Saturday, June 17, 2017

Existential Baseball

Fred and I have lived 170 years between us. Ample time to put aside childish things like baseball. The hope is we never will. 1941 was our first year of immersion into that arcane realm. He had recently arrived from Nazi Germany. The game was his entre into American life and its idioms. He lived in the Bronx and was therefore a Yankee fan. I had Dodger Blue in my bloodstream. It was also a watershed year for baseball. Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio achieved heights that summer which have never been approached ever since.

I hear you sneer. Don’t go away. This could get interesting … though I make no guarantees.

This season both our teams have young ballplayers (Bellinger and Judge) who have captured our attention. Here is an email conversation between us which demonstrates how sports can be a metaphor for life itself…..though if this were about NASCAR racing or bowling I’d have stopped reading by now.

Me- Both our guys are phenomenal. I see Williams and DiMag.

Fred- They’re good but it’s waaaaaaay too early to call them phenoms.

Me- If we die tomorrow we’ll always remember then both as phenoms.

Fred- If we die tomorrow we’ll miss our lunch date.

Me- We can die after lunch.

Fred- I don’t know. I hate dying on a full stomach.

Me- It’s OK to die on a full stomach as long as we don’t go swimming.

Baseball makes my case for a parallel universe. In this new Dark Age of Trumpdom one needs an alternative reality. Why else would I sleep better when Cody Bellinger hits a game-winning home run? All’s right with the world. Not here, but there.

We desperately need our phenomenal individuals. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio / Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Phenoms in sports suggest how it is possible to go beyond the givens.

Beckett was waiting for Godot. We can no longer wait. I’ll take my heroes where I find them to lift me out of the morass. If we can’t change the world at least we can make changes in the country of our imagination. That prepares me for an idealized place. When Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947 it confirmed my sense of social justice. When the team followed me to L.A. I felt the hand of Providence intervening. Yet I also had to reconcile the move with the displacement of many families in Chavez Ravine. The imaginative mind lives with contradictions.

Not every inside-baseball conversation reaches an existential level. I expect my five or six baseball friends have assigned the game to a corner in their brains to revisit lost youth or for its geometric and statistical elegance in the midst of life’s incoherence.

Dear Zeus – There is no joy here in Mudville. Enough malicious mischief please. Can you spare one of your famous bolts to wake us? Thanks for sending these two home run heroes but we ask you to lift this curse and return us to the Golden Age before the innings end us.

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