So, I finally remembered what I was going to write about yesterday. Baseball season is underway! Pitchers and catchers reported several weeks ago, and spring training games started on Wednesday. I know some people thing baseball is boring or old fashioned, and players like Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens certainly haven't done much to help the game's image recently, but I think baseball is an amazing game. There's a lot more to it than a bunch of guys standing around waiting for some other guy to hit a ball to them.
And so I give you my Thursday... er... Friday Thirteen: Thirteen Things I Love About Baseball:
1. The history. People have been playing the game of baseball informally for more than 200 years, and professionally for over 100.
2. The length of the season. With 162 games, there's plenty of time for the front runners to choke and a dark horse to come out of nowhere. And that's what makes every game exciting.
3. The unassisted triple play. The rarest of individual feats; since 1909, there have been only 14.
4. Baseball movies. Bull Durham. The Natural. Field of Dreams.A League of Their Own. Major League. Need I say more?
5. The suicide squeeze. That just sounds exciting, doesn't it?
6. The balk. Most of the time, these are pretty subtle. Spotting one without the announcers telling you is what separates a real baseball fan from the casual observer.
7. Statistics. Baseball statisticians keep track of EVERYTHING. Want to know who had the most strike outs in their rookie season in away games played in April? Someone can tell you.
8. The double switch. I started out as a Yankees fan, so the designated hitter doesn't bother me, but I admire the elegant strategy required for making a double switch.
9. Cute butts in tight pants. Surely I don't need to explain this one.
10. The 6-4-3 double play. Essentially a nice game of catch between three players, it's the most common double play formula in the game. It's also the basis for the Chicago Cubs' famous Tinker to Evers to Chance combination.
11. Nicknames. The Sultan of Swat, the Yankee Clipper and the Iron Horse are classics, but don't forget the the Big Hurt, El Guapo, the Crime Dog and the Secretary of Defense.
12. The perfect game. Every game starts out as a potential perfect game. Some perfect games end quickly, while others linger into the late innings. The longer one lasts, the more thrilling it gets, even if it gets broken up before the end. And I love that the players won't talk about it while it's going on. Which brings me to..
13. The superstitions. Baseball players are superstitious lot - from the Curse of the Bambino to not stepping on the foul line, baseball is full of superstitions, both big and small.
I heard this the other night while watching the Yankees game - Yogi Berra was reminiscing about his friend Phil Rizzuto, and Larry and I were debating whether the Scooter really belongs in the Hall of Fame. Larry argued, probably accurately, since the man knows his baseball statistics, that there are other players with better stats who aren't in, but Rizzuto was so well liked that he got in partly on that basis. My position is, as far as I'm concerned, even if it's true, that's perfectly okay, since the HoF is supposed to about more than statistics. Just as I finished saying that, Yogi said something about Vin Scully, and this famous quote:
"Statistics are used much as a drunk uses a lamp post: for support, not illumination."
There was a long pause in our discussion, and then I said "Yeah. That." It's nice to win a baseball argument with Larry once in a while.