The first fields were green grass, blue skies; idyllic, Elysian. There were no walls. And even when wood stadiums surrounded the diamond, home runs were of the inside the park variety. It was the middle of the 19th century; the thermonuclear bomb was still one hundred years away.
But there were walls; the Great Wall of China and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem; symbols of human destruction and simultaneously, its great potential; of wars outside ourselves, of wars within ourselves. The two see sawing back and forth through history; from the first friction in big bang creation to cave seven doing battle with cave nine.
The hatred, weapons and our seeds of potential all evolving side by side; from honor being more valuable than life to the push of a button and leveling lands and innocent people; from declarations of war delivered by horseback to propaganda and mind control; from sticks and stones to bow and arrow, guns, tanks, and bombs. Prayer and apology.
In baseball’s beginnings, home runs were not encouraged. They were considered arrogant and excessive, a glorious tease in the sky inevitably landing in an outfielder’s bare hands or leather mitt, nothing but a long fly ball. Runs were to be manufactured and produced in ground battles; attrition, gradual, slow pace, 90 feet at a time. World War one happened.
But when the war curtains closed, Babe Ruth happened. He hit 54 home runs and then 59 and a few years later, 60 and he hit them over fences. He was bigger than Mussolini and Hitler which isn’t saying much since the dictators were poodle sized as dictators tend to be; barking away their inadequacy.
But Babe Ruth was heroic big at least in the province of baseball minds. And his swat was more than a transient miracle. It was a forever life raft worth clinging to. Baseball would never go back to playing for one run. A home run out of sight cured managers, teams, and fans, entire cities…the shots heard round the world existing in every major league town…and minor ones too. No kid dreamed of a sacrifice bunt. Hank Greenberg hit em’ against Hitler.
The great wall of china still exists; so does the wailing wall in Jerusalem; so does the war outside ourselves and the war inside ourselves. Neither is enough, not for me anyway. Global thermonuclear destruction lingers in the back of my mind and who knows how much it fuels my nervousness.
I need the home run wall and get the sense that 35,ooo brothers and sisters feel the same. Who are we but strangers sitting in our isolation seats when clack! we defy the master craftsman’s 100 mph wares. We soar with the ball into the air. We’re on our feet now watching and willing it further; way past our doubts and fears, anxieties and separation. The other bomb has been struck.
Our spines are suddenly electric. we believe again. Our limbs groove gracefully; maybe like never before. We high-five brothers and sisters who are no longer strangers. We riot together. It doesn’t last. It mellows like a tree after a summer storm but the game goes on and we have more to look forward to and no hair in the soup bowl, no nasty wind, no global thermonuclear war can stop us.