God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “The baseball season is at its end!”
With apologies to John Greenleaf Whittier, to Maud Muller herself, and to what might have been, the baseball season will be over tomorrow. And though the season has been bastardized by Bud Selig and his interleague games, the increasing swiftness by which the most perfect six months of each year pass only reinforces the sad truth that we’re not getting any younger.
Balderdash, I say! During the baseball season we all get younger, even the naysayers and the disbelievers. Even the manager of the Houston Astros, whoever that poor fellow happens to be.
As Pirates fans are about to remember, nothing can beat October baseball, unless, of course, you can somehow find yourself propped in the rightfield upper deck of Memorial Stadium on a balmy night with an ice cold Boh in hand, a baseball game at your feet and a view of an orange midsummer sun setting over Baltimore’s rowhouses.
The game gets into us; the time of the first pitch — 7:05, 1:35, 4:05, 10:35 — dictates our day, and the pace of our day. It gets the table cleared and the dishes washed by 6:30. It’s what keeps us up until 2 o’clock on a foggy September morning to watch all 18 blasted innings of a depressing walk-off loss at the height of a postseason chase — a failed postseason chase at that. Imagine the absurdity of committing such an irresponsible act, but it’s necessary to see it through, and for six months it defines us. These are the saddest words of all: The baseball season has come to an end!
They say the beauty of the baseball season is there is always a game tomorrow. But until tomorrow’s game begins, you live with the game of last night. It’s what drives you up the wall in the days following your team blowing two straight save situations. Even though your team is a lock for the postseason, you still want to the win the division, even though you said you would be perfectly content to accomplish your first winning season in 20.
Yes, we’ve come this far, we must see it through.
The great Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post, who should be in the writers’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, once relayed the story of how he and former Orioles manager Earl Weaver undertook a baseball discussion in the dugout two hours prior to a game. As both Boswell and Weaver became engrossed in the discussion, they lost track of the time until the National Anthem began to play.
As though being snapped from a dream, Boswell realized the game was about to begin and he was still in the dugout well past the time reporters were permitted to be. He apologized profusely for taking up too much of Weaver’s time, but Weaver told him, “Don’t worry about it, kid. This ain’t football. We do this everyday.”
It was Boswell who said, “Baseball’s true secret is that, for those who appreciate and value it, it has no secrets.” And the most fundamental truth of all is that the regular season begins in April and ends in late September or early October.
Unfair as it seems, the summer is over. Has been for a week now, bringing to mind the words of the late A. Bartlett Giamatti, who wrote, “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.”
Summer is anticipatory. Summer is on the go. Summer is wonderful. Summer is adventurous, and it’s melancholy all in one. And this summer was met in these parts with all the more anticipation and all the more excitement because there were three contending big league teams on our televisions and radios and within a two-hour drive every day of the season.
And now summer is bid goodbye with more melancholy. But as Whittier wrote to conclude “Maud Muller,”
Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes;
And, in the hereafter, angels may
Roll the stone from its grave away!
Pitchers and catchers, after all, report in 136 days.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org