Just because it's America's pasttime doesn't mean she has to like it

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house, tiny bathroom and even the same office. But not always the same opinion. The Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on every-day issues, told from two different perspectives.

SHE SAID: Since Bob and I started dating three years ago, there have been about 25 other people in our relationship.

They all wear tight pants and swing sticks for a living. That's right. Baseball players.

Specifically, the Cardinals (mental cheer from all male readers and more than likely a few eye rolls from female readers).

They are like members of our family, except they don't know they're members.

When Bob comes rushing home and says, "Scott's shoulder is torn, and it's serious," my thoughts turn to my little brother, whose name is Scott.

But no, it's even more terrible than that! Because Bob is referring to Scott Rolen, the Card's third baseman. And, oh my God, are "we" in trouble now because he's out for the season.

Since we met, Bob has been trying to teach me the subtle nuances of America's greatest sport. All I've come to realize, though, is that baseball players have it pretty easy compared to other professional athletes (with the exception, perhaps, of golfers).

Have you seen the way they saunter from the outfield to the dugout at the end of an inning? How about a little hustle, boys? And the games take FOREVER.

OK, I'm being a bit facetious. I have learned more about baseball than that, and sometimes I even enjoy watching the games. I know all the Cardinals' players and their positions. I respect Albert Pujols' wife and believe she is the secret to his success.

You'd think that effort would be enough, but Bob keeps trying to shove strategies down my throat. Last week, while waiting to have a minor procedure performed at a local surgery clinic, he kept trying to tell me why you should never bunt with one out.

I guess he figured I was so nervous about the procedure my defenses would be down. I put my hands over my hears and told him to shut up.

Now stepson Drew has gotten in on the action. Every Saturday and Sunday, he asks me without fail, "When's the game on?"

I say, "That's your dad's department."

"But you know stuff about baseball too," he replies, no doubt thinking of the many times I've admonished him for saying "points" instead of "runs" when repeating a score.

At least someone is impressed with my knowledge.


HE SAID: "What's that, Honey? The kitchen's on fire? OK, just a second. Pujols is up with the bases loaded."

I admit I have a baseball problem. I'd love -- love -- to share my addiction with Callie, but she just won't quite take the leap. If football is an action movie, baseball is a great book. America's pastime, my first love, will not seduce fans with halter tops and miniskirts. It will romance you, whisper in your ear, gracefully and elegantly tug at your soul.

It's a 3-1 count, a runner's on first base, one out.

The offensive manager expects a fastball is on the way, meaning his hitter should get a good pitch to rip. And if it's out of the zone, nothing is lost. Should he hit and run? But wait. The opposing pitcher has been hitting the corners with his curve today. If the batter swings and misses, the runner on first doesn't have the speed to steal the base outright. Run or no? A hit-and-run, if successful, will at the least prevent a double play and at the most put runners on first and third with one out. A failed hit-and-run will leave you with nobody on and two outs.

A strategic decision is made on every pitch in baseball. Fastball in or fastball out? Curve off the plate or in the zone? And, by the way, Callie, you weren't listening very well. Tsk, tsk. Bunting is OK with one out, especially if the pitcher is up and you've got a hot-hitting leadoff hitter on deck like David Eckstein.

Beyond the strategy, the game is one of concentration, a game of focus and physical execution, which is why Chris Carpenter has won 19 games and why Albert Pujols is the best hitter in baseball. And there is action too, but the action doesn't spoil us. It comes at just the right moments, with runners on base, down by two, a homer in the upper deck, a triple down the line, the magnificent, shocking squeeze play in a late game to take the lead. Oooh, bay-be!

Yes, I admit I have a baseball problem. I just don't know when to stop.

And poor Callie. She just doesn't understand.

"Baseball, baseball, baseball!" she says. "Ugh!" It seems I'm always putting out fires.

I'll make it up to her someday. Some time after October.

Contact Callie Clark Miller at cmiller@semissourian.com or BobMiller at bmiller@semissourian.com

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