Batter Up! But What About Everyone Else?

“What Are People For?” asked the farmer-poet Wendell Berry in the title essay of his 1990 collection that largely bemoaned industrial agriculture, mechanization, and the forced migration of millions of rural residents to urban areas in the name of progress and efficiency. The question rings through broad swaths of modern life, and will no doubt occupy the best minds of future generations as they grapple with the continued evolution of robotics and computerization and their effect on human consciousness and self-identity.

The question occurred to me Thursday night in a different context, though: beholding the “Opening Day” of the severely truncated 2020 baseball season that was like no other, ever.

Yes, two teams gathered in their finest new uniforms to do battle in a major league ballpark, but that was about where any similarities to baseball as we know it ended.

Like the old Buddhist koan about whether a tree falls in the forest if there’s no one to hear, can a game or concert, play or recital occur in any meaningful way without someone watching besides those involved in the production?

Never mind the rescheduling of Opening Day from early April to late July, the 60-game season rather than the traditional 162, the weirdly expanded post-season, the regionally based rather than national schedule, the various rules adjustments designed to speed things along.

Abominations all, but they were not what lent the surreal undercurrent to the proceedings the other night.

What my eyes and ears couldn’t seem to adjust to was the sea of 41,339 empty seats through the cavernous ballpark in Washington, D.C.

No crowd rumble of thousands of conversations between pitches and innings, no sudden roar accompanying the home team whacking a home run, no camera shots of a kid’s face dwarfed by cotton candy, no smooching couples, no sleeping infants sprawled across Dad’s shoulder.

No anything that had to do with people, actually, other than the few dozen players and coaches, who, unless they were out on the field, were wearing masks in the dugout, from where they occasionally hopped out to sit in the spectator seats and assure themselves adequate social distance and a few moments of mask-free bliss.

“What are people for?”

One thing they’re for is to attend sports events and plays, Broadway musicals and folkie house concerts, art museums, dance recitals and poetry readings. They’re for watching other people do things they wish they could do but can’t, but they get something, often a great something, out of watching others who can.

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And it’s not strictly about watching greatness, either, about being able to say you saw Michael Jordan or Springsteen live, the original cast of Hamilton in New York, the real Mona Lisa at the Louvre or the Williams sisters at Wimbledon.

It’s also about watching the guy pushing your Polish dog and onions around the grill at the ballgame, the teenage girls singing along with the scoreboard lyrics (“Don’t stop believing!”), the peanut vendor tossing the goods to you mid-row, a perfect strike, while your money makes its way down to him via the seatmates in your row, the ones you are high-fiving like mad the next inning (and maybe even hugging, if it’s a playoff game), after your cleanup hitter launches one deep into the bleacher seats.

Like the old Buddhist koan about whether a tree falls in the forest if there’s no one to hear, can a game or concert, play or recital occur in any meaningful way without someone besides the other performers watching?

The common cliche among many creative people is that they are driven to do what they do, can’t help it, and would do it even if no one watched or read or listened to their creation. I have always found this unpersuasive, not merely because there is the question of how one makes a living if no one is buying the fruit of one’s labors, but more importantly: all sports and arts are about human expressiveness and achievement, about competing and deeply exploring and sharing one’s talents with other human beings.

And yes, putting them on display.

NBA star LeBron James expressed this sentiment frankly a few months ago when talking with reporters after the league circulated a memo suggesting the possibility of resuming the season, but with no fans in the building. He was prevailed upon to backtrack later on, but there was little doubting his true feelings on the matter then or now:

“We play games without the fans? Nah, that’s impossible. I ain’t playing if I ain’t got the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates, and I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. So if I show up to an arena and there ain’t no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.”

Truly, sports and the entire artistic and entertainment industry are a shared enterprise. Hell—life is a shared enterprise!

It’s something that always depressed me about solitaire, which I have never played and never will—cards are a game, a tango, which we know always takes two (at least).

It’s true that friendly card games or 3 on 3 basketball or doubles tennis among friends don’t require an audience for their participants to fully engage in an emotionally and physically rewarding way. But that’s different than professionals who excel in their field and spend countless hours honing their skills in order to perform in a live setting.

Such performers exist in relationship not only to each other, but to the audiences that pay to see them (and exult in the opportunity). They feed off audiences, draw sustenance and inspiration and no small amount of ego gratification from them— which helps them work all the harder to excel. (Let us not underestimate the power of the latter.)

That means audiences themselves are part of the show, fundamental to its importance to the participants and other audience members around them. Professional sports and arts simply do not exist without relation to them. Maybe they can for a season during a pandemic, but all that does is feed a kind of addiction in a bizarre and unsatisfying way, like a heroin junkie trying to make do with a beer.

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“Crazy and weird” is how one friend described the two Opening Night games, which included cardboard cut-out people behind home plate in one stadium along with piped-in crowd noise. Trying mightily to put lipstick on a pig, the league commissioner, interviewed remotely by announcers watching the game on their studio TV rather than from the stadium broadcast booth, at one point said, excitedly, “We think it’s going to be great for the players and fans.”

No, it wasn’t “great.” Quite a few standard deviations below that, actually. Same game in its fundamentals, but in terms of the million sensory inputs that create the marvelous ambience of a professional sports event, it much more resembled a low minor league practice session in the off-season somewhere in Arizona.

Will it nevertheless serve a certain need in these unprecedented, making-it-up-as-we-go times? Of course—there were and will continue to be eyeballs looking at screens if baseball and other sports manage to keep the virus from decimating their teams and having to call the whole thing off.

Neither sports nor any of the performing arts are frivolous enterprises. All of them speak to fundamental human needs, which we will go to great lengths—in time, money, and emotional energy—to meet. This includes settling for less than we are used to, if we have no other choice.

If I were to have a prayer about all this, it would be that we never get too used to it. If the virus were to elude an effective vaccine and large gatherings remain problematic and unpopular even as sports and arts resume, it would only accelerate the centuries-long trend toward our dissociation from embodied life.

Ever since the production of the first wheel and simple machines of antiquity, right through to modern video games and virtual reality (isn’t that a self-canceling phrase?), the need to engage our own bodies and other bodies, to be present both literally and figuratively in them, has been on the wane. Everything can be virtual now—our work, our games, our relationships, our sex.

(Porn sites, booming in the Internet age, have been boom-booming since Virus Time began.)

I suppose virtual reality, fueled by enough venture capital, could ultimately create stadium conditions a lot more sophisticated and “real” than the crude cardboard cutouts and crowd noise we beheld the other night. Of course, it could also create the action out on the field, too, making all those high-priced performers go find other, less gainful employment.

If that were to occur, they would not be the only ones losing out in a big way.

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I don’t know about you, but I sing along with this lustily at the seventh inning stretch, every game I ever attend. Notably, they almost never show it on TV…

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Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.
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Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: larry@rosefoto.com

Mother with infant by Andrew Hidas  https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhidas/

Stadium by Tim Gouw, Toronto, Canada  https://unsplash.com/@punttim

Opera house by Vlah Dumitru, Romania  https://unsplash.com/@vlahdumitru

21 comments to Batter Up! But What About Everyone Else?

  • Mary  says:

    I made an attempt to watch the Nationals game in Washington the other night….it at least made a change from the other game currently playing non-stop in Washington.
    Your post, in addition to achieving the rare, once-in-maybe-ten-years feat of making me crave a ballpark frank, mirrors some of my own responses and prompted a few other thoughts as well.

    Obviously, it’s just not the same: the silence, the rebuke of those empty seats. Baseball, along with so much else, has to be different. How could any of this summer feel like last summer? And as accustomed as I now am to that reality, when I switched on that game I felt the particular, intense (and now familiar) pangs of sadness that arise when I encounter something that was previously so radiant and vibrant and is now a pale, pale shadow of its former self. We all have 100 examples of this, and describing them would just make me sadder.

    Another angle to honor, however, is the heroic and inventive (and entrepreneurial) nature of the human spirit, to recognize and value that drive to create and contribute and to just plain SHOW UP, whether it be to play ball in a ghostly quiet field or to present Shakespeare plays, or teach school and hold church services via the internet. Mary Chapin Carpenter posts little concerts from her kitchen on Instagram, her faithful Labrador by her side, and I am deeply grateful. The music and her calm presence are a gift, an inspiration. I attended a drive-by grade school graduation in my neighborhood back in June that was so full of love and caring and true celebration that it brought tears to my eyes (yes, I know, I do seem to cry pretty easily these days, but still…). The human spirit will find a way.

    Obviously none of this is the same and as creative and, as creative and adaptive as we are, we are all so sick of it. Tired of being confronted with these losses, this so-much-less-than, living with memories of our oh so recent lives. I count the blessings of my still rich and satisfying life every single day and oh my god do I positively ache, in body and soul, to go to a Durham Bulls game and eat a hot dog and then go to a noisy bar and drink a cold beer and dance my socks off. I nurture the flame of that appreciation and longing while also trying valiantly not to tip over into despair. Ever seen the film “Man on a Wire”??

    So, we all are carrying around this then/now yardstick, sometimes ok, sometimes sad, sometimes ok…. You get the picture. I will get by…. I won’t ever forget the before picture and will celebrate its return. Until then, I don’t mind if they play ball. If I had worked my whole life to play ball I’d probably be right out there, even in front of empty seats… just be honest about it. Don’t say to us “It’s great!” Say instead: it’s what we got, and we’re doing the best we can.

    Play ball.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Mary, there is something noble indeed about our pursuit to retain a semblance of normal in abnormal times. Shows how much we love, honor and miss normal everything, the everyday fabric of our lives. Puny humankind, pinned like a bug by a microscopic virus, longing and scheming to wriggle free. Ya gotta love us!

      And yes, I have seen “Man on a Wire!” I think of that guy every time I’m traversing a sort of makeshift balance beam at a trailside exercise station near my house, a full two inches above the ground, triumphant…

  • Robert Spencer  says:

    Memories, even those most painful, are priceless because only through them can we develop the negatives, largely irrelevant now in a cell phone world, that re-create our past images. Births, marriages and deaths lose their emotional impact when void of sharing. Even the loss of the more trivial diminish who I am. There would be no basketball at our old Eagle Rock High School gym. Gone is Duke Ellington moving his fingers across the piano. There’d be no hand-shaking with Elgin Baylor on the first tee at Woodside. The Grateful Dead would be a funeral and not a concert. Section 3, row D, seat 11 would be vacant at the 1962 baseball all-star game in Boston. In my world, Ray Charles would have lost more than his sight. Perished would be that 1971 Jackie Robinson moment when the Dodgers retired his number; a year later he died. My parents’ retrospective art shows erased, painted over in white oil. My flight with Joe DiMaggio a few seats away…grounded. No swishing in the battle between Jerry West and Oscar Robertson at the Sports Arena. The John Wooden years never happened. There would be no rite in listening to Igor Stravinsky discuss “Le Sacre du printemps.” My experiences, though different in detail, are also yours.

    Where are we now amidst COVID-19? Two nights ago, Met slugger Pete Alonso killed a cardboard fan!

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      That’s just one more reason to do without those cardboard fans, Robert: they can’t duck!

      Your precious memory catalog reminds me why I have told my loved ones that if I ever (completely) lose mine (some fraying at the edges as I’m currently experiencing is acceptable), please take me deeply into the wilderness somewhere for my last walk…

  • Mary  says:

    I feel we are like Philippe Petit on that high wire as we go between the previous and current versions of our lives. For myself I try, when I can, to emulate his confidence and bravery over my own yawning void of uncertainty. So far I have not slipped completely off the wire!

    Petit found joy and exhilaration in the challenge as well. I can’t say I have routinely found that in these days but oh, where would we be without metaphor?

  • Terry  says:

    Andrew, thank you for your oft-demonstrated insight and inimitable expression of it. As a long-time pro baseball fan and stage performer, what you said touched me deeply. Yes, indeed, “what are people for?”

    I am so fed up with the apparent envelopment of the human spirit by technology and politics, and too the relentless and so-often-abused overlap and mergence of those two things. By the way, thank you as well for not mentioning in your poignant essay the “politics” displayed during the playing of the national anthem during the game’s opening ceremony. In fact, your doing that, for me at least, segues nicely into the feelings that were inspired in me as I read your essay: The feeling of realizing the necessity for the survival of our species for what I will call “human spiritual connection.”

    I’ve loved being in the crowd of the fans at Dodger Stadium for more than one world series game, and lots of less “important” but sometimes just as singular games. It is a moment of ecstasy when one of the players “launches one into the bleacher seats,” and that’s especially been true when it’s sometimes been a close friend of mine. Everyone in that stadium in that moment was “spiritually connected.” At least that’s what I believe. And it doesn’t matter if some of those present were rooting for the opposing team, we were still all connected in an undeniably powerful moment. We were affected differently but connected nonetheless. Concerns about petty things like religion, politics, and race disappeared. Or, at least momentarily, were transcended by a feeling of connection.

    It’s the same feeling I’ve had while being on the live theater stage. Some say there’s a so-called “fourth wall” between the stage performers and the audience. On some levels, that may be true. However, on a deeper, or higher, level, if you will, the connection is both palpable and beyond doubt physically, emotionally and spiritually. At the end of the performance, honest, unadulterated, tears of joy fill the eyes of the performers and the audience. Their underlying reasons for the tears may differ, but they’re connected on some overwhelming and ineffable level that gives them the space to cry in one another’s presence.

    That’s what cannot be recreated by televising a baseball game or a stage production. The feeling of human spiritual connection can barely be approximated by film or television. It’s an ersatz representation of it, at best, which pales in comparison to being an actual witness to the game or performance.

    More importantly, that genuine feeling is what is being eroded daily in our present world culture and milieu. It’s a huge loss to humankind, a diminution of the human experience. And, for me, finding someone to blame for that continual erosive condition misses the point, since there’s seemingly plenty of blame to go around. What is the point? The point is: Can we humans rediscover and express freely and openly the innate human spiritual connection we all share, no matter what are the circumstances surrounding its expression?

    I for one believe that we can. I also believe that there will come a day in our lifetime, and I don’t mean just in our country, when humankind experiences that transcendent feeling of human spiritual connection, as well as the fearless and undaunted expression of it both within ourselves individually and externally to one another. I, for one, eagerly expect this to occur if each one of us searches for the seed of it within ourselves.

    Thank you again Andrew for inspiring me to think about this.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Terry, I was thinking just this morning on my walk about how much I miss theater. I’m a big-time movie lover, but really, for the most part, it can’t compare with the raw power of live performance, made all the more immediate in high quality community theater, when the actors and audience share a tight space and every bead of sweat and spittly, anguished utterance is writ large. The “connection” you speak of is almost tangible in that setting, manifesting at play’s end when the actors take their bows and I feel like bowing down to them in homage and appreciation.

      “Something happened” in that room, something of profundity, and the gestures back and forth between actors taking their curtain calls and the audience can’t be replicated when a movie stops rolling. Glad you are still carrying the banner for all that, and for your deep belief that the human heart will one day win out. As we often say in church at sermon’s end: “May it be so…”

  • David Moriah  says:

    A brilliant and poignant essay, my friend, and such rich and meaningful comments posted above. As usual, baseball is the perfect lens from which to understand the times and the world around us. Ken Burns taught us so much about America in his marvelous (if occasionally fact-flawed) nine inning documentary – about race, immigration, labor, westward expansion, etc.) and this essay does much the same. Life is diminished now. My wife and I joke about being under house arrest. In the past few days I have snuck a few peeks at the ballgames on television and they leave me empty. This is the first year since I was eight years old in 1958, having newly discovered and fallen in love with baseball, that I have not been excited as Opening Day arrived. An aside – I believe Opening Day should always be capitalized and it should be declared a national holiday like the Fourth of July and Martin Luther King Day. But it doesn’t excite me now. To use your images as a metaphor, it feels like the beer is flat and the hot dogs have cooled down and the whole damn thing is just unpalatable.

    I loved the “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” concert (though I always cringe when people sing Cracker Jacks – plural. Aaaargh!) As it concluded I had a few tears in my eyes. It went deep inside me and I realized WE NEED EACH OTHER! That’s a good thing, even though we’re living through a bad time.

    To end on a brighter note, I have been looking for the blessings of this pandemic and my house arrest. Yesterday I said to my wife that I appreciate the new pace of my life – slower, less demanding. I sleep late, take daily walks and watch television in the middle of the day. I am deeply aware that I’m in a privileged life situation – spacious house in a leafy neighborhood, money in the bank and about to collect social security next month. I think about the “essential workers” at grocery stores and gas stations, perhaps with kids at home wondering what will happen with their schooling, and their health. I try to remember to be generous whenever and wherever I can.

    Time to think deep thoughts and ponder the meaning of what’s important. Thanks for touching me in that place today. Be well. Stay safe. Wash your hands!

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      I had a feeling we’d likely be viewing this strange facsimile of baseball along the same lines, David! As Mary mentioned above, there’s a measure of nobility in the mere effort to carry on with life and the things we loved in its pre-Covid incarnation, however misbegotten the execution has been in this most challenging circumstance!

      In any case, I am with ya, as obvious from above, on the cap letters for Opening Day, but was just as obviously not spiritually evolved enough to ever consider it being a mandatory national holiday, which strikes me as a brilliant idea and long past due. It’s America’s game, after all, and arguably our greatest gift to the world (though defenders of the Constitution, the Declaration, etc., may put up an argument on that score…).

      And a big yes on this different pace of life, and our (relatively) privileged circumstance in being able to make the best of it. I fiercely miss various things I used to do and look forward to doing again, but meanwhile, the simplicity of our daily lives seems to have attained a kind of monkish quality, not altogether a bad thing, at all, at all… And all the more reason to give as we can, in the ways that we can. Thanks for this, my man!

  • Dawn Helman  says:

    Drewski your essay and the comments above, brought me right into my body and landed in my heart. Exalting in the images, sensory feels, and spirited connection, I am reminded that the vast container of our hearts can hold it all. Joy, sorrow, fear, hope, pain, comfort, longing, contentment….ad infinitum….are part of the One. As are we.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      That’s a sweet spot to have landed, Dawn—right into (your) body and heart! (Interesting how often that is the exact path, however much we diss the body as a mere vessel. Yogis know otherwise!)

      And thanks for that phrase: “vast container of our hearts.” A whole universe there, infinitely expandable…

  • Jay Helman  says:

    The cardboard cutouts of fans MUST GO!: and they represent an irritant for me with all of professional sports in pandemic and non-pandemic times. I have long been annoyed by the efforts of marketing and promotional professionals inside and outside stadiums and arenas who are compelled to fill every moment with words (TV) and inane entertainment (in stadiums and arenas) to ostensibly enhance the fan experience. A few years ago attending a Tigers game at Comerica Park in Detroit I shared irritation with a nephew (also a true baseball fan) regarding the ceaseless noise, scoreboard relay races between a hot dog, a mustard bottle, and a ketchup container as thousands of people cheered. This kind of activity was further “enhanced’ by a high pitched, falsely excited, stadium promotion host asking trivia questions of a lucky fan as the rest of the stadium cheered. My nephew and I ( and doubtless many others) had gone to Comerica to see a ball game and focus on the many nuances of the game. The mindlessness of promotional activity and ceaseless noise made our pursuit of game focus nearly fruitless. The game stands on its own, yet is rarely allowed to do so. Watching a baseball game with no fans in the stadium and announcers off-site is not a problem for this fan. I love the game. Indeed, I often mute the television for baseball, basketball, and football games. The constant, and often unnecessary, drivel is a distraction and often adds little to a knowledgeable fan’s experience of the game. My hope is that franchises will quickly learn that cardboard cutouts are not needed to enhance the game experience, and that, perhaps, when the pandemic is behind us, the same will be true of the assault on the senses for those in attendance who enjoy the game because they appreciate the game.

    And I conclude without mention of the dreadful post-game interviews and the insulting questions “(how does it feel to win Game 7?’) WNBA games last night were terrific, sans fans, and with play by play done from the studio in Connecticut. Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, and Sabrina Ionesco need no commentary or in-arena promotionals to create awe and respect from fans for their considerable skills and competitive spirit.

    • David Moriah  says:

      Bravo Jay! A curmudgeonly rant that resonates with this life-long fan of the game.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      I agree with David, Jay: a fine curmudgeonly rant! Am with you on the cardboard nonsense, the inane trivia contests and even more inane sideline reporters (the latter in particular I would ban forever if I were ever named God of the Sports World). I’m sympathetic to some degree, though, with some of the scoreboard shenanigans, given that games attract all ages and levels of fans, from the students of the game like you to very casual folk who aren’t hanging on every pitch and talking strategy between innings. And the memories of taking my young daughter to games are still pretty fresh, some of that time devoted to explaining the game to her (she remains a fan), but other times laughing at stupid ketchup-mustard races, just passing the time between innings in a convivial way.

      And I still fear that games on television without fans may not be compelling enough to sustain my interest, no matter the quality of the players and competition. Like the difference between movies and theater, TV puts you one step removed from the actual action, and then with the fans via whom one vicariously gets a taste of “being there” also absent, there may not be enough human atmospherics to make the TV action come alive for me. (At least that’s how I feel today.) It ultimately may be compelling enough for the players themselves, given how fiercely competitive they are, but I’m not so sure I can keep a pure enough appreciation for the action alone absent everything else that goes with it, that most importantly being my fellow humans in the seats all around me when I’m there, and seeing them jumping up and roaring on my TV screen when I’m not, in a setting where we are all prepared and hopeful (and often enough rewarded) with a transcendent feeling of communion. That’s hard to conjure in a living room with no crowd noise or visuals and my dog becoming alarmed if I suddenly jump off the couch when my team scores the go-ahead run!

      It will be interesting to revisit this in a few weeks, when the “new normal” has had some time to kick in, and we will see how our perspectives have evolved, if at all.

      • David Moriah  says:

        I could make my peace with just about everything Jay rants about if only they would lower the damn volume a few dozen decibels. Just about every ballpark I’ve been to lately sounds like an Ozzy Osbourne concert. Yankee Stadium is by far the worst. I’ve learned to bring ear plugs when I go, which is rarely for exactly that reason. I went with an old friend a few years ago and we tried in utter futility to carry on a conversation between batters and innings and it was simply impossible. As B.B. King crooned, the thrill is gone for me. Bah! Humbug! Now get the hell off my lawn!

  • kirkthill  says:

    My fondest, and possible earliest memory, is when my dad took me to a Washington Redskins Game, (please, let’s leave the politics of the name for another time). I was in nursery school, and remember walking through massive walls of concrete, with a lot of other people, going left and right and up and up. As we approached the last few steps of the tunnel, this strange sound grew louder and louder. Out of the darkness appeared the stadium crowd. I didn’t know that there were that many people in the world, and obviously, the entire population of the world was there. I don’t remember the game, the players, the hot dog, just the people and the cheering. I am reminded of the famous salesman quote, “You don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle.” Enjoy your boiled ribeye on your smartphone.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      That’s a really powerful image, Kirk. I could see it in a children’s story with a really good illustrator: “Kirk Goes to the Game.” Do you paint?

  • Moon  says:

    We all have lasting memories of baseball in our distant past, and those bygone times dictate how we relate to the game today. For me, it was hopping into a Ford station wagon, going down to the Coliseum, to watch a game with the new-in-town Dodgers. Got a nice blue cap with the (now) iconic LA insignia, and sat in the stands (miles away from the field, cause this venue was made for 1932 Track and Field, not baseball). I have a distant memory of my Dad and I sitting in the sun, probably leaving after the 7th inning ( to become an LA tradition). Can’t imagine some 6 year old kids reminiscing about “that time my Dad and I turned on the TV to watch a bunch of cartoons in the stands, and an incomplete team taking the field to play a truncated season.”

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      That was my first game, too, Moon—I think 1959 or thereabouts, with my dad, his buddy and my brother. Kept staring at that left field fence 298 feet from home plate but as tall as a skyscraper. Against Stan Musial & the Cardinals. Some 40 years after the 1918 flu pandemic, and 60 years before Covid, not a mask or a cartoon fan to be seen!

      • David Moriah  says:

        Correction Andrew. The left field fence was only 201 feet away! The screen went up 60 feet. Unbelievable!

        • Andrew Hidas  says:

          Correction to your correction, David! For some reason, 298 feet had stuck in my head since I was a kid, thought of fact-checking myself this morn but figured, Nah, not necessary! (So much for old memories…) In any case, fact-checking now, the dimensions you cite were for a 2008 exhibition game there, celebrating 50 years in LA. The actual dimensions in the four years they played there (1958-62) were 250 feet (one report said 251…) with a 40-foot-high fence. Still crazy, but 201/60 feet was completely insane…

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