So the 2010 baseball season opens today! A sure sign that spring is here, summer is coming and the world is still turning on its axis. Hallelujah! (Okay, it opened in Boston last night for the Red Sox and Yankees, but for everyone else, today’s the day.)
Much is being made of President Obama’s plan to throw out the first ceremonial pitch of the season at the Washington Nationals’ game. It’s been posited that the President’s absence from the first game of last season (he was in Europe at the G-20 meeting) was the cause of their appalling 59-103 record last year. No one can say for certain if there was a causal effect, but fans will be watching this year’s performance closely.
Going to any baseball game, if you’re lucky enough to live in a city with a major league, or even a minor league team, is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon or evening. Go with friends and it’s even better. Get the big hot dog with grilled onions and you’ve reached nirvana.
Here in St. Louis, baseball is a religion. It’s no wonder that the season opens just behind Easter, and on the last day of Passover. We take our baseball seriously. That is, some of us do.
I raised my kids on Whitey Ball. To the uninitiated, that’s as in Whitey Herzog, legendary manager of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1980-1990, he led the team to six division wins, three pennant wins, and a World Series title in 1982! We loved his style of coaching and managing, and never had anything but the utmost respect for the man.
I took my kids to the games, taught them how to keep a scorecard, and glowed with pride when they began to overtake my knowledge of the players and the game. Win or lose, it was always a good day at the stadium.
But back to my ‘baseball as religion’ analogy. This religion doesn’t apply to everyone. Take my husband (please) for example. The Center of the Universe (CoTU) is not a believer. He wouldn’t even claim to be agnostic on this particular subject. He’s a total baseball atheist.
He goes to a game only under the most extreme pressure, say, when his employer offered him the company tickets. Or when I had spent the previous umpteen days in the company of some unctuous visitor, serving, scraping and bowing like a servant from the Victorian era. Or when HIS friends invited us! Oh yes, then he’ll go, but if I suggest it? Not on your life. Not that I’m bitter.
Anyway, even then the CoTU is not reluctant to display his utter boredom throughout the proceedings. “What inning is it?” becomes his mantra. He knows where to find this information on the scoreboards, but likes asking me anyway at intervals of approximately three minutes. An average game runs about three hours. Here—let me do the math for you: that would be 60 times. If the game goes into extra innings, we’re talking serious risk of injury here. (His.)
Like any child of six, he is going to eat his way through the game. This is especially annoying because he is not overweight. Those of us who gain weight from looking at food find this highly irritating. He may start with peanuts and a beer. Soon it’s a hot dog (can’t really blame him) and a beer. Then he’s bored with the beer, but nachos look good. Candy—how about some candy? He goes off looking for the best selection of candy in the stadium. By now, of course, it’s the bottom of the second. We still have a long way to go…
He takes lots of walks during the game to keep from having to watch the play. Rarely does he return without something new to eat. “Popcorn?” he offers. I shake my head ‘no’. “What inning is it?”
When a Cardinal hits a home run, fireworks go off in the stadium, and all the fans are on their feet, stomping, whooping, cheering and hollering. CoTU looks at me, deadpan, and asks, “Was that one of ours?”
The closest he comes to demonstrating enjoyment during a game is during the seventh-inning stretch. He seems to like singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”. Maybe because it mentions peanuts and Cracker Jack. Which he ate in the top of the third.
So, back to President Obama and that ceremonial first pitch. Every president except Jimmy Carter has done it, dating back to William Howard Taft in 1910. In recent days when health care reform was passed into law, pundits have been saying that Obama went from being Jimmy Carter to FDR overnight. As in, his success with that project gave him some new confidence. Today he will again distance himself from President Carter. Let’s see what it does for the team.