When the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s last whistle sounded in Atlanta Monday, the sports season ended for this armchair athlete until September’s first ACC kickoff.
I’ve never been a great baseball fan. For two primary reasons.
First, in our cow pasture games when I was a kid, I was always the last chosen by the team captains.
The fact that in the classroom I was often the first chosen for the weekly spelling bee didn’t help my sagging “self-image,” which is deemed so essential today for success. Even then, academics didn’t count; athletics did.
Secondly, to me, baseball moves so slowly. You can almost read “War and Peace” or “Gone With the Wind” between the time the pitcher gets the ball and the time he releases it toward home plate.
A baseball critic once told me that for excitement, he’d rather visit the meat market and stand and watch the liver bleed.
First, the pitcher kicks the pitcher’s mound. Then he rolls the ball around in his hands.
If he is addicted to Brown Mule, he shifts the chaw from one cheek over to the other.
And then spits. Next, he tugs at his trousers, as if rearranging his too-tight underwear. The “suspense” builds. The pitcher looks over his left shoulder toward the antsy runner edging off first base as if to say, “Don’t even think about it!”
He then glances over at the restless runner on third, as if daring him, “Try it and you’re a dead duck!”
After staring at the catcher for a long minute, he winds up and hurls the ball, a missile traveling 90 mph or more. There is then either the smack of cowhide hitting leather or the crack of oak making contact with cowhide.
But you don’t have to be batty over baseball to appreciate the game’s high moments, such as a triple play or an over-the-fence homer with bases loaded.
Then there is the very rare perfect game such as one Felix Hernandez pitched last August for the Seattle Mariners. A perfect game, as baseball fans know, is one in which the pitcher retires 27 batters in a row in a nine-inning game with nobody reaching base.
Only 23 perfect games are recorded in Major League history.
The most famous was pitched by Don Larsen for the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series.
It stands as the only perfect game in World Series history. Last December, the jersey Larsen wore was sold at public auction for $756,000.
Even nonfans can appreciate the drama of such moments as when the last strike swishes past the batter, the stadium erupts in cheers and a young athlete is consumed by the thrill of achieving a goal that few others have or will achieve.
Still, all in all, please don’t take me out to the ball game.
ERA lags in Birdland
Through the front window of the dining room, I watch Lady Bluebird lugging logs of pine straw into the bird box.
After each trip, she pauses to perch on a dogwood limb, and peering in my direction asks, “Well, where is he?”
Glancing through the end window, I see him gulping bits of squirrel-proof hot pepper suet. I have yet to see him at work.
What about all those promises during the courtship, with him practically turning flips and showing off his brilliant blue suit?
Equal rights for the female have a long way to go in Birdland.
Meanwhile, near the magnolia, a pair of robins moves slowly across the newly green moist lawn.
The male pauses as his feet sense movement beneath the soil. He pulls forth a long wriggling filet of red-worm and dines on it without offering to share.
Emily Dickinson’s commentary comes to mind:
A bird came down the walk:
He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.
And then he drank a dew
From a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall
To let a beetle pass.
Eureka! Has spring finally arrived?
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