The game of baseball is played between two opposing teams of nine players each. The fielding team tries to prevent the batting team from scoring by getting them “out” at each of three bases. The game is won by the first team to score a fixed number of runs, normally after nine innings have been played. If the scores are tied after that, an extra inning is played and so on until there is a winner.
The basic contest is between the pitcher for the fielding team and the batter, who stands in one of two batter’s boxes facing home plate, where the umpire stands. The pitcher pitches the ball towards home plate, where the catcher for the fielding team waits in a crouched position to receive it. The batter then attempts to hit the ball with his or her bat. If the bat hits the ball, it is a hit; if the bat misses the ball, it is a foul. Each time the batter successfully hits the ball, the batting team is awarded one run. The game ends when the fielding team gets all of the hitters “out”, or when the batter becomes a runner after reaching one of three bases. The runners must then legally advance around the bases in order, touching each one before moving on to the next.
During World War II, more than 500 major league baseball players – including 37 Hall of Fame inductees – served in the armed forces, often sacrificing their prime years. That fact, combined with the nationalistic sentiment of the era, helped to make baseball ‘America’s game.’
As a sport, baseball has always been prone to wild excesses: sharpened spikes to intimidate and injure defensive players, illegal “spitballs,” loaded bats and the use of performance-enhancing drugs are only some of the many controversies that have rocked the game in its long history. At the same time, the game has a unique ability to transcend adversity, as evidenced by the fact that no team ever quits a 162-game season after starting it with an awful record.
The art of writing about baseball involves getting to the essence of what makes this game so special. That means avoiding cliches and jargon, particularly when describing plays on the field. Instead of writing that a player had a “great at-bat,” write that the batter made an ‘incredible’ swing on the last pitch and drove in two runs. Similarly, instead of writing that a fielder “gunned down” a runner on third base, say that the fielder made a’stunning throw from right field to third base.” Precision is the key to capturing a reader’s attention in any kind of sports reporting, and baseball is no exception.