From “The Green Fields of the Mind” - A Great and Glorious Game: Baseball Writings of A. Bartlett Giamatti
It took me a while to sit down to write this, not because of a “writer’s block” or anything like that. It was just the dread that the act of writing would make it real. Every year right after the World Series I go into a “blue funk”, a little depression for a few weeks that sometimes will morph into a couple months. It’s the end of the season, games stop, the box scores disappear from the sports page, the days get shorter and I feel lonelier. My first love is gone for a while. Baseball doesn’t cease to exist; it just takes a break. Trades, signings and the “hot stove” period are just not the same as watching the games. I wait for those magical words, “Pitchers and Catchers Report”.
Bart hit the nail on the head with the passage I quoted above. My heart truly breaks, just like the hurt feelings of childhood, the crushes of teen years and the full-blown relationship break-ups of your twenties. The difference of course is you know baseball will be back. That doesn’t lessen the heartbreak, sooth the loneliness or fill the time that I invest in the baseball relationship.
This past season was very different. It didn’t start in the spring; it started the end of July. It was only 60 games long, plus playoffs. I couldn’t attend games; to sit in the stands and lose yourself in the beauty and flow of the game, to talk with friends or complete strangers that feel exactly like I do and realize they are not strangers at all. Some of the players opted out of playing due to the COVID-19 virus for various reasons which was understandable and there was always the threat hanging over our heads that the season could be suspended indefinitely at any moment, or worse yet, cancelled completely. No, this season was very different.
But at the same time, it was exactly what was needed. It was baseball after all. Something in which I was able to immerse myself. Something that lifted my spirits, filled my emotional needs as well as my days and nights during a summer were normal activities weren’t always available to any of us. Several nights I sat out at our new fire pit with the game on the radio as a fire burned, just so special.
Did I like the “rules” that Rob Manfred, put in for the abbreviated season? Hell no. I didn’t care for Bud Selig, but Manfred is terrible. Yet, baseball was there. I was able to see Lucas Giolito’s no hitter, Luis Robert virtually cover all three outfield positions, double plays and run downs. Some ridiculous decisions and some brilliant strategy. The “expanded playoffs” in theory should have been great but soured my stomach as barely .500 teams were eligible to play. Still it was exciting, it filled my needs.
The World Series is the crown jewel every year. It played the same role this season. I didn’t have a rooting interest in either team, but I wasn’t disappointed in the level of play I watched. Amazing catches by Mookie Betts, towering home runs by both team, defensive gems and at long last, fans in the stands! However, Kevin Cash removing Blake Snell, his stud left-hander while he was dealing in the sixth inning upset me to no end, what a bone-headed decision. A “process” decision? Give me a break, the Rays are in an elimination game situation and you rely on a “statistical” justification instead of what you’re seeing in front of you? Just give me a break. The game is played on the field, by flesh and blood players, not a computer. Immediately two runs are scored by the Dodgers, they take the momentum and win the game and with it the series. I immediately thought of the 1964 World Series between the N.Y. Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals, Game 7 - The Cards Manager Johnny Keane started Bob Gibson on two days rest after he came off a 10-inning complete game. Gibson came through with the victory. Keane said he stuck with Gibson because “I had a commitment to his heart.” Perhaps the Rays season would have ended differently if Cash had the same kind of commitment. Second guessing is a huge part of baseball as well, so it was another bonus, something to rouse over.
After the last out was recorded I could feel the emotion of the moment well up. It was over and I ‘d be without baseball until February, or maybe longer. Then I had another wonderful and fitting moment. Rob Manfred was booed by the fans while he presented the Commissioners Trophy to the Dodgers. It made my night.
Congrats to the L.A. Dodgers on their first World Series Championship since 1988 and my never-ending thanks to the game of baseball.
~ Coach Mike