Our National Pastime

I watched most of the World Series games again this year. When I was growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, baseball was known as the National Pastime. My Dad was a good example of that. He always had the radio on KMOX whenever the Cardinals were playing a game. If we were watching network TV shows in the evening on our only TV in the living room, my father would also have the radio on next to him, tuned in to the Cardinal game. In the heat of the summer as we were outside painting the house, we’d also be listening to Harry Caray give the play by play coverage of the Cardinal game. And most years, the Cards weren’t even competitive in the standings!

Most of my childhood, except for when I was barely one year old, the Cards didn’t even win a World Series until I was in college in 1964 and again in 1967. But all those other years we were still following the games, live on the radio. We were always hopeful. It was how we passed our time.

And we always watched the World Series games, always rooting for the National League teams. We knew those teams because the Cards had been playing them all season long. Back then the Cards never played American League teams, except in the World Series.

As grad school and then work took me to new parts of the country, I didn’t have time to follow baseball as closely.

I lived in Los Angeles for a number of years and during that time rooted for the Dodgers in a World Series they won. Then I moved back to Silicon Valley and supported the Giants during the Lincecum years and then after that I followed & supported the Giants during the Posey era, which included WS wins in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

In those Posey years I was doing a lot of accounting and tax work from my apartment in Palo Alto. I started listening to the Giant broadcasts on the radio. They had a policy of replaying the day games over the air after midnight. I became a night owl and a huge fan of the Giants broadcast team, which consisted of Jon Miller, Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow and Dave Flemming. In 2014 Miller was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame and he certainly deserved it because he was fantastic in announcing those Giants games. During that period, Giants baseball had definitely become my national pastime again!

After that my life took me to Santa Clara, Salinas and finally back to my hometown of Decatur, IL. During that period my greatest sports passion was the Golden State Warriors huge successes with coach Steve Kerr and Warriors Great, Stephen Curry, with NBA championships in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022.

Before that I was also a huge fan of the SF Forty-Niners during the Golden Era of Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jerry Rice. The Niners won the Superbowl in 1982, 1985, 1989, 1990 & 1995. Wow, what a great record of winning! I’ve been extremely fortunate with following successful professional teams over my adult life.

Anyway, I didn’t really have a plan to watch the Astros / Phillies World Series this year. But I did and the first two games were fantastic and then I started rooting for Dusty Baker. Somewhere during those two games, I suddenly realized the super level of skill required in major league baseball.

Hitting a 100 mph fastball has to be one of the most difficult tasks in any sport, let alone hitting all the other pitches that the pitchers get bouncing all around the plate. Pitchers in the WS can be unbelievable, but so are the batters.

And on the field things can get just as close. One throw out at second had the runner safe, but on replay the camera showed he was actually out by an inch or two. Amazing!

Before the series was over, I had reached a conclusion I had never considered before. Baseball really is the most difficult sport!
And it is difficult in so many different ways: pitching, hitting, fielding, base running & defense. The possibilities are endless and there are so many ways that players can make a difference by inches.

Certain body types tend to dominate certain sports. Super tall people tend to end up in basketball. Gigantic people tend to end up in football. Of course there are exceptions, such as Stephen Curry who is a bit over six feet tall, but has dominated many basketball games and even basketball seasons.

But what is the perfect body type for baseball? I can’t think of one that trumps all others. There is such a wide variety of individual skills in the sport, that there is none that dominates all others in the sport. Look back over the history of the MVP in the World Series and you’ll find all kinds of body types, from a wide range of positions played in the game. In the 2022, the MVP was even a Rookie, a player in his first year of MLB.

I find one thing to be the most amazing unchanged thing about baseball. The baseball infield is a diamond with exactly ninety feet on a side and it always has been, going all the way back to the early 1900’s. Surely over the decades the best athletes have been getting bigger, faster and in better shape. One might think that base runners might be able to run those 90 feet faster than the fielders can throw them out. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. So some runners are out by inches and others are safe by inches. This is totally amazing to me. Is there some principle of physics that makes this continue to be the case? It baffles me, but it continues to make the game super competitive, which is a huge plus for the dedicated fans.