doesn't belong to owners or to unions or to agents or even players. Baseball belongs to us. Baseball isn't for money. Baseball is for joy.

Baseball is apple pie, cotton candy, harvest moons and I-don't-care-if-I- never-get-back.

Baseball is America.

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