With plenty of time before the first pitch of the Dodger game I settled into my big overstuffed chair and made the mistake of flipping on the television news. According to CNN I found out that Trump was the “anti-Christ” and that Putin was the “handmaiden of the devil.” Turning to Fox I learned that all democrats are dysfunctional spoiled brats throwing temper tantrums. MSN reported that Hillary was either going to run, or not going to run, for mayor of New York City which would either cure world hunger or end life as we know it. The up close and personal item on TMZ concerned Bruce Jenner’s lingerie. Then Walter Cronkite rolled over in his grave causing an earthquake which split the Bible belt even further from Hollywood and New York.
I shouldn’t let this stuff get to me but graduating with degrees in History, Political Science and Logic, I’m stupid and take everything way too intensely. But for now, to help control my agitation I switched over to the baseball channel where two ex-jocks were arguing the pros and cons of this season’s new rules.
Because attention-deficit-inflicted-multitasking-millennials are getting bored in the stands and have been seen texting each other on their smartphones, baseball figures it needs to do something to speed up the games. To address this we now have new rules which state that a pitcher no longer needs to throw four useless “pitch outs” to create an “intentional walk”; all we need is a signal from the manager. In addition, instant replays can only last two minutes and a manager has just 30 seconds to decide if he wants to call for a play review.
Personally I like the tradition of throwing four “pitch outs” before an “intentional walk” because pitchers have been known to screw up and launch one into the stands advancing base runners and even allowing a man on third to steal home. And if you want to accelerate instant replays… get rid of them all together. They have ruined the flow of football and are now doing the same to baseball. If that wasn’t true why would we need a rule to hurry it up?
Games are too long? How about for the seventh inning stretch we sing either “God Bless America” or “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” not both. And at Boston’s Fenway Park 17 verses of “Sweet Caroline” is overdoing it.
Want to really accelerate the game, ban Pedro Baez from pitching in the majors altogether. Watching him pitch at Dodger Stadium even put Vin Scully to sleep.
The worst new rule ever was the American League’s “designated hitter rule.” Bringing that in was a communist conspiracy to ruin baseball, overthrow our national pastime and destroy respect for motherhood and apple pie.
That led to sissy rule #1 that says a catcher can’t block the plate with a man coming home. Really? Tell Steve Yeager or Johnny Bench to get out of the way.
Sissy rule # 2: To break up a double play a runner can no longer slide into the infielder. Yeah, yeah, I know, everybody felt sorry for Rubin Tejada getting his leg broke when Chase Utley slid into him during the national televised playoffs. Tough. Ty Cobb used to sharpen his spikes before every game just so he could draw blood when breaking up a double play. Sissy rules.
Baseball is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. Argue the rest in the stands and leave the player alone.
A half a world ago I used to play semi-pro baseball. It wasn’t in an AAA or AA or A league it was more like a C+ deal. We played for $5 traveling money and beer. I was a catcher. My knees hated it but I loved it.
Thinking back to one of my favorite games, we were on a road trip in Alabama, in the middle of August, in the heat and humidity of the Deep South and had just played six away games in a row. This game meant nothing other than $5 and beer and the team was tired and bored.
In the bottom of the fourth inning the manager sent in a new pitcher, a green garden-fresh kid who was supposed to work on a few creative pitches.
I called for a curve for his first pitch. It was so far outside it went to the backstop. Second pitch was a change-up which sailed over the umpire’s head. The third pitch was a fastball right down the pike. Strike one! To give the pitcher confidence I whipped the ball to third base, who sent it around the infield like he had just struck out the batter. The umpire was not impressed and told me so. The next pitch replicated the previous. Strike two! I whipped the ball again to third who again sent it around the infield.
“If you do that again I am putting this batter on.” Those guys at the airport, border guards and umpires, none of them have any sense of humor.
The new kid put the next one in the batter’s ear. “Take your base!” OK, fine, one man on first.
Watching all this, the second batter was leery and tentative getting into the batter’s box. The first pitch was a balloon ball right down the pipe and the batter dribbled it off the end of his bat to the shortstop who threw it to second who threw to first. A perfect 6-4-3 double play. We hadn’t thrown a double play in a month. Our entire team jumped up and cheered running to the pitcher’s mound like we had just won the pennant. We hooted and hollered and left the field heading for the dugout and cold beer. The ump stopped me, “That’s only two outs.”
“We don’t care, that’s as good as we get.” And kept on going.
“Get back on the field or I will call this game a forfeit.”
We didn’t care, we were young, we were playing baseball, life was good, life was simple, the ladies were free and easy, we slept well at night, our digestion was perfect, we were having fun, nothing was serious and no one would have cared if Trump was the “Anti-Christ” or if Hillary ran for Mayor of New York.
The Dodgers won which made me feel slightly less anxious about the world’s problems and the future of baseball. Not being sleepy I went to the garage and fired up my Harley. There is a 24 hour café about 100 miles down the highway that serves bad coffee and good chocolate cream pie.
Remembering the warmth and humor of old baseball games, riding 100 miles on a motorcycle in the middle of the night, bad coffee and good chocolate cream pie are just what a person needs to gag down the news of the day and survive baseball’s new rules.