Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Though no sport suffers more self-inflicted wounds, nor does any bank as many moments and memories we can't begin to shake … and here's 60 of them.
It’s a few minutes before midnight.
Not the best time to begin a missive on the on the national pastime (presuming baseball can still claim to be it).
But if I’d started much earlier, I’d have missed MLB reporter Jesse Rogers on Scott Van Pelt’s SportsCenter offering the latest on what’s supposed to be the final day of negotiations between owners and players in which an entire 162-game schedule could be played.
Rogers informed it was past midnight in the east and the sides were still talking, saying they’d made “more progress in 14 hours than they probably had in six months.”
And because I spotted an also promising tweet from USA Today’s Bob Nightingale, I just looked at his whole feed and dang if things aren’t looking up, the tweet tone one of they’re going to get there if it kills them.
So maybe they’ll get there.
Maybe baseball starts on time and maybe the next offseason, the money, playoffs and DH figured out, they can begin correcting the game, limiting pitchers on staff, making infielders play the infield and a long list of other things fixes baseball must execute to look like something like it looked the first 120 or so years of its existence.
The other sports adjust the rules to encourage the best version of themselves, and though tradition’s a thing, making changes to improve the game serves, not detracts, from that tradition.
Alas, it’s another column.
Instead, I’m oddly moved by how important baseball beginning on time is to me. If part of the season’s lost, it won’t piss me off, but hurt my soul.
I can think of ways to explain why, yet they all begin with, “You’re not going to understand, but …,” so what’s the point?
But I have an idea.
My baseball memory began in 1975 even though my first year of T-ball had to be 1974; though I can’t remember Oakland winning the ’74 World Series but I remember the ’75 World Series well. Weird.
And if I have 50 or 100 indelible points of reference as a young football fan (loving the Sooners and Cowboys), basketball fan (loving the Sooners and Sooner-laden Suns) and hockey fan (playing at the old Ice Chalet and not missing the Rangers on USA Network in cable’s infancy), I have 500, 1,000 or 10,000 indelible points of reference from the diamond.
Indelible’s actually a great word for it, though it’s more like INDELIBLE.
1. Pete Rose sliding into third base, because he launched.
2. The way Johnny Bench caught: one handed, right hand behind his back, NEVER tossing his helmet until the foul ball’s been tracked, otherwise he might step on it.
3. Willie Stargell twirling his bat as only he could, awaiting the pitch.
4. Al Hrabosky’s “Mad Hungarian” act.
5. Carlton Fisk waving it fair.
6. Joe Morgan cocking his elbow.
7. George Brett’s grapefruit-sized chaw.
8. Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin ready to duke it out in the Yankee dugout.
10. Mark, the Bird.
11. Dan Quisenberry’s and Kent Tekulve’s windups.
12. Luis Tiant’s windup.
13. The notebook Chuck Tanner wrote down everything that happened in the ’79 World Series.
14. Bucky Dent’s home run, Keith Jackson on the call.
15. The year Willie Montanez, traded, played 163 games
16. Reggie Smith’s two-way power.
17. The USA Network’s Thursday Game of the Week, because it was always the Angels in the second game and that meant Reggie.
18. Brian Downing’s ridiculous open stance.
19. Rod Carew waving the bat like a wand.
20. The day Joaquin Andujar hit right handed against a right-handed pitcher; because Andujar, though a pitcher, was also a switch hitter..
21. Jack Brickhouse calling the Cubs.
22. Harry Caray calling the Cubs.
23. Ernie Harwell on national radio after the Tigers dumped him for no good reason. God he was great.
24. Willie Wilson hitting inside-the-park home runs.
25. “Any rebroadcast, retransmission, or account of this game, without the express written consent of Major League Baseball, is prohibited.”
26. Bullpen cars.
27. Rickey Henderson’s strike zone.
28. Garvey, Lopes, Cey, Russell.
29. Oscar Gamble’s head over about half the plate until the pitch was on its way.
30. Chris Chambliss’ ALCS winning home run.
31. Lonnie Smith losing the ball in the Metrodome’s ceiling, costing the Braves the World Series. Of course, he was still on third with nobody out so maybe it wasn’t all Lightnin’ Lonnie.
32. Francisco Cabrera knocking home Sid Bream, watched at Pizza Shuttle, on Lindsay, between deliveries.
33. Joel Youngblood getting a hit for the Mets in Chicago and the Expos in Montreal on the same day.
34. U.L. Washington’s toothpick.
35. The night Freddie Patek hit three home runs.
36. Stolen bases.
37. Tom Seaver’s right knee scuffing the mound.
38. Tony Gwynn, a magician.
39. Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren and Ernie Johnson Sr. calling the Braves (later to be joined by Norman High’s Joe Simpson).
40. The All-Star Game when it mattered.
41. Learning they let you in free at All-Sports Stadium after the fifth inning.
42. Riding my bike to Sunday doubleheaders to watch the ’89ers with Barry Webster.
43. Morganna the Kissing Bandit.
44. The San Diego Chicken.
45. Gary Matthews losing his helmet sprinting to first base.
46. Jerry Royster, at any position.
47. Chris Berman’s baseball nicknames, five all-timers of which included Bert “be home” Blyleven; Carlos “one if by air, two if by sea, three if” Baerga; Frank Tanana “daiquiri”; John, “tonight let it be” Lowenstein; and Kurt “what is that” Manwaring.
48. Earl Weaver getting tossed, and tossed and tossed.
49. Tommy Lasorda, because.
50. Greg Luzinski hitting the roof at old Comiskey.
51. Mike Schmidt, at the plate, in the field, didn’t matter.
52. This Week in Baseball
53. Harry Kalas calling the Phillies.
54. Hank Aaron’s whole life.
55. Vin Scully with the right words.
56. West Coast baseball after midnight.
57. The Giants Win the Pennant.
58. The Giants Win the Pennant.
59. The Giants Win the Pennant
60. The Giants Win the Pennant.
(Was going to stop at 50, but thought I’d stretch it into a triple)
Also, this just in:
About 2 a.m., Nightengale tweeted negotiations had ended, but they’re coming back in the morning to try to get it done by 5 p.m.
I’ll bet they play all 162.