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A few ruminations on our national pastime, balloon releases
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Baseball season started Monday, though it actually began Sunday night on ESPN when Houston took on Texas in an American League matchup.
But for many, me included, the season really began on Opening Day, when the Braves took the field on Monday night against visiting Philadelphia.
Atlanta’s roster is young, for the most part, and fun to watch, and the Braves may well give the Nationals a run for the National League East before all is said and done.
Fortunately, that’s going to take a while.
Even in this age where we expect instant everything, you can’t rush baseball. We should be grateful for that.
A quick aside:
A friend of mine sent me a link to a petition by a Roswell girl who wants to get state legislators to make it illegal to hold balloon releases.
It’s already against the law in some states, but not in Georgia. I think it should be, for reasons outlined in the girls’ petition. Let’s face it. Balloon releases are usually held to celebrate great occasions, but the death of even one living creature as a result kind of puts a cosmic damper on it, don’t you think?
Anyway, here’s the link to the petition.
Back to baseball:
Hooray, Chipper’s done. I know, I know. Chipper Jones is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The nine-time all-star and 1999 National League MVP hit .303 lifetime, with 2,726 hits, 468 home runs and 1,623 RBIs. Average that out over a 19 year career and Jones hit .303 with 30 homers and 105 RBI each and every year.  
That’s more solid stuff.
Yet I’m no fan of the Chipper, who always seemed a bit too smug to me. He got too much credit when things were going well and not enough blame when they weren’t. What’s more, his production dipped noticeably in the playoffs – just one home run in 16 World Series games, for example. Careerwise, Jones hit .287 with 13 homers and 47 RBI while striking out nearly as many times as he walked (61 Ks, 72 walks) in 93 postseason games.
Good? Yes. Great? No.
Speaking of great, if you haven’t read “Ball Four” by former major-league pitcher Jim Bouton then you haven’t read one of the greatest baseball books ever written.
I’ll spare the book report, just note it is well worth the read if you get the chance to pick it up.
And there’s a Savannah connection, too, which means there may well be a area connection, since Bouton pitched for the Savannah Braves in 1978 while trying to revive his career.
Who knows, someone from the area may made the trip down to see him pitch.
Best baseball movies ever?
My top five:
5. The 1976 version of “The Bad News Bears,” with Walter Matthau. This still rates as one of the funniest baseball movies ever made.
4. “Bull Durham,” starring Kevin Costner. This 1988 movie is funny and literate and, well, deep. The best line comes from Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy: “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.” True.
3. “A League of Their Own,” starring Tom Hanks and Gina Davis. Great movie about women’s professional baseball during World War II. “There’s no crying in baseball,” as uttered by an exasperated Hanks after one of his players breaks into tears rates as the best baseball line ever, or close to it.
2. “Rookie of the Year,” starring Thomas Ian Nicholas, Gary Busey and Daniel Stern, who also directed while playing the crazy pitching coach. About a 12-year-old who becomes a major league sensation after he breaks his arm, it captures the magic of sports and the dream of probably every kid who ever played the game, me included. I’m not sure why it doesn’t get more love.
1. “Pride of the Yankees,” with Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright. Made in 1942, this movie tells the story of Lou Gehrig, one of the greatest players of any era. Nicknamed the Iron Horse, Gehrig saw his 15-year career ended by ALS, which is also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Be safe out there. Be nice to kids, senior citizens and animals.

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