We’ve barely gotten past Valentine’s Day and the robins have descended on Tampa where I live. Robins in the yard, robins in the trees, robins on the roof, robins flying hither and yon. Robins in division-sized units. We’ve got robins like Old Pharaoh had locusts. They’ll be on the mainland soon. Though it will be a bit yet before the first robin pulls up on the outfield grass in Fenway Park.
But I’m glad to say that this too will happen. And not a minute too soon. It’s this time of year that I’m weary of all sports that aren’t baseball. So I’ve been watching for the robins since the azaleas began to bloom (about three weeks ago). Watching for them because the robins report to my front yard about the time pitchers and catchers report to spring camps in Florida and Arizona.
Winter is no big deal in Central Florida. In fact, you could sleep late one January morning and miss it altogether. So it’s not the first warm day that I pine for; we’ve had plenty of those this season while much of the rest of the nation took breaks from reading about global warming to shovel record amounts of snow out of their driveways and off their roofs.
No, what I’m ready for is the time of year that the last two words of the national anthem once again are, “Play ball!” A time of year when we can put aside trifling questions such as who slept with Anna Nicole (I will NOT take a DNA test — I was out of town that weekend)? And move on to heavier philosophical matters such as, will George Steinbrenner actually go into low earth orbit if the Yankees fail to win a world championship for the seventh straight year?
(The sound you hear is Chicago Cubs fans — of whom there are many, and than whom there can be no larger testimonial to loyalty — swooning to learn that anyone could consider seven non-championship years a drought. The last time the Cubs won the World Series was in 1908, while Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy were still alive but Ronald Reagan had not yet been born. I’m told that in the Wrigley Field souvenir shop you can buy a seat shirt with the Cubs emblem and the legend, “Any team can have a bad century.)
I’ve used part of my waiting time this nearly-spring reading George’s Vecsey’s compact but compelling history of baseball. Vecsey’s treatment is brief — 220 pages less notes and index — but contains what’s essential to put the game into historical context and to improve the understanding of even life-long fans on the issues and perplexities and foibles as well as the considerable pleasures of the Grand Old Game.
Baseball is a history and an appreciation, written by a New York Times sports columnist who’s spent much of his working life writing about baseball (as well as about other sports, religion, and country music). Happily, Vecsey’s writing is mostly free of the annoying cultural tics of the august publication he works for. Nary a liberal sermonette in the entire book.p>Though Vecsey doesn’t try to hide his love for the game, what
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