Baseball is the last slo-mo sport, no hurry-up into the innings of an Ingmar Bergman film or Pinter play with long pauses, no sprint but a stroll, not a Louis Armstrong riff but a Gustav Mahler adagio, the slow streak of DiMaggio, no speed boat but a ferryman with a long pole crossing a river, an afternoon extended into shadows or a night game in the early hours of morning.
In this world we’ve come to of fast foods, Quick ‘n Lube, rush hour, racing against the clock with blurts and bites what better antidote than a baseball game which takes its time, allows spectators to go to the concession stand or to the refrigerator, if you’re home watching, yawning perhaps but that’s all right.
I’ve even seen players yawn or meditate between pitches, looking for the meaning of life in the outfield which may be the same meaning as in the infield…or not because there is earth in one and grass in the other but both see the same sky and can ponder the cosmology of epistemology.
One Sunday, almost seventy years ago at Cunningham Park, I swung and met the ball in all its velocity, met it with the barrel of the bat and sent the ball beyond the confines. In that union of wood and sphere is demonstrated the in-separate-ness of all life. Very Buddhist, so I’m told by my step-son. As for the ball, it was last seen in orbit along with Pluto as a dwarf planet.
So did Casey stand at the plate detached as Buddha himself might be sitting against the Bodhi tree, emptying his mind of all worldly matters, while pitcher and catcher move in a dance aligned as one, alive into this moment in all its artistry, and here is the wind-up on the mound and here is the batter timing his swing to that rhythm allowing his muscle memory of eye and hand to meet the ball as one might meet his maker in this timeless zone but, alas, mighty Casey has struck out and there is no joy in Mudville.
If contact had been made the base runner would drift counter- clockwise around this cyclic board game of life, to the safety of another base which appeared to my mother as a pillow upon which one might dream of compassion to one fellows. Or seek the illusion of security in the touch of a tree as in childhood tag…
even as pitcher looks in for another sign while catcher peers into the dugout for a voiceless message from the manager and in a paragraph of silent movements, head-scratch, cap-tilt, belt-hitch the communion is accomplished in fluent baseball tongue, arcane and unreadable to the 41,743 in attendance whose intermittent silence is profound against the chant of, Peanuts, get your peanuts here.
In no hurry to return to their frenetic existence as they have come to this temple, this place of worship for the home team so they can alleviate the suffering within, from their futile climb up the proverbial ladder to nowhere.
And all the while sea gulls have come in off the bay water, ants wait patiently for cleats to vanish. There is no trash talk. No two minute warning buzzer. The game ends quietly; it is simply one of many. There will be seen a four-year old boy asleep in his father’s arms. Twenty years from now he will say he remembers this night.
And don’t you think the game has slowed their heart rate, lowered their cholesterol, and they are kinder, gentler drivers on their way OMMMM, than they were upon entering? I ask you.