Sunday, April 02, 2006

This guy says to me, 'I have learned the art of the pitch. . .'


Every year, just about this time, I get all wrapped up in baseball movies, mainly because that's when cable dusts them off after a long winter's nap. The Pride of the Yankees, Bull Durham, It Happens Every Spring, The Natural, Field of Dreams, Bang the Drum Slowly, The Bad News Bears. There's something special about watching a movie about baseball that's almost better than watching the game itself.

But think about the game itself for a few minutes. Think about the way this simple game both requires and rewards individual effort and team play. More so than any other team sport, baseball is fueled by self-confidence. The game cannot be played without it.

Take, for example, the double play. There are few moments in life more spontaneously choreographed than the six-four-three double play. The short stop scoops the hot grounder and tosses it to his second baseman, who, in one smooth motion, catches the ball, taps the base, leaps high to avoid the determined slide of a frustrated runner, pivots in the air, and delivers the ball like a rocket to the outstretched glove of the first baseman. Watch it again. Bang. Bang. Bang. All the motions are practiced, but every movement is necessisarily impromptu. In any case, the whole ballet is all over in five seconds. According to the rules, there's only one double play allowed per inning.

Whereas on defense it’s all about team practice and trust, on offense it’s all about one on one. There is perhaps no greater moment of confidence and loneliness, and no finer point between terror and resolve, than that experienced by a pitcher in those last moments before the ball is unleashed. Remember, all the pitcher has to do is to throw the ball past the batter and into the glove of his catcher 60 feet six inches away. But because of that guy standing there with a piece of lumber in his hand and a scowl on his face, each pitch is an invitation to disaster. Screw the fact that the batter has all of one-tenth of a second to decide what the pitch is going be, and another tenth to decide where to swing before beginning the stroke, while the ball is still thirty feet from the plate. Dude, it's all about Zen. (How the brain does these asonishing calculations may still be a mystery, but even the most clueless among us can second guess later.)The tension involved could power a city.

So just relax, remind yourself that the game is out of your hands, and settle back for the longest season. Curse the Yankees first, early, and often. And remember, whatever team it is that you're pulling for, they're probably not... um... gay.
Not that that has anything to do with anything.

Thanks to Portia, my least-hated New York Yankees fan, reminding me about the curious case of of Sidd Finch. It's about baseball.

God bless you.

We will bury you.

Go SOX!

10 comments:

portia said...

Thanks to Portia...[for]reminding me about the curious case of Sidd Finch.

One of the best baseball stories written, although I think John Updike's marvelous "Gods do not answer letters" tribute to Ted Williams gives Plimpton a run for his money.

Good luck to you and your "even if they are gay" BoSox, my friend. On the eve of the season's openers for our teams, I think it's instructive to repeat Updike's apt words: "All baseball fans believe in miracles; the question is, how many do you believe in? "

Let's puh-lay ball! See you in May:)

spd rdr said...

*Rolling up sleeves*

You betcha.

Anonymous said...

Talk about the rites of spring, I've been humming this song for a couple of weeks now, and I wonder why? The Reds will rise again, and that's my story.

"Centerfield "
by John Fogarty

Well, beat the drum and hold the phone - the sun came out today
We're born again, there's new grass on the field
Roundin' third, and headed for home, it's a brown-eyed handsome man
Anyone can understand the way I feel

Oh, put me in, coach - I'm ready to play today
Put me in, coach - I'm ready to play today
Look at me, I can be center field

Well, I spent some time in the Mudville Nine, watchin' it from the bench
You know I took some lumps when the Mighty Case struck out
So Say Hey Willie, tell Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio
Don't say it ain't so, you know the time is now


Yeah! I got it, I got it

Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes
You know I think it's time to give this game a ride
Just to hit the ball and touch 'em all - a moment in the sun
It's gone and you can tell that one goodbye

Oh, put me in, coach - I'm ready to play today
Put me in, coach - I'm ready to play today
Look at me, I can be center field


-"Don Brouhaha, rounding third and heading for home"

spd rdr said...

Good luck to you, Don. It's a long campaign and anything is possible come the springtime.

spd rdr said...

Good luck to you, Don. It's a long campaign and anything is possible come the springtime.

Cassandra said...

It just wouldn't be spring (or baseball season) without one of the Epic Baseball Rivalries of All Times...

No, I'm not talking about the Yankees vs. the Sox - I mean Portia v. spd :D

We're all looking foward to months of raillery and hijinks

Go Sox!!!

And C'mon Yankees!!! (yikes - did I really type that? Must be that Ambien again... no wonder my fingers are always sore when I wake up... heh)

(now I'm REALLY running away)


**if mostly good-natured

Cassandra said...

Whoops :) The ** was supposed to go after Epic**

spd, please fix that durned preview button - I think it's broken again.

KJ said...

Baseball is the greatest. It is a game where long term excellence is rewarded with (too many) still fewer playoff spots than all other professional sports.

The best aspect of the game: the batting order. When the game is on the line in the ninth, you don't get to say, hey, send up our best hitter. Sometimes, that happens. Sometimes not. You are stuck with whoever's turn it is. In basketball or football, you run a play to get the ball to Jordon, Bird, Payton, Rice. In baseball, if the .250 hitting second baseman is up, he is batting or you are taking him out (permenantly that game) for a bench player. You may have Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds on your team, but they batted last inning and it isn't their turn. You can't run a play to get them to the plate.

That is why baseball's hitting heroes include career-wise lame batters like Bucky Dent and Mark Lemke. If you have a better hitter on the bench, you can pinch hit, but he probably wouldn't be on the bench if he was one of your best hitters.

Anonymous said...

Very nice! I found a place where you can
make some nice extra cash secret shopping. Just go to the site below
and put in your zip to see what's available in your area.
I made over $900 last month having fun!
make extra money

Anonymous said...

Very nice! I found a place where you can
make some nice extra cash secret shopping. Just go to the site below
and put in your zip to see what's available in your area.
I made over $900 last month having fun!
make extra money