May 26, 1997
Excerpt of an article by John Bart, age 54 at the time.
Scoring in the late innings
“But baseball is that game without a time clock and the game, in theory, can go on forever. We didn’t
make it the first time, but maybe here in the late innings we can get one more turn at bat.”
John Bart, “Starting with the base-ics,” June 10, 1996
I broke an 0 for 20 slump a couple of weeks ago – 0 for 20 years, that is.
It was a single lined softly over first base, and the only reason I can call it a “ringing hit” was that I had
renounced romanticism in favor of oomph. I left the wooden bats, the hefty Carl Yastremski model
and the more slender Joe Morgan, both battle scarred, at home, and used one of the still strange
feeling and stranger sounding aluminum ones.
I had said that if I got a hit, I wanted to have that “thwack” of ash against horsehide, but after a couple
of scrimmages and the season opener with the lumber in my hands I was still looking for that first
one, and made the switch.
I didn’t get beyond first, thought, and barely made it there. My right quad was in flames, and a
teammate had to run for me.
The league is a collection of about 90 has-beens, still-almost-ares and more than a few neverweres
like myself. Good golfers of a certain maturity fantasize about shooting their age. I’m trying to get my
lifetime collection of hits to equal my age.
In its second year – this is my rookie season – the league has gone from four to six teams which play
a 12-game schedule plus playoffs taking us into September.
The rules of engagement make almost no concession to advanced age – some of us played our last
serious hardball before some of the others were born – or to limited skills. There are umpires, it’s
three strikes and four balls, stealing, balk calls. All the plays have to be made. It’s 90 feet to that next
base, and the piano gets kind of heavy.
I thought that 12 years of jogging would have me prepared for the physical demands of the game. In
those years, I had needed medical attention only twice.
I have already been to the doctor with a sore arm (“How committed are you to this activity?” he asked.
“I don’t have many seasons left,” I said), and could be going again if the holiday week off doesn’t cool
So, is this “fun”? No. It’s better. It’s nerves, tension, attention, the humbling effect of this game that
defeats even the best hitters seven out of 10 times and the best teams four out of 10 and, relearning
that it is too good for the owners to be able to ruin it.
And finding out that it can go on, if not forever, longer than expected. A year ago when I wrote the lines
self quoted at the top, they were for a piece occasioned by watching my grandson get his first swings
in T-ball. Sometime this summer, he’ll come out and watch his grandfather go down swinging in the
(Editor’s note: The writer limits himself to one baseball related column a year, so you can relax. After
three games he is right on the Mendoza line, 2 for 10, .200, a career high for this point in a season.
You could look it up.)