Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Take me out to the ballgame...

For all their modernity and the fact that most say they don't relate to history and what came before, the Americans really do.  They love memorials, remembrances of things and times past (think Jamestown) and of course they love their traditional sports which is completely encompassed by their passion for baseball.

Ridiculous of course.  The game makes no sense at all.  You could go an entire game with no runs at all if the pitchers are on form.  And to think they laugh at cricket where you could go for 5 days and get a draw!  Well you could do the same at baseball and still be at 0-0.

Wrigleyville outside the stadium

I am impressed with the fielding though.  Those guys are fit, great catchers and they can throw the ball like nobody's business.

The batters I think have the raw deal.  They have a round bat to start with which shatters on almost any random occasion when ball very rarely makes contact with bat.  They have to stand (and not move their feet) when someone 30 yards away hurls the ball at him (aka his head) at something over 100 mph.  They aren't allowed to play and miss more than 3 times.  They aren't allowed to wait and see ... again for more than 3 times.  They can't have a thrash and get an outside edge ... you guessed it more than 3 times.  In short they have to get things together very quickly and then hit the ball in the middle of the bat and send it 400 feet into the crowd otherwise the out fielders pick them off.

Unsurprising when you look at their statistics... and yes the crowd does really follow all this very closely.  Our near neighbor followed every pitch and kept detailed statistics for every Cubs player (she said she does this on the TV at home too).  Talk about dedicated!  Her son, a spotty teenager even went and got autographs.  Who does that these days?

But we wanted to watch a Cubs game.  They aren't that good but they are one of the old teams and still have their old ground.  They last won the World Series in 1908 so haven't tasted success for years.  My neighbour said they are 'still rebuilding'.

Check out the ivy covered walls

The ground still has ivy covered walls with a local rule that if the ball gets caught in the ivy (meaning the out fielder can't get it out and throw it back), there's an automatic double -- translation:  the batter gets to go to 2nd base without fear of being thrown out.  Nice tradition.  I tried explaining the oak tree within the boundary counting 5 at Canterbury to my neighbour but don't think she completely got what I was trying to tell her.

However scandal abounds as the Cubs announced that particular day that they wanted to modernize the stadium to add new towers etc.  Their neighbors in Wrigleyville (its called Wrigley Field after their owners the chewing gum people) have built structures on top of their houses which they rent out to fans who can't get tickets in the ground.  These are very solid and high structures and the houses pay 17% of their takings already to the Cubs and have told them they will sue if the plans go ahead.

The amazing structure overlooking Wrigley Field

A solution is being sought!

But the game was fun.  The Cubs sprang into a 2-0 lead and the gradually gave it all back until the 3rd or 4th innings when the collapse happened.

It was the key man, the pitcher.  He can win a game or lose it and the pressure on him must be immense.  Particularly when he has thrown 2 strikes and 3 balls on 2 consecutive occasions to batters who he has then walked and is faced with a 3rd occasion with the same count.  Made me think of my softball days when on one memorable occasion the captain/pitcher walked 7 consecutive batters in the same way and in the course of 1 innings went through the entire batting line up one and a half times. We lost that game by the mercy rule and I think the captain never played again.

Well the pitcher walked that 3rd batter and of course the worst thing possible then happened and by the time everyone drew breath, the Atlanta Braves had racked up 6 runs in just that one innings.  The pitcher was relieved (but none after were much better) and the Cubs ended up losing 11-6.

We went by subway.  It took 15 minutes there as we didn't know the way and 10 minutes back.  Brilliant!

And getting back to my original point about tradition, why is there a 7th innings stretch and a rendition of "Take me out to the Ball Park" on a wurlitzer that everyone in the park sings along to with immense fervor?

Well I don't know for sure, but I like it!

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