For most baseball fans, the season ended today. The majority of Major League teams played their 162nd game today and that is it. There is no more season for the players, there is no post season, the end is upon them and us, as fans. Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti once wrote an essay called,”The Green Fields of the Mind.” He wrote this profound piece at the end of a baseball season, on Sunday, October 2, 1960, 56 years ago today. For him, it was a cold and rainy Sunday and baseball reminded him of the seasons, of the change in the world every year from the bounty of spring to the color of. The first paragraph of his essay reads,
“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.”
Baseball abandons us in the fall, earlier for those whose teams don’t make the playoffs, later for those who do. To me, without baseball, the world seems a bit less interesting, a bit less fun, and bit less stable. From April to October, there is always a game to listen to. Always the constant of baseball to remind us that life does not need to move so quickly. Always, the reminder that a baseball game goes on for as long as it takes to get the job done.
Though our nation has changed immensely throughout the years, for the last hundred, the constant has been baseball. The game has changed through these years, but it is fundamentally the same game as it was when, as the apocryphal story goes, Mr. Doubleday invented it. Quoting from Field of Dreams, “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”
October 2, 2016 was a momentous day in baseball, it marked the last broadcast of the legendary Vin Scully, who 80 years ago today became a Giants fan. His loyalties shifted to the Dodgers when he joined their broadcast team in 1950. He is the last of his generation, the men who began calling baseball on the radio. If I can’t be there in person, I still prefer listening to baseball on the radio, because the game as described by a good play by play announcer is often better to listen to than to watch. Really, it’s because when I listen to the radio, the game is played in my mind. Quoting Giamatti, “The real activity was done with the radio – not the all-seeing, all-falsifying television – and was the playing of the game in the only place it will last, the enclosed green field of the mind.” The day also marked the final game for Boston’s David “Big Papi” Ortiz, and the final broadcast for Dick Enberg.
I’ll listen to the playoffs, I’ll listen to the World Series, but not with as much interest as if my team were in the running. The lights in the stadium of my mind have been turned off for this year and will come back in the spring.
I listened to the entirety of the Giants/Dodgers game today on the LA feed, not because I was interested in the outcome, as many of my friends were, but because I wanted to hear Mr. Scully’s final game. He ended his broadcast with these words, among others, “But you know what — there will be a new day, and eventually a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, rest assured it will be time for Dodger baseball.” These words gave me hope, because Mr. Scully reminded me that there will be baseball in the spring. The constant of baseball with return for another spring and summer, and will abandon us again next fall.