I didn't fall in love with baseball until I was about 10-years old. That was 1998, the year that the New York Yankees won 114 regular season games (125 including the playoffs) and eventually the World Series, sweeping the San Diego Padres. In my opinion, that team was the best in baseball history, and perhaps the most dominant team ever, relative to its sport. Since then, I have made it my business to follow baseball as close to as is humanly possible.
Growing up about 30 minutes outside of New York, you realize something very early on, and that is that here baseball is king. This town takes great pride in every one of its teams. From the Rangers, to the Knicks, to the Giants and Jets, sports are just as much the lifeblood of this wonderful city as its culture and art. However, nothing compares to its love for baseball.
Now don't get me wrong. I, along with many other New Yorkers, jumped up from the couch with unparalleled joy almost two years ago when Eli Manning's pass somehow found the hands (and head) of David Tyree in Superbowl XLII. However, I would be willing to bet that after the New York Football Giants have given us a fourth Superbowl (between the Giants and Jets), nine out of ten New Yorkers are now looking for another World Series before they see another Lombardi Trophy, despite already owning 28 between the Yankees and Mets.
I am aware that the rest of the country does not share the same love for baseball that "baseball cities" such as New York, Boston, and St. Louis do (at least when it comes to choosing between baseball and other sports). The NFL's ratings have been far superior to those of Major League Baseball since the early 1970's. However, as James Earl Jones so poetically put it in the movie Field of Dreams, "Baseball has marked the time."
As far as we know, the sport of baseball as it exists today came into being around the 1830's. Since then, I believe that any major point in American history can be paralleled with something significant happening in baseball.
From the tandem of Ruth and Gehrig giving people something to root for during the Great Depression, to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in the game, serving as a reminder that all men were still a long way off from being treated as if they were created equally, to Mike Piazza's 8th inning home run on September 21st, 2001 giving a city in shambles hope during our country's darkest hour.
Baseball has always been there for us.
A list of baseball heroes has stretched for over two centuries now. Day in and day out, April through October, we have the option of inviting these players into our homes. And the slow nature that baseball is sometimes criticized for is exactly what makes the sport so personal.
We see the human tendencies of every player, pitch by pitch. The joy, the anguish, the heart; all of which reminds us that while these players are capable of what seems to be god-like talent, they are simply just like you and me.
Recently, the sport has suffered a bit. The events that have taken place in baseball over the past decade will not necessarily be looked upon favorably in sports history. We are still not sure what the repercussions will eventually be. But, for me, the "Steroid Era" will forever serve as a constant reminder that no matter what the ratings say, baseball will always be at the forefront of Americana.
Steroids and other performance enhancing drugs run rampant throughout every other professional sport in one way or another, but it is baseball that our country has bent over backwards to protect. We ask for it to be as close to perfect as possible, just as we would our own children. Consequently, it is that which inspired the title of this blog.
Whether we are playing it in the school yard or watching it on the 52" flatscreen, baseball will always be America's baby.