These days, I save a quarter-hour of time by not checking the previous night’s baseball results each morning.
That feels odd, vaguely like leaving the house without my car keys.
In one sense, I am always troubled when I leave the house without my car keys. But in a closer-to-home sense, I usually leave my car keys on my desk when I feed the dogs, cats and chickens or to take my daily one-mile walk around our fields. I take that walk with our two dogs. Passers-by sometimes see from one to four small gray cats appearing to tag along. Cats, being cats, don’t admit to liking company. They insouciantly insist they just stroll at the same time as we do, but would never actually get pleasure from joining us.
That sense that something once vital has vanished is happening to Major League Baseball all across the country. Owners and players put money ahead of love of the sport. They will not agree on how or whether to hold a COVID-shutdown shortened season.
I no longer miss professional baseball.
Last Friday, I had a medical appointment in Pittsburgh, a checkup I had scheduled back before the lockdown. I deliberately made the appointment for late morning, hoping to piggyback attendance at a Pirate game Thursday night or Friday afternoon or evening.
There are no games. There have been no games. This absence has led me to conclude that I no longer care if these supremely talented and quite rich players and the supremely rich and quite arrogant owners ever do agree to resume play.
I will not attend — probably not ever again.
I have been a baseball fan since Bill Dickey was a Hall of Fame catcher-manager for the New York Yankees of the American League back in 1946 and Ralph Kiner was a slow-footed, power-hitting outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League in 1946-53. My father and his four brothers each had favorite teams of their own. As the oldest boy of the ensuing generation, I was regularly wooed to place my allegiance with those brothers’ teams just as fervently as today’s political Trump or Biden supporters evangelize.
I settled on Uncle Tim’s Pirates and Uncle Flat’s Yankees, much to the chagrin of Cubs-addict Dad or Giants-fanatic Uncle Tony. I have been a baseball fan, sometimes a fanatic, ever since. I own Yankees jackets, Pirates shirts and caps bearing the decals of both clubs. I talk baseball with three sons and at least a half-dozen grandchildren, with former co-workers, with friends.
So, Omigosh, how will I break the seven-decade habit of rooting for pro baseball teams? Aren’t I addicted for life, no matter what the players and team owners do this year?
Nope. Habits do fade away.
Back in the 1940s-50s, I was also a fan of cowboys Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger, who vied for young boys’ loyalty against Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy. I had a two-gun Roy Rogers cap pistol and holster set and a black Lone Ranger mask. Knowing me, I probably mixed up the two.
Those memories live forever. But I no longer spend money on Roy Rogers or the Lone Ranger accouterments.
Out of sight, out of mind.
From what I read, the baseball team owners of 2020 are terrified that if they agree to anything less than huge cuts in pay and benefits to play a shortened season, those agreements will become the “floor” for the new labor agreement.
From what I read, the players of 2020 simply do not trust the owners.
From what I read ... but, wait.
The game of baseball itself combines childlike enthusiasm with the sophisticated intricacy of ballet.
But without games to watch, the “National Pastime” is about to fade into the sports fringe now occupied by, say, horse racing. Back during Colonial times and thereafter, horse racing was the “national pastime” of its day — in no small measure because nearly everybody who wanted or needed to travel either owned horses or rented horses.
When horses were replaced by machines using motors or engines, horse racing declined. By now, if it would no longer be subsidized by Pennsylvania taxpayers (count me among those who object to that use of my tax dollars), horse racing would be mostly a memory.
”Baseball, hot dogs and apple pie” will live forever in the American psyche, won’t they?
I’ll vote for the hot dogs and the apple pie.
But I have found other uses for my time that are just as psychologically rewarding, and are far more productive to boot. The game itself will always be worth playing, worth watching — and I can do that of a summer evening at any Federation League field where local men display the art of the sport.
It is almost midsummer.
There is no Major League Baseball.
I no longer care.
[Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren, and former publisher of The Leader-Vindicator. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org]