Play Ball!

April 6th, 2009 | Posted in General


Although they’d like to scout the Far East like many other teams do looking for
phenoms playing in Asia, the Minnesota Twins are too cheap to send their talent
scouts any farther east than Peoria, Illinois…
(from MAD #416)

Ah…. Baseball. The Great American Pastime. The 2009 season starts today and, as always, hope springs eternal for the Hometown Nine… at least for a little while.

Pro sports for the most part really turn me off. I like and follow the NFL mostly because being born and raised in Wisconsin I am hardwired as a Green Bay Packer fan, but the prancing, posturing players make me sick. Pro basketball is populated by lazy, pampered crybabies that give 100% effort about 5% of the time. Hockey never interested me much. Ditto golf, tennis and the lesser pro sports like soccer. Baseball is really the only sport I still get enthusiastic about.

It isn’t perfect. Egos and poor sportsmanship are becoming more and more prevalent, but it is still far less of a problem than in the other major sports. I think it’s because baseball is the last major pro sport where you have to work your way up to the major leagues through an unglamorous minor league system. Most MLB players have to toil for years in the minors, working hard to get to “the show”… and the majority never do make it to the big leagues. It’s harder to forget where you came from when it took that much time and effort to get to the top and so many of your fellow players don’t make it at all. For football and basketball, college play is their “minor leagues”, but there is no comparison. Players are scouted from junior high these days, and by the time they get to the college level (if they even do, basketball players are entering the draft right from high school more and more, or leaving college for the pros early) they are practically inked in for being a pro. They get the superstar treatment early, and a young ego does not often remain grounded in that kind of environment. That’s why some of these pro athletes think the sun rises and sets on them… they’ve been told it does from an early age. Baseball, with a few notable exceptions (Barry Bonds, anyone?), largely avoids that with their blue collar system.

Best of all with baseball… it’s a long season at 162 games. Some call that a disadvantage in this day of short attention spans and instant gratification. I think it’s the opposite. The long season allows for the unquestioned result of the best teams reaching the post season. In football, with only 16 games, any team can get hot/lucky enough to make the playoffs, and a few lucky bounces can get them far in the postseason. No way can that happen in baseball. Likewise the long season allows for team fans to hang on to the hope their team will make a run and be a factor in the race for a playoff spot… often football and basketball teams have no hope after only 25% of the season is played. Finally, the game itself is more relaxing to experience. You can cheer and get excited if your team does good, but you don’t need to be disheartened if they play poorly, as there is always the next game. You can go get a hot dog and soda or chat with your neighbor and not miss much of the game. Plus, there are just a lot more games to enjoy. If football and basketball are action movies, baseball is suspense.

I love taking my kids to a handful of games a season… and I’m REALLY looking forward to doing so next year in the Twin’s new outdoor park. I used to do a fair amount of work for the Minnesota Twins, with comp tickets being a perk. Even without comps, baseball remains the most affordable pro sport, with some seats less than $10 each and some promotions making it even cheaper. Last summer our extended family went to a Twins games on a promo Sunday where one adult ticket got you two under 16 kids in for free. I think 20 of us went for only $72 in tickets. That’s $3.60 each. That’s less than some types of coffee at Starbucks,

I love talking baseball with my dad, who actually is as much a Twins fan as a Milwaukee Brewers fan these days. The famous line from “City Slickers” always comes to mind, when Daniel Stern tells Billy Crystal about how, no matter how big the differences were between himself and his father, they could always “talk about baseball”.

More than anything, I love having my studio windows opened on a summer afternoon, feeling the warm breeze, sipping a Coke, hearing somebody’s lawn mower in the distance and listening to the game on the radio while I am working. That is pure Americana.

So, play ball, boys of summer. Welcome back.


  1. Robert Loy says:

    Amen. Although it’s actually only 162 game season not 182 — that would be long enough to shove the October classic into late November.

  2. K McNutt says:

    Woo-hoo! Baseball! I’m more of a fan of baseball in of itself & less of individual teams, although I do have certain teams I feel more hopeful for than others. I love the history of it, its place in Americana… hard to beat, in my book. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Twins play in the new Hennepin County Stadium next year.

  3. Bernard says:

    Great Stuff Tom!
    I guess your quite the writer too…this was a great read. I will need to print it out and post it on the wall of both my day job office (fixed window that doesn’t open) and at home (regular window that does) because this is what baseball was/still is to me too.

    Grew up drawing 40% of my summer days next to the radio listening to the great (to Pittsburgh anyway) Bob Prince and the Pirates when Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and company won a couple of World series and where a constant in the pennant races.

    Now they can’t even beat a community college in preseason! But that’s okay because it’s the game I love for all that you described above. Now if I can only get my son whose 27 now to see that maybe I won’t be the last in my family to know and appreciate the game.

    I would also like to post (or link) to this on my blog (giving you the credit of course) but then I don’t have the traffic and not sure people are reading articles of this length now a days.

    Seems like everybody wants their novels and the piece of American pie in a 145 letters or less. smile.

    Have a Great Day,

  4. CHRIS says:

    Hi Tom, i read the blog all the time, but have never commented. I have a question though.

    Regarding the asian character here, how often do you hear complaints or comments screaming “racist”? Not that im personally saying it, but im sure its got to happen every now and then, being that you draw caricatures that are obviously meant to exaggerate the features.

    • Tom says:

      I knew I’d get somebody commenting on that when I chose this spot as the visual for this post. It’s a very valid point, and something I am (usually) very cautious about.

      When I teach rookie live caricaturists to draw I address racial stereotypes. I go over the features most often considered “stereotypes” for various races, so they are aware of them. What I do not do is make them afraid to draw or exaggerate something that might be construed as a racial stereotype. My basic rule of thumb is “draw and exaggerate what is there, not what stereotypes might tell you is there”. That just means that it is equally racist to intentionally draw thin lips on a black subject who has very full lips as it is to automatically draw big lips on every black person. Race feature stereotypes are not just “made up”. Most are based on actual differences in anatomy between the races. We are not a homogenized species.

      That said, you will always get at least one person who jumps up and screams “RACIST” whenever your caricature even hints at stereotypes (you are not that person, Chris… your question is very valid). Most of the time it’s their problem, not mine… unless I did cross the line without it being warranted.

      Which brings me to this image. I very intentionally played on stereotypes with the “batter” here. Why? Well, this image was one of many spots in a two page spread, so the printed size of the batter’s head was about 1/2 an inch. At that size I couldn’t be subtle. Plus the whole gag was screaming “not PC” so I figured I’d just go overboard with the visuals. My apologies if I have offended anybody.

  5. Nate says:

    Baseball games have always been my favorite sporting event to go to. The minor league games are the BEST in my opinion – because those guys play their hearts out trying to “make it” in the big league. When i lived in Dayton, Ohio – we went to watch the Dayton Dragons almost on a weekly basis. Cheap tickets, small stadium and plenty of entertainment. Good times! I’m glad the season is in full-swing starting today.

  6. Doug says:

    I’ve never commented before either. Thanks for the info on the stereotypes. I didn’t think about it but it was a great question and answer. I’m a regular to the blog but have just recently become addicted to the “Sunday Mailbag”. This was a great post about baseball too which is why I’m commenting. Lately I feel like baseball has become more nostalgia to me than actually enjoying the games I go to. But your post has put a spark in me about it. I love the action movie vs. suspense analogy, and I really do like relaxing at the ball park with a dog and a beer.

  7. Tom, I hate to inform you that the White Sox are going to win the division again. And the Bears are going to stomp the Packers twice next year. Nice drawing and great blog. Thanks!


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