Hardball

I hope you don’t expect this to be about the movie featuring Keanu Reaves and a bunch of kids from the projects. It’s not about that. Actually, it’s about baseball. You know — Cardinals/Cubs, umpires, Bud Selig, steroids? That kind of stuff.

I’m a Cardinals fan by trade, and a fan of nobody else by anything else. My favorite pitcher of all-time is Bob Gibson. I mean, if you don’t like Gibson who are you really? This guy was a monster for the time he threw in. He won championships on his arm, alone. Although the Cardinals had an offense, I don’t think they really needed one. I mean, come on — if Gibson was on the mound during the ole’ turf years at Busch Stadium, were eight other players on bases and wide open outfields necessary? Gibson was the greatest. Ever.

I feel like the history of baseball sparks my interest a little bit more than a current, live game. As much as I am fascinated by Bob Gibson, I also find George Brett, the Big Red Machine, the Griffeys, the Ripkins, and Willie Mays interesting. The only thing I know about George Brett was that he was a great hitter and that he charged out of the dugout once, famously. The Big Red Machine was just an unstoppable force. Enough said there. I love both Kens in the Griffey family and both Cals in the Ripkin family. They have great stories. And Willie Mays, well, he was the greatest outfielder ever and, arguably, the greatest hitter ever.

Baseball lost some of its stature when Barry Bonds started doing steroids. But who really knows when he started? It was bad news. Bonds is not the all-time leading home run leader. Henry Aaron is. If you can’t conceive that then you shouldn’t be reading this. So, let me take a break for a picture so that you can’t leave.

Have you left yet? Ok. Oh, no? Ok, now you’re gone. The picture above is of Jackie Robinson. I shouldn’t have to write this but you aren’t going to read the caption. That inspires me. Robinson is another fascinating story about the history of baseball. I wish I could’ve been alive during his career. Stealing home and all, he was a great all-around baseball talent. He was the best second baseman in the history of baseball.

I said that Willie Mays was, arguably, the best hitter ever. However, that might actually be Ted Williams. Oh wait, yes it is. He had skill on top of skill. He woke up in the morning an baked Hall of Fame pancakes. I’d eat them. While he was making pancakes, Wheaties somehow became the “Breakfast of Champions”. I’ll take that loosely. Williams, like Mays, was one of the best ever. I won’t debate between those two fabulous ball players.

The best time in baseball history was when New York had like a million teams. The Yankees, Giants and Dodgers were all there. A lot of people say there was no ballpark like Ebbets Field where the Dodgers played. I believe it. Some say there still isn’t a place like it. I believe it.

When the White Sox “threw” the 1919 World Series, that was no good. That White Sox team could probably be listed in the top 10, if not 5, of best all-around teams ever — from manager to Shoeless Joe. After a long cooling off period, that incident made for a good movie.

Speaking of movies, Major League might be my favorite baseball movie ever. In fact, all of the Major League movies are great. The Natural is a good movie too though. So is The Rookie. It’s a tough call. But I love Major League.

I think one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed in baseball was the McGwire vs. Sosa home run race. That was one of the greatest summers ever in terms of watching baseball. McGwire won. They both burned out. McGwire is not hitting coach for the Cardinals. I don’t know where Sosa is. The Cardinals have rings since McGwire left. The Cubs still don’t have a title in 100+ years.

Alongside Bob Gibson as one of my favorite players ever comes Ken Griffey Jr. It’s arguable that if he stays healthy he breaks the home run record — definitely before Barry Bonds did. And Bonds is just an afterthought. Griffey was a great outfielder. A great hitter. A great person. He always had a smile on his face. The thing I love most about Griffey is that he made wearing your ball cap backwards more than cool — he made it so that you were living under a rock if you weren’t wearing your baseball hat backwards. He also made the Seattle Mariners baseball cap cool. In final, he made a lot of things cool.

That’s all I have about baseball — or hardball. By the way, that movie was really, really good. I almost bought it. Still might. But, I’ll stay a Cardinals fan and I’ll never forget the history of baseball because given its current stature, the history is all that baseball has to lean back on. That, and Bud Selig’s last true hope for light at the end of this steroid tunnel — Albert Pujols.

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