Thwwwwwack! Do you recognize that sound? It’s the crack of the baseball bat hitting that first ball of the season. You can hear it in your mind can’t you? Indeed, we all know that sound and baseball is called the Great American pastime for a reason. The sport is imbedded deeply into our souls as well as into our culture and for those of us that are baseball fans, it might even go a bit deeper.
Historically our Baseball heroes have become almost God-like legends over time. Great baseball players seem to live on forever in our hearts. We pay homage to them through songs, movies - and even baseball costumes - made to remember them and the great sport of baseball. Films have been made to celebrate baseball—no one could forget the epic “Field of Dreams” where the building of a baseball field became a man’s life passion as well as his obsession. True baseball fans loved the idea that legendary baseball players who have gone on into the great beyond could come back (as ghosts) to play their beloved sport on hallowed ground--an Iowa cornfield. Who would believe that such a tale would be so revered? It wasn’t really about men coming back to life at all as these weren’t just men-they were baseball players. We do tend to hold many of our baseball players up on pedestals. Even some of the more colorful baseball rogues are forgiven for their life’s transgressions because they could play a memorable and great game. These athletes live a bit of a charmed existence for that reason.
Everyone knows a song or two celebrating baseball. John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” is my personal favorite and just hearing the line “Put me in coach!” makes me suddenly crave a Dodger Dog. If I even mention “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” you are likely to be singing it in your head for the rest of the day—“Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjack’s—I don’t care if we ever come back!” It’s just how it is—everyone knows that song whether they’ve been to a baseball game or not. It’s part of who we are.
This year, April 1st marks baseball season’s opening day. It’s not really surprising to me that a day known for silly pranks and tomfoolery would be the perfect and appropriate day to celebrate the beginning of Baseball season. Baseball’s history is shrouded in superstition and myth and yes--probably more than a few silly pranks.
There are more superstitions surrounding baseball than really any other sport. You may have heard of “The Curse of the Goat.” Billy Slanis, (the owner of Billy Goat Tavern) brought his goat to one of the games at Wrigley Field in 1945. He was asked to leave as fans were offended by the smelly odor of the goat. When leaving, Billy was outraged at his dismissal and shouted out loud for all to hear, “Them Cubs will not win no more”—this statement is often interpreted to mean that the Cubs will never win another World Series game at Wrigley Field. Many believe that this curse will not be lifted either, until Wrigley makes nice with all goats and welcomes them openly to Wrigley Field. Many attempts have been made over the years to break the curse but all have apparently failed.
Baseball players are notoriously superstitious. When on a winning streak players have been known to not cut their hair or shave or some will not even launder various parts of their uniform while they are still winning. We’ve all seen players tap the base while getting ready to bat. Is tapping lucky? Some players have a “lucky” bat or glove that they like to use as well. It’s a very well known fact amongst players and sports commentators that it is very bad luck to even mention the possibility of a no-hitter while it is still indefinite. Dare not even mention the subject or utter the words “no-hitter”—it is a known jinx to do so amongst baseball circles until the game has officially ended.
Whether you are a little leaguer, a die-hard fan, or just love the game, baseball season is now upon us and that’s reason enough to celebrate. From now until November you can find yourself rooting for your favorite home team. It’s time to dust off your baseball player bobbleheads, start wearing your rally caps and get ready to eat the best darn hot dogs known to mankind. Joe DiMaggio once said, “You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you were a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.” Take me out to the ball game—indeed!