Take me out to the . . . ball game?

May 26, 2011

Sure, the birds are chirping and the dandelions are popping. But as another summer blooms into view, you can’t help the feeling that something is missing.

Where has all the good baseball gone?

First, the Guelph Royals, a fixture of senior baseball in this city, announced they wouldn’t field a team this summer because they couldn’t reach a deal with the city on the use of Hastings Stadium.

Then, Guelph’s junior ball team, the Silvercreeks, cancelled its season earlier this month just hours away from the first pitch. The team said it couldn’t get enough players to commit, and they were hamstrung by renovations at Hastings that would have delayed their home opener.

It’s hard to imagine a worse time to be a baseball fan, anywhere. Except perhaps if you were one of those unfortunate enough to live in Cleveland in 1899, when the Spiders baseball club was busy slinking its way through the worst season ever recorded in the sport’s professional history.

The Cleveland Spiders, named after their players’ spindly, skinny physiques, were so awful they had to finish their season playing all their games on the road. When they did play at home, the few hundred fans who bothered to come out pelted them with rotten produce. They ended the year having won 20 games — and losing 134.

The Spiders were the butt of jokes across the league. With a roster deliberately plundered by their owners, nobody expected they would be anything short of terrible. After losing their first game of the year 10-1, The Plain Dealer newspaper declared on its front page: The farce has begun.

So yeah, I guess it could be worse. But at least baseball fans in Cleveland at the time had baseball to watch.

As we stare ahead at a summer that Guelph’s best baseball teams will sit out, what’s a ball fan in Guelph to do? After some exhaustive research, I’ve come up with a few suggestions:

•Sit in the empty stands at Hastings Stadium and sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game, staring at that picture of your favourite player you keep in your desk. Try not to get tears on it this time.

•Instead of walking in to your place of work, make an impression by sliding in, feet first. Jump up and point to the sky whenever you get there safely.

•Instead of handshakes, try slapping co-workers’ butts after a good day’s work.

•Make a fashion statement with just three words: Knee-high socks.

Use these helpful tips to get through a long, lonely non-season. And remember, there is always hope that baseball will be back.

History shows baseball didn’t die in Cleveland after the Spiders’ season to forget in 1899. The team was sold the next year to a pair of businessmen who reduced the club to minor-league status and renamed it the Cleveland Lake Shores. They became the Cleveland Blues, and eventually, the Cleveland Indians. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.

The Indians stuck around, and have a proud hundred-year history. As the Spiders showed, the game can make a comeback after an absolutely horrible year. Here’s hoping it can happen in Guelph.

Greg Mercer is a Guelph-based writer. His column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at greg_mercer@hotmail.com, and past columns can be read at gregmercer.ca


Guelph Mercury, May 25, 2011

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