The Cliff Notes for baseball games were once box scores in the backs of sports pages. Fans disappeared into bathrooms, under bridges and inside work break rooms to make sense of the previous day’s game.
You can still find them in the backs of papers, but who reads newspapers anymore? Portable internet devices provide instant access to way more than a checker board of names and numbers. Click here, click there and presto abracadabra……
We see actual homeruns, strikeouts and Carlos Gomez climbing a wall right before our eyes. Even defensive alignments are revealed with an announcer sometimes saying, “There’s something you won’t find in a boxscore.”
It’s hard to knock seeing with our own eyes. But some of us simply can’t watch entire games. There’s money to be made, mouths to feed or we’ve fallen into a bitter, overly nostalgic state. I sometimes dip into highlights, but much prefer melting into an entire game. Highlights are a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese dinner and praises to Allah, I love that stuff, especially with a can of tuna mixed in, but highlights are an optical illusion. We only see the good and exciting moments. That’s not baseball.
Baseball is loitering in the parking lot and drinking beer, being a voyeur during batting practice, watching the exchange of lineup cards, seeing a batter foul off 11 consecutive pitches and work a walk. It’s the routine grounders, late inning pitching changes, double switches, sacrifice bunts, relay throw from center field to shortstop to catcher. It’s triples and elusive last outs. It’s hearing the post game radio show, talking about the game on the bus ride home. It’s everything.
Ditto for watching a game on TV or listening to one on the radio. It’s Harry Caray pronouncing Jesse Orosco’s name backwards or Bob Uecker spinning a yarn about the bratwurst competition in the stadium parking lot. It’s everything and that means failure 70 per cent of the time with excitement the exception, not the norm, but everything is exciting in a not so obvious sort of way.
It’s the same with statistics. They’re also an optical illusion. I see the number 56 and the hype and legend that is New York Yankees baseball comes to mind followed by those words “never again, impossible, improbable, Yankee Clipper.”
Dimaggio’s 1941 hitting streak is considered the greatest and most unlikely of all baseball feats or so say the paleontologists, cosmologists, archaeologists, SABRologists and I get the gist.
It’s all fine and math proof probability dandy, but no one comes to bat just one time per game unless his name is Lenny Harris. Dimaggio’s streak lasted less than half the season and included 223 at bats, 91 base hits including 15 home runs and 14 doubles; a .408 batting average.
During the same stretch, Ted Williams hit .412 and for the season, he hit .406 with a ridiculous on base percentage of .553, 37 home runs and 120 RBI’s. Dimaggio didn’t do so bad either. He finished with a .381 average, 30 home runs and 120 RBI’s.
There’s no denying the greatness of their seasons or Dimaggio’s streak, but I can’t taste any of it in numbers. I want to see Williams not get on base at a .447 clip and see Dimaggio fail to get a hit 6.6 out out of 10 times. I want to see Dimaggio the pretty boy in his silent cool who always said the right thing. I want to see Williams the awkward goofy genius who wouldn’t doff his cap to Red Sox fans. But I can’t. And that’s ok because…..
Living in 2014 is like standing on a pitchers burial mound. All the ghosts are available at our fingertips. We have access to everything underneath us; the instant gratification of Ted William’s swing, last night’s highlights or the entire original broadcasts from the 1957 World Series.
Yogi Berra was always larger than life to me despite being so small; a legend. I love his quotes and love the fact that he hit 358 home runs, but only struck out 414 times. I love that he took swings at pitches over his head or at least that’s what I heard. He was still legendary after seeing him in Game 1 of that 1957 Series, but he was also human. He surprised me. He worked a walk off Braves lefty, Warren Spahn.
We can pay Sudoku and compare, contrast, and debate about players we never witnessed in action. We can be spaced out junkies plugged into an AM radios wasting away in the bleachers or be tuned to MLB TV, audio streaming, or old school game day scoreboard.
What’s that? You live in a city where there’s a baseball team and bleacher seats are 10 dollars? What did you say? You live in Milwaukee and the Uecker seats are one dollar? You lucky bastard!