Terence Mann, played perfectly by James Earl Jones, gave perhaps the best soliloquy about baseball, ever. It is so good, high school English teachers should have their students memorize and interpret it instead of Hamlet’s To Be or Not To Be. In the current absence of baseball, rewatching it reminds us of what we are missing.
Today is June 18, near the summer solstice two days from now. This is the time when, during the 8:00 pm hour, the sun creates a human shadow that makes a person feel 20-feet tall, just as they are in Mann's speech.
This is the time of year when complete strangers gathered in a ballpark bellow in unison, “CHARGE!,” when the organist finishes that familiar string of notes - dun-na din-na!
This is the time of year when hot dogs taste best. Oh, sure a backyard barbecue is good, but it does not compare to the foil wrapped steamy goodness of a ballpark hot dog. Even if the bun is a bit soggy.
This is the time of year when every six-year-old asks for Dippin’ Dots. What the heck are Dippin’ Dots? Can a person buy them at Walmart? (Answer is, well, as you can see, one can buy a type of Dippin' Dots at Walmart). But I digress...
This is the time when people of all generations, strangers mostly, come together as a community, instead of tearing the community apart, to mindlessly watch a baseball game, perhaps paying attention, perhaps not.
Rarely on the summer solstice, does the outcome of a baseball game matter. No team is ever really eliminated from contention by June 20. And besides, there is usually a game the next day. It is not for wins or losses that we watch or listen; it is for hope, for optimism, for a reconnection with peace that we watch or listen.
Indeed, as Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell observed in his wonderfully titled (and written) collection of essays, “Why Time Begins on Opening Day,” “The crowd and its team had finally understood that in games, as in many things, the ending, the final score, is only part of what matters. The process, the pleasure, the grain of the game count too.”
“People will come, Ray... They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past... For it is money they have and peace they lack.”
Being in the crowd is great. For me, listening on the radio is just as good. My earliest memories of baseball fandom involve me listening to Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett narrate a 1970s Dodger game on the giant stereo/record player/behemoth console in our Westlake Village house.
Scully had a way of making you feel like he was talking directly to you; always wishing you a very pleasant afternoon or evening. Early on in the pandemic, he was the voice of reason. Scully retired after the 2016 season following 66 years of broadcasting Dodgers games. Hearing him wish me (and let’s face it, he was talking to me) a good day during the pandemic, reminded me of what we are currently missing.
It was six years ago today, June 18, 2014, I stayed up late, as I often did during the summer, to watch history. Clayton Kershaw threw a near perfect game (dang Hanley Ramirez error) with Vin Scully at the microphone. That night, I went to bed way too late; but I did it with a smile on my face. At peace.
“Baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.”