April 2, 2017

Opening Day [2017]: When Life Imitates Norman Rockwell


"I got it!" "No, I got it!" "No, we got it!"

"The New York Yankees’ Nick Swisher climbed a wall to try and catch a ball in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series..." (via Photo Journal - WSJ )

As long as we have Opening Day every Spring and the World Series every Autumn, I will continue to believe to the adamantine rock bottom of my soul that God blesses America and has an exceptional plan for this nation.

Look at the moment above captured in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series. It could be hung in the Norman Rockwell Museum and not be a tittle of a jot out of place. In every face (except Swisher's) is an expression of pure joy as they all realize that on its way to them, at that very moment, is every baseball fan's most cherished dream from childhood: The chance to catch a fly ball in a World Series game in the stands.

In another few instants only one fan will come up with it, but in this moment all have a chance at it and all are transported at the opportunity to transcend themselves and enter into something bigger, brighter, and finer than their lives would otherwise be.

And that's the way it is in America. That's why we see many footprints leading in and few coming out. For with all our quarrels, our disagreements, our struggles, and our incessant bickering, this remains a land where you can always get another turn at bat, where you can always, right up until six months after death, get another chance to swing for the bleachers. And where, even if you aren't a player in "The Show," you can buy a seat out on the right field line and wait there for the crack of the bat, the rise of the ball against the sky, and... it's coming, it's coming.... and whap, you got it. You're in "The Show."

And in that moment life, the universe, and everything else comes down to one great roar of joy from yourself and the rest of the crowd.

Baseball, from a hot grounder on Opening Day to the World Series and a high fly ball in an Autumn sky is the arc of the essential America. Nothing else like them ever was. "I got it!" "No, I got it!" "No, we got it!"

Posted by Vanderleun at April 2, 2017 11:43 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Amazing pic. The only downside is there are no gloves to catch it. Because there are no kids there. Because the World Series, like all professional sports championships, is far too pricey an endeavor per ticket to allow mere youngsters to attend. That would be a waste.

Posted by: Velociman at October 29, 2009 4:09 PM

Great essay GVDL; you knocked it out of the park - amen.

Posted by: Das at October 29, 2009 4:46 PM

Lovely, lovely, lovely.


Thanks. I needed that.

Das said it. " . . . out of the park . ."

Posted by: Cathy at October 29, 2009 5:11 PM

thanks....just set that picture as by background

Posted by: Barnabus at October 29, 2009 5:15 PM

Only in America
Can a guy from anywhere
Go to sleep a pauper and wake up a millionaire

Only in America
Can a kid without a cent
Get a break and maybe grow up to be President

Only in America
Land of opportunity, yeah
Would a classy girl like you fall for a poor boy like me

Only in America
Can a kid who's washin' cars
Take a giant step and reach right up and touch the stars

Only in America
Could a dream like this come true
Could a guy like me start with nothing and end up with you

Only in America
Land of opportunity, yeah
Would a classy girl like you fall for a poor boy like me

-Jay and the Americans

Nice post, Gerald

Posted by: bill at October 29, 2009 5:55 PM

Very very cool!

Posted by: Sara (Pal2Pal) at October 29, 2009 6:16 PM

That fly ball puts Phillie ahead and Yankee fans are smiling. Won't happen that way in Phillie.

Posted by: james wilson at October 29, 2009 6:57 PM

Refreshing. Here I thought I could lump you in with the intellectual snooterati which bemoans sports at every turn.

It's a beautiful thing, the game, the spectacle, the symbolism.

Posted by: Andy at October 29, 2009 7:34 PM



Bill Henry

Posted by: Bill Henry at October 29, 2009 8:34 PM

For what it's worth, I'm posting World Series updates and random musings here.

Posted by: rickl at October 29, 2009 10:29 PM

Why is it called the World Series, when just about nobody outside the USA plays the game? Maybe it's because so many Americans think the USA IS the world.

I also find it interesting that for at least two of the major spectator sports in the USA, you have to be a genetic freak to play the game at high level. (Basketball and American football - one of the most misnamed games ever - of course.) And that at least one of those requires vast amounts of apparatus to get off the field alive.

Bit more snark; I find it funny that rounders and netball are two of the most popular games in America. (Yes, I know the rules are slightly different.)

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at October 30, 2009 1:26 AM


At the risk of taking this a bit too seriously - while the teams are all North American, Major League Baseball is full of players from other countries. A great number of players have actually used baseball to defect from Cuba to the US. Some of the league's biggest stars are Japanese, Venezuelan, Dominican, etc. Perhaps it was not so much in the past, but these days the World Series is, indeed, a World-wide contest, as the home countries of those foreign players care very much about the outcome.

Posted by: Andy at October 30, 2009 7:21 AM

"Why is it called the World Series, when just about nobody outside the USA plays the game? Maybe it's because so many Americans think the USA IS the world..."

You need to get out more, Fletch. A few years ago, the most common name in the Majors was Martinez. It might still be, or it might also be Rodriguez. No matter. Baseball may not be quite as widespread as soccer (football to you, I suppose), but it's certainly more so than cricket, which is pretty much confined to places where Britain once ruled (except for Canada; baseball is the bat sport of choice north of the 49th Parallel). There are serious baseball leagues in Latin America, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea, as well as in North America. Who knows how world politics would have turned out if Fidel Castro had made it as a pitcher with the White Sox? Baseball's easier-to-play derivative, softball, is even more popular globally. For instance, here in the concrete jungles of Jakarta, I play in a softball league that is made up mostly of Indonesians. They play well, too.

Point taken on the number of inordinately large men in basketball and American football. But I got to share a flight from NZ once with the Springboks, who had just played the All-Blacks the previous night. Most of them weren't exactly normal-sized either. But I felt pretty sure that the plane wasn't going to get hijacked:-). And FWIW, I think that's part of baseball's appeal: you don't have to be 6'10" and 300 pounds to play it. Look at Ichiro Suzuki, one of the best hitters in the game today: 5'9", 160 lbs., as average as average gets.

Posted by: waltj at October 30, 2009 8:39 AM

Wow. Just wow, G.

Posted by: jay-dubya at November 1, 2009 8:21 PM

A further thought- I must someday tell you of the sandwich shop I ran in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and the ruggers who were my unofficial bouncers. Think "Elephant Walk".

Posted by: jay-dubya at November 1, 2009 8:24 PM

This happens to me all the time. Really becomes quite boring after the 9th caught World Series ball. Ho hum.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at September 27, 2011 4:31 AM

Great essay. Illuminates many themes about baseball and America, and despite all of our problems, the joy of living here. In October, the leaves change color and baseball crowns a champion. May it always be so.

Posted by: Tom at September 27, 2011 7:35 AM


The World Series was originally promoted as the World's Championship Series in the 1890's, when there weren't professional leagues in any other country--might as well call it the championship of the world, right? And then people just got in the habit, and the name stuck.

I'd be interested in seeing the World Series made into an actual world series, but it would probably have to be an every four years sort of thing, like that sport which people play by kicking a round ball around the lawn.

Posted by: Mike James at September 27, 2011 8:55 AM

I wish it were so. But it's over. Even baseball can't save us from the Obamians.

Posted by: FunkyPhD at April 1, 2013 4:10 PM

After 5 months of crappy weather here in MI, there's nothing like a relaxing, warm summer evening spent in the old ball park. Baseball has the most family friendly atmosphere of all the major sports IMHO.

Posted by: JimBobElrod at April 1, 2013 4:33 PM

iri said it best. baseball is out game. I've seen kids in France and Italy playing it on schoolyards but it's ours. Eat your hearts out.

Posted by: glenn at April 1, 2013 6:27 PM

To my friend Gerard:
You really must understand that "American" does not completely capture what is going on north of the border.
It is a positively religious war of Reformation intensity going on when the Blue Jays open the season, the New Testament being played out in ERA's and batting averages, while the Old Testament believers rail that the Maple Leafs are the only true god and that life can only be measured by goals, assists, hat tricks and fine, firmament rattling body checks.
The war for the soul up there is intense.
Expect an Inquisition someday.

Posted by: Martyn Burke at April 1, 2013 10:39 PM

When we were skinny kids we'd ride our bikes to our friend's house with a bat, ball, and glove.

Today, mom drives the fat kids to the friends house with a wallet full of SIM cards and USB drives.

Posted by: ghostsniper at April 2, 2014 4:18 AM

No, baseball is alive and well. Not the mega-buck commerciality of the owners vs. players, but the game itself. Aside from a few small changes, like the designated hitter and the instant replay, it's the same game, that same slice of Americana that's been going on since it's inception. It would still be recognizable to any of the pioneers of the sport. Same diamond dimensions, pitch, hit, run and field.

Summer evening, got my Dodger's on the radio, Vinnie callin' the game, and it doesn't get any better. ISIS what? Barack who?

I love football and basketball, but neither can come close to our true "national pastime" in terms of transporting me to another place. Still magical after all these years.

Posted by: Steve Swinney at March 22, 2015 10:27 PM

I wonder who finally ended up with the ball.

Posted by: chasmatic at March 23, 2015 6:06 AM

Let's go Red Sox!

Posted by: Will at March 23, 2015 8:46 AM

John Cheever, a great American writer, reflecting on the doldrums of American fiction, said American fiction should reflect the excitement of 400 people reaching for a baseball...

Posted by: Dex Quire at March 24, 2015 6:36 PM

The picture above taken in 2009 shows Nick Swisher in 2009 when he was 28. That was a good year for him. He had some good years thereafter. But last year when he was 33, and having an unproductive year, his season was cut short by knee injuries. Today I saw in the news that he will not be ready to play by opening day.

Eventually, the Turk comes for everyone.

Posted by: Fat Man at March 24, 2015 7:10 PM

The Turk has seemingly over-looked A-Roid, who curiously enough is back in the game! But, in the spirit of Charlie Hustle, who's now too old to participate, I say play ball.


Posted by: Will at April 4, 2016 9:17 AM

Fletcher, it's called the "World Series" because the NYC paper called "The World" either first proposed it in the 1890's or they did the first comprehensive coverage of it (can't remember which).

I grew up about five miles from Dodger Stadium and rode my bike down to watch it being built. The I-5 was being built at the same time in that area to link up Downtown L.A. with the suburbs in the SF Vally.

I remember going to the L.A. Coliseum to see the Dodgers play while the stadium was being built. Wally Moon was a great slugger and his home runs were dubbed "Moon Shots" when the L.A. Times was still a somewhat readable paper. Go back and read some of Jim Murray's pieces. Their coverage was beyond wonderful.

It was a great time to be a kid.

Screw the National Felons' League or National Blacks' League. Quit watching them years ago.

Thank God for baseball. I just hope and pray the higher-ups don't screw the game over even more than they already have. The DH is an abomination, the new slide rules are horrific and just contribute to the pussification of the real American Man and instant replay is a joke, but they seem bound and determined to keep digging the hole even deeper.

They keep this shit up and they will lose more audience (and $$$). Talk about killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Posted by: Fuel Filter at April 2, 2017 1:47 PM

Sorry for the double post.

Posted by: Fuel Filter at April 2, 2017 1:56 PM

Two more things before I leave off re: The Pussificatiion of men's sports:

I am sick to death of ESPN's use of wymyn "announcers" in baseball.  They obviously don't know shit and it's a transparent ploy to get more wymyn to watch the game. Here's a hint, you bastards.  It's not gonna work and, in fact, it's alienating more and more men from the game each day. 

There are plenty of games I automatically tune out due to these screeching bubblehead know-nothings being mere window dressing (oh, and I despise that prick Joe Buck as well). Now, get back in the kitchen, bring me a few beers and make me a sammich.

The other one is the NHRA and the white-knighting of wymyn drag racers.  That used to be a Real Man's sport. But now the power skirts are always front and center. And don't even get me started on Anton Brown being the next Jackie Robinson.  I now firmly believe the entire NHRA is a rigged game.

Posted by: Fuel Filter at April 2, 2017 6:25 PM

There was nothing like sitting at the beach beside Lake Champlain on a steaming July afternoon next to the old Zeineth portable while Curt Gowdy described what Ted Williams just did.

Posted by: Chuck at April 3, 2017 5:57 AM

I grew up near Cincinnati in the early 70's and listed to Al Michaels (before he hit the big time) and Joe Nuxhall (former RED's pitcher) do the play by play on the radio.My dad took me to several RED's games at Riverfront to see the Big Red Machine, and we passed ball in the yard frequently. I took my kids to a local Wichita State baseball game yesterday and we saw a first class triple play! All had a good time.

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at April 3, 2017 10:38 AM

Ah, opening day. Every team is in a tie for first, however short lived, and anything feels possible. Who will rise to the top and outlast the rest into October? Smell the smells, hear the crack of the bat, and the roar of the crowd. Bring on the boys of summer. "Play ball" !!!

Posted by: Steve Swinney at April 3, 2017 3:18 PM

Another vote for summer evenings and afternoons with baseball on the radio. When I was a kid in Illinois it was Harry Caray doing the Cardinal games on KMOX. I vividly remember going down to St. Louis on the Illinois Central with my Uncle Tom Scaiefe, and seeing my hero Stan Musial put one out just over the 402 sign in right-center field.

People used to take portable radios to the ball park just to hear Harry Caray do the play-by-play of the game they were watching, believe it or not.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at April 5, 2017 6:49 PM