March 28, 2018 — With the annual ritual of baseball’s opening day, hope does indeed spring eternal in the human breast, to quote the poet. New fields of dreams form during spring training in Florida and Arizona where Snowbirds pray an errant ball doesn’t break the windshield of their rented van.
I appreciate the anticipation of the romance of baseball, especially on days when the news is bleak, and the weather is gray. Growing up in a family that loves baseball, I know nothing is as comforting as a lazy afternoon or evening listening to the jabber of a Major League baseball game.
When I was a child, we had an Arvin AM box radio my dad got for college graduation in 1953. My brother and I played catch outside, while Dad listened to Ernie Banks and the boys. The Amazin’ Mets grabbed the “W” in 1969; it was their time. Dad’s beloved Cubbies would not have their day for a long, long time.
While I preferred my family’s visits to the Detroit Art Institute to see the Diego Rivera murals over watching Denny McClain pitch at old Tiger Stadium, some of the love of the game rubbed off on me. I married baseball fan, but his dreams were forged by a Big Red Machine with guys named Rose and Perez and Bench and Morgan. My parents were not wholly shattered that I married out of the Cubs family. It could have been worse. My intended could have followed an American League team.
My father was a high school teacher and took students on senior trips to New York where he witnessed day games at the original Yankee Stadium. Men in white shirts and ties watched guys named Maris and Mantle in the house that Ruth built. At 87, Dad’s lived long enough to witness his beloved Cubs win the World Series. I held my breath for most of the 2016 final World Series game; I wanted the “W” to wave above Wrigley for my father.
I’d been holding my breath since Rick Sutcliffe made questionable playoff pitches and since the unfortunate fan caused a missed catch. I hadn’t breathed since Harry Caray hung from the announcer’s booth swinging the microphone, and a “one and a two. Take me out of the ball game” echoed from the iconic rafters of Wrigley.
My husband and I presented my father with his first grandson on Opening Day of the 1990 season. The Reds won the 1990 series. On vacation in Florida, we photographed our eight-month-old son in his Reds uniform on Clearwater Beach, to honor his first World Series. During his childhood, we visited great American monuments, like the Green Monster at Fenway Park.
Like his father, our son embraces the Cincinnati Reds like a religion, and we return annually to the altar on the Ohio River to hope against hope, that this will again, be the year.
Why don’t more people embrace the slow grace of baseball? The game is easily understandable and requires athletic prowess in pitching, catching, hitting, running and jumping, as well as the slide into base. In a world that moves nearly at the speed of light, who could not enjoy the slower pace of a baseball game, butt in chair, local brew in hand? If you are lucky, your team may even win.
Before the National Football League became big business, Major League baseball was our national pastime. Forbes noted, “The 2017 MLB regular season marks the third consecutive season of total attendance declines and five out of the last six that saw drops.”
Critics often list baseball’s flaws, including the cost of taking a family. MLB may outprice some, but many cities and towns have farm and local teams. If you can’t see the Green Monster in Boston, try the Mud Hens in Toledo.
Spring comes bearing daffodils and optimism. Somewhere a child picks up his first baseball mitt and takes in the magic of a truly American game.
What will the season bring? In our house, it’s all about the Reds. The Reds will go as far as their pitching will take them, my husband says, and he says it almost every year. Snow falls and rivers rise, yet the faithful believe there will be joy in Mudville this year.
Amy McVay Abbott, a retired health care executive, writes for Senior Wire News Service and has been published in Salon, The Broad Side, Making Midlife Matter, Tribe Magazine, and others. She is one of 40 writers in “Laugh Out Loud,” the first anthology of humorists published by the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, University of Dayton, this spring.