Spring Can Start Now—Baseball Is Back

Baseball is more to me than simply a game. It is a tradition that I share with my children, that I share with my father, and that he shared with his father. It consists of stories told from one generation to another of who is the best, who you have seen play while sitting in the stands, and the comparisons and discussions that come along with those shared experiences and memories. It is neglecting to study for finals to go to a day game at Wrigley, taking the entire family out for a day at Busch, and staying up late listening to the west coast games. It is a love of a game that connects both halves of our family, and a baseball game is the gift I’m giving my wife for our tenth anniversary.

Baseball gives a shared language, a lore of well over a century of organized play, and a history that follows the contours of the events that shaped this country. It is a profoundly personal thing that you watch along with tens of thousands of people in a stadium or millions of people on television and radio. Grown men wait for the season to start every year to sit in the stands and feel like a child or to own imaginary baseball teams and challenge each other in the field of statistics.

I love baseball. Opening Day is the day of dreams—the day where every team is in first place, if only for a couple of hours. The day where fans’ hopes are refreshed (even the Cubs fans), the future seems bright, and optimism abounds. It’s the day where the heroes of children suit up and take the field of competition, as their fans watch and wait to see what will take place for the next six months.

It is the only major professional sport in the United States where the end of the game is not dictated by a clock—and in more than one way, it is timeless.

Welcome to spring.

The first thing about it—and this seems so obvious that maybe we overlook it—baseball is a beautiful thing. It’s more beautiful in an old park that’s asymmetrical and quirky, but even—and I hate to say this because it might encourage them—but even in a dome, with artificial turf, it’s beautiful. The way the field fans out, the choreography of the sport, the pace and rhythm of it, the fact that that pace and rhythm allows for conversation and reflection, and opinion, and comparison.

––Bob Costas

I said: “Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic!”

He was hilarious: “That’s beautiful: the hurrah game! well — it’s our game: that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game: has the snap, go fling, of the American atmosphere — belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”

–– Conversation with Walt Whitman as quoted in With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906) by Horace Traubel

I enjoy the game because it’s a beautifully-designed game; it’s a beautiful game to watch. But principally because it makes me feel American. It makes me feel connected with this culture. And I think there are only three things that America will be known for two thousand years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music, and baseball. They’re the three most beautifully-designed things this culture has ever produced.

––Gerald Early

It is played everywhere, in parks and playgrounds, and prison yards, in back alleys and farmers’ fields; by small boys and old men, raw amateurs and millionaire professionals. It is a leisurely game that demands blinding speed; the only game in which the defense has the ball. It follows the seasons, beginning each year with the fond expectancy of springtime and ending with the hard facts of autumn.

Americans have played baseball for more than two hundred years, while they conquered a continent, warred with one another and with enemies abroad, struggled over labor and civil rights and the meaning of freedom.

At its heart lie mythic contradictions. A pastoral game born in crowded cities. An exhilarating democratic sport that tolerates cheating, and has excluded as many as it has included. A profoundly conservative game that often manages to be years ahead of its time.

It is an American odyssey that links sons and daughters to fathers and grandfathers. And it reflects a host of age-old American tensions: between workers and owners, scandal and reform, the individual and the collective.

It is a haunted game in which each player is measured against the ghosts of all who have gone before. Most of all, it is about time and timelessness, speed and grace, failure and loss, imperishable hope, and coming home.

––Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns

67 comments on “Spring Can Start Now—Baseball Is Back

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  1. Hooray for Opening Day! Warm weather is sure to come soon, right?
    Wonderful post on the beauty of baseball, and how it weaves us together as Americans.
    Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  2. A beautiful, concise post. Perfect for Opening Day! I’m pretty excited…not long to go now. As a Mets fan this may be my best day of the whole season!

    1. I love the site URL. And I never count out the Mets, though it seems they have a habit of deceiving their fans up until about two months left in the season most years.

  3. Unfortunately Baseball isn’t an American game though is it, you can’t ignore you’re English roots. Baseball is an English game, commonly know as rounders, which I played at school for many years. It was acyually referred to as baseball in 1745.

    So Baseball isn’t as American as apple pie, it’s as English as fish and chips, but you’re welcome to borrow it :)

    Know the enjoyment of the game of baseball in its current form is American for sure.

    1. Ah, yes; rounders did influence the game of baseball, but the rules changes that came along with baseball make it uniquely American—and you can’t deny that the game has grown up alongside American history and culture and as such reflects the life of a nation.

      Apple pie isn’t American either, of course, but baseball does owe its roots to the first settlers here, just as much as it owes its continuing development to successive generations of immigrants.

  4. Great post! My sentiments exactly! Spring is a great time to enjoy baseball and start a new season. As a kid I grew up in LA and had the opportunity to hear Vin Scully announce the Dodgers games. Listening to him call the games with Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Wally Moon, Maury Wills and the rest of the team was such a delight growing up during that era.

  5. Great Post! I’m so glad it’s Opening Day. It’s one of the best times of the year.
    It lets us all think back to the great days of our youth.

  6. Loved this post. This Saturday I’m going to a game with my mom, my sisters, my husband, and our unborn child. My husband and I bonded over baseball. Almost all of the dates we had at the beginning of our relationship consisted of meeting to watch games. We had some of the best conversations of our lives over baseball. Naturally, we want to get the little one in on the tradition early.

    1. Just so long as it’s not a Cubs game. You don’t want to sentence the child to a lifetime of disappointment. :)

      Enjoy the game!

  7. Great post, but speaking as a Met fan, Opening Day is just the start of the collapse countdown so some of the bloom is off the rose. On the other hand, the expectations are so low that they really can’t disappoint.

    None of that, though, changes the wonder that is baseball. I’ve been lucky enough to see games in both Fenway and Wrigley (as well as about a dozen other parks) and there is no denying the magic of a summer day at the ballpark. And as I’ve said elsewhere, baseball is the great equalizer. A chimney sweep can talk baseball with equal authority to a millionaire and both can have the same family ballpark experience. (Even if the millionaire does have better seats.)

  8. Congratulations on your post making it to Freshly Pressed. Go Cards! (fellow St. Louisan, transplanted from Central Illinois)

  9. PLAY BALL!! I can’t wait for my parents to take me and my sister to some games this year. We don’t get to the major leagues (GO PHILLIES!) games too much but we go to a lot of minor league games. I liked reading this post -thanks for it :)

  10. There is a moment in the movie, “The Rookie,” in which Dennis Quaid’s students walk from the concourse to the seats and see the field. In that moment the majesty of the field opens up to the lush green of promise and hope. Baseball is bigger than everything and you understand why a teacher would go for his baseball dream one more time. That is what I love about going to a professional game – that overwhelming moment of grandeur.

    Go White Sox!

  11. Great post! How true that it’s such a great game for all generations. I have two young boys, and we’ve begun taking them to a few games a year. Each year we go to a few more games and last longer at most of them. This may be the year we make it through all nine innings. Can’t wait!

  12. Wow, look at that sunshine! Great day for a game! Baseball is to American Gents as Football/Soccer is to British Gents, so I get the tradition and unity in sport. Great post!

  13. Hooray for Opening Day! We’re Red Sox fans and can’t wait for the season to unfold. Beautifully written, and your photos are stunning.

    1. Thanks for the compliment on the photos. They were taken at a game at Busch we went to last year with my parents – the kids’ first. For one of my girl’s Girl Scouts activities we got to walk around the warning track before the game started, which gave me the unique chance to get some good field-level shots.

  14. I enjoyed your post. I’m finishing my own baseball thoughts (tomorrow is thoughts on opening day). I look forward to reading yours along the way. Now if I can just figure out how this stuff works……

      1. That would be a blast! I haven’t been to Busch but Dodger Stadium is perhaps a close second. It’s the best place I’ve seen a game.

  15. It’s been a while since we’ve had a baseball movie, huh? I’d just read an article in the L.A. Times saying how the movie industry’s tanked about 20% because of, according to the movie industry itself, bad movies. We’ve had a lot of vampire and superhero movies. We’re seeing a revival of westerns. I think we’re overdue for a baseball one!

  16. Great stuff, man. Being a life-long cards fan currently living in Korea, the pictures of beautiful Busch stadium started my day off right. Here’s to a fantastic season.

  17. OMGosh….saw the pic on Freshly Pressed. Of course I had to visit a local blogger’s page.

    Wonderful photos!!!

  18. Loved this post. Beautifully written. I’ve been awaiting baseball season for what seems like ages. I love that Bob Costas quote as well. And actually after a midterm I plan to head over to Yankee Stadium and get baseball going a bit earlier for me this season.

  19. Beautiful post, man. Opening Day is like Christmas for me, and it’s clear that you probably feel the same way.

    I’m a displaced Yankees fan currently living in Nashville. I’ve been following the Cards since I moved here in 2001 & plan on attending at least one game at Busch this season. The pics are very inspiring.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  20. Congrats on Freshly Pressed. We’ve been counting down the days ’till opening day. My husband took today off! Our Sox don’t play until tomorrow, but any baseball is better than no baseball! (Go Red Sox!)

  21. We had a (very) early dinner tonight in which I saw the last two innings of the Yankees/Tigers game. I kept remarking about how great it was that it was Opening Day, etc. My wife just didn’t “get it”. Thanks for this post!

  22. I share your excitement of the game and have a one year old boy (my first child) and am so excited to take him to his first CUBS game when they visit the Nats on July 4th this summer!!! Yes, all of those who root for the Cubs have a stubborn pride! Congrats!

    1. It is indeed a special kind of understanding to be a Cubs fan. A true understanding of grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love—even in the face of incomparable and crushing defeat. :)

  23. Thanks Ryan. A great season is beginning. My Rockies open at home Friday 4/1.

  24. When I loved in Denver I used to go to ball games all the time… I just loved the whole atmosphere… the hotdogs, the beer…. the beautiful days…..ahhh…this brought back such memories… now I live in the UK… its all about soccer, cricket and rugby here…. give me baseball and ice-hockey any day…

  25. I get baseball is very American. It gets so much airtime on The Simpsons. It’s like how we treat the Australian Footy League here.

  26. I love baseball, but I hate the Phillies. And I live in Philly. It’s going to be a rough day. :)

    Go Yanks! And thanks for this fantastic post.

  27. Thanks for the post, great pictures. Here’s to hoping my Astros can break 500 and make the season a little better.

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