Talkin’ Baseball

Congratulations to the Braves as a ballclub, from field to front office.

Naturally, I’d have preferred that our lads had won it all, for this town and for Dusty. But this is baseball, the national pastime, the American game: a sport of individual effort in the service of a common cause, nine duels at a time making a tourney’s melee together, skill and chance wound tight; a rough homespun cricket, poised always upon the sudden ability to overcome the unexpected and the incalculable: in which nothing is—as nothing in Creation ever, truly, is—foreordained or predestined. A game, this year and this Series as in every year and Series, full of and sparking unlooked-for heroes, unimagined dismays, uncovenanted misfortunes, inexplicable luck, and the constants of hope, grit, resilience, determination, sudden reverses, and grace under these. A game in which win or lose there is Always Next Year; the sport of statistics and SABRmetrics, yes, but also and fundamentally of sprung rhythm and poetry and ancient knack beyond knowledge. The American game, inherently resistant to meddling and to mad passing theories from the world beyond, imperfect but not much apt to lasting corruption, filled always with the certainty of redemption, never utterly depraved or capable of becoming so. Jackie’s game, and Larry Doby’s, and Camp’s, and Minnie’s; Hank’s game, twice over, in which the first Hammerin’ Hank was Hank Greenberg. The game of Americans, America’s sport, the means of assimilation and the forging of the American character at its best; the game of Nice Jewish Boys who went to Princeton and of high school graduates—or dropouts—from everywhere, of half Mexican-American Marine aviators, Catholic orphans from Baltimore, Native Americans, Dominicans, Cubans, Koreans, Aussies, Japanese, Glaswegians, African American Army officers from UCLA and good ol’ boy Great War captains and veterans of the Negro Leagues and the US Navy in the Pacific Theater alike. The game of farmers’ sons, Polish kids from Donora, boys from Brooklyn or the Garment District, coalminers’ children, and suburban sons, the sons of ranchers and the son of refugee Russian Jews. A sport which has survived and subsumed its Wobblies as its few wokesters, its racists and its radicals, just as it has survived scandal—and redemption, which is always available to all—, and has outlasted mad owners and despicable Commissioners. A broadly High Anglican game which anyone, Catholic Yalies of partly Chinese-American descent, Ashkenazim, Buddhists, Muslims, Southern Baptists and outright atheists, and even those doubly-damned Calvinist heretics the Presbyterians, God’s Frozen People, can and may play.

Just like America and its Constitution from its very founding.

The season is over—for this season. The Braves and the NL won: and deserve congratulation. But nothing is over, ever, truly. The Winter Meetings follow, the Lenten season of the Hot Stove League and vague far-off reports from winter ball; and in four short months, the blessed Annunciation: “Pitchers and catchers report…”.

Let’s play two.

Published by Markham Shaw Pyle

Ex-lawyer turned historian; W&L man; historian; author; partner, Bapton Books

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