The Cubs are back in Wrigley Field. We’re gonna have a summer after all.
COVID or no COVID, Dr. Fauci says “Play ball!” and just as the season was getting grim, it was Opening Day — never mind the All-Star Break, it’s better late than never.
Halfway through a summer that hadn’t given
us much to look forward to beyond local sweet corn and garden tomatoes, the good doctor’s wild pitch meant that, for at least this one thing, we wouldn’t have to wait until next year.
So yeah, we can settle in, properly masked and social distanced, crack a Corona and tune in to a game that could have been tailor-made for a pandemic.
Nine players take up positions on better than four acres of open ground — even with bases loaded and a scattering of umpires on field to keep order, sport doesn’t get more social distanced than that.
The pitcher’s not six, but 60 feet from the batter; the center fielder’s standing all by his lonesome in a vast expanse of green grass, and long, long before anyone outside of China ever heard of Wuhan, both the catcher and the home plate ump were wearing masks.
If there ever’s gonna be a game for the summer of 2020, baseball is it.
Sure, there had to be concessions — like no fans in the seats or concessions at the park. But save for a rare excursion to the Cities, Milwaukee or Chicago, most of us munched our peanuts and Cracker Jack on the sofa by the glow of the TV or to the broadcast chatter of a portable radio while lying in a shaded hammock in our own backyard.
Add a soundtrack to the broadcast and as long as the pre-recorded fans aren’t chanting “Kir-bee! Kir-bee! Kir-bee!” we’ll be none the wiser.
Now I make no pretense of being a die-hard fan, I imagine most of the folks who seriously follow the game would scoff that I’d claim to be a fan at all. Well, there’s probably some truth there.
I might be able to give a spotty accounting of the starting lineup for the 1965 Twins or the Mickey Mantle era Yankees, and I had a run of enthusiasm for the Twins in ’87 and ’91.
For that matter, I’ve never passed up an afternoon at Wrigley and still harbor a grudge toward the Dodgers for the ’65 series — but beyond that, well, I just like the game.
For all my life, baseball has been the soundtrack of summer. From the voices of Herb Carneal and Halsey Hall fighting static in the orange glow of the vacuum tubes
in Mom’s old Ward’s table radio to the kaleidoscope of big screens at a local sports saloon, to me baseball is synonymous with summer.
It’s the perfect accent to our season of leisure, the action played out in snippets strung over nine innings — or more — like pearls in a necklace; each at bat, each inning, a contested drama, complete in itself — bite-sized morsels of sport to be enjoyed while waiting for a burger or killing time in the parking lot while a significant other takes her time on a Target run.
The game is a potluck, a buffet, rather than a sit-down dinner; take as much or as little as you want or have time for — you can always check the box score.
But I think folks who like baseball are less likely to be in a hurry. Until the bat connects with the ball, there’s no hurry in baseball — and even then, the hurry is over soon as the out is made or the runner is safe on base.
It’s a game that teaches patience, and in this season where life as we have always expected it is usually disrupted, patience is a very good thing to have.
It’s good to have baseball back to remind us of that.
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