The Love And Lure Of Baseball

Spring has sprung. The crack of the bat and the pop of leather can be heard echoing through every hometown ballpark across the country, signaling the arrival of a spring tradition.
“Sa-wing, batta’ batta’ batta’, sa-wing, yurr-out,” and “staaa-rike” are familiar sounds to the faithful baseball fan this time of year.

So are the terms, RBI, HR, MVP and ERA. They’re all a part of the arcane language of baseball. Kids have been playing the game for more than 150 years in vacant lots, fields, school yards, streets or anywhere a makeshift diamond could be created.

Over the past century, the origin of America’s favorite pastime has been a hotly debated subject. The controversy began in 1905 when prominent Englishman Henry Chadwick suggested the game had been played in England decades before Abner Doubleday claimed to have invented it. The English version of the game, called “rounders,” was played on a diamond with a base on each corner. A “striker” with a bat stood beside the fourth base and attempted to hit the ball thrown by the “pecker.”

Three misses and the striker was out! At the end of three outs, the opposition and defense switched sides … sound familiar ? 
It’s reported that Albert G. Spalding, a wealthy American sporting goods dealer and baseball promoter, was keenly aware that a game that originated in the U.S. would inspire a greater devotion from its fans. Thus, he promoted the American theory.
 These debates, embellishments and tales are all part of baseball’s colorful folklore and charm – the mystique that creates the legends.

Candlestick park, san francisco.
The old Candlestick park, the San Francisco Giants’ old stadium. Photo: Cookie Curci.

Baseball Costs For Fans

Like most fans, I’ve cringed at ticket prices and whined at parking fees. I’ve gasped at the cost of a ballpark frank and garlic fries. I’ve questioned the payment given to the superstars and bad-boys of the game.

But baseball is still greater than its shortcomings.

Baseball Characters

There’s an intangible force at work here, an aura surrounding the game. It’s a magical, pervading influence that most of us felt as kids watching Mickey Mantle run out onto the field at Yankee Stadium. We felt it at Candlestick Park as we traced the footsteps of Willie Mays all the way back to center field to watch him make the game’s winning catch. 
Baseball has long been a game of records, records that when broken, ensure a player a piece of immortality.

When Mark McGwire smashed his 62 home runs in 1998, he shattered Roger Maris’ long-held home-run record. McGwire revived a reverence and excitement for the game. He also landed himself a place in baseball history, if not a controversial one.

Stars like McGwire, though exciting on the field, aren’t quite as colorful as the old-timers of the game, like Leo “The Mouth” Durocher, Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel, who promoted controversy off the field with an occasional politically incorrect statement.

Durocher was one of the game’s feistiest characters. He managed the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early 1940s and was well-known for his cutting remarks such as: “Show me a happy loser and I’ll show you an idiot,” and “Nice guys finish last.”
 The venerable Stengel, while manager of the New York Yankees, was exasperated by demands from the crowd for a popular young player he had on the bench. He finally called for the player in question: “Am I going in now?” asked the player. “No,” replied Stengel. “Go up and sit with your fans in the stands – they want you.” The young rookie was Mickey Mantle. Casey wasn’t the smartest baseball manager.

The most verbally confusing and expressive quotes, however, were spouted by Yogi Berra. The New York Yankees catcher was voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player three times. But more than his natural catching talent, he was known for his irrepressible remarks. When his team wasn’t drawing much of a crowd at the ballpark, Berra was quoted as saying, “If the people don’t want to come out to the park, nobody’s gonna stop them.” When he was taken to a famous restaurant he’d never heard of, he’d say, “No wonder nobody comes here, it’s too crowded.” And toward the end of an extra-inning ballgame, fans would hear radio announcers repeat Yogi’s most famous quote: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Baseball Forever!

Like picnics at the park, running barefoot in the grass or dashing through the sprinklers on a hot afternoon, baseball will always be a part of summertime fun.

Baseball Greats

See the photos and stories of these Baseball Greats.

Babe Ruth with bats.
Babe Ruth.
Jackie Robinson in Dodgers shirt.
Jackie Robinson.
Lou Gehrig in New York shirt.
Lou Gehrig.
Mickey Mantle in New York shirt.
Mickey Mantle.
Hank Aaron in Braves shirt.
Hank Aaron.
Cookie Curci
Cookie Curci is an experienced freelance writer, born and raised in San Jose, California. Cookie writes syndicated columns across the country, and wrote a "Remember When" column for The Willow Glen Resident for 15 years. Her work has been published in 15 Chicken Soup for The Soul books, and in the series of "Mother's Miracle" books ( Morrow books).She has a short story in the new book "ELVIS", Live at the Sahara Tahoe; has been published in San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury news, Woman's World, Primo magazine, Mature Living, and many websites.Cookie is currently writing for several Italian American newspapers and magazines, they include LaVoce Las Vegas, Amici Journal, L'italo Americano, Life in Italy and Italiansrus.