World Serious, from Tim Melvin

October 24, 2007 |

FenwaySupposedly tonight will be the first game of this year's World Series. The Boston area weather report casts some doubt upon that with an 80% chance of rain, but still it is time for the fall classic. This year's series has some great story lines. American League versus National League. Junior circuit against senior circuit. Good versus evil. Those scum sucking no good rat fink bast.. oop.. I mean the Boston Red Sox with the best record in baseball against the unlikely Colorado Rockies. Boston's dominance of the league and Colorado's record breaking 20 wins in 21 games to get into the series. The Rockies were thought to be out of it as September rolled around. The Red Sox almost blew a 7 game lead with three weeks to go in the season. It has the making of, well let's be honest it has the makings of a Boston blow out. They are too good. I hate them. I detest their trend following fleecer of a public owner. I wish Josh Beckett was an Oriole and that Curt Schilling would take his darn bloody sock and go back to the National League. I wish David Ortiz would get sucked into some magical vortex that made him disappear for the next week. I wish Manny Ramirez, like Sampson, would get a haircut and lose the ability to hit a baseball. But, all of that is unlikely. They have the hitting, the starting pitching and as long as they keep Eric Gagne away from the mound, the bullpen. Although Paelebon will probably have to get his ERA down. After all in the post season it is a lofty 0.00! I hate them. I will be rooting for the Rockies. I suspect I will not like the outcome of this series. My only hope is that Big Poppi can't be DH in the National League Park. The man can hit but give him a glove and interesting things happen. However, the rat bast.. I mean the Sox have home field advantage so that's not really an edge. More of a delusion.

So tonight the field at Fenway Park (another reason to hate the Sox. What a great stadium!) will be draped in the familiar red and white and blue bunting. A celebrity of some sort will throw out the first pitch. It will be the World Series in all its glory. Except it won't. Today the Super Bowl looms much larger across the sports landscape. So does the NBA finals and the Daytona 500 for that matter. Baseball is losing its lofty perch as America's pastime. Today we prefer the NFL with all its violence, pageantry and barely dressed cheerleaders. Much as Romans eschewed chariot racing for gladiators we have traded the stately game of baseball for the rock and roll fest of football. Please don't get me wrong. I like football. But I still have that decade long love affair with baseball. With my track record I have no personal knowledge of this kind of thing, but I think baseball is like a long term spouse for me. She is perhaps fading with the years and to others she is not as beautiful as she once was. But I look at her and see only the beautiful smiling young woman I fell in love with.

I think back as I sit here to the first World Series I can remember. The Dodgers-Orioles of 1966. I was 5. I didn't know the combination of Drydsdale-Koufax was supposed to wipe the birds off the face of the earth. I just knew all my friends' Dads were worked up about it and spent a lot more time playing catch with us and talking about the Orioles. I did not know it was considered something of a miracle that the Orioles won in 4 straight. I didn't know that it would be the last time Sandy Koufax would explode form the mound, curling and hurling his entire being into an exploding fastball or devastating curve ball. I just knew that my friends and I were enthralled and entranced by each and ever pitch. I fell in love with the game. I remember 1968 with the glorious matchup of Gibson and Lolich. Unfortunately I can still recall 1969 with the powerhouse Orioles being dropped in their tracks by the Mets. 1970 with Brooks becoming inhuman to the point of godliness on the third base line, the return of heartbreak in 1971 with Roberto Clemente almost single handedly beating the Birds. The long haired brightly colored Oakland teams of the mid 0's. Reggie's three home runs to become Mr. October. I still can't hear We Are Family without recalling our second loss to the pirates in 1979. Cal Ripken catching the final out of the 1983 series just days after my father passed away. One of my most vivid memories is reaching for the phone to share the moment with him before I realized he was no longer there to take the call. The earthquake series when I lived in central California. There are literally too many to recount here.

Life has changed a lot since then. It was, I suppose, the legendary oft cited simpler time. We played baseball from sun up to sun down back then. Kids play today but usually in organized Little League and the game takes a second place to soccer and lacrosse here in the mid atlantic. No organized ball for us. In the street, the field across the street, the common area of the apartment complex. We didn't care where. We played with baseballs cadged and cajoled from parents for the dollar was a big deal for a new ball. We played with tennis balls liberated from the courts of the upscale development across town. We played with wiffle balls and duct taped them when they splintered until they resembled silver orbs hurtling through the afternoon sky. Gloves were carefully oiled and wrapped each night. If it was raining on a Saturday we watched Joe Garagiola and the NBC game of the week to watch teams from across the league play. We fell asleep with transistor radios under the pillow to listen to the Robinson Twins, Belanger, Powell, McNally, Palmer and Cuellar restore justice and righteousness to the universe in the form of three run homers and blistering fastballs. There was no umpire and balls and strikes were argued with the intensity of the McCarthy hearings. Baseball. We loved, played it, watched it, listened to it, talked about it. A simpler time. Today, it moves too slow for most. The NFL and the NBA are the dominant sports. If kids play pick up games it's probably hoops. Little kids dont get to watch in breathless wonder as the home team takes the field in a blaze of popping flashbulbs against the red white and blue backdrop of the first game of the series. They are long in bed by the time the first pitch takes place. Life has changed. I look at the world around me populated with taxes, bills, ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, wish they were girlfriends, wanna be girlfriends and miss those days when all you needed were a couple of friends, a battered mitt and dirty much abused rawlings to experience the sublime. I look at my son and feel a little sad that he never had a passion for a game not involving a TV and controller. Life has changed. H&ll, look at the markets. Back then you had the American League and the National League and you had stocks and bonds. Today we have futures, options, options on futures, swaps, straddles, hedge funds, fund of funds, CM's, CDO's and virtually every other derivative and contrived trading instrument you can think of. It is a small wonder that faster paced sports have replaced the timeless game of baseball. Still, I miss it.

I shall sit this week and watch the games. I shall cheer, perhaps in vain, the Unlikely Rockies. I shall curse the Red Sox. I shalll think back to a much simpler time. In all likelihood I shall cook some hot dogs to watch the game. Instead of the cola in a paper cup of my youth it will be scotch in a lead crystal glass. But at some point I will, I hope reconnect with that little boy who held his breath as the teams took the field and the game got underway. With the teenager who could still be captivated away from teenage cynicism when Brooks Robinson stopped your heart with his spectacular play. With the young expectant father who missed his own Dad. With all the moments and times and stages of my life when in October baseball was king and the World Series was serious.


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