Baseball Is…

By Greg Hall

My five-month-old son was strapped into his car seat on a sweltering August afternoon as our car radio announced that baseball was over for the rest of the 1994 season. The MLB Players Union had made good on their threat to strike. I began to wonder what it would be like if the players never returned and the game I and my nine brothers had grown up with died. What would I tell my son ten years hence if he came to me and asked, “Hey dad, what’s this thing called baseball?”

I wrote the following verse to explain to him what the game means to me.

Baseball Is…

Baseball is grass, chalk and dirt
Displayed the same yet differently
In every park that has ever heard the words, “Play ball!”

Baseball is a passion that that bonds and divides all those who know it.
Baseball is a pair of hands stained with newsprint,
A set of eyes squinting to read a box score,
And a brow creased in an attempt to recreate a three-hour game from an inch-square block of type.

Baseball is the hat I wear to mow the lawn.

Baseball is a simple game of catch
And the never-ending search for the perfect knuckle ball.

Baseball is Willie vs. Mickey,
Gibson vs. Koufax
And Buddy Biancalana against the odds.

Baseball links Kansan and Missourian,
American and Japanese,
But most of all – father and son.

Baseball is the scent of spring,
The unmistakable sound of a double down the line,
And the face of a ten-year-old emerging from a pile of bodies with a worthless yet priceless foul ball.

Baseball is a language of very simple words
That tells unbelievably magic tales.

Baseball is three brothers in the same uniform, on the same team for one brief summer, captured forever in a black and white photo on the table by the couch.

Baseball is a glove on a shelf,
Oiled and tightly wrapped,
Slumbering through the stark winter months.

Baseball is some Elmer’s glue, a couple of finishing nails, a hammer and some black tape,
Lovingly applied in an attempt to coax a few more innings out of a splintered Louisville Slugger.

Baseball is the foreign sensation you get when placing your hand in someone else’s glove.

Baseball is Mark Sawatski swiping his mom’s Oxydol to “chalk” the lines for our neighborhood sandlot game of the week.

Baseball is the smell of a freshly screen-printed jersey,
In the hands of an 11-year-old who just made the team.

Baseball is the way generations compare themselves and their idols.

Baseball is molding the bill of your cap to your own personal specifications.

Baseball is a breast pocket bulging with a transistor radio.
Baseball is the reason there are transistor radios.

Baseball is a fifth-grade history class huddled around Sister Irma and her Philco,
On a sunny October afternoon.

Baseball is sitting in your car on a humid summer night,
Listening to the play-by-play on the only radio that will pick up the game.

Baseball is a voice in a box,
Describing men you’ve never met,
In a place you’ve never been,
Doing things you’ll never have the chance to do.

Baseball is the potential for a no-hitter with every national anthem.

Baseball is 90 feet of anticipation.

Baseball is my dad hollering score updates upstairs after mom had long ago sent us to bed.

Baseball is the acquired art of extending the life of a hard ball,
With knots, tape and spit,
Until the round rubber center reveals itself and ends the day’s game.

Baseball is a shoestring catch,
A booted ground ball,
And even a Clete Boyer.
But it’s not a game for loafers.

Baseball is the numbing sting of a fastball off the fists of a batter on a cold April night.

Baseball is knowing when to run,
When to stop,
And when to slide.

Baseball is a thinking man’s game that takes no brains to excel at.

Baseball is a tear rolling down the cheek of a child in uniform,
As he watches a thunderstorm wash out the day’s game.

Baseball is a scribbled and blotched scorecard,
That can make 6-4-3 look like a ballet.

Baseball is fireworks at the ball park every Fourth of July.

Baseball is experimenting with the grip of a baseball,
In the hopes of inventing a new and unhittable pitch.

Baseball is pepper, three-flies up, five-hundred and home run derby,
Played by kids in every schoolyard since before Babe Ruth.

Baseball is imitating every nuance of the stance of your favorite player.

Baseball is determining who gets “first-ups” by strangling the neck of a bat.

Baseball is the anguish you feel when a Red Sox gets traded to the Yankees.

Baseball is how I learned my geography.

Baseball is the four-inch-high trophy that I have never thrown away.

Baseball is taught by dads to sons,
In hopes that the boy will master the game that the man did not.

Baseball is a dream that you never really give up on.

Baseball is precious.
Baseball is timeless.
Baseball is forever.

[email protected] & Twitter / greghall24

About Greg Hall

Software guy who has been writing my Off The Couch column in KC newspapers, publications and websites since 1994. Has been bounced from some of the finest media establishments this side of State Line Road. Dad first and everything else second...and there are a lot of everything elses.
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11 Responses to Baseball Is…

  1. Monkeyhawk says:

    Baseball is all that and more.

    My Dad was a doctor back in the days doctors made house calls. I’d ride along with him in his Dodge and we’d listen to baseball on the radio.

    Was there ever a worse homer than Monty Moore? He tried so hard to sell Charley Finley’s fictions. I particularly loved how the white shoes were made from the pelts of albino kangaroos.

    At the other end of the scale is Vin Scully on the radio in the late innings when the Dodgers are losing a blow-out. You learn a little philosophy, some literature, history that may or may not relate to baseball, and you always knew the count.

    I have a transcript somewhere of Scully’s play-by-play of Koufax’s perfect game, It was live but could have been a meticulously edited essay on Sandy’s career and life. “Ball two” thrown in there along the way. Vin didn’t break the rules of the day by mentioning it was a perfect game in the making, but you knew.

    There are so damned many games in a baseball season I don’t want an announcer and I don’t want a “journalist.” I want someone I’d like to sit in the stands with and watch the game.

    • Greg Hall says:

      My dad and most of my brothers were Cardinal fans. Harry Carey and Jack Buck were as much a part of our family summers as humidity. It was just what we did — supper, dishes and then the Cardinals games on the radio via the Cards’ Shenandoah, IA affiliate. Love your comment about who you want to listen to bring you the play by play – “I want someone I’d like to sit in the stands with and watch the game.” There is no one who was/is/will be better at baseball play-by-play than Mr. Vin Scully. A true gift to baseball fans everywhere — and I grew up a Giants fan.

  2. smartman says:

    Brilliant! I would just change the word IS to WAS.

    Different world today than the one we grew up in. Ward Cleaver has been replaced by Charlie Sheen, booze replaced by steroids, passion replaced by dollar bills and honesty replaced by misremembered.

  3. Greg Hall says:

    smartman, so glad you made your way over to the new website. Your presence has been missed.

    True, baseball is a far different game now than in my youth. I used to cry when a player would get traded and I would have to move his baseball card from one rubberbanded team to his new squad. Today it is just a given that the team you root for will have just as many mercenaries as home-grown talent.

    Here is a positive though. I get emails all the time from little league coaches and teachers who come across Baseball Is… and they want to reprint it to give copies to their team or use it in school for class time. I guess there is yet hope for today’s youth.

  4. bschloz says:

    GH: Nice work! Congrats
    Baseball was walking into Muni for first time and seeing that Toma Field
    Baseball was parking in Sams Parking lot
    Baseball was always wanting to play 1st base but getting thrown in right field
    Baseball was watching Reggie Jackson hitting balls off the fence as a rookie
    Baseball was screaming Go Campy Go!
    Baseball was hating Charlie Finley with all my might
    Baseball was listening to Catfish Hunter pitch a perfect game on a transistor radio
    Baseball was seeing Ewing Kauffman waving to the locals
    Baseball was seeing Willie Wilson hit an inside the park home run
    Baseball was chanting AO
    Baseball was watching #5 in the clutch
    Baseball is Hating the Yankees

  5. JayBee says:

    My Dad and my little brother and I used to go to nearly every Royals home game until I went off to college, we would watch the Cubs on WGN whenever we could catch them…if there was a MLB game on we were watching. And when we weren’t watching we were all out having a catch.

    My little brother and I used to drag the mower down to this empty lot at the end of our neighborhood and mow out a diamond and then go grab all the kids in the neighborhood and play ball until we ran out of sunlight.

    Baseball has always meant so much to the three of us, so much more than a game. Even now I will roll over to Dad’s on a Sunday when the Royals are out of town and we will sit and watch the game on his monster HD projection screen, perched on the edge of the couch, talking hitting streaks, team weaknesses, team strengths, high-fiving at every strikeout, hit, double play or homer…and we still go out to the K whenever we can.

    The best part of this tradition is that my 8 year old son has become a huge fan of the game and watches with me every chance he gets and loves to go out to the K or Community America to see the T-Bones.

    Baseball is…exactly.

    Great piece Hall!

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