It’s October, the time of year when the game of baseball works its way through playoffs to decide who gets to play whom in the World Series. After that, the boys of summer, as they’re referred to, take the winter off before starting the process over again in the spring.
It’s the time when everyone becomes interested in a sport that seems to grind on forever through a 162 game season, especially for Blue Jays fans.
Where did baseball come from? It looks sort of like cricket because someone throws a ball and someone else uses a bat to hit the ball. Although the games may be related in antiquity (long ago) there are few other similarities other than each claiming to be the world’s most popular game. Someone in the soccer leagues might argue that everywhere except North America.
Americans claim baseball (and basketball) is their national pastime with as much passion as Canadians do with hockey, but there’s a Canadian connection. Basketball was invented by Canadian, James Naismith, and it seems the first Baseball game actually took place in 1838 in Beachville, Ontario, and not invented “out of the blue” by military officer, Abner Doubleday, in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York. One source reports that “many baseball historians admit the story is patently false since Doubleday was at West Point when he would’ve been playing that legendary first game.”
Never-the-less, it is America’s game now, as evidenced by the annual world series contest. The “world series” event seems to be an exaggerated claim since baseball is played in a whole bunch of countries. It’s popular throughout the Caribbean, especially the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Iraq Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela and Australia. Japan has played pro ball since the 1930’s, South Korea since 1982. They also play the game in Taiwan, Philippines, Israel, Australia and even Italy. Ever see a national team from those countries in the World series?
Baseball also has a number of confusing terms:
“Step up to the plate” means you should come forward and take on the challenge facing you, just as the mighty Babe Ruth fearlessly stepped up to knock another one out of the park, also metaphoric homerun that means achieving something spectacular with a project or job assignment. The last time I knocked one out of the park (my yard), I had to replace the neighbour’s kitchen window.
Strikes: When the pitcher throws the ball to the catcher, his objective is to get the batter to swing and miss the ball. When the batter misses the ball it’s called a strike. But in the rest of the world, when you strike something it means to hit it. Struck out on that one!
Balls: When the pitcher throws the ball to the batter, and it’s not in the strike zone, the batter isn’t obliged to swing at it. It’s called a ball. Well of course it’s a ball, what else would you call it, a ham sandwich? If the pitcher throws four of those “balls” the batter “walks” (not runs) to first base without having to hit the ball.
So – I can get on base if I strike the ball, but if I swing and not hit the ball, I strike out and don’t get on base, but if I don’t swing at the ball four times I get on base. Really!
Inning: From the Old English word innung meaning a putting or getting in. Taken from cricket, an inning is a unit of play when each team has a turn at bat. So based on that logic, shouldn’t the team not batting be on an outing?
Southpaw: It was originally baseball jargon for a left-handed pitcher, apparently from the fact that baseball diamonds are usually arranged so the batters would face east, to avoid looking into the afternoon sun. The pitcher’s left hand, or paw, is therefore on the southern side.
And speaking of paws (pause), I think it’s time to stop writing and get my popcorn in order to watch the (non) world series and dream of next year when I can sneak away to the Nat (Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver) on a warm sunny spring afternoon scarf a hot dog, sip a cold beer and hurl insults at the umpire. Now is that perfection or what?