A Thank You To The Old Ball Game

BY BOOMER SABATA

There is no competition in life that can compare more to life itself than the game of baseball. The days are long, it is intricately simple, and everyone envies the damn wealthy Yankees.

It has been well over 150 years since this game began to sprout from the dusty, American soil. Since then, 24 states have been formed, 38 presidents have been sworn into the White House, and two black men have hit more home runs than Babe Ruth.

The game of baseball has been an ambassador of change. Hank Greenberg, a Jewish man, hit 58 home runs in 1938 while Hitler initiated his reign of terror in Europe. Greenberg later dropped everything, including his powerful bat, and enlisted in the United States military during World War II.

Jackie Robinson whacked the color barrier over the leftfield wall of segregation in the late-1940’s. His actions on the field paved the way for talented ballplayers like Willie Mays, Roy Campanella, and Hank Aaron. When he retired, he became one of the leading voices in the Civil Rights movement.

Yet, a small rule change that threatens the internal institution of the game is considered blasphemous.

Baseball has been an agent of social progress externally and has stubbornly remained the same internally. It has been an athletic prototype to many civil rights resolutions, but has always involved throwing a ball, hitting a ball, and catching a ball.

However, the ballfield is not always immaculate and glistening with sunny splendor. It can rain, bad bounces happen, and it is not always fair.

Steve Dalkowski, a pitcher whose career began in the late-1950’s, was rumored to have thrown a fastball that could reach speeds of 125 mph, in a time where radar guns were nonexistent. In a spring training game in 1956, Ted Williams saw one pitch from Dalkowski and refused to face him again. He once slugged a wild pitch in a minor league contest that crushed an umpire’s mask and kept the ump in the hospital for three days. In 1960, Dalkowski struck out 262 minor leaguers, but walked the same amount.

Dalkowski never pitched in a major league game. In a 2003 interview, he said that he was unable to remember life events from 1964 to 1994 due to alcohol-induced dementia.

Baseball has its Icarus, but it also has its Hercules.

Mike Piazza was never supposed to don a big-league uniform. The catcher’s professional baseball career began when he was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 62nd round of the 1988 amateur draft, a favor from long-time family friend, and Dodgers manager, Tommy Lasorda. Piazza had the physique of a titan, but was only considered as a 19-year-old dreamer from southeast Pennsylvania.

Piazza clobbered his way to a 16-year career in the MLB with 427 home runs and a .308 career batting average. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Yogi Berra once said, “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.”

Fanatics of this game owe it a debt of gratefulness. The United States of America has endured several trials of incertitude, but the home team will always take the field on a sunny, Sunday afternoon. America’s population has been separated by many sociopolitical concerns, but the only issue that arises in a dugout is who has been eating all of the sunflower seeds. The walls of separation continue to rise, but the best slugger in the game will always be able to hit over it.

The colors of our nation are not only the red, white and blue from Old Glory, but the red from a baseball’s stitches, the white of home plate, and the blue of a gorgeous sky during a day at the ballpark.

Thank you, baseball.

 

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