Friday, November 3, 2017

Touching Base

Weeeehooo! Sometimes, as a Mets fan (yes, I said it), I forget that baseball doesn’t have to be an angst-ridden nightmare but can actually be fun. Game five of the World Series last night, extending well into the wee hours of the morning, was proof of that!

Yuli Gurriel of the hair ever.
Is a baseball game -- with countless pitching changes, juiced-up baseballs creating endless home runs and jarring close-ups of the player’s grooming trends (flapping rooster combs of tonsorial insanity, flowing ginger locks and scalp carvings in shades of the rainbow) – a bit too long? Perhaps. 

Is the use of instant-replay a buzz kill…yep. Are steroids still a problem…maybe. Are umps still blind…often. But it’s baseball! And baseball is fun! For me, the best parts are when these overgrown babies in cleats smile.

Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers and his 'do.
Having raised sons, I am innately programmed to enjoy smiling males. It’s a give-away that they’re not trying to murder one another in the pool, on the trampoline or at breakfast and it, automatically, makes a mother happy. Watching on hi-def TV from the comfort of my recliner, puts me right at home plate where I can enjoy the action…and the smiling.

Justin Turner needs a trim.

The best moments also include jumping, bounding, leaping, high-fiving, pitchers hugging catchers, catchers hugging pitchers and similar acts of jubilation. As for the smiles, my favorites are the ones that cannot be suppressed. 

These are the smiles that occur after a great hit or play when the player wants to appear cool and detached despite his good fortune. But the smile of a happy boy cannot be contained. It sneaks up on the smiler, often appearing on base, on the bench or even on the lips of those grim managers as they pace behind rail or net. Last night, as the Astros took us on the extended odyssey of game five against the Los Angeles Dodgers, there was lots of smiling in Texas.
A dark time for Brooklyn.

I’m rooting for Houston for many reasons. First and foremost, the Dodgers are stinking traitors who left Brooklyn in 1957 and Walter O’Malley can kiss my….oops, sorry. But, after the misery Houston continues to endure thanks to the waters of Hurricane Harvey, I think a world series victory would be very nice.

Baseball has a long history of being an excellent distraction during troubled times. During the great Depression of the 1930’s, attendance sagged yet fans still managed to come to the ballpark to forget their troubles. They couldn’t afford a hot dog but they were able to sit back and, for nine innings, concentrate on something other than their woes. In fact, some say that time period fostered the greatest era baseball has known to date.

This need for baseball increased its popularity so, that by the time World War Two enveloped the United States, even President Roosevelt endorsed America’s national pastime. His famous “Green Light” Letter emphasized the importance of keeping baseball vibrant during such darkness. "I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going," the president responded when asked by baseball’s commissioner if it should be suspended during the height of the war. If that’s not proof it’s a grand distraction, what is?

It’s always been an escape and source of joy for my own family. Early on, baseball became a happy distraction for my immigrant clan as they adjusted to life in America. Inevitably, they embraced the rag tag heroism of the Brooklyn Dodgers, later signing on as Mets fans since rooting for underdogs had become a family tradition.

My sons were schooled by my baseball loving mother to embrace the concept that baseball is, indeed, life. Both Tom and Charlie love playing and watching. Often, as a family, we’d gather to become absorbed in what was happening on that green jewel of a field. Arguments -- some friendly, some distinctly not – kept our adrenalin pumping. You need to know the rules and appreciate its nuances. You must understand that its pace is not boring but, rather, a garden of potential for the exhilarating split second that will make you either holler or smile…even the oldest on the team, or the couch, becoming boyish after a great grab or hit.

I look forward to the remainder of this World Series and, hopefully, plan on doing some smiling myself! *

*Obviously the World Series is over and I was very happy with the outcome. Congrats to the Houston Astros---what a great series!

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