The Sunday Edition

Baseball and I are no longer an item — Michael's essay

“I am cutting the umbilical, moving out of the House of Baseball and giving my glove to the Sally Ann thrift store. Baseball and I are no longer an item. Quitting a passion for baseball is going to be harder for me than quitting smoking. But it has to be done. Reasons? It's not the Astros sign-stealing scandal. It's not even the outrageous salaries. It's the accretion, the weight of so many frustrated sighs over the years.”
Toronto Blue Jays' legend Roberto Alomar speaking to young ballplayers in Charlottetown at the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy Super Camp in August 2019. (Tom Steepe/CBC)
Listen5:43

In 1954, the philosopher and social historian Jacques Barzun wrote perhaps the most telling sentence ever about the game of baseball.

"Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and reality of the game."

Around the same time, a kid reporter with the New York Herald Tribune named Roger Kahn was travelling the country with his favourite team, the Brooklyn Dodgers — the original Wait Till Next Year team.

This was the golden age of baseball in general, and Dem Bums, in particular.

Think about a roster that included Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges and Roy Campanella.

Kahn's 1972 book, The Boys of Summer, was a lavish paean to the Dodgers and baseball as a living testament to the American Dream. It changed the way baseball was reported and set a new standard for sports coverage.

The book was a tale of knights and knaves, and Kahn was their paladin.

Roger Kahn died last week at the age of 92.

But he lived long enough to see Jacques Barzun's dramatic change in his baseball heart.

Back in 2007, Barzun, then 85, wrote: "I've gotten so disgusted with baseball. I don't follow it anymore. I see the headlines and turn my head in shame from what we have done with our interesting, best and healthiest pastime."

I've been troubled by this waning of my baseball obsessions for some time now. And 2020 is the year of moving on.- Michael Enright

His main argument with the game was over-inflated salaries. He called the raucous commercialization of the game a disaster.

And this week, as pitchers and catchers report for spring training, baseball's most elegant chronicler, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post, wrote:

"It has taken a lifetime (mine) to watch baseball's ethical issues drift from amusing to troubling to deeply endangering for the game."

My lifetime, too. I started following baseball when I started playing it, around age 10.

I papered my bedroom walls with photos of my heroes: Mantle, Stan Musial, Ted Kluszewski, Warren Spahn, Yogi Berra, Ted Williams, Willie Mays.

I got a signed photo of the last Don Larsen World Series perfect game pitch on my birthday in October 1956.

I worked Spartan hours to pattern my batting stance after Stan the Man.

It was a feckless endeavour; I was never very good. My playing days ended when I was in my 40s and ran out of wind. Thank you, Camel cigarettes.

Today's game is for me unrecognizable from the game I discovered. There are no flesh and blood characters. No Billy Martins, no Yogis, no Gaylord Perrys, no oddballs.​​​​- Michael Enright

I've been troubled by this waning of my baseball obsessions for some time now. And 2020 is the year of moving on.

I am cutting the umbilical, moving out of the House of Baseball and giving my glove to the Sally Ann thrift store.

Baseball and I are no longer an item.

Quitting a passion for baseball is going to be harder for me than quitting smoking. But it has to be done.

Reasons? It's not the Astros sign-stealing scandal. It's not even the outrageous salaries.

It's the accretion, the weight of so many frustrated sighs over the years.

For example, the fact that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are considered for the Hall of Fame even though they used more performance-enhancing drugs (PED) than a galaxy of Russian weightlifters.

Indeed, the doping with PEDs by so many players over the last 20 years is a major factor in my decision.

Another reason? The Clevelandization of my beloved Toronto Blue Jays. Long forgotten are the days of Alomar, Stieb, Halladay and Olerud.

To my mind, when the Americans took over running the Jays, the slide downhill began. And their ticket prices. Why should it cost a cab driver more than a hundred dollars to take the family to a ball game?

That was the game of my youth and middle age. That game has gone. So has youth and middle age.-  Michael Enright

Today's game is for me unrecognizable from the game I discovered. There are no flesh and blood characters. No Billy Martins, no Yogis, no Gaylord Perrys, no oddballs.

That was the game of my youth and middle age. That game has gone. So has youth and middle age.

The game will go on; it will last. It is that perfect a game. It will, I pray, survive the flesh-eating owners and outlive the millionaire juicers.

Long ago, the late baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti wrote a wonderful essay about baseball called, "The Green Fields of the Mind."

In it, he compared the 162-game baseball season to the passage of nature, the renewal of spring, high summer, the chills of autumn.

"Baseball," he wrote, "will break your heart. It is designed to break your heart."

He was so right.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full essay.

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