At eleven years old I fell in love with baseball. From that time forward it was on my mind constantly. I was either playing the game, watching it on television, or thinking about it—even while I was supposed to be doing my schoolwork. At the time, the only subjects that could compete with baseball in terms of my life’s priorities were the Lakers and the Beatles. Those three subjects were my adolescent trinity, so to speak.
My first visit to Dodger Stadium with my dad in 1970 was like a religious experience. I’ll never forget the sights, sounds, and smells of the ballpark. The marvelously manicured green grass, the smell of peanuts and hotdogs, and the red, white, and blue uniforms of the Dodgers players were nothing short of spectacular. Our seats were right behind first base where my favorite Dodger, Wes Parker (number 28), played. That night happened to also be a helmet giveaway game. You can bet that plastic Dodgers helmet became a near-permanent fixture on my head for the next couple of years.
Strangely enough, I never felt closer to my dad than I did that one evening at Dodger Stadium. Up until that time, my relationship with my World War II veteran father was largely one of emotionally distant respect. But that night at Chavez Ravine, my father was unusually relaxed and talkative. We talked, as we never had before. The context of baseball seemed to allow for a special bond between father and son. The Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres that summer night, a moment I won’t ever forget.
Baseball and Life
Nowadays, I intentionally limit the time I spend watching sports in order to focus more of my attention on faith, family, and the life of the mind (reading). Today the Lakers are the primary focus of my limited sports watching. Thus, I don’t follow Major League Baseball (MLB) daily as I did in my youth. But I still enjoy reflecting on the unique features of baseball and its connection to American history. Of all the sports, baseball seems more analogous to daily life.
Here’s my list of the unique features of MLB and why it has remained such a grand game:
- There’s no clock in baseball. Thus, there’s something timeless about the game.
- Unlike most other sports, in baseball the defense controls the ball, which makes it difficult for any one player to dominate the game.
- Each ballpark in the MLB is different. Thus, every stadium is special and territorial in reflecting its home city.
- Of all sports, baseball stands uniquely connected to American history. It began at the time of the Civil War, and its golden age extended through the Great Depression and the Second World War.
- While football seems like an event, baseball more closely resembles real life. Similar to human life, baseball is a day-to-day grind with lots of failure and yet a returning optimism in the spring.
Another thing I like about baseball is its unique connection to the number nine (e.g., nine players and nine innings). Thus, though most fans won’t notice, baseball makes me think of the Holy Trinity squared—a connection between my love for the game and the theologian within.