Baseball tugs at the thoughts and emotions of every fan. During the winter months we occupy our time for sports with football, hockey, and/or basketball . . . but we always revert back to what’s happening in the world of Major League Baseball.
The months are long and the offseason seems to drag along at a slower pace than a regular season game. Here in mid-January, the two top free agents—Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still have not declared a home for 2019. The anticipation on who will sign where along with the constant discussions on how our teams will do in the upcoming year is what draws us to the game of baseball.
Why do fans love this game so much? Why do we question every move our home town manager makes? Why do we seemingly waste time watching countless hours of big-league games on television? Why do we search the internet or skim through newspaper box scores to see how certain hitters or pitchers performed on a given night? Why do we constantly study the standings?
Why? Because we love the game.
And here are the reasons we love the national pastime:
- The power of hitters like Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who make us stop and watch every at-bat. There’s nothing better than seeing Judge step into the batter’s box and attack a pitcher . . . especially when he connects for a 500-foot blast!
- The history of the game and the iconic men who helped make MLB what it is today: Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Cy Young, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson . . . etc.
- Yogisms— “Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.” “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” “It’s déjà vu all over again.” “I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.”
- Numbers that automatically link the mind to the historic stats that surround the MLB record books.
*56: Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak
*.406: Ted Williams’ batting average in 1941
*2,632: Cal Ripken’s consecutive games played streak
*7: number of no-hitters thrown by Nolan Ryan and uniform number worn by Mickey Mantle
*4,256: Pete Rose’s hit total
*60, 61, 70, 73: home run totals respectively by Ruth, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, and Barry
Bonds to set and break the single-season HR record
*130: Rickey Henderson’s total stolen bases in 1982
*511: Cy Young’s career win total
- High velocity pitchers like Jacob deGrom overpowering hitters with devastating fastballs.
- The sound of a ball off the bat.
- The sound of the ball slamming into a mitt.
- The smell of a new leather glove.
- The perfect measurements of 90 feet between bases, and 60 feet/six inches from the pitching rubber to home plate.
- The uniqueness of each ballpark—especially with the elimination of the cookie-cutter stadiums from the 1970s.
- Baseball uniforms—most notably the historic uniforms that have been virtually the same for decades—Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Cardinals, etc.
- The sound of venders singing, yelling, and/or advertising the selling of beer, hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, or cotton candy.
- The voice on the stadium intercom introducing players, especially the unique sound of Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard, “Now batting for the Yankees, No. 2, Deh-rik Jee-Tuh.”
- Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech.
- The legendary feats of many of the game’s greatest players—Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mays, Mantle, Aaron, Jackie/Frank/Brooks Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, etc.
- The historic radio or television calls of Russ Hodges (Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning home run for Giants), Joe Buck, (Ozzie Smith’s game-winning home run in 1985 NLCS), Vin Scully (Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in Game 1 of 1988 World Series), and Milo Hamilton (Hank Aaron’s 715thcareer homer).
- Harry Caray’s mispronunciation of player’s names or his game of saying names backwards.
- Over-the-wall defensive catches that steal home runs away from hitters.
- Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder catch in the 1951 World Series.
- Brooks Robinson’s defensive wizardry in the 1970 Fall Classic.
- White Sox outfielder Dewayne Wise’s acrobatic catch that saved pitcher Mark Buehrle’s perfect game.
- Game-saving defensive plays.
- Turning a double play to kill a potential rally.
- A pitcher fooling a runner by picking him off a base.
- A catcher surprising a runner with a quick, accurate pickoff throw.
- Line-drive balls that are caught with quick reflexes by pitchers.
- Infielders diving into the stands to make unbelievable catches on foul balls.
- The lost art of bunting that creates a run.
- Bunting to the opposite side of the field during a defensive shift.
- A sacrifice bunt . . . a player actually knowing how to lay one down to advance a runner.
- The suicide squeeze play.
- A runner stealing home . . . especially a straight steal.
- The double steal, when a runner breaks for second from first base and draws a throw to allow the runner from third to steal home.
- Watching Javier Baez tag base runners attempting to steal or advance bases.
- Rifled-armed outfielders gunning down runners trying to score.
- A Nolan Ryan fastball, Bert Blyleven curveball, Steve Carlton slider, Phil Niekro knuckleball, and Bruce Sutter split-finger from yesteryear and the Jordan Hicks fastball, Clayton Kershaw curve, Kyle Hendricks changeup, and Max Scherzer slider of the current era.
- Plays that make fans gasp in disbelief.
- Base runners who hustle by advancing bases on singles and beating out infield grounders for hits.
- Pitchers collecting unexpected base hits.
- The triple or inside-the-park home run—the most exciting plays in MLB.
- Walk-off home runs, especially when delivered with two outs and team trailing in the score.
- Rare hitting achievements—hitting for the cycle, clubbing three or four homers in a game, six-hit games, etc.
- Pitchers striking out 10 or more batters in a game.
- Closers fanning the side in order in the bottom of the ninth.
- A no-hitter.
- The breaking up of a no-hitter.
- A batter belting a home run in his first MLB at-bat.
- Rooting for your hometown team.
- Memories of going to a ballgame with your Dad.
- Attending a game with your friends or family.
- Catching a foul ball or home run ball in the stands.
- Watching pregame workouts and batting practice.
- The Home Run Derby.
- The All-Star Game.
- Watching a game and witnessing a team create the unexpected victory.
- The timeless beauty of the game.
- Baseball cards that remain forever new and pristine in your collection.
- Keeping score with a pencil and scorecard.
- Arguing over who is better—Willie, Mickey, or the Duke from the past; or Trout, Betts, or Harper among players in the game today.
- Comparing Cobb to Rose, Ruth to Aaron, Ryan to Johnson, Ivan Rodriguez to Bench, Williams to DiMaggio, Musial to Pujols, Trout to Mays, Fingers to Rivera and Henderson to Brock.
- The seventh-inning stretch.
- The extra-inning marathon that kept you awake all night.
- Runners who beat out a routine infield grounder.
- A single being stretched into a double; a double being stretched into a triple.
- A swing and a miss by a home-run hitter against a fastball throwing pitcher.
- Home plate umpires with loud strike calls.
- The famous nickames—Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, Sultan of Swat, Charlie Hustle, The Beast, Hammerin’ Hank, The Commerce Comet, The Iron Horse, Say Hey Kid, The Rocket, Ryan Express, Rapid Robert, Splendid Splinter.
Baseball’s mass appeal has been built on the incredible performances of MLB players who play for the love of the game.