Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ah, Spring!!!!

For My Father...

It's Spring. Yes, there's snow on the ground in Michigan and the temperature won't get above freezing. Doesn't matter. It's Spring. Sweet Spring. Want proof? Today the Pitchers and Catchers are reporting for Spring Training.

For the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the song of the birds has come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

Those words were spoken each Spring Training by the man pictured here: Ernie Harwell, the now retired Voice of the Tigers.

I know some of you won't care, but allow me my eccentricities. This is important to me, it keeps me sane, it gives me breath. The beginning of baseball season isn't about sports, it's about passage. It's about the relationship I had with my father, a relationship similar to the one Kevin Kostner had with his father in "Field of Dreams". I can't tell you how pained I was as the main character struggled with his past.

So baseball to me isn't a sport, it's so much more.

Or as James Earl Jones spoke the words with greater eloquence :

The one constant through all the years has been baseball. As America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers - it's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again - baseball has marked the time. This field, this game is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.

So today is the first day of Spring. I won't talk about what teams stand a chance, or what players are up or down. This is the day the pitchers and catchers report. That's enough for me.


etain_lavena said...

Gosh I battle to comment on your blog.
I wanted to say so much but it times out and then I forget because of my worst flaw short temper.....and I really enjoyed your story....but I lost every profound taught when it timed out again...I am happy it is spring...we are moving into Autumn..
Hope your felling 100% today!

Kate S said...

Lovely tribute to hope, Stewart.

Did you ever read "If I Never Get Back" by Darryl Brock? I don't even like sports, and I liked that book.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Thanks etain....Autumn???? You know, with winter still holding on to us, the last thing I want to think about is autumn. I just want to see the thermometer rise and see green.

Kate, thanks. I will go and grab hold of the book based on your recommendation. I like books about the world of sports.

SQT said...

That's one of the few Kevin Costner films I can go back and watch again and again. It's not just about baseball, but hope. But then again, maybe they're the same thing.

East Side Johnny said...

Ok, Stewart, here's a nice big softball for you to hit out of the park. So give it your best shot. The Tigers: '68 or '84. Both World Champions. Which, in your opinion, was the greater team and, of course, why?

Stewart Sternberg said...

I am not moved by the historical framework with which people look at the sixty eight Tigers. I loved that team (Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Jim Northrup, Ray Oiler, Norm Cash, Denny McClain)...but I have to say that the eighty four team was the better team. The team that was later carved up by that asshole Monahan and mismanaged by baseball guru Bo Schembechler.

The eighty four team has some astonishing elements. The perfect game of Milt Wilcox. The Understated finesse pitching of Dan Petry. The delight of watching Senor Smoke tear it up. And then straight up the middle, with Lance Parrish behind the plate, the unstopppable double play combination of Tramell and Whittaker, the fielding of Chet Lemon. It didn't get better than that. It just didn't. That team, managed by Sparky Anderson, was a brilliant machine that came together all at once.

So once all the nostalgia is wiped clean, and the pure baseball is distilled, I have to say eighty four. Hell, and this year I'll even add Fever Pitch. Then there are the Ken Burns cds...yes I have the entire Baseball collection.

So, God, before I go, whisper to me. Whisper "Ease his pain," and send me on a small road trip. Let me brush away those cobwebs.

Anonymous said...

Stewart, my husband tears up on opening day of baseball season year in and year out. What is it about baseball that makes a grown man cry?

Stewart Sternberg said...

My God Gem...

Baseball is our childhood, it's a time of innocence. Baseball represents the best of who we are. I know there are some who claim baseball is a slow and boring sport. I always state that those people don't realize what they are watching, they don't know the nuances of the game, they don't understand the tense duel going on between the pitcher and the is a brilliant chess game.

But I is a renewal. It's fitting that it comes in Spring. Your husband cries..and so do I.

James Burnett said...

Great post. An excellent piece of writing Stewart. Definitely Field of Dreams-worthy.

East Side Johnny said...

You mean the perfect game of Jack Morris, Stewart. None of the Sox touched base against us in that unforgetable game in Chicago. I'll go with '68. Mayo Smith, a wino, was running the show, proving once again that the best talent always will rise to the top, even when a burnout is in charge. Go Tigers!

Stewart Sternberg said...

I must disagree. I am not aware of any Jack Morris perfect game. Of course, I could be wrong. However Milt Wilcox pitched a perfect game on April 15, 1983. I remember that year. I thought the Tigers were going to win it all, but if memory serves me the Orioles came ahead at the end of the season. I knew the next year would be the YEAR.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Are you kidding Stewart? I finally got to use my snowblower this winter.

Bimbo said...

What's all this about *boys* and loving baseball?!

Christina Rundle said...

Very sweet.

It already feels like spring here. The sun is staying up longer and I'm actually having to open my window to cool down the apartment.

Turnbaby said...

I'd love to add evocative Stewart

I love baseball and am continually intrigued by it's nuances. Under the outwardly leisurely pace pulses a tension that draws me in.

Hope you are feeling better

Travis said...

Yes. This day has nothing to do with contending for flags. And it can be a bittersweet day.

Travis said...

Just an FYI - according to

Tigers Jack Morris no-hits the White Sox 4–0 at Comiskey Park, walking six and striking out 8.

That was on 7 Apr 1984 and was the earliest no hitter ever.

miller580 said...

84! Back when a father could take his son to the ball game. For a few bucks, my dad could park his beater car (I think it was the avocado green Satellite, or the mustard yellow duster. It doesn't matter which one, both of their rusty fenders flapped and rattled down the pothole freeway) in a parking lot where the odds of keeping your car stereo were about 50/50. I remember walking past the old houses with the busted windows, sometimes boarded, sometimes not, and walking over the bridge and looking down at the cars on the freeway. Then we'd buy a few brown lunch bags of peanuts from an old man just outside the entrance tunnel. I remember the tunnel, and walking through, the smell of damp concrete violating me. And when I emerged on the other side, rows of bleachers and a bright green field used as a backdrop to the cat calls of "Hotdogs", "Ice cold Beer", and "Hhott Dogs." This was was baseball. Save Tiger Stadium. Oh, that's right, like baseball's "old time spirit" it's gone. The Tigers now play in Consumer Park...I mean Comerica Park.

Stewart, not that I am picking bones here, but you gotta give some love to Tommy Brookyns ( I can't remember spelling) and his crazy handlebar mustache. Kurt Gibson and his notorious f-bombs when he suckered in for the low and inside, "Roofer" Jones for his not always consisitant but there when you needed one, roofshots, and Willie.

The 68 tigers were before my time, so I can't really talk to them them, I'll let the statistics do that. But I have a hard time believeing that any Tiger team was better than that 84 team. Not only the caliber of players, but the energy they played with. It seemed to me (and I was punk kid at the time) that a sense of pride was in the air. In the community. On tv, you'd hear the sultry voice say "Go Get em, Tiger. Rrrrrar." On the radio, ten times a day on every station you'd hear "bless you boys" It was "in" nearly everyone. And with all that energy buzzing the masses; after it was over, how could you not expect a car or two to be ablaze. Humans can only take so much frenzy. It is either release or implode.

Unfortunately, I must say that after that season, baseball has never been the same for me. Life got a whole lot tougher and the magic was gone out of tigertown. A tiger Championship to me will never be able to match that year. Maybe I was just a messed up kid who found something that year to get behind. Maybe I am simply romanticising. But I don't think so.