Stephen F. Austin State University

Leisurely pace of baseball is a plus (March 2019)

Leisurely pace of baseball is a plus

By Van Craddock

I got hooked on baseball at an early age. As a toddler, my family lived only a couple of blocks from the old East Texas League stadium where the Gladewater Bears played.

The year was 1950, which was the final year of play for the storied old minor league that had been founded way back in 1916.

Whenever the stadium lights came on, I knew it was game-time. My dad usually gave in to my pleading, and hand-in-hand we'd walk to the stadium, always careful to look both ways as we crossed a busy Highway 80.

Truth is, as a tiny tot, baseball meant cotton candy and popcorn. But my dad was a true aficionado of the National Pastime. He dearly loved baseball and devoted a number of years to coaching youth baseball. When I was a teenager, he coached a Longview all-star team all the way to the state tournament.

The Gladewater Bears had a legendary outfielder named Sloan Vernon Washington, although nobody called him that. To fans he was "George" Washington and he could hit a baseball as far as Babe Ruth. My dad swore that Washington once hit a ball so hard it went through the outfield wooden fence.

Washington, who grew up in the Cass County town of Linden, played two decades in minor league ball and spent a couple of years on the Chicago White Sox's major league roster.

As I said, 1950 was the East Texas League's final season. "George" Washington also retired that year. He died in 1985 and is buried in New Colony Cemetery at Linden.

The reason the league folded? I'm thinking it was weather and the new-found pleasure of television.

Instead of sweating under an East Texas summer sun, most folks preferred turning up the AC window unit and watching "The Lone Ranger" or "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" on TV.

As I grew up, I came to appreciate the game of baseball as much as my dad did.

Baseball is, quite simply, the greatest game ever invented. I realize this opinion is debatable. But baseball is unique. Unlike the bone-crunching, concussion-inducing game of football and the frenetic back-and-forth pace of basketball and hockey, baseball is a leisurely sport.

In fact, baseball is so leisurely that often practically nothing happens.

A number of years ago somebody - I don't remember who - decided to take a stopwatch and time the action in a baseball game. Whenever somebody was running the bases or chasing a fly ball, the watch was ticking. But when a team was changing pitchers or having a conference on the pitcher's mound, the watch was stopped.

The finding? In a nine-inning baseball game that lasted two hours and 45 minutes, there were actually only 25 minutes of honest-to-goodness action.

On the surface, that might sound like a negative finding, but I disagree. As I said, baseball is meant to be played at a leisurely pace. It's to be savored like a fine wine, or maybe cotton candy.

The manager leans against the dugout rail, eying the playing field. The pitchers in the outfield bullpen sit back, sun themselves and watch the birds fly overhead.

The slow pace is contagious for fans, too. They have plenty of time to head for the concession stand or the restroom and return to their seats without missing much of that 25 minutes of action.

I'm glad to report that the game of baseball is little changed from six decades ago. Sure, now we've got artificial turf and domed stadiums. But the game's still played with a bat, ball and glove. It remains a special game.

I like what the late, great Dodger catcher Roy Campanella said about the game he loved so much. "You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living," he said, "but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too."