The Old Ball Game

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Watching the Dodgers get murdered by the New York Yankees last week in their three game series at Dodger Stadium seemed like old times. No, I wasn’t at the ballpark, I watched it on TV in my den at home. No one except millionaires or people who have nothing else to spend their money on could possibly afford those tickets (which had to be purchased as part of a multi-game package, no single game sales). I watched them lose two out of three games although it was that final third game that was the real killer. The Dodgers had the game won… right up until the 8th inning when the Yankees came back strong and stole it away. It was pathetic, but as I said, like old times.

From what I read in the papers, the problem with the Dodgers this season is their weak pitching staff – they don’t have a powerful pitching superstar. Maybe that’s so. I’m no baseball expert, but from my life experience following the Dodgers I can tell you this: throwing away games is what the Dodgers do. I’ve watched them do it since I was a kid. Throwing away games has been so consistent with this club that I’ve come to believe that it must be some sort of sacred tradition that they feel obligated to carry on year after year, generation after generation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Dodgers. I grew up with them, going back to their early days in L.A. playing at the Coliseum. It’s always the same: each year when the season begins, I have little interest, but as time goes on, when I start familiarizing myself with the individual players my enthusiasm increases – and as the season gets closer to the playoffs I really start paying attention to it. By then I’ve bonded with the players and have been educated by Vin Scully enough to qualify as a bona fide Dodgers fan.

I understand the basics of the game, of course, but there are some things about modern day baseball that are different than when I was a kid and I wish someone would explain them to me. Let’s go over them one by one, shall we? Remember they apply to all teams, not just the Dodgers.

1. I don’t get the number code thing when a double or triple play takes place. The game announcer usually says something like “Well, that was a six, four, three play” or “nine, two, seven” or whatever the heck the numbers are. These numbers mean nothing to me. Why not just say “it went from short to second, to first” – or whatever it was? Don’t give me numbers because I don’t like numbers.

2. What’s the deal with the braided hoops and large flashy chains around the players’ necks now? It seems to be mostly on pitchers. I can remember when that sort of thing was forbidden because of the distraction to the guys at bat. Why has it changed and why would a ball player even want to play with those added hoops flopping around his neck? It’s like, “Okay, time to suit up! Let’s see now…I’ve got my uniform on, my shoes, my cap and glove…oh wait, I almost forgot my black rope hoop-thing for my neck!”

3. I don’t get the baggy uniforms either. Why would you want to play any sport in sloppy, oversized baggy clothes? And since when did it become “cool” to dirty up your batting helmet with tar and to look like you need a shave all the time? It seems like some players put a lot of time and thought into “looking cool.” Gee, isn’t there enough other real stuff to focus on when you’re a pro ball player?

And then there are things about baseball that haven’t changed at all. A well-played ball game is still exciting and suspenseful. And it’s still a thrilling thing to watch the pros play (even in baggy pants). The movements and coordination of a major league ball player is akin to ballet. Baseball players are among the best athletes in the world. And everyone still stands up for “The Star Spangled Banner.” If any sport can give you that warm, patriotic feeling, baseball does in spades.

Best of all, Vin Scully is still calling the game, talking to me and not some guy sitting next to him in the press box as other announcers do. Just the sound of his voice makes the baseball experience even better and somehow warm and comforting. I listen to him and I’m ten years old again, sitting next to my dad in the Coliseum. And I still want a hot dog, peanuts, and a box of Cracker Jack when I’m watching a ball game, too…even sitting at home in my den.

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