Hugh Fulford: Play Ball!

The game of baseballA few days ago, a cry went up in ballparks all across America—”Play Ball!”

I fell in love with the game of baseball when I was just a little boy. I still remember my mother ordering me a baseball uniform and glove from Sears & Roebuck when I was about eight or nine years old, how anxiously I anticipated the arrival of the package, and how excited I was when it finally came.

Other than junior high school and high school football, basketball, and baseball, the little town in which I grew up did not have formally organized sports teams such as dominate the scene of towns and cities in America today. The school “Vocational Shop” teacher nevertheless loved sports of all kinds and took an interest in the boys of our community by working with us in the summertime, coaching us in baseball, and occasionally arranging games between us and similar rag-tag teams in nearby towns.

Admittedly, I never was a very skilled baseball player. Were it not for a fastball, a curve, a change-up, and what we called a “drop,” I would have been a decent hitter! I usually wound up somewhere in the outfield (most likely right field) and occasionally at third base for a few innings. In spite of my deficiencies, I loved the game and was faithful to attend all the practice sessions. Just being with the other boys and playing among ourselves was a thrill.

At the age of sixteen, while working as a counselor at a Christian camp in New Jersey—Camp Shiloh—I was privileged to see my first major league baseball games in New York City. I was as excited as the campers to go to Yankee Stadium, the Polo Grounds, and Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn and see Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzutto, Yogi Berra, and Gil McDougal of the Yankees, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, and Gil Hodges of the Dodgers; and Willie Mays of the Giants.

For many years I never missed a Saturday afternoon baseball game on TV. I watched (and laughed) along with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese as they announced the Game of the Week and provided interesting “color” on each of the players. I was a big fan of the old Milwaukee Braves back in the days of such players as Eddie Matthews, Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock, Bill Bruton, Del Crandall, Johnny Logan, Warren Spahn, Bob Buhl, and “Fidgety” Lew Burdette, the latter of whom pitched the Braves to a World Series Championship over the New York Yankees in 1957, winning three games during the seven game series!

Even today I still love the game of baseball, though I no longer sit and watch it on TV. I will watch a few innings from time to time, and last year, because the Texas Rangers were in the World Series for the first time ever, I watched all the games, hoping for a Rangers’ World Championship. I check the box scores in the paper every day to see how “my” teams and “my” favorite players performed. I am hoping the Braves (National League) and the Rangers (American League) will have great seasons this year.

Baseball is a slow, relaxing game for spectators. We all need times to slow down and take a breather from the otherwise hectic pace at which so many feel compelled to go. We need to remember that the umpire’s cry is “Play Ball,” not “Work Ball!”  Let us learn to relax and have some “play” in our life.

hugh’s news & Views
Hugh Fulford
April 5, 2011

#baseball, #leisure, #relax, #rest