March 31, 2008
By Ken Krayeske • 12:00 AM EST
H ope springs eternal. You wait all winter long for this one day. Sometimes it snows. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes traffic on the George Washington Bridge makes you miss Joe DiMaggio hoisting the World Championship banner. Sometimes Mark McGwire goes yard into the black seats in centerfield on Rivera in the 11th.
Sometimes, the sun shines gracefully on the Bronx, and you watch the players line up on the infield for the first pitch, and you sing the National Anthem. Sometimes you sit on the third base line because your dad got box seats and took you out of school for the special day. And in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees have the bases loaded against the Rangers, and pinch hitter Bobby Murcer hits a grand slam to the cheers of 57,000.
Yep. Some days it's heaven to win. When people ask why I am a Yankees fan, it's because of moments like that when I was eight years old. The brand imaging got me as a youth. Thurman. Reggie. Lou. Goose. Lousiana Lightning.
It's easy to love it when you're eight years old. But this off season was rough on the adult conscience of a baseball fan. Hearings took the sheen off the 98-99-00 World Championships run.
Life looked ugly. I heard about the season ticket prices for the new Yankee Stadium yesterday. Steinbrenner's boy is gouging us from $55 a game at the old Yankee Stadium to more than $300 a game for season tickets at the new taxpayer-financed park.
As if it weren't enough. I also leanred yesterday about the plans of billionaire Sam Zell to sell the Cubs from the Tribune empire, which includes our own Hartford Courant. Zell has too much power for my tastes.
He has given one of his own reporters the bird, and morale at 285 Broad Street sounds more suited to the Titanic than to America's Oldest Continuously Published Daily Newspaper.
And Zell's most profitable way to handle the Cubs may be to hawk the mythology and history of Wrigley Field to one owner, and spin the corpus of the Cubbies to another buyer. That's a recipe for disaster, especially now that the politicians have stepped in with intentions to stop Zell, and keep the Cubs at West Addison and North Clark.
But Zell can't kill the game. He nor any other corporate fat cat owners can't claim the 6-4-3. Tinker to Evers to Chance is our collective history. Babe Ruth's called shot is America. Our story. America is about more than profit, it's about more than business. And they can't kill America, because America is a sunny afternoon at the ballpark. America is Ernie Banks saying "Let's play two."
And I want the American dream. It exists. The American dream is Banks and Jackie Robinson and integration and equality and union labor. Those ideals didn't die on April 4, June 6 or November 22. No, every year they live on Opening Day. But who wants to wade into the hornet's nest of human greed and folly that is the major league ballpark today?
So the Quinnipiac Bobcats are playing Wednesday afternoon down in Hamden. I think after class I'm going to walk across campus for some life, liberty and pursuit of happiness; the sound of a ball thwaking into a leather mitt. The shout of the umpire.
Sure, intercollegiate athletics aren't pure. How hypocritical are we to force amateur status upon 19-year-olds who make millions for coaches, university brass and massive television companies (who incidentally profit from the use of our airwaves)?
But we can forget about all that NCAA for a minute. Think spring! Tonite was the first night that I rode my bicycle without warm gloves. Tight green buds pop off the jaggy ends of scraggly branches. A chipmunk scurries across a downed tree trunks on the forest floor, and red-tail hawk holds his prey in his talons from the branches above. Spring is when you say, let's clean the litter in the park.
Spring is when you say, yep, this is the year we do it. You lean on the fence 20 feet from the third baseman, and shout encouragement "Hey batter batter batter batter," and say, yeah, this is it. This is a human event worth watching.
It's baseball: the crow-hop, the hanging curve, the fastball down the middle, the Annie Oakley. It doesn't matter who is playing, it doesn't matter what the score is. The game is on. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you win.