Emily and I were in bed last night and I was leafing through a picture book about Yankee History. At one point she asked, “Do you learn something new about baseball every day?” “Yeah, I suppose I do,” I said. I tried to think what I had learned that day. I had just been studying a photograph of Joe DiMaggio’s last home run, hit against the Giants in the Polo Grounds during the 1951 World Serious. The photograph, taken from behind home plate, gave me a different perspective of the Polo Grounds than I had ever experienced. I soaked in a new appreciation of a place I deeply desire to have actually visited.
Often, I’m not even aware of how much I’m learning, though of course I absorb new information constantly. But not only do most of us baseball nyerds learn something new about the game each day, we probably spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about it too. At least I know I do, especially as I’m drifting to sleep at night. Baseball is a year-round sport these days, still there are enough lulls in the off-season for us to indulge in our fantasies without the daily tension of wins and losses. This brings to mind one of my favorite Hot Stove passages:
There is a game of baseball that is not to be found in the schedules or the record books. It has no season, but it is best played in the winter, without the distraction of box scores and standings. This is the inner game, baseball in the mind, and there is no real fan who does not know it. It is a game of recollections, recapturings, and visions: Yet this is only the beginning, for baseball in the mind in not a mere yearning and returning. In time, this easy envisioning of restored players, winning hits, and famous rallies gives way to reconsiderations and reflections about the sport itself. By thinking about baseball like this, by playing it over and yet keeping it to ourselves, keeping it warm in a cold season, we begin to make discoveries. With luck, we may even penetrate some of its mysteries and learn once again how richly and variously the game can reward us.
Roger Angell, from “Baseball in the Mind”