I'm timeshifting again.
By which I mean I've confounded the natural order of things and TV programmers and illegally taped a baseball game to have some little piece of sound and light humming away in the corner while I tap at this computer and contemplate the squalid ruin that is my life.
But I digress.
Toronto vs Cincinatti, I think. I'm not paying it a lot of attention.
Like Proust with his madeleine, though, memories come drifting back, and I must lie abed for the next twenty years composing my rememberances . . .
A baseball costs -- what? -- 10 bucks? I assume, subtracting inflation, that it was about the same value back when baseball began on the cusp of the 20th century.
The difference was that the teams were basically amateur then, playing for pennies, accomodations, and huzzah!s
The baseball was the one indispensable piece of equipment that they had, and they typically only had one of them, so when a ball was hit into the bleachers, the spectators would toss it out again so that the game could continue.
Until the day when some guy caught it and refused to give it back. Outrage! He was dragged before the local magistrate, still clutching the ball. Who considered the matter, and pronounced: Finders, keepers. Losers, weepers.
Maybe he worded it better.
(By the way, I've got no idea where or when I heard this story. I'll bet Proust was making half of his stuff up, too.)
Major League Baseball took note of judicial precedent, and thereafter allowed fans to keep fouled or homered balls.
Not so with grounders or misaimed throws that stayed on the field. The ball boy would scamper out and scamper back to his perch down the infield line, hoarding the magic orb like it was the Hope Diamond, ignoring the pleading hands of children.
Come the strike of (95?) that cancelled the World Series and thoroughly soured fans on the sport.
There was a lot of cluckclucking about what baseball had to do to win back its audience.
Fast forward a year later. Joe Carter of the Blue Jays catches a routine popup in right field to end the inning and starts to trot off to the dugout. He abruptly veers off to the stands and with that big-ass, dazzling smile of his, hands the ball to a little boy who was literally hopping with delight.
The TV announcer: "Whoa! Now there's a fan for life!"
Watch the ball boys these days. Any stray shot is scooped up and delivered to the nearest kiddikin as the cameras zoom in.
It's great PR, and it's cheap. 10 bucks per baseball * 20 balls per game = future goodwill ^3.
I can't help but wonder if some bigwig in MLB saw the same game and sent out a memo.
If baseball can be rescued, then maybe Joe Carter should get some of the credit.