THE BLOG

Baseball Makes Me Forget DC -- Then Doesn't

10/01/2013 06:03 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

WASHINGTON -- It is true that "there is no crying in baseball." But there is crying about baseball, and I am not ashamed to say that I was doing some as I waited for my hometown Pittsburgh Pirates to take on the Cincinnati Reds in tonight's MLB playoff game.

The Finemans have been Pirates fans for well over a century, and recent years have been lean beyond measure: 21 agonizing years without a winning season let alone a post-game appearance.

Still, for men (and women) who were boys (and girls) of a certain era, baseball remains a family ritual rich with memory, love and grace.

I should be writing about Washington gridlock right now, but as President Obama and his enemies circle each other here I find my mind drifting back to my first sight of the perfectly maintained, emerald green diamond of old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

It was a thrilling revelation: a child's dream of living forever on a playground.

Tonight's game has me revering the memory of my late father, Mort Fineman, who died when I was in my 20s.

Baseball gave me the ineffable gift of his companionship: long hours at the ballpark, or sitting in the dark on the porch listening to the radio -- yes, listening to the radio -- even to the away games in other cities, on our big Blaupunkt table model, which on clear nights easily pulled in St. Louis, Chicago and Milwaukee.

As much as showing me a father's quiet love, my dad taught me life lessons by using the history and proper practices of baseball as his guide. He had been a ball player as a kid, and a lifelong student of the game.

Perhaps because we listened to so many "foreign" broadcasts, my dad hated "homers" -- that is, play-by-play announcers who would ignore the facts and shade their analyses so they could curry cheap favor with the hometown radio audience.

(Hey, wait a minute! That is exactly what is happening in Washington, not only in Congress but everywhere else in the city!)

He told me that the worst thing you could be when you were at bat was a "rabbit ears" -- that is, someone who got upset and distracted by the cheap taunts from the dugout of the other team.

(The Congress is full of those kinds of people.)

He said that there was nothing worse than an umpire who "evened up" -- that is, one who made up for a blown call with another one in the other direction.

(I'm thinking of the Washington media, here, including me.)

And he said that the easiest guy for a pitcher to handle is the big-swinging home run hitter, the guy aiming for the fences at all times.

(I don't know why, but for some reason Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas just popped into my head.)

I could go on, but I had better stop. Time to get back to work.