Cardinal baseball, from the girls
Finding baseball’s simplicity again
July 26, 2010Posted by on
While the Cardinals 8-game winning streak was wonderful, the subsequent 3-game losing streak had me bummed. The team again looked like it had for too much of the season, underachieving and disappointing, and had me wondering just who the 2010 Cards really are. So by last night’s game, I needed a boost in my spirits.
Unlike most Cardinals fans, I started my baseball life as a (sorry, but it’s true) Cubs fan. Friday night, I caught some of a Cubs game from 1987 that Comcast Chicago broadcast as a tribute to Andre Dawson’s Hall of Fame induction. That time period was my prime Cubs fandom, so watching those players – and especially hearing Harry Caray again – was like seeing old friends, bringing back a simpler time when watching baseball was just that: watching for the game itself, unencumbered by the constant presence of my laptop and Internet and Twitter and the other technological advances of the last 23 years. It also got me wondering what it would be like to just watch a game again. My game routine is so different now, as I’m so attached to Twitter throughout the course of a game. Could it be possible to voluntarily avoid it? More importantly, could it help relieve that malaise?
The clincher to my decision came from Andre himself in his Hall of Fame induction speech when he said, “If you love this game, it will love you back.” I needed a way to recapture that 1987 baseball-watching love. But on the night of a Chris Carpenter start – which would mean foregoing an evening of connecting with all my fellow CC fans and missing all our discussions of the extreme close-ups the ESPN cameras surely would provide? Yes. Plus there would be no Jon Miller and Joe Morgan to complain about, since they were in Cooperstown. So, it was time to just enjoy the broadcast on its own.
At first, it felt odd. Instead of a laptop, I had actual paper and pen to record any immediate thoughts such as my displeasure at the Cards bad base running in the top of the first. And, as the bottom of the first was going to start, I regretted my Twitter-less decision for a Carp start even more. (Did you see him?) These were my untweeted thoughts: “Carp, bathed in sunlight – yes! And smiling and laughing before he throws his first pitch – what?? Need to see that again! Shadows of him: very cool. Chris Carpenter should always have a golden glow of evening sun spotlighting him when he pitches.” Of course, thanks to technology, I also could (and did) take advantage of my DVR to rewind those golden high-def ultra-close-ups of Carp. Then there was the bottom of the fifth inning, when he took exception to a pitch that was called ball four by umpire Bob Davidson to walk Geovany Soto. As soon as I saw Carp walk off the mound, I knew things wouldn’t be good. “The madder he is, the more he chomps his gum,” I jotted down as he did just that on screen. And, after Ryan Theriot drove in Soto to tie the game, I wrote: “And, predictably, CC’s emotions got the best of him again.”
Other than those moments, though, I didn’t necessarily miss being disconnected for the game. Too, that could be because of the vast amount of information ESPN supplies. A huge change from watching the 1987 game is, of course, the on-screen graphics. Now we expect to have the score, outs, count and pitch speed constantly displayed. I like that ESPN displays the pitch count also, once it reaches 10 (and I didn’t know until last night they do that). Plus the amount of information and obscure statistics that ESPN has is staggering. The Cards were 38-9 (now 39-9) when scoring first in the game, the best in the majors. Carp leads the National League with 12 strikeouts with a man on third base and less than two outs – just in case you were curious who did. And did you know the Cubs have spent 0 days above .500 this season? In addition, the analysis from Orel Hershiser was enlightening, such as his explanations at various times of Carp’s differing fastballs and types of breaking pitches. He even explained the annoying glove wiggle by Ryan Dempster, and demonstrated it in the booth with a glove. While I find the wiggle annoying, Hershiser’s explanation was good and made sense.
The game was definitely action-filled. Although I briefly appreciated Marlon Byrd two weeks ago for his smart fielding during the All-Star Game, he annoyed me last night for his harsh treatment of Jon Jay in particular. And when he strode to the plate in the bottom of the 10th with the bases-loaded and Ryan Franklin in his second inning of work, all I could do was watch instead of share my fear that Byrd would be the hero right then. Not focusing on a computer screen did let me see the shot of a Cardinals fan kid standing next to a Cubs fan kid, with Cards Fan wiggling his fingers toward the field. Putting another curse on the Cubs? It worked, as Franklin got Byrd on a called third strike. And I loved that smile from Franklin as he walked off the field.
As the ESPN camera showed Kyle McClellan warming up in the top of the 11th, I knew – courtesy of Cards MLB.com writer Matthew Leach on Twitter last Thursday – how poorly McClellan does in tie games. So I was worried anew. Yet Felipe Lopez came through, McClellan and Dennys Reyes got their jobs done, and the Cardinals had a hard-fought, first-place winner.
As the Cards congratulated each other on the field, ESPN’s Dan Shulman described the game as a highly entertaining 11 innings. He was right. Perhaps I wouldn’t have thought so had the outcome gone the other way, but it was – as I’d been hoping – the opportunity I needed to simply enjoy the beauty of a baseball game. And in the end, the game’s outcome honored yesterday’s Hall of Fame inductees perfectly: Andre’s team losing, as they’d done so many times during his Cubs days, and Whitey Herzog’s team winning.
Congratulations, of course, to Whitey on his well-deserved Hall of Fame induction also. He too had a wonderful quote, that being inducted “is like going to heaven before you die.” I appreciate Whitey and his success in his Cardinals’ years, even though I was an enemy fan at the time. (And I can’t go back and retroactively change my feelings about either the 1980s Cards or Cubs. I will always love June 23, 1984.) Whitey’s contributions were many, and I did enjoy reading the tweets yesterday afternoon from the long-time Cardinals fans as they were watching Whitey’s speech.