What happens to your mind when baseball season is over?

Since the World Series ended one week ago yesterday, things haven’t been the same.

The Republicans just won a majority in the U.S. Senate, guaranteeing, at the very least, political paralysis in the world’s biggest economy. On Sunday, our Armed Forces dropped two laser-guided GBU-12, 500-pound bombs “in the vicinity of Fallujah.” The time change means it’s lights out at 5:00 pm. The only real bright spot in an otherwise bleak landscape is that Canada has discovered the source of violence against women and is going about settling the score.

In the midst of this maelstrom, the purveyor of the medicine that eases our mortal suffering has closed up shop—the baseball season is over. No baseball until the spring. It’s a well-deserved rest for the players, heaven knows. A season comprised of 162 regular games proves the sheer endurance of its 1200 iron men.

In hindsight, I indulge these boys of summer with fondness. The shortstop bungling that ball in the infield wasn’t so bad. It was kind of funny in a way. The base runner getting called out stealing second when there was no way he was going to beat the throw just happens sometimes; everyone knows that. The $6 million hitter whiffing on a pitch that was a mile outside the plate … well, you try hitting a spherical object coming towards you at 90 miles an hour with a toothpick, then come back and tell me you’re ticked off.

I promise I won’t yell so much next year.

Hockey is not for me. (See distraction from worldly problems and violence mentioned in opening paragraph.) Ditto football. Basketball? Love #wethenorth, but no. F1 Racing? Since I was a girl, watching fast cars going around a track alongside my two heroic older brothers, I’ve enjoyed the thrill. And I remember James Hunt and Niki Lauda their first time around the paddock. But there’s only two races left on this year’s calendar—Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Then, nothing until March.

My heart belongs to baseball. Baseball provides respite from my weariness of the world.

The trajectory is the same every year—the promise of April, the dream’s twilight by June, the injuries in July, the dog days of August and the wildcard race of September, the thrill of the play-offs and the climax of the World Series. Then … poof … there went 162 games, plus the post-season. You can’t say baseball is not generous.

In another few weeks, I know I will feel like I can move on again and, if history repeats itself, I will dip a toe into the vast canon of great baseball literature, reveling in the knowledge that no other sport can compare. Does baseball imitate life or is it the other way around? Does it matter?

Baseball is poetic—all that symmetry, those angles and the cruelty of Mighty Casey striking out.

Hall of Famer and former Yankee shortstop, Phil Rizzuto, was a Yankee broadcaster for 40 years and is one of baseball’s most famous spoken word poets. Not that he knew it, of course. About 20 years ago, excerpts from his on-air coverage were put together in a book called O Holy Cow! edited by Tom Peyer and Hart Seely.

Looking for distraction in a tumultuous time, I opened O Holy Cow! at random this morning, intending to read whatever page I’d landed on. Page 66 coughed up what Phil Ruzzuto had to say about what has become known as “The Pine Tar Game” between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in 1983:

“Well, I tell ya,

There’s a rule,

A definite rule in the rule book

That the pine tar can only be a certain height,

And now they’re trying to get rid of the bat,

And Gaylord Perry was out there,

He’s gonna get fined,

He’s in a tug of war with the umpire.”

 

I smiled. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel a little better. Crazy that. Baseball.

 

If you’re a visual person, click here to find out more about The Pine Tar Game. It doesn’t have Phil Rizzuto, but shows a side of George Brett you may not have yet seen.

 

Author Photo 01 Sandy Tam PhotographyGail Picco is a strategist who has worked in the nonprofit sector for 25 years. She is the author of What the Enemy Thinks, a recent novel set in the nonprofit sector, and is Chair of the Board of the Regent Park Film Festival. She also writes about baseball and F1 racing.

 

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