Commentary

Playing fast and loose

With spring training just a few weeks away, I am getting ready for the annual trek of several of my fellow choir members to Fort Myers, Florida, to watch the Twins prepare for another season. Oh, I don’t go myself; I am actually a pretty poor fan. But some of my co-choristers have developed a later-in-life love for the game.

Although I have mostly lost interest in the hype, the commercialization, the corporatization, and the bodily injury that accompany today’s game, I still maintain that little boy’s view of baseball.

Bob Hulteen

I was enamored with sports as a boy. The athleticism seemed so pure to my idealistic eyes. (I have previously shared in this space the first editorial I wrote in my first professional gig as a reporter for the Mandan News; it was titled “Let’s keep politics out of the Olympics.” You can see that I liked my sports clean.)

Although I have mostly lost interest in the hype, the commercialization, the corporatization, and the bodily injury that accompany today’s game, I still maintain that little boy’s view of baseball. I still wish for the old days, I guess.

To cheat or not to cheat

In January, I watched with keen interest the vote for membership in baseball’s Hall of Fame. I hoped that St. Paul native Jack Morris might have a shot at adding his bust to those already gracing the revered institution. I mean, who can forget his Game 7 10-inning pitching performance in 1991? Having lived in the Twin Cities for only about six weeks, his tenacity is etched in my memory.

But the real story swirled around the list of new athletes eligible for consideration by the baseball sportswriters in 2013. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and several others, all of whom had remarkable careers tainted by the possibility, the likelihood, and maybe even the certainty, that they had used illegal performance-enhancement drugs to further their careers.

This story became fodder for the hosts of sports radio talk shows for a few days. Surprising to me, many of the same voices that had derided the drug-induced performance of great athletes who were trying to stretch their careers were now defending their entry into the Hall of Fame. They argued that you can’t have a Hall of Fame without including athletes who dominated their era. (And, of course, Cincinnati Reds infielder Pete Rose — one of my favorite players when I was a child — was now part of the discussion again. Rose has been banned from the Hall by the baseball commissioner for betting on baseball games while he was a manager of the Reds.)

So the question became whether the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, is really a museum celebrating the sport. If so, then perhaps you include record holders like Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens.

Contrarily, could the Hall of Fame be the institution that focuses a little boy’s attention on the pure, unadulterated joy of using one’s non-enhanced body to test one’s limits and discipline? If it is the latter, then I hope to see Jack Morris join his childhood teammate, Lutheran Dave Winfield, in the Hall sometime soon, because I still experience a thrill when I think of him walking out to the mound in the 10th inning of the seventh game of a World Series.

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