A New Ballpark for a Grand Old Game

This is an old hand in a new ballpark, with an old approach but a lot of new thoughts to come, and hopefully a multitude innings to yet play before the uniform comes off my back.

I don’t plan to write a “blog,” though I’m lockering at a blog portal. If you came here looking for a typical “blog,” you’re probably going to be disappointed. I’ve gone the “blog” route. It barely got me out of the low minors for a decade, bouncing team to team.If you came here looking for (I hope) thoughtful columns (call them essays, if you wish) on the game we love, then you came to the right yard. Nothing against blogging or bloggers as usually understood. There’s a place among us all for a good round of rants, quick barbs, and fast drawing. But I got all that out of my system. I think.

It’s not that I haven’t done this before elsewhere, but you’re actually going to get paragraphs out of me. I don’t plan to spin out eternal paragraphs, but neither do I plan to make a habit out of those composed of single sentences, either. This, folks, is the written word. It’s meant to be read. And if you enjoy reading as much as I do, I hope you’ll enjoy reading me. I’d like to think that you can read me at the same kind of pleasantly leisurely pace at which baseball is played. But then I’d like to think you’ll read me, period. Just because I love to write about the game I love, it doesn’t mean I’d prefer to write in a vacuum.

Perhaps I should offer at least one fair warning. This is not going to be a statistical journal in any way, shape, or form. I do respect statistics, I do rely upon them to analyse the game I watch and the game I review, but I’m not wedded to statistics until death do us part. They have their place, and they’ll get that here. But as one Hall of Fame baseball writer has said trenchantly enough (if a little too curmedgeonly), “human beings, not numbers, play the games.” And I’m just old-school enough to have a slightly greater interest in the human beings. Even if I think it’s time to kick the addiction to the human factor enough to accept that, in championship play, human error can’t and shouldn’t be allowed to determine a champion.

The games are the thing. The men who play, manage, call, and control the games are the thing. The books that spring forth from the games—and I know no other sport in my lifetime to have produced as deep a library of living, breathing literature as baseball has produced—are the thing. (You guessed it: there’ll be book reviews in play when their opportunities arise.)

That said, I’m no further wedded to sacred cows than to statistics. Sacred cows are good for one thing—steak. Perhaps you’ll have a good idea of what you can expect from me if I go on record right now and say, among other things, that I don’t believe either Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright invented the game we know and love. Nor do I believe in the myth that Babe Ruth was the greatest all-around baseball player who ever lived. Nor do I accept for one second that baseball’s competitive balance was greater before 1976. Nor do I buy into the canard that players in the pre-free agency era loved the game any more than those playing in the free agency era. Nor do I hold that Walter O’Malley was the third most evil human being who ever lived behind Hitler and Stalin.

The full story isn’t necessary to tell for now, but I never had the chance to work full-time as a daily newspaper’s baseball writer, and suffice it to say the fault was mine. I took the wrong turn around first base after joining the wrong teams early in my career, and you know what happens when that happens. But I did forge a career as a “serious” newsman for two decades plus. And I was burning out of that career, slowly but profoundly, when I made the first of my former “blog” attempts. When I realised I’d exhausted my most recent “blog” attempt, in title and in approach, I sent myself on rehab assignment. The rehab is done, and it’s time to get back into the game.

Off the field as well as on it, baseball is many things. Dull isn’t one of them. On these pages, I hope to be many things. Dull isn’t one of them, either.

A far more accomplished man than I put it with far more eloquence than I’ve been granted to deploy.

Baseball began in a bright green field with an ancient name when this country was new and raw and without shape, and it has shaped America by linking every summer from 1846 to this one, through wars and depressions and seasons of rain. 

Baseball is one of the few enduring institutions in America that has been continuous and adaptable and in touch with its origins. As a result, baseball is not simply an essential part of this country; it is a living memory of what American Culture at its best wishes to be.

The game is quintessentially American in the way it puts the premium on both the individual and the team; in the way it encourages enterprise and imagination and yet asserts the supreme power of the law. Baseball is quintessentially American in the way it tells us that much as you travel and far as you go, out to the green frontier, the purpose is to get home, back to where the others are, the pioneer ever striving to come back to the common place . . .

It is, this grand game, no game but a work of art fashioned to remind us that we all began in the great green Elysian Field of the New World, with all its terrors and promises.

And, I begin again, in a new ballpark, with all its terrors and promises, and—as the name I chose for this new ballpark should imply (baseball being the game most congenial to its own history, I hope you don’t have to be my age to understand)—comedies of errors.

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