The Fall Classic
Editor's Notebook, November 2002
I was drawn recently into the arms of the Fall Classic, the epic battle between the champions of the American League and the National League in the World Series of Baseball. (For those of you not familiar with this quintessential North American, Central American, and Japanese game, it consists of a group of people standing around contemplating what they would do if a small, hard, round, ball were to come screaming towards them.)
There are a great many similarities between baseball and other forms of racing.
The game of baseball is played on a sort of dirt-track quad-oval. The turns are not banked, which makes it a very technical course. Spotters are stationed at the turn-in of Corner One and at the track-out of Corner Three. The apex of each corner has a soft, square rumble strip that must be touched as the racer makes the turn.
|the standing start...|
One of the most exciting parts of the game is the standing start. A racer stands at Start/Finish (called, for some reason, Home Plate) and, at certain times that I was not able to determine, races for Corner One. The racer seems to control the Green Flag, in the shape of a wooden stick, which is waved to hit a ball and start the race. There are many false starts as the racers are not well trained to hit the ball at each opportunity.
Sometimes the racer stops at Corner One and then, later, makes another standing start for Corner Two and, eventually, for Corner Three and back to Start/Finish (Home Plate). In some ways, the racers perform more like auto-crossers than like wheel-to-wheel (foot-to-foot?) racers, since they are not allowed to pass one another on the track.
Meanwhile, the racers who are not in the heats being contested act as corner workers, making sure each racer touches the rumble strips and timing the action, not with a stop-watch, but with the hurling of a ball from one worker to another. Many of them are stationed in a large, grassy run-off area between Corner One and Corner Three on racer's right, and seem most concerned with retrieving the ball after it is hit with the Green Flag.
It's all very confusing.
|none thank their sponsors...|
Probably most confusing, though, is the behavior of the racers when interviewed after the games. They all thank each other, their managers, and their fans. Some of them thank God. None of them, however, thank their sponsors for giving them the proper equipment to ensure victory. How do they expect to fund their next season?
Well, in any case, the game of baseball presents a grand spectacle, much like other forms of racing. The pageantry, the tradition, and the selling of beer but not cigarettes during commercial breaks, was very familiar to me from my time watching motor sports on television. I don't know if baseball will ever catch on, but I recommend it to you for those times when you can't find more traditional racing to enjoy.