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Forget PresBo, TO and ‘Melo, it’s time for baseball! March 11, 2009

Posted by vsap in Blogroll.
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Good times and bad times there’s America’s Pastime: baseball.

Yes, I’ve heard the rumors that football is now “America’s Sport” . Especially this time of year, college basketball and the NBA have their moments in the sun. Hockey? I’m a big fan. English Premier League “futbol” is a beautiful game. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the rabid collegiate football brigade. But, to me, that’s all like watching golf while I wait for baseball.

If you grew up in St. Louis in the 1950s, baseball was your focus. There were no Football Cardinals, no Blues, and the Hawks were white noise, even though they were winners, because most of the attention went to the St. Louis Cardinals. And they stunk up the 50s pretty bad.  But, as the Cubs are to Chicago and the Yankees to New York, so are the Cardinals to St. Louis: win or lose, they are your team. And, they still are mine.

Maybe it’s the 162 games in the season. Maybe it’s the tempo of the game that allows you to see how the managers and players are thinking as they set for certain situations. Maybe it’s because it’s set in summer and the smell of the grass and hot dogs brings you back to another time. There’s the “gentle-manliness” of golf with the edge of football, basketball and hockey.

Examples are easy to come by:

Gentleman: Stan Musial

Footballer: Mike Shannon (bowl you over, man)

Basketballer: Ozzie Smith (leap tall buildings)

Hockey puck: Tim McCarver (lord and protector of the “goal”)

You can name your own from your favorite team.

Then, it’s Spring Training time! Prim a donas like to sit it out but it’s the best time to see new talent and check out if the veterans can still bring it. Free agency and Fantasy play help keep the next generation engaged but I find it’s most interesting when guys spend their entire careers in one place. Musial and Bob Gibson come to mind. As John Smoltz discovered purse strings tug harder than heart strings in the business office. Ouch!

Nevertheless, Spring does bring hope and it doesn’t reflect what might happen during the season. Last year I dubbed it “The year of the Cub”, a difficult thing for a Cardinals fan, but there was NO WAY the Cubs were sitting out the World Series. Well, the Dodgers didn’t get the memo. So, now the Cubs can go for their third straight division championship, if nothing else. Who can stand in their way in that division? My Cards are always dangerous, but even if I don’t believe they have the gas, I’ll watch!

You get hooked at places like old Sportsman’s Park and Wrigley Field. I believe this is why the minor league parks, no matter how low the level, are so popular. It brings the game close and you feel you’re in it. And, most likely you were at some time, at some level. I’ll never forget my high school coach telling me as the time for “cuts” loomed: “You’ve got alot of spirit, kid. No talent, but lots of spirit.” That sent me to an honorable 10-year career in park district softball.

It didn’t bruise my ego or embitter me. I marveled all the more at those guys who could do it, who did make it. I had been in the dugout and clubhouse, maybe it was just high school, but the good ones showed it with talent and leadership. They had perspective: one game a season did not make, no matter how crucial it seemed. They performed under pressure pretty well, but if they didn’t, it wasn’t crushing.

I was no threat to the real players. I was a threat to the “hangers-on”. To me, they were the Richie Allens of the sport: enormous talent but too distracted to make much of it. They believed “It” should be handed to them, whatever “it” was (hitting, pitching, fielding – they should receive the benefit of the doubt without question). They were the guys who cried alot about their fates. Excellent players and scrubs, like me, had nothing to prove thus nothing to cry about. The little Richie Allens had something to prove and if they didn’t and got pulled from a game, break out the baby bottles and pacifiers!

You know it’s true. But it never stopped you loving the game.

So, it’s baseball time. Forget about brutal hits against the boards, blitzes that make your head spin and 15-foot jumpers. Cut the lawn, line the field and get out the bats and balls. It’s time for baseball.

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