Skip to content

The Hint of the Holy in a 6-4-3 Double Play

I stumbled across a baseball the other day on our walk. The nearby ball diamonds are deserted as the moment, victims in their own right of the Corona virus pandemic, but some future LA Dodger must have sneaked past the gate to practice his curve ball and this one got away. I bent down and picked it up, intending to toss it back on the field, which I did, but not before savoring once again the feel of a baseball.

Walter Mitty took over as I got my sign—fast ball low and inside. I glanced around to make sure no one was watching, checked the runner at first, kicked and fired, and blew another Giant back to the dugout.

Nothing satisfies like striking out a San Francisco Giant, although a ballpark hotdog (a real hotdog with 900 fat grams) comes close.

In a high-tech, fast-paced world, baseball is something of an anomaly. When correctly played (that is to say, with blue sky above and real grass below) and properly housed (that is to say, in a stadium named for the team that plays there, as in Dodger Stadium), it is absolutely antediluvian.

Seemingly unaware of the psychological drama taking place on the field, the battle of wits shaping every play, the subtle finesse in scratching that itch, some think the game moves a little on the slow side and has all the excitement of watching paint dry, but what brings fans to their feet in this game is a 6-4-3 double play, not blood and mayhem.

For something so out of step with the times, from where does the continuing allure of baseball come? We could perhaps name several factors, but surely one of them is innocence. For baseball ties us to an imaginary time, usually connected with youth, when life was somehow different, simpler perhaps, and certainly naïve; a time when each of us and the country as a whole was virtuous, unstained, childlike (though not childish).

Sure, it’s a myth, but it is also a defining myth, a goal or vision to which we might still aspire. Baseball is a connecting thread tying us to a so-called better past and therefore to the possibility of a brighter, more hopeful future.

Perhaps the real issue, though, is not that the past was so innocent (none of us was ever that good) but that coming of age in the real world exacts a hefty price. The journey is hard enough as it is … and becomes even more so when we factor in the hard choices we have to make at life’s countless crossroads … right and wrong, good and bad, the compromises that lie in between.

A day at the ballpark helps us get in touch with a different reality and a world that feels somehow okay. A parable of sorts it is, not exactly the stuff of holiness, but a suggestion nonetheless of an inherent goodness coursing through the veins of this tired world.