A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

As ‘pitchers & catchers report,’ nostalgia beckons

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Feb. 12, 13 or 14

Next week, the four words baseball fans long to hear will be uttered: “Pitchers and catchers report.”

Spring Training signals a rebirth of the National Pastime, a time to let the future present itself and the past to be rekindled like Louisville Sluggers in a Hot Stove League dugout fire.

The 2015 season marks 100 years since Babe Ruth hit first major league home run, and as seamheads revel in such history, speculate, and pore over statistics, it’s fun to recall memorable comments about baseball, such as Roger Kahn writing, “Baseball's inherent rhythm, minutes … of passivity erupting into seconds of frenzied action, matches an attribute of the American character.”

The past. Gail Mazur: “Baseball holds so much of the past, pulls me back to it each year, to the soothing un-clocked unrolling of the innings, to the sound of an announcer through an open car, the sweet attenuations of late summer afternoons. The sound of cleats on an asphalt drive, a bat cracking a ball, delirious cheers call out to surprise me in easy conversation with strangers.”

Compared to other sports. Stanley Cohen: “Baseball, almost alone among our sports, traffics unashamedly and gloriously in nostalgia, for only baseball understands time and treats it with respect. The history of other sports seems to begin anew with each generation, but baseball, that wondrous myth of 20th century America, gets passed on like an inheritance.”

Earl Weaver: “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 plate and give the other man his chance. That's why baseball is the greatest game.”

Bill Veeck: “It is played by people, real people, not freaks. Basketball is played by giants. Football is played by hulks. Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very un-orderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can't get you off.”

The biz. Philip Wrigley: “Baseball is too much of a sport to be a business, too much of a business to be a sport.”

Bill Terry: “Baseball must be a great game to survive the fools who run it.”

Our country. Gerald Early: “There is something about baseball’s checks and balances that mirrors those checks and balances of the Constitution, of Enlightenment rationalism, of liberalism as a 19th-century ideology, the great metaphor of self-interested individuals as self-interested association, the invisible hand of perfected design.”

Kevin Kerrane: “After Vietnam, beyond football, in spite of Astroturf and designated hitters and megabucks, we keep finding the game again every time we lose it – rediscovering it not only in major league parks, but in every corner of the country, on innumerable streets and playgrounds and sandlots, and in every corner of our selves.”

Ourselves. Thomas Wolfe: “One reason I have always loved baseball so much is that it has been not merely ‘the great national game,’ but a part of our lives, of the thing that is our own, the million memories of America. Almost everything I know about spring is in it — the first leaf, the jonquil, the maple tree, the … grass upon your hands and knees, the coming into flower of April. And is there anything that can tell more about an American summer than the smell of the wooden bleachers in a small town baseball park, that resinous, sultry and exciting smell of old dry wood.”

Tristram Potter Coffin: “Sportswriters argue about whether baseball is the national game or not. It … doesn’t matter. The picture of the father shoving a glove and bat into the crib of his first son is an American cliché simply because it symbolizes something typical about American hopes and fears.”

Michael O’Connor: “Baseball is not simply a sport. The game is a rite of passage through the corridors of youth; a game whose long, rich history allows us to retrace those early steps. Baseball is an awesome trust and a sacred privilege – one I believe God somehow had a hand in creating.”

Donald Hall: “My father and I played catch as I grew up. Like so much else between fathers and sons, playing catch was tender and tense at the same time. Baseball is fathers and sons. Football is brothers beating each other up in the backyard, violent and superficial. Baseball is the generations, looping backward forever with a million apparitions of sticks and balls, cricket and rounders, and games the Iroquois played in Connecticut before the English came. Baseball is fathers and sons playing catch, lazy and murderous, wild and controlled, the profound archaic song of birth, growth, age and death. The diamond encloses what we are.”

“Play ball!”

[PICTURED: Tim Souers cartoon from]

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