The Greatest Game

I remember it clearly, as if it was thirty-nine years ago. It was December 28th of the year 1973 A.D. and I had been born. The doctor asked my dad to cut my cord and he set his can of Budweiser aside long enough to do it. Then he grabbed me and looked teary-eyed into my own squinty eyes and he said “All that matters in this world son, are the Dallas Cowboys.” Thus I was thrust into the world of the National Football League. In fact as I look back through my mother’s dusty photograph albums I see pictures of me as a wee little child with toy boxes that were either shaped like footballs or had every team written on them in that crappy 70’s style writing which is now just as annoying as Comic Sans.

In the early eighties I learned how to count to ten in Spanish via a calendar featuring the Cowboys that my father bought for me at the local McDonald’s. It was still all football back then. I still had no idea that other sports even existed.

Then 1984 happened. I’m not talking about the George Orwell novel. I am speaking of elementary school and a scrawny kid on the playground during recess. I lacked (as I still do) the muscles needed to hang onto the jungle gym bars and became frustrated. Then I saw it. The other kids were playing a game that I had never seen before. That’s when I discovered baseball. I immediately went home and told my parents that I wanted to play little league baseball. My mom was happy that I wanted to do something outside of the confines of our apartment. My dad threw up in his mouth.

My first season of little league I had one hit. By “hit” I mean hit by a pitch. It was the only time I reached base that season and I played it off just like Roger Dorn in Major League with my excessive whining. Hey, I was ten. Cut me some slack. You try getting hit by a thirty mile per-hour fastball and then get back to me. All I remember, other than the screaming fastball at my back, was that my coach looked like a cross between Steve Perry and Freddie Prinze. Not the horrible actor Freddie Prinze Jr. but his father who was famous for “Chico and the Man”.

I soon became a die-hard fan of the game of baseball and continued to play it every year with my friends during the summers of my youth. I even learned to master the art of whiffle ball and would constantly beat my friends at baseball on Nintendo. I thought as I became older that I would become a better baseball player.

I was sadly mistaken.

In ninth grade I joined an Arlington Optimist Baseball team. I played right field and I was as good as Nelson Cruz in the field. Sadly I was horrible at the plate. Just like when I was ten I had one hit. This time it was an actual hit. I was ecstatic! So ecstatic that I failed to pay attention between pitches and was picked off of first base a la Ian Kinsler sleeping at the wheel.

That’s when I realized I was better off studying the game and mastering the stats which led me to where I am today. I am one of the biggest fans of the Texas Rangers around. I have studied the history of the game to the point that I can name every World Series winner from 1980 to today. I’m still working on memorizing the rest.

Now another season of baseball is upon us and I am grateful for how my life turned out (baseball-wise) and wouldn’t trade it for anything except for maybe a few more base hits. And while I never became a star on the field I’d like to think that my popularity is gaining through my knowledge and writing.

After all, it’s still about the greatest game on Earth.

James Holland is a Senior Columnist for Shutdown Inning. He can be reached at or @SDIJamesHolland on Twitter.
James Holland

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