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The Fallacy of Baseball as Peacemaker

By: Mary Craig

Thirty years later, the story of its final game was hidden in the crevices of the ballpark, obscured by the thick layers of dust and cobwebs coating it. The metal bleachers that once housed proud parents were covered in rust and could barely hold the weight of one small child, let alone the weight of 18 different hopes and dreams. No bases marked the infield, and if one did not carefully comb the dry, weed-covered dirt to find the slight divots remaining from the holes in which the bases sat, one would not know these bases existed at all.

Inside one dugout, nestled underneath the jagged slats of a broken bench lay a solitary black baseball glove that had been dropped in the chaotic aftermath of the game. Though it was in its natural habitat, it, and the ballpark itself, could not have felt more out of place. In this new world, baseball existed only in story form, as a hushed reminder of a better life.

Those few who lived long enough to make baseball a memory spoke of a time in which this game was played daily by millions of boys and girls, men and women in a country called America. The game sounded fantastical to those lucky enough to learn about it. It was said to have represented the best of that life. It taught America’s citizens–another fantastical notion–important values and created peace. Instead of using fear and violence to establish order, people took out their aggression on the ball and base paths until they were able to civilly and rationally discuss their qualms.

To the storytellers and their audience, this way of life seemed like a dream. But as the 1930s became the 1940s, it turned into a nightmare. While British and French soldiers were fighting for freedom and justice on battlefields across Europe and Africa, American soldiers were fighting for base hits and the home run crown. Every time they received distress calls from their European allies and thought about joining the fight, they just couldn’t muster up the necessary aggression. These young men had spent so much of their youth killing pitchers with bats that they could neither mentally nor physically kill Nazis with guns.

Europe and Africa swiftly fell, and America stood as humanity’s last hope. But American soldiers could do nothing but play catch as first the Kriegsmarine lined America’s coast, then the soldiers patrolled American cities. As residents of aggressive, baseball-free Europe, no German agreed to a winner-take-all game, instead taking all while the Americans watched on, clinging to their gloves and bats.

Thirty years later, there sat the decrepit baseball field, responsible for America’s life and death.


When Nature Attacks Baseball Players

By: Kate Preusser

The other day there was a bunny rabbit delay in the Quad Cities River Bandits- Clinton LumberKings game. During the bunny’s adventure through Modern Woodmen park, play stops. One player approaches the small brown bunny, maybe with designs on… picking it up? Shooing it back to the dugout? Affixing a tiny hat to it and making it a team mascot?

The bunny is having none of it. It scurries towards the mound and faces off against the pitcher, who clearly wants nothing to do with the bunny. Maybe he had a bad experience in third grade with a class pet. The bunny can sense this. Animals know when they have the upper hand on you. Instead of retreating, the bunny boldly scampers past the pitcher, into the outfield, where it bounds around with all the route efficiency of Nori Aoki. In those moments, baseball time ceases to exist. All that anyone knows is bunny time.

There are a great many things to love about minor league baseball, but one of the best is that because the games are played outside, in small and often rural towns, we are very often gifted with these kinds of delays. Just last year, a game between the Batavia Muckdogs and the State College Spikes was delayed when a sheep found its way on the field. The sheep, unlike the bunny, takes a long meander through the outfield; imagine Mark Trumbo wearing a polar fleece, sauntering from corner to corner. When the grounds crew comes to collect the sheep, it puts up a fight, which you would too if you found a free, well-maintained, all-you-can-eat salad bar and someone tried to pry you away from it.

“Something tells me the sheep was as frightened as anyone,” says the announcer, but I respectfully disagree. The sheep saw that expanse of green, studded with a few inconsequential baseball players–like the lima beans you pick around–and it registered, with sheep-sense, that this was a place for sheep to feast. And the sheep was not wrong! The composition of an average baseball field is a 3% human construct, at best, in the form of chalk lines and bases. One bunny reduces it to zero, lifts the artificiality of the baseball field entirely., For sheep and bunnies and whatever other animals were there before us, and they will be there after us.


The Many Births of Joe Zapustas

By: Emma Baccellieri

Yesterday afternoon, the Pirates called up reliever Dovydas Neverauskas. A few hours later, he made his major-league debut by pitching the last two innings of a blowout loss. In between, MLB.com published an article noting that Neverauskas is the first born-and-raised Lithuanian to play major league baseball—with the latter part of the born-and-raised qualifier being important, as the piece claims that Joe Zapustas was born in Lithuania but grew up in Boston before getting his cup of coffee with the 1933 Philadelphia Athletics.

This is all well and good. But MLB’s own online player record for Zapustas does not say that he was born in Lithuania. It says that he was born in Boston. Baseball-Reference says that he was born in Liepaja, Latvia—less than an hour from the border with Lithuania, but definitely not Lithuania. (More than an hour from Boston, definitely definitely not Boston.) SABR says that he was born in Boston. Wikipedia says that he was born in Lithuania. A book titled One Hit Wonders, telling the stories of baseball men who recorded only one hit in the major leagues as Zapustas did, does not say where he was born but does note that he played exactly two games in the NFL, just as he played exactly two games in MLB. Pro Football-Reference says that he was born in Boston, and the NFL says not that he was born in Boston but specifically South Boston.

There does not seem to be any disagreement over the fact that he was born on July 25, 1907.

Until yesterday, I suspect that it hadn’t ever mattered too much where Joe Zapustas was born. (If it had, someone probably would have figured it out by now.) Now, it matters only inasmuch as it matters for a fun fact, whether Neverauskas is the answer to a trivia question or the answer to a trivia question with a qualifier. So Zapustas was from Lithuania, or he was not from Lithuania, but consider this: every baseball player is from Lithuania or not from Lithuania.

This is how it is; baseball is an intricate palace built on sand. We know that Neverauskas learned baseball from his father, a champion javelin thrower who was part of Lithuania's first team in the 1980s as the Soviet government invested in growing the sport's popularity before its inclusion in the Olympics. We know what his weight is, his blood type, exactly how many times his fastball rotates over sixty feet. We know everything except what to compare him to.