Baseball--The Game That Was Lost

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Baseball--The Game That Was Lost

I remember baseball, the one game that dominated my life as a child.

 

I remember baseball, the game I could play all day long in the front yard and spend all evening listening to on the transistor radio in my bedroom. I remember baseball, the one sport I loved more than anything, but never fully realized my dream to play.

 

I remember praying that I would be good enough to play in the major leagues some day. To my great dismay, I also learned that the Lord apparently never placed as much value on the game as I did.

 

I remember baseball, the one love of my youth.  Those were the days when the game was still truly fun for me. As a kid, you could have called the name of any major league ball player and I could have told you the name of his team. That’s because I remembered baseball and it was a game worth remembering!

 

Before the days of better hitting through chemistry, I remember baseball. That was the game where slender young men with incredible wrist strength and tremendous bat speed hit baseballs well beyond the confines of the diamond.

 

I remember baseball.

 

Some said the game was too slow, but it was delightfully so. Despite my enjoyment of football, I loved baseball! Football was simply a sport that filled the days from the end of the World Series to the start of spring training.

 

First, I must confess I am a recovering Cincinnati Reds fan. My love for the game was not directly tied to my love for the Cincinnati Reds, but they were certainly a major factor in it.

 

I remember baseball. The Reds were in the National League West and their biggest rival was the Los Angeles Dodgers. Geographically it made no sense, but it was perfect.

 

I remember baseball and how I hated the Dodgers.

 

I remember my complete disillusionment when Pete Rose left Cincinnati—his home town, of all things—for more money. If that wasn’t enough, then along came free agency, the strikes, the lockouts, and the year Cincinnati had the best record in baseball but failed to make the playoffs.

 

I remember the thrill I received when I learned that Pete Rose was returning home to Cincinnati as a player-manager. The idol of my youth was back in the one franchise he truly belonged. The game I fondly remembered returned to me in some way.

 

I remember baseball. The history and the tradition of the game all came flooding back to me in Rose’s 44-game hitting streak and his relentless pursuit of Ty Cobb’s nearly-invincible hit record.

 

I remember baseball, in the days before Bart Giamatti banished Pete Rose from the game for gambling on the sport we both professed to love. I remember the game’s greatest ambassador brought a black mark to the diamond.

 

I remember baseball.

 

This game brought me some of my greatest joys and some of my most bitter disappointments. I remember my frustration when Brooks Robinson’s glove snatched away any chance for the Reds in the 1970 World Series. I remember Gene Tenace and Joe Rudi, and I still hate them for dismantling the Reds in the ’72 Series.

 

I remember the Big Red Machine—Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey, George Foster, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, and Cesar Geronimo—the greatest lineup the game has ever seen.

 

I remember my total joy when the Big Red Machine defeated the Red Sox in 1975 and how they totally dominated the Yankees in the 1976 fall classic.

 

I remember my shock at the announcement that the Reds had traded away Tony Perez. It was that one incredibly arrogant and misguided transaction that put the mighty Big Red Machine up on blocks.

 

I fondly remember the 1990 Reds, Barry Larkin and the Nasty Boys. They were the little team that could and the team that led from wire to wire.

 

As I watch this World Series between the Phillies and the Rays, I recall the way I used to feel about the game. I remember baseball. I recall the old feelings and sentiments I knew.

 

I remember baseball.

 

However, the game has forever lost something for me. Perhaps it has taken something from me. Maybe I have lost something of myself. I honestly don’t know what it is.

 

It isn’t the balls and the strikes, but it could be the strikes and the lockouts. Maybe it is the steroids and the asterisks. It could be a clueless commissioner who allowed an All-Star Game to end in a tie score. Perhaps it is overpaid athletes who cannot find uniforms to fit their chemically enhanced shoulders or caps to fit their headline-induced, swollen heads.

 

Despite my best efforts to restore my youthful love for the game, I simply cannot get it back.

 

I remember baseball.

 

And I still miss it.

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