October 1, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 19  

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A former love rekindled with Harlequin-esque zeal

Don't read this column
Ben Mills

Gazette Staff

My name is Ben and I'm a recovering baseball-aholic.

I'm also a huge hypocrite, seeing as this time last year I was professing my hatred for America's pastime in the very pages of this fine rag... er... newspaper. But like the leaves of the oak tree on University College Hill, I've changed.

I used to bitch about how the players are fat and lazy; how there's no clock; how there are too many games and too many stats; why George Steinbrenner is like Mike Illitch to the power 50; why Bud Selig is more evil than Satan, Harry Frazee and Stalin combined and probably a cornucopia of other complaints, which I cannot recall due to several years of alcohol and drug abuse. But I digress.

This summer I watched more baseball than Bill James. I was reluctant at first, but cupid's arrow would soon find a target and like a spurned lover trying to rekindle the passion with an old paramour, I embraced my friend with loins burning and arms outstretched... take that Harlequin!

What on Earth is harder than hitting a ball no bigger than your fist with a stick no thicker than your forearm? Not only that, but the ball is whizzing by your belt at 90 miles per hour, hurled by a man who'd take your head off if you even think of moving a couple of inches closer to the plate. To test this out, go to a batting cage and try the "Danger: Fast Pitch" as opposed to the usual "All-Over-The-Plate-I-Suck-Pitch" and a lesson in humility will ensue.

I know from experience.

Another knock against baseball is that players are fat drunks that chew tobacco and are over-paid. Over-paid, yes. But the fat drunk label is totally wrong (omit David Wells). Baseball players are closer to your "Everyday Joe" than any other professional athlete - they cater to the fans before and after the game, they appear to be more human than a 300 lb. lineman or a 7' centre and they have vices just like many non-athletes. In what other sport (other than hockey up to the '60s) do the players smoke and drink after the game? To a lot of people, a beer and a cigarette is something to look forward to after a hard day of work (note: I am not promoting alcoholism and smoking, so don't bother writing a complaint letter because I'll only laugh at it then use it to wipe the barbecue sauce off my face).

The personalities of baseball also get me. For every Ty Cobb or Pacer Smith, you'll find ten Cal Ripken's or Roberto Clemente's; people who give back to both the sport they love and to the communities from which they were born.

Baseball is also home to some of the most memorable calls in sporting history. One that comes to mind is "Touch 'em all, Joe," when Joe Carter homered off Mitch Williams in the 1993 fall classic.

But a personal favorite is Chicago White Sox play-by-play man Ken "The Hawk" Harellson's, "Gas, He Gone," signifying a White Sox strike out. In a day and age when sports analogies are getting as far-fetched as me having a threesome with Britney and Christina, the Hawk cuts through the bullshit and gets straight to the point.

I'm gone.



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