Everything Interesting There Is To Say About Baseball Without Talking About Playing It


Baseball! Say the word (baseball) and right away you’ve conjured thousands of rhapsodic essays about baseball that you won’t read. The sport attracts a lot of writing. To write you only have to be awake and have run out of everything to do except writing. To play it as a sport you need a bat and a ball and maybe like eighteen friends and crowds of tens of thousands of fans. Getting enough people together to supply concessions alone is a chore. Far easier to just write essays about how awesome it would be to play, or maybe watch, or maybe just not worry about.

Still, baseball puts up some good statistics here. Baseball enthusiasts create an average of 49.5 pretentious essays about its inherent greatness for every 12.1 that football enthusiasts create. There’s alo 62.7 essays about baseball for every 25.3 about basketball. There’s 88.5 pro-baseball essays for each 56.2 about cricket. There’s nearly two baseball essays for every one about some silly made-up sport that appears in science fiction shows. That’s a pretty good ratio for the made-up sports. But remember that lots of those essays are snarky. Their major thesis is how the games never look like anything anyone would ever plausibly do for fun, unlike real sports, a category which includes “competitive shin-kicking”.

But just that paragraph gets at some of the joy of baseball. You see even a mystical aura given to its numbers and how easily they can start arguments. Try out 61, for example, or 2632. Toss in a 755, or an 1981 if you’ve got it. If these don’t start an argument, you’re not being persistent enough. Try them again, with greater emphasis. Some numbers get so contentious that there’s nothing sensible to do except retire them. Usually only baseball teams will retire a number. But if you want to do it, go ahead and retire one yourself. If you pick some number that doesn’t get called on much, like 441, they might never catch you. The National League discovered in 1994 how someone had retired 2538 on them over five decades before and they never noticed.

Baseball enthusiasts like to embrace the sport’s mythic origins. According to those, the rules were the creation of Paul Bunyan, who wrestled John Henry’s locomotive. This dug out the finger lakes and uncovering Cooperstown. There Johnny Appleseed emerged from the ground. From this first Home Plate he would walk the Old Northwest, planting Cardiff Giants everywhere. And from these steps small semi-professional teams would grow. Then Mike Fink would come along and punch them. The legend may have grown confused in the retelling.

More serious baseball enthusiasts like to point out the game actually derives from the British game of rounders. This turns out to be fictional too. It all comes from one guy reasoning that he liked baseball now, and when he was a kid he liked rounders. So they must be the same sport at different stages in his life cycle. When he wrote it down this seemed to make sense to everybody, which shows what the standards for making sense were like back then. Please remember that “back then” was generations before baseball was so well-organized that its players could be poisoned by socks. But it inspires questions. Like, what if he had written about this rounders-baseball thing later in life, when his interests had moved on still farther?

What if we saw baseball as merely a transitional sport between baseball and holding a cane while disapproving of the young? How different would the sport be? Would it earn publicly-funded stadiums in all the major cities? Would we have teams of nine scowling old men competing to see who can most be disgusted by some youthful frivolity? Would we be tracking the range and performance of the nation’s greatest complainers? Would the 60s have seen carefully-reasoned critiques about what makes a good crack about how with their long hair you can’t tell boys from girls anymore? Would the American League in 1973 have introduced a Designated Grumbler? I don’t know, but isn’t that an experiment worth running?

My point has gotten away from me, leapt over the back fence, and is running off toward the bridge over the highway. If found please return to this address, or any other needy place which you believe will provide a good home.

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Things To Stay Home From This Weekend


Weekend events to celebrate the Fourth of July:

Fireworks Spectacular. The attempt to confront Lisa with her self-centeredness sprawls out of control. Featured side-fights include arguments about who was driving who to that concert in 2005, every remaining issue from Junior Year in the Suites, a squabble that somehow compares Babylon 5 to Star Trek: Voyager, that dispute about the duck pond from two years back, and who told Terry’s mom about the tablecloth after all. Scheduled to begin Friday at 9 pm. Reverberations may last for months, or longer. It depends how long it takes people to start speaking to one another again.

Music Endurance. Once more challengers attempt to turn off Johnny Rivers’s Secret Agent Man instead of kind-of-grooving all the way through it. The last successful Secret Agent Man-stopper was in 2008, so, maybe we’re due? Friday at 10 pm.

Washington Crossing The Delaware Reenactment. The lawsuit about who owns the usufruct of the oars for the reenactment boat was finally settled. The estimated seven Revolutionary War Reenactment groups agreed to have the case mediated by a Court of Oyez and Terminer re-enactors. They’ve been waiting literally since the 1947 State Constitution. That’s the document that asked if we even had oyezes around anymore. They’re some of the more re-enactor-ish groups you can find. The court ruled in favor of hitting with an inflatable squeaky mallet the first person who said “usufruct”. This they revised to anyone saying “usufruct” who wasn’t in the Court re-enactors. Jeremy couldn’t stop giggling. Anyway, now they have all that sorted out and it’s only a little over six months late. Also moved to no river anywhere near the Delaware watershed because that was just too controversial too. Cancelled, due to bad weather.

Annual Doubleheader. Joining the regular debate between “semimonthly” and “bimonthly” is the traditional July treat of “biannual” versus “semiannual” versus “biennial”. Phyllis has promised this will be the first year she doesn’t get into a frothing, screaming fit where she cries out “what would you people make of `centannual’ anyway?” Organizers promise the event will be worth seeing anyway. We don’t buy it either. Punch and small, flavorless sandwiches to be served. Good chance someone will be punched, too, so there’s that. Saturday, 1 pm.

Marching Band. So, funny story. You remember how nobody remembered to arrange a Memorial Day parade until the last minute? And we had to lean on Jeanne to call in some debts with the high schools to put together a respectable marching band? And because of the texting mishaps they started out on Eight Street instead of on Eighth Street? And they started marching a half-hour before everyone else was ready to go? Well, they’ve been spotted on the outskirts of Edmonton. We’ve texted as many of them as we can to tell them to stop and we’re putting together a potluck to raise money to get them back home. Saturday, 7:30 pm. Bring your own sheet music.

Geography Bee. Identify the capitals, populations, economic bases, and interesting features of nations of the world. (This world.) Or try to come up with plausible-sounding alternatives. Championship rounds include making up plausible-sounding countries out of whole cloth. Championship awarded to the person who can compose the most plausible-sounding yet unrealistic continent which isn’t Australia. All are welcome. $4.65 entry fee because the Geography Club has too many 35-cent pieces hanging around. Cloth available $0.65 (city-states and small island countries) to $3.65 (regional powers). Eighth Not Eight Street High School. Sunday, 2 pm.

Grouse Hunt. Hourlong contest to celebrate the diverse set of things people can grumble impotently about. Celebrity categories to include: the roads, newspaper comics pages, piles of things in the corner, record stores, picking your seats when you buy movie tickets, newspapers, how many layers of packaging there are around bananas somehow, those cars where the dashboard instruments are in the center for some reason instead of in front of the steering wheel, and Freestyle. Pitchforks provided, although not the good kind they used to sell in hardware stores, back when the hardware stores were any good and they didn’t have metal detectors even on the entrance doors for some reason. Sunday, 5 pm.

To-Do: Check that this is all happening in the United States. Or the Philippines, we heard that was a thing once. Maybe Liberia? Some of them probably celebrate the fourth as something other than the fourth day of the month, right?