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Opening Day

Thursday 4/1/21

* It's Opening Day for baseball, so a baseball post.

* This is the complete radio broadcast of the Red Sox kicking off the 1965 season against the Washington Senators. A trouncing for the Sox! They'd go on to start the campaign--which was Carl Yastrzemski's fifth year--4-1. Promising, yes? Alas, they'd lose 100 games. Interesting to think that in the first season of Cheers, the gang had a Red Sox game on with the Sox down late and Yaz at the plate, and everyone gathered to watch, with Carla terming Yaz an "old fossil" after he failed to come through. But that feels like a big leap--from the year of the Beatles' "Help!" to a show that would later feature Frasier Crane, who is apparently coming back again.

* Ever noticed how readily you can remember the names of your Little League teams? They'd be sponsored by the local businesses. You may have had no idea what the business was, and it was a "grown-up thing," but decades later one will recall the name. You said it with some pride at the time--like you represented the honor of, in my case, Village Bank, as you took to the mound, ready to make that catcher's mitt pop.

* One of my aims when I get where I am going and am in my house in Rockport on a rainy day like this one--rainy days make me miss Rockport even more--is to complete several baseball card sets, foremost among them the Diamond Stars set of the mid-1930s. To me it is the most beautiful of all baseball card sets. This is the card of Jimmie Foxx, who is, interestingly, depicted as a catcher. I'd say that people forget that Foxx caught, but most people have no idea who Foxx is, sadly. You'd have to be a baseball history person, despite Foxx being one of the, let us say, twelve to fifteen greatest players of all time.

* I expect little from the Sox this year. Let's say, 75 wins, with the potential for it to be a little better, but a greater potential for it to be much worse. I don't believe the offense is as good as various articles make it out to be, and the pitching could well be abysmal. The Cora rehire will go down as a bad one, though it will be forgotten. He'll be gone in a year or two, and only 2018 will be remembered in connection with him, as if he managed that one year. His style and this roster will not work together. They'll tread water at best. I think he needs to win to stay on. A mixed message, conflicted hire. But who knows? He could manage for ten years and win three titles. You never know.

* This is a pretty crazy stat. Wade Boggs, who let the AL in OPS in 1987, when he had his best power numbers with 24 home runs and 89 RBI, also led the league in that category in 1988, when he hit 5 home runs with 58 RBI. That's mind-boggling. You won't see that in the modern era anywhere else. A batter's slugging percentage will just be too low.

* The best baseball nonfiction I know is Lawrence Ritter's The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It, which came out in 1966. It's an oral history, with the players weaving oft-brilliant stories. The best baseball fiction I know was written by Ring Lardner. You Know Me Al (1916) is his sort of a novel, but all of his baseball stories are real and lived in, and, like the best writing, transcend their putative subject matter. Can't say there are many baseball films I rate highly. They're usually very melodramatic. I find Field of Dreams risible. I don't know how anyone watches it and doesn't giggle over how ridiculous it is. Bull Durham makes me think, "You're trying way too hard to be clever and you're just not." Even when I watched The Natural as a kid, I thought, "oh, come on, stop it." Actually, some of the best baseball art would be the Peanuts strips involving baseball. Baseball has a spiritual quality. I don't mean a religious one. But a spiritual side and depth. The Peanuts strips bring that out well. For best baseball film, I'd opt for Charlie Brown's All Stars, also from 1966.

* I do think baseball has the most problems, as a game, of the four major North American sports right now, and has to change the most. The "three true outcomes" approach makes it so boring, and with the pace of play and the times of the games, that boredom stretches and stretches. The shift is another problem. Sightings of athleticism are pretty rare. It's a stagnant game. It's not fluid. The role of the starting pitcher--which previously had something of the hero about it, as in a novel or even a Greek play--has been effaced. If you listen to sports radio, the only people who call in wanting to talk baseball are advanced in age--they want to talk about how the game was in the 1950s, they stumble across their words. And then there are lonely people, like me, who have no one, and can at least here familiar voices each night. That's depressing, right? This is where it's at for me right now at the moment, and it's simply what it is, but if this was better, I'd have a lot less games on, probably. I mean, I'm so lonely, I go to bed with the games on so I can feel a little less alone. Outlaw the shift, put in a pitch clock, change the balls so that it's not worth swinging for the fences on every damn pitch. I'd also like to see technology outlawed once the game begins. That you can walk into the clubhouse and study video mid-game is nuts to me. Or look at a tablet in the dugout. We most care about things that are human, and not roboticized. We try to make this otherwise, but it's how human nature is. We connect to flaws, to people overcoming a flaw, on their own, as a human. We can respect gaffes because we make our own. We pull harder for the human out there on their own than we do the technology-assisted human. It's a game. A sport. Played by people. During the playing of the game, leave it entirely up to the people. Break down your at-bats later.

* What I think was once great about baseball was the role of identity. Teams had an identity. It often stemmed from a style of play, because there was not one single style of play, as there is now. A team might be built for a ballpark. One team slugged, another ran. Different attitudes and approaches were discernible, and it was like one kind of person being pitted against another, or one idea against another. The team sport had this streak of individualism. Greater creativity of thought and approach, too. You could "fall" for a team, even. I don't think you can fall for a team now. You can root for your team, but everything is so homogeneous. As the season unfolds, it feels like nothing you'll remember. I guess a lot of society is this way now. I think it's part of the reason why we devolve, while lying to ourselves that we're advancing because we have technology and we're trained, via fear and insincerity and the need for attention, to strike poses and say, "look, we're kinder now, praise me!" When we allow ourselves to get caught up in these things, we get passed by, ironically. We think we're moving forward, the march of time and all of that, but we're really self-obsoleting. Baseball has done this to itself, and yet, baseball remains. For what that is worth. What is that worth? An entry like this, anyway, on another Opening Day.

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