Gather, friends. Fall has lowered its gentle mantle over the withering fields, and the stalks are now a-dying. The warm glow of our national pastime fills the darkening hours like the memory of a first love, kindled even when all else fades. Place your caps upon your heads, incline your ears to organ sounds, and recline your feet to heaven. The playoffs are here to usher you into eternal slumber.
A nostalgic somnolence arrives with the autumn game. The flea-flicker that flies across the screen recalls summer evenings spent swinging on the porch and watching starlings in the purpling West. She sat beside you then, quietly talking of the future, though you were listening to the Yankees broadcast coming from inside. It was an honest, innocent time when all radios looked like gothic windows and women would never be caught without their aprons. The coming years would bring war, marriage, children, and a long career, but throughout it all baseball was reverently waiting. Now, the crack of a bat renders harmless the echoes from long-ago battles. Now, the umpire’s calls evoke weekends with little league and the strange, stilted way everyone spoke in the 1950s. Now, the thump of a ball in the glove beats with the irregular rhythm of your weak and crotchety heart. Relax: baseball is here to guide you into peace everlasting.
Come to the living room, or the den, or the bonus family basement, or whatever it’s called nowadays—certainly not the Victrola scullery, not anymore. The TV remote works nicely, but does not possess the tangible satisfaction of an old knob-turnin’ stick. Today’s popcorn comes from a microwave, not the saltin’ cauldron from the poppin’ outhouse. What will change in coming years? Who knows? Certainly not us—for baseball, with its languorous memories and sudden bursts of action, is designed to kill old people.
But have no fear. Whether your goodbye is long, or short, or assisted, baseball is there to comfort you in your final hours, some of which will involve trying to find TBS or fix the aspect ratio. The soothing announcers will remind you of the glory stats of 1903 and detail the inexplicable decline of promenadin’ bloomers. Those were good years then, before LeBron; before Staubach and Landry; before Knute Rockne and Landon Donovan. In that bygone age, men wore bowlers, women chawed spittin’ greens, and children chased spinning hoops that had been blown off in barrel explosions. Those were better times; simpler times.
So feel free to gaze into the distant fields and hope that the Beaneaters and Trolley Dodgers will meet one last time. Feel free to recall the time the Cubs won, which may happen again this year, but not before you’ve expired. Most of all, feel free to slip into that final memory of the porch, and the birds, and your love, pressing her hand in yours. Baseball will be beside you always, because the game lasts forever.