A Series IssueWritten by Jim Ellis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with baseball. Other sports were OK, but I knew all of the baseball players (OK, there were fewer teams in those days), their statistics, and the history of the game, even some of the science involved. I don’t follow the game the way I used to, but when the World Series starts I tend to still find that Baseball crazy 6-year old. In my school days, World Series games were still being played in the afternoons, beginning about 2:30 or 3 pm—the trouble was…school wasn’t over until 3:15, or was it 3:30? Needless to say, I wasted no time hustling the mile or so home from school (It was only uphill over the bridge, wiseguy) and get home after an inning or two. Fortunately, I had taught my Mom, the best one ever, ask anybody, to keep a scorecard of the game so I would know what happened during the parts I missed. It was a long time later I realized the value of that shared experience.
Night baseball was a fine thing through the summer, but the leagues and teams still thought baseball was a game best played in the sunshine…not to mention the 20 degrees of additional warmth that we get during the daytime, degrees you really need badly during Octobers in the Northeast and Midwest.
Baseball has been touted by a few of my fellow obsessives as a potential educational tool. You can teach mathematics like geometry and algebra, a little physics, even economics, but in those days we also learned a few other lessons. Law enforcement and Spycraft: Teachers focused on making us learn poetry or other silliness matched wits with crafty students trying to track the games on their transistor adios . Business and negotiation, when desperate fans tried to talk the would-be ‘coolest teacher in the world’ to let us hear just a few minutes of the game at the end of one day on the solemn promise we would work extra-hard the next.
Success would get us a few minutes of Radio or the Classroom TV, usually reserved for sacred educational fare like science programs or NASA launches were handed over to bird watching for Cardinals and Orioles, or the study of Yankees in New York, Pirates in Pittsburgh, or Reds invading the Cincinnati Riverfront.
Wanting to keep track of our baseball heroes was a common pursuit in those days, binding baseball fans of every gender, race and ethnic group. Even people who didn’t eat, drink and study the game sometimes made a little allowance for kids obsessed with “that silly baseball thingie.” Not just us kids… grown adults used to take a little time off from their busy days to catch the games. “What’s the score” was the unofficial motto of October. Transistor batteries were a boom market. Employers seemed to show little panic about ‘declining productivity’.
This season, Games don’t start until 8:30 or later, to make sure people are vegged out in front of the TV already watching the other 200 channels of prime time competition, stuff like Dancing With The Stars or CSI, instead of inventing reasons to play hooky from work in the Afternoon. Players and fans at the game suffer (Hey, they’ve already HAD snow in Denver) but who are they next to the legion of couch potatoes. Even on weekends, no baseball in the sunshine. Kids are off to bed after seeing the part of the games I used to miss, if they bother to watch at all. I wonder if their Moms or Dads are still cool enough to keep scorecards. I wonder if there are still things important enough to bend the school day rules for something the youngsters want to see or hear as trivial as Baseball. I wonder what happened to the obsessive pastime.