It’s so easy to be the overly cynical guy, mumbling something about how spring games don’t mean anything every chance you get, but then you start believing what you’re saying. It’s easy to harumph a Thomas Neal double off the wall because a) it doesn’t mean anything, b) he’ll be down in minor league camp soon, and c) I’m not in Arizona, sitting in a cheap, shady outfield seat drinking a $5 Coke with a splash of crotch-concealed bourbon, laughing at the starch-collared peons who have to work under fluorescent lights. I can’t get excited about reading box scores. It’s hard to get excited about web-only radio broadcasts; during the baseball season, I’m trying to juggle a radio broadcast with work once a week, at most. Having to do so every single day is almost stressful.
This happens every year. Usually what I do to snap out of the funk is reread The Glory of Their Times, which is my favorite baseball book of all time. This year, though, someone mentioned they read The Soul of Baseball, so I gave it a shot. It’s a fantastic, quick read. It’s 200 pages that covers the following:
- Buck O’Neil was a fascinating man.
- Buck O’Neil might have been the most positive person to ever live.
- Buck O’Neil liked to reminisce about baseball, which is a game he loved as much as anyone could love it.
- The catty know-nothings who kept Buck O’Neil out of the Hall of Fame all deserve to be poked in the eye with a year-old Dodger Dog until they get gastroenteritis of the eye, even though O’Neil was too positive to think such of a thing.
- Baseball is awesome.
The book is about enjoying the game in the present, but it’s also deeply concerned with personal baseball memories. O’Neil was fond of asking people what their best day in baseball was. He’d also ask what their first baseball memories were, which is today’s comment starter. My first baseball memories:
- Being so excited before my first Giants game, bouncing off the walls and driving my mom nuts with so many arewegoingnowarewegoingnowarewegoingnows, she set a timer for me. When the timer rang, we’d get in the car and head to Candlestick. She was smart -- I shut up and stared at the timer for a while.
- Going to an A’s/Orioles game with just my dad and clapping so loudly for Benny Ayala that my dad had to tell me to stop. See, I had a collection of about 15 baseball cards at the time, and this was one of them. So Ayala was my favorite player playing in the game, and shame on my dad for stifling would could have been a life-long obsession with Benny Ayala. Eventually, my collection grew to about 12,983,200 baseball cards, half of which are in my car right now because my mom got sick of storing them for me. I’ll have to look for that Ayala card.
- Asking my mom if I could bring a drum to the game -- like Crazy George, or something -- and my mom defusing the situation by telling me I could bring a drum only if I found one at the garage sale they were stopping by on the way to the game. There was a drum at the garage sale, a small tambourine-sized thing that was still able to produce a nice amount of noise. My mom couldn’t go back on her deal, so she had to explain to her seat neighbors why she brought a six-year-old kid with a drum to a baseball game.
- Walking around the upper-deck concourse in Candlestick when the crowd started to roar. My mom grabbed me, and we ran out to the entrance to the closest section just in time to see Joe Morgan round second base.
Reading The Soul of Baseball got me in that sentimental baseball mood, dang it. Your first baseball memories, if you would.