• The Baseball Same Game

    Posted by on December 10th, 2005 · Comments (2)

    One of the interesting things that I experienced, in doing my book, The Baseball Same Game, is the number of people (who read the book and) who have complimented me on the Prologue. Really, how many times have you heard someone say about a book “Great Prologue. I really enjoyed it!” – - I would bet not many times. Yet, I have heard that from readers. Basically, the Prologue is “my story” and how I got to the point where I was ready to do the book. From what I’ve been told, folks seemed to enjoy reading about my passion for the game. So, I thought I would share the Prologue here, today, at WasWatching.com. And, if you read it, and like it, hopefully you’ll consider picking up a copy of the book yourself – to read more. Here’s how the Prologue appears in The Baseball Same Game:

    I have been a baseball fan for over thirty years. I am not absolutely certain as to the exact point in time when this passion began. But, I do have a particular memory of a moment in my life where I like to believe it all started.

    My mother once shared with me years ago that my father tried to introduce the game to me at an early age. However, I was not very interested. Watching cartoons such as Speed Racer or Gigantor were more important to me at that specific time. Dad, being a smart man, probably figured that you can lead a horse to water, etc., and decided to allow nature to take its course, in due time – rather than force baseball upon me.

    And, during grammar school, it happened. They (as in the famous “they” that people refer to when not exactly sure who to credit) say that when you pick up a baseball for the first time and hold it, in reality, it is the baseball that establishes a hold on you.

    It was something like that for me. Honestly, my earliest “baseball memory” is of a game (where I was a player) in the playground of my grammar school (P.S. 21) during lunchtime recess. If I had to guess, since I am not certain of the precise time, I would say it was the spring of 1972. Exactly why I was in the game is not clear. I can only assume that I was “playing” because all the other kids were as well; or, perhaps they were short a player and they twisted my arm to participate and fill out the team.

    “Mrs. Davis” (a mature woman who lived across the street from the school) was the attendant for all of us youngsters in the yard. She also served as the “official pitcher” in this contest that I recall. (Since tots around the age of nine have problems throwing strikes on a consistent basis, you need an “official pitcher” dealing hittable servings to both sides in a game like this one.)

    Now, here is the hazy part. I want to say that “Mrs. Davis” was the aunt of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. Now, whether this is fact, some form of public fiction mistaken as truth, or just a flat out figment of my personal imagination, I am not sure. But, at this junction of my life, I have decided to run with it as fact. The more I think of it, someone must have told me this information. As a young kid in grammar school, I did not know enough about baseball to even know that “Nolan Ryan” was a baseball player. Therefore, it is doubtful that I, over thirty years ago, made this up myself back at that time. This leaves only “fact” and “public fiction mistaken as truth.” With two options, there is a 50-50 chance that fact may be the case. With odds like these, it seems silly not to run with it being a fact. Besides, it makes for a better story.

    Specifically, from this game mention shared here, I only have one clear memory. In one At Bat, I lined one of Mrs. Davis’ offerings into right-center field for a stand up double. As I slowed to touch up at second base, Mrs. Davis shouted out an encouraging cry, along the lines of “Nice hitting!” to me. I was sky high at that moment. It was my first great feeling associated to baseball – again, as far as I can recall.

    This is where I like to believe it started. Hey, if Cooperstown can have their “Doubleday Myth,” why can’t I have this? The day I lined a double off of Nolan Ryan’s aunt, I became hooked on baseball as a child – and never looked back. How many others can make that claim?

    My fervor for baseball from there gained momentum every step of the way. My father took me to my first professional game on August 8, 1973 at the “old” Yankee Stadium. It was such an indelible experience that I can still recall images from that game today, as if it just happened yesterday.

    In our home, my mother once offered the observation that “Before you kids were born” – as in my older sister and I – “your Dad used to watch baseball games on TV. Then, he never got to watch the games because you two wanted to watch cartoons. Now, your father can’t watch anything on TV because all you want to do is watch baseball.”

    When VCRs first became household items, I took it to another extreme. I would tape games (as I watched them) and then watch them over and over again. Mom would walk into a room, at any given point in the day, see a game on the TV and would ask “Is this a new game or an old game?” That question became an entering the living room staple query for my mother over the years when I lived at home.

    I would also read anything “baseball” that I could get into my hands. While I have never kept count, in my lifetime, to date, I must have read nearly 150 books on baseball. To this date, my wife will rib me with the question of “What was the last book that you read that was not about baseball?” Candidly, it was probably something that I read about 18 years ago. The desire or occasion for me to read an “other than baseball” book has always been remote.

    Playing “ball” was an important part of my life too. I played Little League during grammar and middle school – although my “game” then left a lot to be desired. Then, I was a much better “fan” of the game than a “player.”

    After Little League, there were summers full of pick-up games with friends. This lasted all through high school. After graduation from the 12th grade, during college and past graduation there, softball replaced baseball on my playing resume. In fact, at age 17, I founded and managed a team in a men’s medium pitch league. It was around this time that I became a better player. It is true that repetition is the mother of skill. For some of us, like me, it just takes a lot of repetition. I lived in the local indoor batting cages. A trip to “the cage” was almost an automatic after-dinner event, all year round. I played a lot of softball – some seasons, I played on as many as three teams during a summer – up until I was about age 27.

    I hung up my spikes at that age to have more time to do the silly things that most 27-year-old single men do with their time. But, despite my “playing days” being over, I continued to follow baseball in every way possible (as time allowed). I sporadically dabbled in baseball research for slightly more than a decade. It was strictly on a pleasure basis. I also ran a fantasy baseball league, the Bogus American Baseball Association, during this time and that task satisfied the majority of my baseball fixation.

    Around the year 2000, the fantasy baseball game had become somewhat of a bore for me. I closed up shop on that front and used the free time to become more resolute in my quest to learn as much about baseball’s past as possible. I started a baseball history website, NetShrine.com, which provided a point of focus for me in this ever continuing search for baseball knowledge. And, while working on that website, a baseball related epiphany occurred for me. The more I studied baseball history, the more I began to yield to the unequivocal conclusion that there is infinitely more still unknown that can yet be learned. Even what I thought I knew was either incomplete or not entirely correct. I began to sense that everything there is to the history of baseball, and I use “everything” in the purest definition of the word, had a quicksand nature to it. Just when you believed that you had made some progress digging into it, along came the realization that there is just as much still out there as when you first started.

    Arriving at a premise such as this, I determined there were two options available for me: One, run like heck from the potential of being submerged beyond hope in this knowledge quagmire; or, two, take a deep breath and jump in cannonball style and start to have fun. I chose the latter. In doing this, I began to learn more about individual baseball player’s careers than I knew before – correcting erroneous preconceived notions on players and also discovering players from the past for the first time. As I learned more, I began to notice batting and pitching careers that resembled each other closely.

    Sharing some of these “matching player” discoveries with old friend baseball fans and other fellow baseball enthusiasts (who I had met through my baseball website) would often yield an implied approving response of “Where did you come up with these?” After repeated feedback that these match-ups were enjoyable, the light bulb went on over my head. The notion that perhaps these findings, en masse, were a good idea for a baseball book began to glow. And, The Baseball Same Game was born.

    Who should read The Baseball Same Game? If you are a fan of baseball, albeit novice or erudite, the hope is that this book has something inside for you. The goal here is to make this the type of read that you can pick up at anytime and begin reading at any page – and there will be no understanding penalty if you allow for extended gaps between readings. However, it is also anticipated that this book will hold your attention, provide some enlightenment, and provoke some thought and/or emotion within you.

    In summary, this is how I got here and why I wrote The Baseball Same Game. Maybe things would have been different if Mrs. Davis had not “cookied” (as the players say today) a nice fat “BP” pitch right into the “inside-out” wheelhouse of a small boy back in the early ‘70s? But, she did. It’s “in the books” – at least it is in this one – and “you can look it up.” That’s part of the beauty of baseball. There are many things to “look up.” You can start now for yourself by turning to the next printed page in this book. Enjoy.

    - Steve Lombardi
    April 2005

    Comments on The Baseball Same Game

    1. Mike Z
      December 10th, 2005 | 9:11 pm

      Very interesting and well-written, Steve.

      Your book is now officially on my Christmas list.

    2. December 10th, 2005 | 11:34 pm

      Cool. Thanks!

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