As I See It
ST. LOUIS—When I was a young girl, I was blissfully unaware that baseball was pretty much a boy’s game. My brother ignited in me a love for this sport and I soon learned all the players of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals, including their batting averages after each game. What a way to learn percentages! Before I was 10, I could determine in a nanosecond that Stan Musial’s .317 batting average would rise after going two for four.
I remember that watching a game always trumped playing dolls with my sister. And there was no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than sitting next to my dad at a double header. When I got older, I would take the bus to the stadium with a bunch of friends and bask in the sunshine and the pure thrill of watching the equivalent of a live concert.
And so it is with a warm nostalgia that I have found a kindred spirit in the author of a new book. Not only is he from my hometown, his book allows me to rekindle all those delicious feelings I had every time I went to the ballpark. Hearing the crack of the bat as it met the ball fueled my fantasy that maybe I could one day hit a ball that solidly.
I never could. In fact, there was a converse relationship between how much I loved the game and how well I played the game. I guess it was around this time that I reluctantly acknowledged that playing baseball was mainly for boys.
But then along comes Al Spector’s book, "Baseball: Never Too Old to Play The Game," old guys are still playing baseball! Well, not exactly ancient, but there are about 125,000 males over 30 who play in such venues like local leagues, fantasy camps and tournaments. And a huge chunk of these geezers—I mean, mature boys!—are in their 50s, 60s and beyond.
I don’t know why this book makes me feel good, but it does. There is a sign at my exercise class that says people don’t stop playing because they grow older; they grow older because they stop playing. Maybe just by knowing that many in my generation are still enjoying a game we played in our youth, we can somehow slow down the ticking of the clock. Whatever the reason, this book will definitely get you thinking about your own answer to Satchel Paige’s grammatically incorrect, but timeless question: "How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?"
I mean, really. It’s hard to be thinking of root canal, arthritis, cholesterol and blood pressure when fielding a pop fly or slugging a double. And it’s even harder for those in the stands to think of middle-aged players having to worry about such things when they are running around wearing sneakers, knickers and beanies.
There is a world of difference in being childish and childlike. John Lennon said it best in his song "Woman" when he described the child within the man. There is something charming about those who refuse to allow the most joyous parts of themselves to succumb to the passing of time.
So to Al Spector and to all of those long-ago boys who matured into responsible husbands, fathers and grandfathers, I salute you. And to those who managed to keep a piece of their youth intact throughout the decades, I offer you a standing ovation as you round the bases in the greatest game ever played.
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