Observers often comment on the nature of time in baseball: there's no game clock; a contest is theoretically infinite; a half-inning may last one minute or thirty; plate appearances are endless games-within-the-game. Time is collapsing in on baseball in many ways, it seems to me, as the clock is being rendered obsolete (or at least a nuisance) in much of contemporary culture. Take Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers are arriving as I write—the frisson of delight that brings me renewed easily—and soon full squads will assemble, split up, stretch in the sun, take infield and batting practice, and slowly resume playing games, suspended since October. When I was a kid, this March assemblage felt virtually mythic with a capital "M," as if out of some imagined master narrative—I knew that teams were gathering somewhere in the South, Southwest, and the West, but the only proof I had was the infrequent grainy black-and-white photographs in the Washington Post or Star. Baseball didn't really begin until Opening Day, when the bunting and sunshine and the bright white uniforms (of the Orioles, my home-team-by-default) heralded the return of the game and, soon but never soon enough, summer. Baseball felt bound by the calendar in very real and irrevocable ways. The season schedule was only printed on paper, and not always easy to find. March was black and white. April was green. The boundary between the two was thick. (For some terrific photos of those old March days, look here.)
Well, I can always imagine #October.
|Toronto Blue Jays at their inaugural Spring Training in Dunedin, Florida, 1977. Just as I would've imagined. (Photo via Torontoist.)|