Baseball’s Opening Day: Still America’s Game?

Today is the day that all of us in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio can greet with optimism — and hope. The Cleveland Indians start the MLB season this afternoon at home. And hey, the Tribe is still a contender. [Note: Not sure if it is still politically correct to use Tribe as a nickname, or for anything else. My bad.]

But for those of us who are Social Security-eligible, old habits fade slowly, if at all. I still like baseball — and opening day. I grew up in Pittsburgh in the late 1940s and 1950s, and believe it or not, at that time baseball was America’s national pastime.  Football, especially pro football, was a game followed mostly by deviants and other miscreants. Pretty much like today, only with the added drawbacks of pre-game tailgating and near lethal cases of alcohol consumption. I digress.

So I still remember with great fondness taking a street car from my home on Pittsburgh’s North Side, transferring at a stop in the downtown, and ending up paying a buck to sit in the bleachers at Forbes Field, now defunct. If there was a better way to spend a day or night, I sure couldn’t figure it out. [And I wasn’t even old enough yet to quaff an Iron City or two.] Unless it was sitting on the front porch with family and friends listening to Bob Prince call the games on KDKA. What ever happened to radio?

Prince coined the following:

“BY A GNAT’S EYELASH”
A very small margin indeed, as in, “That ball just missed. It was foul by a gnat’s eyelash.”
“CHICKEN ON THE HILL”
A home run for Willie Stargell, begun by the fact that Stargell owned a chicken restaurant in Pittsburgh’s Hill District and that whenever he homered, the person at the counter would get free chicken. Thus, Prince would say, “We need a homer here. Come on, Willie, spread some Chicken on the Hill.” In one particular game, Prince said that if Stargell hit a home run, everybody in the restaurant would get free chicken. Stargell did hit the home run, everyone got free chicken, and Stargell sent the bill to Prince.
“HOW SWEET IT IS”
After suffering through some terrible Bucco teams in the early- 1950’s, Prince got to enjoy the taste of victory in 1960 and throughout the early-1970’s with the Battlin’ Bucs. The taste of a championship, a mid-season victory, or a home run that would put the Bucs ahead would draw out “How sweet it is”.
Ah, how sweet it was!
Anyway, baseball signaled the changing of the seasons, moving from the cold and snow of a Pittsburgh winter into the glorious early days of spring, followed by summer and fall. And  every April produced a new beginning, with every team — and city — having hope and an equal chance. Wonder if the Pirates are still playing major league baseball? Mark, if you’re reading this, feel free to opine. For some reason I think the franchise went defunct in the ’70s.

By the way, I’ve never seen a game at the new ballpark in Pittsburgh, although I made my way past it via Bill Mazeroski Way to finish the half marathon last May.

I expect the Cleveland Indians will finish somewhere toward the bottom of their division.

And for today’s, game I predict the decision will go against the Indians 5-4.

Oh wait. My bad. That’s how the Supreme Court is going to play out on its decision about Obamacare.

Better the justices spent their time considering a repeal of MLB’s designated hitter rule.

Now that’s something the nation could come together on.

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4 responses to “Baseball’s Opening Day: Still America’s Game?

  1. burghthoughts

    I’m not sure dufunct is correct…I prefer to use “Twenty Year Hiatus”. I just got back from PNC Park from the Opener, and although we dropped a tough 1-0 decision to the hated Phillies, hope springs eternal. A few friends and I had a great fish sandwich and a few Duquesne pilsners over at the Oyster House in Market Square and at that point we were tied for 1st Place so on a great spring day, play hooky from work and enjoy a ballgame…doesn’t get much better. I’m sure you don’t remember, what with the advanced age and all, but you took me to Forbes Field for my first ever Pirate game…in you purple VW bug so it’s all your fault. Not sure why you made me sit behind that steel column though….

    • Great story about us going to Forbes Field. I’ll admit I don’t remember it. But then I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday. And I should have kept the VW bug. Would have been worth now more than the condo. I also imagine that if I did position you behind a steel column it was only as a way to toughen you and prepare you for future GOP presidential debates.Glad you enjoyed the Oyster House — and the game. Indians are in the top of the 9th, leading 4-1. Might be time to start thinking about World Series tickets.

  2. burghthoughts

    That’s funny….now when I watch the GOP debates I just bang my head off the coffee table…i wish I had an obstructed view of that train wreck…

    • Well, talking about train wrecks, Cleveland just gave up three runs in top of the ninth. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I’m heading for the Jameson bottle.

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