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November 14, 2010

Never-ending Game

Mutt: Listen, you know we’ve both loved baseball all our lives.
Jeff: Yeah, so?
Mutt: How about if whoever dies first and goes to Heaven comes back to tell the other one whether baseball exists in Heaven or not?
Jeff: I’m game.
[Unfortunately Mutt died the next night.]
Mutt: Hey, Jeff, wake up!
Jeff: What? Mutt? But you're dead.
Mutt: I know. I came back to tell you about baseball in Heaven.
Jeff: Oh yeah.
Mutt: Well, good news and bad news. The good is that—YES, there is baseball in Heaven and it’s fantastic. More fun than you can even imagine.
Jeff: So what’s the bad news?
Mutt: You start pitching on Thursday.

That’s a joke, right? Baseball in Heaven, baseball as heaven, playing a never-ending game: 9 innings, ten, a hundred, a billion innings. Life and afterlife as an endless season. Isn’t it? (Many of the Giants are already playing Winter Ball to bide the time till spring training starts.) And when a runner gets home and scores and is happy (even without a smile, especially without a smile), if the inning doesn’t end, they get another at-bat to begin again. Infinite do-overs.

And that homer I just hit sailed over the fence, over the bleachers, over the parking lot, over those tall buildings where serious people work, over the mountains and valleys and oceans, never coming down. That ball circling the globe looked down on the green baseball diamonds like connect-the-dots across America and the world. A roadmap to paradise, follow the bouncing ball. Every cornfield hiding a playing field underneath. Every advertising executive “stepping up to the plate” to make a “pitch” for a “home-run” product. Every girl and boy dreaming of player heroes (that’s Buster Posey, Rookie of the Year, in the photo below) before drifting off to sleep. The foul lines continuing on to embrace the universe.

And the bad news? When I’m at the park I sometimes think: What if this was it? What if our whole lives were lived in here? Some sci-fi virus contaminated the city and we had to stay in the ballpark forever. Would that be so bad? Plenty of peanuts. Finally, something to believe in. Fantasy baseball becomes real baseball and vice versa. I’m stepping down there onto the field, turning the double play, getting the infield hit, beating out the throw, lolling out in right, stealing home, smacking the splash dinger. Or maybe I have the ultimate season ticket, where you sleep and eat and make love and enjoy the daily games at the park. No away games, everyone comes to us. Do we ever get old watching baseball? Turn off the clock.

Did you watch LOST? I’ll admit I did. So what did the finale mean? My interp: you go (to Heaven) with all the people you meet by chance on your island or in your stadium or along the twisted trail of your life. Even the ones you don’t like (which for me is many) are all waiting for you in the universal church with the ones you cared for. Or in numbered rows. Or on your plane. Those human contacts are all there is. It isn’t much, just everything.

Ever sit in an airport and watch the people flow by? The features blur. Clothes, hair, nose shapes, skin color, all different until they become all one. I could be in love with that person, but we’ve never met. That could be my dear son, if I had one. What if they were my father and mother instead of the ones I have? If that person was my friend for life? What? Would it all be the same? Are we interchangeable pieces? Plug-in people in one another’s lives? Is it really, 'love the one you're with'? In the stands? (Just so they're not Dodger fans.)

Walt Whitman played and watched the game at its beginnings. He wrote about it in Leaves of Grass, which includes:
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Identity, commonality, playfulness, history, family, health, life-death and summer grass—that’s baseball, folks. The poet’s sport. That’s the answer to every question. Try it.

The San Francisco Giants won their first World Series ever. In case you hadn’t heard. I’ve waited my whole life for this. Now I’m ready for Heaven. Hope there’s baseball there too. Otherwise, just send me straight to Hell.

So I posted here on the sidebar a link to my Baseball Poetry article. As my buddy Mike Krukow says (in fake Canadian): Check it ou-ut!

Happy trials, until next season, Martin

Jeff: Did we get promoted to opening act?
Mutt: I betcha it’s temporary.
Jeff: Pay increase?
Mutt: Dream on, boy.
Jeff: I got a question: If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?
Mutt: Um.
Jeff: If olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from?
Mutt: I got one: Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes?
Jeff: Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?
Mutt: What do you call a male ladybird?
Jeff: When they first invented the clock, how did they know what time it was to set it to?
Mutt: How much deeper would oceans be if sponges didn't live there?
Jeff: Do you always answer a question with another question?
Mutt: Do I?

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