Monday April 22, 2002
FRESNO PRO BASEBALL
A game of skill
or a Job for the unemployed?
Bill Corson, Contributor
FRESNO -- Baseball! When
played by professionals for profit, it is a performance of worldly
employment and business. Enter the Fresno Grizzlies and the
sickly team's financial investors and local promoters.
It didn't always exist in its current form,
with rules, giant City owned ballparks, minor leagues, and the team
History establishes that the first literary reference
to "baseball" was made by John Newberry in 1744. Newberry
wrote, "The ball once struck - Away flies the boy - From each abandoned
post - To the next with joy."
Since then, other writers have discussed
baseball with the same underlying connotation to the play of boys.
In the year 1824, American writer Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: "...there is nothing now heard of, in
our leisure hours, but ballóballóball." Of
course, his version of "ball" is very different from the "baseball"
we think of in current baseball literature, but much of the conception
of play vs. work is still the same.
Even, Walt Whitman wrote of baseball as a form
of A erican leisure, "it's our game: that's the chief fact in connection
with it: America's game." As Whitman captured the spirit of America
in his literary way, he felt compelled to link baseball to the spirit
of the play of children.
Like so many writers after them, Twain
and Whitman thought baseball expressed fundamental risk taking plkay,
and orgqnized idlenesse. Twain wrote that baseball was a form of
psychopathy, in thatit was "...wild, vigorous, improvisational,
rushing toward the future..." risk taking, and time wasting.
Newspapers followed along behind on the
wild ride. By the 1860's even Clarence Darrow was writing , "I have
snatched my share of joys from the grudging hands of Fate as I have
jogged along, but never has life held for me anything quite so entrancing
By 1913, H.L. Mencken was caught explaining
that baseball stimulates "a childish and orgiastic local pride,
a typical American weakness..." pathology.
It's easy to see what all of the excitement
is about when come to realize that baseball playersthough they are
paid actors, risk kife and limb playing out their roles, often ruin
their health, and generally suffer major health breakdows by early
50's. Lower back injuries, broken bone in the feet and ankles often
prevent older players from maintaining any gainful employment after
the short lived baseball days are over.
All the paid admission and pass holders,
and the players themselve, know it. For a variety of reasons, playing
baseball and getting paid for is all the work they can get. While
they can play, the young men take the money and worry about ther
lost youth and failing health later. For the present, they have
work and pay and tghey are loved by the fans. That's in the now.
It reminds me of the pro wrestling
script. Most fans agree with me, but won't admit it.
Perhaps it's true what Richard Ford says about
sports having very little lasting value, but there's something about
staging a baseball game that draws the simple minded to such a diversion
and delivers to them heaping portions of despair, laughter, tears,
false hope, and the experience of programmed idleness together with
a free stage show after the game is over!
All of these factors figure for minor league
baseball as a sort of wonderful, irresistible mass propaganda session,
so enduring in its personal and group impact, so varied in its lore
and chatter, it seems to have everything aman with too much time
on his hands could ask for, most especially the opportunity for
providing moral support rehab of injured players who otherwise lack
permanent gainful employment.
by The Fresno Republican Newspaper.
All rights reserved.