I ran across last night a 1923 poem by William Carlos Williams, the physician-poet from nearby Paterson, New Jersey. The title is from the first line. The first three couplets go:
"The crowd at the ballgame
is moved continuously
by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them—
all the exciting detail
of the chase"
It's nice to have games to watch again on TV, but it's the genuine crowd reaction that I miss the most. I think most of the players, managers, and coaches agree - canned cheering doens't cut it.
I realize that in a time of pandemic, there was no other route to choose but fan-less games.
Still, the cardboard cutouts substituting for fans at most ballparks doesn't do it for me.
I also miss the attendance figures at the bottom of every box score. I would love to miss ballplayers' cheat sheets on positioning and pitch sequences that they are sticking in their caps or pockets. Can they just play the game on what used to be called muscle memory?!
There have been humorous responses to this strange season. A clever fellow wrote Phil Mushnick of the NY Post yesterday that the cutouts at Dodger Stadium are actually real because they leave the game in the 7th inning.
I also liked the humor of the person that selects the music at the White Sox's Guaranteed Rate Field. On the Sunday night game against the Indians, the Beatles' "Let It Be" came over the loudspeaker as the umps were going to replay to perhaps change a call that aided the home team.
Voila! The music must have worked - Cleveland baserunner Delino DeShields Jr. remained out at second on a close call. The White Sox have invested heavily in Cuban ballplayers, batting four of them the other day in the first four spots in the batting order.
Only DH/first baseman Jose Abreu is a proven player but hopes are high for Eloy Jimenez, Juan Moncada, and rookie Luis Robert. If they come through with improved pitching, maybe hard-bitten Chisox fans will stop calling the home park Guaranteed Second-Rate Field.
As for me, I am happy that the Orioles are surprising people by reaching .500 after 14 games. Corner infielders Rio Ruiz and Renato Nunez are showing that they learned something playing for last year's horrible Oriole team.
Ditto for second baseman Hanser Alberto and well-traveled Cuban-born shortstop Jose Iglesias. Their pop and run-production have been fun to watch.
Maybe "experience is your best teacher" is not so old-fashioned an adage even if you can't put an "advanced metric" on it. Somehow Oriole pitching, with three lefty starters, retreads Wade Leblanc and Tom Milone and last year's breakout winner John Means, has been OK.
So has the bullpen with young veteran Miguel Castro and the castoff Cole Sulser showing the way. I'm not reserving playoff tickets yet, esp. since there won't be live attendance most likely until next season at the earliest.
How long the MLB baseball season can continue remains in doubt. I feel for St. Louis players and fans because the Cardinals have only played five games. Positive Covid-19 tests of several players including All-Star catcher Yadier Molina and shortstop Paul DeJong (and several non-playing personnel) mean that St. Louis won't play again until this weekend.
There is no way that St. Louis will be able to play a full schedule in this truncated 60-game season. Even with seven-inning doubleheaders to lessen the wear-and-tear on pitchers.
Interestingly, MLB broadcaster Jim Kaat (and winner of 283 MLB games) thinks that all games should be seven innings. He may be talking tongue-in-cheek but he has a valid point.
If the length of games is the huge issue that commissioner Rob Manfred claims it is (and the TV networks too), why not shorten every game to 7 innings? Most starters including great ones like the Mets' Jacob DeGrom rarely go more than six innings anyway.
If good faith bargaining ever happens in baseball. a frank exchange of views and real leadership would address this issue and many others. In the meantime, let me end with the last couplets of WC Williams' "The Crowd at the ballgame":
"It is summer, it is the solstice
the crowd is
cheering, the crowd is laughing
Here's to "laughing in detail . . . permanently, seriously without thought."
And always remember: Take it easy but take it.