Talking Baseball

 

Jon Reisman

“Baseball has been very good to me”- Roberto Clemente

“Baseball has been berry, berry good to me”- Garett Morris as Chico Escuela on Saturday Night Live

“Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.”- Yogi Berra

“There is no room in baseball for discrimination. It is our national pastime and a game for all.” – Lou Gehrig.

“Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.” – Leo Durocher

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game—it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.” – James Earl Jones as Terence Mann in Field of Dreams.

“Hey Dad Want to have a catch?”- Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams

I went to a Portland Seadogs game last week. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon with a happy mostly unmasked crowd. It was a crisply played game with echoes of the past mixed with portents of the future, with the unmistakable sounds of the game transporting me back sixty years to Philadelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium and all the ballfields I’ve played on or visited since, including  summer camp in Naples, Maine, Fenway, Shea in Flushing Meadows, NY, and minor league stadiums in Pawtucket, RI, Old Orchard, ME, Missoula, MT and Buffalo, NY (where The Natural was filmed and the Toronto Blue Jays played during the Covid Trudeau Canadian lockdown madness).

The sounds that transported me back included the popping thump of a fastball into the catcher’s mitt (Seadogs lefty starter Chris Murphy looks like a keeper), the crack of a barreled ball (who needs exit velocity stats?) and the crowd’s exclamations at a sharp fielding play or consequential strikeout. The players at Double A represent the future and hopes and dreams, but they are playing a game that connects me to the past.  

My maternal grandfather took me to my first major league ballgame in 1962, to a Phillies game at Connie Mack Stadium. My grandfather had been a minor league catcher, and had the mangled knotty fingers that the tools of ignorance produced. He was also a very successful High School coach, and wrote The Way to Better Baseball with Yankee outfielder Tommy Henrich, published in 1951.

Later that year my father took me to a midsummer doubleheader. We had great box seats, courtesy of a neighbor who was a Phillies team physician. It was a hot day, but I do not remember most of it- I came down with measles sometime before the second game. I guess I was prepping to be a public health policy nightmare at the tender age of six

My allegiance transferred to the Red Sox in the 1970’s. I watched Carlton Fisk dance and will his home run fair against the Big Red Machine on a Colby dorm TV in 1975. In 1978, I watched (Bleeping) Bucky Dent sink the Sox with my fellow economics graduate students at Brown. While in Providence I took a shine to McCoy stadium (now demolished) in nearby Pawtucket, and caught many games there till I moved back to Maine in 1984. The Pawsox have been moved to Worcester and changed to the WooSox, but I cannot help but think they should just be the Worcester Sauce.

I took both my sons to Fenway, and to minor league games in Montana and Buffalo, but it is the Seadogs and Hadlock Field that I have enjoyed most in recent years. It is closer, a lot less expensive, and more reminiscent of the baseball traditions and values I treasure. They have a pitch clock now, which rather violates the timeless aspects of the game, but I still love to hear the umpire say “Play Ball!”

Effective September 1 2022, Jon Reisman is retiring from the University of Maine at Machias after 38 years.  Mr. Reisman’s views are his own and he welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].

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