President Warren G. Harding threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a Washington Senators game held on April 13, 1921, at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. Washington ended up losing to the Red Sox, 6-3, making this the first time in six Opening Days contests the Senators have lost with the President of the United States throwing out the first pitch.
It’s been a week since Opening Day, but the season feels new enough that this song still feels appropriate. I really love the line about being “a kid once more.”
It’s like Christmas, except it’s warmer.
~Pete Rose, on Opening Day
Only three days remain until Opening Day! In spite of folks jumping the gun on returning to “business as usual,” given vaccine distribution progress, I’m still feeling pretty optimistic about the upcoming season.
Also, twelve days until Opening Day.
We all know that spring training is no indication of how the regular season is going to go. But there are years when I certainly wish it was.
I’ll be even more excited when we can finally attend ballgames (safely) in person again.
This piece is a parody of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s “Casey At the Bat” that I stumbled upon, and it’s a pretty good one. Adam Morris Garfinkle does a really good job of maintaining the rhythm and spirit of Thayer’s piece while capturing the story of the Washington Nationals’ 2019 season. I found this poem published in tandem with a piece, also written by Garfinkle, titled “In Lieu of Opening Day: The Poetry of Baseball.”
[in gratitude, to Ernest Lawrence Thayer]
The prospect wasn’t bright at all for the Washington Nats in May;
Their record stood at 19 and 31, with 112 gruesome trials to play,
Turner he got injured, and ‘ol Zim he turned up lame;
Despondency settled upon the hometown fans, again and again and again.
A faithless few their precious season tickets went to pawn,
But most just sighed with wistful longing, their hopes cruelly smashed and torn,
They thought that if only their pathetic bullpen could finally come around,
The pall of desperation would at least be lifted from the mound.
They blew so many saves we despaired of keeping track,
Of hit-and-run and sacrifice bunts there certainly was a lack.
They bobbled grounders, overthrew first, and dropped innocent pop flies,
You’d have thought the guys were trying to play the game with ‘baca plugs glued upon their eyes.
Our heroes stumbled through a maze of ghastly springtime torpors;
At one point losing five games straight, even getting swept by them New Yorkers;
“Fire the manager!”, the disgusted minions insistently demanded.
As if that would have made any difference, to be perfectly candid.
At last faint embers of diamond life slowly began to glow,
In early June they finally managed to win four games in a row;
The bats all at once seem to jump, their Louisville sluggers did thrive,
The pitching improved significantly with a revised rotation of five.
Little by little they strove to turn their season right around,
By the All-Star Break they’d mostly healed and felt pretty gosh darn sound,
Before long they passed up the Mets, then swiftly dropped the Phillies,
Waving back to Bryce as they gave chase for Atlanta willy-nilly.
They never did catch ‘em, their goofy tomahawk chop to still,
But they played good enough to climb high enough upon the standings hill,
To wild card their way into the lustrous postseason playoffs,
Finishing the regular season with a win streak that handsomely paid off.
So it was that the Nats came face-to-face with the Milwaukee Brewers,
In a winner-take-all single game, fans’ nerves jangling as if on skewers
Scherzer fell behind early, three big runs to zip,
The lineup looked utterly punchless, not one batsman connected with a rip.
Strasberg came in to relieve Max, for his very first relief stint ever,
And shut down Milwaukee’s mighty crew in a masterful endeavor;
Then with but six outs between them and cursed oblivion,
The eighth inning became at last a friend, and started us a-singin’.
For Taylor got plunked (maybe), and Zim cracked a solid single,
Rendon then walked to fill the bases, and Soto solidly delivered ‘em.
Three runs came home before the dust had settled, their first lead of the game,
Then Hudson came in to shut the door, and the town went totally insane.
“Beat LA!” the crowd then chanted, but that demanded gallantry;
The mighty Dodgers had won 106 games, and the Nats a mere 93,
The first game was a six-zip shutout, things did not look at all good.
But the Nats won the second 4 to 2, they knew in their hearts they could.
Game 3 was an unmitigated full-frontal home field disaster,
LA scored ten runs and our faces turned to alabaster,
Now down two games to one in a short best-of-five series,
Our breathing went giddily shallow and our attitude turned quite leery.
The guys pulled out game four 6-1, to even the series two and two,
But back to LA they had to go for the crucial deciding set-to.
They fell behind again, three-nothing after two,
Exactly as in the Brewers game; hmm, could that be a clue?
They tied it in the eighth off Kershaw, the poor bedraggled fellow,
Rendon and Soto dinged him back to back, and we felt oh so mellow.
Then Howie Kendrick slammed the Dodger door shut in the tenth,
After which Mr. Excitement Sean Doolittle one-two-threed a breathless heaven-sent.
Then came Saint Louis for to joust the coveted NL Pennant,
This was to be no ordinary series, and we really truly meant it.
For oh how cruelly had the Cardinals crushed us back in 2012,
Erasing a 6-run Nats lead in game six, dropping us straight down into hell.
The Nationals were taking no prisoners this time around,
They chewed up the Red Birds, flung them hard down on the ground,
Plucked them but good they did, winning four games in a row;
No one believed the Nats could sweep ‘em; it only goes to show.
And so came the World Series, the Nation’s Capital exploded
With joy and rapture and mirth; some folks even got loaded.
Off to Houston the victors then made for to travel,
As serious underdogs surely, most thought, bound quickly to unravel.
But we whooped ‘em twice in Texas, ‘twas hard even to conceive!
Our spirits were buoyant, you bet your sweet life we believed.
Houston was supposed to be down in the great state of Texas, doc.
But the Nats left that city reeling in a total state of shock.
Not so fast countin’ your chickens, said the Astros, we ain’t done yet.
Then they won three straight in DC; d’ya think we got upset?!
Now down three games to two, and facing two more on the road,
The odds-makers smirked, the Nats’ll flush right down the hall-of-shame commode.
But we pulled out the first one 5 to 4, forcing a deciding game seven,
On the day before Halloween no less, we were jumpier than a flea in denim.
The guys got down two zip with but a measly nine outs to give,
It seemed that maybe, just maybe, the boys had finally run out of fizz.
But that’s not how it ended, I’m oh so glad to tell,
The guys sliced clean through the Astros bullpen pell-mell;
Howie lined one off the right-field foul pole; Houston sunk down in pain.
How he even hit Harris’s low outside sinker at all, no one could explain.
In the baseball dome of heaven dugout angels rejoiced on high,
The Big Train looked down on where Griffith used to be and plaintively cried,
Huzzah and hosannah, shouted Saint Kenesaw Mountain Landis,
Not since Calvin Coolidge was President have I seen anything so marvelously outlandish.
So hats off to the Nationals, true champions of baseball lore,
Bringing the Nation’s Capital its first Series win since 1924.
We even booed the President, and some held out snotty hankies.
The only way it could have been better? Had the Astros been the goddamn Yankees.
MLB Opening Day was yesterday, and as hard as I tried, I just could not get excited about it. The Royals play their opening game tonight, and while I feel a tiny bit happier about that, it’s still nothing like what I usually feel when Opening Day comes around.
I am making an effort, I really am. From the time the announcement came down that a season was going to happen up to now, I have been trying to get excited about baseball.
It’s just really hard to do right now.
Every time I think about Major League Baseball proceeding with a season, I find myself thinking, “Half those players are going to get COVID.” “This season will be ended by early September.” “It’s not like anyone can go to the games anyways.” “It’s not about the game, it’s all about the money.”
Now, admittedly, bringing baseball back is not all bad. It’s been weird not having new games to watch, even from the living room. I miss the highlight reels, even the repetitive ones. I miss having to confess to my co-workers, “Um, yeah… I fell asleep in the seventh inning, so I didn’t see that homer.” I miss the bench-clearing brawls in all their glorious stupidity. I miss seeing the perfectly cut grass of the myriad outfields and listening to the various broadcasters react to and analyze the games. I miss baseball itself.
But even that can’t drown out the thought in my head that keeps insisting that going through with this season is stupid to the core. The schedule is so short and compact, it’s almost laughable. Then there’s the not-so-funny fact that all these players are at risk for exposure.
I will watch some games — it will be hard not to. But it still won’t be the same.
I’m sorry baseball. I just can’t this year.
Players, owners, teams, the league… all the moving parts of the MLB universe have finally come together, and we are, at last, going to see some baseball for the 2020 season!
Major League Baseball is having a second Spring Training (or should we call it “Summer Training” at this point?) to begin in about a week’s time, on July 1st. Then, we will be looking at a 60-game regular season, to be played over the course of about 66 days, from about July 23rd or 24th until September 27th. The postseason will begin on September 29th, with the World Series to begin on October 20th, and a potential Game 7 to be played on October 28th.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, access to games is going to be limited, of course. No fans in the stands is going to seem a bit weird, but so long as we can watch games from the comfort of our living rooms, that seems like a minor concession at this point. There will be a regimen of temperature checks and symptom checks, as well routine tests for the virus, not just among players, but also coaches, trainers, staff, etc. Players who are high-risk or who have family members at high risk have the option to opt out for the season and still get paid. Media interactions with the teams, meanwhile, will all take place through Zoom, in order to adhere to social distancing recommendations.
On the field, spitting will be banned, which makes perfect sense given the nature of how the virus spreads. Non-playing players in the dugout will be required to wear masks. Pitchers will bring their own rosin bags and will even be permitted to carry a wet rag in their back pocket so they won’t need to lick their fingers (does anyone else sniff a potential for some doctoring on this one?). Social distancing, in general, remains strongly encouraged.
How well will this all work? Obviously, it’s difficult to tell until things really get underway. The potential for a widespread outbreak remains very real — just look at what happened among the Phillies last week — and for all we know, the season might end abruptly after the first thirty days.
Information about this new development is still coming, even as I write this. This strange, strange season just keeps getting stranger, and while I’m happy that we’re going to see some ballgames, half of me is intensely curious about how long it’s really going to last.