Me and the Curve

My body, six feet tall and cartoonishly slim, resembles no known athlete’s body, which makes sense because it performs like no known athlete’s body.

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Major League Baseball opened its 2023 season today with a clock to govern the time between pitches, something that has not ever been used in baseball. Poets who were baseball fans were known to rhapsodize over the inner rhythms of an individual game and about baseball’s “timeless” qualities, but in recent years games took three-and-a-half hours to play, which is not at all timeless.

Today’s New York Yankees victory took two hours and thirty-three minutes to play, a full ninety minutes less than last year’s opening day performance. I think that the length of time it took to play a single game is a reason why it has been several years since I have watched a game from start to finish; three hours deep into almost anything I start to think about household chores I want to work on. Perhaps this season will see me watch a game again.

If you had told me when I was sixteen that I would live entire years without watching even an inning of a major league game, I probably would have asked you what had gone wrong in my life. I learned math, arithmetic, from the backs of baseball cards. I memorized famous players’ stats. I had a baseball card collection whose organization was maintained with an attentiveness that a librarian might envy. I wanted to be a baseball player, my lack of athletic skills be damned.
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Henry Aaron: 1934–2021

A personal memory of the all-time great.

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Henry Aaron, the greatest baseball player in history, died this morning at the age of 86. Because he played in an era in which baseball was a part of what it felt like to be an American, his impact on the sport extended far beyond baseball. America needed Hank Aaron (and Willie Mays and so many others) in ways that it still has not started to appreciate.

In baseball, his statistics will always be eye-popping: if one removes his 755 home runs from his hit total, he still had more than 3000 hits. That is only the beginning of his importance in baseball history. I caught a glimpse once of how he carried himself as a person, which for me has long represented some of the reasons he could have that impact on American society far beyond his baseball card stats. I’ll tell that brief story below.

On April 8, 1974, Aaron hit the 715th home run of his career in Atlanta in the fourth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was a member of the Atlanta Braves and had been for two decades. His 715th homer broke a record for career home runs that had been set when Babe Ruth hit his final home run in 1935. (Aaron’s final record of 755 homers stood until 2007.)
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Pandemic Diary 8: The Flat Curve

I could never hit the curve. Also, as if consistent physical incompetence was to be sole consistency that nature would bestow on me, I could not throw the curve, either.

Never athletic anyway, the absence of athletic ability from the start of my life was not a factor in any life decisions. And now, disabled as I am, almost every physical activity qualifies as athletic. (I walk a couple of miles each day because I can and ought to.) But I wanted to be a baseball player …
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