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OPINION | PHILIP MARTIN: Endless summer

by Philip Martin | October 3, 2021 at 1:54 a.m.

We've had a few mornings with a cool pre-dawn edge to them. Three times so far I've put on a sweatshirt before trudging out. Some nights we can open the windows. Karen has a blanket handy, but I don't think she's used it yet.

It's beginning to feel like football season. My doctor tells me he remembers you always wore a jacket to the first high school football game of the season back in the '60s. I remember that too; I remember leaves turning in September.

That's anecdotal, but a study published by a group of Chinese scientists earlier this year in the science journal Geophysical Research Letters looked at daily climate data from 1952 to 2011. They concluded that summers had grown from an average of 75 days a year to 95 days.

They found that summer--defined as the "onset of temperatures in the highest 25 percent during that time period"--in the Northern Hemisphere had grown from an average of 75 days a year in 1952 to 95 in 2011 and, by the end of the century, could last about six months.

Over that same period, winter (with temperatures in the coldest 25 percent) shrank from 76 to 73 days over the same period. By the end of the century, the scientists say it could shrink to a single month, which almost sounds nice until you consider how the biosphere is really a delicately balanced Pachinko machine and an across-the-board rise of two or three degrees in global temperatures augurs disaster for children and other living things.

I guess we all voted on that and decided that there wasn't anything to be done about the coming apocalypse except lay back and enjoy splurging on our fossil fuels. Let the devil take tomorrow; the people who are going to be around when the bill comes due mostly aren't born yet. I've got good air conditioning and don't live on the coast, so what have I got to complain about?

Well, for one thing, I really miss the transitional seasons. Early October is supposed to be fireplace and flannel-shirt weather. I associate it with the natural end of baseball season.

And MLB's regular season ends today--though the possibility and maybe likelihood of some tie-breaking games remain. But when I was a kid, this was World Series time.

That was back in simpler times, when the team with the best winning percentage in the National League met the team with the best winning percentage in the American League in the World Series. In 1968, the last year before the leagues were split into divisions and the best-of-five league championship series introduced, the World Series began on Oct. 2. In 1967 it began on Oct. 4. There were a couple of years where the series started in late September.

(In 1918, the entire series was played in September, when MLB cut its regular season short to comply with Woodrow Wilson's "Work or Fight" edict, which required any male of draft age to either enlist in the service or take a job that directly contributed to the war effort.)

Subsequent playoff rounds have pushed the series back to the end of the month, but the mid-October time frame imprinted itself upon me as World Series time. Baseball in November feels wrong, no matter how long Chinese scientists say summer is getting. (Fans of the long ball should appreciate one aspect of global warming trends: hotter and more humid air offers less resistance, allowing baseballs to fly further.)

November baseball started in 2001, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks paused MLB for a week, necessitating pushing back the series. Game Four of that series, between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks, started on Halloween but bled into the early morning of Nov. 1. Four minutes into the new month, Derek Jeter hit a pitch from the Arizona Diamondbacks' Byung-Hyun Kim over the right field wall in Yankee Stadium for a walk-off 10th inning home run.

They started calling Jeter "Mr. November."

There were three more World Series games played in November that year, but there wouldn't be another November World Series game until 2009, when there were three played in the 11th month. Game Five of the 2010 and 2015 series were played on Nov. 1; Games Six and Seven of the 2016 series fell in the month.

The World Series hasn't lapped over into November since 2017, but that could change this year if the series runs more than five games. If needed, Game Six is scheduled for Nov. 2, with Game Seven the following day.

Maybe I can intellectually understand why the long season has become so much longer than it was when it was imprinted upon me; business demands growth and the addition of playoff series adds revenues. My mild feelings of dislocation don't matter. I didn't feel bad for fans who were nostalgic for the 154-game season (and who imposed that silly asterisk on Roger Maris' 61 home runs) but now I understand their point: Look what they've done to my game, Ma.

I still haven't reconciled myself to the designated hitter or to inter-league play, and think that it's a shame when the team with the best overall record in the league fails to represent its league in the World Series. (Particularly if that team is the San Francisco Giants.)

Baseball is too accretive, too dull and slow and attentive to what we grandly perceive as history to appeal to some tastes. More people are suited to football rhythms, where each weekly game represents a greater part of the season and therefore carries more significance.

One is not better than the other.

Sports are a way to generate drama, to produce conflict for the purposes of entertaining people who have arrived at a level of comfort that allows them time to seek recreation. It is precisely because sports mean so little that we are given to investing so much in them.

A lot of people are only starting to watch baseball now that the playoffs are imminent and the stakes are raised. I invest less in the game than I used to, in part because my life is too complicated to allow me to follow the game as it should be followed, day-by-day if not pitch-by-pitch over a season that, like summer itself, seems to keep expanding.

pmartin@adgnewsroom.com

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www.blooddirtangels.com

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