“There’s no crying in baseball,” the down-and-out coach famously admonished his female team in “A League of Their Own.”
But there is cheating.
We like to call it America’s pastime, but that requires us to embrace a nod, nod, wink, wink philosophy about our beloved game.
I am a baseball fan, nay, junkie, and don’t have a problem admitting that in public. I also acknowledge there are legions who don’t like, or understand, or appreciate this game and its nuances. I just ignore them and figure they don’t know what they’re missing. To each his own.
There is a certain beauty to it, couched in terms of endless, breezy summer’s evenings that just cannot be replicated upon rectangular fields with identical goals at each end and a ticking clock.
But scandal has been a part of baseball about as long as there has been baseball, or at least, since there has been big money attached to it.
The Blacksox scandal was so pervasive that it dragged down an apparently innocent Shoeless Joe Jackson and cost a great player his rightful legacy as a star, rather than as a cad.
Steroids have sullied the reputations of many other bright stars. Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro and McGwire top my list of favorites who likely won’t take otherwise deserved spots in the Hall of Fame.
Pete Rose was as fierce a competitor as ever walked the diamond, a throwback to Rogers Hornsby, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb. But it appears his place in Cooperstown won’t be in bronze in the main hall because he couldn’t resist his gambling urge.
And now we have those individual plays, wrongly called, being put in the glaring spotlight of Youtube.
The latest, a pop foul that leaked into the stands, called as an out, when a fan was the one who came up with the ball, not the head-over-heels player.
It has correctly been pointed out that this wouldn’t be tolerated in professional golf. The player would call the mistake himself: “Ump, I didn’t catch it.”
Instead he slunk back to the dugout with a sheepish grin.
Kind of reminds me of another movie line, from the football coach in “The Last Picture Show.” Urging the chain crew to stretch it just a little to keep the opposition from making a key first down. It’s OK if it’s for the home team, he said.
The explanations emanating from the latest faux pas are a bit disconcerting. The game’s hard enough and you take what breaks you can get, was one theme. There are plenty of close plays, and some go for you and others against you, was another.
Throwing in a little honesty seemed to take a back seat. In a game that includes spitballs, pine tar incidents, spiking and brush backs/beanings, I suppose I should not have expected more.
Still it’s a little disappointing that someone with the authority to make it stick hasn’t stepped to the figurative plate and demanded – or perhaps suggested – that baseball try to come clean. At least move in that direction.
The impact of those winks and nods upon impressionable young fans doesn’t bode well for the game or its reputation.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be the same game without its darker side, but I think I’d rather have some occasional crying. Oh wait, that’s called the NBA.