October is a special month in my world. My mom celebrates her birthday on the 15th. Tennessee and Alabama play the only college football game that really matters. And with two daughters under the age of 10, Halloween has new charms every fall. But October could be even better. And here‘s how.
Even considering the month’s other highlights, when I hear October, my mind hears “World Series.’˜ Still and forever the greatest sporting event on American soil. Four to seven days of watching the next chapter in a history being written by the descendants of Ruth, Dean, DiMaggio, Robinson, Mantle, Gibson, Koufax and Jackson. As the mercury drops, the World Series provides an annual sendoff to what remains (NFL and NASCAR be damned) our national pastime. All that’s missing is an appropriate way for Americans to fully celebrate the great game of baseball, and I’ve got the solution: National Baseball Day.
Labor Day to Thanksgiving is a long time for Americans to go without a paid vacation. And for a country so in love with leisure and spectator sports, how is it that a formal holiday connected to one of those sports hasn’t already been declared? Well, that’s where National Baseball Day comes into play.
The holiday would fall on the final Wednesday in October (since when do Mondays and Fridays have holiday hegemony?), when Game 4 of the World Series is typically played. Schools and government offices would close. We’d allow grocery stores and retail shops to open, but only depending on the relative passion for baseball of each shop’s owner.
The key to National Baseball Day its most unique offering to the American people would be that Game 4 of the Series would be played DURING THE DAY. Yes, Americans, national sponsors and television fat cats would take a backseat for this one day to the most important baseball fans on the planet: kids. The first pitch of Game 4 would be at 3 p.m. eastern (noon on the west coast). The ballplayers would actually need to wear eye black for Game 4, sunglasses if they’re cool enough. “Prime time˜ would become “child time,˜ where a father in Maine could show his little girl just how great Trevor Hoffman is when the alltime saves leader enters a game in the ninth inning. Particularly playing in San Diego as he has for more than a decade, Hoffman is merely a rumor to any baseball fan born after the first Bush administration.
Remember Joe Carter’s Series-winning homer in 1993? Not if you’re under the age of 25. You were in bed when it happened. Luis Gonzalez’ Series-winning single in 2001? All responsible parents had their kids tucked in, sound asleep on a school night. (How many mornings have I greeted my 7-year-old daughter at the breakfast table with a story of a game-winning home run by Albert Pujols the night before? Were it not for a blast she saw herself at Busch Stadium last July on a Sunday afternoon I’m convinced my little girl would categorize Pujols with the likes of Peter Pan, Robin Hood, and the Tooth Fairy. Transcendent, if all too invisible.)
It’s been more than 20 years since anyone got a sunburn at a World Series game. National Baseball Day could end that. And for those of you who don’t give a flip about baseball, even less the World Series? That’s fine, too. Take the day off and enjoy what you will: a walk in the park (take your kids!), catching up on a novel, a movie with your mom or dad. Just remember it’s baseball that got you there.
I started paying attention to the World Series in 1979, when I was 10 years old. And the only reason I could watch each game, start to finish, was because my family lived in California at the time. The games started about an hour after I got out of school. Willie Stargell’s Pirates came back from a three-games-to-one deficit to beat Jim Palmer’s Baltimore Orioles and left the country singing “We Are Family’˜ far longer than Sister Sledge would have otherwise. Imagine that: baseball and family, wrapped up in one catchy tune for the ages. Not a bad song to have on hand for the first National Baseball Day.