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Baseball's Bounty With Opening Day near, we savor the delights, simple and strange, that spice up the national pastime

March 26, 2001
March 26, 2001

Table of Contents
March 26, 2001

Baseball 2001 Preview

Baseball's Bounty With Opening Day near, we savor the delights, simple and strange, that spice up the national pastime

Twenty-nine Reasons That Baseball--Despite Craven Owners, Venal
Players, Veterans Stadium, the Designated Hitter, Five-Hour
Games and the Devil Rays--Is, and Always Will Be, the Greatest
Sport in the History of the World: 1. Those ice-cream sundaes,
served in inverted miniature batting helmets. 2. The mystical
lure of baseball memorabilia, which compels us to crave
ice-cream sundaes served in actual game-worn batting helmets. 3.
Listening to Vin Scully. 4. Not listening to Steve Carlton. 5.
Flipping the Spread: the time-honored tradition of overturning,
in a motivational tirade, the postgame clubhouse buffet table.
6. The postgame clubhouse buffet table, from which an athlete
making $16 million a year typically eats--off a paper plate,
using only a spork--a three-course dinner of fried chicken,
mayonnaise and Zagnut bars. 7. Aurelio Rodriguez, who had all
five vowels in his first name. 8. Ed Figueroa, who had all five
vowels in his last name. 9. The Topps Company, which has put
chewing gum back into its baseball-card packs for the first time
in 10 years. 10. The chewing gum itself, which is evidently
pressed from the same cardboard used for the cards. 11. Jon
Miller, who 10 years ago, when he was broadcasting Orioles
games, lamented that Queen Elizabeth--on the day she visited
Memorial Stadium--would not stop by the booth to read the Esskay
Meats out-of-town scoreboard. 12. Don Zimmer, who doesn't have a
plate in his head, though everybody thinks he does, and he never
seems to correct them, possibly on account of the plate in his
head. 13. Caps, which in baseball are worn on heads, as opposed
to football (in which they're placed on salaries) or basketball
(in which they're busted in fannies). 14. Whitey Herzog, who,
when he was the Cardinals' manager, once conducted an interview
at his desk with SI's Jack McCallum, who couldn't help but
notice that Herzog was fully dressed from the waist up and naked
from the waist down. 15. Again Herzog, who, throughout that same
interview, was pantslessly eating a hoagie. 16. Cheddarwurst--a
sausage injected with Cheez--a staple of tailgating at Brewers
games, and a wondrous creation, sent by God to torment vegans.
17. Former Angels and Rangers skipper Doug Rader, who, in a
memorable postgame clubhouse conniption, violently heaved his
uniform pants, which landed squarely on the head of a
sportswriter. 18. The sportswriter, who continued to take notes
and nod gravely with another man's pants draped on his noggin,
fearing that any attempt to remove the unlaundered trousers
would further enrage Rader. 19. The simple knowledge that you
can step into any baseball clubhouse and find yourself suddenly
caught in a hail of pantsfire. 20. That moment, while talking to
Tigers manager Phil Garner, when you try to determine if that's
powdered-doughnut residue on his upper lip, or just mustache
dandruff. 21. The Strat-O-Matic baseball board game, which
allows a 14-year-old boy, all by himself in the basement, to
replay the entire schedule of the 1980 Royals and thus allow
George Brett to hit .408 instead of .390 (not that I ever did
any such thing). 22. The immortal Willie (Pops) Stargell, former
spring training instructor for the Braves, in which capacity I
once observed him leaning on a batting cage, at Remote Practice
Field Q, taking a standing 20-minute nap behind highway-patrol
sunglasses as 17-year-olds with triple-digit uniform numbers
shagged flies in 96[degree] heat. When I shook Pops from his
coma to ask him for an interview, he jerked to life and abruptly
blurted, "Can't! Gotta work! Gotta work, work, work!" 23. The
word fungo. 24. The fact that coaches dress exactly as the
players do, a custom unique to baseball (for which I am
extremely grateful, as I am watching, at this very moment, the
Georgia State basketball team coached by Lefty Driesell). 25.
The mullet, also known as the Kentucky Waterfall, worn by John
Kruk during his playing days with the Phillies. 26. Using your
car key to dimple the chads on a dozen All-Star ballots at once.
27. The whole hotfooting, loogie-hawking, sign-giving,
cap-tugging, cup-adjusting, Leo Mazzone-rocking,
genitalia-scratching grand opera that precedes every single
inconsequential pitch of every single inconsequential game. 28.
Fenway and Wrigley, which will be united in heaven to form a
single paradise of unearthly delights, known to all who enter it
as Frigley. Or maybe Fengley. 29. The multicolored mosaic of my
home team's pocket schedule, 162 tiles in red and blue and white
and gray, and every square pregnant with possibility.

This is an article from the March 26, 2001 issue Original Layout

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DAN PICASSO