My first baseball game was watching the Padres at Murphy Stadium in San Diego. When the crowd stood at the top of the seventh to sing Take me out the ball game, I thought I’d passed into a parallel world. I don’t pretend to know the rules, even if some of the lingo crept into my vocabulary while I was Stateside – home stretch, third base, in the ballpark, batting zero.
Stuck for something to read last week, I picked up the first in Troy Soos’ Mickey Rawlings books – Murder at Fenway Park. If you like whodunits and you’ve a thing for baseball history, this is just what you’ve never known you’ve always wanted to read. Lightly written, Soos explains the nuances of the game without preaching, describes the wonder of it all without waxing, and paints a realistic picture of what it was like to live back in the day. It’s 1912. Fenway Park has just opened. And Ty Cobb is the man everyone is talking about.
I think June is my favorite month for baseball. It’s late enough in the season so that the players are warmed up and their reflexes sharp, but early enough so that the accumulating aches and pains haven’t yet taken their toll. It’s the time of year when one can best appreciate the beautiful balance of the game. The warming weather has the pitchers’ arms loose, and gives them a more sensitive feel of the ball. But the batters have their hitting eyes honed, so the pitcher-batter matchup remains even. The legs of the base runners are limber, and they get quick jumps in their sprints to steal bases. But the catchers have developed snappier releases, so the catcher-runner duel also stays close. The critical matchups are ideally balanced this time of year, with all of the combatants at the peak of their powers, and every skirmish of mind and body a close and exciting contest.
But baseball and murders aside, one line really struck me:
I heard once that if you grow old with someone, nature has a charitable way of making you both always look the same to each other: as one of you gets more wrinkles, the other’s eyes get worse, so the aging is never noticed.
I spent the week looking at elderly couples wondering what they see. Do they see the person I see or the person they fell for so many years ago?
That I’m not too jaded to find such flights of whimsy fascinating is gratifying. This week is already promising to be a manic one. I’ve just unpacked from Barcelona with enough time to pack again for Belgrade. For the chance to travel [even if I’d prefer to be motoring down the M7 to the village sooner than heading to the airport] I’m grateful, too. But more than anything, I’m grateful for a love of reading that makes even the most miserable of days worth living.