Thursday, February 11, 2010

Just 6 Days Away...What are Your Traditions?

A baseball.Image via Wikipedia

We here on the East Coast are slowly digging out from the Blizzard of '10. Nearly three feet of snow over two storms within days of each other, not to mention winds of up to 40 mph whipping all that white stuff into drifts twice as deep. I happen to love the stuff (yeah, even with all the shoveling!), but I know many, many folks who have seen enough snow now to satiate them for the next two winters.

Despite the snowy tundra that surrounds us, conversations among a certain group of my friends has turned to the coming spring, and how none of us can wait for the 2010 Baseball Season to start! Our wait is not that much longer: pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training this coming Wednesday, February 17, for most teams (a few teams don't report until Thursday or Friday - you can check your favorite team's schedule here.)

It's still a bit early for me to lock in my predictions for the season, but, just as many ballplayers have their superstitions and rituals they must follow in order to feel that everything will be as it should, so I have my annual rituals to ring in the new baseball season:

1. The Annual Reading of Ball Four:
Jim Bouton's first hand account of a season spent trying to survive in the major leagues with the woefully doomed Seattle Pilots (and other teams) as an eccentric knuckleballer (hmm...are there any other kinds?) is simply my favorite piece of baseball writing ever presented for public consumption. Highly controversial in its day for shattering the myth of ballplayers as paragons of virtue that had long been the public image presented by all those ghost-written autobiographies that crowded library shelves in the '50s and '60s, it is hysterically funny, highly quotable, and much tamer in today's world than it seemed at the time of it's publication 40 years ago.

2. The Annual Viewing of Game 6 of the 1980 World Series: Lifelong Phillies fans like myself will forever be able to tell you where they were and how they felt at 11:29pm on October 21, 1980 when Willie Wilson swung through a 1-and-2 fastball, Tug McGraw leapt from the Veterans Stadium mound, and the Phils were MLB's World Champions for the first time in the franchise's long history. I watch that game at the beginning of every Spring Training, hoping to see the Phils go all the way again. Since then, they've been to the Series four more times, but only won it once more. This year...this year!

3. The Annual Listening to Tug McGraw Reading Casey at the Bat:
I was pleased several years back to find a vinyl copy of the Tugger reading Casey at the Bat with The Philly Pops providing orchestral accompaniment. I usually give it a spin on the turntable the night before Opening Day.

This year, I'll be adding a fourth tradition: While the Phillies are, always have been, and always will be my team, I am also fascinated by the story of The Seattle Pilots (see tradition #1, above). The shortest-lived team in modern MLB history played exactly one season, 1969, before being moved to Milwaukee and transforming into the Brewers - and, unfortunately, providing Bud Selig with his ticket into Major League Baseball. In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Pilots' lone season, a new documentary began production last year. Finally finished, the filmmaker, Steve Cox, is now accepting pre-orders for the DVD, scheduled to ship March 5. The Seattle Pilots: Short Flight Into History looks to be an outstanding collection of memories and rare media clips from an unusual blip in baseball's storied past. Check out this clip:

I'll be reviewing the documentary here once I've received it, but I highly recommend you get in line for one as well, before they're gone - the team only lasted one season; who knows how long the documentary will be here!

In six days, these traditions will begin here in Ruttville in celebration of the coming baseball season. How about you? What are your annual traditions that ring in the baseball season for you each year?

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