⚾️ Good morning! When devoted fans describe their love of baseball, they do so with a reverence that can sound absurd to the uninitiated. There is a mystique to the game, a feeling. And this morning, we are leaning all the way into it.
📆 Deep Dive schedule:
Today's word count: 2,167 words (8 minutes).
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
It's been 54 days since we last had sports in this country — and 187 days since we last had baseball.
Why it matters: That's a long time to go without our national pastime. In fact, unless baseball returns before July 15, we are living through the longest MLB outage in history (current record: 257 days during the 1994-95 strike).
The big picture: While MLB's impending return drives the news, there is an entire world of baseball beyond the big leagues that has also been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The impact: There are more important things than baseball right now. We all understand that. But that doesn't mean baseball isn't important. Of course it is.
The bottom line: Baseball's rich history binds together generations, and the role it plays in childhood and in cinema makes it the most nostalgic of all sports.
"It is a cruel twist of biology that the social distancing required in response to the COVID-19 epidemic has also necessarily robbed us of baseball, something that might help to heal our souls."— Franklin H. Zimmerman, NYT
Every summer, the nation's top college stars arrive in Massachusetts to play in the Cape Cod League — a magical circuit that epitomizes America's love affair with baseball and is like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Sadly, they had to cancel the 2020 season.
The teams: There are 10 teams representing 10 small towns, all within an hour drive of each other. Vacationers and residents often have strong allegiances toward their home team, hanging signs in their front yards and talking baseball over breakfast.
The players: The CCBL is the first time most college players get the chance to hit with a wooden bat against consistently strong pitching. They play almost every day during a 44-game regular-season schedule, all while living with host families and working on the side (i.e. bagging groceries).
"Every single player on my Orleans team except for three guys played professionally. All the teams are like this, too. And there are tons of scouts on the Cape for the summer, so the loss of the 2020 season means a lot of players sadly won't get the opportunity to be seen."— Jordan Betts, former Red Sox minor leaguer and CCBL "graduate"
The ballparks: Every team's home field differs in a variety of ways, adding to the charm. The Chatham Anglers, for instance, have a gorgeous stadium that seats 8,000 people, while the Orleans Firebirds play at a middle school.
"You go to Wareham and the dirt is gray. You play at our park in Orleans and it's really short down the lines and its 415 in center. You play in Chatham, you have to worry about the fog rolling in. They all have so much character, and there's just this deep sense of nostalgia and mystique."— Betts
The setting: Families sharing a blanket on the brim of a grassy knoll. Kids playing catch on the sidelines, eating hot dogs and letting popsicles stain their shirts. The crack of wooden bats as the sun sets beyond centerfield. Old school Americana.
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Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The National Baseball Hall of Fame was opened in Cooperstown, New York in 1939, with an inaugural class of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson that will never be topped.
Meanwhile, down the road: Cooperstown Dreams Park, an 80-acre complex with 23 youth fields that hosts nearly 17,000 players every summer, is just one of the many businesses in the area hurt by COVID-related cancellations.
WWI posters. Photos: Getty Images. Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
WWI: The Great War was deep into its fourth year when the 1918 season began — and a deadly virus was lurking just out of sight. The "Work or Fight" order stipulated that all draft-eligible men in non-essential jobs either begin working for the war effort or prepare to be drafted, but MLB was granted a reprieve to play until Labor Day, resulting in a shortened, but saved, season.
WWII: When the U.S. entered the fray in late 1941, MLB commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis sought President Roosevelt's counsel. FDR's famous response to Landis, now known as the Green Light Letter, urged him to push the season forward as planned: "I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going."
Sept. 11, 2001: After the 9/11 attacks, commissioner Bud Selig immediately postponed all games that Tuesday evening, and ultimately postponed everything through the end of the week. Play resumed on Monday, but it was Friday the 21st that everyone remembers.
And here we are now ... Maybe baseball will be back this summer, maybe not. But it will return — it always has.
Reader Stephen S. Power (Maplewood, N.J.) writes:
"As someone who watched more than 120 Yankee games last year, I'm struggling. To pass the time, inspired by the book 'Baseball Haiku,' I've been writing a haiku myself for each lost game."
only the Yankees
could make the subway
smell like spring
Boston native Paul Smith recalls the night the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino, and the moment he shared with his father, a lifelong fan who had passed away three years earlier. From HBO's "Sports in America" documentary:
"I remember the day. It was Oct. 27, 2004. I called my sons, we congratulated each other, and I just had this feeling. I said, 'I'm going to visit your grandfather.'
"I drove across town to the cemetery, figured it would be locked up, so I parked my car on the street and climbed over the stone wall.
"It's the middle of the night, and I'm walking across the cemetery, and all of a sudden, a police cruiser pulls out of the bushes practically and drives up to me.
"I'm mortified. I'm a grown man, I'm doing this silly thing. Chagrined, I say, 'I'm sorry, officer, I know I'm not supposed to be here, but this is kind of an important night. I just wanted to share a moment with my dad.'
"And he said to me, 'Are you kidding me pal? Take a look around.'
"My eyes were just getting adjusted to the darkness. Sure enough, people were walking everywhere in the cemetery. There were cars driving back and forth, up and down the lanes with their lights out.
"The officer said, 'I'm just here to make sure there's not a traffic jam. Everybody's here to share their moments with their father, their grandmother, their brother. The Red Sox won. We won it all.'"
🎥 It's better in video form ... You will cry.
Whether through tear-jerking sentiment, humor or the full range of emotions that fill the space between, baseball movies tend to over-index on moments that just make you smile. Here are seven of our favorites:
Three World Series. All canceled.
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Every August since 1947, this tiny town (population ~6,500) has hosted the Little League World Series. That streak ends this summer.
OMAHA, Neb. — The College World Series also began in 1947, though it didn't find its way to Omaha until 1950. (Fun fact: Yale was the runner-up in both 1947 and 1948, led by infielder and team captain George H. W. Bush.)
OKLAHOMA CITY — From 1969 to 1989, the host city for the Women's College World Series moved all over the country. But since 1990 (save 1996, when Columbus, Georgia hosted to prove it could host Olympic softball), it has been at Oklahoma City's ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Over the next 30 editions of Axios Sports, we'll be counting down the all-time rosters for all 30 MLB teams, starting with the weakest starting lineup and ending with the strongest. Want to debate our picks? Email email@example.com. Let's begin...
They're tied for the youngest franchise in MLB, so it's hard to blame Tampa Bay for coming in dead last. It's also part of their charm, as they've become known for putting together teams who are much greater than the sum of their parts.
On the mound: SP David Price (21.1)
Huge thanks to Tom Stone, whose book 'Now Taking the Field: Baseball's All-Time Dream Teams for All 30 Franchises,' provided the inspiration for these rosters.
Kendall "Never taking baseball for granted again" Baker