Baseball 2020 (Love is Strange)
By ice rivers
I've loved baseball for 65 years. Strangely, I didn't miss it when Covid eliminated the first three and a half months of play. The game returned a couple of days ago and my love returned. I've heard it said that we will always love whatever we've ever loved although sometimes we lose that love. If we are going to find that love again, the best place to look for it is the place that we had it last. The return of baseball immediately sustained that theory.
Here's another theory; love is strange.
Here's one of my favorite books: Stranger in a Strange Land.
Watching baseball in this covid season made me like a stranger in a strange land who had rediscovered his love and God Awmighty was it strange.
The stadiums are empty or sparsely crowded with cardboard cut outs. The sounds of ballpark are recorded and played back at appropriate moments. The players are wearing masks. Ballplayers who are not expected to play on a given day are seated at a social distance in the empty stands.
No spitting is allowed on the field.
Let's talk about spitting for a moment. The kid who taught me how to play baseball was a kid who spit all the time. When I asked him why he spat, he said because it was part of the game. I started to spit. We all spit like maniacs when we were on the Little League field emulating the major leaguers who spit when they were on the field. Those major leaguers no doubt learned how to spit when they were kids and somebody taught them that spitting was part of the game. Therefore, if you were a major league player, you were a major league spitter. All of a sudden, spitting has become illegal and God bless 'em the ballplayers are breaking an age old habit with admirable Covid discipline.
For those folks who don't like baseball, it's usually because the game is too long and so is the season. The length of the season reduces the importance of individual games which only increases the tedium of the non-fan. This Covid season is only 60 instead of 162 games which makes each game more significant. Further almost every game is now available on teevee. For the past couple of years, I've learned the skill of "watching a three hour game in about 35 minutes. I tape the game before I sit and watch it and then I play the game back at one and a half speed until I get used to that speed and then speed it up to double speed once I become accustomed. Sometimes, I slow the speed down to real time if there is a critical at bat or if I am interested in a particular batter or pitcher. Of course, I go at four time speed during commercials. Watching baseball on teevee has become an art form. You gotta be good with the remote.
So there I was yesterday watching a game between the Pirates of Pittsburgh and the Cardinals of St. Louis. I chose that game because the pitcher for the Cardinals was a guy on my fantasy league team that I had never seen pitch. The game was traveling along at double speed when I noticed the umpire making a gesture. I slowed the game down to real time.
Yup, the umpire was throwing somebody out of the game, presumably the manager of the Pirates. The manager leaped out of the dugout, wearing his mask and made his way to the ump. The ump whipped off his mask and there they were, two men arguing with each other while wearing masks and keeping a safe social distance.
The umpire returned to his position behind the plate. The Pirate manager made his way to the dugout on his way to an early shower in the clubhouse. The manager stopped on the way to the clubhouse and took his usual spot in the dugout. The announcers (who no longer are in the stadium but rather in a studio watching the game on teevee while hilariiously trying to decide whether the last pitchwas a slider or a change of pace etc and calling almost everything a slider) were confused until one of them came to the conclusion that it was not the manager who was being thrown from the game. They took a look at the replay to try to catch anybody doing anything suspicious. One of the announcers noticed a ballplayer in the empty stands start to run away as the umpire was kicking someone out of the game. The announcer said "I thnk that was Holland running away.
Sure enogh it was Holland. Holland is my wife's maiden name so that' s weird. Apparently Holland had been chirping away at the ump from the STANDS around the third base line. Normally, chirping from the third baseline would never be heard by an umpire drowned out as it would be by the sounds of the crowd. Because the stands were empty except for a few ball players who were forced to sit in them for Covid reasons, Holland's chirping was heard by the umpire who didn't care for it and "threw the bum out".
Now let's slow this down for a minute. The umpire ejected a guy from the game who was sitting in the stands which meant that he wasn't expected to play anyways, so Holland was forced to leave a game that he would have never entered in the first place for commenting on the umpire whom Holland thought would never hear him in the second place.
If a tree fell down in an empty stadium would it make any noise? Apparently, it would.
A few minutes later, my fantasy player got lit up for a few runs and was out of the game. I watched the rest of the game at four times normal speed and was done with it in 25 minutes.
Writing this story took me more time to write than I needed to watch the ballgame that I am writing this story about.
I had witnessed smething that I could never have imagined happening and so had fifty or so cardboard cutouts.
Love is strange.