I would walk through hell in a gasoline suit to keep playing baseball.
...Kids today, they go, 'how much is your baseball card worth?' And I'm going, 'A plug nickel, son, a plug nickel.' I'm saying, 'Son, be your own person. Do not collect baseball cards. It will be the ruination of you. Maybe you'll learn economics a little bit or you'll learn what value is. But you're being an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur takes something of no value and makes money on it. And I do not believe in that for kids.' I teach 'em right off the bat: Learn the game. Do not look at Yuppie, do not look at the Chicken. Do not look at that. Look at the ground ball. Field it cleanly with both hands. Be as smooth as silk. You know, make the nice throw to second. Have the nice breaking curve ball. Subtract on the changeup. See the ball and hit it. Don't associate with the other things of the game. They will eventually bring you down, eat you up and spit you out.
--Bill 'the Spaceman' Lee
When Kent Tekulve was born, the doctor slapped his mother.
--Unidentified Press-box writer, Portland, Oregon
Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.
A lot of long relievers are ashamed to tell their parents what they do. The only nice thing about it is that you get to wear a uniform like everybody else.
You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way round all the time.
It is played everywhere. In parks and playgrounds and prison yards. In back alleys and farmers' fields. By small children and old men. Raw amateurs and millionaire professionals. It is a leisurely game that demands blinding speed. The only game in which the defense has the ball. It follows the seasons, beginning each year with the fond expectancy of springtime, and ending with the hard facts of autumn. It is a haunted game, in which every player is measured against the ghosts of all who have gone before. Most of all, it is about time and timelessness. Speed and grace. Failure and loss. Imperishable hope. And coming home.
Baseball means what those of us who hold it in our hearts need it to mean. It can be a pastime, or it can be something by which we measure the seasons of our lives, or it can be something that serves metaphorically for the battles, the triumphs, and the tragedies of any form of human conflict. I think I prefer it to be a game—and I think, more than anything else, it tells me that there's something in the world that I can count on—and it's never going to let me down.
Yeah, but I love you more than football and basketball.
To his wife after she declared that he loved baseball more than her.
Baseball's time is seamless and invisible, a bubble within which players move at exactly the same pace and rhythms as all their predecessors. This is the way the game was played in our youth and in our fathers' youth, and even back then—back in the country days—there must have been the same feeling that time could be stopped. Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is...keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young. Sitting in the stands, we sense this, if only dimly. The players below us—Mays, DiMaggio, Ruth, Snodgrass—swim and blur in memory, the ball floats over to Terry Turner, and the end of this game may never come.
What I do know is that this belonging and caring is what our games are all about; this is what we come for. It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look—I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring—caring deeply and passionately, really caring—which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete—the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball—seems a small price to pay for such a gift.
I don't know if this is what you're asking. But I feel closest to God, like after I'm rounding second base after I hit a double.
--Eight-year-old Jewish boy
I'm coming down on the next pitch, Krauthead.
Shouted to shortstop Honus Wagner in the 1909 World Series. He did, and Wagner hit him in the mouth, cutting his lip and knocking out two teeth.
The longer I live, the longer I realize that batting is more a mental matter than it is physical. The ability to grasp the bat, swing at the proper time, take a proper stance, all these are elemental. Batting rather is a study in psychology, a sizing up of pitcher and catcher, and observing little details that are of immense importance. It's like the study of crime, the work of a detective as he picks up clues.
The first big-league game I ever saw was at the Polo Grounds. My father took me. I remember it so well—the green grass and the green stands. It was like seeing Oz.
I don't know why people like the home run so much. A home run is over as soon as it starts.... The triple is the most exciting play of the game. A triple is like meeting a woman who excites you, spending the evening talking and getting more excited, then taking her home. It drags on and on. You're never sure how it's going to turn out.
It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.
--A. Bartlett Giamatti
Don't tell me about the world. Not today. It's springtime and they're knocking baseballs around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball.
When I was a kid, there was nothing else...We had Robinson, Reese and Furillo. We had Stanky and Hodges and Billy Cox. They came to us in the Spring, as certain as rain and birds. They came on the radio, with Red Barber telling their tale, and there was nothing else we wanted.
You learn to leave some mysteries alone. At 28 I was susceptible to suggestions that I explain—not describe but explain—baseball in America. I published in small quarterlies. I addressed a Columbia seminar, and I developed a showy proficiency at responding to editors who asked me to "equate the game in terms of Americana."
Such phrases now bang against my brain like toothaches. I never look at the old pieces anymore, but I remember some generalizations I drew:
Baseball is not played against a clock. (But neither is tennis, golf or four-handed gin rummy.)
Baseball rules have barely changed across generations. (Neither have the rules of water polo.)
The ball field is a mystic creation, the Stonehenge of America. That is, the bases are a magic 90 feet apart. Think how often a batter is thrown out by half a step, compared to instances when he outruns a hit to shortstop. But artificial surfaces have lately changed the nature, if not the dimensions, of the diamond. A ground ball at Riverfront Stadium moves much faster than the same grounder bouncing on the honest grass of Wrigley Field. Yet at last look, baseball in Cincinnati seemed to be surviving. Batters there are also thrown out by half a step.
Suppose the bases had been set 80 or 86 feet apart. The fielders simply would have positioned themselves differently, and a ground ball to short would still be a ground ball to short, 6-3 in everybody's scorebook.
I do believe this: baseball's inherent rhythm, minutes and minutes of passivity erupting into seconds of frenzied action, matches an attribute of the American character. But no existential proclamation, or any tortured neo-Freudianism, or any outburst of popular sociology, not even—or least of all—my own, explains baseball's lock on the American heart.
You learn to let some mysteries alone, and when you do, you find they sing themselves.
Blind people come to the park just to listen to him pitch.
On Tom Seaver
Hey, big mouth, how do you spell triple?
--Shoeless Joe Jackson
Response to a heckling Cleveland fan who kept asking the illiterate Jackson if he could spell 'illiterate.' After hitting a triple, this was his response.
People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.
— Rogers Hornsby
At the ballpark or even in front of the television, fans are, for the interlude of a few hours, different from whom they are in everyday life—masquerading no less than people do at Mardi Gras or Carnivale to revel in life and taunt death. In the drama that is a baseball game the fan imagines himself not a spectator but a participant, as if the fervor of his rooting will have a bearing on the outcome.
Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms...the game of ball is glorious.
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 have a look around," you'll say. "It's only twenty dollars 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, and sit in shirt-sleeves 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'd dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces...The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.
I was thirteen years old and Jackie Robinson came to town to play an exhibition with the Dodgers. All the black folks in town turned out to see him. The old people, who could hardly walk, paraded down the main street with their heads high and the kids were dancing and a few people were being taken to the game in wheelchairs and even some blind people and the very sick. Nobody wanted to miss it. And I sat up there in the bleachers watching him and saying that would be me someday and when the train with the Dodgers pulled out, Jackie stood on the back platform like a political campaigner waving and smiling and making everybody feel good. I followed that train all the way down those tracks as far as I could run until the sound was gone and the tracks didn't rattle any more.
The bases were drunk, and I painted the black with my best yakker. But blue squeezed me, and I went full. I came back with my heater, but the stick flares one the other way and chalk flies for two bases. Three earnies! Next thing I know, skipper hooks me and I'm sipping suds with the clubby.
I don't know, I never smoked AstroTurf.
When asked whether he favored grass or artificial turf
Nintey percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other 10 percent I'll probably waste.
On how he intended to use his $75,000 salary in 1975
Your Holiness, I'm Joseph Medwick. I, too, used to be a Cardinal.
Upon meeting the Pope at a Vatican audience, during his WWII service.
Well, we're all 10 years older today. Dizzy Dean is dead. And 1934 is gone forever. Another part of our youth fled. You look in the mirror and the small boy no longer smiles back at you. Just that sad old man. The Gashouse Gang is now a duet.
Dizzy died the other day at the age of 11 or 12. The little boy in all of us died with him....
But, for one brief shining afternoon in 1934, he brought a joy to that dreary time when most we needed it.
That man was so fast he could turn out the light and jump in bed before the room got dark.
On Cool Papa Bell
Luck is the residue of design.
Man may penetrate the outer reaches of the universe, he may solve the very secret of eternity itself, but for me, the ultimate human experience is to witness the flawless execution of the hit-and-run.
The sounds were the same through the years—the American sounds of summer, the tap of bat against ball, the cries of the infielders, the wooden plump of the ball into the catcher's mitts, the umpires calling 'Strike three and you're out.' The generations circled the bases, the dust rose for forty years as runners slid in from third, dead boys hit doubles, famous men made errors at shortstop, forgotten friends tapped the clay from their spikes with their bats as they stepped into the batter's box, coaches' voices warned, across the decades, 'Tag up, tag up!' on fly balls. The distant, mortal innings of boyhood and youth.
Putting lights in Wrigley Field is like putting aluminum siding on the Sistine Chapel.
A man once told me to walk with the Lord. I'd rather walk with the bases loaded.
After forcing in a run with a walk in the 1983 World Series
Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player. It's staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in.
What we have are good gray ballplayers, playing a good gray game and reading the good gray Wall Street Journal. They have been brainwashed, drycleaned and dehydrated! They have been homogenized, orientated and indoctrinated! Their mouths have been washed out, their appetites stunted, their personalities bleached! They say all the right things at all the right times, which means that they say nothing.
Ruth was not unique. Wake up the echos at the Hall of Fame and you will find that basseball's immortals were a rowdy and raucous group of men who would climb down off their plaques and go rampaging through Cooperstown, taking spoils, like the Third Army busting through Germany.
Deplore it if you will, but Grover Cleveland Alexander drunk was a better pitcher than Grover Cleveland Alexander sober.
I have discovered in twenty years of moving around a ball park, that the knowledge of the game is usually in inverse proportion to the price of the seats.
Ted Williams is the man who always said that hitting a baseball was the toughest thing in sports. And I'm a disciple who says that hitting a baseball when you're coming off the bench, bottom of the ninth, against somebody throwing heat or split-fingered magic, is the toughest part of the toughest thing.
But it's still better than lifting things.
If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base.
You think about it. What is there in your life, besides your love of family maybe, that carries all the way through, from almost your earliest recollections until the day you die, and you care about it in one way or another? There are very, very few things that make that list. We come to things at various times in our lives, when we can comprehend them, when we have an interest in them. But we have a child's interest in baseball; in my case from the time I was five. I can't imagine never having an interest in baseball. So it will be one of the few things in my life that I have cared about one way or another all the way through.
If historic America survives anywhere as more than a roadside marker, it is in baseball, that strangely pastoral game in no matter what setting—domed stadium, open-air ballpark, or Little League diamond. Even those whose entire lives have been spent in big cities feel the call of the grass, the undertow of the past.
Time is of the essence. The crowd and the players are the same age always, but the man in the crowd is older every season.
Fear is the fundamental factor in hitting, and hitting the ball with the bat is the fundamental act of baseball.
The fear is simple and instinctive. If a baseball, thrown hard, hits any part of your body, it hurts. If it hits certain vulnerable areas, like elbows, wrist or face, it can cause broken bones and other serious injuries. If it hits a particular area of an unprotected head, it can kill.
A thrown baseball, in short, is a missile, and an approaching missile generates a reflexive action: get out of the way.
This fact—and it is an unyielding fact that the reflex exists in all humans—is the starting point for the game of baseball, and yet it is that least often mentioned by those who write about baseball.
...the words, 'Dahlgren, first base,' stunned the crowd into a moment of unplanned silence, which was followed by the unprecedented sound of several thousand people sighing in unison. Then Gehrig trudged painfully up to the plate, carrying the lineup card without his name on it. It was one of the most moving moments in sports history, high drama of the sort you cannot make up.
The sun don't shine on the same dog's ass all the time.
--Jim 'Catfish' Hunter
Dispassionate response after a rough outing
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