• U.S.

PLAYING CATCH-UP BALL

3 minute read
Calvin Trillin

Arriving home from a business trip one evening last week, i found my wife planted in front of the television set, concentrating intently on the World Series. That surprised me. She does not follow baseball.

Neither do I, anymore. As I have acknowledged before, my loyalty to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association was of such intensity and purity that their demise pretty much ended my interest in the game. It’s not easy to work up enthusiasm for a bunch of strangers.

I was not among those who jumped on Bob Dole for referring to the National League team that plays in Los Angeles as the Brooklyn Dodgers. I know what it’s like to mention Carl DeRose, the sore-armed right-hander who pitched a perfect game for the Blues in 1947, and draw nothing but puzzled looks from people who call themselves baseball fans.

In fact, when Dole spoke at the convention about the glories of a simpler America, I allowed myself to think, just for a moment, that maybe if he got in he’d issue some sort of Executive Order forcing all professional baseball teams to return to their cities of origin forthwith.

“You’re the man, Bob!” I shouted at my television set, unconsciously falling into the infield chatter I somehow still associate with Odie Strain, the Blues’ shortstop, “You’re the guy, guy. You’re the fella, fella. You’re the boy, boy.”

Just for a moment, I could see the Braves moving back to Boston, where they belong. The players are trotting north on the interstate, as calmly as if they’d all been ordered to the outfield for some stretching drills. Behind them, stumbling in an effort to keep up, a pack of Atlanta boosters are shouting, “Hey, wait a minute…just a second now…you can’t do this…this is a world-class city…hey…”

In my heart of hearts, I understood that this was not to be. I understood that I was never to be a fan again, although, as recent microbiological studies have shown, there is something in the chromosomes of every American male that gives him at least sketchy knowledge of how the baseball season’s going, even if he’s under the impression that he is paying no attention at all. But my wife has no such chromosomes!

“You don’t like baseball,” I said.

“I like the World Series,” she said, after the man at bat had popped up and she had a moment to answer me. “I just don’t like all of that leading-up-to-it stuff.”

“But that’s not the way it’s done,” I said. “You’re supposed to suffer through the ups and downs of the season. This is like following only the last week of the presidential campaign.”

“So?”

She had a point there. It’s important to know the candidates’ records, of course, but was it really necessary to learn the distinction between the pre-New Hampshire strategies of Dick Lugar and Lamar Alexander? It used to be said that Americans paid no attention to the presidential race until after the World Series anyway. Given the length of the baseball season these days, a week is about all that’s left.

“I’m for the Yankees,” my wife said. “My daddy rooted for the Yankees.”

“I hate the Yankees,” I said. “They called Mickey Mantle up from Kansas City right in the middle of a hot pennant race with the Indianapolis Indians.” And then I joined her in front of the set.

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