Tuesday, August 3, 2021

A day in the ball park.

I've been to thousands of ball games in my life. The vast majority of them before I was 25. I don't know if it's the games that have changed or me. But I no longer care the way I once did.

Baseball, I think, is a bit like running an ad agency. To be in it--to really be in it. You have to know all the players, all their quirks, all their moods--everything about them. You have to know who you're playing. If the grass was cut and grounders will run hot, or if the wind is blowing out and the homers will be flying. 

I think it was Casey Stengel, whose teams won ten pennants in 12 seasons and who won seven World Series who said, "The trick of managing is to keep the ten guys who hate you away from the 15 guys who are undecided."

The Ol' Perfesser.

With agency C-level staff at places like Ogilvy being replaced, ousted and quittified as often as drunken department store Santas, no one knows anything anymore. If I were a copywriter, I'd quip, "they ain't agencies, they're entropies."

Citifield and Ebbets Field.
Which was not named after a bank.

But on Sunday--a fine New York summer afternoon, I went East for my first game ever in a baseball stadium paid for by tax payers and named after a tax-avoider--Citifield. The Amazin's hold court there, when they show up, and this year, despite a fairly mediocre win-loss record, they're in the catbird seat, in first place in the watered-down National League east.

I arrived early, as I always do when it involves baseball. I thought I'd walk around the ballpark--which I was told resembled Ebbets Field and get a sense of the place. 

Before meeting my friend Rob, a big-deal in the agency world and as nice a person as you'll ever meet, I took two laps of the big ballpark--and I averaged exactly one Nathan's frank per lap.

Lap one got me a boiled dog from a wall-eyed black man with a sense of humor. I slathered it with Gulden's mustard and stood at a tall-top table and downed the affair in about four bites. Lap two got me a broiled Nathan's and another unopenable-package of Gulden's. I downed that almost as quickly, though it being frank two, I was more than a little bit nauseous from frank one.

I found my friend and my seat. Rob had catered the afternoon, and my seat was accoutred with a $14 plastic-encased bottle of tap water, a $12 bag of crackerjacks and another $12 bag of plastic-wrapped peanuts. Things don't come wrapped in paper anymore. It's ordained by some divine petrochemical law that the food you eat in nine minutes has to be wrapped in packaging that lasts nine decades.

The game pitted the first-place Mets versus the first-place Reds of Cincinnati. For three innings it was a close-fought battle, but eventually, the Reds kept hitting, running, hitting and scoring. The game ended with the Reds up 7-1 and going away.

Rob and I did what ball fans have been doing since Casey was originally at the bat. We talked about the game. About sneaky fast righties. About big swingers who make little contact.

Also, of course, being old-time New York ad people, we talked about the changes in the business, who's doing what, who's no more and so on.  Then of course, our long-suffering wives, our thriving children, and the vagaries of the business of life that has, at times, gotten way too vagaried.

After all the times I've been to a ballpark, and all the games I've seen, there's something magical about leaving the innards of the park and entering the light and seeing the verdant Elysia of the playing field.

My younger daughter is a professional scuba diver--she gets a thrill still, every time she sees a dolphin or a shark or a whale. My wife is the same with the opera. The spectacle, the orchestra, even the beauty of the curtain and the sets.

No matter how old and cynical I get, I gape when I see the game.

Somewhere in this favored land, 
The sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere 
And somewhere hearts are light.

Somewhere men are laughing,
And somewhere children shout,
On Sunday there was joy in Flushing,
Rob and George had one day out. 

No comments: