You’re Not Losing, Because You Haven’t Lost Yet

You know what’s a great baseball movie? The Bad News Bears. That’s a pretty great baseball movie.

bad news bears

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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 in modesto ca

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.


13 thoughts on “You’re Not Losing, Because You Haven’t Lost Yet

  1. Hurrah for fathers who give good advice. And thanks to both of you for considering the both sides of that equation. The Mariners are not currently winning 2-0, they’re just ahead (Go Ms!).

    And despite Willie’s stamp of approval, you’re right. Have a catch still sounds silly to me. And apparently to W.P. Kinsella, as the phrase does not appear in “Shoeless Joe.”

    • I zipped through my copy of “Shoeless Joe” and didn’t see “have a catch” either. And, that entire “Hey … … … dad” scene is movie-only, since Kinsella’s book doesn’t quite wrap itself up so neatly (and isn’t nearly as sappy as the movie).

      I need your Mariners’ “ahead” to stretch a little longer today, so that the O’s can stay ahead in the AL East standings, ok? Thank you!

  2. Shakespeare had it right. Only when one is welcoming an ass does one ask about having a catch. Happy Father’s Day to all of us who remember our dad’s though they aren’t gone.

  3. I have probably watched the Bad New Bears more than Field of Dreams, and I do like them both. I even like BNB in Breaking Training! It’s cool you still carry things with you that your dad taught you. I can only hope my kids will do the same someday. They don’t listen for sh*t, now…

    • Ahhh, Mike … my dad would have said the same thing. He would be surprised to discover that I heard — and learned — all the lessons and rules he taught me. It just took awhile for them to actually sink in.

      I’m not sure why I’m so hard on “Field of Dreams.” I guess because I think it’s a fine movie, but I don’t think of it as a “baseball movie.” As for, BNB: have you seen/what do you think of Richard Linklater’s remake (the one with Billy Bob Thornton in the Walter Matthau role)?

      • I don’t mind the re-make too much, but still prefer the original, due to the fact it portrays the kids as more ‘real’, and I used to have a huge crush on Tatum O’Neil when I was little! Thornton and Kinnear did a great job on their roles, but the kids characters seemed to ‘forced’ if that makes sense. The original and Breaking Training are my favorite BNB movies, though!

  4. Great post, BB! That is SO funny – I have always been annoyed by that saying “HAVE a catch” (what?). I found your Shakespeare reference rather interesting :). We, (like everyone) just love “Bad News Bears” – but only the original. We even call one of my son’s coaches Buttermaker.

    • Thanks STB! I feel like I’ve contributed something to the world by ferreting out the etymology of “have a catch” … even though we kind of, sort of, now have to blame Shakespeare. Blaming Costner was more fun.

      I had forgotten that Linklater remade the Bad News Bears … I’ll have to dig it up to see if I’m underwhelmed, too. I’m guessing, yes.

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