I’m not the only one who thinks that baseball games last too long. Three hours is a short game. Three and a half or four hours are not uncommon. I remember watching the World Series game in which the Dodgers were slugging it out for more than six, or was it seven, hours. Now I’ll admit, I’m not a native baseball fan. I learned about the game when our kids started to play T-ball. I was well into my thirties then. So I hope that counts in my favor. Given this handicap, how could I know more about this otherwise wonderful sport than I do now? Still, can’t they get the game down to two, two and a half hours tops?
We went to Dodger Stadium last Friday. The stadium isn’t quite packed. Probably many people had opted for the Saturday game because Kirk Gibson bobbleheads were to be handed out and Clayton Kershaw was to break the Dodgers all-time strike-out record, which did happen, by the way. But as a result, we get onto the parking lot and into the stadium in record time. Because we are early, we decide to take a walk completely around the stadium, to see what has been updated. It all does indeed look new, newly painted, spic-and-span shiny. Halfway around we decide to get a beer for the guys and a bloody Mary for Jennifer. Joan is sticking with water; she is our designated driver. As we are walking, lots of other people are doing the same, ordering food and drinks, admiring the Jackie Robinson statue on the Center Field Plaza, pointing at the other retired numbers, pausing at the many stands that sell Dodgers hats, Dodger T-shirts, Dodger pennants, Dodger jackets, Dodgers baseballs… Having climbed some stairs, we get to our seats on the third-level loge. It’s halfway between home plate and third base, a great spot to view the game from.
Our section is nearly full. But that doesn’t mean that most seats are occupied all the time. No, people were very busy, all the time, getting food and drinks and visiting the restrooms. That’s what’s always struck me about baseball games. It doesn’t feel like most spectators have come to really watch the games or to track every pitch. I wonder how many understand why the infield players at times stay close to the bases and at times move away, say 6 feet back or more. Why the outfielders suddenly move to the right, or to the left. My point is, do most fans really care for the basic tactics deployed in the game before their eyes? Do they appreciate the performance of the batters trying to hit a ball that’s thrown at them from such a short distance at 90 or 100 mph? I don’t think so. But then I’m not an expert, as I told you. I see people talking to each other while hardly looking at the field. I see the admiration for the peanut vendor as he throws his bag 10 seats down the aisle, right at the spectator who asked for it. I see people slurping their milkshakes and people plowing into their helmets filled to the brim with cheese-covered nachos. I see kids gratefully licking their lollipops. And me and Joan are first savoring our Dodger dogs and then for dessert spilling peanut shells below our seats. But the difference is, we ARE watching the game. We’re the only ones, I think.
And then I begin to understand. Most spectators don’t mind that the games are long. They’ve come for the entertainment. They subconsciously hear the commentary of Vin Scully, the soundtrack of this national pastime, in their ears. Nothing hurried ever in his voice. Just undergo the innings, as they come to you. And while you’re doing so, sip your beer, eat your peanuts, devour your Dodger dogs… what’s three hours? Mmm… I’d still prefer the games shorter.