Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mothers Day Special - A Quick Comparison of Baseball and Golf

It’s Mothers Day again.

What an interesting time to compare golf and baseball.

“Why on Mothers Day?”

Baseball and golf are my Mom’s favorite pastimes.

Mom lives in Pensacola, Florida - on the twelfth green of a once proud course. Since we moved to Atlanta in 1975, she and my Dad became great Atlanta Braves fans. It is common for my Mom to spend a morning golfing, and an evening watching her beloved Braves on TV.

So Mom, here is my take on comparing golf and baseball, I hope you enjoy it.

Both baseball and golf involve hitting a ball with a stick

In golf, one person plays against himself, while in a field of other players trying to get the lowest score.

In baseball, one player tries to get the ball past nine other players, in an attempt to get the highest score for his team.

Baseball is the only game (aside from Cricket) where the defense has the ball.

Golf is the only game (aside from bowling) where there is no defense, nor any means to defend against the offense of the opposition.

In stroke-play golf, a player plays against only himself, Trying to better their score from their last. The only true opponent – besides the very course they are playing – is themselves. It truly is a game of inner struggles where a majority of the skill is indeed between their ears.

In baseball, one man is competing against nine others. The defense hold the ball and throws it with great force at the offending player or batter. The batter is trying to hit the ball into play to reach base. Once on base the runner is trying to steal the next base. The manager focuses on putting runners in motion and managing the batters – signaling their every move. The opposing manager is trying to place his fielders in the optimum position to field the ball, and make the maximum number of outs for their efforts in the process. Baseball is truly a game played with living chess peices.

Gentlemenly and not-so-gentlemanly

Golf is and always has been a gentleman’s game. Honor, truthfulness, integrity are some of the characteristics that golf aspires to instill in its participants.

Baseball started off as a game played by the uncultured, a waste of time that resulted in betting and game fixing by organized crime, with team owners ruling their teams like dictator tyrants.

In both golf, and baseball, the legend of the birth of both games are questionable

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland is regarded to be the birthplace of golf – led by the first known golfer, “old Tom”. St. Andrews still exists in much the same condition as when the game was first played. But this may be a myth as truly golf was invented by a person trying to hit a stone into a gopher hole in as few tries as possible.

Legend is that Abner Doubleday invented baseball. He wisely determined the ultimate distance between each base was to be 90 feet (or 30 yards). The field closed into a single point at home plate – and extended into infinity as the baselines down 1st and 3rd stretch to the horizon. However Abner Doubleday was actually a Civil War hero of that time period, and while his popularity was at its highest – was accredited with inventing a game he likely never even saw played before being killed in that same war.

The immediate perception of players of both baseball and golf are misleading

In golf, honor and integrity are imperative. Every swing must be counted, every rule must be followed, and every penalty incurred must be paid. The player assumes full responsibility for his actions while affording his opponents every coutesy. Ball marks must be fixed, sand traps raked when finished, and respect on the greens is mandatory. A player learns to “play the ball where it lies”, and to move on quickly from past mistakes or misfortunes – Great Life Lessons!

In baseball, every advantage one can gain on their opponent is taken – every blob of spit or dirt or scratch into the ball a pitcher can use to make the ball fly past the batter is used. Every sign an opponent can read from second base as the catcher sends them to the pitcher is relayed to the batter. Sliding into second with spikes high in the air to keep the fielder from also throwing the batter out at first. You are encouraged to yell at your opponent to distract him to misplay. A player learns to take every opportunity to create an advantage over your opponent – stretching the rules until you get caught.

It seems pretty obvious

Golf is synomonous with character and integrity, while baseball is synomonous with lying, cheating, bullying and stealing, right?

But let’s look closer.

For the last 100 years professional baseball players have worn similar uniforms, caught with leather stitched gloves, hit with wooden bats, and used balls covered in leather, stitched over tightly wound twine over a hard Indian rubber core. This equipment has improved over the years but not in any truly significant manner.

Golf was originally played with clubs made of forged steel, attached to hickory shafts. The woods were called woods because they were made of wood. The ball was originally made of a leather stitching as well. But the equipment has evolved as much as the aerospace industry has been inventive. Graphite and Titanium and surylyn. Woods made out of metals, and irons made out of graphite. The “Mashie Niblick is no more”.

Not including safety equipment, baseball equipment has stayed pretty true to its history (steroid use and corked bats excluded! – remember baseball is played by thugs!)

Golf on the other hand has not. Golf is played by people who want to better their game. When their skills are optimized, and their game is still poor, then the equipment must make up the difference. The woods and balls of today add far greater accuracy / distance than those of the 1920s. The irons are more forgiving. (Remember, golf is played by lawyers!)

Tennis is the same way. The heads of tennis rackets became bigger to be more forgiving in accuracy and strung to create more ball speed. Compare the aluminum racket that Jimmy Conners used to that of the racket used today by Roger Federer and the difference is as clear as the clubs used by Bobby Jones compared to those used by Tiger Woods.

My conclusion

Baseball is a game played by men confused with thugs – for a true ball player will work on their skills rather than buy equipment that makes the game easier.

Golf is a game played by gentlemen who may replace practice with more sophisticated equipment to increase their skill level.

But by and by, both are arguably the most beautiful games that god has ever inspired man to create.

and every man has ... a Mom.

Happy Mothers Day!

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