You know what’s a great baseball movie? The Bad News Bears. That’s a pretty great baseball movie.
The original one.
Field of Dreams is an ok baseball movie.
So what if it made you cry? That doesn’t make it a great movie.
Lots of lousy things can make you cry. Fussy contact lenses, broken legs, dropping your ice cream.
This one-minute home video is as good as any movie. Cute characters. Drama. Tragedy. Loss. Heartbreak. Happy ending. (Plus, the kid’s hair swirls just like his ice cream.)
But, back for just a sec’ to Field of Dreams. As the movie winds down, Kevin Costner’s character, picks up his baseball glove, turns to his ghost father, and says, “Hey … dad? Wanna have a catch?”
Wanna have a catch?
If I asked my dad if he wanted to have a catch, he would have looked at me funny and said, “Play catch. It’s play catch, not have a catch. What the hell are they teaching you in school?”
I figured “have a catch” was just some insipid, affected phrase that the movie came up with.
Until I looked around.
Bet you weren’t expecting Shakespeare.
In Twelfth Night, which is Shakespeare (and, no, I did not know this, but the Internet can make you seem way smarter than you actually are), Sir Toby Belch says, “Welcome, ass. Now, let’s have a catch.”
“Welcome, ass,” sounds way more Bad News Bears than Field of Dreams and has encouraged me to rethink my Shakespeare.
Smart people will explain that Shakespeare’s “Welcome, ass. Now, let’s have a catch.” means “Hey stupid. Sing us a song.” Seriously? That makes no sense.
Never mind. I’m not rethinking Shakespeare.
But, Sir Toby Belch is an awesome name. Like a baseball mascot. So, credit for that.
Make room for Sir Toby Belch.
At first, I couldn’t find a pre-Field of Dreams reference to “have a catch” except for Shakespeare. I was ready to say, “Yup, Field of Dreams just made it up.”
But, then I found this.
In May 1953, Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich was profiling Willie Mays.
In that piece he wrote: “Willie didn’t bother to learn the names of his Giants’ teammates. ‘Say, Hey,’ was his favorite salutation. ‘Say, Hey, wanna have a catch,’ ‘Say, Hey, we gonna beat ‘em good to-day.’ They in turn called him ‘Say, Hey Willie.’”
Say, Hey, wanna have a catch?
So, if you’re Kevin Costner or Sir Toby Belch, go with ‘have a catch’ if you want. If Willie Mays said it, then I’m willing to concede it’s ok.
But, it still sounds a bit weird and la-dee-dah to me.
It’s play catch.
Dad. Not having a catch.
My dad and I didn’t play much catch when I was growing up anyway. Mostly we played basketball together because that was his thing.
And, we shot free throws. Lots and lots of free throws. Because, free throws are something you can get right. And, so he taught me the free throw he knew I could practice and get right.
The same free throw Rick Barry used. The same one Barry also taught his kids.
The embarrassing and ugly one. But, if you practiced, it was the one that would always go in.
It was better, my dad would say, to get the point regardless of how silly you looked doing it.
Don’t say stupid things. That was something else my dad taught me.
Like “have a catch.”
Or, “It’s 13-2, the Orioles are losing.”
If my dad were around today he would grumble about that.
“They’re not losing,” he would say, “they’re just behind.”
This was his rule and he would always correct me when I got it wrong.
As he would explain it, if the game isn’t over, your team hasn’t lost, so they’re not losing. As long as there’s hope, they’re not losing, they’re just behind.
And, don’t say your team is winning either. Your team hasn’t won yet, things can change. They’re just ahead.
“You’re not losing, because you haven’t lost yet.”
He wasn’t exactly correct about this, but he wasn’t wrong either. It was his rule and I stick to it today.
As for the Orioles on Friday night, he was right. They weren’t losing 13-2. They were just behind.
Because, they “rallied” in the bottom of the 9th to make it was 13-3 and that was how they lost.
Yup, things can change. (But, not enough when the pitchers desert you.)
My dad was fussy about things. Things should be just-so. And, even though he’s been gone nearly 10 years, I try to remember the rules he taught me.
And, I’ve become fussy, too, about things. Like serial commas. Proper punctuation. And, always running out ground balls because you never know when a little mistake by the other team might be all you need. Because, you haven’t lost yet.