Bart Giamatti: “It Breaks Your Heart”

Once upon a time, a poet philosopher (and former Yale University president) named Bart Giamatti (and, yes, the father of actor Paul) served briefly as the Commissioner of Baseball.  A heavy smoker all his life, Giamatti died at age 51 after serving only 5 months as Commissioner.

Despite his brief tenure, Giamatti left a lasting mark on the game, In addition to being a scholar, a tough negotiator and a stalwart Defender of the Game (Giamatti oversaw the permanent exile of Pete Rose), Giamatti also wrote extensively about the game.  His writings were compiled in a 1998 book called A Great And Glorious Game.

Somewhere – it might have been at the Baseball Hall of Fame fame in Cooperstown NY, or maybe it was somewhere in Ken Burns “Baseball” documentary, I encountered the opening paragraph of that book.  Now that another baseball season has come and gone, that opening passage comes to mind once again:

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. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.

Last night, it stopped again.  The seasons now – like the games – seem to go on forever. Maybe it’s fitting that these interminable seasons, with their interminable games, stretch into November.  The World Series ends now just a few days before we return to “standard time”  –and the darkness descends before the afternoon is over.

Roy Campanella – the second black player in the Major Leagues, seen here with the first.

I used to be a big baseball fan.  I grew up with the “Mantle/Maris Yankees” of the 1950s and 60s.  I became a “closet Dodger Fan” in the 4th grade after reading a biography of Roy Campanella – the second black player in the major leagues.  I became an Atlanta Braves fan when I moved to Hawaii in the 1980s and Turner’s TBS was the only “live” television station.   TBS carried all the Braves games in those days, and I watched as they compiled one of the worst records in baseball through the 1980s.  But for that dedication the Gods rewarded me with tickets for the first World Series game ever played south of the Mason Dixon Line – Game 3 of the epic 1991 World Series between the Braves and the Minnesota Twins.

And I’ve always been a Cubs fan. I believed for a long time that all true baseball fans were cubs fans, because you always root for the team that has “gone the longest without” winning the whole thing.  And until 2016 that was the Chicago Cubs.  Somewhere there is a photo of me throwing a shoe at at TeeVee after the Cubs lost the 1984 NLCS to the San Diego Padres…

But somehow over the past few years I’ve become less of a baseball fan. I was still a Braves fan when I moved to Nashville, but Ted Turner sold everything Time-Warner and eventually the games stopped showing up regularly on TBS.  They were moved all over the dial.

And then… TiVo.  I think it was TiVo that wrecked my ability to watch long baseball games.  Because TiVo made it unnecessary to watch commercials.  And if you’re going to sit through a four-or-five hour baseball game, you’re going to have to suffer through a LOT of fucking commercials.

But I did watch as much of this year’s World Series as time would allow, and even though Houston was the team that “has gone the longest without” (like, forever), I was disappointed when the Dodgers couldn’t get out of the dugout in Game 7 last night.

And now the season is over, and the darkness descends.



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Paul Schatzkin