By Thomas Keenan
I wrote this back in 1994 just after the strike began. I’m not sure why I’ve chosen now to publish it, except that I was looking back at stuff I wrote a long time ago. I felt scorned by baseball and for a year, I was drifting further and further from the game. It would take Cal Ripken in 1995 to bring me back.
A certain loneliness sweeps over my very being. A mixture of emotions going from anger to hate to bitterness to disgust fills my heart. I didn’t think it could happen; I didn’t want to believe it could happen. But it did.
The one thing that I never thought could betray me did. The one thing that I thought could not hurt me did. The thing that was my first true love has abandoned me like some worthless piece of infield grass.
Baseball is gone.
Across this mighty land of ours, the mighty domed and un-domed temples lay silent. The “Church of Baseball” has slammed its doors shut on the faces of the faithful. Many are left to wonder if the doors shall ever open again.
To the fan, baseball is [was] a masterpiece of art that carries with it a tradition and history that is envied by other sports. It has grown up with this country. It has survived war and depression and the designated hitter. Baseball, the time honored king to fans, is a connection between generations and a sport of elegance.
To the non-fan, baseball is a sport played by overpaid, arrogant, lazy, drug-abusing, sex-crazed, overgrown children that cry about getting four million dollars instead of five million dollars. To the non-fan, it is a sport controlled by pompous, self-righteous, big-mouthed, money-hungry owners that have no love for the game. Baseball, to the non-fan, is dull.
Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Does it really matter? Where does my beloved sport go now?
I have talked to other baseball fans that say “Fine, it doesn’t matter. There is football.” True, there is football, but football does not fill in the gap for me. Football cannot possibly fill in the beauty of a seventh game on a cold October evening. Football does not replace Joe Carter home runs, Bill Buckner errors, or Don Larson perfect games. Football cannot replace baseball.
So I feel robbed. Robbed of memories and things to talk about and things to look forward. Stolen from me is the pleasure of second guessing a sacrifice bunt call. Stolen from me is the magic of the home run. Having no baseball in the fall is like having no leaves on the ground. Can baseball survive? I pray to God that it does.
I believe the essence of baseball will survive. Fathers will still have a catch with their child. Kids will continue playing ball into dusk, trying to ignore their mother’s call. Grandparents will still pass on stories about Ruth, Gehrig, Snider, and Mays to the younger generation. Minor league teams will continue to play in front of small town crowds.
But to whom will the younger generation look? Will they grow up and tell their kids about the summer when Tony Gwynn might have batted .400 and Ken Griffey Jr. might have smashed the home run record? Will they talk about how greed and mistrust might have killed a once great sport? And what if one day my granddaughter comes up to me asks, “Who were The New York Mets?”
I pray to God that question is never asked. I pray to God, that come next April, a Major League umpire will say “Play Ball” in Pittsburgh.