John Miller, head coach of the Brussels Kangaroos and a reporter for a major American newspaper, is chronicling his team’s 2008 season in a column that will appear every Monday on mister-baseball.com. It is the first of several Mister-Baseball Blogs this year.
Off this weekend and needing a sweep next Saturday and Sunday to secure a first division berth for 2009, I called on one of the baseball gods.
You know about the gods, right? They’re the guys who make sure most inside pitches don’t get fisted into center, punish you if you don’t slide and make sure you go 0-for-20 if you ever say “Hey, I’m hitting the ball pretty good these days.”
The theology of the gods is a tragically under examined field. Thus, it’s not clear who’s in the pantheon. Todd Cruz, a 1980s Orioles utility infielder, died this week. RIP Todd, but guessing you and your .220 batting average didn’t make the deity starting lineup.
I went with a sure bet, and dialed up the Sultan. I have a tenuous connection to Babe Ruth. He grew up an orphan in Baltimore, of course, and was raised by Catholic priests. The big lefty was close to one of those priests, a Monsignor Bradley. By 1921, Bradley was teaching at Mount Saint Mary’s College, which gave me a degree in 1999. The Babe was a Yankee, but he still cared enough about his old teacher to visit. There’s a story told that he hit fly balls to some of the students. I don’t know if it’s true, but I waged a losing campaign to name a field at the college after the Bambino.
Ruth gave one of the most eloquent defenses of our game at his farewell speech in 1947. “The only real game — I think — in the world is baseball,” he said. “As a rule, some people think that if you give them a football, or a baseball, or something like that — naturally they’re athletes right away.
But you can’t do that in baseball. You’ve gotta start from way down [at] the bottom, when you’re six or seven years of age. You can’t wait until you’re fifteen or sixteen. You gotta let it grow up with you. And if you’re successful, and you try hard enough, you’re bound to come out on top.”
Sixty-some years later, he was happy to take my call.
- Hi Babe, you been following Belgian baseball?
- Of course, I’m a big fan of the Pioneers. They were around when I was still playing, you know,
- Babe, we got a team in Brussels called the Kangaroos.
- Good beer in Belgium, right?
- The Kangaroos, Babe…
- So what’s your problem?
- Well we’re 11-16 this year, and I got 6 guys max coming to practice these days…
- Get the stick out of your butt. You live in Belgium, right? Play catch with some kids, drink some Trappist beers and leave me the hell alone!
Who are the baseball gods? Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org