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An Abased Ballgame

Beast of Burton

By Burton F. Jablin

I am what you'd call a sporadic baseball fan. Make that occasional. Infrequent. Every-once-in-a-while. All right, I never go to baseball games. I hate them. They are interminably boring--about as interesting as football, basketball, hockey and soccer games.

Despite my disdain, I went to a baseball game once. It was four years ago--the Chicago Cubs (I'm from Chicago) against the Houston Supersonics, who have very nice multi-colored uniforms. Now, usually the Supersonics play in the Superdome down in Texas, but that day, of course, they had to run, jump, throw and kick in the beautiful confines of Comiskey Field, otherwise known as Cubs Park, where the Cubs always play.

When the first quarter started, I went into the stands for a hot dog. There's something peculiar about ball park hot dogs. You can see veins in them. That isn't right. I threw it away.

Still hungry, I returned to my seat, which was behind some guy wearing a bullet-proof vest who kept yelling things I couldn't understand and throwing his arm spasmodically to the side. A crowd had gathered near my seat because Ernie (Mr. Baseball) Banks was visiting with the spectators. He's kind of a sad character now because all he does is greet people who come to watch.

In his day, though, he was a real star quarterback for the Cubs. He could score about 30 points a game and do lay-downs like they were the easiest thing in the world. He was great. But then they gave him an umpiring job and all he was allowed to do was stand in the end zone and yell instructions to the other players, telling them when to pass or when to run or when to use a six-man zone defense--stuff like that.

Needless to say, old Erns (that's what they call him in Detroit) wasn't too happy just standing on the sidelines while his beloved Cubbies were going on to win all sorts of titles like the World Series and the Stanley Cup Face Off. So he told George Halas, the owner of the Cubs, that he was fed up with all that and wanted to do something more fun and useful.

Well, George, who's known as "Grandpa Tiger" back in Chicago, decided that Ernie would best be able to serve as sort of a goodwill ambassador to make everybody who came to watch happy during the boring parts.

It created so much excitement one day that a huge crowd formed around Ernie so that when one of the Houston Mariners kicked a field goal into the stands, no one noticed. Now usually when someone kicks a field goal into the crowd, everyone goes wild and runs after it to get his hands on a real basketball.

But Ernie Banks, who had a lot of field goals in his time, was not the only biggie there that day. Bill Veeck was sitting right behind me. Now Bill is the manager of the other baseball team in Chicago, the Twins. I thought it was rather odd that he should be at a Cubs game. So I went up to him and asked why he was there. He told me he was a big baseball fan and he didn't care who was playing so long as someone was. Well, I didn't buy that, so I asked him if the rumors were true about him negotiating to buy the Houston Seahawks.

He stared at me like I was from Cleveland and then started laughing like a madman (and you know the rumors about him). How rude. I was thoroughly insulted and felt the least he could do was answer an intelligent question in a halfway intelligent manner. But no, not Bill Veeck. He's too busy owning the Twins and buying the Seahawks to talk with us fans, the people who make it possible for him to own and buy all those teams and be rich and famous. The nerve.

By then, half-time had begun. But Comiskey Field must be pretty cheap because instead of a marching band with majorettes and all, they just had an organ. It wasn't even a marching organ. Even worse, they played idiotic selections like the Mexican hatdance song. Where's the spirit in that? What happened to the Notre Dame fight song?

The second half was much shorter than the first half for some reason. Only one interesting thing happened. Some old guy who had been sitting in a pit under the stands stormed out of his hole all of a sudden and walked onto the field. He said a couple of things that I couldn't hear to some guy standing on a little hill in the middle of the field (I could never understand why he stood there--right where he was most likely to be hit in the head with one of the pucks), who is called the guard. Anyway, the old guy made the guard leave the hump, which didn't make the crowd too happy. Some new guy, who looked just like the first guy, climbed the hillock to take over. After that, not much happened.

* * *

Even though I don't really like baseball, that day at Comiskey Field was kind of fun. And to top it off, the Cubs trounced those Houston Oilmen, 27-21. It was a last-minute hole in one that won it.

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