A Friday In May

Friday, May 13, 2011 at 08:21PM

At the moment, the ball game is on the radio. The volume is set at just the right level that I can hear the crowd noises and I have to stop and concentrate to get any details of the game. I was thinking about baseball today when I was out and around the city. It was the strangest thing that made me think about baseball, too. Everywhere I went today I saw people stop what they were doing and play with their cell phones, texting or calling. They would bend over their hand held device and stare intently at the tiny screen. What made me think of baseball was this very old photo I had seen in a book I own.

The book is a catalogue from an auction of baseball memorabilia collected by a man called Barry Halpern, who was a minority owner of the New York Yankees. This catalogue is massive. It was the largest auction ever held by Sotheby's, with over 2500 lots to be up for bid and it took a few days to carry out. One of the hundreds of photos that were up for auction was one showing a crowd of people on a downtown street in 1919 Chicago. Thousands of people were staring up at the side of a building. What held their attention was what was called a Player Board. These display boards showed a ball diamond and the score board of a particular baseball game, in this case, the World Series. The players names for both teams were on either side of the diamond and there was an area that showed each pitch and the count of the batter. This was before the advent of radio and  was the only way to get up to the minute results. When I first saw this photo, I wondered if the crowd was silent or was there a lot of chatter and cheering.  It reminded me of a crowded bar I was in when the Blue Jays won their first World Series. What a great night that was! An incredible feeling of community and togetherness.

When I see people so involved with their cellphones, always connected, always needing to be plugged in, I wonder if we are more solitary in that connectedness. We don't really have to get together to find out what is news. We are our own individual broadcasting networks, with Facebook and Twitter. We can reach more people, more friends and family, faster than we could ever have imagined 25 years ago, yet more and more, we do it in a solitary way.

Kevin Roach