On Hearing the First Foul Tip of Spring

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Opening Day! It’s finally upon us. My dashboard widget tells me that the games begin in a half-hour. Today, baseball officially starts for me – the made for TV exhibition-games-that-count from Japan and the celebration of corporate wealth from last night don’t count as far as my soul goes.

And my soul needs baseball. After 15 important, formative years in San Francisco, I’m feeling very much the California boy transplanted to New York City, and it’s been hard in a few ways. While the winter was mild, it began with a cold fall and a chill has lingered into spring. Today it might be 50 degrees for the second time this spring, but wet. So, I’m needing spring with a jones more powerful than the basketball one I used to get in my ‘playing’ days.

I watched a bit of last nights Braves-Nats game, but it seemed more a celebration of the corporate takeover of American life, with the review of the fanciest amenities at the new stadium, the Dauphin, nose bright and shiny red from his ongoing bourbon binge throwing out the first pitch, and being noticeably booed. I’m glad I missed his appearance in the booth, talking his usual drivel while the country burns. I love sports and I welcome their distraction from the day-to-day grind, but I can’t be expected to numb myself with sentimental comity when someone who has damaged as many lives as Bush has is paraded through my living room.

But I love sports – the NBA, especially now that they’re playing good basketball again; the NFL and my beloved Jints – but baseball is still the best. It’s the best because it’s the most beautiful, because it inspires the best writing, and the best songs and the best art. There’s a lot of metaphors for the game, some overdone, some powerful, and one that is true for me is that it is like the best American music. The game has a set of rules, it begins with a pitch into the unknown, unfolds with a balance of cooperation, improvisation, chance and surprise, and ends when everyone’s finished, not when a clock says so. That’s jazz, baby.

Play ball!


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.

One comment

  • It’s true….there’s something very magical about Opening Day in baseball….more so, I think, than with any other sport. Maybe it’s a function of the season beginning with the change from winter to spring…I know that is part of it. A hundred years ago people felt the same way about the beginning of the baseball season…corporate greed has long spewed its nastiness on the game but it remains beautiful in spite of the best efforts of those who would like to defile it.

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