Like most baseball fans, I gained my appreciation of the game from my dad. I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately what with a big election coming down and the Giants in the World Series. We would have visited – we didn’t talk, we visited – about both, but mostly we would have visited about the baseball.
He would have remembered Bill Terry and Carl Hubbell and given a nod to that catch Mays made in ’54 at the old Polo Grounds the last time the Giants won the whole thing. But, mostly I can hear him marvel at the pitching and the story he loved to tell about the great feat of the great Hubbell.
“You know,” he would have said, “Carl Hubbell once struck out five future Hall of Famers in a row in the All Star Game. Imagine that. Striking out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin one after the other. Amazing.”
He would have picked the Giants to beat the Rangers because “good pitching beats good hitting in a short series every time.” Once again, the old man had it right. He would have marveled at Timmy, but would have disapproved of his hairstyle.
I’ve liked the Giants as long as I’ve liked baseball, so the World Series win over the equally worthy Texas Rangers will be a great memory for a long time. I particularly like this team because it is so clearly a team. So many baseball teams, even great ones, seem like a mere collection of individuals wearing the same uniform.
Baseball, at its best, is still a team game where the power hitting first baseman can lay down a bunt and where the role playing shortstop wins the MVP, or where the rookie catcher can praise the freaky pitcher, but then acknowledge the importance of bringing in the equally freaky closer to end the last game of a magical season.
So, as Detroit Tiger fan Art Hill once suggested in his book I Don’t Care If I Ever Come Back, the season has ended just like that and we can become consumed again with politics, the economy, war and elections. Baseball’s well-lighted place that keeps the demons away until dawn has vanished, but thankfully not completely.
“Our character and our culture are reflected in this grand game,” in the words of the late, great Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti. “It would be foolish to think that all our national experience is reflected in any single institution, even our loftiest, but it would not be wrong to claim for baseball a capacity to cherish individuality and inspire cohesion in a way that is a hallmark of our loftiest institutions. Nor would it be misguided to think that, however vestigial the remnants of our best hopes, we can still find, if we wish to, a moment called a game when those hopes have life, when each of us, those who are in and those out, has a chance to gather, in a green place around home.”
April will come and none too soon.