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An Extra Twenty Minutes of Sleep

March 14, 2015

“When I was young, I was so interested in baseball that my family was afraid I’d waste my life and be a pitcher. Later they were afraid I’d waste my life and be a poet. They were right.”

– Robert Frost

The start of baseball season is only three weeks away. We’re half-way through spring training and teams are starting to take shape.

Soon, it will be the fans turn to make sense of the many off-season trades and new player contracts. Player turnover is an annual occurrence. There’s not much of a chance that a team’s lineup returns intact from the year before. That’s the way it’s been for years now, so fans generally go with the flow. I’ll miss watching some of the guys who wore the Oakland A’s laundry last year. However, there’s nothing unexpected there and I look forward to watching the skipper, Bob Melvin, manage the new crew. On the other side of the water, the San Francisco Giants will go with a new third baseman and left fielder. There’s also a young catcher to watch. I’m perfectly fine with the moves the team made (or didn’t make) during the off-season. Get back to me for an entirely different story if when the Giants send Buster Posey away.

A manager’s job is simple. For one hundred sixty-two games you try not to screw up all that smart stuff your organization did last December.

– Earl Weaver, manager of the Baltimore Orioles from 1968 – 1986

??????????

July 2007 during a string of games we went to watch Bonds’ home run chase.

Unlike some of the other major sports, baseball doesn’t have a game clock. Each team is allowed a minimum of twenty-seven batters to score runs by those players advancing all the way around the four corners of the diamond-shaped infield. MLB is increasingly concerned that the game’s flow will eventually ruin their franchise. If they could figure out a way to make their money without the inconvenience of fans, or even playing the games themselves, they would do so. Until then, they will do all sorts of things, including speeding up the game.

There are some new rules this year. The time in between innings will remain the same in order to rack up advertising spot revenue, but the goal is to cut the playing time by twenty minutes. Among other changes, the players’ moves in between pitches will be carefully monitored with digital clocks to keep things moving. I’m against it, but I’ll survive. Maybe it’s even better for me. Since I have to get up every workday at a quarter to-way too early, I’ll be a beneficiary of this new way when I’m sitting in the soft green chair watching the ninth inning in the late evenings this summer. An extra twenty minutes of bedtime goes a long way in a short night’s sleep.

You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.

– More from Earl Weaver

Wrigley Field 1988

Wrigley Field 1988. Construction crews are working 12-hour days to make the place look more like all the other ballparks. In a “special event” spectacle, MLB will celebrate their work and the team’s owners on national TV April 5.

These rule changes are just the latest in MLB’s drive to be just like everything else. The ballparks are increasingly becoming a combination of sports field, shopping mall, food court, State Fair, kiddie park, sorority and fraternity parties, and hipster brew pubs. The players’ uniforms are frequently rotated to give a nod to some segment of the American population to attract those folks attention and wallets. The ceremonial first pitch from the corporate sponsors’ VPs, local little league team, former player or current pop star is only the start. The big screens are always displaying something. Fireworks, military jet flyovers, and special effects are all around. Silly and loud popular music fills the airwaves when possible. It’s not your father’s day out at the yard. Other than the elements of this amazing game, there’s more contrast than comparison.

In spite of all this, I’ll be back for more. It’s irresistible. There is still a beautiful game being played out in the middle of all these distractions.

*********

I like this free-form poem.

How Baseball Saved My Marriage
By Kristen Lindquist

One happy hour drink in Orono and now I’m driving
up the Penobscot just for kicks, past the bridge to Indian Island,
past the just-closed Georgia Pacific plant, tidy yards
of Milford, “Place of a Million Parts” junkyard,
the drink still warm in my belly, the strong, true edge of things

glowing with rich clarity in the late summer, late afternoon light.
Dylan’s tangled up in blue on the radio, dozens of migrating
nighthawks flit over fields along the river, crickets shrill
in tall grass, window draft tickles my tan shoulders.
Later tonight, the Red Sox will win with another Big Papi

walk-off homer that will make me whoop to myself in the car.
But for now, I’m moving through Olamon, Passadumkeag,
away from the river, into the woods. It’s the end of a long day,
but there still seems to be plenty of time and road ahead.
Something about the light, the beauty of the sky, makes me think
I should keep going right on to northern Maine, all the way
to Canada. I could just keep driving all night, potato fields
north of Houlton balancing the dark outside my car windows,
lights across the St. John beckoning me over the border.
I’ve got a full tank of gas, credit cards in my wallet. I could

drive all the way to Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island,
stay in some quaint inn on a craggy coast, walk low beaches
in search of sandpipers heading south from the Arctic.
How far north do roads go? But it grows late, shadows deepen,
and so far from home, I realize I don’t know the station

broadcasting tonight’s game. So it’s finally baseball
that curbs my sudden wanderlust. It’s the simple pleasure
of a good game coming up that makes me turn around
to re-enter the bubble of radio reception, to start
the long drive back to everything familiar and well-loved.

From → Baseball, Poetry

51 Comments
  1. Happy spring! Enjoy the ballpark.

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  2. I can’t tell you how much I like this post. I heard someone say that one reason for speeding up the pace of play is to accommodate the attention span of 12 year-olds. I would argue, pointlessly, that it wouldn’t hurt to slow down the attention span of 12 year-olds. But I have season tickets for the first time ever and I can’t wait for Earl’s O’s to play ball.

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    • Ha ha! That’s about right. Speed things up so we can get on to the next thing.

      I agree that kids could use a little help. We’ve already created a crazy, non-stop world full of expectations and demands. Let’s slow things down once in a while.

      Season tickets sound like a lot of fun. Enjoy. Maybe you’ll keep us posted on your hippie notebook. You can watch the entire season, every chapter right there in person. You’ve laid down your money, now hold on to your wallet. Pack your own peanuts.

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  3. Completely agree. Odd how nobody connected to the game, including the media, seems willing to acknowledge that the rise in the time of the game bears a direct correlation to the need to televise each and every game played. The need for two or three minutes of commercials between every half inning of every single game is what explains the increasing length of the game. It’s not players stepping out or pitchers taking too long or anything else. It’s the commercials.

    As I’ve said to others in the last few weeks, I have never watched a game on TV and complained about how long the game is taking because of something the players are doing, but, yes, the commercials drive me away from the TV and I lose interest because of the commercial breaks.

    Go Giants!

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    • The remote control is my best friend. Back and forth, generally between the A’s and Giants, when the annoying commercials are on the screen. By MLB rule, allow breaks of 2:25 for local broadcasts and 2:45 for national broadcast. Book those advertising dollars.

      I really don’t care if the pitcher walks around the mound, the batter steps out of the box or they both take up landscaping in the clay and sand. If that’s what they need to get their focus, give their teammates a rest or disarm their opponents, let them be.

      I don’t need another car ad telling me about a blowout sales price.

      Liked by 2 people

      • My kids have given up trying to talk to me about commercials. As soon as a commercial comes on, no matter what I’m watching, I take my brain somewhere else. I do not pay attention to them at all.

        But, yes, part of baseball is the pace. Let the players take their time. This new commissioner worries me.

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        • He is trouble with a capital T. Big Trouble.

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          • When he proposed outlawing the shift, I seriously considered burning up my “I’m a baseball fan” card. Okay, I don’t have one of those, but I would have done so in a figurative sense. He’s got horrible ideas in his rush to turn MLB into something like every other sport — which is just wrong as you so eloquently put it.

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            • I hope I am wrong, but I fear that the league will reach a point of no return. Let’s enjoy it while we can.

              Is there a team that you watch closely?

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            • Lifelong Giants fan. Have enjoyed the last five years. I never thought they would win a WS. Three in five years is incredible.

              And you?

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            • Same here. Although, I like watching the A’s also. I’ll listen to Jon Miller and Dave Fleming over anyone else out there, no matter who is playing. Vin Scully, too.

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            • Do you remember the glory days of Lindsey Nelson? 😉

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            • I don’t. I think I missed something good.

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            • Oh, no, he was the opposite of good. The Giants had some absolutely horrible announcers in the 70s and 80s, but I was addicted to listening to them on the radio when I was a kid so I suffered through them. This might give you an idea about Lindsey Nelson … http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I000089k4TEzZNQQ/s/860/860/Lindsey-Nelson-Sports-Announcer-by-Jonathan-Green.jpg

              I wish I could remember the names of some of the others they had back then. It’s been nice having Miller and Fleming and Kruk and Kuip for so long, particularly after Krukow tamed his homerism a bit. He was for too over the top his first few years.

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            • Oh, I see. No, I can’t say that I remember him. We have the best in the business right now. We’re pretty fortunate with both the A’s and the Giants, although I don’t care for some of the guys who pass through the A’s booth when Fosse has a day off. They are not very good at substituting for him.

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  4. Have you read Billy Chrystal’s Still Foolin Em?

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  5. I think I have mentioned, Bruce, that one of my best friends is an avid Giant’s fan. When we travel together, which is frequent, his Giant’s cap is always perched on his head. We are constantly being stopped by people who share his fervor. And he has backups of backups to make sure he never misses a game (satellite radio, for example). More than one trip has been interrupted to hit a sports bar. So recently when we were out traveling, he persuaded Peggy we need to go to spring training in Arizona for next year. So I guess that is where I will spend my birthday. 🙂 –Curt

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    • That’s mighty big of you to check in on those ball games with him and now, go to Arizona. You two must be quite the friends. It seems that Giants fans are all over these days. Surely, it has something to do with their success the past few years. Before 2010, just the Giants fans were interested. Now, people curious about the ballpark and the scene are part of the crowd. Very popular down here.

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  6. Only three weeks away. Well, I’ll probably be blogging more as my husband watches. And watches. And watches.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think the season has already gotten started around these parts. Yesterday I was out in a sea of red as if it were July. The Phillies fans are anxious to get this season started! My daughter is the baseball fan in our house.

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  8. There was a great book I read as part of a class in the late 80’s titled “Entertaining Ourselves to Death” that talked about our current attention (or current for 1988) versus earlier times and the role of entertainment. It was an interesting book. It makes me a little sad that we now have to turn a baseball park into an amusement ride to hold people’s attention, but that being said… It sounds like you’re ready for some baseball. Enjoy the season!! 🙂

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    • Beth, I am familiar with the title, but have not read the book. And anyone with their eyes open half the time could attest to the premise. Entertainment choices are all around us. Years ago, I read Neil Postman’s (same author) book titled, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. He was an observer of our society with things to say.

      Speaking of spending our days entertained, do you follow one of the teams down there in the big land called Texas?

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  9. I know nearly nothing about baseball, Bruce. But I did enjoy the Frost quote.

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  10. What a wonderful Frost quote. I love how you find these perfect quotes and poems to go with your post. My daughter and son-in-law just returned from watching the Red Sox in Florida (they have season’s tickets at Fenway). I admit, I don’t get the allure (give me football in the fall) but I’d sit at the Giants SF stadium and take in the sun and the views of the bay, any day of the week!

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    • Your daughter and son-in-law seem quite the dedicated Sox fans. I’d say season tickets at Fenway are quite the prize. I’m not big on the drama around the AL East rivalries (Boston/Yankees, etc.) but there is some real good baseball back there and of course, there’s Fenway itself. That’s something to enjoy on its own.

      The writer of the poem, “How Baseball Saved My Marriage,” Kristin Lindquist, is from New England. She may be out in the stands with your daughter.

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      • Ha Ha. Since my daughter really couldn’t care less about baseball, but cares about her husband, I think she’d like the title of that poem. I like when they invite me for a game – it’s the only time I allow myself to eat hot dogs, and to sing Neil Diamond songs (Sweet Caroline is ‘the’ Fenway song….)

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  11. Good stuff Bruce…I always look forward to your writing.

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    • Thank you, Gary. We are getting close. You will have a field day with all the changes in Oakland. There will be plenty of developments to watch. I’m hopeful about their new infield and think they will be fun to watch. Lawrie is a gamer and if he finally hits his stride and stays healthy, good things will happen.

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  12. Just when I thought you were crumpling under the cynicism, baseball saved you too. “There is still a beautiful game being played…” I know many people, self included, share your sentiments about how the game is changing for the wrong reasons. Great poem at the end. I love me some Big Papi.

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    • Baseball saved me too. On occasion, that may have been true, Crystal.

      And yes, isn’t Kristin Lindquist’s poem wonderful?

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  13. My sister and her husband celebrate their birthdays 6 days apart; to celebrate, I sent them each some SF Giants gear (they live on the east coast of Canada, so the merch is not readily available). When the package arrived they thought I’d played a cruel joke because it was a ladies Red Sox t-shirt. Alas, they’d just received someone else’s order (and a distraught woman named Debbie got theirs!). Good thing we’re only in preseason.

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    • Ha! Perhaps a Pablo Sandoval off-season contract signing story played out with birthday gifts.

      While I don’t pay attention to fans’ moods during spring training, I wouldn’t be surprised if folks just soon put Sandoval in the past. He’s gone and no funny hats made in China are going to change that.

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  14. Hi Bruce!! It seems as if it has been forever since I’ve visited! This post really seems to have struck a chord with folks. I do love your devotion to the game!
    That Frost quote is wonderful!

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  15. Can’t wait for baseball season to start, gets the blood flowing and the doldrums of winter behind me.

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  16. Still haven’t learned the ins & outs of baseball, but sometimes I memorize poems. The two longest were Paul Revere’s Ride and Casey at the bat.

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