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Game Changer

Don Southworth, 2:03 pm ET

I FELL IN LOVE with baseball in 1965. My parents were in the midst of divorcing. I found sanctuary listening to San Francisco Giants’ games on the radio. I put on my batting helmet and pretended I was Willie Mays swinging at every pitch or diving on my bed catching imaginary lines drives. Willie had a magical year and, although the hated Dodgers nosed us out in the end, a lifelong passion was born.

I preached on miracles when I applied for fellowship as a minister. Jesus’ acts were nowhere to be found in baseball. Still, the story of the 1969 “miracle” New York Mets—and this 11-year-old’s awe—were central to my message. Baseball was an annual sermon then because, for fans like me, it is a magical, mystical game that has meaning far beyond runs, errors and base hits. The 1989 film Field of Dreams, a story about fathers, sons, baseball heroes and ghosts coming out of a cornfield in Iowa, highlighted the spirituality of the game.

Major League Baseball recently played its first game at the Iowa cornfield where the movie was made. The Yankees and White Sox entered the field through the corn and played before an intimate crowd of 8,000. Millions more watched on television. It was the highest-rated regular season game in years. The game ended dramatically when Tim Anderson of the White Sox hit a walk-off home run into the cornfield to win the game.

Ironically, Anderson has never seen Field of Dreams. He was born after the movie was made. Like many young ballplayers, especially those of color, the storyline of old-time white baseball players coming back to life doesn’t really resonate.

Baseball has become too slow and too boring for more and more people. It’s become an old man’s game. Players like Anderson and others are bringing a new swagger and excitement to baseball. Bat flips, trash talking and strutting after home runs are becoming more popular. Perhaps this new way of playing will bring more people back to baseball and especially those much younger than me.

As I watch these changes, I fight the curmudgeon in me who misses the old days. It reminds me of those in the financial world who complain about the “gamification” of investing and the changes that come with it. Bitcoin, Robinhood, short-selling and margin calls for average investors? To some, it’s blasphemy.

But the only constant in baseball, investing and life is change. How well we cope with it has a lot to do with our ability to adapt and succeed. IRAs and 401(k)s weren’t around 50 years ago, and neither were video replays nor launch angles. We have survived. So I’m struggling to understand WAR in baseball and ESG in investing. But don’t ever expect me to accept the designated hitter.

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Juan Fourneau
Juan Fourneau
1 month ago

I’ve begun to watch the game as a way to bond with my son, it’s his favorite sport to play. Embarrassed to say we live two hours from Field Of Dreams but I’ve never visited.
After that great game and the reception it received my boy is interested in checking it out.
I agree the game needs these young guys adding some swag and excitement to the game. I always enjoy watching a game live but it can be a bit slow on TV.

poorplayer
poorplayer
1 month ago

Do please keep in mind that many of the “unwritten” rules about on-field comportment that old-timers like us learned were developed when baseball was played by white players only. Expecting or wishing that non-white players whose cultures and traditions are different and more effusive to play like white players did back in the day is not a good look. I look forward to the use of the DH in the NL (said the Yankee fan). I will, however, non-judgmentally pass on Bitcoin.

George Counihan
George Counihan
1 month ago

Ban the DH!! … and the shift while you’re at it It is ruining the game Get more balls in play!

Don Southworth
Don Southworth
1 month ago

Amen!

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
2 months ago

Very entertaining post, and as a life-long Dodger fan, I salute you!

I also struggle with the flamboyance… as our highschool football coaches used to say when someone spiked the ball after a touchdown, “act like you’ve been in the endzone before!”

But I agree that change is the only constant. I have a tiny slice of my portfolio in things like Bitcoin, Momentum funds, leveraged funds, and Ark funds (which compounds the Bitcoin exposure), along with some ESG holdings. (If only I’d followed through on impulse and bought Bitcoin at $1!)

But in the end I’ll probably always huff in displeasure when the designated hitter comes to the plate.

Don Southworth
Don Southworth
2 months ago

There aren’t many things I can agree with Dodgers’ fans on but huffing in displeasure at the DH is one of them. Glad you are dipping your toe in investment change in a smart way.

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