NOTE: As I write this, Spring Training is in progress at sites in Florida and Arizona. One can only hope that we see a return of the grand old game, albeit in a more subdued manner. I’ll probably never get to redeem a rainout voucher from Allentown’s Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, though.
What is baseball?
For starters, it’s a game you can watch for three innings, fall asleep for the middle three, and wake up for the final three as if nothing had happened.
Which nothing usually does. Unless you count when those huge sausages chased each other around the park.
No, baseball is much more than that. Sometimes, it goes into extra innings. Then, you can go back to sleep.
As the icy grip of winter gives way to the balmy tranquility of spring, we emerge from our dens like so many hibernating creatures. Seeking to warm our blood, we throw off the shackles of a catatonic languor wrought by hours of televised bowling and those obnoxious commercials to come visit Florida.
Hey, Florida? Laugh it up while you can. Come July, you’ll feel like you’re inside a bundt cake.
NOTE: I apologize to the Southern hemisphere. I realize that the coming of spring for you is not a harbinger of pleasant weather. Winter will soon darken your door. But, cheer up, at least you have poisonous snakes. And we have Biden, Dr. Jill, and Cardi B.
Like the first robin, green grass poking through melting dog turds, or slowly receding snow banks revealing how many critters turned out to be slower than the plows, it’s the reappearance of the “boys (sometimes girls) of summer” on ball fields which tells us the NBA playoffs haven’t started yet.
YET ANOTHER TEDIOUS NOTE: It must be said that baseball is played throughout the winter in Central America and the Caribbean. Not only does it hone their ability to kick our ass, it also takes their minds off the fact that there’s nothing to eat.
The quintessential American sport (unless you count the Japanese, Venezuelans, Cubans, Dominicans, Panamanians, Puerto Ricans, Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Mexicans, Dutch, Colombians, Australians, and Canadians), baseball has been around since the beginning of the republic.
Or nearly a hundred years afterwards. Shut up, Mr. Big Shot Know-It-All.
Many historians trace its origins to the British game of “Rounders,” a game played since Tudor times shortly after Henry VIII discovered he could no longer see his toes. Or penis. I guess they needed something to do between plagues or whenever there was a shortage of witches to burn.
Rounders involved hitting a small, hard leather ball with a round wooden bat or skinny peasant. Each team had nine players who, upon hitting the ball, rounded four bases. The idea was for the batting team to avoid three outs before losing their at-bat.
You were pronounced out if tagged with the ball, if the ball reached the base before you, or you were beheaded.
For you etymological savants out there, guess where the term “rounders” came from? Yeah, good for you. Have a cookie.
However, when Albert Spaulding observed in 1903 that Rounders used five innings instead of nine, he declared there was “no frikkin’ resemblance” to baseball, a distinctly American sport.
Besides, with four more innings, you could sell more beer.
Quickly searching for an unquestioned “Father of Baseball,” he selected Civil War general Abner Doubleday.
Mr. Doubleday could not be reached for comment, because he had been dead for 15 years.
Over the years, baseball has seen its share of upheavals. After the Chicago White Sox starring Charlie Sheen threw the World Series in 1919, America’s pastime was on life support. That is, until a fat guy from New York became the toast of the nation, proving a man could be called “Babe” as long as he hit over 700 home runs.
For decades, baseball had been a strictly “whites only” affair. The “Negroes,” the “coloreds,” the “good ballplayers” were forced to “play with their own kind” in organizations such as the creatively-named Negro Leagues. Black people, as well as Hispanic and Japanese ballplayers were denied a chance to show what they were capable of. Although, to be fair, the Japanese were pretty busy elsewhere, what with conquering East Asia and all.
However, in 1947, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier as a Brooklyn Dodger. Not only did he dazzle America with his good-natured athleticism (after a substantial amount of racist abuse), he made fans realize that Phil Rizzuto wasn’t all that good, after all.
Washington got a baseball team, then they didn’t, then they did, then they didn’t, then they did again (I guess the only Senators with term limits wore spikes). The Dodgers and Giants left New York for California in 1958 when they couldn’t find a cab late at night.
In 1981, a labor dispute forced baseball to split into two seasons which had serious ramifications for the playoffs. And the fall TV line-up.
Then, an earthquake caused so much damage in California that the World Series had to be delayed a few days. But, I’m not exactly sure what year it was. It was between two teams I didn’t care about, let’s put it that way.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, continued bad blood between owners and players reached a boiling point in 1994. This resulted in cancellation of much of the season and the first year without a World Series (like A Year Without A Santa Claus, only not as bad).
Luckily, this happened while America’s newest pastime was being played: professional football.
So, nobody noticed.
Then, in 2020, the Chinese Flu pandemic gripped the world in a hysteria that is only now starting to (hopefully) abate. Among many other institutions, baseball suffered. Spring Training was abruptly cancelled, with the season delayed until July. Even then, fans weren’t allowed into stadiums leaving some to watch games featuring recorded crowd noise and Dr. Fauci absolutely proving to the world that he had zero athletic talent.
Jeez-a-Lou, Wilfor Brimley could have thrown out a better first pitch.
Making matters worse, some jackasses decided to blather on about perceived societal injustices. Refusing to be lectured to by millionaires, many thousands of fans won’t return to their television screens or to stadiums (if Major League Baseball allows it, that is).
Baseball is my favorite sport so I’ll probably return. After all, it’s not like social justice virtue signaling jackassery by overpaid baboons isn’t universal.
Speaking of the NFL, you think baseball is confusing? Football traces its beginnings to Assault, Rugby, and Soccer. Which is called football by the rest of the world. This is interesting, because soccer uses the foot, while football pretty much doesn’t.
Besides, they don’t have a dead general as the “Father of Football.”
It all makes my head hurt.