Spring training is under way. In major league baseball every team has high hopes right now. Nice weather in Florida and Arizona. New teammates arrive and old teammates reunite for another run into October’s fading light.
Despite Ryan Howard’s ongoing dust-up with his Achilles tendon injury, the Phillies are again being favored to win their sixth National League East championship. Having three of the game’s best pitchers on staff will get you those sort of accolades.
A couple of things come to mind for this writer every year when spring training arrives. They are tangential to the game of baseball, a game that has always been interpreted through art, i.e., music, movies, photography, etc., but not always successfully. Here are two successes: We’re talking about an old Bruce Springsteen song, “Glory Days” and an even older movie, “It Happens Every Spring.”
The song and the movie address baseball in different ways, of course, but both bring into focus the important role the game plays in our lives. In the song, there is sadness for things past, things not done. In the movie, there is joy for things discovered, things accomplished. In both, there is a loving connection among people brought together by baseball.
“Glory Days” dates to 1984 and Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” album.
“I had a friend was a big baseball player back in high school. He could throw that speedball by you. Make you look like a fool boy” begins the catchy, upbeat tune. The song goes on to tell about a meeting in a bar between Bruce and the “Speedball” pitcher, reportedly an old Babe Ruth League friend of Springsteen’s named Joe DePugh.
“Glory Days well they’ll pass you by” sings Bruce. In the video of the song, Bruce is on a field throwing a baseball against a wooden board. This is a young Bruce Springsteen – a kid. So are his E Street Band members, so fresh-faced as they rock out in a bar. The video brims with nostalgia – on the field a basket filled with baseballs, trophies that signify triumph, Bruce with his baseball glove. It’s all there, and you can enjoy it for the pure intensity of the song, and for the message of friendship the game brings.
Incidentally, a collection of Springsteen memorabilia is currently on view at the National Constitutional Center in Philadelphia. It’s named “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen” and it runs until Sept. 3, www.constitutioncenter.org.
The movie “It Happens Every Spring” was made in 1949, starring Ray Milland as a college professor who happens on a substance that repels wood. Get it? Put this sticky gunk on a baseball and a batter swings furiously trying to hit it. Yes, it’s cheating and it’s so much fun. Vernon Simpson – Milland’s name in the film – joins a major league team and becomes King Kelly, king of the strikeout. Kelly eventually runs out of the magic potion and then …
By the way, the movie is in black and white. Being that 2012 is the Year of B&W for Oscar, it’s a perfect time to give “It Happens Every Spring” a look. While you’re in the mood, give a listen to “Glory Days.”
You’ll be all set to go out in the backyard and have a catch, and after that, work on your fantasy league baseball team.
Ah, spring, time to ponder warm summer nights and baseball on the radio.