The Green Fields of the Mind
April 2, 2015 11:56 AM   Subscribe

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone... (full audio on YT) (transcript)
With Major League Baseball season starting its season this Sunday, now is a good time to revisit Bart Giamatti's lyrical ode to the game, "The Green Fields of the Mind."

Perhaps best remembered as the man who banned Pete Rose from the sport for life, Major League Baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti was a monumental figure in the history of the game, and a thoughtful, erudite man who left us this elegant tribute to the game he so loved.

ESPN reflected on his legacy last year on the 25th anniversary of his passing.

Trivia: you may be familiar with Commissioner Giamatti's son, Paul, who has done some acting.
posted by DirtyOldTown (31 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love this! We are counting down the days. I enjoy baseball, a lot, but I'm not exactly a "fan" - I don't follow stats, I'm sort of generic on players. But I love the sound of baseball on the radio, almost nightly, and the slow progress of the season. It's beautiful and comforting, and things like this help make it so.
posted by Miko at 12:18 PM on April 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I love that essay. I like to read that and this column from a few years ago every February to remind myself that better times are coming soon.
posted by hobgadling at 12:19 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Even though I don't follow sports as obsessively as I did when I was younger (and not a parent), this is why baseball will always be important to me: hope. The hope was a bit more of a challenge and a bit more important before 2004 and the Red Sox comeback, but it still applies in the middle of shitty winters like the one we just had, knowing somewhere under that snow is green grass just waiting to pop through, that there will be a weirdly warm day in March or April where girls will trade their bulky coats for sundresses just to give Mother Nature the bird and pitchers and catchers are already toiling away before Lent doubles down on the misery.
posted by yerfatma at 12:31 PM on April 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I enjoy baseball fairly passively too; it's a seasonal phenomenon in the same way that the local drive-in hamburger and ice-cream stands are, a pleasant background drone for summer evenings. By the time spring training rolls around I usually find myself watching snippets of exhibition games because dammit, I wish it would just warm up outside already. This year especially; opening day may be Sunday but there's still a foot of snow on the ground here that just won't. go. away. Watching exhibition games in verdant, sunny Florida helps a little bit.
posted by usonian at 12:33 PM on April 2, 2015


It's killing me how much I need the old ball game this year. Time for my yearly viewing of Major League, I think.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:49 PM on April 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Beautiful. What is it about baseball, among all the sports, that inspires such lyrical language? Roger Angell and Red Barber among many others, I am looking at you.

I also cannot wait for opening day. The spring training, it is an irritant, almost but not quite what I am missing, not real or meaningful yet tantalizing.
posted by bearwife at 12:59 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm more of an active baseball fan at this point in my life (although it took me a while to get there, I didn't grow up caring much), but there's still something passive about the way I interact with the game. Sure, I read and follow baseball blogs and catch highlights and do all the things that are part and parcel of how I follow all my interests in 2015, but when it comes to the actual games...well, from April to October there's always baseball on. I can turn on the game when I'm making dinner or cleaning up, put the radio on at work or while I'm getting ready for bed. It's not a huge event like a football game, that demands your undivided attention, although it rewards attention if you give it; it's just something that's there when you want it, which is nice.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:00 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Opening Day should be a national holiday.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:14 PM on April 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.

Roger Hornsby
posted by one_bean at 1:25 PM on April 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm so excited about Opening Day! I'm going to be at Wrigley, and even though it's going to be a humongous mess for months, I'm still crazy pumped.
posted by protocoach at 1:29 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


"From here on the statistic 'runs batted in' shall be known as 'barts.' A pinch-hitter will be called a 'bartlett' or a 'giamatt,' depending on which league. The term 'hitting for the cycle'—single, double, triple and home run—will be known as 'being Bartish' ... "

Commissioner Faye Vincent takes the A. Bartlett Giamatti appreciation a little too far.
posted by stargell at 1:52 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think Dirty Old Town has got Cubs fever this year. The pre-season talk has gotten to him like its gotten to me. Anticipation.
posted by C.A.S. at 2:28 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't wait for the Mets to start breaking my heart again!

I wish they'd stop playing the goddam national anthem at games, but I guess that ain't gonna happen.
posted by languagehat at 2:48 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


The National Anthem doesn't bother me, but "God Bless America" every damned game irks me pretty bad.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:51 PM on April 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Same here. "Take Me out to the Ballgame" is plenty patriotic enough.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:55 PM on April 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


How widespread is the "waive your cap at the troops" thing we do at Nationals Park? It is terrible.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:55 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


languagehat: “I wish they'd stop playing the goddam national anthem at games, but I guess that ain't gonna happen.”
I too am fine with the anthem. Although I wish they'd just play music and let the people sing it.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:57 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


The National Anthem doesn't bother me, but "God Bless America" every damned game irks me pretty bad.
I'm pretty sure MLB mandates it during the All-Star game and the playoffs. (The league has control over the between-innings advertainment at stadiums during these games.) It's saccharine and redundant.
posted by clorox at 5:06 PM on April 2, 2015


What is it about baseball, among all the sports, that inspires such lyrical language?

There's lots of time to polish your prose while waiting for the damn DH to get back into the batter's box after re-adjusting his glove, spitting on it, hitting the dirt with the bat, re-re-adjusting the angle of his dangle, checking his MeFi profile for new favorites, etc. and during the eighth catcher and pitcher's conference this at-bat.

Same here. "Take Me out to the Ballgame" is plenty patriotic enough.

Heresy! Sweet Caroline. If there's one town that doesn't need to prove its patriotism to anyone, it's Boston. So they don't and play Sweet Caroline, and since they've started the tradition, they've hauled home the Comissioner's Tropy three times this century. Maybe the Cubs need to look into Neil Diamond during the seventh inning stretch? Not any of his '80s dreck, tho. The Baseball Gods would frown upon "Turn On Your Heart Light."
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:40 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't know if it's because this winter was more brutal than usual, but I'm jonesing so badly for the season to start. Opening Day can't come soon enough.

And it's remember folks, Vin Scully will only be around to call baseball games for so long. Enjoy him while you can.
posted by dry white toast at 7:38 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, Forget Vin - after the fourth inning you have Rick Monday and Orel his own goddamn self Hershiser on the radio out in LaLa Land... and if Orel can't make it? Nomar. Nomar is the color man. Wow, I can't even...

Except up here in New England, we have Joe Castiglione doing color and some forgettable gameshow-host sounding dude doing play-by-play. Joe Castiglione is like listening to a baseball broadcast from the interwar period, his voice and cadence would be as at home calling Babe Ruth and Ted Williams homers as it does David Ortiz and Derek Jeter.

During the first world series run, it was Joe on play-by-play and Jerry "Troop" Trupiano as the color man on the radio. Joe's frenetic pace interrupted by Troop's serene observations, Joe hyper technical and erudite, Troop patient and expansive. We've been to the world series twice since, but really... that first championship season, 2004, was magic and starlight on the radio. No baseball announcer pair before or since could live up to the glory and heartbreak of 2003, and the trials and triumph of 2004, and I include marble-mouthed Orsillo and RemDawg on the TV.

Serious.

They sound like they just drank a jug of milk, they're so flemmy. RemDawg is from Fall River, so yeah, he talks that way, Orsillo was raised in New Hampster, he should not sound like he's from Providence, but he does, in a not-genuine-way. Also, they have nothing interesting to say, and shut up and flip the Wally-Doll over and let random muckety-mucks hijack the broadcast after the sixth inning to blather on about their pet charities which no-one not rich will ever contribute to. Blah. The only worthwhile thing they say is, "There's famous author Stephen King in the stands behind home plate." Like he is once a week since forever.

So. Baseball on the radio. Better than baseball on TV, and since you can listen in actual real-time in the stands, a delightful augmentation on being there.

Baseball on TV - just say no!
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:49 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Heresy! Sweet Caroline. If there's one town that doesn't need to prove its patriotism to anyone, it's Boston. So they don't and play Sweet Caroline, and since they've started the tradition, they've hauled home the Comissioner's Tropy three times this century.

Man, Forget Vin

Pistols. At dawn. In the centerfield of your choice.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:52 PM on April 2, 2015


Minors or Majors? If I have to die at an MLB park, it's gonna be Pittsburgh. (Sorry Fenway, but you know its true)

Minors? I will die upon Cardines Field. Tell the Newport Gulls... I couldn't shoot for shit.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:03 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


dry white toast: “And it's remember folks, Vin Scully will only be around to call baseball games for so long. Enjoy him while you can.”
I know people all have their favorites, Vin Scully especially, but no one can ever take the place of Skip and Pete in my heart. Don't get me wrong, Chip is great. He really got me last season when he pulled out a Harry Caray impression saying, "Hey! Didya know that Detwiler spelled backwards is Rewilted?"

Skip died while I was away for the weekend camping, so I missed the Sunday afternoon game and the first I heard about it was reading the paper the next morning. I'm thankful a lot of this has migrated to YouTube, because otherwise I would have never heard it. Although, if you're like me, and I know you are, you'll want a handkerchief handy for your inevitable blubbering, emotional breakdown.

Skip Caray calls the 9th inning, 1992 NLCS Game 7 (A full half-inning. Ending with the famous call of Sid Bream's slide into home to win the game.)

WTBS 17 Atlanta “Relive The Moments” 1993 Pennant Race Parts 1 2 3 & 4

WGST 640 AM Atlanta Skip Caray Tribute (Some really great clips from Skip in this one. Including, e.g. the time he reamed ESPN for delaying the game or the time he reamed the umps for the Terry Francona "shirtgate." If you've only got time for one, make it this one.)

Skip Caray Memorial Parts 1 2 3 & 4
Harry Christopher Caray, Jr.
“Skip”
August 12, 1939 — August 3, 2008
“Braves Win! Braves Win!”
“So Long Everybody”
Okay, crying jag over. Now let's play ball.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:26 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid, in the 70's, the Braves were not, to say the least, contenders. Every opening day, the Cincinnati Reds would come to town and beat us like a rented mule. Why was it always the Big Red Machine? I don't know, but it got us ready for what was in store the rest of the season. So that sudden early 90's leap into greatness was really magical.
posted by thelonius at 2:45 AM on April 3, 2015


Joe on play-by-play and Jerry "Troop" Trupiano as the color man on the radio

I appreciate why some people couldn't stand Troop's "WAY BACK!!!" on balls that died on the track, but I felt forcing him out was horrible. It reeked of Dr. Charles & Tom trying to homogenize the product. I actually think Dave O'Brien's a great radio guy but since we have to share him with ESPN TV that means we have to put up with whatever WEEI hack is available a few nights that week. Each Spring I dream of Troop coming back in a motorcade like Doug Mirabelli because he deserves better-- I started listening to games on the radio in my teens and Jerry & Joe and I suffered through what I think of as The Scott Fletcher Years together. Those two kept it interesting no matter how far back the Sox were in the standings. A couple of highlights I'll always remember:

David Wells, "The Hefty Lefty", getting hit with a come-backer: "Don't worry folks, it hit him in the stomach."

Joe: "Kenny Rogers pitching for Texas tonight. You know Joe, every time we see Kenny Rogers, I think of Kenny Rogers and The New Edition. Whatever happened to The New Edition?"
Jerry: "What ever happened to Kenny Rogers?"

What is it about baseball, among all the sports, that inspires such lyrical language?

I thought it was Updike in his essay on Ted Williams who said baseball was a game to be watched while reading the paper (apparently it wasn't him) and I think that's a lot of it. I've come to soccer late in life and it inspires similar writing and philosophical meanderings and I think there's a commonality*: because you're not asked to live and die with every second it gives adults an excuse to sit and think we don't normally get. Maybe this year I'll try to put all electronics on a different floor of the house while I watch.

* Seems to apply to cricket as well but I never got all the way through Beyond a Boundary and don't understand the sport at all.
posted by yerfatma at 7:35 AM on April 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


forgettable gameshow-host sounding dude doing play-by-play.

Dave O'Brien??! The hell you say! I love Dave O'Brien! He's got an old-baseball voice, calm, doesn't miss a trick, dignified, laid-back. Absolutely love him. His voice relaxes me in and of itself. Joe C. sounds like the Smucker's guy, or "Pepperidge Farm Remembers." Not that I mind - they make a great pair. My favorite is when they talk about the fruit on special at Shaw's Market.

flemmy

Is that phlegmy? If so, I agree. But even if the TV hosts were terrific, baseball is just more beautiful on radio.

As to why baseball inspires such great prose - it's just a sport that lends itself to reflective thinkers. It's got fast action now and then but a lot of lulls, and long-game strategies, and a season full of averages. I can see that a lot of people enjoy it even if they're not deep literary types, but it's almost tailor made for people who like to expound on the sensory experiences, the sense of expansion of time-scales, the sheer beauty of the sport, and the myriad possible outcomes of any one play. It's a good sport for speculative/ruminating folks.
posted by Miko at 7:36 AM on April 3, 2015


In other words, I don't think baseball inspires great writing. so much as people who are (or will make for) great writers are drawn to baseball.
posted by Miko at 7:43 AM on April 3, 2015


I think it's easy to overestimate the extent to which these things are intrinsic to the game, versus just products of the culture that happens to grow around the sport. In 2015, I think largely by dent of the history of great baseball writing, baseball is the preferred sport of people who want to read lyrical, reflective sports writing. Once upon a time, though, it was William Hazlitt writing about boxing, which is a very different sport in terms of pacing, structure, etc., that people want to make the reason that baseball writing is good.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:11 AM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Baseball on TV - just say no!

Best of both worlds: baseball on TV with the sound off, while you listen to the radio broadcast.

> Seems to apply to cricket as well but I never got all the way through Beyond a Boundary and don't understand the sport at all.

You might be interested in my LH post on the book, in which I confess I skimmed a lot of it, and say:
My advice to someone who shares my ignorance of cricket but wants to get the best out of the book would be to read the first chapter, “The Window,” James’s evocation of his childhood; Chapter 18, “The Proof of the Pudding,” an exciting account of the scandalous behavior of the West Indian cricket crowd in 1960 and its consequences; and in between, Chapter 8, “Prince and Pauper,” which focuses on the West Indian cricket hero Learie Constantine and James’s relations with him following his journey to England in 1932. ... The story he tells about the West Indian renaissance is a good one; you just have to extract it from the sticky wicket on which it resides.
posted by languagehat at 8:33 AM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Once upon a time, though, it was William Hazlitt writing about boxing

I see your point and it's true that once established, a tradition has self-perpetuating power. At the same time, I think there would need to be a lot more William Hazlitts in other sports to make the case that there isn't also something intrinsic to the gameplay and material culture themselves that attracts good writers. I'm hard pressed to think of horse-racing, football, or basketball writers or even any other boxing writers who were took as literary a bent as baseball writers did, even early on.
posted by Miko at 8:52 AM on April 3, 2015


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