20 Reasons Why Baseball is the Greatest Sport on Earth
By Coach Felax
It’s no mystery to anyone that knows me that I
think baseball is the greatest sport on Earth…and now it’s time for me to prove
it. I’ve put together a list of 20 things that make America’s Pastime the
greatest sport on the planet…here goes…
#20—The New York Yankees—Yes, it pains me to say that because I’m a known “Yankee Hater”, but what can you say about an organization that has not only produced 27 World Championships (which is more than the next three highest teams combined), but also such all time greats such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe Dimaggio, Yogi Berra, and most recently Derek Jeter. They are one of the most polarizing teams in professional sports and their organizational history is the most compelling of any of the sports as well.
#19—Spring Training—No other sport brings with it such promise and anticipation as baseball in the spring. As the weather warms and the snow melts, the teams get at it in Arizona and Florida, bringing with them the dawn of a new season and the promise of warm weather. Anyone visiting these states in the spring can attend a number of games and see their heroes for a small cost.
#18—The Intentional Walk—Respect. Is there any better way to show respect for another player than to just say…”You know what, just go to first base and we’ll try to get the next guy.” No other sport has any sign of great respect like the intentional walk.
#17—Superstitions—Sparky Anderson jumping over the third base line every time he visited the mound. Mark Fydrich talking to the baseball in that blessed summer of ’76. Turk Wendell brushing his teeth between every inning and then piling in another load of black licorice. Cliff Lee throwing his “phantom pitch” toward second base before throwing his first warm up pitch every inning. And what about Nomar Garciaparra and his insane ritual of loosening and tightening his batting gloves after every pitch? These superstitions are only scratching the surface of the ones out there, but they are interesting, fun, and keep the game light.
#16—Stadium Food—What started out as hot dogs and peanuts has grown into so much more. From Boog’s Barbecue at Camden Yards in Baltimore to the Barbecue Stuffed Baked Potato at Minute Maid Park in Houston, baseball stadium food has taken on a life of it’s own. Now, I know other sports brag great food as well, but that takes me back to the good old ballpark frank. I don’t know how or why it happens, but for some reason the taste of a classic hot dog (even if it’s with just mustard…like the olden days at Tiger Stadium) is so much better when you’re at a baseball game.
#15—The Playoff System—Is it just me or does it seem like the other “big 3” sports have way too many teams in the playoffs? It seems like every year, the last couple of seeds that make the playoffs in the NBA’s Eastern Conference are horrible teams that often have sub-.500 records. Hockey is the same way. Football is the next best thing, but I’m not a big fan of bye weeks in the playoffs. In baseball, you either win your division or be the best of the rest…period. Four teams in each league, no byes…and let’s get it on! Up until the mid 90’s, it was even better. Two division winners in either league face off and the winners go to the World Series. As it is now, 8 out of the 32 teams make the playoffs, which is less than any other sport.
#14—“The Summer Sport”—If it weren’t for baseball, we would have nothing to watch during the summer. While the rest of the sports are in their off-season, our beloved baseball teams are playing 6 or 7 games a week, giving us something to root for. Bless those “Boys of Summer”!
#13—The Pace—Many may argue that the pace of baseball is the reason it should NOT be on this list, but I beg to differ. I love the pace of baseball. Each pitch is a new situation, and each situation is like a new game…a game within the game (see #11). I love being able to take my kids to a game and have the time to talk to them about what is going on in between pitches. Sure, I love the fast paced action of hockey and the short violent bursts in football, but the slow pace of baseball allows those that understand the game to put themselves in the situations as they happen.
#12—The Walk-Offs—This would be much higher on my list if it weren’t for the fact that all other sports have their versions of walk-offs as well. The overtime goal in hockey or field goal in football or the buzzer beater in basketball each compare, but I just love walk-off hits, especially homeruns. In recent years, the walk-off has grown into a bit of a spectacle. Every walk-off hit celebrated like it’s the end of the World Series…I’m not sure I’m into that, but I love seeing the whole team waiting around home plate for the guy that just blasted the homerun in the bottom of the 9th.
#11—The Game Within the Game—This one goes hand in hand with #13. Every sport has their share of little games that happen within the bigger game, but none quite like baseball. The reason is because there is about 20-30 seconds between pitches, and only the trained baseball eye knows everything that happens in that time. Base coaches giving signs to runners, pitching coaches flashing signs to the catcher, catchers flashing signs to the pitcher, the pitcher checking runners, the runners looking for tip-offs, the fielders adjusting their positions based on the pitch being thrown, and the list goes on and on. I always say that those who think baseball is boring are those that don’t understand the game. Unfortunately, those people are greater in number than those who do.
#10—The Announcers—There aren’t many sports with announcers that stand the test of time like baseball announcers. Ernie Harwell and his unmistakable voice. Harry Carey and his drunk-sounding “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” every game. Vin Scully’s classic voice telling story after story, making you feel like you know the players, all without the help of a color commentator. Also, how many great “calls” have their been in baseball that we all remember. “The shot heard round the world” is one of the classics, but my favorite is in Game 1 of the ’88 World Series…"We have a big 3-2 pitch coming here, from Eckersley. Gibson...swings and a fly ball to deep right field! This is gonna be a home run! Unbelievable! A home run for Gibson! And the Dodgers have won the game, 5 to 4! I don't believe...what I just saw! I don't believe what I just saw!”
#9—The Sacrifice Bunt—There is no greater way to show your devotion to the team than to lay down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Guys that do it on a regular basis are basically telling their teammates and the fans that they will do anything necessary to help the TEAM win, even if it includes giving up an at bat. I am always especially impressed when great hitters do it, such as Derek Jeter. A guy that consistently hits .300 or higher dropping down a bunt to get the runner over one base is about as unselfish an act as there is in all sports. No other sport has anything quite like it.
#8—American and National League Separation—Ever since interleague play started several years back, the World Series has lost some of its luster in the eyes of many people. But to me, there is still nothing quite like it. In all other sports, interleague play is something that happens throughout the season on a regular basis. In baseball, you pretty much play people in your own league except for about twelve games a year. This makes the World Series much more interesting to watch because you usually have two teams playing each other that haven’t played each other at all during the regular season. The only other sport that this may happen is football, but that is to be expected because they play only 16 games compared to the 162 in the baseball season.
#7—Foulballs—What the heck is this on here for? It’s quite simple. In what other sport does someone get a game used souvenir so often? I love going to the games and seeing young kids in the stands with their ball gloves, eager to catch one that comes their way. The chance of it happening may not be very good, but I remember the thrill of wearing my glove for nine innings, just hoping for the chance.
#6—Level of Difficulty—I don’t think anyone can argue that from a pure talent standpoint, there is no sport that is more difficult to play than baseball. High school kids go to the NBA after graduation, some hockey players are signed very young, and more and more football players are leaving school early to play in the NFL. And in most of these cases, they work themselves into the lineups right away. In baseball, it’s a different story. Even the best of prospects usually take a couple of years to work their way up the minors and make the big club, but most take much longer than that…if the make it at all. Take the case of Drew Henson. He got drafted by the Yankees after breaking dozens of Michigan High School records, but could never get serious playing time past AA. He did have the proverbial “cup of coffee” in the bigs, but he was quite simply not good enough. Within a year of quitting baseball after struggling in the minors for several years, he found himself on an NFL roster as a backup quarterback.
#5—Classic Stadiums—I’m sure in a few years, many of the classic stadiums will no longer be in use, but no sport has the history and mystique of great stadiums like baseball. From the “Green Monster” at Fenway Park to the ivy-covered walls at Wrigley Field, baseball has more character in its stadiums than other sports have in their players. Some of the greatest stadiums have closed their doors recently, such as Tiger Stadium and Yankee Stadium, but the parks that have replaced them have great personality and aura of their own.
#4—Little League—This could very well be ranked higher than this, possibly even #1. What other sport can say that their 11-12 year old championship is a WORLD WIDE event that is covered on ESPN and ABC? I love watching Little League games and seeing the raw emotion that the players show when things go well or when things go wrong. Every time I watch a game, I see not only kids having fun and using good sportsmanship, but I usually also see something funny or something that reminds me of my days in Little League. The right fielder digging holes in the ground…or the big mouth catcher supporting his pitcher…or the kid that gets his first hit standing at first base with a smile so big that you would think he was up to something. “Hey batter batter, hey batter batter…SWING!”
#3—Cherished Records—I hate to even mention the word “steroids”, but the truth is that they have tarnished some of the greatest long standing records in baseball. But that is not to say that there are not other great records that have long been cherished in baseball. Nolan Ryan and his unbelievable SEVEN no-hitters. Joe Dimmagio’s amazing 56 game hitting streak. Orel Hershiser’s 59 improbable consecutive scoreless innings pitched streak. And most recently, Cal Ripken’s seemingly impossible 2632 consecutive games played. Before the steroid era, any sports fan could tell you about Roger Maris’s 61 homeruns in a season or Hank Aarons 755 career homeruns. I’m not sure what it is, but for some reason the records like these in baseball seem to stick and take on a life of their own.
#2—The Code—There are other sports that have the proverbial “unwritten rules” that govern them, but none quite like baseball. Did your pitcher just drill our best hitter with a fastball to the ribs? Well then, your best hitter will get the same the next time he is up. If he doesn’t get up and we don’t play you until next season, well then we’ll get him next season. I love the way baseball polices itself, and it’s one of the most under-appreciated aspects of the game. In addition, there are gentleman rules that are in effect. If a team is up big late in a game, no one should be stealing bases or bunting runners over. Stealing signs and blatantly flashing them from second base to the batter is a big no-no. And my personal favorite…if a pitcher has a no hitter going late in a game with more than a two or three run lead, absolutely no bunting for a base hit. You want a hit? Earn it by swinging the bat. Anyone that breaks any of these gentlemen’s rules can expect a set of bruised ribs with a skin impression of the seams of a baseball. I love it.
#1—Rare Feats—I racked my brain to try to think of a sport that had as many amazing feats that happen throughout the course of a season…feats that are rare enough to be amazing yet common enough to be on our minds. The No-Hitter. The Perfect Game. Hitting four homeruns in a game. Hitting for the cycle. Each and every one of these events is rare enough that even the most dedicated fan may go their entire life without seeing one in real life, yet someone that is attending their first game may get lucky enough to see one. The perfect game is probably the greatest feat of all and we may go several years without seeing one, but when we do, it captures our imagination and takes on a life of its own. I can only hope that I’ll be lucky enough to see any of these in my lifetime.
I hope you enjoyed the list!!!