MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Today is the final day of the baseball season. Sure, the playoffs will begin sometime this week, I suppose, and for the better part of the next month, they will provide us with some different kind of theater. But a certain melancholy surrounds many of us when the 162-game season comes to a close, particularly a 2022 season like the young Baltimore Orioles have given us.

The baseball fan is never ready for baseball to be over, yet for those of us who are blessed with the gift of baseball love, baseball never ends. For us, baseball is forever.

We never want the season to end because even bad baseball is better than no baseball, and when the postseason is completed and November comes, the nights will be suddenly barren, carrying with them the chilling finality of this unfortunate inevitability.

The stability of knowing there is a game every day and every night and being able to count on it, then, whether consciously or subconsciously, adjusting your entire day and night around the first pitch provides great comfort, whether you are attending the game, watching it on TV or listening to it on the radio. For as we have pointed out many times before, the saddest words in the King’s English remain, “No game today.”

As the great columnist Thomas Boswell said on Ken Burns’ brilliant “Baseball” documentary, “(Baseball is) one of those forms of gentle poetry that runs through our lives and makes the more important issues of living bearable. You have to have moments that give you pleasure with your children or your hobbies or your games. Life can’t all be big issues and heart surgery. Something has to bring joy into the day. I’ve always thought that the six months during the baseball season, there was something in the day that wasn’t there the other six months in winter. It was not that you had to listen to the game, but that you could if you needed it.”

Baseball is every day. In fact, Earl Weaver once told Boswell he was okay with his losing track of time during a pregame discussion in the dugout before both realized the national anthem had begun to play. After Boswell apologized profusely for intruding on his time, Weaver said, “This ain’t a football game, kid. We do this every day.”

Baseball is every day, yet it is something new every day. During every baseball game you ever watch you will see something happen that you have never seen before. You see things that continue to provide you with great wonder and goose bumps, no matter how long you’ve been a baseball fan and no matter how late into a lost season that moment may occur.

The baseball season, you see, as we find out every five years, is not unlike the experience of a high school class reunion, which, as fate would have it, will take place this weekend for our class. As it approaches, you are filled with great anticipation. When it arrives, lives up to and exceeds your every expectation, it’s over in the wink of a young girl’s eye.

Then when it shuts down until the next time; once the so longs and the we’ll stay in touches have been said, once the hugs have been hugged and the final tastes remembered over and over again, you miss it.

Almost as soon as it’s over, you miss it — your class reunion, your classmates and the people and things you hold dear to your heart, which also includes the day to day of the baseball season.

It’s the companionship. It’s the companionship of those and what you are familiar with and what you love that you never look forward to missing. Because it is companionship, particularly a lifetime of companionship, that lives in the heart of all that defines who and what we are.

In “The Green Fields of the Mind,” A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote, “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 …”

So, good night, baseball. Rest easy. Thank you for our summer afternoons and evenings. We’ll miss you, but you’re always with us. See you in the spring.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT