Stealing Bases…Something for Nothing

“There comes a time in every man’s life, and I’ve had plenty of them.” Casey Stengel

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We’re about to say goodbye to football after the conclusion of Sunday’s big boast-off day. Are we saturated yet? But then again, is football like a federal bureaucracy, perpetually there? Let’s move on to a more interesting sport that ennobles ‘stealing’ as a benefit.

Baseball…what a game! It’s the closest thing to life as man can ever devise.

They’re many reasons why… not the least of which is being able to steal something with impunity and get into baseball’s equivalent of the Books of Life. With skill, stealing bases can result in a bronze statue on the front lawn of some stadium.

I like baseball because it’s slow. Like life, it’s mostly preparation and periodic execution. Here’s the picture:

The pitcher stands on the mound, massaging the ball. The catcher signals him with a finger. He nods, looks at first base. A runner taunts him, leads off a few feet, then a few more. Decision time. He stretches, cocks his arm and zings a 98-mph fast ball 60 feet to a brown, 12-inch leather target. The runner commits, sprints 90 feet towards 2nd base. The crowd leaps to its feet and screams. In less than the time it takes to say, “Holy Mother,” the catcher fires a rocket ball to the 2nd baseman. A cloud of dust erupts ~ the runner slides in, the throw is one second too late. Safe! Another stolen base, another statistic. The crowd sits down to its beer and p’nuts, waiting for the on-deck hitter. Life begins again.

Stolen bases began in 1871. They’re the infrequent thrill that enlivens an otherwise lethargic game of skill, teamwork and strategy. The record for the most stolen bases in one season is 138, held by Hugh Nicol in 1887. The record for the cumulative most stolen bases is 1,406, owned by Rickey Henderson.

Like life, baseball has its peculiarities and its proclivities, both good and bad. It teaches young men odious habits that aren’t socially acceptable, like publicly hustling private parts while being broadcast to millions on TV. What kind of mentor is this? But at the same time, it adds camaraderie and discipline, valuable lessons of life.

To make matters worse, the game allows tobacco chewing and spitting on the field. What kind of signal does this send to onlookers? Speaking of spectators, will somebody please ban attendance without shirts? What’s that about … modeling for Wal-Mart?

Back to stealing bases. Imagine ~~ something for nothing! That’s what stolen bases are. Journalists like to think in metaphors. What a wide array of images come to mind when exponentiating the concept of stealing bases. It’s a crack in time when serendipity slips through, seizing a fleeting opportunity, or exploiting a situation or outrunning the hovering winged chariot of time. It’s a high-five moment.

Who will ever forget stealing a kiss on an elevator? Or stealing someone’s thunder? Or stealing the show? Or stealing a furtive glance and sly wink? These are the stolen bases of life.

Life, like baseball, has a beginning and an ending. Baseball can’t be defaulted out or quit in mid-game voluntarily. It must continue, win or lose, until the bitter end. In 2007, the Texas Rangers whipped up on the Baltimore Orioles, 30 to 0, the standing record of embarrassment for any major league team. Life has other options and other rules, some kind, some not.

As spring practices are about to begin, let’s remember the wisdom of the baseball old timers:

Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” Satchel Paige

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” Babe Ruth

And finally, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Yogi Berra

Batter up!

 

Bud Hearn

January 31, 2020

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