“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby
America’s Pastime. The only game where you can fail 70 percent of the time and still be a Hall of Famer. In recent years, baseball’s popularity has seen a decline across the nation for a variety of reasons. One being that the game is too long. It’s too slow. “I don’t want to wait 30 seconds between pitches” the common person might say. I can understand it. If one only looks at the game of baseball on the surface, it leaves so much to be desired. The thing about baseball though, is that it is a collection of great things coming together to form what I believe is the greatest game ever played. Below you will find ten reasons why it is the greatest game ever played.
1. Baseball is the only major professional sport where the defense controls the ball. Think about that for a moment. In basketball, the ball starts in the hands of the team trying to score. They can shoot whenever they wish. Football, the offense has the opportunity to pick and choose whatever play they want without regards to what the defense is doing. Hockey with the puck, soccer, and lacrosse, the offense controls the ball. In baseball, every single “possession” starts with the pitcher, 60 feet, 6 inches away. The offense is at the mercy of his control. That is something that no other major American sport has.
2. It ain’t over till it’s over. There is no clock in baseball. It cannot run out on you. There is no letting the play clock run down, or dribbling around wasting time. You show up to play 9 innings. Each team gets 27 outs to win. If a team is down 35 points with 2 minutes to go in a football game, there is no possible chance they can win. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, down 8, you’re still very much in a baseball game. Mind you, your chances of winning are down significantly, but you’re still only down, not out.
Without a clock, we have the opportunity for great comebacks that are not like any other sport. For example: just this past season, my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, down 9-1 at one point, and 10-5 in the 8th, scored 9 runs with 2 outs to win the game 14-10. Nine runs. That comeback is just something that you’re only going to see in baseball.
3. Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in all of sports. To me, this is non-negotiable. Just ask Michael Jordan, he’ll tell you. This is one where you either understand it, or you don’t. I mentioned above that baseball is the only sport where failing 70% of the time is considered a success. That in itself illustrates just how hard it is. This also falls in line with my first point, which the pitcher controls the ball, and you’re reacting off of him. Not to mention, have you ever seen Rob Friedman’s twitter? That’ll show you just how hard it is.
4. The Rivalries. Yankees vs Red Sox. Cubs vs Cardinals. Dodgers vs Giants. These are all incredible rivalries that you aren’t going to see anywhere else in professional sports. Sure, you might enjoy Duke vs UNC basketball or Michigan vs Ohio St football, but that doesn’t carry over to the NFL or NBA. In baseball, we get to see 19 individual match ups of these teams battling it out for bragging rights in games that often actually matter. The pure hatred is just something you cannot find anywhere else. Whether it be the players or the fans, it is there and it is so much fun.
5. Opening Day. A should be National Holiday. For many baseball fans, this is a spring christmas. When baseball comes back, it does so in a big way. Opening Day is an event. Other sports first games don’t possess the prowess that baseball’s do. Sure, “football is back” or “The NBA is back” is something people often say, but the magnitude of the event is nothing like baseball. Opening Day is truly something special.
6. The Ballparks. The uniqueness. The stories. The history. The changes. Baseball ballparks are quite unlike any other sport as well. Look at Wrigley Field. Fenway Park. Camden Yards. AT&T Park. Think about how different they all are. Think about the history. Baseball gives them the chance to be different. A football field, a basketball court, a hockey rink, or a soccer field. All have set dimensions. While the stadiums are different, the playing surface is the same length. The same cannot be said for baseball. The scenery is different. It’s part of why many fans, myself included, have a bucket list to make it out to all the ballparks. I don’t get that same feeling for football stadiums.
7. The History. Do yourself a favor, get lost in it. The players, the managers, the ballparks, they’ve all stood the test of time. There is so much history in the game of baseball, and it is remarkable just how much you can watch the game change, while still fundamentally staying the same. There’s not a whole lot to be said here, other than to check it out for yourself, and to understand just how great it is. My recommendation would be to start with Ken Burns’ documentary, and go from there.
8. Baseball players rely less on athleticism than other sports. This isn’t to say baseball players are not athletes, because they are. Even pitchers, are athletes. In comparison to other sports though, the reliance on athleticism is less. The fundamentals, and the true “skills” are far more important.
9. The crack of a bat. Is there really a sweeter sound in this world?
10. Personalities. Baseball has some of the greatest personalities around. Twitter might tell you otherwise, but that is not true. No other sport has an Adrian Beltre. Joey Votto is a National Treasure. Bartolo Colon. Alex Bregman. Trevor Bauer. You touch all ends of the spectrum with baseball. It is part of what makes it fun. I don’t want to make this about what baseball needs to do marketing wise, but more to point out the incredible personalities we have. Personality doesn’t have to mean controversy. It doesn’t have to mean complaining. Take a look at just how fun Beltre and Votto are below.
There is so much to baseball that passes by the common eye. As the game changes, so does the way we watch. One thing is for sure though, these things remain constant. Baseball is fun, and it is truly, the greatest game ever played.
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