Skip to content
You are here: Home Newsletter Examiner #4 - August 1994 This SABR'd Isle
This SABR'd Isle
SABR UK Examiner - Examiner #4 - August 1994
Written by Martin Hoerchner   

I'm afraid I must start this column in a somber tone. My beloved mother passed away suddenly last November. She was an avid baseball fan and all-around Good Person. She used to diligently cut out clippings about the Giants from the local newspaper and send them to me - I still have a box full of them. We could talk baseball for the better part of an hour on the phone, and it's not cheap to California. People talk about baseball being a bond between fathers and sons, but that's only half the story. We could talk so easily about baseball that talking about other things became easier. She had this funny superstition. It seemed that every time I was watching a Giants game and she'd come in from watering the lawn or something, the opposition would score. So she would be afraid to watch a crucial game, lest it would hex the Giants. Well, she must be watching them from somewhere, because they ain't doing that good so far.

Luckily, I was able to see her fairly often, the last time being during the Giants' triumphant season of 1993, when they victoriously conquered second place in the National League West. I've travelled back to California twice since then, the second time half family business and half holiday. That's when I went to Opening Day at Candlestick. I became a real video nut that day. I had been given an old camcorder and was able to record most of the pre-game ceremonies before the six batteries that I carried turned out to be good for an average of two-and-a-half minutes each. I was also taking photographs at the time, and when Willie Mays was introduced to give Barry Bonds his 1993 MVP award, I got excited and stood up to cheer and knocked the video camera to the ground. I guess I'm too clumsy to be the international photojournalist that I've always considered myself to be; maybe I'm only a technotourist.

All the awards from last year were given, Chris Isaak sang the national anthem, fireworks exploded and streamers went off everywhere. Meanwhile, I was frantically changing batteries until all of them ran out. But I gave it my best shot. I admire the UK baseball fans who have never been to a major league baseball game and still love the game. A lot of the excitement is capturable by television, but almost none of the atmosphere. That is what I wanted to record. Here we can get into some corny stuff like the smell of hot dogs, the cries of the peanut vendors, the deep rich green of the natural grass outfield, the chill of the wind blowing in from right field. And the feeling; that's the hardest thing to capture. It's so easy to get corny about baseball; it's too easy.

We keep hearing so much about The State Of Baseball, as if baseball is in big trouble. It seems that while baseball coverage on TV is being slashed and revenues plunging, attendance at ballparks is hitting new highs. This points out how much better is baseball enjoyed live; the ballpark experience just doesn't come across on TV. US football has always been popular as a TV sport; its rise coincided with the rise of color TV in the late 1960s. And now the sport on the surge seems to be basketball. Is this because of the incredible career of Michael Jordan? Is he the Babe Ruth of basketball?

My wife and I recently went on holiday to the Seychelles, an island group a thousand miles from Africa and two thousand miles from anywhere else. There were Chicago Bulls accoutrements everywhere, and I mean by the locals. At first I figured it was just a US fixation thing, but once I was gassing up my rental jeep just before an incredible tropical sunset, and the guy at the pump, when he heard I was a Yank, engaged me in a long conversion about the NBA, particularly noting that he was a fan of Scotty Pippen. I mentioned I liked the Lakers, and he went on about how he thought Magic Johnson was a lousy coach, and mentioned a player I didn't know. This guy knew pro basketball. I wonder how he got all this knowledge, because news of the outside world is very hard to come by there. They have one radio station and one part-time TV station. We did see a few satellite dishes, but not many. We also saw a guy wearing a t-shirt with both 'San Francisco 49ers' and 'AC Milan' on it, I guess for those who like both kinds of football. I also saw a real trendy US-style t-shirt with baseball images and 'Pittsburgh Privates' printed on it in bold text, as if proudly proclaiming its ignorance. It was a missed opportunity for the biggest (and almost the only) bar in town, the Pirate's Arms.

I'm sorry to see that the Silver Bullets haven't done better - I'm sure everyone is rooting for them. They said they might scale down their opposition - have they considered playing the Padres? Bobby Riggs must be chortling, if he's still alive. Next year a Women's League will be founded, the first time such an action has been inspired by a motion picture. I'd personally like to see another action inspired by a movie, that being the reinstatement of Joe Jackson and his election to the Hall of Fame. Shoeless Joe was such an innocent character; and yet the person who probably did damaged baseball more than anyone rests securely in the Hall of Fame. I'm talking about Cap Anson , who in 1884 almost singlehandedly forced the major and later the minor leagues to expel all non-whites in their employ and not hire any more, ever. For 62 years hundreds of the game's top players were excluded from Organized Baseball, and that's a bigger crime than some gullible hayseed holding onto an envelope full of money because his boss told him to keep it and the guys said it was okay.

Almost everyone agrees that Field of Dreams is a great film, and I think that's because its poetic use of baseball as a symbol. But of what? I think the main theme of Field of Dreams is second chances. After we've made a mistake, and life is a parade of mistakes, a second chance is something we yearn for, and yet is so rarely granted. Baseball is the ideal metaphor of the Second Chance. First of all, because there is no clock, a comeback is never impossible. And if you don't come back, there is tomorrow. Baseball is played every day. If you don't succeed, you'll have a brawl in the clubhouse and a chance to do it all over again the next day. If this takes away some of the sting of defeat, I suppose it also takes away some of the sweetness of victory. Nothing lasts. Tomorrow is always another ballgame. And as a game can ebb and flow, with winning moments and losing moments, so can life. The important thing, I guess, is to have more winning moments than losing.

As I said, it's easy to get corny about baseball. It's too easy.