Shell Shocked: Teaching my wife baseball
My wife was born in Sweden. When she was a child she did what all Swedish children did. She skied, ice skated, raced down hills on toboggans, kicked soccer balls and ate lots of herring.
She knew nothing about baseball. Baseball wasn’t played in Sweden and the magic names of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio would elicit blank stares from her.
Then she came to America and eventually married me. She and I had a lot of common interests. One of them wasn’t baseball.
I was born and raised in New York and became a Yankee fan when I was still in the womb. When I struggled to leave the womb and enter the world I could hear Mel Allen, the longtime broadcaster for the Yankees describing a typical Joe DiMaggio home run, “Joltin’ Joe swings. It’s a high drive to left field. That ball is going, going, gone. The Yankee Clipper does it again.”
I lived and died by the Yankees. My wife couldn’t understand how I could be interested in a totally irrational and incomprehensible game called baseball. I kept trying to explain it to her.
“The pitcher throws the ball over the plate and he uses an assortment of pitches. He throws fast balls, sliders, curve balls, cutters, and the batter tries to hit the ball past the fielders,” I explained.
“What do fielders do?” she said trying to feign interest in a subject that didn’t interest her in the least.
“They try to catch the ball. If they catch the ball before it hits the ground then the batter is out. If the ball hits the ground the infielder tries to throw the batter out at first.”
She thought about that while completing a crossword puzzle in record time. “So if the batter is out at first, does that mean he’s no longer allowed to play in the game?”
“No,” I said. “That means that the next batter comes up and tries to get a hit. And if there are men on base the batter tries to bring them home.”
I should have known better. She had no idea what I was talking about. The questions poured out immediately: “What’s a hit? Why are there men on base? If the batter wants to take these men home then why doesn’t he just invite them?
I felt like Albert Einstein trying to explain the meaning of e=mc2 and the theory of relativity. I didn’t know where to begin. I took another approach.
“Why don’t you come with me to a baseball game? You’d be able to soak up the atmosphere and see why so many people call baseball the national pastime.”
“National pastime? Don’t Americans know how to pass the time doing something much more interesting? Like going to a museum?”
I said: “You need to see for yourself why so many people are addicted to baseball. Besides, I’ll be able to explain the game better to you at the stadium rather than sitting in our living room.”
Well, to make a long story short, she finally agreed to accompany me to a Minnesota Twins spring training game in Fort Myers. We did all the baseball fan things: ate hot dogs, did the seventh inning stretch, rooted for the home team and cursed the umpires.
She tried, she really did. But, she still couldn’t understand the fundamentals of the game and wound up studying the fans rather than the players.
As we were driving home I asked her how she enjoyed the game.
She paused for a long moment and finally said “I think I’d enjoy a colonoscopy better. Can you find an excuse to get me one?”
I never took her to another baseball game, but I did accompany her to get a colonoscopy.
-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.