Last night was awesome for a long time Yankee fan as rookie Greg Bird hit a three run homer to beat the Blue Jays last night and keep the Yankee Eastern Division hopes alive. Joy turned to sadness as I heard of the passing of Yogi Berra. As a young child I saw him play briefly, but am well acquainted with his greatness as a player and have appreciated his long standing connection to the Yankees.
I started to reminisce about all the baseball I’ve watched and enjoyed and tried to pinpoint what about it is so great. Here is what I came up with. To begin with, very simply, sitting in a beautiful stadium on a 75 degree June day is at good as it gets. Of course, I’ve been to opening days in the snow, not so wonderful, but still worth the money, especially when the Yanks win. You can’t beat the hot dogs and beer, even at today’s crazy prices, and the peanuts or crackerjacks are the perfect dessert, especially accompanied with an additional brew.
Watching the game can be hugely relaxing, unbelievably frustrating or downright annoying, but that’s the beauty of the experience, you never know from inning to inning how you are going to feel. Also, more so in baseball than in football or hoops, any inning can determine and often does determine the outcome. Most NBA games today, all you need to do is watch the last quarter (last 8 minutes?) to understand the outcome.
In baseball every game has another hero, one day it’s the pitcher, the next the great fielding outfielder, and of course the big homerun hitter. Often times the hero is not even a star player, let’s remember Al Weiss on the 69′ Mets and Brian Doyle on the 78′ Yanks. Let’s be real, if Lebron is not kicking butt, the Cavs are not winning, plain and simple. Similarly, in football today, if the quarterback is off, you’re done, your team is not winning, the backup quarterback is not offering much relief. In baseball your starter can be shaky, but especially today, there are 3 flame throwing relievers who often come in and save the day. To this end, I saw the Houston Astros no-hit the Yanks on June 11, 2003 using 6 pitchers, the ticket for that games shares an honorary place on my wall along with big time Yankee World Series wins.
The length of the baseball season is very reassuring and comforting. Your team can lose a few games in a row, it can be disturbing, but you keep in your mind that there are many games to come. This season my Giants and Eli have lost the first two games of the season and all you hear is that only 8% of teams with an 0-2 record make the playoffs. It’s 80 degrees out, we’re still going to the beach and you feel as if the football season is done. Not so in baseball, with its constant ups and downs, losing and winning streaks, where one day you’re sure of a World Series appearance and 3 weeks later you are concerned the playoffs are out of the picture.
Finally, it’s easy to identify with a baseball player. They are often of average size, you would never identify them as star athletes in a different environment (the supermarket?). Their talent is sublime, throwing a gorgeous 82 mph curveball or hitting a 97 mph fastball. It’s hard as a 5’9″ guy (5’10” in sneaks) to identify with a 6’9″ dunking machine or a 300 lb. lineman. You tell yourself if I was 6″9″ or weighed 300lbs., I could be a star hoopster or football player, yet I am the size of some baseball players (and many more back in the day) and I know I can’t touch their talent. This is all the more reason to appreciate how great they are.
Gotta go, need to watch the Yankee pregame show, if we beat the Blue Jays tonight we are only 1.5 games out of first. Get happy, get frustrated, get angry during the rest of the season, but most importantly, appreciate how great the game is.