8 Panels That Show Why Baseball Is So Special
by Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.
Note: The following article appeared in "Here's the Pitch" the IBWA's daily newsletter.
I love baseball and all the players and legends and moments. And so much more.
I mostly love the great moments that center on the Yankees. I like watching the Yankees win games and I love watching the Yankees win World Series. I also, to be honest, don't enjoy moments that result in Yankees loses. (I've still never seen Ken Griffey actually score to end the 1995 ALDS. Even today, I just can't watch it.)
There is something about baseball and the feelings it creates: joy, misery, happiness, jubilation, misery. Baseball fans often find themselves reflecting on games and moments, great moments and small moments... moments that for many reasons left an impression on us and that live in our hearts and minds forever.
Part of that is joy, like when I remember when Reggie Jackson hitting three balls into a World Series night in 1977 or when Charlie Hayes caught a popup to win a World Series many years later. Those moments play on and on in my mind. They bring me joy.
But, like Griffey scoring, or the Red Sox winning in 2004, or any of the big Jose Altuve moments of recent years, some memories bring regret and sadness.
I think we sometimes wonder, "What if...?"
Wondering about those moments is part of the fun of being a fan and a student of the history of the game.
The 1962 World Series was one of the great series of all-time. It came years before I was born, but that World Series, an epic battle between the Yankees and the San Francisco Giants, was a true classic:
The Yankees, behind Whitey Ford, won Game One 6-2.
In Game Two, Jack Sanford defeated Ralph Terry 2-0 to even the series.
The Yankees barely held off the Giants 3-2 to win Game Three.
The Giants won Game Four 7-3. The winning pitcher for the Giants was Don Larsen. Yes, the guy who pitched a Perfect Game for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series.
The Yankees, behind Ralph Terry, won Game Five 5-3.
The Giants came back to win Game Six 5-2.
Game Seven was a true classic. The Yankees were winning 1-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Ralph Terry was on the mound for the Yankees. He had been here before, in Game Seven in 1960, and surrendered Bill Mazeroski's game-winning homer to end the World Series. It looked like history might repeat itself... Matty Alou had a bunt single to start the inning. Felipe Alou and Chuck Hiller then each struck out. Willie Mays then doubled to push Alou (the tying run) to third. And Willie McCovey came up... McCovey hit a scorcher to second. They didn't measure exit velocity back then, but I assume that shot would have broken all kinds of records (that's at least how the legend goes). McCovey hit it hard, but he hit it right into the glove of Bobby Richardson who caught the ball to end the series and preserve the victory for the Yankees. The Giants had come that close... *** I imagine in that long winter of 1962-63, there were Giants fans all over who wondered "What if..." Two such fans appeared in the comics on December 22, 1962. Their names were Charlie Brown and Linus Van Pelt. Artist Charles Schulz captured how so many fans must have felt after that great World Series. The first three panels of the four-panel strip that day showed Charlie Brown and Linus sitting together in deep thought. Each picture is the same, the two friends are sitting in silence. In the final panel, an exasperated Charlie Brown stands up and yells "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?" That strip is one of the most famous in the Peanuts archive. I think it showed how so many Giants fans felt after they came inches from winning a World Championship. Losses like that linger. Fans ponder them and re-live them over and over. And over.
Just as Charlie Brown and Linus did. What many people don't know is that Schulz ran a similar strip about a month later, on January 28, 1963. That panel again shows Charlie Brown and Linus in deep thought with no words again for the first three panels. Then, in the fourth and final panel, Charlie Brown again stands and yells, "Or why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball even two feet higher?" It's a classic strip and together with the previous one, I believe, they capture the essence of baseball fans. We love the game. We love the moments. We sit alone and with friends and think about the outcomes. We sometimes wish for better. We wonder "What if...?" Charles Schulz captured the magic of baseball and baseball fans perfectly in those two strips. They are classics. Pure classics. I think there have been many times when we've all felt the same way Charlie Brown felt that long winter after the Giants lost. That's what makes baseball so wonderful. And that's also why Peanuts was such a classic comic strip. With just a few panels, eight in all, Charles Schulz captured, exactly, what it is to be a baseball fan. *** Paul Semendinger, Ed.D. just retired after a wonderful 32-year career as an educator, the last 24 as a principal. He loved every minute. Paul runs the wonderful Yankees site Start Spreading the News. His novel Scattering the Ashes and his Yankees history The Least Among Them have won numerous awards. Paul still pitches in two wood bat baseball leagues. Since the Yankees seem to be in desperate need for pitching, he's sure they come calling soon. Once he's a big leaguer, if you see him at a stadium, he won't refuse any autograph request...