Opening Day

Like Annie Savoy (played by Susan Sarandon in her best role) in the movie Bull Durham, I believe in the church of baseball.

My belief was passed down to me according to the patriarchal order, from father to son. We were fans of the old Salt Lake Bees, and whenever I went driving with Dad on a summer evening, the radio was tuned to the ball game. When I was 14, I got my first paying job, hawking game programs at Bees’ games. “Programs! Get your programs here! Souvenir programs, one dollar!” The best part of the job was that, by the second inning, everybody who was going to buy a program had already handed over their money, so I could go sit down and watch the game. Dad drove twenty minutes to drop me off before the game, then he drove home. Three hours later, he made the same round-trip. At the time, I thought all the driving was a demonstration of his great love for me, but now, living with teenage boys, I can understand how that love was probably leavened with an earnest desire for an adolescent boy to have a job.

In case you are wondering what baseball has to do with the church, I will point out that our latest movie about Joesph Smith, Jr. Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration, depicts a game of baseball being played on the green spaces of Nauvoo. The tall guy with the big smile and the big schnoz who answers to the name of Smith bats right-handed and has good power to dead centerfield. The organization of our church in Fayette, New York in 1830 signalled the beginning of the restoration of all good things. A mere 9 years later and 140 miles away, Abner Doubleday laid out a baseball diamond in Elihu Phinney’s cow pasture in Cooperstown, New York, on the shores of a lake James Fenimore Cooper called Lake Glimmerglass. Coincidence? I think not.

Baseball is a great game because it engages both the mind and the body. A. Bartlett Giamatti was a professor of romance languages who ascended to the presidency of Yale University. After a few years he got tired of punching the clock at that sweatshop, so he finally applied for and got the job he had always wanted: commissioner of major league baseball. He wrote highbrow essays on how the beginning of baseball season signifies rebirth and renewal, and how a ball park is reminiscent of the primal garden.

There is so much to like about a game that produces fun and interesting characters. Watch this video of Ozzie Smith perform his somersault and flip as he takes the field and ask yourself if any man has ever approached his daily occupation with a greater sense of exuberant joy. Willie “Pops” Stargell played first base for the Pirates well into his forties, and he played every game with the enthusiasm of a rookie. When he was asked what made the game so fun, he replied: “When the man starts the game, he doesn’t say ‘Work Ball!’ He says ‘Play Ball!'” And Roy Campanella, the catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers team that included Jackie Robinson, said “You’ve got to be a man to play this game, but you’ve got to have a lot of little boy in you, too.” I guarantee that sometime this season, a TV camera will discover guys in the dugout wearing their caps backwards and having bubblegum bubble-blowing contests.

I can think of at least two areas where baseball is better than church, hands down: congregational singing and humor. You can sing along with Harry Caray during a Cubs game, locking arms with complete strangers and swaying left and right in the warm sunshine, or you can mumble through a draggy version of Though Deep’ning Trials. Which do you think is more conducive to fellowship and good feeling? Be honest. And in the humor department, baseball has produced Comedy Central’s funniest comedy routine of the twentieth century, Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First? In contrast, we, who are warned in our scriptures about the danger of excessive laughter, can offer only GA kneeslappers and missionary knock knock jokes. It’s embarrassing.

But there is a serious side to the game, too. Roger Angell, the fiction editor of New Yorker, observed that “Baseball seems to have been invented solely for the purpose of explaining all other things in life.” And David Noyce has written a great essay about the game, and certain parts of it seem to be meant especially for the Mormon soul. For instance:

Batting .300 is a mark of success. Put another way: Even the best hitters fail 70 percent of the time. Take Henry Aaron. The game’s greatest slugger struck out 1,383 times along the way to his record 755 dingers. He walloped homers in 6 percent of his official at-bats and whiffed in 11 percent. But no one would call Hammerin’ Hank a failure. So what does this teach us? It’s simple. Failing doesn’t make you a failure.

Too often, fear of failure keeps us from succeeding. Imagine Aaron or Ruth or Mays afraid to step up to the plate because he stands a better chance of making an out than ripping a hit… In the movie “Apollo 13,” flight director Gene Kranz says, “Failure is not an option.” It’s a memorable line but a monumental lie. Failure is indeed an option. It has to be; otherwise, we will never succeed.

. . .Once stat geeks get past the RBIs and the ERAs, the strikeouts and the shutouts, the batting averages and the slugging percentages, baseball is really about one thing: scoring runs by touching home plate. It’s the heart of the game and parallels with life . . . Every day of every week of every month of every year of every lifetime – our main goal is to get home safely. It’s an objective that is profoundly simple yet simply profound: getting home safely.

. . .There you have it. Baseball is motivating and liberating. It shows us how to work, how to play and how to rest. It teaches responsibility and resilience. It showcases the beauty of diversity and the necessity of adversity. It is inspired and inspiring.

Not bad – for something that’s just a game.

This weekend will be a memorable and spiritual occasion for us all, I’m sure. No, Silly, I’m not talking about general conference. I’m talking about the opening day of baseball season.

Comments

  1. A mere 9 years later and 140 miles away, Abner Doubleday laid out a baseball diamond in Elihu Phinney’s cow pasture in Cooperstown, New York, on the shores of a lake James Fenimore Cooper called Lake Glimmerglass.

    I just wanted to beat the rush to say that Abner Doubleday wasn’t actually there in Cooperstown in 1839, and almost decidedly had nothing to do with the invention of baseball. Here’s Wikipedia’s summary of facts.

  2. Having said that, I want to bear my testimony of baseball as well. When people ask what I miss about living in America, my standard response is diners and baseball. (Yes, there is Finnish baseball, known as pesäpallo, but the less said about it the better.)

    It is sdifficult to explain the spiritual element of baseball…its connection to nature, the slow pace, the complexity and tension of the play. But as Mets & Giants manager Wes Westrum said, “Baseball is like church. Many attend, but few understand.”

    When I needed to reflect on my life, I didn’t always go to the temple…I headed for the cheap seats at Dodger Stadium (only $7!), where I could sit in the sunlight of the evening (or afternoon if I called in sick), watching the drama unfold below me. Somehow it gave me a sense of perspective and greater insights into the way my world worked. My best holiday was a summer-long baseball tour of America — major league and minor — that allowed me to see 47 games in ten weeks. Bliss.

    There is a lot of arguments to be had — and appropriately so — about the state of the professional game today. Still, I exort you to cherish live baseball if you have a chance to see it. Watching games on the internet isn’t the same. And I can promise that when we visit California this summer, we will be up in the orange seats with Dodger dogs, singing during the stretch and taking it all in.

  3. Mark,

    This is a great post. I don’t share your love for baseball, but I do appreciate why you and so many have a religious devotion to the game. I’m afraid I got burned in Baltimore. I saw three, maybe four Orioles games at Camden Yards. It’s a stunning edifice, but the O’s were abysmal and I hated the manufactured attempts to get the crowd cheering. Really, they should have spent the whole time booing, or better yet, throwing firecrackers at the players.

    I have a similar love for cricket, the only game as far as I know played with equal passion by fat English men on a Sunday afternoon and 600 million Indian and Pakistanis. Staid? No way! Has no-one heard the news coming out of the cricket world cup in the West Indies?

    Does baseball have murder? I’m sure it does.

  4. Baseball is indeed a pretty awesome sport. The point about how we fail more often than we succeed is truly one of the best things we get out of it. Note that hitters can go 0 for 20 and still turn around to be one of the best players of the year.

    My family looks forward to baseball. My wife is a die hard Yankees fan and I’m a Redsox and San Francisco Giants fan (yes I’d like to see Bonds surpass Aaron’s record).

    Finally, I remember watching a Giants game (I grew up in the Bay Area) one summer (probably 1991) when Kevin Mitchel was still playing for the Giants. He’s a big Frank Thomas kinda guy, strikes out a lot, but hits monster home runs. The Giants were playing in Saint Louis. Kevin Mitchel got a hanging slider right down the middle. He crushed the ball and it hit the plexi-glass in left field, careening back on the field. The ball moved so fast, everybody was awed. I happened to have recorded that game, and I remember going back and watching that shot over and over. Just amazing.

  5. I’m afraid I got burned in Baltimore

    I, on the other hand, was blessed to spend a couple of years near Toledo. You haven’t tasted life until you’ve experienced a Mud Hens game at Fifth Third field (named best minor league ballpark by Newsweek in 2002), complete with aftershow fireworks.

  6. Kristine says:

    Amen, Brother Mark!

    I am fortunate to be able to worship at the Holy of Holies, even Fenway Park.

  7. Annie’s church of baseball quote makes it onto my blog at least every six months. Its one of my all time favorite movie quotes. I too have a strong testimony of baseball.

    Baltimore? Now that’s a club that’s hard to love. If they weren’t in the AL East and if the spawn of Satan wasn’t their owner, I’d be a casual fan–but as it is when I go to Camden Yards 3-5 times a year, if they aren’t playing the Yanks–I’ll root for them. –but that’s as far as it goes. Now, its really nice having a mlb team on the same line as my house and work.

  8. Hear hear! and Amen!

    Opening Day has always been a holiday in our family. Kids get to play hookie from school and the whole family heads off to the temple of the Diamond. Green grass and red clay incite joy in my heart.

  9. I gave up on professional baseball when I finally accepted the fact that the teams with the most money would always have the best pitchers, and that was that.

    Minor league is where it’s at. We used to go to Rainier games in Tacoma and it wasn’t unusual to see pro Mariner players recovering from injury there. Saw Freddie Garcia pitch at a minor league game, now that was fun.

  10. Steve Evans says:

    Let’s Go Mets!!!

  11. Norbert, yeah, the origin of the game is shrouded in myth, but that is part of what makes it great, don’t you think?

    Ronan, I’m trying to get into cricket right now and understand it better. My first impression is that it is a more intense game, emotionally, with lots of clenched teeth and adrenaline. I really like the fact that it, like baseball, has no clock. The game takes as long as it takes, without the artificial drama of time running out.You really need to give baseball another try, because the enjoyment of the game has so little to do with your team winning. At least that is what I tell myself as my Royals now embark upon the 22nd year of their rebuilding effort. Some of us long-suffering fans could give the Apostle Paul a few lessons on the virtue of hope.

    Dan, true enough. In baseball, as in life, you just have to keep going to the plate and taking your swings.

    Peter, isn’t it interesting how minor league ball can be even more interesting that the big leagues? The Mud Hens truly are a treasure.

    Kristine – ah, Fenway. What a beautiful place. And the quirky configuration of the outfield, with the high fence in short left field and that triangle in center makes every game there unique.

    Sherpa, yup, Bull Durham has some great quotes. Here are a few more of mine:

    1. Manager, in a great meltdown rant to the team when they are goofing off after yet another loss: “Men, this is a very simple game. We throw the ball. We hit the ball. We catch the ball.”
    2. Crash Davis, played by Keven Costner, explaining the Zen of baseball to the newbies: “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And sometimes, it rains. Think about that.”
    3. As the movie ends, at sunset with Crash and Annie sitting together on her front porch swing, the camera pulls away and we hear Annie’s voice quote Walt Whitman: “I see great things in baseball. It is our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”

    Tracy M., you have some lucky kids, and I’m glad to hear you are raising them right. Your statement about the temple of the diamond reminds me of the part in Field of Dreams where Sholess Joe and Ray (again played by Kevin Costner) are standing at sunset, looking out over the lush greenness of Ray’s cornfield and the baseball field he has built. In awed reverence, Shoeless Joe asks “is this heaven?” Ray replies “No. it’s Iowa.”

    Susan M. That’s cool that you go to Rainier’s games. I have to. When I went, you could sit in the box seats behind the first base dugout for 6 bucks.

  12. Steve, a lot of the smart money is saying this is the Mets’ year. If they can stabilize their rotation until Pedro comes back, they will be hard to beat. And who can’t love Willie Randolph?

  13. Baseball is the greatest game ever invented and I am contemplating calling in sick Monday so I can take in all the games.

    Baseball also makes the best sports movies.

    Excuse me. It’s getting a little dusty in here.

  14. Mark IV, I haven’t been in a few years (back when Freddie was pitching for the Mariners), but minor league games really have it all over major league. Cheap tickets, and you’re right on the field. Foul balls fly over the stands and land on cars in the parking lot. Good stuff.

  15. Tim J.: I’m bawling like a baby.

  16. endlessnegotiation says:

    The Mets are pond scum!

  17. Great post — something like the First Discussion of the Gospel of Baseball. I need to make sure Melissa reads it — I’ve been preaching the gospel of baseball to her ever since we met, and I know she’s felt the Spirit a few times, but is yet to experience a full conversion. And this summer is my last chance before we go to Egypt…although maybe they have some good sandlots over there.

  18. P. Mason, I advise patience. In spiritual matters we must remember the principle of milk before meat. Some people think that baseball is a metaphor for life, but they get it backwards. The Great Plan of Happiness is actually just a foreshadowing of baseball. Some of us take longer than others before we are ready to be initiated into the higher orders of knowledge.

  19. I go to Mariners games when I get the company tickets. I think the most fun, though, is going to the Spokane Indians games when visiting my folks. My parents, brothers and all our kids get in for the price of two Mariners tickets. A few times a year they have 50 cent hot dogs and ice cream sandwiches.

    That’s one more reason baseball is better than church. You can sneak some of your baby’s cheerios at church, or you can eat a hot dog or nachos and spit sunflower seeds at the ball game.

  20. Ahhhh. It was a little distracting having preseason baseball going during KU’s run at the final four. But now that they’ve bit it, I’m all Royals (and T-Bones) for the summer. If you have a minor leauge team in your area, try to hit it up sometime. There are few things as enjoyable as sitting in the grass right past the outfield with a cold lemonade and watching a decent game of baseball for under 10 bucks.

  21. Steve Evans says:

    Word up, Mark IV. I BELIEVE.

    endlessnegotiation: spoken like a Yankees fan. Let me give you a big Bronx cheer.

  22. Is it the patriarchal order when fathers pass their love of baseball to their daughters? I grew up studying baseball stats and watching Minnesota Twins games, and I still remember my dad getting yelled at by my mom for letting us stay up past our bedtime to watch the World Series in ’87 and ’91. Ah, such wonderful memories…

  23. I don’t know who you people are, but you definitely have the right idea about baseball and the Church. I find myself often in need of reconversion to both. After the player strike of 1994 I took a 5 year hiatus from the game. Ken Burns and the building of beautiful Franklin Covey Field in Salt Lake City rekindled my love for the game and the neccessity to see live baseball, in whatever form, as often as possible. The doubt of my testimony of Baseball is if it’s so true why don’t we play more of it as a church???

  24. Lucas,

    Baseball is a higher law, a celestial law if you will. The highest law that some stakes can live is the slowpitch law, which sucks bigtime. Most stakes can’t even live that law. I look forward to the time when we are all pure hearted and charitable as a people to live the law of baseball.

  25. Baseball is boring. I gave up on baseball when I realized the games were almost as excrutiatingly dull to watch as NASCAR. Oh, and then there was the whole strike thing, which was stupid.

    The best thing about baseball used to be the nachos, but now I live in San Antonio and can have nachoes anytime I want…

    Football people… The game is football. No one is going around talking about the BYU baseball team… Notre Dame, while not LDS, is still devoted to God and Football, NOT baseball…

    Everyone know’s that Jared’s ship wasn’t shaped like a baseball…

  26. Mark, I love those quotes. Bull Durham is one of those movies I can turn on while doing something else and it never gets old. Its one of my favorite “dialogue” films.

  27. Matt, there’s a football player on Oregon’s team (Jordan Kent) who had never played highschool ball or a lower level of football. He played football for Oregon this past year (his Junior year) and was a star for them. He didn’t play b-ball for the Ducks this year because he’s concentrating on football (ie he thinks he has a shot going pro).

    I have NEVER heard of that happening in other baseball or the real football–in football, Jordan’s situation isn’t unusual. Remember the film Invincible?

    When the coach calls virtually all the plays—speaking of boring…Not to mention it takes 4 hours to play an hour game? Speaking of boring!

  28. Hey Matt W.,

    Which sport did Notre Dame’s star wide receiver, Jeff Szardialjkasdfh, pick?

    Baseball is where it’s at.

  29. Sherpa, glad to hear a good conversion story.

    Tim J. Sorry that Jeff apostatized…

  30. If they’re playing baseball in Hell, then I am proud to be a sinner.

  31. Hell isn’t playing baseball, it’s watching it, and it’s all in french with sanskrit subtitles…

    On a more serious note. Ronan, as a cricket fan, you need to watch Lagaan.

  32. Yes, baseball. No, not heaven, Iowa.

    Now if the Mariners could only do something. And go Mets!

  33. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    Matt W. I’m a part of your church. Amen brother.

  34. I do hope that in the Baseball Stadium Recomend interviews, we won’t be asked if we affiliate with any other sporting groups. I tend to be a sports universalist.

  35. While I do enjoy most sports, I don not believe in Sports polygamy.

  36. I’m trying to convert to this True Church of Baseball, but it’s hard work because um, have you noticed that sometimes it’s boring? Seriously boring. When it’s exciting, it’s pee your pants exciting but otherwise, I’d rather be in Relief Society.
    What do I do, believers? What do I do?

  37. amri,

    Fly into my hometown of Omaha in June. I will pick you up and take you to see baseball in its purest form–The College World Series. The single most underrated sporting event this country has to offer.

  38. Baseball is a lesser law for the unintiated. Basketball is the full and everlasting sport. Yay, many are called but few are chosen and soon, UCLA will decidedly be the chosen. Then comes the most holy season of NBA playoffs.

    A sport universally played and enjoyed, unlike either Baseball or American ‘football’, a sport which requires athleticism and intelligence…I think we all know what the superior game is… :)

  39. Now, I can understand why someone would think baseball is boring, I really can.

    But I can’t understand how anyone could possibly enjoy the NBA–especially the regular season. That league is rigged worse than the WWE.

  40. Veritas,

    You preach false doctrine. While college hoops can provide you with a short lived thrill, it is not lasting. It will leave you longing for more. Unfourtunatly, many then turn to the NBA. The advesary leads people into hell with flaxen cords.

  41. cj douglass says:

    Fly into my hometown of Omaha in June. I will pick you up and take you to see baseball in its purest form–The College World Series.

    PING! You call that purity? I’m a wood man all the way.

  42. cj douglass says:

    amri,
    Go to a ball game played by men(MLB). Bring a friend, a couple good magazines and buy some hot dogs. Sit back and watch the “passed time”.

  43. For many years, I have believed baseball to be the perfect game for television. All you really need to do is have the TV on. You don’t need to watch it most of the time, since nothing much happens for most of the game. And when something eventually does happen, the telecast will show the replay several times, since nothing else will be happening on the field for another half hour.

    Some of my antipathy for baseball is surely inherited from my father. He was a huge fan when he was a kid, but then the Dodgers moved to California, and nothing was right in the world for him again.

  44. Tim J, someday the false prophet David Stern will be strewn down and then righteousness will be restored to the league.

    If you live in the east, I understand how your faith in the NBA might be weak…but if your from Texas and you do not believe, you are indeed the antichrist.

  45. 38- a sport which requires athleticism and is played the world over? Futból of course!

  46. Sherpa, soccer is a tool of satan to try and spread communism throughout the world.

  47. Futbol is a great sport, I will agree. Especially in south america.

    But, it doesn’t have a three point line or shot clock or triangle offense. Therefore…inferior. :)

  48. When DH and I were dating, we went to a LOT of baseball games. Detroit Tigers at the old Tiger stadium (closer to the action than many minor league parks), Toledo Mud Hens at the old stadium, Camden Yard when the Orioles were good in the mid 90’s. He’s an AL fan, so we haven’t been to many games lately; the nearest AL ballpark is quite a haul.

    One of my favorite dating memories is that Mud Hens game. Northern Ohio weather in the spring can be erratic, and MAN was it cold. So we drank lots of hot chocolate and sat as close as we could and shouted “Mud!” at the appropriate times.

    Amri, I agree with cj douglass. Baseball on TV is boooooooooooooring. You really need to be there to appreciate it. There really is always SOMETHING going on – a pitch, a scratching outfielder, an argument at third. It’s a very zen kind of game. No clock to beat, just the most runs in 27 outs (unless it rains).

  49. Left Field says:

    Some random responses to previous comments:

    The two greatest places I’ve ever watched a game are Fenway and Tiger stadium. [What’s wrong with the spell checker on this site, that it doesn’t recognize Fenway?

    God is an Orioles fan. The Evil and Loathsome yankees are Satan’s minions on earth.

    My first baseball game was the 1970 World Series. Bleacher seats were $6. No kidding. In the regular season, the same seats sold for a mere 85 cents. 55 for kids.

    Baseball is not slow and boring. Basketball has a 24-second shot clock. Football has a 40-second play clock. In baseball, the pitcher is required by the rules to put the ball in play within 20 seconds when the bases are empty. Few pitchers even come close to the time limit. You’ll often see a baseball put into play twice while you’d still be waiting for the next snap or shot at the basket. And baseball has no halftime. Enough said.

    Franklin Covey Field is pretty good, but I sure loved old Derk’s Field. The best parks are where the crowd can interact with players and umpires. I remember a BYU-Utah game at Derk’s when the umpire came over to the stands to explain his application of the balk rule. Later, he nodded his head in acknowledgment of my commentary on his interpretation of the appeal play. Outfielders at Tiger Stadium used to converse with fans in the upper deck bleachers.

    If you build it, he will come. Forget seerstones, polygamy, and Lamanite DNA. My greatest faith challenge was when Thomas S. Monson misquoted The Voice in general conference.

    “HENS!”

  50. Veritas,

    Seriously, I think I was even called for a couple of fouls against Dwyane Wade in last year’s finals. Terrible, terrible league. Perhaps beyond repair.

    Soccer is the sport of the devil. Served in Guatemala during the ’98 World Cup. Not much was done duing that time.

  51. cj douglass says:

    Ann,
    DH’s love for the AL doesn’t have anything to do with his initials “DH” does it? haha.

    btw, I’ve never heard of AL/NL or bust. I live in a city with a team in each league and the DH thing doesn’t seem to make the game much better/worse.

  52. endlessnegotiation says:

    Steve Evans: “The Mets are pond scum!” is the 20 year old battle cry for the team that used to be their hottest rival for the NL East. I still have a t-shirt with that slogan emblazoned across it hanging right next to my t-shirt comemmorating last season’s world championship. I hate the Yankees as much as the next guy.

    While I enjoy a live game immensely watching baseball on television is painful. Part of the charm of visiting a live baseball game is people-watching. The dearth of action during baseball allows a visitor to check out the hot chick three rows down, or watch the guy five seats to your left get fall-down drunk, or get a good gander at the old lady wearing hose with her bermuda shorts. Take your eyes off the field/court of a football/basketball game and you’re definitely going to miss some real action.

  53. molly bennion says:

    You just gotta appreciate a sport in which the world’s best, men of elegant grace and power, fail more often than they succeed? Gives me hope.

  54. This is the BEST thread EVER!

    I love baseball, and yes, like Seraphine, my dad handed it down to us. The smell of the grass, the deep red clay dust on cleats, the remarkable and unreproduceable thwack of ash on leather… *sigh*

    And yes, other than the glory of a game at sunset in the incomparable Pacific Bell Park overlooking the palm trees and the Pacific, minor league ball is the very best part of summer.

    Call me a purist.

  55. And how does that patriarchal order work when the father passes it to the daughter who then passes it to the husband? Or at least tries to. He might not be converted yet, but at least he knows there are nine players in the field at one time, and that Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey, Jr are baseball players. We are, after all, taught line upon line and precept upon precept…

    I have to say, though, that I’m not as converted to minor league baseball as others here seem to be. Of course, the only minor league club I’ve seen is the Durham Bulls, which people take as seriously as most major league clubs. You have to go quite early to park blocks away, and then you sit on the sidelines out past the end of left field, and can’t really see the game because there’s a big wall in front of you… at least I didn’t have to pay for it.

    Go Twins!

  56. Left Field says:

    cj, I’m an American League fan who hates the DH. Remember that the designated hitter is only a recent innovation of the AL. Ban Johnson formed the American League as a rival and competitor of the NL. The World Series is a contest between the champions of rival leagues. Unlike the Super Bowl or NBA playoffs, the WS is not the final round of playoff to determine a league champion; it is a contest between teams that are already champions of rival leagues.

    For reasons that baffle me, Bud Selig has done his best to obscure the fact that there are two major leagues and two league champions. The false perception of a single major league (which Selig wants us to call “MLB”) has in the minds of many diminished the WS to the level of a Super Bowl, as simply the final round of a league championship.

    The “commisioner’s” office is confused about whether they officially consider there to be one major league or two. The two leagues no longer have a league president as required by the rules. But if the leagues are combined into a single “MLB” league, it doesn’t have a president either. Since firing the league presidents, the “commissioner” has been performing all of the duties the rule book requires of a league president. Within the last few years, the umpires have been combined into a single crew, despite the fact that the rules specify that umpires are hired by the league. They still officially maintain separate performance records for the two leagues, and give separate awards (Cy Young, MVP, batting champion etc.). According to the rule book, each professional league may elect to either use or not use the DH. There is no provision for the rule to apply to part of a league, and not to another. So for the purposes of the DH, the leagues would have to be regarded as separate. Selig is confused, recognizing two leagues for some purposes, and one league for others.

    Depending on my mood, I either stubbornly maintain that the leagues are independent, or that the AL and NL have been disbanded and their teams combined into a new league that Selig calls “MLB.” In the latter case, the playing records of the two old leagues should have been officially closed, with separate records for AL, NL, and “MLB” leagues. Furthermore, if there is an “MLB” league, it should have to either adopt or not adopt the DH, as required by the rule book.

    When people speak of being AL or NL fans, it is in reference to a rivalry between (formerly) independent major leagues, and usually has little or nothing to do with the DH rule.

  57. re 20. Thanks to baseball’s perverse economics, the Royals are a minor league team. Every year they and other small market teams gather good young talent that gets called up to the bigs just before the trading deadline.

    Last year I had tickets to the Phils-Red Sox last preseason game in Philly on a Saturday that coincided with conference weekend. Unfortunately b/c of an unavoidable conflict, I was not able to attend. I called about 10 different people in the ward who all chose to watch conference over great seats at the Phils-Red Sox. My ward is close to apostate. I finally threw my hands up in disgust at the ward roster and gave the tickets to my most appreciative neighbor.

    This saturday, conference Saturday, the Sox are back in town for the last preseason game. Matsuzaka (sp)is supposed to pitch for the Sox. Goodbye General Conference and hello Citizens Bank Ballpark.

    Between DC, Baltimore and Philly, my son and I have planned a Super Saturday/weekend with three games in three cities in one or two days. We may extend it to NYC for more baseball fun over a weekend.

  58. Wow, thanks for the comments, everybody.

    amri, often, things (art, music) appear boring because we don’t understand them. You need to go to a game sometime with somebody who really likes baseball, and pick up a scorecard on your way in. Way back up in comment #2, Norbert spoke of the complexity and tension of the game, and his words are precisely accurate. In baseball, even when the ball isn’t in play, there is always something going on. Is the runner a threat to steal? How far is he leading off? Who’s up next? Who is throwing in the bullpen? Leftie or Rightie? Is the shortstop cheating to one side or the other? What inning is it? How many outs? What is the count? Has the pitcher been successful with his “out” pitch, or is he fighting his control? Is the outfield short or deep? All those variables need to be taken into account, and they can change with every pitch. So give it another try, I think you’ll really like it!

    In regards to the baseball/football/basketball conundrum, our theology applies. Some sports have the glory of the sun, others the glory of the moon, and others have the glory of the stars, so it’s all good. And though those of us who attain the highest kingdom can’t invite the rest of you up to watch the celestial series with us, in the offseason we will come visit all you drunks, fornicators, and football fans, in your glorious smoothness. This George Carlin classic addresses the footballian heresy. Yes, it’s clean.

    Seraphine, that’s funny about your mother getting mad at your father for allowing you to stay up late to watch the world series. Tom Boswell, the sportswriter for the Washington Post, wrote an article once about the experience of taking his 5 year old son to his first ball game. He bought his son some peanuts, and when he asked what to do with the shells, Boswell replied, with much satisfaction, that at the ballpark, we just throw our shells on the ground. The boy, who had obviously been raised right, was worried what Mom would think of that. lol.

  59. cj douglass says:

    Left Field.
    I can understand your view considering your an old timer. But that feeling of an AL/NL rivalry has ceased to exist for this generation of baseball fans for reasons you mentioned. People are also much bigger fans of their team, than the League. For example when the Sox played the Cardinals in the WS, all the Yankees fans I know were rooting for the NL to win. Its much more about the individual rivalries than the Leauge rivalries. Yanks/Sox. Mets/Braves/Phillies, Dodgers/Giants, Cubs/Cards, Twins/WSox. Why else would they have to put an incentive for them to win the All Star game? Isn’t winning the rivalry enough? For me its more about the game. If I walk into Shea, I see the same game being played at Yankee Stadium. So although I’m a Mets fan, I’m really a fan of the game. Yes, I’m giving into Buds conspiracy but so what?

  60. Left Field, # 56,

    How much do you think the NL preference for “small ball” continues to exist? Before last fall, I thought the difference was almost gone, but the way the Cardinals beat the Tigers last year has caused me to re-think.

    I read a book about Jackie Robinson and the way he changed the game with his style of play. In the Negro League, players were fined $5.00 if they were tagged out while standing up. The idea was to encourage sliding, base stealing, hit and run, bunting, all the things that we associate with the NL. Robinson changed the game for the better in so many ways, even beyond breaking the race barrier.

    rbc, someday your son will recognize how great his dad is. I simply cannot think of anything more fun that a baseball road trip. And yes, your ward is apostate.

  61. cj douglass says:

    rbc, You can stay with me in NYC but only if you got to see the Mets.

  62. #56: Left Field, I love you. The only letters to the editor I ever wrote were on the firing of the league presidents and the sacrilege of interleague play. DH hitters…don’t get me started. Likewise smaller ball fields and the adjustable strike zone. Argh.

  63. Veritas—Futbol indeed has the triangle offense—and has had it longer than basketball.

    Inferior? Not so much.

    The shotclock makes it a better sport? Oh you gringos and scoring obsessed sports.

  64. rbc–your ward is so apostate. Heck, I would’ve taken those tix in a heartbeat. Citizens Bank ballpark is only a couple of hours from here.

    Interesting about the NL and AL talk; I have a NL and an AL team. My AL team was inherited at birth from a father who is a life long member of the church of baseball…my NL team is here in town. When my AL team is playing my NL team, I root for the AL team (no contest). In fact its nice that the Nats are in town, I couldn’t root for the O’s–the closest thing we had to a hometown team. I guess Selig got to me too.

    In fact, I won’t go to concerts, play in sport leagues, go to restaurants (unless I’m traveling),go see other sporting events, but I’ll go to a baseball game on Sunday.

  65. Mark: I just want to know if you agree with me that Brooks Robinson is the greatest 3rd basemen ever? He came to SLC recently and I had dinner with him. What a great gentleman. Of course, if you don’t agree with me then I’ll have to hire Guido.

  66. Re 65 Mr. Robinsion belongs near the top, but I think either Georg Brett or Mike Schmidt were better third basemen. Also, if A-Rod stays at third he may eclipse all of them.

  67. re 61 Thanks for the offer. A Mets-Braves game would be fun. Or, a Mets-Giants game would be fun to see how the gentle New Yorkers greet Barry Bonds.

    Is it unchristian to secretly hope that Mr. Bonds’s knee gives out on his first plate appearance ending his season and, hopefully, baseball career. The baseball gods cannot allow him to become the all time home run leader. Some old testament type plague is in order.

  68. Left Field says:

    One of the biggest problems I see with Selig’s vision for baseball is that fewer people will be really interested in the World Series. When everybody was cheering for the champion of their favorite league, it didn’t really matter what teams were playing, you still had an interest in the outcome. It was always my league vs your league.

    Now, with Selig’s league, it is assumed that aside from a few die-hard fans, only the partisans of the teams involved can be expected to be interested. Nobody cares any more once their favorite team is eliminated. If the Tigers play the Cardinals, then you get good ratings in Detroit and St. Louis, but not much interest elsewhere. This leads the media to favor big market teams, since they will get better ratings.

    As a direct result of Selig’s actions, the World Series is now seen as just the final round of a playoff. Recently, I’ve even seen the term playoffs used to refer to the entire postseason including the World Series.

    The whole thing really wouldn’t bother me so much if Selig were up front and consistent. But it’s all undercover, and there’s no consistency between what he’s doing and what’s written in the rules. There’s nothing in the rule book that authorizes Selig to assume the responsibilities of a league president. He has quietly set himself up as the illegitimate acting president of both leagues.

    If we only had a commissioner who could act in the best interest of baseball…

  69. Re #67 — for me, the baseball gods spoke when Bonds misplayed the fly ball in Game 6 (I think) of the Giants-Angels series. He may get the record, he may go into the HOF, but he won’t get a ring.

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