Whatever else may be going on in the world, there are smiles on our faces these days. Spring training is under way, marking the return of baseball, our favorite sport.
From now till October, part of each day will be given over to baseball, whose endless appeal becomes more textured with each season. There is something about the pace and rhythm of the game--an exquisite compilation of pitches, hits, innings, games and seasons--that is unmatched in athletics. We look forward to many afternoons and evenings in coming months watching young and not-so-young men chase a white spot across a green lawn.
Now down to cases: Some people think that the Dodgers, who had a disappointing season last year, have not done enough to improve their chances in the coming campaign. They failed to get Rickey Henderson or Buddy Bell or other top players during the winter, and wound up with Al Oliver and Jay Johnstone, both of whom are 38--by some standards twilight time in a baseball career. But then twilights can be star times. Remember Steve Garvey and Ron Cey, let go by the Dodgers, who competed in the National League playoffs last year in the colors of other teams?
The Angels, who play in the league with the odious designated-hitter rule, don't seem to have many reasons for high hopes, either. Fred Lynn, Don Aase and Bruce Kison are all gone, and their replacements have yet to be found. The combination of insufficient hitting and relief pitching can be fatal. The team's veterans are getting to be very veteran. A weak American League West could save the Angels.
But at this time of year optimism knows no bounds. "Woe to them who misplace the Dodgers this year, because they're going to be surprised," Al Campanis, the Dodgers' vice president, told our Gordon Edes in Vero Beach, Fla., the other day. A year ago, on a similar occasion, Campanis said, "I like this team better than last year's."