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This Isn’t JustAbout Baseball

As you may know, only 15 or so of Leonardo da Vinci’s artworks still exist.
Similarly, I have three kids running around somewhere. Not that they are all classic works of art. My daughter Rapunzel calls appetizers “appe-teasers.” As in, “Hey, everybody, should we order some appe-teasers?” Yikes, she’s making dad jokes.
And the lovely and patient older daughter can be a tad headstrong, like a compact French dictator. Or like her short, beautiful Sicilian mama.
But Smartacus, much like me, is nearly a perfect work of art, except for his unhealthy fascination with baseball, the most imperfect of all human endeavors, the hardest to play, and the most frustrating.
You like baseball? Then I like you too.
Throwing or hitting a baseball straight and true is an accomplishment in itself, but then when the ball spins, dips, zithers and ka-bobs in and out of the strike zone, say, or darts deep into the dirt when you think it might bounce honest and happy into your glove … well, that speaks to all the voodoo and peculiarity of this totally twisted game.
Baseball is a hot mess, and a truly haunted sport, as I always explained when I coached, and it’s best to understand that — like life — baseball ain’t one bit fair.
It can take nearly 200 games to reach a verdict on the best team in the majors each season. In life, it takes 70 years to determine your true and total character.
See the similarities? See the fascination? Learning baseball is like learning Latin. You gotta really wanna.
Still, baseball remains the greatest glue that fathers and sons have ever had, and now, fathers and daughters, who play its ornery cousin, softball, with grit and verve.
Trust me, there’s nothing soft about a softball. It is a harder, bigger, often-meaner version of baseball. It’s a possessed beach ball coated in cement.
Admittedly, I have some odd notions. I really don’t like banjos or plastic grass or fake boobs.
Surprised, aren’t you?
But I adore baseball. I like how difficult hardball is. Snagging a fiery short hop in baseball is like catching a rattlesnake with a typewriter.
I think that baseball, like history and hygiene, should be mandatory in the schools. They should teach it in kindergarten, and then each year through high school.
There is much to learn from this grand old game. Fortitude, for one. Physics, for another.
Did you know, for instance, that a 70 mph curveball has a rotational rate of 1,800 rpms, about one-half that of a small synchronous motor?
Of course you did. But most school kids don’t know that. Or that Candy Cummings invented the curveball? Or that a baseball bat contacts a ball for 1/1000th of a second, literally a millisecond?
As the kids say, “Duh.”
But really all you care about is that it’s spring, and the grill smoke at the snack bar is making your heart scream and your lips quiver.
And that the sun feels so good on your forehead, and that the Dodgers are hanging in, sometimes good, yet not always.
Yeah, it’s a very haunted sport, all right. No justice to it at all. But for a few innings, on the softest spring days, it can unhaunt your life.
That’s what I like most about baseball.
You know, they’ve tried to speed it up this year, which is annoying the beer vendors but pleasing most fans.
Were I the commissioner of another sport, I would use baseball’s willingness to change as a chance to fine-tune my own sport.
In the NBA, why not a “running clock” in the last five minutes?
In the NFL, why not a four-point line for field goals?
In hockey, how about free beer after every goal?
Certainly, all games are too long, just like all movies are too long, and DMV lines, and a lot of good books too.
Am I the only one who thinks that the Bible could be 50-100 pages shorter? Like most books, it could use “a haircut,” as they say in the trade. My suggestion: Lose one or two venial sins.
Don’t you think plays and concerts are always 30 minutes too long?
And I don’t like encores either. By then, I just want to get to my car and go.
Such is spring, a time of deep reflection. A time when sunlight paints the clovered hill, and you decide: Do I climb it? Do I not?
I say, go ahead. Rejoice. Reach for the sun. Hike that big stupid hill.
As the saying goes: A coward dies a thousand deaths. A hero only one.
Speaking of hiking, a few spots remain for Saturday’s Happy Hour Hiking Club adventure, in beautiful downtown La Cañada Flintridge. Interested? RSVP by emailing Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com.


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