The one thing I've discovered during this summer's hospitalization is that hospital beds qualify as post-medieval torture devices. For one thing, it's assumed that you're either going to sleep on your back or that you're narrow enough to roll 90 degrees without running into anything. I fail on both these counts. For another, if they're feeding you at 5 pm and aren't bringing the evening meds until 9:30 or so, four hours of just lying there seems like an eternity. I filled an hour or so with trying to keep up with my online obligations, but that was just an hour, and besides, most of the stuff I wrote from bed on that godawful Chromebook simply reeked of despair. What to do? The one thing you can count on in a contemporary hospital room is a working television set, and I turned my attention to the National Pastime.

It had been a while, really, since I'd paid a whole lot of attention to baseball. Half a century ago, it was something that had transfixed me, mostly because it was so remote: there'd be a game on television most weekends, from which I learned how to keep a box score, but not much else. From the Carolinas in the Sixties, the closest team available on the radio was the St. Louis Cardinals, who boomed through the night on clear-channel KMOX. So I followed the Cards, who won the National League pennant, and subsequently the World Series, in 1967. (They'd rule the NL the next year, but they lost the Series to Detroit.)

And then I moved out of there and suddenly balls and strikes and runs batted in didn't seem to mean so much anymore. I'd occasionally look in on the standings, and I attended a few games here and there, but the urgency was gone — until the Summer of Sickness, when anything had to be better than just lying there. Fox Sports and ESPN filled that time for me admirably.

Given my rather sad mental state, I became overly obsessed with the game, and I went to pieces on those evenings when there was no baseball on television. Inasmuch as my hospital stay included the All-Star Break, I had more of those evenings than I could possibly want. (Okay, two.)

And then they set me free and I spent a month and a half at home trying to recover and I couldn't concentrate on anything. At least the local Triple-A club had games on the radio most nights, which was fine with me, since I'd rather listen to a game on the radio than watch it on television. But the operative word is "most," and with the FCC having mucked up nighttime long-distance radio listening, I finally wound up biting a bullet: I installed Major League Baseball's At Bat app on my tablet, which would give me radio feeds for every game that wasn't being blacked out. (Teams subject to blackout in this area: the Rangers, the Astros, and, yes, the Cardinals.) But I paid more attention to the Los Angeles Dodgers, mostly because they were the parent club of our Triple-A squad. To my amazement, Vin Scully, whom I'd seen before on television — he was hosting a game show, fercrissake — was still alive and still calling Dodgers games — at least, the first three innings.

So here I am again, a baseball fan anew, trying not to remember that the season ends in about a month. (The Pacific Coast League winds down about Labor Day.) I hope the World Series keeps me going until basketball starts.

The Vent

  1 September 2016

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