Childhood & the All-American Pastime

Ever since baseball swam across the Atlantic Ocean and grew legs to walk upon the Hoboken shore it has been a fiery All-American Pastime.  If you don’t like love baseball you are either a Communist or you’re not a true [red, white, and] blue American.  Or you weren’t an athletic child.

Little League baseball has been the scourge and triumph of young boys for seventy years.  I remember my first years as they were divided into four major categories: tee-ball, farm, minors, majors.  Those years were not good to me.  I would have rather read a book or have built something out of LEGO.  I was afraid of the ball and of human interaction, both of which are key elements of baseball.  Only to add to the torment, at some point I gained weight and achieved the status of ‘husky’.  But, fortunately for me, upon my entrance into high school I grew six inches almost instantly and—for the first time in my life—demonstrated athletic prowess.  Sure soccer (otherwise known as football) is extremely fun, but baseball was and is my true athletic passion, which is attributed to the unique challenges it presents to a player, for instance: you need a sprint and a mind, a glove and a bat, an arm and an eye.

Even throughout my awkward years I still loved the concept of baseball.  I certainly had my aversions: ‘cups’, practising, fastballs near my face while I was at bat, striking out, sitting the bench, etc.—but I also had my passions:  cleats, sunflower seeds, getting on base, making a great catch, the Detroit Tigers, going to watch a professional game, guessing what was going to happen next, etc.  But with my well-rounded appreciation and disdain for the sport nothing could have never prepared me for what the Major League sport seems to have become.

In the golden years an alcoholic could be a magnificent baseball player and even though everyone knew his vice was the bottle, his glory was the bat.  Maybe the fall of this idealism of Major League Baseball came with the Information Age.  Soon everyone knew that the Straw used the straw for other things, beat his wife and the list goes on.  How could a fan love to watch someone with such moral failings play the All-American Pastime?  But the slugfest of 1998 would soon bring back the spirit of the game, at least until performance-enhancing drugs became a hot topic.

That’s where baseball is today, tarnished by unethical behaviour of which performance-enhancing drugs are the crowning glory.  There are massive amounts of illegal drugs administered to willing athletes and recently professional baseball has been front-page news.  Who would’ve thought the highest paid baseball player in history would get caught up in this mess?  He did, as well as the player with the most career home runs in history.  And even the virtuous alliance of brotherhood can get a man mixed up in this heartbreaking moral defeat.

Some people have passionate hatred for baseball.  They might suggest that we adopt basketball, American football, ice hockey, anything over this boring and morally corrupt money pit called Major League Baseball.  But the sport cannot be to blame for the poor decisions of some players.  And this bad judgement is all that we can fault players for.  If baseball fans have a problem with the size of players’ salaries then we can turn off the televised game and not buy the baseball cap or the season tickets.  Fans can make baseball players demigods and when we learn that they are not so perfect it is devastating.

In the end there is something profoundly redemptive about baseball, something honourable and magical that I cannot fully explain (watch Field of Dreams).  And if our remembrances of Joltin’ Joe and Derek Jeter remain free from steroid use the sport will always remain alive—even if you detest the Yankees as I do.

UPDATE:  Thanks to The Onion,



13 thoughts on “Childhood & the All-American Pastime”

  1. Elijah,

    I started reading this blog because you and Greg are my friends. The more I read (between all of you), the more I come to think it’s one of the best blogs I read (and at the risk of sounding arrogant, I have 29 blogs in my reader).

    Great post. I love baseball the way you do, as you know (think blue). And I cry more consistently at the end of “Field of Dreams” than any other movie, maybe because it’s a baseball movie about fatherhood.

    Anyway, I’ve been wanting to write about all this stuff myself. A-Rod was the up-and-coming savior of baseball. We were ready to forgive an insecure adulterer who notoriously under-performs in the playoffs as long as he’ll break the Evil Bonds’s career record, because at least A-Rod was clean. Now we’re hoping that Albert Pujols can stay healthy and turn from being a gap-hitter with legit power to a pure slugger. But Pujols is 29, and there was a day when everyone thought that Griffey would shatter Aaron’s records. But then Junior’s knees stopped working and it was over. So who knows if Pujols can hang in there.

    In any case, I’ve wanted to write about this, like I said, but I haven’t known exactly what to say. I’m not sure you’ve said exactly what I would want to, but you’ve moved me closer. So thanks.

    Great post.


  2. I shutter to think that I must be a communist. I played baseball in jr. high (poorly) but excelled in football and so maybe that is why it’s my favorite sport. I love going to baseball games in person… but cannot watch on tv. Bull Durham is a great, great movie. For Love of the Game… not so much.

    The fact that MLB players union refuses to allow mandatory testing into their collective bargaining agreement (unlike the NFL) is interesting… and tarnishing as you said.

  3. Nothing beats going to an august baseball game with a hot dog and beer, well maybe a steak and Bj but that’s besides the point. Go Yankees

  4. Andrew,
    I think Juniors downfall was joining that club, you know, the REDS, i.e. the black hole of MLB. Thanks for the comment and we at CAI are certainly glad that you enjoy reading.

    I think I’d go with the “not an athletic child” excuse, at least with regard to baseball. And yes, Bull Durham is a great movie (along with A League of Their Own, The Sandlot, the original Bad News Bears and Bang the Drum Slowly, Eight Men Out, Rookie of the Year, Major League I & II, The Natural, 61*, etc.). I expected little from For the Love of the Game, but to be honest I enjoyed it. It wasn’t because I love every Costner film (i.e. Waterword, The Postman), but I bet his partially has to do with my love for the Tigers. I generally dislike romantic films, but this one was weaved as recollection through a potential perfect game, a career highlight to say the least. So I found it rather personal and much more watchable that I expected.

    Also, the MLB players union is simply listening to its members when it won’t allow mandatory testing (I think it’s bologna also), something I believe you could agree with if you used your imagination.

    You epitomize the Yankees, thank you.

  5. Major League is hilarious… “How’s your wife and my kids?” “Too high” “Give ’em the heater, Vaughn”

    But the Tigers are the bad guys! How can you watch it?

  6. The MLBPA is the strongest union in the world. It’s ridiculous and frustrating, and it’s killing baseball. Consider it: we have a list of 103 players who cheated and we only know who one of the people mentioned on it is.

  7. Elijah,
    Nice to see that you’re still following God’s game!

    Also, good to see that you support the workings of the free
    decisions of men vis-a-vis a players’ salary:

    “If baseball fans have a problem with the size of players’ paychecks then we can turn off the televised game and not buy the baseball cap or the season tickets.”

    E Balmer

  8. Have you guys seen the movie “Bigger, Stronger, Faster”? If not, definitely give it a watch. It really made me second guess a lot of my assumptions about steroids, and the issue of cheating in general. It is really well-made and objectively lays out the facts and differing opinions on steroids without proselytizing.

    Now that the cat is out of the bag on A-rod, I’ve really begun to doubt whether there have been any exceptional players in the last 20 years who haven’t used the juice in one form or another. The only guy that I would really put money on as clean is David Eckstien (if you want to call him exceptional, which I do). Everyone else, as far as I’m concerned, is guilty until proven innocent at this point. Like they say, if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

    My favorite part about this A-rod thing is that, no matter how much Jose Canseco is ridiculed, his allegations keep getting corroborated, one after another. He may be crazy, but apparently he’s not an out and out liar by any means.

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