Fall is my favorite season, and Thanksgiving my favorite holiday. Canadian Thanksgiving, of course, no sense putting a perfectly good holiday in late November when there is fifteen feet of snow on the ground and igloos litter the landscape like so many sugar donuts. Fall and Thanksgiving are tightly entwined with my childhood memories of the grain harvest on the farm when I was a kid, when my mom and me would sit in a grain truck listening to the baseball playoffs while Dad drove the harvester late into the night in the annual rush to get the crops off.
That was a time when you could still get baseball games on the radio. You still can, if you can get the right ESPN affiliate being bounced off the ionosphere, but no one ever carries the games locally like they used to. Too often the ESPN affiliates in Canada usurp the baseball for the hockey, which is really silly considering the relative significance of playoff games on one hand, and miserable meaningless early season games on the other. Fortunately, I can get the Seattle affiliate from where we live on a clear night.
As a kid I loved baseball but then in them middlin’ years I had no time for it. I still have a hard time finding time for a whole game but recently I’ve discovered baseball on the radio is the perfect combination of having your hands and eyes free for jobs while having professional silence fillers help pass the time enjoyably. If you can occupy yourself with a task like painting a room or sanding a dresser, a baseball game on the radio is a great accompaniment. The casual pace of the action (it’s boring until it’s exciting, but then it’s really exciting) rarely demands full attention. Never a moments lull, never the silliness encountered when trying to listen to the U.S. Open tennis over the Internet.
A friend and I decided that baseball is the perfect game. It doesn’t discriminate against height or size. Volleyball and Basketball were great when they were invented, but they haven’t kept up with increased athleticism of the players. Also, there’s very little to counter the inherent advantages tall players have. They are tall players sports through and through and a tall capable player is better than a short capable player and there’s no point arguing about it. Tall baseball players, on the other hand, have a larger strike zone; likewise smaller hitters smaller zones and with accurate umping the advantages of height or lack thereof should cancel each other out. A similar argument concerns the size of the game field and the nature of human fitness and training. Few games scale well in the face of year round training that became the norm in the mid ’80s. Hockey, for example, has larger and faster athletes than ever before but each player has so little time and space to manage the puck the game resembles pinball more than the old school game of passing and play-making.
A sharply struck grounder by 2009’s strongest baseball player can be caught by a slight shortstop playing back perhaps a step or two. However, the throw to first has to be more accurate and faster as well. The hitter still has drag himself to first base in time to beat the throw which penalizes extreme body mass types. In other words, the game offers degrees of freedom that can accommodate all types and can seamlessly and automatically adjust the way it’s played. Pitchers get stronger and train in equal measure with the hitters, but they too have to hit (American League excepted). If one side or the other gets an advantage, the league can adjust the called size of the strike zone and simply and relatively unobtrusively bring the game back into balance.
The perfect game. Just in time, too, for a fall full of work and turkey prior to building the igloo.
Thanks Helmut. The World Series is the ONLY thing I like about autumn. I listened or watched Cubs games with my grandfather when I was a kid. After moving to Ohio I slowly became a Reds fan – but only if they weren’t playing the Cubs. Now that I am down south in Cardinals-land, I find that my old loyalties still hold. The exception being that in Memphis we have the AAA Redbirds – a Cardinals affiliate. Love the local team, but not the Cards. Love my Cubs. And yes, as we fans say every year, “Maybe next year”. Will new owners change the Cubs’ fate? Time will tell.
Oooo. Cubs fan. Sorry I brought the whole thing up..
The Big Red Machine of the 70’s was my first favorite team. I wanted to be a catcher just like Johnny Bench because I read he could throw to second base without standing up. I watched the Expos with my grandfather, but they didn’t win when I was young and I didn’t watch baseball in the ’80’s much. Then the Blue Jay’s were the story.
When I was painting rooms in our last house there was a radio program about the radio announcer for the Jay’s who was either retiring or had died a short time earlier (don’t remember that part). He broadcast games for 40 years with one team or another and he got to announce the winning seasons the Jay’s had. The time of his life, he said. They played the clips and I remembered exactly what I was doing when I heard it the first time 15 years earlier. As a Cubs fan, I don’t suppose that makes any sense. 🙂
Any favorites this year Spike? I’m kinda rooting for the Angels as underdogs.
Helmut, I love your essay on baseball. I am not a fan of any sport but baseball on the radio is part of the sound track in the background of my childhood. And I loved your analysis of why baseball is the perfect sport.
Thanks Kay. It seems to me that the world is divided into two camps. Those who were introduced to baseball by a proper adult and love it forever, and those who were not and who presently have no time for it at all. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who sat down on the couch one day and said, “Oh hey, baseball,” and got really hooked if they weren’t exposed to it as a kid.
I’m a National League-r (Don’t get me started on the DH rule.). I don’t care for the Dodgers, but I do like Joe Torre. On the other hand, I tend to lean north/northeast, so the Phillies might be OK with me to represent the NL. A boring World Series doesn’t do baseball any good, so an “expressway” Series between the Dodgers and Angels might just have folks watching/attending for the novelty of it all. And the weather’s good in California!
Once the Series is over I know it’s time to haul out the sweats and sweaters, turn up the thermostat, make some soup, and hunker down with some good books (and games) – and wait until next April.
Don’t forget that an “expressway” series would have night games on after the kids are in bed. Living in west coast time has been bad for real time sports consumption.
I don’t really have any NL/AL or team affiliation. Each year, it seems, there appears an underdog or long shot team that is worthy of cheering for. Lately I do like the way these types of teams have been winning, particularly the ‘small ball’ types of teams.
All-righty then. Chalk one up for the NL – in enemy territory, no less.
So much for the ‘expressway’ series. Sounds like it was a great game (I missed it completely with the kids) but I’m working out at the house tonight so should get the whole thing. I’m rooting for the Phillies over the evil empire.
Been thinking of this degrees of freedom thing in terms of pc games (or pc game difficulty in terms of DOF). Steerpike is embroiled in a difficult game at the moment, and it’s interesting to me how a game can be hard without being unfair. It should be easy to make an impossible game, but how do you make a game hard, but offer degrees of freedom in the encounter to make it interesting?
I could write a treatise on Demon’s Souls, and how it contradicts itself in every way, and how that manages to result in an incredible, revelatory game. And I just might, you wait!
In case anyone had forgotten when Canada ruled the world.
Every day and never, that’s how often this happens. Every day a boy hits a come-from-behind home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the World Series. And never, in 89 Fall Classics, has this actually come to pass. Of course it hasn’t. Even in the big leagues, hitting a home run is called leaving the yard, and that is the only place where such a thing can happen: the backyard.
This is what happened in Game 6 of the 90th World Series(1993): Joe Carter hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Jays an 8-6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies and their second consecutive world championship.
Oh, you Canadians, with your “oots” and your “aboots.”
Surely you must admit that America has done a far better job running the world in the… last… eight…
God, I can’t even go on to mock it. Please conquer us.
Ah, just stumbled upon this article. Nice read!
I like Baseball. We watched the Jay’s while we were in Toronto in 2008, against the Red Sox, and we enjoyed it so much we went back to watch the 3rd game! If I recall correctly the Jays lost, but I guess I’m an honorary fan from here on in.
Go Jays Go!
Highlights were the price of entry (about $10 I think for our tickets, for several hours of entertainment and top level baseball. I’m going to a 3rd division Football (soccer) match this weekend that would cost you Americans $40) and the fact that one of the Jay’s players entered the field to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s wrestling music. Genius. The Rogers Centre is a super stadium aswell.