Mar 22, 2018
By Gene Stevens
It’s ‘that time’ again – the boys of summer are about to begin the major league baseball season March 29th … and I’m excited! We’ll see if this is ‘the year’ for our beloved Blue Jays. But this IS ‘the Sunday’ for our ‘Baseball Edition’ of Vintage Favourites. It’s always a blast (into left field bleachers) to play this bunch of novelty-ish songs about baseball. I’ll have songs about Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle … not to mention the legendary ‘Who’s on First’ by Abbott & Costello, and the timeless ‘Casey at the Bat’. And that song – ‘Casey at the Bat’ – isn’t actually a song, but a ‘reading’ – recorded by its most famous raconteur DeWolf Hopper, recorded in 1909 – such a treat to hear again.
Cal Ripken Jr. – the all-time ‘iron man’ of baseball’s consecutive-games-played fame once said: “You could be a kid for as long as you want, playing baseball.” It’s that endless youth we may be reminded of whenever we watch – or if we’re lucky, play – a baseball game. Those endless summers of our youth, when we played for hours and hours. Even when there wasn’t a full team’s worth of available players, we’d toss a ball in the air and hit it to a bunch of fielders, each collecting points to become the next batter. New York Mets third baseman, and ‘Captain America’ after the 2009 World Series said: “Whether you have a great game, or a terrible game, tomorrow’s another day and you’ve got to come and compete.” In that sense, baseball works as a metaphor for life. Babe Ruth said: “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” Ruth was an all-time home-run hitter, of course, but did you know he was also a leader in strike-outs ? I don’t think that ever bothered him much. He famously added “Every strike brings me closer to the next home-run.” He had the confidence to stand at the plate and point to where he would hit that darn home-run – and he did – his long career’s final homer, in fact.
Tennis was the sport I was good in as a junior, but baseball became my favourite sport to play during my adult life – of course I only played it for fun, on various radio station ball-teams. Every radio station I worked at from my first in 1972 through to 2000 had staff ball-teams to play with various community groups to raise money for charities, or just for laughs. My high-light had to be the two times I got to play at SkyDome in the late 90s, right after the season-ending game, and before they rolled up the turf for the winter – our station arranged for big charity games both times. I can tell you first-hand, those base-paths are a lot longer in the pro leagues than they were on the sandlots we usually played on – whew !
Good memories, and I hope I can spark some of yours, with this Sunday’s ‘Vintage Favourites’ ‘Baseball Edition’ (March 25). Great songs and some more quotes too. I’ll finish this with the endlessly quotable Yogi Berra: “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball’s pretty good too.”
– Cheers, Gene