Monday, October 17, 2011

The Natural

On Wednesday of this week, Greece will still be on the verge of going broke, our leaders in Congress will still be bickering, wars will still be raging, and too many people will still be out of work.

However, the sun will rise in the East, and an important event in American history will begin again.

The very first professional baseball club in America, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was formed in 1869, a mere four years after the end of the Civil War. A few years later, the short lived National Association of Professional Base Ball Players was formed, but quickly died out. The National League came into being in 1876, and the American League was founded in 1901. Although the two leagues were initially bitter rivals, a “peace treaty” (called the National Agreement) was signed in 1903.

The very first World Series was played in 1903, and Boston beat Pittsburgh. Boston won four more World Series titles between 1912 and 1918, but then had a “drought” until 2004. Although that’s certainly a long period of time, it pales in comparison to the record of the Chicago Cubs, who won their last World Series title in 1907.

The 2011 World Series pits the Texas Rangers (who have never won a World Series) against the St. Louis Cardinals, who have won the title 10 times, the most recent being in 2006.

Even if you have no allegiance to either team, and even if you don’t have much interest in baseball, it’s important to watch at least part of the event, and I’ll let James Earl Jones tell you why. In the movie, “Field of Dreams“, he described to “Ray Kinsella” (Kevin Costner) the magic of baseball:

“.. the memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces .. the one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball ..Americans rolled by like an army of steamrollers .. they’ve been erased, rebuilt, and erased again .. but baseball has marked the time .. the field, the game .. It’s a part of our past .. It reminds us of all that once was good, and could be again .."

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to a professional baseball game, but I still remember the electricity that was in the air as play began on the carefully groomed field below me.

There have been countless movies made about baseball over the years, but very few of them capture the essence of the game as well as “The Natural”, which was released in 1984. To prove my point, watch the clip below:

there's magic in the air

If you’re like me, you were probably a little misty eyed by the time it ended, and that (by itself) proves a point.

Most of the movie was shot in a stadium that no longer exists (War Memorial Stadium), the main character (Roy Hobbs) never existed, and his team, the New York Knights, was a figment of a writer’s imagination. In spite of those details, though, “The Natural” reminds all of us that we, too, can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles with perseverance, luck, and a helping hand from forces beyond our grasp.

Roy Hobbs was no fluke. Throughout our history, we’ve borne witness to countless men who, in their own way, have provided their own brand of magic to make us forget life’s troubles, even if for only a while. Over nearly 150 years, there have been MANY moments that would be considered the "best plays in baseball", including Tinkers to Evers to Chance. Without question, though, the best play in the history of baseball was performed by a Chicago Cub in 1976:

who is Rick Monday?

Let’s play ball!

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