101 things to love about baseball
There are thousands of things to love about baseball, but who's counting?
Compiling them all would take more than the 9 hours, 52 minutes it took to complete a Giants- Mets doubleheader in 1964, the first year of dear departed Shea Stadium. It would take more than the three days it took to finish the last game of the 2008 World Series.
What you would need is a whole course, call it Baseball Appreciation 101.
In lieu of that, here's a quick primer, a list of some of our favorite things. One-hundred one of them, in no particular order:
1. New stadiums. This phenomenon of fresh architecture and nostalgic feel has swept the country and carried the sport for the better part of two decades. Now it finally has reached New York with a double blast. Let's face it, this is the last time most of us around here are going to experience it.
4. The 1920s romance of games being recreated on radio off the teletype, with the thwack of a pencil made to sound like a bat on ball.
5. Following every pitch of any big-league game on various Web sites or watching the games streaming live online at mlb.com.
6. A 3-2 game. Just enough pitching, just enough offense, just enough tension to make it fun.
7. Baseball cards. A " Mickey Mantle" is still a treasure.
8. Letters. The interlocking "NY" on Yankees uniforms and caps, the gothic "NY" on Mets caps that goes back to the Giants in the early 20th century, the Olde English "D" on the Detroit Tigers' home jerseys, the neat little "S-O-X" diagonally across White Sox caps.
9. Vin Scully. Who else on Earth holds the same job they did 59 years ago and is as good or better at it today? Hearing him work the Dodgers telecasts solo is worth the price of the Extra Innings TV package.
10. Perfect games. Aside from a 300 in bowling (more common now because of technology), what other sport has anything like it? Nobody shoots an 18 for a round of golf.
11. The Hall of Fame. Spawned all other Halls of Fame and it's still the best one.
12. Rickey Henderson, Hall of Famer. What will the all-time steals king's acceptance speech be like? If an ad lib preview for Bobby Bonilla in the Mets clubhouse 10 years ago is any indicator, it will be something to behold.
13. Wrigley Field. Category No. 1 above notwithstanding, they should never tear down those ivy covered walls.
14. Baseball under the sun. When the Cardinals opened one postseason with a matinee (actually it was the Rick Ankiel game), the next day's St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a story headlined, "Day Baseball: What'll They Think of Next?"
15. Bunting. Both varieties: The type used in a suicide squeeze and the decorative red, white and blue semicircles unfurled at ballparks on special occasions.
18. Bleachers. The language can get pretty rough, but the view is great and the passion is high.
19. "Meet the Mets." Still a classic. Also, a nod to the lesser heralded yet bouncy "Let's Go Mets," played years ago by Jane Jarvis.
20. Numbers. 300 wins, 3,000 hits, 500 home runs all are magic. 56-game hitting streak, a .406 average, 30 wins are just about mythical.
21. Boxscores. They tell everything.
22. Miracles. From the 1969 Mets to the 2008 Rays.
23. The way Hank Aaron would wait until the very last second, on his final step toward the batters box, before putting on his helmet. Still the all-natural home run king.
24. Willie Mays. The greatest living player, also all-natural.
25. Monument Park. Safe at home, transplanted across the street.
26. Baseball video games. Entrée for a new generation. Outstanding commercials, too, what with Tim Lincecum schooling his animated digital likeness and Dustin Pedroia polishing his MVP plaque while arguing with the head of the game company.
27. Fenway Park's leftfield scoreboard. Even in the wireless age, guys are inside that thing, changing numbers by hand.
28. Joe Torre telling stories. He's better in person on the dugout bench than in book form, but the latter was good in its own right.
29. Batting practice. The best warmups in sports.
30. Hot dogs. In Milwaukee, it's bratwurst, in San Diego, fish tacos.
31. Watching a child get an autograph.
32. Watching someone catch a foul ball and give it to a child.
33. Babe Ruth. Still larger than life, 61 years after his death. He really was a six-tool player, counting dominant pitching as a category different from throwing.
34. "Enter Sandman."
35. "WHAT FOOLS WE METS FANS BE," and the many other placards created and raised at Shea by the late legendary Sign Man, Karl Ehrhardt.
36. Dana Brand's Mets Fans Blog, set up by the Hofstra professor/author, is where fans can express themselves every day as if it were Banner Day.
38. Catching a fly. A Little League manager will tell you the thrill in seeing a youngster's face when this happens the first time -- and dreaming it could lead to a catch like Endy Chavez' or Ron Swoboda's.
40. Tommy John, the pitcher and the surgery. An engaging guy about whom it was said, "Ask him what time it is and he'll tell you how to make a watch," he had courage to undergo an unproven operation that has since saved many careers. He's still in the game, managing the Bridgeport Bluefish.
41. Tom Seaver, the most amazin' Met.
42. Jackie Robinson. Number retired throughout baseball, a tribute to the athlete who has had lasting impact, from Flatbush Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue.
43. Clips from "Home Run Derby." The old black-and-white series from Los Angeles' Wrigley Field, not the tedious spectacle at the All-Star Game (although it sure was fun, watching Josh Hamilton pound the distant walls last July).
44. McCovey Cove. Kayakers carry gloves to catch home runs.
45. The pace. Author George Will was in the midst of a conversation with Earl Weaver and was surprised to look up and find the game had started. The Orioles manager said, "This ain't a football game. We do this every day."
46. Derek Jeter. Someday, he will be the last one introduced at Oldtimers Day.
47. Jose Reyes hitting a triple. Or anyone else hitting a triple.
48. Bench jockeying. To a pitching staff: "I've seen better arms on a clock." To a struggling righthander, "Maybe you're a lefty."
49. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Written on a subway 101 years ago by Jack Norworth, who never had attended a major league game.
50. Charlie Manuel telling stories, such as playing for manager Billy Martin and being ordered to stay out late with Mickey Mantle. Manuel can now tell of managing a world champion.
51. "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"
52. More bench jockeying. To a catcher: "You couldn't throw out the garbage."
53. Baseball is the best of sport on radio. Especially in spring training, after you've missed it for five months.
54. Baseball on satellite radio, where you can hear the local broadcasters call their team's games no matter where you are.
55. Esoteric statistics. Kevin Cash and David Ross, backup catchers on the Red Sox, last year were exactly the same in at-bats (142), batting average (.225) and home runs (three). Cash played in 61 games, Ross (who also played for the Reds) in 60.
56. Grounds crews meticulously draw the foul lines and creatively mow the grass into cool designs.
57. Keeping score in a scorecard with a pencil bought at the game. Such a rare art now that Dodgers personnel interviewed fans whom they witnessed doing it last season.
58. Stealing home. B.J. Upton of the Rays has done it in each of the past two seasons. Aaron Hill's steal off Andy Pettitte in 2007 still gets traffic on YouTube.
59. Aaron Boone's home run. Handled with class, the same way he announced he needed open heart surgery.
61. One more try for John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, while Greg Maddux is on the clock toward Cooperstown.
62. Bobby Murcer's family never will forget all those prayers.
63. Pete Flynn worked on the field when the Mets opened at the Polo Grounds and when they closed Shea.
64. The World Baseball Classic. Needs more tweaking of rules, less tweaking of obliques, but Netherlands over the Dominican Republic proved that this is a keeper.
65. "I consider myself... the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
66. Watching games in high definition.
45. IT'S LEISURELY. Author George Will was in the midst of a conversation with Earl Weaver and was surprised to look up and find the game had started. The Orioles manager said, "This ain't a football game. We do this every day."
67. BOB SHEPPARD. Although he had wanted to come back for Opening Day, the Yankees said his health just won't allow him yet.
68. The Seventh-Inning Stretch. In Houston, they play "Deep in the Heart of Texas."
69. "It is high, it is far, it is gone" and other signature calls.
70. Dave Mlicki scooping dirt from the Yankee Stadium mound after the game of his life. Every year we hear Mets-Yankees has lost its glow, and every year the stadiums are full, the coverage is intense, the city is abuzz.
71. Hot Stove League. Baseball's December is more interesting than some leagues' regular seasons.
72. Minor leagues. Players are fighting for their careers, but the atmosphere is hardly life-or-death, i.e. the Dirtiest Car in the Parking Lot contest.
73. Al Leiter, pitcher turned broadcaster, acknowledges he was a Yankee when New York was a Mets town and a Met when it was a Yankees town.
74. Filmography: Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, The Natural, Fear Strikes Out, The Stratton Story, It Happens Every Spring, the original Angels in the Outfield, Pride of the Yankees, Fever Pitch.
75. Sandy Koufax still has mystique, Bob Gibson still has a fire inside.
76. The All-Star Game.
77. Jerry Manuel telling stories, using "gangsta" references, although you know he is spiritual and humorous, more Gandhi than "gangsta."
78. Baseball's higher standard. Steroids are a major scandal in baseball, not worth just a shrug and a four-game suspension that a positive test brought an NFL star three years ago.
79. Twenty-three years after Game 6, Davey Johnson managed Team USA to a last-gasp comeback over Puerto Rico. Gary Carter, no Kid anymore, is managing the Long Island Ducks.
80. "Talkin' Baseball" has one of music's great refrains: "Willie, Mickey and the Duke."
81. Brooklyn gave Stan (The Man) Musial his nickname.
82. Some of us are lucky enough to have known Eddie Layton, and to own a CD of his Stadium organ music.
83. Quickest hands in baseball belong to whoever punches up "New York, New York" the instant the final out is made at the Stadium.
84. "You don't look so hot yourself," Yogi Berra's reported reply to a woman who admired his cool. Yogi-isms might or might not be true, but they shouldn't obscure the fact he was an all-time great player.
85. Casey Stengel, although dead at the present time (to quote the man himself), never will be forgotten. As he said on the future of the expansion Mets, who ended the epic 1962 season on a triple play, "We've got to learn to stay out of triple plays."
86. Gold Glove. The most prestigious honor for playing defense in any sport.
87. Walk-off home runs. Bill Mazeroski, Joe Carter, Kirk Gibson (a limp-off, which made it great).
88. Rollie Fingers' handlebar mustache, Goose Gossage's bushy fu Manchu mustache, Bobby Valentine's fake mustache.
89. Pitcher Jamie Moyer, 46, still wears old fashioned sanitary hose and stirrups.
90. Ninety feet between bases. Even with dramatic advances in athleticism and technology, the geometry is still perfect to balance a slow roller and a fast runner.
91. Strat-O-Matic. Grown men drive from the Midwest to the game company's Long Island headquarters every winter to get the new player cards. Doug Glanville, a devotee and nine-season big leaguer, used to chide staffers for not giving him the best fielding rating.
92. Gashouse Gang, Murderer's Row, Whiz Kids, Harvey's Wallbangers.
93. Target Field, the Twins' new stadium, will have natural grass, bringing us one step closer to seeing artificial turf become obsolete.
94. Bench jockeying, Part III: To a club with fielding woes: "Put a tent over that circus." To a skinny batter, "Who's swinging who?"
95. MLB Network. Baseball highlights and scuttlebutt on New Year's Day. Also, they were immediately all over the A-Rod story on a winter Saturday.
96. "Squibb," a poor player, as opposed to "squib," a bloop. Both on page 818 of "The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, Third Edition" by Paul Dickson.
97. The Splendid Splinter, The Georgia Peach, The Chairman of the Board, The Big Unit, Lloyd "Little Poison" Waner, Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown, Oil Can Boyd, Catfish Hunter, El Duque, Shane "the Flyin' Hawaiian" Victorino.
98. If baseball is back, spring must be here.
99. It's a hit: "Centerfield," "Glory Days," "Mrs. Robinson" ("Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?")
100. "Holy cow!" Here's to you, Phil Rizzuto.
101. "The happy recap." And you, too, Bob Murphy.