Jewish World Review April 2, 2004 / 12 Nissan, 5764
On baseball and politicshttp://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The baseball season is finally here and we all know what that means: politics.
The presidential debate is already piping hot and the candidates are in full attack mode. Democrats are particularly adept at turning every matter, even baseball, into a political point against Bush.
Already some are regurgitating the story that President Bush, when he was president of the Texas Rangers, traded superstar Sammy Sosa to the Cubs.
And last summer, when Sosa was caught using a corked bat, Kerry said, according to the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, that Bush's economic plan was just like Sosa's bat: "When it turns out to be fake, you can only get away with using it for so long."
Hey, Kerry, I've got a message for you and the others. As hard as it is for you to comprehend, there's more to life than politics. In fact, we turn to baseball to escape politics.
Is there anything sweeter than strolling off to the ballpark on an early spring day? The crack of a hardball off of a Louisville Slugger. The taste of a hot dog smattered in mustard. The thirst-quenching satisfaction of an ice-cold beer.
Baseball is much more than America's pastime, it's how fathers and sons connect. I remember the cold chill in the air during March, while my dad showed me the fundamentals of hitting.
But in time the sun would come out and the air would heat up. And I'd stand behind the plate, the other team chanting "come on, let's go, he can't hit." The pitcher would mistakenly throw a fast ball to the outside corner, but I'd "go with the pitch," just as my father taught me. I'd crush a hard line drive into right field.
In 1972, my little league team went to a Pirates game. The great Roberto Clemente was a few hits shy of 3,000 that day. We shouted "Roberto!" from the right-field bleachers and he turned and waved. And later in that game, Clemente smacked his 3,000th hit, sending Three Rivers Stadium into a frenzy. I got to witness it all with my dad.
And my memory of long summer evenings in the Pittsburgh suburbs is one in the same with Pirates' radio broadcasts. Neighbors would sit on their back porches listening to the colorful and unpredictable Bob Prince say things like "You can kiss it good bye!" every time Willie Stargell knocked one into the bleachers.
It's true baseball has changed for the worse since I was a kid. Too many rich, spoiled players hold little respect for the fans. Billionaire owners have extorted billions from taxpayers to build luxury stadiums. And now the home-run records of Barry Bonds and others are in question, due to the possible use of steroids.
But despite all that is wrong with Major League baseball, the game still holds power over me and millions of others, because, at heart, baseball is about our fathers, our old neighborhoods, our friends.
So I have a message for our politician friends. Already, your carping, outrageous accusations and nasty rhetoric are causing a lot of folks to tune out of the political process. It's only April and already election fatigue is setting in.
I recommend you take in a ball game, have a dog and a beer. President Bush just had lunch with a group of Hall of Famers. He'll toss out the first pitch in St. Louis on Monday. He's got the right idea.
It will surely do all our politicians some good to take in a game. Hey, fellows, you can return to your childhood, when you felt the thrill of hitting the ball with the sweet spot of the bat. You can remember how glorious it was to watch the ball sail over the fence, while your dad was in the stands. Maybe it will bring you to your senses.
Just remember this: when you return to the political stump, keep your mitts off our baseball.
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03/26/04: Guy talk