I am sitting here looking forward to being able to watch a baseball game pretty soon and realize it is still albout 2 months until the start of the regular season. Pitchers and catchers are reporting soon and the opening of spring training is just 27 days and 23 minutes away as I wtite this. I have now started to wonder what is it that makes me sit and think about the start of the season so soon before it starts I like watching football, but I do not really give it a thought before August. I really don't pay attention to it from the end of the Superbowl until mid-August. I love watching hockey, and am a pretty big fan of the sport, yet it does not consume my thoughts in the off-season as baseball does. What is it about this game that makes it special?
1. It is America's game: Although football has surpassed baseball in attendance and television viewing, it has always been regarded as America's game. It has been an American sport, and our national past time for over a century. It got it's start in the late 1800's and continues today. In that time baseball has created most of the great sports heroes of our country. It gave us Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams (for you Red Sox fans), Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, and many others. These players not only played the game greatly, but they have shaped our sports world. They provide us with endless debate about who the greatest pitcher was, or the greatest fielder, or the greatest hitter. While a sport that encourages this much debate might divide people, baseball helps bring us together as a people. It is a common thread that we all share to this day
2. It is a relaxing sport: This is a sport that is best watched on a warm summer afternoon or evening with a cold beer and time to just sit back and relax. It is designed perfectly for this. As we all know it is not an extremely fast paced sport. Therefore you always have time to get up and get a beer from the fridge between batters, or between innings. It even has the seventh inning stretch. How much more relaxing can it be. It also shows that while you won't be perfect, you can still succeed. As Ted Williams put it, it is the only human endeavor where a man can fail seven out of ten times and still be considered successful.
3. It is a reflection on life: Baseball's 162 game season is a perfect analogy to life. Football is a sprint, a 16 game sseason. Baseball is a marathon. A baseball team can have a bad stretch of 16 games and still be a contender. Life is like this, it is a marathon. The point is to keep going and if you have a bad day, you can just let it go, and you know you still have tomorrow.
4. It is a thinking man's game: Baseball, much more than any other major sport is a game for the thinker. It is dependent on numbers, and its history revolves around those numbers. Today, those numbers shape the strategy managers use in the games that are played. They have to consider how pitchers and hitters match up, especially when making substitutions. Beyond that rather simple concept is having to know when and how to shift fielders with certain batters, when to bunt, when to swing away, and many other strategic decisions. This is unique to baseball. It is not as if a football team will start different quarterbacks, or even substitute them, depending on a matchup against a particular team. Until I started following it I never realized how much there is to the strategy in this great game.
5. The mid-summer classic: This is simple. It is the only professional sport that has an All-Star game that means anything. It is an important game when homefield in the World Series is at stake. Sure, basketball and hockey have midseason all-star games, which gives them some popularity but still no meaning. The Pro-Bowl has got to be the most pointless. A meaningless game after the most important game of the season is just not very exciing in my opinion.
6. The October Classic: The World Series. Since its inception over one hundred years ago, there has only been one series cancelled. That was a sad day for baseball and the country. It is a tradition that has survived depression, recession, war, disease, and many other calamities and will continue far into the future. As they say on t.v. there is only one October.
I hope that what I have written here makes sense and conveys my thoughts on what it it that makes baseball special to this country.