National Baseball Day, a still-to-be-declared official holiday, has never been needed more.
With the World Series opening this week, millions of fans -- old and older -- will enjoy what remains the most fabled, historic sporting event in America. Over the course of four to seven games, the Philadelphia Phillies or the Tampa Bay Rays will become the 104th world champion and cement themselves in the memory banks of all who watched from their living rooms, dens, or bar stools. The only trouble is, you won't find many children with any recollection of the 2008 World Series, whatsoever.
My 9-year-old daughter Sofia has played baseball (now softball) for four years already, and she's attended more than 70 games at AutoZone Park, almost all of them Sunday matinees, under the sunshine, when the game was intended to be played. But my 4th-grade daughter -- who has a book report about Stan Musial to her credit, and a photograph with Stubby Clapp -- has yet to see the 7th-inning stretch of a World Series game. And that is a modern American atrocity.
There was a time, believe it or not, when American children missed World Series games because they were in school -- during the daytime -- when the contests were played. But at least on weekends until 1983, kids might have a chance to cheer the sight or sound of DiMaggio, Koufax, Gibson, or Rose playing baseball on its biggest stage for the kind of acclaim that turns human beings into super heroes. But no more. For fully a quarter century now, World Series games have begun long after the sun has set on the east coast. Games end well after midnight far too frequently, with responsible parents having tucked their children into bed so they'll have plenty of energy to read about the results the next morning.
National Baseball Day would change this. On the Wednesday when Game 1 of the Series is scheduled to be played, government offices and -- most importantly -- schools would close. The game would start at 3 pm eastern time, and every child in America would have the option of watching nine innings (if the gods are watching, more) of World Series baseball.
Television executives continue to take their eye off the ball of ad revenue with this venture. With ratings having sagged for a decade, National Baseball Day would be Super Bowl Sunday in October, and while adults will continue to fall for one beer sale after another, the audience for video games, soft drinks, and potato chips will double for an afternoon World Series game. Best of all -- pay attention, Commissioner Bud Selig -- baseball will gain new fans, many of them lining up in a few short years to buy that precious beer being hocked.
And what if you don't call yourself a baseball fan? No obligation to watch at all. Take this blessed break -- midway between Labor Day and Thanksgiving -- to enjoy something you haven't in a while. Particularly if you're a parent, do something with your sons and daughters you haven't been able to squeeze in over what have become all-too-busy family weekends. That bike ride around the neighborhood you've promised. Flying a kite near the lake. When's the last time you sat down and "played pretend" with your kids? Enjoy the day however you choose. Just remember it was baseball -- our national pastime, still -- that got you the bonus time.
In a recent episode of "Baseball's Golden Age" on Fox Sports, veteran broadcaster Bob Costas reflected on the day in 1963 when his 6th-grade teacher brought a television set to school so Costas and his classmates could watch Game 1 of the World Series between Whitey Ford's New York Yankees and Sandy Koufax's Los Angeles Dodgers. Said Costas: "I don't remember the lesson of the day before, or the lesson of the day after. But I'll remember THAT day as long as I live." It's time America did for its children what that teacher did for Costas.