Baseball is poetry.
This is what I tell my wife about this time each year, to which she replies "I know, you've said that before." I know I have, too, but I feel the need to proselytize, to spread the good word of a sport with no equal. You see, baseball is a perfect game. It's really not even up for debate. It's a wonder of math and science, of symmetry and precision.
Greek philosopher Pythagoras called three a perfect number. You'll find baseball littered with threes and numbers, not coincidentally, divisible by three. Three strikes and your out. Three outs in an inning. Nine innings in a game. Nine defensive players on the field. Ninety feet to first. Sixty feet, six inches from the mound to home plate.
Baseball's best hitters succeed a third of the time and baseball's best pitchers typically find themselves with an earned run average of around three per game.
An average game lasts, you guessed it, three hours.
I ask my wife if she sees it, sees how baseball is a perfect game. She says "Yes, I see it." She knows I'll ask her again, I have to.
Though the Florida Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals opened the season - domestically - Wednesday night, for many area baseball fans, opening day of the Major League Baseball season is today (or Friday if you're a New York Yankees fan). Both the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets take the field for their first games of the season Thursday, with the battered Phillies looking to improve on last year's season and playoff run and the Mets looking to avoid the National League basement.
The Mets open their season at Shea, er, Citi Field against the Atlanta Braves and the Phillies hit the road to face the long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirates, still reeling from Barry Bonds' departure some 20 years ago.
If you're a baseball fan, there's a chance of the action today. Do enjoy it. You already understand why baseball is a triumph. If you're not a fan, consider giving it a go anyway. Consider the subtly and nuance of every action and meta play and it's impact on the larger game, how every player and every play fits into an intricate and complicated system that churns beneath a seemingly calm surface.
Sure, it may be easier to watch something like a football game, what with commercials after every down and 11 minutes of actual play (yes, this is a real, documented figure) sprinkled in over three hours, but if you're ignoring baseball you're ignoring perfection.
Before you go, remember, baseball is poetry. Consider the balled of Ernest Thayer, Casey at the Bat, published in 1888:
The Outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that -
We'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile on Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they'd a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two."
"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has struck out.