Baseball: The Green Fields of the Mind

by Bob Schwartz

The Major League Baseball season begins this weekend.

I’ve read, written and talked about baseball almost as passionately as about anything else in my life. Baseball people understand. Others may not.

Looking for something else to say besides what I’ve said before, including in this blog, I’ve decided instead to repeat myself. Or, to be precise, to repeat my repeating what somebody else said.

The fifth post on this blog was four years ago, just as that baseball season was beginning. The post, replicated here, speaks for itself. Even if you’re just a fan of life and not of baseball, there is something for you here.

A. Bartlett Giamatti was the president of Yale University and, for a brief time until his untimely death in 1989, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Besides his commitment to baseball, Giamatti was a man of letters who left behind some remarkable writing about the game. None is more moving and famous than his short essay The Green Fields of the Mind.

On the occasion of a new baseball season, here is an excerpt. Whoever you root for, whatever the season or the game – baseball, politics, art, religion, business, love, life – it offers hard to accept wisdom and the semi-sweet opposite of comfort:

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops…

It breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality that would resist the corrosion; and because, after it had fostered again that most hungered-for illusion, the game was meant to stop, and betray precisely what it promised…

And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.