As I sat beside home plate last night, these words kept ringing through my head. I don't recall where I first heard them. Probably recited by George Plimpton in Ken Burn's 10 hour documentary on Baseball, but I can't be sure.
The wife and I had a bit of luck last night. A few weeks ago, our neighbor asked us to keep an eye on their house while they were out of town. In exchange, they gave us two baseball tickets to see the Arizona Diamondback play the New York Mets on 8/11/09. Seems that they have season tickets and weren't going to be in town to see the game.
So last night, the wife and I walked the mile to Central Ave in Phoenix, boarded the light rail, which took us directly to Chase Field in central Phoenix. It was nice, no traffic, no parking fees, just dropped us off at the front door. We had our first date at what was then 'BankOne Ballpark'. Economics changed the names, but the essence of the game and the team remains. Now, 4 years later, it was a chance to relive our first night out.
We had not been to Chase Field in about 2 years, as we wandered around trying find out seats, we quickly realized that these were not the 'cheap seats'. These were $200 a seat tickets that were 40 feet from home plate. We had a private restroom and waitresses that would come up and take our orders for hot dogs and beer. It was really sweet.
While taking in the sites and sounds that are Major League Baseball, drinking $9 beer and munching on a $5 hot dog, I pondered the American Dream. Despite the outrageous cost of it all (well over $450 if we had paid for everything ourselves), this whole scene summed up who we are. Over 24,000 people coming together to cheer and talk in the middle of the work week, to watch grown men play a game with precision and grace. This is all that is good about Americans, this is our culture.
It dawned on me that it is a precious thing. A community thing. A tie that binds diverse people together. The rituals that make us who we are from ethnic groups, to religions, to counties, to political parties. I wondered what some impoverished immigrant that knew nothing of baseball would think of the spectacle. To come from a place where there are no ties that bind people together. It wasn't a pleasant thought.
Back in 1910, sports writers thought so highly of baseball that they composed poems about it that have become part of our lexicon, our heritage. To be born into such a rich and vibrant enduring culture is not something to be taken for granted.
These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
And last nights game? The Diamondback won, 6-2.