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Jewish World Review April 2, 2004 / 12 Nissan, 5764

Tom Purcell

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On baseball and politics | 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.

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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
03/22/04: Kerry meets his master
03/17/04: When Americans pretend to be 'Irish'
03/12/04: Didya hear the Anti PC Irish Joke about ?
03/05/04: I Wish I Was Russian
02/27/04: Vinny the Number Cruncher takes on Greenspan
02/20/04: The birds and the bees, updated
02/13/04: Dr. Laura plays Cupid
02/06/04: The Investigation
01/23/04: Weighty adjustment
01/16/04: Bucks for betrothals
01/09/04: Decisions, decisions
01/02/04: Making New Year's resolutions for others
12/27/03: Holiday Pork
12/19/03: FOUND! The captured-Saddam transcript
12/12/03: Peace, Man
12/05/03: Who are you, Miss Manners?
12/01/03: Joyless, selfish children
11/21/03: Thanksgiving, updated for our times
11/14/03: Hang in there, tubby America, your day in the sun will come
11/07/03: Morale at Veterans' Day
10/31/03: The Big Picture
10/24/03: A sorry bunch
10/17/03: Conversation with a typical poll respondent?
10/10/03: Men and women and brains
10/03/03: Iraqi Pork
09/26/03: They would not leave
09/19/03: A radical idea
09/12/03: Food Guide Pyramid has a "stupidity factor"?
09/05/03: Flag waving and football cheering
08/29/03: People who have it all, too often don't
08/25/03: Attack of the 'virus twits'
08/08/03: Why not have a whole slew of the world's dignitaries and leaders come by to visit you?
08/01/03: Do you really want to live until 500?
07/18/03: "Ain't-my-fault" lawsuits are becoming more creative
07/18/03: The real story never makes for good summertime drama in Washington
07/11/03: Government bureaucrats, not elected officials, are really the ones determining what people and organizations can and can't do
07/03/03: Overworked Americans
06/27/03: The Metrosexual Male
06/20/03: Crime Etiquette in Washington, D.C.
06/13/03: My Father, the Thief and the MGB
06/05/03: An Open Letter to Bill and Hillary
05/30/03: We are a busy people
05/23/03: Liar, Liar
05/16/03: Laffer all the way to the bank
05/09/03: My mother's house
05/02/03: Teaching the Iraqis how to protest
04/25/03: Iraqi TV
04/21/03: Explaining Democracy to the Iraqis
04/11/03: Major increases to the beer tax? That's a cheap shot right to the beer gut
04/04/03: War humor
03/31/03: Dolphins, PETA and the USA
03/21/03: Traffic Wars
03/14/03: Ronald Reagan's St. Patrick's Day
03/03/03: My Family's Tragic Secret: We're French
02/21/03: I'm worried about my people
02/14/03: George Washington Makeover
02/07/03: Making quiet sacrifices
01/24/03: "Gimme the, goo-goo, gah-gah, remote!"
01/21/03: "Misunderestimated"
01/10/03: Republican night life
01/06/03: Exercise pills
12/31/02: They provide unending joy to those who are wise enough to let them in
12/13/02: Hurried Man Syndrome
12/06/02: In DC, snowstorms have important ramifications --- or, at least, they should
11/26/02: Police advertising
11/15/02: An Interview with Osama
11/01/02: How to vote in America
10/25/02: On edge in Washington, D.C
10/11/02: Giving new meaning to "selling your body"
10/04/02: Bush's Angels
09/27/02: Conservatives, Liberals, Dick Armey and Barry Manilow
09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
09/13/02: Bubba is Dubya's man
09/06/02: The Freedom to Picnic
08/16/02: Ah, the $izzle of anti-terrorist pork
08/09/02: Vacationless prez and gutless Americans
07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
07/15/02: Patriot food
06/28/02: Eavesdropping on a San Fran classroom
06/21/02: The crowded skies
06/14/02: Contemporary Father's Day: A conversation for the ages
06/07/02: Legal rights for animals?
05/19/02: Advice for prom goers this year: Hold onto your money
05/10/02: Don't take her for granted
05/03/02: Letter to the parents of a tubby teen
04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2003, Tom Purcell