Things that are American: Yellowstone, buffet lines, the Marines, bacon, winning and Wyoming. Wyoming is American times two because it has cowboys, which are also Americana at its finest. If we could get a cowboy-themed baseball league going here in Wyoming I think they might consider giving us another star on Old Glory. (Except, Obama) Nothing would be too different from the ancient game, just the players would be required to wear boots and hats and ride horses to and from the park.
Because America is baseball. It’s patience and hard work. Speed outdone only by quickness, power that doesn’t work without grace. It’s ingenuity through micro-analysis. For some, immersion in a team is a way to forget the ugly and move past the tragic.
Still, we’ve thrown the same for about 2 million years. No joke, see below.
And my favorite: It is a separation from the real world, immediate escapism from the office after a long day to the utopian setting that is a ballpark. The fundamental alliterate to beer.
So, say what you want about the America’s pastime. Everyone is currently shelling out their annual mid-summer petulant sports fan tripe that follows hockey and basketball playoffs: “I can’t believe baseball is the only sport to watch on television for the next two months,” whine whine whine.
Next time you want to complain, think if fabled baseball inventor Abner Doubleday hadn’t fought for the Union army in the Civil War, protecting all your rights? Since these writings run on Saturdays, and the Fourth is Thursday, let’s talk about the most American of sports before the Fourth of July. I’d accept arguments for football as a pastime, but it’s June. So stop it. Baseball.
The only reason to be inside and maybe even think to turn on your television on the Fourth is to find a baseball game, and in fact, really all you have to catch is the first few minutes of pageantry before or after the game. Draping a Perkins-sized American flag over anything is something that should be adopted at other events. Like a kid’s 16th birthday party. Or a random night at home with the game on TV.
To me, there are few things more goosebumpy than the sight of plush green grass on a crosscut outfield dissimulated by reds, whites and blues and further emboldened with men of our Armed Forces in formation.
Plus, we get fireworks at baseball stadiums. More double scoops of xenophobic nationalism, but in a good way. Sometimes, maybe the best times, fireworks at baseball stadiums provide just as many movingly patriotic chills as they do laughs.
In 1964, a game ended in a 6-6 tie between the Orioles and Kansas City in order for the city of Baltimore to get the fireworks show in before a curfew. And in 1985 a marathon 19-inning game between the Mets and Braves ended 16-13 to the Mets at 4 a.m. the next day. Fireworks happened anyway after the game, waking up the neighbors. Lesson: Never abandon a fireworks show. Ever.
In other pageantry mishaps, the Milwaukee Brewers tried to parachute two dudes into their new Miller Park in 2000 during Fourth festivities. One broke his ankle and the other missed the stadium entirely. Fifty people got stuck on a Ferris Wheel at Comerica Park that same year, the Tigers gave them autographs to make up for the two-hour marooning. Here are some other things that are American, with help from some semi-significant Fourth of July MLB history.
Guns: In 1900 on Independence Day in Chicago, 10,000 fans celebrated a 12-inning, 5-4 win over Philly by firing pistols into the air. Obviously, this wouldn’t fly in today’s ballpark, because now guns in public are worse than public nudity. Fun fact: if you bring your NRA card to this Wednesday’s Huntsville Stars minor league game (in Texas) you’ll be entered into a drawing for one of three guns to be raffled off.
That’s a real thing. Google it.
Fights: Bill Dickey broke Carl Reynolds jaw with a haymaker after the Senators outfielder crashed into him during a play at the plate in 1932. He got a $1,000 fine and a month suspension for his jab. Baseball fights are the best. Gotta keep your head on a swivel.
Curveballs: While not exclusive to our homeland, a report this week suggests that the earliest a human being tried to throw something with accuracy (spears, rocks in battle) was 2 million years ago. It ain’t news no more, R.A. Dickey. No other mammal can throw as hard as even a 12-year-old little leaguer, according to Washington U. studies. Not even our closest relative, monkeys, which is good, because sub-40 miles per hour seems like enough time to dodge poop at zoos.
While people have thrown things for a while, baseball wasn’t invented until the 1840s by Alexander Cartwright, now largely accepted as the game’s inventor over the myths of Doubleday. For what it’s worth, I still like the Doubleday theory better.
Nolan Ryan: He struck out his 3,000th batter on the 4th, the same batter, Cesar Geronimo, who Bob Gibson had struck out for his 3,000th Linda Ronstadt. (Blew-Bye-you!)
Excess: In a way, the Colorado Rockies are the perfect American baseball team if defined by their immoderation. The Rox run-rampant offense is only matched by lack of pitching, making a right mess out of the simplest attempt at building a multifaceted team. They’re the entertainingly arrogant Americans. A 1982 minor league game (before the Rockies existence) held at Mile High Stadium in Denver set the record for highest ever minor league attendance with 65,666 people. Of course, fireworks happened after the game.
Embattled heros: Tulo needed 16 stitches after smashing a bat into the ground in anger in 2008 at Coors on the 4th and slicing open his right palm. Blame the flimsy maple bat, not the injury-prone shortstop.
More excess: American embodiment of baseball overindulgence George Steinbrenner was born on the Fourth of July because of course he was.
Prima donnas: This one fits here because Alex Rodriguez was a jerk on the Fourth of July last year and I’m willing to bet the Yankees highest total payroll in the league ($228,995,945M this year) that he’ll still be a jerk this Thursday.
Rodeos: While not baseball-related, let’s tie this back in with how we began. July in Sheridan is rodeo and that’s pretty American. We’ll continue our American pride parade right after the Fourth.
Anecdotes courtesy nationalpastime.org.
Brad Estes is the Sheridan Press sports editor. His column runs Saturday.