Saturday, June 17, 2017

Baseball is America; not a Miracle Worker

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.” - Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams (1989)

Baseball is America; not a Miracle Worker
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
June 17, 2017

Baseball is emblematic of what the United States of America should be. A manager, who earned the right to his position puts the nine best players on the field each day, regardless of background, religion, or ethnicity.

Prior to April 15, 1947 that was certainly not the case, until Jackie Robinson stepped on the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke the color barrier that plagued our national pastime for decades. But baseball righted its own wrong. It was not ordered by the commissioner; nor was it ordered by the federal government.

In fact baseball desegregated itself a year before President Harry Truman ordered the Armed Forces desegregated in 1948.

Baseball is what America should be because it does not acquiesce to a government mandated quota system. Fans don’t care, or at least they shouldn’t care, if a Japanese hurler is pitching to a Dominican catcher, backed up by a Puerto Rican shortstop, a white second baseman, a black first baseman, and throw in a Jewish right fielder for good measure. As long as those are the best players the team has to offer that day. That is what the American workforce should look like - folks legally immigrating to the United States to make it a better country, just as players make a team better and stronger - better able to compete. Competition, after all, is the bellwether of America.

Baseball, however, is not a miracle worker.

Following the tragic shooting during the Republican’s baseball practice on Flag Day, Wednesday, June 14, at Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, VA, members of Congress, led by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House  Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), came together for their ubiquitous kumbaya moments.

This was the last practice prior to the annual Congressional Baseball Game, played on Thursday, June 15 at Nationals Park. During the practice, a deranged shooter fired more than 50 shots hitting GOP Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Capitol Hill police officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner, as well as Congressional aide Zach Barth, and lobbyist Matt Mika. Fortunately the would-be assassin was killed as police returned fire saving dozens of lives.

The Democrat’s team, practicing at a different field, upon hearing of this vicious attack, were seen huddled in prayer on the steps of one of the dugouts. Hours later, in the House chamber Speaker Ryan said “An attack on one of us, is an attack on all of us,” a sentiment Pelosi echoed in bi-partisan support. Yet, back in Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), never missing an opportunity to be an opportunist, bemoaned the need for more strict gun control.

The next night, the pregame and post-game activities took center stage at Nationals Park. Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre, Major League Baseball’s chief baseball officer brought a special guest out to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Crutches and all, wounded Capitol Hill police officer David Bailey hobbled to the mound amid a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd. Tossing one crutch aside, Bailey managed to will his pitch reasonably close to home plate where it was received by Roberto Clemente, Jr.

The teams were introduced and lined up across the infield. Also prior to the first pitch the teams met at second base, Scalise’s position, to join in prayer. A video message from President Donald Trump was then played in the stadium. He spoke of the importance of playing the game that night - both in support of our national pastime as well as the charities benefitting from the proceeds of the game. Trump thanked the Capitol police and the Alexandria police for their efforts. “By playing tonight’s game we will not be intimidated by threats or acts of violence and assault… I offer these unifying words - let’s play ball!”

The game itself was anticlimactic as the Democrats took the GOP to the woodshed by a final score of 11-2 in the seven inning affair. Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA), an across the aisle friend of fellow Pelican Stater Scalise, tossed a complete game gem - surrendering two runs in the first inning and yielding nothing the rest of the way. In his MVP performance, Richmond also laced three hits, including a triple, and scored three runs.

Following the game, the teams’ two managers met for the presentation of the trophy, where Democrat skipper Mike Doyle (PA) gave it to GOP manager Joe Barton (TX) to be presented to Scalise’s office.

While it would be nice to see the on field gestures carry over to the House and Senate chambers, let’s not hold our breath. Certainly there is room to reduce the rhetoric and attempt to work for the people who sent them there, but then that would put a lot of political consultants and ad copywriters out of work. Hmm - perhaps there is some good that could come out of this horrific event.

While not played every year, the tradition of the Congressional Baseball game dates back to 1909 and the Democrats currently hold a 40-39 lead, with one tie. A record crowd of 24,959 attended the game (outpacing the attendance of half of the 10 MLB games played that same night) where more than $1 million was raised for the following charities: the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, the Washington Literacy Center, the Capitol Police Memorial Fund, and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation.

To contribute to any of the charities visit the following sites:

While the people are generously supporting these charities, let’s hope the elected officials will remember why they were sent to Washington in the first place and work generously to ensure a better America.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN

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