Baseball: America Essays

689 Words Oct 27th, 2012 3 Pages
St. Paul, Minn. — Possibly you've heard all you need to hear about the aesthetics of baseball. And here I am adding innings.

But when I get impatient with metaphorical praises of baseball as a poem, or as music, it's because for me baseball predated both as objects of contemplation and participation. Calling baseball a sonnet in flannel or symphony in spikes (it happens), is insulting, or at least patronizing, to baseball.

It's just fine its own self.

The first time I saw a professional baseball game was at Waters Field in Salem, Oregon. The blue Dodgers logo on the façade of a wood plank circle signified great entertainment within and was every teacher's ideal of proper cursive handwriting. This was 1963, '64. Flannel, in its
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Something in that transition. Backdrop to a drama (oops, there I go) so intimate you could hear the players' conversations as they warmed up in foul territory. The outfielders you could hear laugh. And of course, lots of bulging cheeks and lots of spitting. No sunflower seeds for these guys, in those days.

Before games kids could wander down to the dugout area to ask for autographs. I never got up the nerve actually to hail one of the players, but I came away with better memories than a scrawl from a surly, underpaid minor leaguer who knew deep down his career would end in Double A. Because there I heard it for the first time. I won't call it music, since the effect on me was so immediate, so unstudied, so completely natural: it seemed somehow older than mere music, which has tried to recreate such effects ever since.

The players, in their cleats, walking on the concrete passage to the clubhouse. First a solo voice, then others joining in a clanging, clicking harmony. I never had or was induced to have the desire to touch my fingers to a keyboard or scrape a bow across some strings. But that music, I wanted desperately to make. It was the best sound I ever heard.

Truth is, for me, no other performance venue can ever top Waters Field as an authentic imaginative thrill. It was the right thing at the right time. Just as nothing but the clicking of cleats will ever top the delayed crack of my father hitting a fly ball from about mile away,

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