And start laughing all over again.
Ball Four never fails to remind me what baseball is all about: Staying 9 years old all your life. And, maybe most of all, the power of dreams.
It’s the reasons we watch Field of Dreams every single time it’s on. We wade through all the lovely nonsense just to get to the ending. So we can feel that familiar catch in our throat, when we find out that everything happened just so a boy can play catch with his father.
It could be because I played some ball myself in the minors for the Pittsburgh Pirates, or I’m just a sentimentalist at heart. Either way, I think I’d come to the same conclusion: Baseball is the best game.
No other game stimulates the senses like baseball — the sights on a sunny warm afternoon, the smell and taste of the food. Why wouldn’t Ernie Banks want to play two? And baseball, unlike other sports, has no time constraints; You don’t play against the clock, you play against your opponent.
Baseball survived the Black Sox scandal. It survived the 1985 Cocaine scandal, the Pete Rose gambling scandal. It survived segregation. It survived lights at Wrigley Field. The Casey Stengel/Mickey Mantle show in Congress. And, even, Tony Perkins throwing a baseball in Fear Strikes Out.
It’ll survive more mindless Congressional Committees. The Steroid Era. The Human Growth Era. And eras yet to be named.
Because it’s baseball—that’s the reason why we still call it The Great America’s Pastime.
Football starts in the fall. Basketball, we’re never quite sure. Hockey, which is not even our sport, sort of sneaks up on us when we’re not looking.
Baseball is the only major sport that starts in the spring; a sure sign that you don’t have to shovel snow any more. When all things are possible, and your 58 and 104 team hasn’t lost a single game.
The forever “Aging Knuckleballer” himself, Jim Bouton understood baseball as well as anyone and chased his dream right to the end.
“You spend your whole life gripping a baseball,” he said, “then in the end you find out it’s been gripping you.”
Throwing a Curve.
“Sleeves” is what we called them. They were plain and ordinary, nothing to think about twice. (Or so I thought.) But now I realize they were unduplicatable.
I still have mine, and a few emotions, dating from my days in professional baseball.
When we wore our sleeves, it was always the best time of the year. We were beginning to feel up.
I laugh at the imitations today. They have pseudo names like “river shirts,” “punting jerseys,” “Henley pullovers.”
Sleeves are, were, and always will be comfortable and engaging to wear; lightweight; warm, not hot; not itchy, not sticky, not fussy. Sleeves are good-looking in the way things are when they aren’t trying to be good-looking.
And you still don’t have to play professional baseball to get one.
American Baseball Sleeves (No. 1949). Two-button placket. Made of two layers of good cotton to wick away moisture; outer fabric has minute pores, like pigskin. A little sleeker. Imported.