“The greatest figure the world of sport has ever known has passed from the field. Game called on account of darkness. Babe Ruth is dead. There have been mighty champions in their day and time from John L. Sullivan to Jack Dempsey – such stars as Bobby Jones, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, on and on, who walked along the pathway of fame. But there has been only one Babe Ruth – one Bambino, who caught and held the love and admiration of countless millions around the world.”
-Grantland Rice, 1948
I used to read baseball columns by Red Smith and Grantland Rice in my sportswriting class, mouth agape. Now, this was writing. They wrote great columns about other sports, too, but there’s just something about baseball that lends itself to flowery writing and beautiful imagery more than any other sport. It has a majestic quality about it. It just seems so much more important than any sport. Like this sport might actually matter.
Opening day is always a special time, too.
Perhaps it’s the fact that in April, everybody is .500. Every team is in the race and every team has hope. And who doesn’t love hope? Who doesn’t love new beginnings, fresh starts? Anything is possible.
Perhaps it’s the fact that baseball begins at the advent of spring. One of the best times of the year, it signifies that summer is just around the corner. And who doesn’t love summer? More importantly, who doesn’t love being at a baseball stadium during the summer? For three hours, there is nothing but the game.
Perhaps it’s the fact that this is America’s oldest sport. We have seen the pictures of people wearing another era’s clothing, top hats and suits, all at the ballpark to watch the greats. It’s amazing to think that Albert Pujols and Babe Ruth played the same sport. So much has changed and yet so much has stayed the same. No other sport had an opening day so long ago, in such a different time.
But, it’s something more than any of these things. It has to do with the actual game itself. The layout of the field. The gargantuan stadiums. The freshly cut grass, the hot dogs, the beer, the vendors, the everything.
So, what is it that’s so beautiful about baseball? What is it about this game that makes it seem like it’s more than a game? What’s so gorgeous about someone hurling a ball 90 feet towards a five-sided piece of rubber, hoping beyond all hope that someone holding a bat won’t hit the ball 450 feet over a fence into the dark night sky? What’s so magnificent about someone with a glove diving, contorting, sacrificing his body just so a ball scorched 6,000 miles an hour can land safely in his mitt, all to record a single out? What’s so glorious about someone hitting a ball deep into the corner of the outfield, running, running, hustling, hustling, just to make it to a square bag called third base, and sometimes, miraculously, back home where he started.
What’s so beautiful about baseball? Who knows. But there’s just something about it, something I’ll never place or be able to describe, that makes it the most visually gorgeous of all sports. All I know is I’m happy it started yesterday. I’m excited to see these things, these indescribable things on a baseball diamond, things that make me think, for three or so hours, that everything will be alright and that everything in this world is beautiful.