Play Ball!

I have to make a quick disclaimer. Baseball is not my favorite sport. Football is.

Now that that’s out of the way, do you know what today is? Opening day for Major League Baseball!

There is something special about opening day. Everybody is at 0-0. Everyone is a contender in their respective divisions. Each team can legitimately make October plans. At least for today.

At this time of year, my mind always wanders back to the 1950s movie Kill the Umpire starring William Bendix. It’s definitely my favorite baseball movie.

Haven’t ever heard about it?

Well, Bendix plays Bill Johnson, a former baseball player who hates umpires. His fanatical devotion to the game has cost him several jobs. And matters are complicated by the fact his father-in-law is a retired umpire. Since he has a hard time staying employed during the baseball season, his father-in-law forces him to matriculate in an umpire school. While he initially tries to get himself expelled, he ultimately comes to enjoy his new job. He becomes an ump in the minor leagues, where blurred vision, caused by using the wrong eyedrops, causes him to see everything twice, earning him a nickname as “Two-Call” Johnson. When he calls a popular player out at home plate, the crowd accuses him of dishonesty, leading to a near-riot during which the involved player is knocked out cold. Johnson must disguise himself as a woman and engage in several subterfuges to get to an important game on time, but his reputation is restored when the player he had originally called against publicly praises him for his honesty as an umpire. The crowd accepts this, although quickly reversing its opinion again after Johnson inevitably, makes another call they do not like. It’s one madcap adventure after another with such comedic heavyweights like Bendix, Ray Collins and William Frawley.

I don’t get to see it too often. It’s not on Netflix or Amazon Prime. A Roku search comes up empty. There is a version online at youtube, and a dvd is available at Amazon.

Baseball is a great summer diversion. When you hear about the season starting, you know the long days of winter are fading fast — and that’s coming from someone who appreciates the cold and white stuff.

When I was young, I couldn’t wait for the season. I was in awe of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Sandy Koufax, et al in the late 50s-early 60s. I was heartbroken when the Dodgers and Giants migrated west, although I can say I did get to see some games at Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds. I was initially a Giants fan back then, but joined the Yankee bandwagon when the team moved. I remember rushing home to watch the final game of the 1960 World Series. I missed most of the game, but got home just in time to watch the Yankees squander a 7-4 lead in the eighth inning and score two in the top of the ninth to tie the score at 9-9, only to watch Bill Mazeroski — not known as a power hitter — sail a Ralph Terry 1-0 pitch just over the left field wall in Forbes Field, Pittsburgh.

When the Mets came along in 1962, I switched back to National League allegiance. They were so bad (40-120 that first year), I guess I felt I could play for them. And they had such a list of characters in those early years … Marvelous Marv Throneberry … Roger Craig {18 straight losses in 1963} … Choo Choo Coleman … Ed Kranepool … Gil Hodges, Richie Ashburn and Don Zimmer (all well past their prime) … and the irascible Casey Stengel as manager.

I sort of lost interest in baseball after the strike year of 1981, but started to get back into it about 10 years ago after watching games with my dad, a staunch Yankee fan.

I still prefer football … especially games in the snow. But watching baseball gives you an opportunity to multitask between pitches and innings. Or, at least, let your eyes rest.

At any rate, it’s time to Play Ball!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Your life can be what you want it to be.

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About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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2 Responses to Play Ball!

  1. miccahmarie says:

    My husband is a HUGE Red Sox fan. I lived in Baltimore for several years before meeting my husband, and I went to the last home game Cal Ripken played. That made the O’s a part of my heart. However, that was so long ago, and my husband’s infatuation with the Sox matters so much more than baseball ever did for me. We now have a Red Sox flag hanging outside our door today for the occasion.

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