The prelude to the World Series is all the rage, and the other night, I heard a commentator compare baseball to show business. I chuckled at that. Sure, it’s true that tickets are bought at box offices and ushers guide you to your reserved seats. But that’s where the resemblance ends. Fini, finito, that’s it!
Ballplayers are not actors. Before a Broadway production, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne spent hours rehearsing lines, moves and expressions. There is a script to be followed. Everything is planned out to the exact wattage of the footlights. Do you think Sal Maglie ever met Carl Furillo before a game and said, “Look, on the 0-and-2 pitch, I’m gonna stick it in your ear”?
There is no rehearsal for the ballplayer. He hones his skills at batting and fielding drills. He works up a sweat. He gets no cues other than those from his memory bank and instincts. It’s the pitcher against the batter. No retakes. No ad libs. Their flubs are permanently recorded for posterity in the daily box scores, in the minds of viewers and on the videos of the evening news.
Ballpark audiences run into the tens of thousands of live fans who are quick and non-hesitant to express their feelings about the players. If the multimillionaire star is not hitting, he gets booed and jeered at. That’s the way it always has been and always will be. You will not hear any polite applause after a fumbled ground ball. As bad a performance as a star gives on the stage, are there ever boos?
From the time they are in kindergarten, actors are told that they should be nervous before a performance. For what earthly reason? Lines are memorized and rehearsed for weeks. Tape is secured to the stage floor to let the performer know just where to stand, and prompters are quick to throw out a delayed line. How many in the audience know the words to the hit songs being sung by the stars themselves?
On the contrary, there is only one thing a batter knows when he is up at the plate. It is a good bet the pitcher will throw him either a 95-mph fastball, a slider, a curve or a change of pace. And, mind you, this is in the center of a stadium packed with thousands of screaming meemies. His decision to swing or not must be made in a gazzilionth of a second. He knows all of this for sure, but he is not a performer! He is a highly skilled athlete. He looks at well over a thousand pitches a year and is also expected to don a glove and run the bases. He does not take bows, nor is his name flashed on marquees. His knees do not play a tune on each other when he is one on one with the pitcher.
There is no need to place him in his own dressing room with a star on the door. His uniform, except for the number and name on the back, is indistinguishable from that of the kid just up from high school ball. They both get up to bat against the same opposition, and if the rookie outshines the veteran, the dailies have his name in the headlines. The excitement and beauty of baseball is not knowing how any player will perform during the game.
The real pro has a difficult chore to perform. He must produce day in and day out or risk his job being taken over by another. That’s the way of baseball life. Movie stars may make good friends, but the ballplayer lives by his talents alone. Tell that to the pampered stars in showbiz.
So, my take is, I’d rather sit out in the sunshine, licking mustard off my lips, watching 18 guys run around getting dirty tossing that round, white thing around than sit in a theater and see the same performance I could have seen last month or next week. I’ll take baseball, any day!
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