It is splendid to see, in these turbulent times of political division, that there is still one tried-and-true thing that can narrow the gap between the aisles in New York. And wouldn’t you know it? That which brings us together is exactly what divides us most years, party lines uniting where franchise loyalties splinter.
“It breaks your heart,” Bart Giamatti once famously wrote. “It is designed to break your heart.”
“The one constant through the years, Ray,” Terence Mann tells Ray Kinsella in “Field of Dreams,” the first moment the faucet opens on your tear ducts, “is baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”
And now, add this:
“Baseball has always been as American as apple pie. It is a sport loved and watched on by many, and this legislation is a means of honoring all that this iconic sport has done for the people of New York since its origination in Cooperstown in 1839.”
That is from State Assembly bill A05156, sponsored on Feb. 11 this year by Michael Benedetto, who serves the 82nd assembly district, with his local office based on East Tremont Avenue in The Bronx. Tuesday, Peter Oberacker, who represents District 51 in the state senate (an area that includes Cooperstown), sponsored bill S05363, the mission of which is the same as A05156:
“Designates baseball as the official sport of the state of New York.”
Benedetto is a nine-term Democrat assemblyman.
Oberacker is a freshman Republican senator.
Makes you think of another famous observation, you know?
“You just can’t predict baseball, Suzyn.”
Now, look: yes, we understand the difficulties politicians create for themselves when they start spending time on issues like these. We get it: there is a list of problems and items and concerns as long as the Dewey Thruway that need addressing. Serious times call for serious people, all of that.
Before you start your letter-writing campaign, can we mention that this all started in the collective imagination of a group of fourth-graders in Ann Reis’ class at Cooperstown Elementary in 2006? Those kids are all freshmen in high school now. Back then, they wrote to their then-senator, James L. Seward, and suggested what became the first crack at this idea, S4288.
“While studying New York State government and state symbols, the students realized that we lack a state sport,” Reis said at the time. “They immediately decided that baseball would be the perfect fit to fill the void.”
As the present form of the bill explains, “Chapter 6 of the state law of New York includes within it various provisions designating the “official of the state” such as tree, freshwater fish, shell, insect, and even muffin.”
(For the record that would be, in order: sugar maple, brook trout, bay scallop, spotted lady beetle and apple.)
So why not an official sport?
Why not baseball?
OK, around here, we have always been partial to basketball as our foundational sport; we call it “the city game,” after all. There will be those who argue for hockey, especially as you cruise north of the city. In Western New York, no matter what the legislature does, the permanent official state sport — and state religion — is “Buffalo Bills,” so just move on. Soccer fans will surely pipe up with participation numbers. And don’t ignore lacrosse if you head out to Long Island or else you may get a defenseman’s long stick across your back.
Still, as A05156 dutifully points out: the sport’s birthplace (according to legend, anyway) is in Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame is there and “lures tourist from around the world, honoring the greatest teams and players in the game (56 players from 5 New York teams alone).” The Yankees, Giants, Dodgers and Mets have won 35 of the 116 World Series ever contested.
Also, as a noted New York philosopher named G.H. Ruth once said so eloquently:
“The only real game, I think, in the world, is baseball.”
And who are we to argue with the Babe?