Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2nd-Brought To You By the Letter 'B'


    What is baseball? 
Let's see...Jefferson, Washington, Roosevelt
 and, bringing up the rear, Abraham Lincoln.
Cut the dude some slack, though.
He has a hole in his head.
    For starters, it’s a game you can watch for three innings, fall asleep for the middle three, and wake up for the final three as if nothing happened.
    Which nothing usually does.  Unless you count when those teenagers chased each other around the park while wearing huge president heads.
    No, baseball is much more.  Sometimes, it goes into extra innings.  Then, you can go back to sleep.
    As the icy grip of winter gives way to the balmy tranquility of spring, we emerge from our dens like so many hibernating creatures.  Seeking to warm our blood, we throw off the shackles of a catatonic languor wrought by hours of televised bowling and those obnoxious commercials to come visit Florida.
Yeah, Miami.
Summer's coming.
    Hey, Florida?  Laugh it up while you can.  Come July, you’ll feel like you’re inside a gym sock.
    NOTE:  I apologize to the Southern hemisphere.  I realize that the coming of spring for you is not a harbinger of pleasant weather.  But, cheer up, at least you have poisonous snakes.  And we have Snooki.
    Like the first robin, green grass pushing through melting dog turds, or slowly receding snow banks which reveal how many critters turned out to be slower than the plows, it’s the reappearance of the “boys (sometimes girls) of summer” which tells us the NBA playoffs haven’t started yet.
Oh, yeah.  Kick...our...ass.
    YET ANOTHER TEDIOUS NOTE:  Baseball is played throughout the winter in Central America and the Caribbean.  Not only does it hone their ability to kick our ass, it also takes their minds off the fact there’s nothing to eat.
    The quintessential American sport (unless you count the Japanese, Venezuelan, Cuban, Dominican, Panamanian, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Mexican, Dutch, Colombian, Australian, and Canadian players), baseball has been around since the beginning of the republic.
    Or has it?
Nope, I don't see any resemblance, either.
    Many historians trace its origins to the British game of “Rounders,” a game played since Tudor times between plagues or whenever there was a shortage of witches to burn.
"Yeah, they don't notice
all the beheadings and stuff, too."
    Rounders involved hitting a small, hard leather ball with a round wooden bat.  Each team had nine players who, upon hitting the ball, rounded four bases.  The idea was for the batting team to avoid three outs before losing their at-bat.
Okay, he was full of crap.
    However, when Albert Spaulding observed that Rounders used five innings instead of nine, he declared there was “no frikkin’ resemblance” to baseball, a distinctly American sport.
    Quickly searching for an unquestioned “Father of Baseball,” he selected Civil War general Abner Doubleday.
"Yerrrrrrrrrrrrr out!!"
    Mr. Doubleday could not be reached for comment, because he had been dead for 15 years.
On the bright side, Charlie always made sure
 there were plenty of hookers in the dugout.
    Over the years, baseball has seen its share of upheavals.  After the Chicago White Sox and Charlie Sheen threw the World Series in 1919, America’s pastime was on life support.  That is, until a fat guy from New York became the toast of the nation, proving a man could be called “Babe” as long as he could hit over 700 home runs.
"I promise, as soon as we take care of China
and the Philippines, we'll give the Dodgers
or Yankees a call."
    For decades, baseball had been a strictly “whites only” affair.  The “Negroes,” the “coloreds,” the “good ballplayers” were forced to “play with their own kind.”
    Black people, as well as Hispanic and Japanese ballplayers were denied a chance to show what they were capable of.  Although, to be fair, the Japanese were pretty busy elsewhere, what with that whole conquering Asia thing.
    However, in 1947, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier as a Brooklyn Dodger.  Not only did he dazzle America with his good-natured athleticism (enduring substantial racist abuse), he made fans realize that folks like Phil Rizzuto probably weren’t all that good, after all.  
Apparently, the only senators in
Washington with term limits wore cleats.
    Washington got a baseball team, then they didn’t, then they did, then they didn’t, then they did again.  The Dodgers and Giants left New York for California in 1958 when they couldn’t find a cab late at night.  In 1981, a labor dispute forced baseball to split into two seasons causing serious disruption to the playoffs.  And the fall TV line-up.
World Series earthquake.
Or Yankee Stadium.
    Then, an earthquake wreaked so much havoc in California that the World Series had to be delayed a few days.  But, I’m not exactly sure what year it was.  Mostly because it was between two teams I didn’t care about.
    As if that wasn’t bad enough, continued bad blood between owners and players reached a boiling point in 1994.  This resulted in cancellation of much of the season and the first year without a World Series (like A Year Without A Santa Claus, only not as bad).
    Luckily, this happened while America’s newest pastime was being played:  professional football. 
    So, nobody noticed.
Yeah, you can race giant
president heads all you want...
    Speaking of the NFL, you think baseball is confusing?  Football traces its beginnings to Assault, Rugby, and Soccer.  Which is called football by the rest of the world.  This is interesting, because soccer uses the foot, while football pretty much doesn’t.
    Plus, they don’t have a dead general as the “Father of Football.”
    It makes my head hurt.
    Rounders, anyone?


  1. I've learned more about baseball from this post than I have in my entire life for that I'm eternally grateful Al. I had no idea it was originally a white only sport, I'm guessing it's a lot like the cricket we have over in England, the falling asleep often thing makes it sound like that to me anyway.

  2. It is so true, one of the only sports where you can have a nap while you wait for your turn to play..haha...Eight Men Out had nothing on Wild Thing, after all he was wild and allowed to bring hookers into the dugout then. Although Jobu might not have liked that. Washington is like a friggin yo yo when it comes to baseball..haha

  3. You know what else I know about baseball? That Jonah Hill saved the game by creating a new form of it called Moneyball. And he looked fat, and awkward, next to Brad Pitt, who is now old and awkward. And I want my $10 back. What were we talking about?

  4. Raised a White Sox fan, then Bill Veck sold the team to "Those two bastards" as my father called them. Harry Carey moved to the cubs, so did we. Grandma thought we should all go to confession. How DARE we abandon our team?

    Baseball memories. . .the first time I smelled marijuana (age 8 at the old Comisky Park). . . buying beer in the Bleachers at Wrigley Field -- we were 16. . . And going to see the Dodgers with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, leaving in the 7th inning, and not finding the car until 1 am.

    What an awesome sport.

  5. Oh no, please don't credit the northeast for Snooki - ugh! (secretly waiting for the next season to come out).

    Football is confusing, but it sure is fun to watch - especially when the Giants win the Super Bowl. I know, not were you were going at all...but, hey, I'm not a baseball fan, so, it's all I had.

  6. Spring , balmy? You obviously have never been to Seattle. And the year was 1989 when the Loma Prieta Earthquake disrupted the World Series between the San Francisco Giants & the Oakland A's, both Bay Area teams. That was a great year for baseball, but that earthquake was scary as hell!

  7. What a fun post! I watch the Red Sox faithfully and hardly ever fall asleep during a game. I'm also a fan of the NBA, as you know, but I detest football!

  8. boreball has a tradition steeped in tradition! 162 games of seventh inning stretches and beer infused naps! yeah, it may be boring and it may be good excuse for a nap, but it is still the only sport that runs pretty much the whole year!

    oh and the tigers may just win it all this year...

    however, i will not watch til late august...unless i need to get in a nap...

  9. I always thought Baseball was the same as Rounders and now it's confirmed from the horse's mouth! Don't worry about having revealed a state secret, I'll give you asylum in the Congo. Was Daryl Strawberry a real person?

  10. I've never been much of a fan of baseball. I did like the movie "Major League" though.
    But, I do like fans of baseball because my husband and I have a sportscard and collectable business and people like their ball cards.
    Very informative post.

  11. Who wouldn't want to feel like they were "inside a gym sock?!" Both of my boys and my husband LOVE baseball. I had to sit through T-ball, little league, travel and a bit of high school baseball. Though I started to appreciate it after my younger son took up wrestling- a perfect place for your gym sock metaphor! Julie

  12. @Matthew: Yeah, no kidding, I didn't make up the Negro Leagues. Like slavery, Jim Crow laws, Japanese-American internment camps, and Wounded Knee, it's a stain on our country. I was all set to write a snarky comment, but it didn't seem appropriate. Just so you know, a discussion of cricket was in this post, but I had to delete it (space constraints).
    @Pat: I am NOT kidding about taking a nap during the middle three.
    @Beer: And one day he may get fat, too. We can only hope.
    @Mary: That's like me becoming a Mets fan. Ain't...gonna...happen. Although Wrigley is in a pretty neat little neighborhood.
    @L: I've been a Giants fan since I can't remember when. I also hate the Red Sox whose fans become Patriots fans in the winter. (Sorry, Eva) So, yes, I LOVED the last Super Bowl.
    @Nancy: THAT'S right. It was pretty bad, as I recall (the earthquake, not the World Series).
    @Eva: I picked that picture of the Celtics from the last post (about the alphabet) with you in mind. I figured you'd appreciate it. Actually, now that Papelbon is gone, I like the Sox a LITTLE more. But, their new manager is a serious asshat.
    @bruce: In 1998, I started taking my son to baseball games. It was that year that I started to actually REMEMBER what happened. Next year he turns 21 and will be able to drink. I fear that baseball will once more enter the "beer dark zone."
    @Gorilla: Daryl got thrown out of baseball because of a cocaine addiction. Baseball executives didn't think it would be too bad-until he started snorting the foul lines.
    @Ruth: But, didn't Major League II suck?
    @Julie: Here's a little "Penwasser Inside Info": the original line was "inside a bundt cake." But, I thought "gym sock" sounded funnier. Plus, I like bundt cakes. I think I've indicated that, despite my "wiseassery" (probably not a real word), I very much like baseball. I also coach a softball team. And I play a lot of Wiffleball. I'd like to give that Rounders a try, too.

    1. I prefer to forget that movie ever existed.

    2. Or Lake Placid II.
      Oh, that's right the first one shouldn't have existed either.

    3. I just Googled it. Dear Lord in Heaven...John Schneider!!?? And it's not about hockey or skiing, either.

  13. I'm a huge baseball fan (not in size, but in spirit... speaking of which I wouldn't mind emulating The Babe and calling some shots), and I must say your description of the sport is perhaps the finest I've seen. It's a shame Encyclopaedia Britannica is closing its books, since this would put their entry to shame. Or, maybe it would bring shame upon the encyclopaedia. I always get those two mixed up. Anyway, glad to see you're already in mid-season form!

  14. So your saying Quittage cam from curling? Harry Potter lives in Saskatchewan?
    Sometimes you really confuse me Al? I'm gonna drink a few beers and come back and re-read this!

  15. @Nate: I love watching baseball. I also love going to the park to watch a game. It doesn't matter if it's the minor leagues, the American League, the National League, or the Little League (ooh, I already said National League-sorry ;-) )
    @Bushman: Quittage has nothing to do with hair. Unless it's just girls who play.

  16. Part of the reason I enjoy watching baseball is because I understand the rules, they don't change every season, and there is no instant replay to determine if the ball went out of the park. Theme: A World of Crime

    1. Actually, me too. Although I'm okay with instant replay for home runs.

  17. rounders? sunds like a snack.
    could be that i am just hungry..?

  18. I used to be a Dodgers fan, until they left. Some games are tremendous though. A few years ago an Atlanta Braves shortstop did a triple play, and it was something. But I don't watch baseball anymore, Curling is so much more exciting.

  19. @Violet: Diet Rounders-Now with Splenda! Absolutely breathtaking!
    @Anthony: It also gives your hair that extra-special bounce!

  20. I used to love baseball, but I'm afraid the 1994 strike put me off. That's when I started watching tennis & I've really never gone back to baseball. Kind of a shame, I suppose, but I do love tennis, so I'm cool with that.

    1. The strike did the same thing to a LOT of people. I love to play tennis (both my children were on the high school tennis teams-I swear, neither I or Mrs. Penwasser saw that coming).

  21. All I know is that when I took Mrs B to a baseball game she lost heart around the end of the 5th innings (clearly a rounder’s girl). She went into a coma when the game was all square (what is it with you yanks not happy to settle for a draw) and some wag mentioned a game they had been at which went to 36 innings (even I gulped a bit at that prospect).

    1. I think that's why Rounders ends at five. I really don't like ties (the games or neck apparel). I once went to a game which lasted 21 innings. And that was in the 70s. Before they stopped selling beer in the 7th inning. Yep. You can only imagine the condition we were in.

  22. I don't think it was really big around here.

    Now that I think about it, Canada doesn't really care for baseball. :P

    1. That's what they said in Montreal. Wonder if someone should send a note to Toronto?

  23. Before this post, the only thing I knew about baseball was what I saw in A League of Their Own. It would have been nice if you included Madonna somewhere in there.

    1. Like my discussion of cricket, Madonna was edited out. Sadly, due to space constraints, the mention of Girls Professional Baseball in WWII (I used a picture of Madonna) fell to the metaphorical cutting room floor.