Baseball reminds us of who we are and how we do things in America.
Consider this: In baseball you don’t have to do it right the first time. In fact as along as you get it almost right, hitting foul balls, you can bat forever. The whole team plays defense, but only one member of the team can bat at a time on offense. Any player can hit or score the winning run at any time during the game, not just at the end. It is the only team sport in the world where the person scores, not the object: you don’t cross home base with a baseball in your hand. And it’s the only team sport where you come home to score. All other team sports you score in the “enemy’s” home turf.
Where the game is played is also different. Roger Kahn, writing in A Season in the Sun, says, “The ball field itself is a mystic creation, the Stonehenge of America.” Unlike other sports, baseball has two completely different parts of the playing field—the infield and the outfield. All infields are identical and all distances between the bases are the same, 90 feet between them, except in Little League where they are 60 feet and Pony League where they are 75 feet. The distance from the pitching rubber to home plate is identical for each level of play, 60 feet 6 inches for adult fields. This is true no matter where the game is played, sand lots or the suburbs.
The other part is the outfield where nothing is standardized (the distance and height of the fences). Over at Snippets, they used Google maps of all the major ballparks and an overlay drawing to show up to 17 percent variation in outfields. Cool.
The beauty here is that breakthroughs — homeruns and extra base hits — do not occur in the standardized part of the field, but in the variable part, a reminder that innovations and inventions invariably happen in the unregulated part of research and development.
The game is played almost every day during baseball season. It is not played against the clock and both teams continue to play until someone wins. There is no sudden death in baseball. The game goes on forever.
By Josh Hammond, author Stuff Americans Are Made Of