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Why baseball remains the one, true and most Holy Grail of summer team sports.

Fields of Midsummer Night Dreams

Ah, the sublime lawn, the elegantly proportioned field, the union of individual and collective striving!

Oh, the timeless game, the pastoral rite — of baseball, on a summer night!

Blah blah blah.

Want to know the real appeal of baseball, the real deal? Why it endures?

Why it works?

Not the spectacle of specialized labor or the harmony of the machine. Not allusions to the perfectibility of man. Not any "Field of Dreams" foolishness.


Nope. Baseball works because baseball is ballet, but better. Ballet where the ending is in doubt, where the story writes itself.

Unrehearsed ballet. Spontaneous. Unscripted. Only the individual movements are perfected beforehand.

There is the windup. The pitch. The swing. The slide.

There is the lead. The pick-off move. The lead again, then the jump.

There is the catcher's wheeling leap and throw.


Maybe you've heard that football or basketball is ballet. Any fool knows football is war. And any fool knows basketball and soccer are the only true sports. The rest are games, contraptions and exercises.

Except baseball, which is ballet all men can perform or admire without feeling icky.

Are you getting any of this? I'm telling you: baseball is ballet, except you can get up in the middle to yell or get a beer, or yell for a beer. On a summer night, what could be better?


Not much, especially for a Baltimore ("Balmer") kid. I grew up watching Brooks Robinson make diving stops at third — moves that Baryshnikov can only dream about.

Watching Cal Jr., at short, turn base hits into routine outs with the most fluidly whiplike action of arm and back and leg of any tights-wearing tippy-toe.

Seeing second basemen turn their backhanded flips into ginger-feet-and-swivel-hip double plays. Watching Eddie Murray stretch, streeetttcchhh, stttrreeeeeeetch for the ball at first.


Those were just the infielders. Want some real leaping, diving, Swan Lake stuff? There was Paul Blair, scaling the scenery to steal home runs. Al Bumbry, "The Bee," buzzing about in center.

Buzzing? OK, maybe baseball isn't ballet, exactly.

But it's still magic. For my dad, my brother and me, it was Orioles Magic.

The Richmond Braves? Yeah, they're pretty good, too.

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