“Ninety percent of the game is half mental.” (Yogi Berra)


Ah, the great and wise philosopher Yogi Berra. No man ever made more sense with less ability than he. I could write a whole blog on Yogi-isms but this one’s about baseball and how much the game bears a striking resemblance to life in general. I, myself, only played baseball one season in grade school. I was the fastest kid in school and the other guys convinced me that my speed would be enough to make me great at baseball. Boy were they wrong. I could run and catch and throw with the best of them but hitting and the mental parts were extremely difficult for me. The “situational” hitting was more than I could process and perform simultaneously. “There’s two outs, bottom of the 8th, the score is 9 to 1 us, 2 balls and 1 strike, the pitcher is left handed with red hair, the first  baseman just gagged on his bubble gum, the wind is blowing hard out to left center, the center fielder can’t run because his pants don’t fit, the catcher just farted and the umpire is an old drunk, so what do you do? ” Who needs that kind of pressure?

In all other sports they just told me to take the ball and go that way. Simple, precise, uncomplicated and perfectly suited to an adoloescent mind that was way more interested in cute cheerleaders. But I digress, this isn’t about sports so much as it’s about baseball as a metaphor for life. Baseball has all of the elements that make life interesting and all of the oddities that make philosophers out of guys like Yogi Berra, Casey Stengel, Dizzy Dean and Babe Ruth. It can be boring at times with a lot of standing around punctuated by moments of sheer brilliance. It causes grown men to pontificate on statistics that are so arcane even a mathemetician would struggle to digest them. It is America’s greatest gift to the world of sports and I hope it stays the same forever.

Here’s why I think it is so much like life. You start out in the minor leagues, scraping for hits or trying to master a curveball and it takes years of practice before you’re ready for the big leagues. Doesn’t that sound like adolescence? It’s played in a park where they serve hot dogs, beer and cracker jacks? Doesn’t  that remind you of your neighborhood? It’s got rules that make no sense but are followed strictly to the letter? My mom’s demand that I “sit up straight” comes very close to what constitutes a balk. I still don’t get that one. Baseball is ridiculously arbitrary in ways that only a parent could understand. I struck out once on a ball so low but over the plate that I couldn’t have hit it with a sand wedge. I was so mad at the ump for calling me out that I threw my bat in his general direction. It felt just like getting in trouble at home, I knew I was right but I was still in trouble.

Baseball has a knack for bringing out the humanity in all of us. We watch with great anticipation as each individual gets his chance at bat or in the field or on the mound, but even nine great players aren’t a great team unless they play together and help each other achieve greatness. Those are the moments we all long for; the double play, the relay throw to the plate, and most of all, the grand slam where 4 players in a row all had to get hits. All individual plays that make a winning team. That’s what makes life worth living, the shared experience of overcoming obstacles and the joyous moments of accomplishment when everything comes together.

I’m sure other team sports share these attributes but for my money baseball captures the essence of the American ideal. We all have our chance at bat and even when we strike out as individuals we may still win the game as a team. I think Yogi Berra was right when he made this other wonderful comment and it serves as my personal motivation each day, “I ain’t in a slump, I just ain’t hitting.”

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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