My mind fell back 21 years, then 50, when I heard the good news that Denver was hosting this year’s Major League Baseball game in July. Baseball is a time machine, even if the times we live in are worth forgetting.
The luck of Denver was the bad of Georgia, a product of the balls and strikes of politics: the big lie, false news, bright corporations, and electoral integrity.
Most of the time I remember enjoying the cooked jumbo shrimp and cocktail sauce in Ted Turner’s luxury box at the 2000 All-Star Game. As such, I missed Hank Aaron who kicked out first place. The heat in Georgia hovered close to 90 degrees despite the setting sun.
I saw half the game in the luxury box and the other half along the baseline, depending on where CNN’s Big Shots wanted to sit.
Chipper Jones cracked a homer in his own stadium, and Derek Jeter became the first Yankee to become an All-Star Game MVP, hitting 3 for 3 when I stuffed my face with one free shrimp after another.
Todd Helton was beardless and one of three Rockies in the game with a baby face. That season, he was denied the MVP championship title because voters believed he had a huge advantage in taking them out on the thin heights of Mile High City. They called it the Coors Field Curse.
You don’t curse Colorado now. The town’s lure is that the home run derby could draw massive television viewers to see Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who beat 91 in the 2019 derby, or 6-foot-5 Texas thug Joey Gallo, who fires moon shots.
If ever there was a time to put our differences aside, it is here in the glow of professional baseball, the game that made America great for 150 years.
If we can ever put our differences aside, it should be over an ice cold beer down the baseline. The game represents the best of us and it bothers me a little that it might not be like that right now. If we were to try to cause a wave as a nation, it would look more like we were crashing into the rocks.
I hope the country comes back and America goes back to baseball.
“For your money and the peace you have,” said Terence Mann, the character from “Field of Dreams,” in that bass-baritone voice that you can just hear in your head. “And they’ll go to the stands and be in shirt sleeves on a perfect afternoon.
“You will find that somewhere along one of the baselines they reserved seats where they would sit as children and cheer for their heroes.”
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The first MLB game I ever saw in person was in Atlanta when I was 10 years old. Hank Aaron was also in the right place in the season before he overtook Babe Ruth as King of Homer. My favorite player, however, was in midfield, toothpick-chewing Dusty Baker, who would invent the high five. My Little League team was right behind him and it was a night I’ll never forget.
When Hank was hammering out the record-breaking homer the next year, I noticed Dusty making cuts on deck. Dusty Rhodes was my favorite wrestler because Dusty Baker was my favorite baseball player.
Our governor loves baseball too. Jared “Moonlight” Polis went 4-4 in his last Congressional Baseball game in 2017, including driving the winning run. He still holds the record with a career of 12 runs for the 61-year-old Capitol Democrats-Republican game.
And now Democrats and Republicans are fighting baseball again. Again, it is Polis who achieves the game-winning success.
They can talk about all kinds of history and statistics to compare Denver to Atlanta: days of early voting, minority voting muscle, less complicated racial history.
Tim Scott, the Senator from South Carolina who is black, was on Twitter Tuesday, arguing that Atlanta had more days to vote than Colorado and the state has more blacks.
“The wokes are back folks,” tweeted Scott, referring to the term used for those upholding social, racial and legal justice.
In the end, the only point that matters in politics or baseball is the bottom line.
Colorado was ready, willing, and able to play the game in an undisputed state that has had postal votes for nine years, including six among Republican secretaries of state. In fact, nobody did until Donald Trump predicted that the only way he could lose was if the elections were rigged.
Imagine Babe Ruth pointing at the stands and claiming he threw a spit ball.
America needs baseball more than we need politicians, and those who are calling for baseball to be repealed should be frivolous.
“The only constant in all these years, Ray, has been baseball,” said Terence Mann. “America rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It was erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball marked the time.
“This field, this game – it’s part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of anything that was once good and it could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will definitely come.”