Memories of ball games past

It was the live crowds that made the game fun.The evening news reports Republicans in the state Assembly want Gov. Wolf to sign a bill into law that allows school districts to decide how many people, if any, to allow in the stands to watch football games. On screen, a legislator declares the individual schools “are in the best position to know” what is best for the players and the fans.

Actually, I sympathize with fans who want to watch their offspring play ball. Once upon a time, maybe six months ago, I enjoyed going to ball games to watch someone else’s offspring play.

For example, there was the Cincinnati Reds game a few years back. My son scored a couple of tickets right by first base – low enough to recognize the players,  high enough to see the whole field. I have been to football games where the seats were so high my nose had stopped bleeding by the time I got to my assigned position. These seats were nice.

The field is named for the local power company – Cinergy – causing a brief wonder about whatever happened to names such as Three Rivers, Riverfront, Dodger? Names that said something besides “Money.”

On the walk to the stadium we passed street hawkers selling peanuts and souvenirs. A public school violin group sold candy at $2 a bar.  Yup! We bought some peanuts and candy. The candy was for a good cause, and what’s a baseball game without peanuts?

Overhead, airplanes carved lazy circles in the sky, towing banners touting car dealers, a convention center, prevention of cruelty to animals, a cure for a wet cellar, paintball, a pizza joint, a pool table sale, and Never Never Never Shake a Baby.

Watching a baseball crowd is intriguing. For one thing, it’s generally quiet. There are few, if any, multi-colored fans stomping and calling for death to opposing teammates. Even play is fairly quiet. A friend who is heavy into football has likened watching a baseball game to watching paint dry. I ask him what is wrong with dry paint. He doesn’t answer.

There is a lot going on at a baseball game. To me, every one is a lesson in crowd psychology. For instance …

Sammy Sosa comes to the plate for the Cubs. The crowd, some 37,000 strong, Reds-rooters all, boos Sammy. It wasn’t a loud boo, but it was a boo, nonetheless. Actually, it was only mildly noteworthy until – Sammy tagged his first pitch over the 375-foot fence in right center field. The roar heard in Gettysburg that night was the fans at Cinergy Field cheering Sammy Sosa.

Contrast that reaction with what happened when Ken Griffey – “Junior” to the fans – took position over the five-sided rubber plate. He was new to the Reds, taking his place with the team on which his dad once played.

The crowd cheered. Their multi-million dollar homer hitter had not put one out during regular season, but no matter. He’s their multi-million dollar homer hitter, and they cheer. He lets a couple go by, then taps one out to second base.

The crowd moans. Maybe next time. Pass the peanuts.

This season, I am concerned about becoming one of the confirmed Coronavirus statistics, which could lead to becoming one of the former residents of Planet Earth. I’m not ready to leave yet.

So, for now, I will wear a mask to keep from breathing on other folks, and I will shake elbows instead of hands.

And recall that Reds game, and a few others, and pay attention to folks who know way more than I whether it is OK to fill a stadium with cheers and moans for other people’s offspring.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share.

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