It’s Labor Day and the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals are both in first place.
September baseball should be interesting. Not fun, necessarily, because each game will mean too much.
The real beauty of baseball is the length of the season. April games are the best. Six months of baseball ahead, and no single game breaks your heart.
Instead, the games are all about hope. In football, an early season loss at home against a lesser rival can spell the death knell for a season. Baseball is blessedly different, and better.
So what if your No. 1 starter gets blown out on opening day? It means little against the calendar pages of the rest of the season.
Many people want baseball games to go faster. I’ve always wondered why.
The beauty of the game is the lack of a clock. A Royals game recently was suspended. Someone has no doubt run the numbers and can tell you that the odds of a Royals win, trailing by two in the 10th, are vanishingly small.
True enough, I suppose, but they have three outs left. The game, and the joy, aren’t over until the last batter makes an out. It could last until October.
I saw my first professional game in old Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, watching the Kansas City Athletics. I had no idea of the storied tradition of that franchise, and no inkling that those A’s, who lost 100 games that year, were just a few years from establishing a dynasty.
Catfish Hunter and Bert Campaneris were on that team, as well as Blue Moon Odom. All I remember is the mechanical rabbit with the baseballs and catching a fine grasshopper crop in the empty right field bleachers.
I’m a lifelong Cardinals fan. It’s a family tradition. Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Curt Flood are among the heroes of my childhood. I played second base (poorly) as a kid, and the guy coaching our team and everyone else used to call me Hoolie, for Julian Javier, the second baseman of that wonderful Cardinals team.
I now realize that wasn’t a compliment, but I loved it …until the coach wrote down Julie on a lineup card. The opposing team’s dugout had a field day.
With both the Cardinals and the Royals in first place, it occurs to me that I’ve lived more years since the sixth game of the 1985 World Series than I had lived before that fateful day. I’ve forgiven umpire Don Denkinger for his blown call, really I have, but I’ll never forget that moment.
Or Ozzie Smith hitting that homer against the Dodgers. Or John Tudor bewitching opposing batters with pitches so slow that they couldn’t have broken glass. Baseball is memory, and heartbreak, but mostly it’s about time.
The fun isn’t the destination, but the journey of the season. That’s why September playoff races are bittersweet.
The games matter more but mostly because there are so few left. The end of the season always makes me sad. Here’s hoping the second Cardinals-Royals World Series goes to seven games and is decided in extra innings.
A year before her death, I managed to secure tickets to the 1987 playoffs for my grandmother and parents. I disagreed with my grandmother on politics and most other things in life, but our love of Cardinals baseball was the common ground cementing our relationship.
I’ll never forget her excitement about that playoff game, and hearing her relive that game will always be one of my fondest and sweetest memories.
Blake Hurst of Tarkio, Mo., is president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, a farmer and greenhouse grower. To reach him, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.