It's no secret, I don't think, that I'm a baseball fan. Some may say I'm a baseball-aholic. I love the game of baseball. I love almost everything about baseball. I can watch it live, televised or in rebroadcasts, so I think it might be safe to say I love baseball. I always think of me when I hear the line from ''Field of Dreams'' - ''If you build it, he will come.'' I always think I am ''he.''
In my lifetime I've had the privilege of attending many baseball games on all levels (T-Ball, youth leagues, high school, college, minor league, all the way up to major leagues). I've been to pre-season, regular season and postseason games. I've been privileged to attend a World Series game, and as evidence of how much I love the game, that World Series game was the coldest on record in history and we sat there while snow flurries danced in 30-degree temperatures. So, yeah, I guess you might say I love baseball.
If you've ever been to our home and seen the decor of our living room, or have seen me drive my car, or have seen much of the wardrobe I wear, or have ever seen our yearly Christmas tree decorated entirely with baseball ornaments, or if you know that for the past 43 years, I've been involved in coaching and/or officiating baseball/softball, you might say I love baseball. If you've ever bought any of the thousands of tickets I've sold, helping to promote the game, you might say I love baseball. If you ever met me at any of the many baseball coaching clinics I've attended or presented throughout the years, you might say I love baseball. Suffice it to say, I love baseball.
Today, professional football is billed ''America's game,'' but baseball has always been and, in my opinion, will always be our national pastime. It's a game for families, a game where parents can teach their children how to keep score, a game where having a catch, especially with your kids, is unlike anything that any other sport can, or will, offer, and it's game that's been immortalized on film more than any other sport. I offer the following list of baseball movies (which I happen to have on video) which have entertained from the truest of fans to those who just like the sport for the sunshine, hot dogs, peanuts and cold drinks:
''The Jackie Robinson Story,'' ''The Pride of St. Louis,'' ''The Kid from Cleveland,'' ''Pride of the Yankees,'' ''Elmer the Great,'' ''The Kid from Left Field'' (1953), ''Safe at Home,'' ''One in a Million'' (Ron Laflore), ''The Monty Stratton Story,'' ''Don't Look Back'' (Satchel Paige), ''Bingo Long's Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings,'' ''The Winning Team'' (Grover Cleveland Alexander), ''The Natural,'' ''Field of Dreams,'' ''Bull Durham,'' ''A League of Their Own,'' ''Major League,'' ''Major League II,'' ''Major League III: Back to the Minors,'' ''Angels in the Outfield'' (the 1951 and 2000 versions), ''Angels in the Infield,'' ''The Babe,'' ''The Babe Ruth Story,'' ''Bang the Drum Slowly,'' ''Mr. Baseball,'' ''Eight Men Out,'' ''Fear Strikes Out'' (Jimmy Piersall), ''For Love of the Game,'' ''It Happens Every Spring,'' ''Hardball,'' ''Little Big League,'' ''Pastime,'' ''The Rookie'' (Jim Morris), ''Cobb,'' ''Soul of the Game,'' ''Tigertown,'' ''Talent for the Game,'' ''The Scout,'' ''Long Gone,'' ''Rookie of the Year,'' ''The Sandlot,'' ''A Winner Never Quits'' (Pete Gray), ''Kill the Umpire,'' ''The Slugger's Wife,'' ''Chasing 3000,'' ''Rhubarb,'' and the movie ''61.''
Though I don't have the following on tape, I've also seen ''Moneyball,'' ''Damn Yankees,'' ''Mr. 3000,'' ''Finding Buck McHenry,'' ''The Final Season,'' ''A Perfect Season,'' ''The Kid from Left Field'' (1979), and the entire trilogy of Bad News Bears movies. I know there are more baseball movies which I've not seen, but are out there. With all these baseball movies made through the years, how can baseball not be the game of our nation?
Voice From The Bullpen
I've seen excellent movies made about other sports including: ''Never Give Up - The Jimmy V Story,'' ''Fighting Back - The Rocky Bleier Story,'' ''The Vince Lombardi Story,'' ''Knute Rockne - All-American,'' ''Rudy,'' ''Something for Joey'' (John Cappelletti), ''Hoosiers,'' ''The Replacements,'' ''Any Given Sunday,'' ''The Blind Side,'' ''The Pistol - Birth of a Legend'' (Pete Maravich), ''The Express'' (Ernie Davis), ''The Final Shot - The Hank Gathers Story,'' ''Chariots of Fire,'' ''Slap Shot,'' ''Miracle on Ice,'' ''Miracle,'' even ''The Fortune Cookie,'' but the list can't match in number or nostalgia the movies made about our national pastime.
I lived through the Blizzard of '77. People were scrambling for things to do (other than shovel snow). We didn't have VCRs to entertain us, so it was television, books or arts and crafts to entertain us. I'm not saying that books and arts and crafts aren't worthwhile activities to occupy your time. I go back and forth on television, because much of what's on today isn't that entertaining to me. I don't really want to go through any major blizzards anymore, but if it happens and with the home baseball video library I've amassed, I'll be able to watch my favorite sport until the snow melts and I hear the two greatest words in the English language (and I imagine they say them in Japan, Cuba, Korea and all other countries that play baseball) - PLAY BALL!
(Speaking of sports films, check out the sports movies at the Robert H. Jackson Center, sponsored by the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. Next up is ''Pride of the Yankees'' on Feb. 15.)