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The Essay
Show #230
Base Ball
David Gunn

With the millennium's last World Series of baseball about to kick off in cities other than Kansas City, Newark, Fresno, New Orleans and Ouagadougou, it's time to give credit where it is due and remove it, kicking and screaming, from where it's not. First of all, Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball in Cooperstown, New York in 1839. Medical records indicate that he was cooped up in a Scranton medical center undergoing a triple lobotomic bypass that year. Second, the leather-covered ball, wooden bat and titanium catcher's mitt that he showed off at the 1840 World Sports Exposition and for which he tried to claim patent rights were not used in the basic implementation of the game, but rather to keep Doubleday's medical handlers at bay. The game of baseball evolved, as have so many pastimes, from a much less glamorous source: it resulted from competitive leisure activities of musicians.

One day late in April, 1838, members of a music-theater guild in Cincinnati, Ohio decided to celebrate their association's tenth anniversary by waging a contest. Past competing activities of the group had led to the invention of the vacuum -- that is, the absence of matter, not the electrical appliance that commutes matter thereto, though that was later an ancillary discovery -- so they were nothing to sneeze at. Like huge, anthropomorphic single-celled aliens from Planet X, a recently discovered invisible giant celestial body that "Randy Science Digest" reports is parked between the orbits of Pluto and the Zagon Comet Belt, the members divided into four teams: singers, instrumentalists, conductors and bandwagoners, none of which, by the way, has ever been spotted on the intangible planet. Each team sported nine contestants in analogous uniforms, the design of which was determined by a complex calculation involving 12-tone logarithmic spirals, a process also used in the uniquely convoluted anti-rules of Whiskers Six-Draw. Brandishing primitive sound-making tools, such as stone flutes and saxophones, the members of the teams circled each other in a competitively menacing manner, pantomiming ceremonial rites that reeked of the basic aspects of human existence: food supply, sexual impulse, relationships with the spirit world and copyright infringement. The movements gradually took on rhythmic and spatial congruity, evolving into patterns of organized steps, gestures and dynamics. It looked not unlike a dance. At least it did until a second wave of players entered the leisure arena.

Providing counterpoint to the initial menacement, these backup teammates erupted onto the scene with wooden bats, titanium gloves and a small spherical object of seamed, white rawhide. Exacerbating their dancelike movements, they waved the bats over their heads like process servers at a revival meeting, then began pelting one another with the gloves. Eventually, the hurlers ran out of gloves, and the bats spontaneously vanished -- only to later turn up, much to the dismay of empirical datamongers, in the middle of a 90-kilofoot square diamond on the far side of Planet X. The secondary contestants then promptly vacated the premises in an act of sleight of body that would have amazed even Beano Bengaze. The field was now visually bankrupt, save for the original players' organized steps and gestures, which had evolved into a kind of sinister macareña. Each time a player got out of step, even for an instant, the other three teams were awarded an inning. When one team accrued nine innings, it was let out of the field long enough to harvest gloves in the surrounding titanium forest. When one team amassed 18 gloves, they were affixed to each of the players' feet. Did I mention that these players were all highly spiritually attuned and possessed basic levitating skills? Well, they were, and did. In fact, some of them could even tread air, rising to heights of 50 kilometers, the bottom layer of the ionosphere. And the team whose player first realized the Ratio of Bedrock to the Ionosphere, or RBI, won the game. Eventually, the game reverted to simply being a base ball, a mean-spirited formal gathering for social dancing, and still later evolved into the oppressively commercialized spectacle that heralds ESPN's news each summer night.

What, you may by now be asking yourself, does this have to do with what is presumably the 230th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar! Well, it's sort of a metaphor for the times -- or is that a simile?, eponymous hyperbole?, whatever. And "whatever" is what can rightly or wrongly be declared the domain of Kalvos.