Baseball has the same romance, drama, and finality as life. There is no preselected destination; an at bat, a game, a season, a career can turn on a single pitch. Life can turn on a small, seemingly inconsequential decision. Future Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti’s The Green Fields of the Mind eloquently recalls the end of the 1977 Boston Red Sox’s season and the intersection of life and baseball.
“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.”
Giamatti ropes you in from the beginning, forcefully reminding you that for all the love we have for baseball, the game itself is fleeting. The once youthful rookie is now the wily veteran. The games slip by day after day, each meaning so much, yet many are forgotten before the season ends. The season begins when the world is coming alive and ends when the natural world around us is starting to ready itself from the forthcoming winter. The sudden end of the baseball season, for every team, is dramatic. There is no clock to countdown but, as the leaves change and the cooler temperatures settle in, baseball fans know their time is running short.
The grass is always green at Fenway Park. (The Winning Run)
The cold of winter compounds the sadness and the void left by the end of the baseball season. Coats and scarves appear in an effort to conserve the spirit of the waning, warm sunshine. Baseball demands an outdoor space with the horizon for a backdrop. It cannot be appreciated like a wintry landscape from the warm comfort behind a window to watch the snow fall. Winter weather traps people inside, unable to find the space and comfort required to play the game. The sudden end of summer shocks the system and the dwindling daylight slows our daily routines to a crawl.
Bart Giamatti understood the love of baseball is tied to the love shown in rooting for your team, not in rooting against your opponent. No matter the ferocity of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, Boston wants to win more than it wants to see New York lose. Love is the driving force in baseball and in life. We all continually search for the joy of victory while knowing the sting of defeat will last longer and cut deeper. The highs are few and the lows are many, but the love of the game is the one constant that brings us all back every spring and breaks our hearts every winter.
The Green Fields of the Mind is among the greatest pieces of baseball literature. Forty years have passed since a cold, rainy day in Boston inspired Giamatti to write. The forty summers of Giamatti’s life and the forty summers since have continued the thrill and pain the moment the baseball season ends. Red Sox fans know the season has ended when Joe Castiglione begins to recite Giamatti’s words. The love, passion, fragility, and fleeting nature of baseball is what makes the game great as season after season fans return back to their radios, TVs, and ball parks. For forty seasons baseball loved and tortured Bart Giamatti. The 2017 season will mark forty seasons since that love and despair inspired a man to write what all baseball fans knows in their heart. The game on the field slowly begins in the Spring and suddenly stops in the Fall, but in our minds the season lasts forever.