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Tag: baseball

Opening Day Can’t Come Soon Enough

Baseball is back, and not a moment too soon. America — and especially Washington — in 2021 desperately needs the values and the constancy of baseball. Nobody put baseball better than did war hero, team owner and American original Bill Veeck: "Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can't get you off."

Veeck was absolutely right. Pedigree and social connections are no help if you can't hit a curveball. Whether your family arrived on the Mayflower or under the cover of darkness wading across the Rio Grande matters to nobody in the ballpark with two outs in the last of the ninth and you represent the last chance to bring home the tying run from third base.

The language of baseball is straightforward and unbureaucratic. An error wasn't made; Shields made the error allowing the winning run to score. Baseball is made up of hits and runs, strikes and balls. There are no pilot projects or interim reports outlining parameters and proposed temporary guidelines. In baseball, decisions are made — by umpires and managers — and the consequences are known immediately by fans who are free to boo or to cheer. "Red" Smith, the brilliant American sportswriter, explained the genius of the dimensions of the baseball field: "

The 90 feet between home plate and first base may be the closest man has ever come to perfection." Think about it: If a football field were 120 yards long — instead of 100 yards — it would make no real difference to the game itself, or if the basketball hoop were 12 feet instead of 10 feet from the floor .

But now, nearly two centuries since the baseball diamond was first laid out, when the batter hits a ground ball to one of the infielders, the race from the batter's box to first base frequently results in a photo finish. Because the pitcher's mound and the batter's box are 60 feet and 6 inches apart, the battle between the pitcher and the batter is a not uneven battle. If the pitcher were just 50 feet away, that would give the pitcher an unfair advantage over the hitter, while if the pitcher were 70 feet away from the batter, the advantage would swing dramatically to the batter. Genius.

In our hyped-up, over-caffeinated world, baseball has no clocks or watches; it is timeless. You don't run out of time in baseball; your destiny is in your own hands, and that is good. Either you get your opponent out or your opponent gets you out.

Baseball, of course, has its critics. It lacks the action of football or basketball. Baseball can be too slow or leisurely. Once again, the immortal Smith provides the rebuttal. When the ever-opinionated TV announcer Howard Cosell argued the "baseball is boring," Smith said simply, "Baseball is dull only to dull minds."

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

Trump Says He’s ‘ Too Busy’ To Throw First Pitch

Donald Trump claimed Sunday that he would no longer throw out the first pitch at a New York Yankees game next month because he was too busy dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump made the statement after spending the weekend golfing at his New Jersey resort.

"Because of my strong focus on the China Virus, including scheduled meetings on Vaccines, our economy and much else, I won't be able to be in New York to throw out the opening pitch for the [New York] Yankees on August 15th," Trump tweeted on Sunday afternoon, using a racist term for the coronavirus. "We will make it later in the season!"

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Play Ball? Better To Wait Until Next Year

So we were having dinner when my wife said, "It still feels weird that you're not going into the TV room to watch baseball later on. Kind of sad, really."

Now, supposedly, I've gotten a reprieve. Commissioner Rob Manfred has ordained that major league baseball is coming back in late July: a 60-game schedule followed by the regular playoff schedule and the World Series.

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Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Remembering Jim Bouton (To Help You Forget Donald Trump)

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

In 1964, an 18-year-old New York Military Academy first baseman named Don Trump slammed a game-winning home run against Cornwall High School that perked the interest of scouts for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox. No question about it -- the big kid was a professional prospect!

That same year, a 25-year-old New York Yankees pitcher named Jim Bouton, an All-Star the previous season, won two World Series games against the St. Louis Cardinals. Hall of Fame, here we come!

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Danziger: Kill The Umpire

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

Why We Still Need Baseball So Badly

The worse it gets, the more I need baseball. The worse what gets? Well, what have you got? Watched the evening news lately? Some days, the promise of a three-hour break from what novelist Philip Roth called “the indigenous American berserk” draws me like a fountain in the desert.

Roth, of course, was a great baseball fan. He even wrote a 1973 book called “The Great American Novel”—a ribald saga about a New Jersey minor league team whose owner rented the stadium to the War Department, forcing his team to play the entire season on the road. If not Roth’s best, it has moments of antic hilarity. He told an interviewer that he had more fun writing it than any of his other novels.

When I was a kid, baseball was unquestionably the most important American sport. Nothing else came close. Debating the relative merits of Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider and Willie Mays—Hall of Fame center-fielders for the three New York teams—consumed much of my youth.

In my neighborhood, which team you supported was a more reliable indicator of personal identity than race or religion. We didn’t know from politics, but we all knew Monte Irvin. (My dad played semi-pro ball with Irvin, and he never quit talking about it.)

We also played baseball every day in warm weather. Also wiffle ball, stick ball, stoop ball, etc. To be a boy back then was to play baseball. You didn’t have to be an all-star, but you did have to know the game. Somebody said they didn’t understand the Infield Fly Rule, what they were telling you was they basically didn’t understand anything.

These days, not so much. Indeed, a whole genre of “baseball is doomed” articles appear regularly in the sporting press. The latest is called “Why No One Watches Baseball Anymore” by Dave Zirin, sportswriter for The Nation. I know what you’re thinking: The Nation has a sportswriter? Along with all those articles about “the inspiring energy of progressives?” Yeah, and a lively, provocative sportswriter at that, if a bit dogmatic for my taste.

There’s no doubt that major league baseball is less central to American culture than it once was. But then no one sport is anymore. Zirin cites polls showing that only nine percent of Americans call baseball their favorite—the lowest since Gallup started asking. In Monte Irvin’s heyday, it was in the 30s.

When the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski hit a walkoff home run to win the 1960 World Series, so many kids were covertly listening on transistor radios that a subdued roar went up in my high school. That wouldn’t happen today. World Series games are played at night, and young people pretty much aren’t into it. Gallup says only six percent of Americans under 34 favor baseball.

Eleven percent favor basketball and soccer.

I love basketball too; soccer sometimes. Football only intermittently. Here in SEC country, the local team plays a dozen games—three they can’t lose, three they never win, and six maybes. No sooner does one disappointing season end than everybody yaks obsessively for eight months about the next. Meanwhile, I’ve watched 100 Red Sox games. I think it’s a game for people who don’t like sports as much as drinking parties.

But that’s just me, although football’s slipping in popularity too. But here’s the thing: You don’t need to know one thing about football to watch it on TV. Baseball, you do.

Zirin says that his problem with baseball is that “the games are too damn long.” He cites the recent Red Sox-Yankees series in London, England as an example. Both games lasted around four and a half hours. “Though a typical game falls more in the three-hour range,” he writes, “this is too damn long.”

To me, it’s just right. Three blessed hours of taut competition in which he who shall not be named, won’t be. Perfect. The problem with the London games was playing in a soccer stadium whose aerodynamics made pitchers unable to control breaking balls. So it became Home Run Derby.

Seventeen to 13, for heaven’s sake. That’s a slow pitch softball score. The English crowd seemed enthralled, but it wasn’t big league baseball.

Speed things up? Absolutely. Put in a 30-second pitch clock; limit hitters to one, maybe two time outs per at bat. Stand in there and hit.

The dramatic effect of defensive shifts could be altered by requiring two infielders on either side of second base. More situational hitting, fewer second basemen swinging for the bleachers and striking out.

Mostly, though, major league baseball needs to sponsor more youth leagues. You play baseball, you learn to love it.

Zirin also confesses to being a Mets fan like my brother Tommy, making the yearly transition from “Let’s Go Mets” to “Fire the Manager and Burn the Stadium.”

Usually in July, come to think of it.

IMAGE: Former New York Yankee Yogi Berra stands at home plate before the final regular season MLB American Leugue baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York in this September 21, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Segar/Files