My Favorite Things (about Baseball)
When I was listening to the jazzy version of “My Favorite Things” on the D.C. City Council webcast, it prompted me to think about my favorite things about baseball. So here are the top ten, in no particular order. I’ve tried to limit to those things that distinguish baseball from other sports, in my mind (I have favorite things about those other sports, too, if anyone is interested).
(1) History – Even after the hot stove has cooled off, you can survive January and February off of the ample stores of baseball history. No other sport has all the aspects of history covered: a wide cast of characters and heroes, epic events, and organized objective records that prompt a multitude of theories and interpretations. Note that this is closely related to number 2.
(2) Stats and Records – I can’t spend 10 minutes on baseball-reference.com without coming up with something new and interesting from baseball’s past and present (like the fact that of the 89 DC natives who played in the majors, only 10 debuted since 1971). When it is combined with Retrosheet, it is overwhelming.
(3) Batter v. Pitcher – A conflict between two athletes like no other in sports, as much mental as physical. To get to see it 70-80 times a game is really something. When it occurs when all is on the line, it’s almost unbearable, especially if your team is involved.
(4) No Timeouts – Many like the fact that baseball has no clock, and I generally agree, but mostly because there are no timeouts. One of my favorites quotes is from Lenny Dykstra, during the 93 Phillies frenetic NLCS with the vaunted Braves, where every game featured the Braves threatening to blow the Phils’ house of cards over at any moment. During one touchy spot with Mitch Williams on the mound, Dykstra said “I wanted to call timeout. But this ain’t basketball.” Also closely related to number 5.
(5) No Change of Possession – unlike almost all other team sports, the offense need not quit when they score. This makes for some enormous pressure and dramatic comebacks in the right circumstances, but mercy rules in the wrong ones (e.g. little league). But I still like it.
(6) The Ball Doesn’t Do the Scoring – Not sure why I like this, I just find it very interesting.
(7) Lineups – In baseball, you have to wait your turn. No ball-hogging, no feeding the hot man, no hiding a guy from the spotlight. To me, the bad thing about the DH is not that the pitcher doesn’t hit, but that guys like Greg Luzinski don’t have to play to field in terror like an 8-year-old.
(8) Ballparks – Not only are they fun to visit, but they are an integral part of the game. That’s very neat.
(9) Lots of Games – It’s played every day, which is a nice reliable comfort in the summer, and gives you hope after failure. It’s a false hope, though, as success requires constant attention, which the good teams achieve.
(10) Roger Angell – Many baseball fans are put off by the fawning over him and his literary airs, but the guy knows his stuff, and describes it with an accuracy and precision that only a novelist can achieve. He is absolutely the only reason ever to pick up The New Yorker. He has also had a remarkable baseball life, and I defy anyone to read “Early Innings” (in Game Time) by him and not be jealous.