Tag Archives: baseball

Playing ball

Something strange has happened to me over the last six months. Something I always swore would never happen to me. Something vaguely shameful for a thoroughbred Brit whose very masculinity is defined by an overwhelming desire to eat pie, chips and gravy before watching a footballsoccer match.

Reader, I like baseball.

I have no idea how this happened. As far as I was concerned, the only game with a bat and a ball that was worth its salt was cricket. You know, the game that takes five days and generally ends in a draw. That doesn’t mean there’s no excitement in cricket though. As a kid, I once broke a school mate’s nose playing cricket, accidentally swinging my bat backwards into his honk in flamboyant search of a boundary as he stood too close as wicketkeepercatcher. I managed to turn around in time to see his nose explode with the explosive power of a November 5July 4 firework. Paul Connell, if you’re reading, I’m truly sorry.

Our closest thing to baseball was rounders. With a shorter bat, and generally a tennis ball instead of a hard ball, rounders is to baseball what Joey from Friends is to Laurence Olivier. The only real memory I have of the game is the fact that, on seeing a player hit the ball far enough to allow them to get around all bases, it seemed to be compulsory for all participants to chant “rounder, rounder, rounder, rounder.” Trust me, there’s no greater sound in the world.

I always thought that baseball was a ridiculous waste of time, with far too many games every season to be taken seriously. And to be fair, rarely can so many out of shape men been employed as professional sportsmen. My dog can run faster than most baseball players, and she’s been dead for ten years.

But strangely baseball got its claws into me. Maybe it’s the endless statistics, or maybe it’s the fact that the backpages of the New York tabloids constantly splash on baseball stories. But however it happened, I’m hooked and there seems to be no way back.

I’ve only ever been to one baseball game, at the very start of this season with Brit Out Of Water Sr and The Eldest. That titanic struggle was between one of the most famous names in international team sport, and the side that has finished last in its division for nine of the last ten years. And was the worst team in the whole of baseball last year.

Needless to say, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 6-3 that day, went from strength to strength during the season, and are currently playing the first game of the “World” Series. If you need your rubbish side to become useful, my father, stepson and I are all available at the start of next season to attend a game and support the opposing side.

I hate to admit it, but I’m actually going to miss baseball for the next six months. I’ll be savouring the World Series for all I’m worth, and hoping that the Rays come through to win over the next seven games.

If it comes down to the last game next Thursday, and a Ray hits a winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning, I want to hear the entire crowd on their feet shouting a lusty chant of “rounder, rounder, rounder, rounder,” OK?

We interrupt this game for a display of patriotism…

I wouldn’t call myself a baseball fan – in fact I’m not sure that I’ve even sat through a whole game in my life. But burning some calories at the gym tonight, I found myself strangely gripped by the Yankees vs Red Sox game on the TV above my head. So much so that I even turned it on when I reached home to catch the last three innings.

In the middle of the seventh innings – the seventh-inning stretch, I think it’s called – just before the Yankees were due to bat again, everything suddenly came to a halt to honour servicemen in action across the world, with a ‘rousing’ rendition of “God Bless America”. Apparently Major League Baseball directed teams to play the song before the bottom of the seventh inning at every game following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. They scaled back the request a year later, saying teams only needed to play the song on Sundays and holidays, which remains the case to this day.

Not for the Yankees though. They still bring everything to a halt two and a half innings before the end of every game, and even use ushers to prevent people moving during the performance with the help of the odd chain or two. It’s like Manchester United playing Liverpool, and the game being called to a halt for five minutes for a performance of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. And fans being stopped from making their way down to the concourse to buy a steak and kidney pie.

They say that the temporary break in proceedings can offer a competitive advantage to the Yankees, with the opposing pitcher unable to warm up while the performance takes place. It certainly didn’t harm them tonight – the Yankees won 4-3 in the ninth innings.

PS They say Americans will never properly ‘get’ football soccer because there are too few goals. But baseball is this country’s national sport, and yet so little ever happens. The Red Sox didn’t even score until the sixth innings, and there were only three home runs in about three hours of ‘action’. Maybe there’s a chance for Beckham and co after all?