Opening Day is right around the corner.
My father smiles as he hands me my baseball glove. He’s been breaking it in. It’s been kept overnight with a baseball in the pocket, after being massaged with oil.
The aroma of a new baseball glove that your Dad is breaking in for you is a small thing, but makes for a big memory; one that makes you smile every time.
Baseball is like that. It’s so big and so grand but at the same time, so small and so personal.
It’s America’s National Pastime because of this, and Opening Day is right around the corner.
My wife isn’t a baseball fan. It’s not something she was ever into, although she has more than a passing familiarity with the sport. This is New York after all, and baseball runs through the city’s veins, whether or not you like it.
But even though she’s not a fan, she likes to go to games.
The cool thing about baseball is that you don’t have to like the sport to enjoy it. The nature of the game allows those who watch it to pay attention to each other as well what’s happening on the base-paths. Baseball is socially conducive. Baseball makes for a great date.
The beat and rhythm of the game lends itself to conversation. It starts out slowly, allowing you to socialize. You chat with the person you came with, you laugh, you joke, you have a cold beer. People around you get involved in conversation. You make new friends, hear old stories, and have a good time.
And all along, the game builds and grows in the background. As the innings slip past, the stakes get higher, and your attention is drawn more and more to the action on the field.
A good baseball game will build and build and build in excitement, until everyone is carried along, standing up and cheering for the final, thrilling moments.
New York City is like that. It can be so big and so grand, but it can be small and personal too. That’s the ebb and flow of this city, and why the game of baseball meshes so well with Gotham’s personality.
Walking through Windsor Terrace, you will suddenly come upon an informal memorial somebody has standing in front of their home.
It’s a loving monument to a family member who has passed on, and their picture is placed in the center of a homemade Yankees sign.
via Chad MacDonald
New Yorkers take their baseball allegiances seriously, from the largest gestures to the smallest. Everywhere in New York City, flags are beginning to appear. Some are navy and white, some are royal blue and orange, but both have an interlocked NY.
You see Yankees hats year round in Gotham. Those who wear them aren’t necessarily Yankee fans. The eponymous cap represents our city more than any other. It isn’t always an expression of the wearer’s allegiance to the Bronx Bombers, it can sometimes just mean, “I am a New Yorker.”
But a Yankee hat means even more than that.
Everywhere in the world, if you ask someone to name a baseball player, they’ll probably name a Yankee. Babe Ruth. Mickey Mantle. Derek Jeter. Columnist Dave Anderson once said, “The history of the Yankees is the history of baseball.”
He’s right. The Bombers have won more World Series Titles than anyone. It isn’t even close.
And as the Yankees are integral to baseball, and New York is integral to the Yankees, so is New York City integral to baseball.
The history and mythology of America’s National Pastime is intertwined with New York City. Perhaps we can’t lay a claim to everything in the game, but New Yorkers have defined the sport of baseball more than anyone else.
No, not just with the Yankees.
Branch Rickey made history by fielding Jackie Robinson out in Brooklyn. Rickey’s Dodgers would strike up a fierce rivalry with the Bombers, coining the term “Subway Series,” and even beating them for a World Series of their own.
It was considered a national tragedy when the Dodgers left town for Los Angeles.
The City of Angels wasn’t the only community to benefit from a New York bred team, either.
Gotham said goodbye to their baseball Giants and seeded them to San Francisco, where they became Champions in their own right.
Now we have the Mets. Love them or hate them, they’ve become a force in the sport.
They battled their way into the World Series last year, and even though they fell, they still made the city proud. When a New York team is in the playoffs, this city is fun to live in.
What you can’t take away from the Mets is their own mark on history. They have won two World Series Championships, which is still more than many teams, and they were the first to introduce costumed mascots into the game as well.
So when we say Opening Day is not only a celebration of baseball, but of New York City, that’s why.
The most lauded, celebrated, and successful team in the sport’s history is in the Bronx.
The scrappy Mets are in Queens, and both Los Angeles and San Francisco have New York City to thank for their teams.
That, my friends, is a legacy and a history New Yorkers can be proud of, no matter if you follow baseball or not.
If you do follow the sport, then there’s even more to be excited about.
The Yankees were written off last season, consigned to a rebuilding phase, yet they surprised everyone by making the playoffs. Yes, they were one and done, but considering they weren’t even supposed to be within sniffing distance of the post-season, that’s an amazing accomplishment.
And whaddaya know, Opening Day gives them a rematch with the Houston Astros, the team that beat them out last year. With a greatly improved bullpen and offense this year, hope is burning in the Bronx once again.
Out in Queens, the future is even brighter.
After getting all the way to the Big Dance, the Mets have shut down their doubters and are looking to go all the way this year. Could we see a Subway Series at the end of it all? It’s definitely a possibility!
New York City and baseball have become so big, and so grand, that Opening Day must be a spectacle, a celebration, a holiday!
If you don’t like baseball, that’s fine. Just accept that your city has contributed more to America’s Game than any other.
Your city has helped build history and create poetry. That is your legacy, and nobody can take that from you.
Liam, my own son, smiles as I hand him his baseball glove.
I’ve been breaking it in for him. It’s been kept overnight with a baseball in the pocket, after being massaged with oil. The aroma is a small thing, but re-awakens a big memory; one that makes me smile through eyes that are suddenly watery.[Feature Image Courtesy SportsChrome]