For the Love of the Game of Baseball: the 300 hitter and Sweeping Veronica 

I dream about my dreams

When I arrived at Dodger Stadium, there were 50,000 fans cheering my entrance. I imagined I was Spartacus entering the Capua  amphitheater. My dreams enabled me to conquer my anxieties. The 1963 World Series was about to begin. I love Baseball. I was/am a mighty fan. I needed to breathe.

I dreamed while I watched the game. I dreamed I could see the rotation of the baseball as it left Sandy Koufax’s hand until it landed into Johnny Roseboro’s catcher’s mitt. I saw the batter swing and the fielders shift in three dimensional Stop-Action. My mind was playing one game as I watched the real game with the Dodgers:  I was in my own bit of heaven.

I hated to be disturbed during the game. I merely wanted to eat my peanuts and drink a bit of root beer. Sometimes there was this old lady sitting nearby. She was dressed in a wool suit with a hat. She wore a ton of lipstick but always wore this huge smile. She was always making noises for her favorite Dodger. I was angry that someone was disturbing my concentration.

It didn’t matter what inning it was, or who was at bat, but this same old woman would stand up when nobody else was standing and screamed out her favorite player’s name: “Frank”.

Why the big galoot Frank Howard was her favorite was something I will never know; I never asked.

The only reason I can imagine was that when he hit a home run, he hit towering shots over the stadium. (Frank Howard mostly struck out. When the Dodgers traded him to the Washington Senators he learned to hit a wee bit better under the tutelage of Baseball great, Ted Williams.)

The atmosphere at the stadium was festive and loud. But then there was still the old lady.

I would glance towards the woman from time to time. I didn’t realize how important she was to the game nor me until I saw Robert Redford’s “The Natural”.

I suddenly realized that if you removed about 30 years from the old women, she could become the Glenn Close character. When the old woman stood and screamed for Frank Howard, my eyes would imagine the stadium going dark. A ray of backlight illuminated my grandmother like nobody could. She was in her element; she was having the time of her life. I love remembering my Dodger moments.

Sweeping Veronica

Baseball pitchers and batters are like matadors and bulls. The bull charges towards a matador. The clever matador sweeps the cape aside: The Sweeping Veronica. Every time it passes the missed cape, the frustrated bull returns faster and faster filled with more frustration and less concentration.

The clueless swinging batter gets more frustrated with every missed swing at the pitched ball. Each swing for each pitch becomes more frantic. The clever pitcher (Matador) throws a trick pitch, the batter swings and is merely out. When the bull makes an exhausted final pass a sword knifes between the flustered bulls shoulder blades; we all know what happens next.

Less than 2% of all major leaguers bat at a .300 average. The famous (and infamous) Pete Rose will tell you how sad those statistics are: ”You only need to get three hits per ten at bats to average .300.”

Baseball is a contact sport: You merely need to meet the ball with your bat. Pitchers are flaming more than 90 miles per hour. That speed from less than 60 feet seems daunting. But why pay a twenty something to be star $300 million, if he only hits the ball sometimes: Are the ownerships and fans waiting for modern day Frank Howard to hit the spectacular moonshot? No, most baseball players are swinging at butterflies. You need to have a sense of humor to appreciate the successes and pitfalls of the game.

My grandmother had heart palpitations waiting for the big one from Frank Howard. Can you imagine 50,000 fans waiting for one of nine batters to make the big hit?

The baseball needs to be slapped. Slap it to left, or right. Maybe a batter sees thirty or forty eye-catching balls to belt out of the park a year when a velocity of ninety miles per hour meets a bat powered by a strutting twenty-two year old. Connecting for a home run is special. When your strength and skills fade why not be able to slap the ball around and play the game for the love of it.

If the league is ready, I would be happy to give 800 players a lesson.

Richard Schulman is a photographer and writer. His books include Portraits of the New Architecture and Oxymoron & Pleonasmus. He lives in New York City.