- - Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Baseball is the reason God made summer. Summer stretches out with the solace and symmetry of a long fly ball to deep center field, climbing ever higher and hanging in the sky as if the afternoon could go on forever. Whether watching a ball game from a box seat on the third-base line or through a hole in the right-field fence, we could only wish it would.

Every little boy grows up dreaming of getting the hit with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth (a home run would be especially nice but a single would do), or making like Brooks Robinson at third base, knocking down a line drive and throwing out the runner with a rifle shot from the seat of his pants. Little boys’ summer dreams, like lightning bugs and butterflies, are free.

Baseball has life lessons in every season. “The key difference between baseball and democracy,” wrote columnist Joseph Sobran years ago, “is that in baseball the winners don’t get to rewrite the rules. And it never occurs to the losers to blame the rules for losing. Our deepest norms of order can still be seen in operation on the diamond when they’ve been adulterated everywhere else. Baseball is our Utopia — not in assuring us of the victories we dream of, but in guaranteeing ideal conditions even of defeat.”

Washington, where such noble sentiments should be best appreciated but seldom are, nevertheless hit a grand slam — a home run with the bases loaded — this week as host of the 89th annual All-Star game, where the stars of both the National and American Leagues came together for camaraderie, bonhomie and batting the old horsehide around. The game this week was something really special.

The American League won, 8 runs to 6, but keeping score was not really necessary. The individual performances were the show, and what a show — 10 home runs, breaking a 47-year-old record and pushing the game into extra innings, won by a home run by Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros in the top of the 10th inning.

There were so many home runs and strikeouts at 100 miles an hour there were few opportunities for heart-stopping fielding plays. “You’re going to see [all the homers and strikeouts] in the All-Star game when everybody’s throwing max effort,” says Max Scherzer, the strikeout ace of the hometown Washington Nationals who started the game for the National League. “You’re not just going to string hits together. The pitchers have too many pitches, we’re throwing too hard. The hitters are in a really tough bind in that situation. In an All-Star Game, that’s just going to happen.”

Baseball, like summer, is a season of memories rendered golden by the passage of the years, and the special night inevitably recalled other All-Star Games. The 1937 game at Griffith Stadium was where the great Dizzy Dean, the pride of the St. Louis Cardinals, suffered the injury that would end his career. Ol’ Diz took a line drive on his right big toe. When they told him the toe was fractured, Dean, in pain, shouted “It ain’t fractured, it’s broke.” He returned to the pitching rotation too soon, altered the rhythm of his delivery, and threw his arm away and his great fastball with it.

The stadium, decked out in red, white and blue bunting this year as if it were the World Series, a particularly special place for Alex Bregman, as if it were festooned in bunting just for him and perhaps for certain friendly family ghosts.

Alex Bregman, just three years out of LSU and Southeastern Conference baseball, has a deep connection to Washington. His great-grandfather, the late Samuel Bregman, was a Washington sports promoter who put on the 1941 heavyweight title fight at Griffith Stadium when Joe Louis made quick work of Buddy Baer. Alex Bregman’s grandfather, Stanley Bregman, was the Washington lawyer who represented the old Washington Senators of the American League. He talked Ted Williams into managing the Senators for a season or two. Samuel Bregman, still remembered by old-timers as Bo Bregman, was a sandlot player of local renown and managed an amateur team called the Bregman Wildcats.

There’s even an Alex Bregman tie to our favorite newspaper, a small one but we take pardonable pride in it. His aunt, Suzanne Bregman Fields, is a columnist for The Washington Times. (Way to go, Aunt Suzie.)

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