Ah, it’s Spring! Baseball, the greatest game ever invented by man, returns for yet another season. And with baseball season upon us, it’s always a good time to start with this oldie but goodie:

A man was walking along the beach when he came upon an empty corked bottle. He picked it up and pulled out the cork, and suddenly in a cloud of mist a genie appeared.

“Oh, thank you for freeing me, most gracious master!” exclaimed the genie. “As a token of my great appreciation, I will grant you one wish.”

The man pulled a folded-up world map from his back pocket and handed it to the genie.

“My wish is for peace in the Middle East.”

The genie handed the map back and scoffed.

“That’s impossible! Not even I with my genie powers can do that! I will therefore grant you another wish.”

The man thought for a moment and said, “OK, I wish to see the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.”

The genie replied, “Let me see that map again.”

I’m sure that many of you are not aware that the first reference to baseball is found in the Old Testament in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 1. It is widely assumed that verse says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” This is not correct. In fact, what that verse really says is “In the BIG INNING, God created the heavens and the Earth.” We learn that God created the Earth in six days and rested on  the seventh day, on which it’s safe to say God got up and moved around a bit, which would have been the first seventh-inning stretch. An account of the first baseball game played is also found in Genesis. They played a home game in the Garden of Eden. The serpent made a pitch to Eve. Eve stole first (I know, not an official way of reaching first base). Adam stole second. Isaac walked after Abraham tried to sacrifice. God threw out Adam and Eve for a double play. Cain struck out Abel. Inning over. Noah was going to come in to pitch, but the game was rained out.

In 1960, I witnessed my first baseball game, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals in the LA Coliseum, Don Drysdale on the mound for the Dodgers. Classic Americana, father and son at a baseball game together. Like most six-year-olds, I had an attention span of about five minutes. My dad explained to me that unlike games which were timed, like football or basketball, baseball had nine innings, and each team had 27 outs, and there was no time limit. What I remember about that first game was that it was literally timeless, that is to say, “When is this game going to end?” Of course I didn’t appreciate the timelessness of baseball when I was six, but I came to love watching baseball, an activity in which there is a conspicuous lack of a clock.

The lovely, timeless things about baseball are the green grass, the white chalk lines, the symmetry of the diamond, the crack of the bat, the taste of a Dodger Dog. Then there is the game itself: The winner of the game isn’t determined until the last out is made. Both teams have the same amount of chances to score. The defense controls the ball. The game takes as long as it takes for the game to be completed. That’s a nice thing, because although we all know that time marches on, at a baseball game there is only the green grass, the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, roasted peanuts salted in the shell, and the players we marvel at.

I say that baseball is the greatest game ever invented, but it isn’t perfect. We’ve heard about baseball’s gambling scandals, its institutionalized racism, the owners’ collusion, and the players’ use of steroids. But for a few hours, watching a baseball game gives us the pleasure of indulging in the fond dream that we are immune to the passage of time, that we are immortal like  Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, and Lou Gehrig. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Don’t ask me why I love baseball. I can’t really define it. Mostly I love baseball because it gives me a chance to forget about the mundane concerns of everyday life for a while, and to spend some time with fans who take pleasure in enjoying the same reprieve.

Baseball has been referred to as “America’s Pastime.” I recall reading an article in which the author wrote that baseball is, “in the truest sense, a pastime, i.e., something that amuses and serves to make time pass agreeably. In a world that demands much of us and our limited time here, there’s something to be said for passing it agreeably.” Play ball!

Robert Os t rove practices elder law, family law, labor and employment, and litigation in Ventura

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