Just when it looked like we were going to get off with a mild winter, Mother Nature has decided to assert her authority with some decidedly unfriendly weather for baseball.
But doesn’t it seem like that’s always the way it goes?
It’s time to crack into the file of baseball warm-up material to try to stay in the mood for the start of spring training. It may not seem like it if you go outside. But it’s less than a week away.
▪ The number one go-to thing for me is watching Field of Dreams at this time of year.
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In my opinion, it’s the all-time best baseball movie ever made. It’s a darn good movie if you don’t like baseball because of the plot twists and turns. But I find people who don’t like America’s Pastime sometimes find it to be corny and miss the message.
It directly reminds us that baseball represents everything good about this country and family relationships.
In short, the movie is a great baseball reset button to hit when you’re ready to reboot from a long, cold winter.
▪ A relatively recent addition on to the late winter to-do list of St. Louis fans is to re-watch Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.
If you think the plot of Field of Dreams, complete with baseball-playing ghosts who occupy an Iowa corn field, is unrealistic, try to watch this game after letting it slip from your consciousness for a while.
If it was a movie, no one would pay to see it because seeing the Cardinals stumble for the first half of the game only to come back -- twice -- from being down by two runs and down to their last strike is more than the average baseball fan can be asked to swallow.
Of course, the wonderful thing is that it really DID happen. And it is the stuff of legends in St. Louis.
I watched it a couple of days ago and it made me so sentimental that I briefly wished the Redbirds would sign free agent third baseman David Freese, the guy who hit the double to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth and the homer to win it in extra innings.
▪ It’s a completely different type of movie. But Major League is always a good watch on spring training eve.
After all, it’s set in spring training. So what better way is there to get your mindset right than immersing yourself in that atmosphere.
Of course, the bigger picture is a tale of how anything can happen at the start of a new season -- even a sad sack Cleveland Indians team populated with has beens and never will bes putting together an improbably playoff season.
Unlimited hope is really what this time of year is all about for baseball fans.
It’s a bigger time investment. But another thing I try to dig into this time of year is Ken Burns’ multi-part series “Baseball” which originally aired on PBS.
It doesn’t give the Cardinals nearly enough credit for being the best team in baseball in the 1930s and 1940s and for fielding some of the game’s greatest players and characters in Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Rogers Hornsby, Frank Frisch, Pepper Martin, etc... It also gives a one-sided cheap shot to Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter in the portion of the series that discusses Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier.
But, overall, it’s a great look at the way baseball is woven into the fabric of America and how it has evolved over the years.
If you don’t have enough time to watch the entire series, check out the soundtrack which includes tons of great baseball and baseball-related songs including the Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio song, Danny Kaye’s D-O-D-G-E-R-S song and the Clubhouse stomp and well as several version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, the Star Spangled Banner and various highlights like Bobby Thompson’s shot heard ‘round the world and Hank Aaron’s 715th home run.
Finally, although it has become dated through the years, I love to bust out my VHS tape of the seventh game of the 1982 World Series.
The players look tiny in pre-steroid era. Cardinals slugger George Hendrick looks like a utility infielder in today’s baseball and the uniforms, despite the young hipsters who like to profess otherwise, are hideous.
It’s also weird to see that the Redbirds, who now play on a beautiful stadium with a manicured natural grass field used to play on that terrible Busch Stadium II patchwork AstroTurf field. How was that ever acceptable.
But it’s a great game. And it’s amazing to see Bruce Sutter do what would never happen in the modern age of baseball: Come into a game in the seventh inning to record a three-out save.