Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Some of you may remember this jingle from childhood, especially if you’re a baseball fan:

“Take me out to the ballgame, take me out with the crowd,

Buy me some peanuts and CrackerJacks. I don’t care if I never get back,

Let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win it’s a shame

For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out, at the old ball game.”

You may even remember Crackerjacks – that sickeningly sweet caramel popcorn treat with the prize in the bottom of the box, and yes they still make it, although the toy is now a digital code to an online app.

The baseball playoffs have started and the remaining teams are battling it out to be in the World Series. My team has already been eliminated, but not before I watched 28 consecutive nail-biting games in the month of September. The Toronto Blue Jays hung in there but finally lost out to the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees by a one game lead for the Wild Card spot.

Watching baseball can be addicting, especially when you start to structure your day around whether it’s an afternoon or evening game, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fickle fan. I only tune in when it gets towards the end of the season, and only if the Jays have a shot at going further, and only if I like the team members, so that’s not every year as they’re constantly trading players. They had a good bunch of guys this year, some of them real characters, and you could tell they were having fun out there – but isn’t it always fun when your team is winning.

We only have one major league baseball team here in Canada, so there’s not a lot of choice when it comes to which team to root for. It not like hockey, our national sport, where there are seven teams competing. But who wants to hang out in a cold arena when you can have summer sunshine, fresh air and the smell of twenty dollar popcorn. The Skydome roof can be closed in twenty minutes if it looks like rain.

Unlike the Toronto Maple Leafs (who haven’t won a Stanley Cup in so long that no one remembers when), the Blue Jays have won the World Series – twice in fact – in 1992 and 1993. I still remember some of the players from those years, Pat Borders, Roberto Alomar and who can forget that game winning home run by Joe Carter. I was in Toronto for a conference that year and missed the parade by one day, but some of my work colleagues went and it was a wild and crazy time.

I’ve never been to a live Blue Jays game, although when I was there five years ago, my hotel was full of fans in their blue jerseys, and I debated skipping my course and going to the game instead (I was close to retiring anyway) but like a good little employee I did not, and they ended up losing anyway. The seats in the upper stratosphere are cheap, but you need a sherpa to guide you, and advance tickets require too much planning and mega-moolah for the hotel room, parking, and overpriced food and beverages.

Me in my “sponsored” baseball t-shirt and cringe-worthy Twiggy/sixties pixie hair cut…

People are often surprised that I watch baseball, considering I’m so nonathletic, but then I played girls little league when I was a kid – for three long years – where I was the worst player ever. My parents made me play, as my cousin next-door played, but she was almost as bad. I struck out every single time. I can still hear the “easy out” chants in my ear when I came up to bat. My “official” position was left field, where I was mostly bored. Luckily few balls ever came that way for I was just as bad at throwing. Usually I spent the time daydreaming, and if I could have, I would have brought a book.

I’ve hated sports ever since, especially anything requiring a ball and hand-eye coordination, like tennis, badminton, volleyball etc and I still have horrors of high school gym glass. I seemed to lack the stamina required for exercise, although to be fair to my younger self, I didn’t know at the time that I had a heart murmur.

When I say my parents forced me to play, I mean I never spoke up and said I didn’t want to – I guess when you’re a kid you don’t feel like you don’t have a choice – it’s like piano or swimming lessons, they just sign you up. I was relieved when I was allowed to quit. Maybe they realized that striking out all the time was not good for a child’s self-esteem, but I don’t think parents really thought about things like that back in the sixties. I quit because my cousin quit. I can understand why soccer is a much more popular sport these days, as it requires less skill, although many girls play hockey now too. I think of my poor mother carting us around every night, but then I suppose she thought we might be bored without some kind of structured activity. My father hardly ever saw a game as we had a dairy farm, although he did catch a few weekend games the year my brother lost the provincial championship,

We had a big backyard on our farm and I was much happier playing the occasional game with my cousins next door, until someone broke a basement window, and we had to relocate the diamond to the little field in between us – if there weren’t any cows grazing in it. The backyard pickup games didn’t resume until decades later when there were grandchildren….funny how much more indulgent grandparents are.

Anyway, the end result of my short baseball career was a life-long aversion to sports. The only benefit was some knowledge of the rules of baseball, whereas I’m clueless when it comes to hockey or football and all those penalties.

A few observations on the sport…

My what a vast discrepancy in salaries there is. Yes, George Springer might be worth $25 million a year, (150 million over 6 years) but those two 22 year old rookies, Valdimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, (worth $600,00), were just as valuable for a whole lot less, not to mention doing just as well in the home run standings. That’s the thing about baseball – anyone can step up to the plate.

Photo by Mandie Inman on Pexels.com

Speaking of the players, I can handle the wild haircuts (Lourdes Gurriel looks like a pineapple), and those ugly lumberjack beards, and the longish hair, but the spitting – just no. If there’s no crying in baseball there shouldn’t be any spitting either.

Every game counts – the Jays missed the wild card spot by one measly game. Yes, I know a team needs time to gel and they didn’t a home stadium for most of the year – due to the pandemic they played in Dunedin and Buffalo until mid-summer – and home town enthusiasm means a lot, but a little more effort earlier on would have made all the difference.

Even baseball has it’s politics. While it’s generally minus the all out brawling of hockey, the #Cardgate episode illustrates just how overheated things can get. The opposing team picked up the play card the Blue Jays catcher had accidentally dropped at home plate and kept it. When the bat boy was sent over to the dugout to retrieve it, their player refused to give it up. The next night, said player got hit in the back while up at bat, by some rookie Jays pitcher, and a “heated discussion” ensued with the pitcher being ejected from the game. The ensuing debate went on for days, demonstrating poor sportsmanship all around.

Speaking of controversy, some of those umpire calls were so controversial, I wonder how long it will be until an electronic strike zone makes the calls at home plate. Apparently, the technology already exists.

The season goes on way too long – April to early November. The Jays played 162 games and won 91, but when the World Series is wrapping up to the threat of snow flurries, that’s crazy. I know they have to sell a lot of tickets to pay for the big salaries, but it must be exhausting for the players, especially with all the traveling and a game almost every day. Baseball is a young person’s game. Anyone over 30 is an oldster.

To be a major league baseball player you must have a unique sounding name, something that will roll off the sports announcers tongue with a melodious flare. The game announcers themselves all seem to have the same alternatively soothing/melodramatic/mesmerizing tone of voice. Sometimes I just like to listen to the ballgame on the radio, in the background, as a kind of nostalgic salute to childhood when my dad would have the ballgame on on Sunday afternoons. But then I grew up listening to Ernie Harwell voice the Detroit Tigers for 42 years, starting in 1960, back when Canada didn’t even field a team.

My mother told me a story about growing up in the Depression. The kids in her neighborhood all played baseball in the empty lots around town, girls and boys together. As her family was too poor to own a radio, her older brother used to sit outside the neighbor’s window, and listen to the ballgame on their wireless. The neighbor’s wife would graciously turn the volume way up so he could hear the announcer through the open window. I can picture that little boy sitting on the grass in the summer heat dreaming of baseball glory. (In 1939 when she was 13 they were finally able to afford their own radio.) Sadly, my uncle threw all his baseball cards away in the 1960’s, including the Babe Ruth ones, thinking they were worthless.

It will be a long six months until the boys of summer return.

PS. For anyone who remembers “candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize” here’s a link to an old tv commerical for CrackerJack.

PS. Thanks to Ally for pointing out this Carly Simon version of Take Me Out to The Ballgame. The song was written in 1908 and popular in vaudeville shows a century ago.

45 thoughts on “Take Me Out to the Ballgame

    • Joni says:

      Thanks for reading Diane. What were the prizes? I don’t remember buying it often enough to recall, as I found it too sweet. I much preferred chocolate bars.

      Like

  1. Anne says:

    This has been an interesting read, even though we don’t have ‘national’ baseball here. I can relate what you say to cricket and rugby (both ‘big’) in South Africa. From enjoying listening to the radio in my youth to getting to watch both cricket and rugby on television, to actually getting to watch a live cricket one-day match, I pay far less attention these days because of the intervention of politics.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      Thanks for reading Anne. It’s funny how we can have allegiance to a team. “Blue Jay fever” has come and gone, and I’ve lost interest in who wins the World Series.

      Like

    • Joni says:

      LA, I remember you posting about going to ball games, but couldn’t remember if it was the Yankees or the Mets. You’re like the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey fans here – they last won in 1967 but the die-hard fans don’t care – every few years they rebuild the team and hire a new coach and optimism reigns again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ruthsoaper says:

    That was fun to read. My husband picks up a box (or three) of Cracker Jacks now and then but says the prizes are nowhere near as good as they used to be. I’m not a sports person either. I did follow the Detroit Tigers in 1984 when they won the World Series. I also played soft ball on an adult team one year. (I bet I would rival you as the worst player ever.) I ended up with a broken nose in the last game of the season from getting hit with the ball. That was enough of that!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. www.rosesintherainmemoir.wordpress.com says:

    Wow, what a story teller you are! I have my own memories similar to yours but from the ’40s and ’50s. In elementary school we all “did” baseball (or soft ball) on the school playground at recess and listened to the radio with our daddies at night. My Daddy even took me to a couple of hometown games where we stood for a while outside the chain-link fence behind left field (or was it right?). Little money for tickets. My husband and I attended a Seattle Mariners game the year our church sponsored a trip with group tickets. The Mariners lost but the trip was worth it, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Linda Schaub says:

    This was a fun post Joni and I also think the baseball season goes on for way too long. This year for Opening Day, the snow was flyin’ and that snow on the field and stands was the talk of the town and also made headlines on nationwide TV as well.

    That’s too bad about throwing out all the baseball cards – those Babe Ruth cards would have been a real windfall to your uncle. I liked Cracker Jack, but never had it as a kid as I wasn’t allowed to eat candy or sticky things, except a few treats at Christmas, Easter and Halloween (this one being pre-screened by my parents first for gooey candies like Peanut Butter Kisses in orange and black wrappers).

    I had no idea the Leafs hadn’t won in a game in that long – yikes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      The Crackerjack was way too sweet but I’m not a big fan of caramel corn, and I absolutely hated those Halloween Kisses – I think because they had molasses or something in them….they were left to the end and then thrown out! In the 1980/90’s when baseball cards made a resurgence my uncle sure regretted throwing them out! I remember my brothers buying them for a nickel? at the penny candy store and getting a free stick of bubble gum with them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I only had it when I was older – my mom liked it and we’d get a box as a treat every so often. I thought it was interesting that they only had digital prizes/links etc. now. I don’t recall what the prizes were as I was older. I never really had prizes for cereal either as my mom usually made a pot of oatmeal or cream of wheat for breakfast, so I don’t recall having cereal as a youngster. My mom would cull all the sticky stuff out of the Halloween candy bag and I never had those Peanut Butter Kisses. I remember the baseball cards, though I never bought them – I must’ve seen classmates with them as I recall the bubblegum was flat like a baseball card wasn’t it?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        Yes, it was flat like a sheet, a bit smaller than the cards. I remember my brothers and cousins trading the cards back and forth. I had my flu shot today, so arm a bit sore, but they had some high dose flu vaccine in for mom, so I got mine too, although mine is the regular strength. I shouldn’t have pruned the rose bushes after…..should have rested arm instead. Trying to get stuff while the weather isn’t too cold.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I thought that is what it looked like. I have my Moderna COVID booster shot tomorrow. It was available starting today, so I wanted to get on that bandwagon so scheduled it for tomorrow morning. I’ll get some shopping done, something that is difficult not only because the store shelves are depleted, but the store was supposed to be done with their renovation by today and it will now take until February as they can’t get some supplies, including the new store shelves, so they have even less than you’d expect. Thank goodness I began my Winter shopping on Labor Day weekend.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Joni says:

        Good luck with your shot Linda! I don’t find the store shelves too bare here for groceries yet, but when something is out it’s usually out for a long time, or they’ll get some in but smaller quantities so it’s gone quickly.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        The second Moderna shot I got I had flu-like symptoms the following day. This is just a half-dose, so maybe it won’t happen. I’ve not heard anyone mentioning symptoms after the booster – I’m assuming people are only too happy to have it. I would like to tackle the rest of the list tomorrow but if it’s too crowded, I’ll just return on Sunday, then my time is my own. The weather is not so great this weekend and we have really no leaf color to speak of to want to photograph. I wonder if there will be booster shots again down the road like we get flu shots – I suspect there will be.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        Hope your shot went well. I didn’t know the Moderna booster was only a half-dose? We have no leaf color either so it’s not very inspiring. I’ve never seen so much green almost the end of October. I think we will be getting Covid boosters annually, unless they can prove the immunity is long-lasting with studies. I’ve just starting reading World War C – Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s new release on Covid and am finding it fascinating. Lots of stuff I hadn’t heard before. The whole second half is devoted to how we (generally/government wise and specifically/personally) can protect ourselves from future pandemics. I didn’t know George Bush had instituted the Pandemic Plan back in 2005 after reading that book about The Great Influenza of 1918. It really was only a matter of time until another one came along.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        It did go well Joni and my arm just started feeling heavy and sore within the last hour. Now I wonder if I’ll feel as tired as the last two shots. So far no fatigue, but I was trying to get Monday’s post done if possible tonight. The Moderna booster is a half-dose, unlike the Pfizer booster, and this is because they had a few heart issues as its efficacy was so much better than Pfizer and J&J (that’s what I’ve read in the past anyway). I follow Dr. Gupta on Twitter and he launched his new book maybe a month ago now and I’ve been seeing lots of good reviews on it. I know you read the one about brain health too. I knew there was a Pandemic Plan, but didn’t know that George Bush instituted it so I learned something. I thought President Obama had done that as I had heard there was some controversy why Trump had not only dismantled the Plan but what happened to the massive stockpile of personal protection gear, etc.? The talk at that time, from what I gleaned from the news media, was that it was still another item that Trump did because of his intense dislike of Obama. He reversed many of the statutes and laws – it was quite controversial as to wildlife sanctuaries and endangered species lists and other protected property/animals, etc. were lifted and/or trampled on by his administration. So maybe I just assumed the Plan was undone as it was Obama’s. I do keep hearing there will be another pandemic and likely in most of our lifetimes (hope it is after ours).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        That’s interesting Joni. I had only heard the efficacy of the Moderna shots were better than the other two, so was glad I had it … I never read the dosage amount (which is a little scary that Moderna shots were so much more vaccine than the others). Wow! No wonder it packs such a punch. I was fine the first time though. The second time felt sick after 24 hours, then better the next day. Right now I am very cold and don’t know if it is just it’s cold in the house, so I nudged the thermostat to 72 from 71, or it is chills from the shot. I think the former. I’ll bet you are right … he would not have dismantled the program and I don’t know if they ever determined where the stockpiled items went.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        Yes, an ugly week is on tap for sure Joni. All days except Sunday We had a very cold day and a freeze warning this morning, but it got nicer – mid-30s. Now we settle in to watch the rain for two days.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. annieasksyou says:

    This was a delightful view of another side of your interesting persona and past, Joni.

    I wasn’t much of a baseball fan, though I always rooted for the Yankees. But I certainly empathize with your non-athleticism. I was always the last one chosen for the teams; all these years later, I can still taste the humiliation.

    Sweet story about the neighbor helping your uncle hear the game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Annie! Yes, I remember the humiliation of being chosen for school teams, esp. track and field at the end of the year. As bad as things are now for many people, it can be a real eye-opener to listen to someone older talk about the growing up in the Depression and having absolutely nothing. Now even the poorest on welfare have tv’s, internet and cell phones….well at least here in Canada where we have more social safety networks. But people were kinder back then too and had more ethics. I sometimes wonder what would happen now if the financial world totally collapsed – would it be every man for himself?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ally Bean says:

    “I guess when you’re a kid you don’t feel like you don’t have a choice.” So true. I can understand why you played baseball then, but not later. I like watching a baseball game live in the stadium, but when watching on TV I get bored and my mind wanders.

    [I don’t know if you realize this but the jingle you refer to is the chorus of a song. The song starts with “Katy Casey was baseball mad, She had the fever she had it bad…” Carly Simon did a cover of the song and it’s delightful.]

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Arlene Somerton Smith says:

    We are huge baseball fans in our house, but not Crackerjacks fans. (Yuck.) We live in Ottawa so the Montreal Expos used to be our Number One fan choice, but now it is the Blue Jays. Next year . . . It’ll be the 30th anniversary of the first Blue Jays World Series win. Wouldn’t that be good timing?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dave says:

    I wouldn’t have guessed Canada has seven hockey teams, Joni (and I keep up with professional sports) but be thankful your Blue Jays had a shot at the postseason. Would of much rather seen Toronto as an AL wild card instead of New York. Here in Denver, we have a franchise unwilling to invest in its future. Our ownership believes our future stars will simply rise up from the minors to bring us a pennant. The Rockies been to the postseason once or twice in twenty-five years yet they still draw fans pretty well, so maybe ownership is content to just rake in the profits.

    I had a great uncle who would bring my brothers and I Cracker Jack every time he saw us. Such a fond memory. During the seventh-inning stretch, they throw bags of Cracker Jack from the highest parts of the stadium so if you’re lucky you get one for free. Finally, love the line about the sherpa getting you to your seat. Guess Toronto’s stadium is not as fan-friendly as Denver’s.

    Loved the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Dave! Glad you liked it. For hockey we have the Toronto Maple Leafs, The Montreal Canadiens, The Ottawa Senators, The Winnipeg Jets, The Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks. Last year I think they just played among themselves as they couldn’t cross the border with the pandemic restrictions. Many of the US teams (like your Rockies) play in different divisions so I’m only familiar with their names. The Maple Leafs try and rebuild every few years with younger players and a new coach but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. but the fans don’t care. I was going to post a picture of the SkyDome from the air to show the height but decided not too….it makes me sick to look at it. That’s funny about the free Cracker Jacks from above. I’ve pretty much tuned out of the world series, as I don’t know either of the teams well enough to care too much.

      Like

  9. J P says:

    So much here! I loved cracker jack as a kid and still occasionally buy a box or 3 – and am invariably disappointed.

    I grew up terrible at athletics too, and hated my 2 years in youth baseball. You and I would have given each other a run for the money as the last kid picked for teams, from the sounds of it.

    I eventually came to enjoy baseball, and joined the league of long suffering Chicago Cubs fans. And Take Me Out To The Ball Game is a great song!

    Liked by 1 person

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