Bottom of the ninth. Yankees down by a run. One man on base. Up steps Aaron Judge. The crowd freezes in anticipation. Kids stop slurping their ice creams, their eyes fixed imploringly on the batter, who was built for these moments, and who delivers on his promise more often than not when he is going good…even as near as yesterday. But not today.
Mighty Aaron Judge has struck out.
But “there’s no crying in baseball” – from the Tom Hanks 1992 movie “A League of their Own.”
That’s the thing about baseball; it’s a game of promise, hope and redemption, which can come at any time, the next batter, the next inning, the next game.
That is all we ask out of life.
From out of Brooklyn came the never-give-up expression “wait till next year.” The Brooklyn Dodgers fielded some great teams in the 1940s and 1950s.
Alas…the damn Yankees.
The Brooklyn Dodgers lost to those Yankees four times in nine years, in one World Series after another…1947, 1949, 1952, 1953. (Robinson joined April 15, 1947.)
But then came that “next year,” 1955. Riding a classic Johnny Podres performance from the mound, the Brooklyn Dodgers did the impossible.
But that’s the thing about baseball. Nothing is impossible.
Yes, 1955, finally, the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Yankees in seven games…for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the likes of Jackie Robinson. Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese.
For the Yankees…Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford.
Sometimes a person gets one chance to rise and shine, only one moment, one year to achieve everlasting glory, and so it was with Johnny Podres, who was never top stuff, until 1955, when he rose to the occasion, pitching a complete game shutout against the lords of baseball. As we say it here, later in the book, that flash of greatness is within all of us. One chance, one year, is all we ask, and often, all we get.
Two years later, Walter O’Malley moved the Dodgers out of Brooklyn and into LA, and everywhere in Brooklyn, it still hurts.
In Brooklyn, people never say the LA Dodgers. For them, and most New Yorkers, such a team does not exist. At best, it’s “that team in LA.”
To this day, the Dodgers will always be Brooklyn, and that’s the thing about baseball. It is a game of tradition.
You do not mess with tradition. The folks who owned the Cincinnati Reds in the 1950s changed the team name to Redlegs in 1953 to avoid being mistaken for communists.
To heck with that they said in 1960. “We were the Reds before they were the Reds,” they wisely acknowledged, and moved the name back to the Reds.
So it had been since 1881, when (with a few variations of the name) the Reds were baseball’s first professional team.
Every year since then, it seems, experts come along to say that baseball won’t last. There are so many other distractions, especially for the young.
But there is only one national pastime, and that is baseball. Nothing says America so much as baseball. FDR insisted on a full schedule even after Pearl Harbor.
The game endured, even with rosters depleted after hundreds of major leaguers joined the WW2 fight, among them Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, and Ted Williams.
Morale, indeed. So too for the present, for a nation stumbling in the dark. We can use a lift, and there is no better place to start than at the ballpark.
There remains something magical about Opening Day, and every day where the game is being played somewhere, everywhere in America, from the sandlots to the stadiums.
There is something special, something uniquely American, about the crisp sound of a bat hitting a ball that is being sent 400 feet into the bleachers.
Memories are still made of Ted Williams’s swing, and of Willie Mays’s over-the-shoulders catch.
Ask any son or daughter what it was like tossing ball with Dad in the backyard; what memories he shared, what nostalgia he instilled.
Baseball is a game of nostalgia. We remember it to remind us when times were good, so as not to fret when times turn bad. Like today.
So even today, the fans are back, the stadiums are getting packed. Listen to the Silent Majority roar gladly and argue heatedly…but about balls and strikes.
Maybe now is the time for Tom Hanks to say, “There’s no politics in baseball.”
New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.
He wrote the worldwide book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal,” the authoritative newsroom epic, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” followed by his coming-of-age classics, “The Girls of Cincinnati,” and, the Holocaust-to-Montreal memoir, “Escape from Mount Moriah.” For that and his 1960s epic “The Days of the Bitter End,” contemporaries have hailed him “The last Hemingway, a writer without peer, and the conscience of us all.” Website: www.jackengelhard.com