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Tag Archive: Mickey Mantle

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 3 — Baseball—it’s a game; it’s not Quantum physics, or is it? First published May 13, 2010, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Baseball–it’s a game; it’s not Quantum physics, or is it?

“Baseball? It’s just a game—as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It’s a sport, a business, and sometimes even a religion.” –Ernie Harwell, The Game for All America, 1955.

There is something certain and steady about the game of baseball. It’s not Quantum physics, or is it?

Poet and author Sharon Olds wrote in “This Sporting Life” in 1987, “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up”.

I know what she means. Baseball helps us forget our troubles, but why is that?

Maybe it is the reassurance of the stats that make us love it so much, and as we know, diehard fans love baseball stats, good or bad.

Stats are a sure thing. We can rely on them.

Baseball, according to baseball owner and mastermind Bill Veeck, is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world, and yes, indeed, it could be the stats.

Veeck explains, “If you get three strikes, think about it, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.”

Or when the numbers in your own life are not adding up so well, we would do well to remember the old adage, “Things could be worse. What if your errors were counted and published every day like those of a baseball player.”

Now, that puts life in perspective.

There is an opposite to bad baseball stats, however, as Ted Williams once quipped, “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

I like those odds.

In 1970, Mickey Mantle said this about baseball stats: “During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball.”

And Norm Cash, legendary Detroit Tiger power hitter and first baseman after his 1,081st strikeout, noted the same thing happened to him: “Pro-rated at 500 at-bats a year, that means that for two years out of the fourteen I played, I never even touched the ball.”

Perhaps it is, in fact, the rhythm of baseball. The repetition, steadiness and the absolute sureness it provides during the summer months that make us love it so much.

After all, it is our national summer pastime, and we watch game after game after game, never tiring of it.

Baseball is always there, and so are its stats.

I am wondering. Is baseball indeed a mystery, something that we cannot comprehend, unlike the stat sheet in front of us?

Even though stats are the lifeblood of baseball, could baseball really be more likely about relativity, or molecular attraction, or theory or timing?

Whatever baseball is, it has a lot to do with the fundamental nature of the universe, the grand scheme of things; or if you will, the idea that things are much different than the world we see.

“More than any other American sport, baseball creates the magnetic, addictive illusion that it can almost be understood,” –Thomas Boswell, Inside Sports.

Quantum physics?

Mar 31

From my archived columns: “Baseball—it’s a game; it’s not Quantum physics, or is it?”

“Baseball? It’s just a game—as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It’s a sport, a business, and sometimes even a religion.” –Ernie Harwell, The Game for All America, 1955.

There is something certain and steady about the game of baseball. It’s not Quantum physics, or is it?

Poet and author Sharon Olds wrote in “This Sporting Life” in 1987, “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up”.

I know what she means. Baseball helps us forget our troubles, but why is that?

Maybe it is the reassurance of the stats that make us love it so much, and as we know, diehard fans love baseball stats, good or bad.

Stats are a sure thing. We can rely on them.

Baseball, according to baseball owner and mastermind Bill Veeck, is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world, and yes, indeed, it could be the stats.

Veeck explains, “If you get three strikes, think about it, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.”

Or when the numbers in your own life are not adding up so well, we would do well to remember the old adage, “Things could be worse. What if your errors were counted and published every day like those of a baseball player.”

Now, that puts life in perspective.

There is an opposite to bad baseball stats, however, as Ted Williams once quipped, “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

I like those odds.

In 1970, Mickey Mantle said this about baseball stats: “During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball.”

And Norm Cash, legendary Detroit Tiger power hitter and first baseman after his 1,081st strikeout, noted the same thing happened to him: “Pro-rated at 500 at-bats a year, that means that for two years out of the fourteen I played, I never even touched the ball.”

Perhaps it is, in fact, the rhythm of baseball. The repetition, steadiness and the absolute sureness it provides during the summer months that make us love it so much.

After all, it is our national summer pastime, and we watch game after game after game, never tiring of it.

Baseball is always there, and so are its stats.

I am wondering. Is baseball indeed a mystery, something that we cannot comprehend, unlike the stat sheet in front of us?

Even though stats are the lifeblood of baseball, could baseball really be more likely about relativity, or molecular attraction, or theory or timing?

Whatever baseball is, it has a lot to do with the fundamental nature of the universe, the grand scheme of things; or if you will, the idea that things are much different than the world we see.

“More than any other American sport, baseball creates the magnetic, addictive illusion that it can almost be understood,” –Thomas Boswell, Inside Sports.

Quantum physics?

Sep 02

You will always be you–what I didn’t expect about getting older

“If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
- Mickey Mantle

At a relative’s 90th birthday celebration, one guest asked the honoree, “Say, how does it feel to be 90?”

“I don’t know,” came his quick retort, “I feel about the same way I always have. How old are you, 35? So, how does it feel to be 35?” Then, he winked and smiled.

Ah, what does it feel like indeed, I wondered?

I guess as we age, we expect to feel ‘old’, but what I didn’t expect about getting older is that we don’t really feel that ‘old’ in our heart of hearts. Our bodies may feel weaker, but in our souls, we are still 16 or 25 or 35.

We are the same people we always were.

That surprises me.

I like what 90s journalist and essayist I.F. Stone said that surprised him about aging: “When you are younger you get blamed for crimes you never committed and when you’re older you begin to get credit for virtues you never possessed. It evens itself out.”

And so it does.

I was pondering all these thoughts (not too seriously you understand because keep in mind I still feel about 16) when into my email inbox pops my quarterly college alumni newsletter.

There to my delight were short essays from dear old friends giving updates about their lives, stories of family, career and retirement. What caught my eye, however, was a universal underlying theme—aging isn’t exactly what they expected.

I love my friend Connie’s story she titled, “It’s me.”

Connie writes that she is still the same person she always was, something she did not expect at all about getting older.

Here are some excerpts: “Honestly, I expected much of what has happened in the intervening years (since college). Arthritis and gray hair, after all, are part of the old lady uniform. Right? What I didn’t expect was that I would be pretty nearly the same person that I was.”

She reminisces:

“Back in the 60’s when I was a college student, we tended to view older people as significantly different from us. They just didn’t ‘get it.’ We—or, at least, I—thought that people changed as they aged. They do change, but not in all the ways I feared. I’m still Connie.

“Okay. I gained a lot of weight. My hair is white. I have had a knee replacement so I
wobble a little.

“I thought I would be cranky, judgmental, and anything but fun to be around when I got old. Not true! I whine a lot sometimes, but I’m not really cranky. And I’ve never been judgmental, so why would I start now?

“I’m the same inside! This is the big secret! You will always be you.”

However, Connie and I agree that the above ‘secret of aging’ should come with a disclaimer, a warning if you will.

Here it is: yes, it’s true you will always be you, but you will be an ‘old you’ before you know what’s happened!

“When I was young I was called a rugged individualist. When I was in my fifties, I was considered eccentric. Here I am doing and saying the same things I did then and now I’m labeled senile. ?~ George Burns (Just You and Me Kid, 1979)

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