A forum member turned to me for an answer as if I had one. “Now suppose you tell us why that is. You’re a male and you know something about baseball and discrimination, don’t you? So tell us why.”
“I dunno,” I said intelligently, hoping to avoid the issue.
“Oh, come on, you must have some idea. Or do you want to pretend that a smart fellow like yourself knows nothing or cares nothing about sexism in the sport of baseball?”
“Well, since you put it that way, I think there are things about the game a woman wouldn’t tolerate, let alone enjoy. She wouldn’t like the look or the smell or the no-holds-barred bench-jockeying of the dugout. Not to mention the sunflower seeds, chocolates, chewing gum, tobacco chaws and God knows what else players like to chew and spit. Oh yes, and some players are superstitious enough not to change their garments if they’ve played well in them. They don’t want to change their luck by changing their uni. I’m not even mentioning the locker room. No woman in her right mind would want to be there when the players get frisky and rowdy, but a separate facility might invite charges of not being a team player.”
“You chew and drool, use bad language, engage in inappropriate conduct and wear soiled uniforms?” another woman asked, making a face at such unspeakable practices.
“On the other hand, we’re all pretty good sports, except for the knock-down relievers, and we love the fans and little kids who idolize us. And whatever you may think, ladies, there’s no harm in a bit of sweat, a blot of infield dirt or a stain of outfield grass.”
“It sounds like the kind of things a woman has to put up with from a man,” the woman nodded. “Well, a woman can correct all that. The sooner you get women into the game, the cleaner and better the game will be.”
A cheer greeted her analysis and allowed me to escape further inquisition. It also spared me from having to admit wearing my lucky socks more than once, playing outfield with a 1940s infielder’s glove, and enjoying a power snack while on duty by concealing a Snickers bar chunk between my cheek and gum. Such are the secrets of baseball.
Inning Four: Slang Bang
I once attended a ball game with an otherwise intelligent lady who knew nothing whatever about the rules and slang of the sport. I tried to bring her into the game with what she needed to know, but in the fourth inning, Will “The Thrill” Clark hit a shot out of the park and into the bay, and I reacted with unrestrained fan ardor.
“Wowie! Zowie! He really tattooed that one!”
Whereupon the lady, trying to make sense of my outburst, asked, “Do they tattoo baseballs so they can retrieve them later?'”
I didn’t have an answer to that.
I still don’t.
Inning Five: Ever hear of “Nuke” LaLoosh?
If not, you should definitely look this guy up, He requires your close consideration if only because his mentor summed him up as “A million dollar fast ball and a five cent brain.”
Nuke was the brash, rash rook with a tremendous heater that seldom found the plate. His control was so awful he once beaned his team’s mascot and scattered batters like a hurricane.
You’ll find this remarkable character in the film “Bull Durham,” which has my vote for the best baseball movie of them all.
Nuke is my favorite character in baseball because he has a lesson to learn about the ability, humility, gratitude and sportsmanship required of a player if he hopes to acquire the skills needed to make it as a pro. Will he learn all he needs to know from catcher “Crash” Davis, a vet who’s seen it all? Or can he take lessons from Annie Savoy, a gal devoted to the game and its players? Annie is the ultimate fan, a heart-and-soul groupie who knows how to nurture the player she adopts each season. Between the catcher and the lover, even a rookie like this rookie may learn what it means to play the game.
Screenwriter Ron Shelton, a former minor league player, based the character on a player whom he saw in action during his playing time, not with the Durham Bulls of North Carolina, but the Stockton Ports. It remains Stockton’s greatest gift to the national pastime.
Inning Six: The Wit and Wisdom of Yogi Berra
Don’t get me started.
I collect Yogi’s wit and wisdom (popularly known as “Yogi-isms”) the way others folks collect stamps or coins. Some of Mr. Berra’s thoughts don’t make sense on first hearing. Some don’t make sense after repeated hearing. But all pay tribute to the memory of the squat little immortal behind the plate who wore “the tools of ignorance” with distinction.
The greatest short film in baseball is a television commercial with Yogi sitting in a barbershop chair expounding on the laws of finance when the AFLAC duck wanders in, hears the words of the Yankee great and gives us the most astonished look you’ll ever see on a duck. Talk about a classic.
And in conclusion, let us remember the words of Yogi the economist who ventured the opinion that “Cash is just as good as money.”
Well, isn’t it?
Inning Seven: Time to Stretch and Quench
The fans have come to their feet to sing to the organist’s spirited rendition of our second national anthem—“Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”
Excuse me, I’d like nothing better than to stay and join the crowd in singing my favorite song of them all, but it’s been a long afternoon at the ball park. I need the restorative power of a hot dog and a cold brew.
Actually, the stadium has a high class side if you wish to go beyond the ordinary and buy into gourmet. Therefore, instead of the usual dog and the ordinary beer, I’m going upscale, Yes, it’s expensive, but you only live once, I’ll have the dog that won a Michelin star and a Mexican margarita crafted with Jose Cuervo Especial Silver Tequila.
“Sorry, pal, but you’ve been misinformed,” the wiener server informs me. “The French don’t award stars to hot dogs.”
“Why not?”‘ I ask. “Stars eat them, don’t they? All right, give me one that proves a hot dog at the ball park tastes better than a steak at the Ritz or a chicken pot pie at Musso and Frank.”
“Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about. We don’t have a dog that proves anything beyond the fact that you’re holding up the line that wants what we have.”
“No, we don’t serve stuff like that,” the beer server informs me, shaking his head. “Wait a minute. Cuervo, did you say? Didn’t he pitch for the Pirates? The guy with a great curve?. The guy they called Jose Cuerv-ball?”
Uh, oh, the eighth inning is starting, Never mind the Michelin star. Never mind the Cuerv-ball. There’s more important things in life, like can we beat the Dodgers when Kershaw is cooking and Brandon Belt is determined to make contact? Give me what you’ve got and make it snappy. I’ve got to get back to my seat.