Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Game for Mr. Harwell

On Tuesday, I took the night off from the day and night job that I usually love so much to accept an offer of a ticket to a Nationals-Braves baseball game at the Nats Park. It was my first game of the young season and it was a gorgeous DC baseball night that was crystal clear and free of humidity; it seemed ordered straight out of a weather catalog.

The game featured the ageless and wily Cuban pitcher, Livan Hernandez, throwing soft pitches of constantly varying speeds at hitters half his age, and making them look silly as they swung wildly at whatever he pitched their way. The game had two artistic catches by outstretched Nats fielders who banged off the ground and the walls to catch the quick and fleeing balls, and five long arching home runs.

But the game was interrupted by the shorting and the silencing of the magic modern scoreboard of hi-def sounds and pictures and statistics and blatant promotions. The scoreboard was out of commission for much of the game, and we were led to ask the metaphysical question--if a run scores in the ballpark, and there is no scoreboard, does the run count? The runs did count and the score ended 6 to 3 in favor of our perennial hometown underdogs, the lovable and often hapless Nationals.

After I left the ballpark, I heard about the passing of Ernie Harwell, and I am convinced that the scoreboard died at Nats Stadium to honor the passing of baseball's melodious announcer and poet of another era, who died today at the age of 92. The quiet and blank scoreboard yielded its overblown sound and pictures so that the quiet and reflective game of baseball could go on as it has for the many decades of Mr. Harwell's wonderful career, without the squawking modern sounds that tell you when to clap, when to shout, when to stomp your feet, when to wave to the cameras, and when to do the wave. Ernie Harwell announced in an era of innocence when baseball was more of a love and passion than a business. Tonight, the high definition electronics went silent so that we could celebrate the poetry and reflections of a bygone time, when we knew when to clap and when to shout, and when to keep silent and watch the game.

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