dinsdag 13 oktober 2015

The Dodgers' Way to Play Baseball

This is not a review in the normal sense of the word. Everybody who is a Dodgers fan, or a baseball fan for that matter, probably knows the standard reference work on how to play baseball. The book has loads of great drawings of players and the way they should stand, move, pitch, catch, field, hit and much more. It's a great reference book for players and watchers of the game both. I recommend it to all baseball lovers and Dodger fans in particular.

above: one of the 77 drawings by Tex Blaisdell, best known for his work on Little Orphan Annie and inking of DC Comics.

In the late 80's, racial remarks during an interview with Ted Koppel for Nightline were, at the time, reason for him to resign his position in the Dodgers organization. Since then hoards of baseball players and managers have come to Campanis' defense.

Acquiring the Book
I come across this book on Ebay quite often, but most of the times it's cheap and looks like it has barely survived the McCourt divorce or you pay top dollar. The copy I bought came for a reasonable price and the book looks good. The seller, though, hadn't 'international shipping' as an option. So, since I live in the Netherlands, I emailed the seller and asked if she would make an exception. She mailed me back promptly. She would gladly ship it overseas and then told me something that fit my picture of Americans and sports. The book had been her fathers', a baseball enthusiast.
I emailed the seller and asked if she could tell me more about her father and, since communication through ebay normally is very businesslike, I was surprised to find a positive reply the very same day.

Behind the Book
In the 1950's her father and some friends played on a local team called the Richmond Hill Saxons. He and a friend were both recruited. The father by the Pirates, as a pitcher (with a nasty knuckle ball), his friend as first baseman for the Yankees. They went through the mill, got their satin jackets and.... never played a game in the show. Because they didn't want to be away from their families for long periods of time, on the road with the team. What a father, what a husband! Keeping the family together didn't mean he didn't play ball anymore. The whole neighborhood got a piece of the pie. The father and his friend started an Athletic Association for multiple sports, giving hundreds of kids a chance to start playing a sport. He was always on the lookout for talented players and when he got one a try out at Ebbets Field with Al Campanis he got the book signed, or so it is believed by his widow. Apparently the Dodgers were the subject of many arguments among the Richmond Hill Saxons players.

All 5 kids got into baseball and learned to play it well. During family picknicks they played, during weekends they played, they played battered and bruised even in their late sixties. Even at the later age they gave it their all. Not just playing but stealing, whacking balls out of the field, diving catches and running the bases like they were chased. They always gave it their all, they always played 'spikes up'.
When the father passed away, 6 years ago, as a tribute to his love for the game, the son told his dad during the eulogy it was time to rest and told him: 'spikes down, dad'.
So while for some the American Dream is playing in the Bigs, for others the American Dream is being a good husband, father and friend. When you abandon the first one you'll forfeit the possibillity of becoming a Hall of Famer in Cooperstown but it will put you in the family men Hall of Fame. And that may be the best Hall of Fame to be a member of.
A story like this shows you how integrated sports is in the daily lives of lots of Americans. Not the millions-of-dollars earning sports superstars, but close to home, starting on the sandlots around the country. The way I know it from the movies, but in real life. I'm not saying it's every Americans background, but these kind of stories are out there and they warm the heart and are what makes me love the USA even more.

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