“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.” A. Bartlett Giamatti, “The Green Fields of the Mind,” Yale Alumni Magazine, November 1977
Unlike any other sport baseball has a rhythm, a cycle that is so like life. The first inklings of life come when it is still winter when in many parts of the country snow is still on the ground but in Florida and Arizona small numbers of players begin to arrive on lush green fields. The game’s arrival is imperceptible to most but by April It proceeds through the spring and then the heat of the summer and as August ends and September begins the game bathed in all of its glory captures our imaginations in ways little else can.
The fading warmth of September fades into the autumn chill of October even as the temperature of the game reaches its apex. The tension builds and legends are made.
Ernie Harwell said that Baseball is “a ballet without music, drama without words.” The stories of individuals, teams and even cities engage us, draw us in and are played out on a national stage before our eyes just as they have done for a century and a half. As this glorious game reaches its climax these stories unfold as teams and individuals become immortalized with the crack of a bat that evokes a collective gasp before the hopes and fantasies of individuals, teams and cities are realized or crushed as a small sphere with red stitches sails over a wall and is caught by a young boy who imagines that he will one day do the same.
The cheers of fans and celebration of the victors mask the agony felt by the other team and its fans, their hopes dashed who must wait until next year.
Then it is over and for a while the game fades away except for the endless retelling of the story. Some tell the story with joy and others with disappointment as the Boys of Summer exit the national stage. The cold of winter which seemed so far off descends on the empty ballparks even as the last red, yellow and brown leaves fall from the trees.
If there is one thing that allegory that is baseball shows, that life is more about often about losing than winning and that life, despite defeat and disappointment still goes on.
Now those whose hearts are enmeshed in this game, this allegorical play on life which is so much more than a game wait until the spring when the cycle begins again with that magical incantation “Play Ball.”