A Place To Talk About Giants Baseball

*Baseball as Therapy*

Posted in Uncategorized by Flavor on November 9, 2011

I stole Twin’s header for this one. I’m tired of all the negative stuff in the news right now. It’s all disgusting and awful to think about and, frankly, I need a break from it. So, I went back and read one of my favorite writings about the game that I’ve always gone to when I need to block out something negative in my life. Most of you have probably read this, it’s by A. Bartlett Giamatti. Please, no Penn State posts on this thread……

“The Green Fields of the Mind ”

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.

Somehow, the summer seemed to slip by faster this time. Maybe it wasn’t this summer, but all the summers that, in this my fortieth summer, slipped by so fast. There comes a time when every summer will have something of autumn about it. Whatever the reason, it seemed to me that I was investing more and more in baseball, making the game do more of the work that keeps time fat and slow and lazy. I was counting on the game’s deep patterns, three strikes, three outs, three times three innings, and its deepest impulse, to go out and back, to leave and to return home, to set the order of the day and to organize the daylight. I wrote a few things this last summer, this summer that did not last, nothing grand but some things, and yet that work was just camouflage. The real activity was done with the radio–not the all-seeing, all-falsifying television–and was the playing of the game in the only place it will last, the enclosed green field of the mind. There, in that warm, bright place, what the old poet called Mutability does not so quickly come.

But out here, on Sunday, October 2, where it rains all day, Dame Mutability never loses. She was in the crowd at Fenway yesterday, a gray day full of bluster and contradiction, when the Red Sox came up in the last of the ninth trailing Baltimore 8-5, while the Yankees, rain-delayed against Detroit, only needing to win one or have Boston lose one to win it all, sat in New York washing down cold cuts with beer and watching the Boston game. Boston had won two, the Yankees had lost two, and suddenly it seemed as if the whole season might go to the last day, or beyond, except here was Boston losing 8-5, while New York sat in its family room and put its feet up. Lynn, both ankles hurting now as they had in July, hits a single down the right-field line. The crowd stirs. It is on its feet. Hobson, third baseman, former Bear Bryant quarterback, strong, quiet, over 100 RBIs, goes for three breaking balls and is out. The goddess smiles and encourages her agent, a canny journeyman named Nelson Briles.

Now comes a pinch hitter, Bernie Carbo, onetime Rookie of the Year, erratic, quick, a shade too handsome, so laid-back he is always, in his soul, stretched out in the tall grass, one arm under his head, watching the clouds and laughing; now he looks over some low stuff unworthy of him and then, uncoiling, sends one out, straight on a rising line, over the center-field wall, no cheap Fenway shot, but all of it, the physics as elegant as the arc the ball describes.

New England is on its feet, roaring. The summer will not pass. Roaring, they recall the evening, late and cold, in 1975, the sixth game of the World Series, perhaps the greatest baseball game played in the last fifty years, when Carbo, loose and easy, had uncoiled to tie the game that Fisk would win. It is 8-7, one out, and school will never start, rain will never come, sun will warm the back of your neck forever. Now Bailey, picked up from the National League recently, big arms, heavy gut, experienced, new to the league and the club; he fouls off two and then, checking, tentative, a big man off balance, he pops a soft liner to the first baseman. It is suddenly darker and later, and the announcer doing the game coast to coast, a New Yorker who works for a New York television station, sounds relieved. His little world, well-lit, hot-combed, split-second-timed, had no capacity to absorb this much gritty, grainy, contrary reality.

Cox swings a bat, stretches his long arms, bends his back, the rookie from Pawtucket who broke in two weeks earlier with a record six straight hits, the kid drafted ahead of Fred Lynn, rangy, smooth, cool. The count runs two and two, Briles is cagey, nothing too good, and Cox swings, the ball beginning toward the mound and then, in a jaunty, wayward dance, skipping past Briles, feinting to the right, skimming the last of the grass, finding the dirt, moving now like some small, purposeful marine creature negotiating the green deep, easily avoiding the jagged rock of second base, traveling steady and straight now out into the dark, silent recesses of center field.

The aisles are jammed, the place is on its feet, the wrappers, the programs, the Coke cups and peanut shells, the doctrines of an afternoon; the anxieties, the things that have to be done tomorrow, the regrets about yesterday, the accumulation of a summer: all forgotten, while hope, the anchor, bites and takes hold where a moment before it seemed we would be swept out with the tide. Rice is up. Rice whom Aaron had said was the only one he’d seen with the ability to break his records. Rice the best clutch hitter on the club, with the best slugging percentage in the league. Rice, so quick and strong he once checked his swing halfway through and snapped the bat in two. Rice the Hammer of God sent to scourge the Yankees, the sound was overwhelming, fathers pounded their sons on the back, cars pulled off the road, households froze, New England exulted in its blessedness, and roared its thanks for all good things, for Rice and for a summer stretching halfway through October. Briles threw, Rice swung, and it was over. One pitch, a fly to center, and it stopped. Summer died in New England and like rain sliding off a roof, the crowd slipped out of Fenway, quickly, with only a steady murmur of concern for the drive ahead remaining of the roar. Mutability had turned the seasons and translated hope to memory once again. And, once again, she had used baseball, our best invention to stay change, to bring change on.

That is why it breaks my heart, that game–not because in New York they could win because Boston lost; in that, there is a rough justice, and a reminder to the Yankees of how slight and fragile are the circumstances that exalt one group of human beings over another. It breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality that would resist the corrosion; and because, after it had fostered again that most hungered-for illusion, the game was meant to stop, and betray precisely what it promised.

Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.

28 Responses

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  1. twinfan1 said, on November 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    We all have our favorite baseball announcers- for a voice and “demeanor” that was perfect for the game, I don’t think you can top Hank Greenwald. His voice spoke of hammocks, dropping cukes into the crock, the idea that why do today what you can put off until tomorrow…Giamotti’s piece reflects all of that, perhaps no bit of prose more definitively delineates the difference between the staccato pace of men marching into war that is football-and the stroll through the green field that is the greatest game…

  2. twinfan1 said, on November 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Thanks to Snark for the game hint last night- a great one. I think I’ll watch the Ford game against the Rockies tonight..
    The off season is just terrible for me this year, definitely the worst ever. The games are more than therapy, they’re saviors…

  3. twinfan1 said, on November 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Chuck, go to “edit”, put the cursor below any text, and just paste in the URL of the video, then click “update”. So do your text first, post the comment, then do as I indicate..or just make me an editor of your blog and your worries are over 😉

    • unca chuck said, on November 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      If I thought you would do something interesting there, I would.

      Winky face right back atcha . . .

      And . . . thanks.

  4. unca chuck said, on November 9, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Greenwald certainly was there for most of my baseball life, although Russ and Lon were the guys I listened to late at night when I was supposed to be in bed sleeping. Instead I had my little transistor radio and my earplug . . .

  5. ewisco said, on November 9, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    sweet piece. I’m not sure i see it all that way but lord i wish i could write like that.

  6. zumie said, on November 9, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Paterno has been fired.

    • zumie said, on November 9, 2011 at 7:57 pm

      The Penn St. Board of Trustees came to the right conclusion that there was just no way that Paterno could coach that game this Saturday, or any more games for Penn St.

      • zumie said, on November 9, 2011 at 8:00 pm

        I know BF wanted no Penn St. news on this thread, but the Paterno firing is big breaking news in the situation.

      • unca_chuck said, on November 9, 2011 at 8:37 pm

        There goes his illustrious career. Tough shit, skippy. In the end, you were nothing more than what you thought you hated most. A guy who put football over integrity and human decency.

  7. twinfan1 said, on November 9, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    From Baggs:
    “Giants are looking for a SS as a fallback to Brandon Crawford. I can tell you Clint Barmes has some big fans on the Giants coaching staff.”
    Barmes is probably the best of the non-Reyes/Rollins free agents..but Barmes would not be a fallback, he’d be the starter. No great shakes but if you understand that whoever they got would end up having to start anyway…he’s got that proverbial “bit of pop”..

  8. xootsuit said, on November 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Re Penn State. Late. Sorry. My kids both developed strong ties to teachers when they were very young. One kid went to regular season Giants games, the PS and the WS in 2002 with a teacher who bonded with him. He reveres that teacher today. My younger kid’s graduation present from one of his teachers (not the same one who befriended my older kid) was a chance to wear the WS ring and a Pablo-signed ball. Ask him about the ring, and his huge smile will tell you all you need to know. My kids loved and trusted those teachers. Why did I trust those teachers with my kids? I met them, I knew them from conferences, and everyone in charge of the school vouched for them absolutely. (Why? I think the school was diligent and professional in its oversight.) Penn State, from the top on down, vouched for Sandusky, long after they should have sounded the alarm. Parents relied on those people at Penn State, including the two who got fired tonight. Children got raped, as a result. Penn State deserves serious punishment — shut down the football program now, for a full decade. That’ll send a message. :PI lawsuits will follow. That’ll pour cold water on bad burns.

    • xootsuit said, on November 9, 2011 at 9:13 pm

      the smiley face was a typo. what a fucking stupid typo.

  9. zumie said, on November 9, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    This is a political video-clip, but it’s such a memorable one from tonight’s Republican debate. All you can say is….doofus!!

    • unca_chuck said, on November 9, 2011 at 9:58 pm

      Oooops indeed. Perry’s speech in New Hampshire is awesome. He’s either drunk or on luudes.

      • zumie said, on November 9, 2011 at 10:00 pm

        His goofiness is “endearing” to Texans, I guess, for some reason, but the rest of the nation just sees a big doofus.

    • PawlieKokonuts said, on November 10, 2011 at 6:17 am

      wow, seeing it was way better than reading about it.

  10. snarkk said, on November 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    Would that Giamatti had continued on as commissioner. He loved the game, first and foremost. Respected it. Would steroids have gotten to the point of rotting the game like they did, with him in office? I dunno. I’d like to think no way. Perhaps the owners would have canned him before he could stop it. Now, we have students rioting at their university because their false icon, an alleged enabler of a child molester, was rightfully let go to save the soul of that institution before it could be destroyed on the field Saturday with his appearance there. I need a bourbon. A double…

  11. unca_chuck said, on November 9, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    False icon? Like the golden calf?

    They are drunk college students. They are looking to bust shit up.

    • snarkk said, on November 9, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      I think most are sober. That’s what is frightening…

  12. xootsuit said, on November 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    The stand Giamatti and his enforcer Vincent were willing to take against steroids is well documents. Giamatti had a heart attack and died; Vincent tried to press on alone, but the owners staged a coup, installed Selig, etc. The campaign against steroids stopped dead.

  13. twinfan1 said, on November 9, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Well, Pandora’s Box was opened..
    Paterno was probably fired for his arrogance in attempting to dictate both his departure and how the board should deliberate on the matter. But he was getting canned regardless .I do doubt he was canned for his alleged involvement- since his culpabilty on any level is not known. We know he DID inform the police through the head of the campus police- we don’t know exactly what he reported and exactly what was reported to him.The board was very careful to not cite a reason for his firing, they would have been extremely foolish to do so. As I said when the shit hit the fan- there was no way he would survive this, that he had coached his last game at PSU. By saying that his culpabilty is questionable, it’s not saying that he didn’t have a higher obligation. But his firing was exactly as the board put it: in the best interests of Penn State, a public relations necessity.

  14. PawlieKokonuts said, on November 10, 2011 at 6:19 am

    Heard Giamatti at the New School in NY and talked to him afterward. His talk soared. True Renaissance man.

  15. PawlieKokonuts said, on November 10, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Good morning. Reading quotes at nytimes.com by rioting or voyeuring Penn State students has me taking back my comment from yesterday about the poor innocent college students. What do they major in there, Stupidity? The comments by the students there, about justifying rioting, are among the most ignorant I have ever read, on any subject. That’s just the comments, never mind the actions themselves!

  16. PawlieKokonuts said, on November 10, 2011 at 6:29 am

    Thanks, Magnus, for giving us such a lengthy, epic passage from A. Bartlett Giamatti. It is really a gorgeous and sad and lovely piece of work. Truly a piece of art and something any Giants fan can relate to. You can tell how much the man loved baseball, and the rhythms of life.

    • PawlieKokonuts said, on November 10, 2011 at 6:31 am

      p.s. Weird thing. I was doing some research last month, pouring over and printing stuff from NY Times microfiche archives, 1958, 1963. And, quite by chance, or fate, I found Giamatti’s wedding announcement in the “society” pages.

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