Friday was an off day for the 2009 World Series, a reminder that the season is nearly over. Baseball is the daily game, and its rhythm regulates our lives most of the year. It’s the oldest and most established of our spectator sports, and I find it the most American of all.
There’s a doctoral thesis waiting to be written about the connection between baseball and our agricultural heritage: The games starting as the blossoms set on the trees in spring, the play flourishing under the summer sun, the shadows lengthening on the diamonds as the cool autumn harvest arrives.
As we’d visit my grandparents in the 1960s, my father often pointed out the places he and his buddies had played baseball when they were kids in the 20s and 30s. “There was a ball field there,” he’d say, pointing to an expanse of grass or a meadow as we drove past. At another plot, “We used to play there.”
Baseball changed as America changed, and urbanization is really what developed the sport into what it is today. While my dad and the other sons of miners in Pennsylvania were playing their games, city kids were playing stickball on the streets of Brooklyn.
In these days of luxury suites and retractable-dome stadiums, it’s important to remember that the game’s roots reach deep into a heritage of farm boys and miners’ kids playing pickup in any scrap of open field they could find.