Baseball is back in full swing and so am I. Once again, I’m wishing the Rangers weren’t in the AL West where their road games ran so late. I can’t stay up like I used to. They’re looking good, though. A lot better than they did at this time last year.
The other night, after the Rangers beat the Yankees 10-1, I started watching an ESPN documentary about baseball in Cuba. There is so much passion for the game down there. It’s played all over the island. Baseball is a way out of poverty if you’re lucky and talented. They seem to really appreciate the beauty of the game.
I remembered sitting on a porch in Lajitas many years ago and watching a bunch of Mexican kids across the Rio Grande playing baseball wearing cardboard gloves. CARDBOARD GLOVES. They didn’t care. Their playing field was more triangular in shape because there wasn’t enough room between their house and the river. They were just playing and loving baseball. That’s the way it should be.
That got me to thinking about all the ball games I’ve seen or been a part of. Which one sticks with me the most? What was the greatest game I’ve ever seen?
I’ll start with one game that sticks out and I’ll always remember. Years ago we took my mother to Rangers Stadium to see Alex Rodriguez play for the Rangers against his old team, the Seattle Mariners, for the first time. The Mariners had a rookie right fielder from Japan leading off. No one had ever heard of him. He hit a line drive to right field for his first Major League home run and the fan who caught the ball threw it back. The player’s name was Ichiro Suzuki. I’ve often wondered what that ball would be worth in Japan. That game wasn’t great, since the Rangers lost, but it was memorable.
Also memorable was Game 4 of the 2010 World Series. The Rangers lost to San Francisco 4-0, but we were there with our friends, Steve and Gail Hankinson. We sat in in right field and kept looking at each other and saying, “We’re at the World Series! We’re at the World Series!” The electricity was hard to describe.
Most say the greatest game ever played was the sixth game of the 1975 World Series when Carlton Fisk hit a home run in the bottom of the twelfth inning for the Boston Red Sox to beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-6. I watched that game with a bunch of guys staring at a ten inch black and white TV in a Texas A&M dorm room. I still remember Fisk going down the first base line waving the ball fair. Anyone who saw that game will never forget it. That the Big Red Machine won the seventh game and the series is an afterthought.
I might argue that the greatest game I’ve been a part of was when I was coaching the Midland North Central “C” League Blue Jays and we beat our rival A’s for the league championship. That was sweet. All of those Little League years were special. We made many friends and were touched by a lot of little boys who are now grown men. I run into one of them now and then. They still call me “Coach.”
While I’m on Little League, I’m going to digress and tell you about a new book a friend of mine, Mark S. McDonald, has written. It is titled, “They Gave Us Baseball — Now Look What We’ve Done – How Doting Parents and Nut-Job Coaches Screw Up the Game for Kids.” I think the title says it all. I wish I would have read it when I was coaching. You can learn more about it at http://sportsandoutdoors.guru/2014/10/#.
Now back to the greatest game ever played.
What was my greatest game in memory? It is burned in my brain. It took place not quite thirty years ago in the back yard of 2310 Abbey Place, Midland, Texas. Three brothers and their sister were playing one-base Wiffle ball. I was sitting on the porch swing, just watching and taking it all in. Ann was in the kitchen fixing supper. Matthew and Katie were playing Andrew and Christian. All of their personalities were in place. Matthew was telling everyone what to do. Andrew was taking his time. Christian was studying everything. And Katie? Well, Katie was just along for the ride.
Matthew (7) would get up to bat and try to hit it over the fence. Andrew (5 or 6) would slowly get in position and raise his bat high. Christian (4) would grab the bat, hold it down and back and wait for his pitch. And Katie (4)? Well, Katie was just having fun.
First base (being the only base) was some point on the fence. I never figured out just what it was. Whenever someone hit the ball Matthew would yell, “Run! Run!” Katie would just laugh and skip to the fence and back.
So there I was, a Daddy watching his children play a game he’d played since childhood, getting along, laughing and having fun. That never happened in the back of the car or at the supper table, but it happened that evening.
So you can have your World Series, your Fenway, your Wrigley, your Yankee Stadium, your Iowa cornfield. I’ll take an evening on Abbey Place watching four joyous kids enjoying each other.
I love baseball.
And I’ve seen heaven.