Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's Baseball, Ray

"Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack.

And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."

With these words, James Earl Jones' character, Terence Mann, reveals the hypnotic effect of baseball to erase all difficulties and unsolvable problems for an afternoon. The ritualistic preparation of the playing field producing a stage of brilliant green grass set off against the white lines. The physical contortions necessary to prepare for the drama of Life after crossing those lines. The strategy that must occur before any action is taken and its corresponding analysis that takes place between a father and son regarding the results of the planning. This is Life and preparations for Life.

No clock, no time limits, just the never-ending opportunity to test oneself against another. Another fellow athlete, another fellow analyst. Major decisions made over the simplest of nourishment--peanuts, a hot dog, and beer.

"Well, you know I... I never got to bat in the major leagues. I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn't. That's what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases - stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That's my wish, Ray Kinsella. That's my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?"

This was the dream of Burt Lancaster's character, Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham. And the dream of millions of others. Dreams are big--game-winning home runs or striking out the last threat with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and a one-run lead, . . . but we'd all be happy with a bloop single that eludes the fielders . . . or even a catch with your dad.

Two dreamers.

The quotes are from the movie Field of Dreams; Lou Pinella, Cubs manager, is shown in the fifth photo (the person with his hand raised), and the batter in the seventh photo is Andres Blanco, Cubs shortstop.

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