– Walt Whitman
Have you ever noticed how much baseball is like marriage? Think about it.
Both endeavors usually begin with two sides, a crowd, some ceremony and organ music.
Both have traditions.
Both have expectations.
Both have rules. (You don’t want to get thrown out of either.)
Both are known for their somewhat measured pace, pastimes that can seem almost routine until there is a sudden outbreak of excitement and drama and perhaps a comeback or rally.
In my life, they are even more converged.
You see, I came to the altar late.
I had just turned 40 and explained the delay to others by saying it took me that long to find a woman in Georgia as devoted to the Cincinnati Reds as I was.
Yes, the Reds are my team. Always have been.
The first year I became aware of baseball’s allure, it was the Reds who surprised everyone by winning the National League pennant and going to the World Series.
“Those are my guys,” I said, and to this day I value their victories more closely than those of my college alma mater or any NFL or NBA team.
It was easier to find my team than to find my wife, but after several years, I did.
My pre-courtship small talk quickly determined that my future bride shared my affections.
“Who was the best catcher ever?” I asked her casually one afternoon.
“Johnny Bench,” she said without hesitating.
“What do you think about Pete Rose?”
“He was robbed,” she said firmly. “He did wrong, but the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.”
Oh, she likes the Atlanta Braves, too. She met my parents at the final home game of Atlanta’s remarkable 1991 season.
Then she cheerfully accepted a seat beside me in the 1991 World Series opener.
Our loyalties, however, remain scarlet.
We were married the following spring by one of my old friends, a judge who not only had attended the University of Cincinnati but also had worked his way through college as an employee of the Reds ticket office.
We planned our nuptials for a Wednesday morning because it allowed us to leave for a honeymoon that featured a drive to Cincinnati to see the Reds play (and win).
We continued the wedding trip with visits to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and major league games in Montreal and Toronto.
We were as comfortable and content as two people could be.
Always have been.
Baseball brought us together and has kept us together, mindful of the vows we took 20 years ago this morning.
Marriage, it seems, is most like baseball because you find its sincerest satisfaction when you choose a team and stick with it.