Play ball! That magical time of the year is here
It is one of the best sporting weeks of the year. Major league baseball is ready for its first pitch of the 2015 season. And, although New Orleans is not a major league city, thousands here follow the game passionately.
None more than my friend Ron Swoboda. Forty-six years have passed since Swoboda made a diving catch in right field that still is the most famous play in New York Mets history. Swoboda’s catch of a sinking Brooks Robinson line drive in the ninth inning killed a Baltimore rally. The Mets won that pivotal Game 4 in 10 innings and then clinched in Game 5.
The Mets’ World Series win is considered one of the greatest upsets in the game’s storied history. History and the record book are what make the game of baseball so special. It is why those who used performance-enhancing drugs are viewed with disdain, most of all by those who vote for baseball’s Hall of Fame.
What was more impressive? Barry Bonds’ 762 career home runs or Ken Griffey Jr.’s 630? Griffey is eligible for the Hall in 2016. The voters will tell us soon.
One of the great things about baseball is that it is life. It is everyday. No waiting seven days to play again. If you play poorly, or play well, you must move on to the next day, quickly.
Cub fans have had to move on to the next year since 1908. And, their year may be approaching. The Cubs have oodles of young talent. In the offseason, they made two of the biggest moves. They signed free agent pitcher Jon Lester and former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Madden.
One of our newscast directors at WGNO TV, Scott Andrews, is strutting around the newsroom like a peacock this spring. He’s convinced that when it comes to his Cubs winning a title, it is no longer “if” but “when.”
The Cubs have been close before. In 2003, they were five outs from the World Series. They led the Marlins 3-0 in the top of the eighth inning. That’s when Cubs fan Steve Bartman reached for a foul ball that Chicago leftfielder Moises Alou was sure to catch for the second out. The Marlins went on to score eight times. They won Game 7 the next night.
On Aug. 14, 1969, the Mets trailed the Cubs by 9 1/2 games. The Cubs collapsed. The Mets won the division by eight games.
Cable television made the Cubs and Atlanta Braves popular throughout the country. Louisiana used to be Astros country, but Houston’s wretched play and move to the American League have eroded its fan base here, and, sadly, in Houston. In April 2014, an Astros/Angels game drew a 0.0 rating on Comcast Sports Net in Houston.
For a lifelong follower of the St. Louis Cardinals, this is difficult to comprehend. Fifty-two years ago, I walked into Sportsman’s Park for the first time. I was hooked, instantly.
Many of those who don’t like baseball’s three-hour-plus games and even longer season wouldn’t understand. Those who do, know what a great time that is upon us.