All-State Tournament: The Big Finish!
I may have mentioned this a time or two, but I am currently writing a book called WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL, which, assuming things go as planned — which is to say assuming I finish it by end of year — will be out around September 2023.
On the surface, the book will be a countdown of the most magical moments in baseball history. You can guess some of them, maybe even most of them. But I suspect there will be some surprises, too.
Beneath the surface, I hope, the book will answer the title, will get at the very heart of, yes, why we love baseball.
And to get at that heart, I find myself desperately trying to dig as deep as I can into those things about baseball that we love — to see them as I have never seen them before.
Why do we love the way Vin Scully called a baseball game? Why do we love the triple? What is it about the knuckleball or the stolen base or the way Trea Turner slides? What is it about that gorgeous moment when you step up (or down) from the concourse and see the field for the first time?
Why does baseball — more, I think, than any other sport — give us goosebumps?
Do you know who asked these questions throughout his long life? Roger Angell.
One of my favorite Angell essays is called The Interior Stadium. In it, he begins by talking about something we seem to have lost in our sports: “In the midst of all these successive spectacles and instant replays and endless reportings and recapitulations, we seem to have forgotten what we came for.”
What have we come for? He goes on: “… the flavor, the special joys of place and season, the unique displays of courage and strength and style that once isolated each game and fixed it in our affections have disappeared somewhere in the noise and crush.”
But, Angell writes, not baseball. Why not baseball?
“Baseball has one saving grace that distinguishes it — for me, at any rate — from every other sport. Because of its pace, and thus the perfectly observed balance, both physical and psychological, between opposing forces, its clean lines can be restored in retrospect. This inner game — baseball in the mind — has no season …”
In other words, baseball is the game best played in the imagination.
For the last few weeks, thanks to Strat-O-Matic — remember, 10% off all baseball products with the code POZ10 — we have played a 16-team tournament in our imaginations. We’ve imagined Oscar Charleston facing Christy Mathewson and Tony Gwynn going up against Bob Gibson and Stan Musial trying to hit Madison Bumgarner (and going two-for-four with a run).
We have imagined an enormous crowd nervously cheering as California trailed by two runs going into the bottom of the ninth against Ohio and Phil Niekro, only to watch the most amazing thing they have ever seen or will ever see … Joe DiMaggio homered … and then Ted Williams homered … and then Barry Bonds homered to win it.
In reality, these are just random numbers bouncing around in a computer simulation.
But it’s baseball — so who needs reality?
Game 6 of the championship series, Alabama vs. California, was played in Dodger Stadium yesterday.