Don’t tell me about the playoffs. For true baseball fanatics, it’s the regular season that really counts. The playoffs, concluding with the World Series, are for folks who have trouble understanding the infield fly rule. Ditto for Dodger fans who arrive at the ballpark during the second inning and head for the parking lot at the bottom of the seventh. For the record, Baseball 2010 is over. You can put the balls and bats away until spring training next year.
See, for us it’s really not so much who wins, it’s the people involved, what they do and the character they bring to the game (see May 4th post). I don’t know the exact count, but over the season we watched dozens of Dodger games, which may have been a deferral on Kris’ part to my Valley connection. By the final weeks we could name the entire lineup, who to root for and who deserved raspberries — that would be Manny Ramirez. More than that, Kris could demonstrate the batting stances of at least four or five players; she can do an exceptional Ichiro Suzuki, and an even better rendition of Giants’ outfielder Aaron Rowand.
It was fun. We’d whip up a couple of our own Dodger Dogs, fire up the big screen and settle in. And typically, stay tuned through to the end. Toward the conclusion of the season I took Kris up to Dodger Stadium, her first visit. By intent, I bought tickets way out in right field so we could admire the play of Andre Ethier, and he did not disappoint, turning in a pair of circus catches against the wall.
There is the belief among people living in small towns that big cities are completely impersonal, that fame and bright lights negate humanity, that sports in general celebrate money and violence. Not in baseball. Sure, there are some monstrous paychecks, and maybe the day will come when we can get past that. But what the game is really about is finesse and timing, and the team that masters that typically wins.
I appreciate that. Always have. Think about this: two teams in baseball can play an entire nine innings without ever touching each other. More, the players in the field are further apart than in any other game. Some complain that it’s boring. Not at all. The wheels are always turning. Listen to baseball’s poet laureate, Vin Scully, call a game and you’ll understand. (Years ago, people used to take small transistor radios to the games at Dodger Stadium just so they could listen to Vinny.)
Not that the soap opera that is the wrangling of the McCourts has added any needed color. We wish that their all-too public divorce proceedings could have been off the front pages. But the season has continued, and if you simply enjoy the small boys’ game of baseball, if you simply take pleasure in watching major league artists at their best, then it is definitely worthwhile. It’s probably just me, but one of the most beautiful human endeavors on the planet goes like this: A hard-hit grounder is snagged by the third baseman out on the grass and on the line; he steps on third, doubling up the runner, then throws to the second baseman covering second; the second baseman doubles up the approaching runner, then fires the ball on to first, catching a third runner by half a step.
Didn’t see that happen in 2010, but like they say, wait ’til next year. We’ll be there.