Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby uttered perhaps the greatest quote about baseball.
"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball," Hornsby once said. "I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."
Spring has arrived, but most of us are still staring out our windows during the shutdown, waiting for the start of the baseball season.
Once in a while there's a glimmer of hope, like reports this week saying MLB is considering all 30 major-league teams playing games at ballparks in the Phoenix area - with no fans - beginning in May or June, or perhaps playing in both Arizona and Florida with a massive realignment of the leagues and divisions.
But even if either of those long-shot plans is approved, it couldn't replace the communal experience of sitting in the stands watching a game with your family or friends or even by yourself. Before I was a reporter at the Tribune, I bought hundreds of tickets to Cubs and White Sox games at Wrigley Field and old Comiskey Park and sat by myself in the bleachers. You always would find someone you knew because the ballpark was a gathering place, similar to a church or a local park or your neighbor's front porch.
It has been a month since the baseball season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, and though it was the longest month imaginable, it gave me a lot of time to contemplate my relationship with the game.
Maybe you've done the same.
Baseball has been a part of my life since childhood, and the game is a significant part of my family history. My late grandmother, Lillian Rooney, was a personal secretary for former Sox owner Charles Comiskey a century ago.
When his autobiography, " 'Commy,' " was published in 1919, Rooney received copy No. 2 of a limited edition. She basically was in charge of Comiskey Park when he would go off on tours of Europe during the offseason, and we still have postcards from him thanking her for taking care of the place in the winter. I also inherited letters to her from one of her friends, Sox Hall of Famer Eddie Collins, and a baseball signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig that my brother and I ruined as kids while playing catch.
I grew up at old Comiskey and since have spent half my life covering baseball for the Tribune, chronicling a few thousand games over the last 30-something years.
My first game as full-time White Sox beat writer was the famous Albert Belle corked bat episode in 1994, in which an Indians teammate sneaked through the ceiling panels and replaced the confiscated Belle bat with a clean one. My first two weeks as the Cubs beat writer resulted in all Cubs losses - the 1997 team set a National League record for futility with an 0-14 start.
From Frank Thomas to Anthony Rizzo, I've been fortunate to have a great seat for some of Chicago's most memorable baseball moments.
This year promised to provide many more, from the start of the Luis Robert era on the South Side to a possible last hurrah for the survivors of the Cubs 2016 champions.
A month of spring training only managed to whet our appetites for the future of both teams before it abruptly ended on a rainy day in Arizona, when the 2020 season was put on hold indefinitely one day after the NBA shut down after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
What followed was the longest month any of us can remember.
Now we're in a state of suspended animation, players and media and fans alike, watching the grim reports from pandemic hot spots and praying for a flattening of the curve that would allow the game to proceed in one form or another.
The hard questions I've asked myself this last month are these:
Would it be preferable to wait until the pandemic is mostly over and we can all go to games without worrying the person sitting near you is infected?
Or would watching games on TV in empty ballparks suffice?
And if baseball didn't return at all this year, would it really matter? Isn't there more to life than baseball?
Everyone has a different answer, of course. It all depends on how much we need baseball in our lives. We might claim with certainty we're "addicted" to baseball, but in truth we all go through the winter without the game and somehow manage to survive cold turkey.
But then one spring arrives with no baseball in sight, and suddenly we find ourselves thirsting for our daily fix.
If there were an antidote for this dependency on a game deemed too slow for this video game era, I'd like to know. I gladly would share it with everyone who misses the bat flips, the walk-off celebrations and even the hit by pitches.
Until then, like everyone else, I'll be right here, staring out the window and waiting.
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
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