“As long as the grass is that luscious green, as long as the uniforms inspire young jaws to sag, and as long as the taste of Cracker Jack and the sound of ball on bat remain the same, baseball will be the delightful diversion to workaday life it was meant to be.”
On September 14th — a Thursday — I spent most of the afternoon watching two baseball teams play for a championship at AutoZone Park. It was a bright, cloudless day, still technically summer, but minus the stifling heat and humidity the season can bring this region of the world between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Game 2 of the Pacific Coast League championship series had been pushed back a day by lingering effects of Hurricane Irma. Since Thursday was “getaway day” for the two teams — the Memphis Redbirds and El Paso Chihuahuas — the game started at noon to accommodate an evening trip to Texas (where the Redbirds would win the title three days later).
It was bliss. For a middle-aged kid still devoted to America’s original pastime, this was as close to National Baseball Day as we’ve come. Sunshine, championship baseball, and a break from work. (In my case, the break absorbed most of the afternoon, and my boss joined me for the late innings, as every boss should for such an event.) When Adolis Garcia crushed an 11th-inning home run for a 1-0, walk-off win for the home team, it was confirmed: the baseball gods were watching.
National Baseball Day will come. It’s taken longer than I’d like, but so did my taste for red wine and Norman Mailer. Some rewards are better appreciated with a long buildup.
Here’s how the holiday would work, in case you’ve missed this column the past 15 years. On the day Game 1 of the World Series is played — typically a Tuesday — Americans would get to stay home in honor of the sport that gave us Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and the Seventh Inning Stretch. No one plays like we do in the United States. National Baseball Day would bridge the holiday gap between Labor Day and Thanksgiving while celebrating an act of recreation.
The game would start at 3 p.m. Eastern, allowing every child from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, to see every pitch, hit, stolen base, and replay review (ugh) if he or she so chooses. Families split across time zones could connect via smart phone and share in the exploits of the latest October hero. Extra bonding time for friends and families around a baseball game. Imagine that.
If you’re not a baseball fan, stop the eye roll. This holiday is for you, too. Take a hike (literally). Grab your rod and reel. See a movie you’ve been meaning to see, and with the right person. Have a picnic lunch. Enjoy a day of leisure, courtesy the game of baseball.
Television will resist this movement, of course. Those at Fox or TBS or whoever happens to hold the rights to the Fall Classic will rope themselves to the mast of prime-time ad rates. Instead, they might consider another sporting event that does rather well as a stand-alone happening, begun before prime time, with most families together at home: the Super Bowl. Savvy ad execs will recognize their audience for National Baseball Day.
The opening quote of this column? I wrote that for Memphis magazine’s October 2003 issue, when my daughters were ages 4 and 1. One is now a freshman in college, the other a sophomore (pitcher!) in high school. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the last daytime World Series game (one ironically played in Minnesota’s abominable Metrodome). Let’s not allow another generation of children to grow up before they can enjoy the magic of National Baseball Day.