Everyone Starts at 0 and 0
Baseball, as a whole, seems a rather weary exercise right now, even with impending labor strife in the other two major professional sports leagues. From the stodgy business decisions of its management to the avarice and idiocy of local owners to the mostly polished, and therefore dull, players, baseball seems kind of joyless. But baseball continues to inspire chestnuts to spring, nostalgia, and other handy column topics. At least one writer cashed in with a nice riposte. As Joe Mathews intimates, Major League Baseball might be staring at the other side of the bubble, much like the U.S. economy after its tumultuous fall:
Baseball’s Opening Day might be the Christmas of this American myth of renewal. On most Opening Days, fans and announcers speak the shiny optimism that all things are possible, that the pitiful Pittsburgh Pirates and the rich and talented Boston Red Sox have the same record (0-0) and the same chance. But these days Opening Day feels different and less hopeful. Perhaps that’s because the country feels different.
Baseball and America are each stuck, and in similar ways. The game and the country rode high for a long time. They seemed to reach new heights of individual achievement (record home runs, record personal wealth) and economic growth (baseball and Americans had never been richer than they were in 2007). And then the bubbles burst, and we saw that our gains had mostly been illusory.
And at least the start of the season has given a local historian to shed light on the earliest recollections of Los Angeles:
On Aug. 2, 1769, members of the expedition became the first white men to view the site of the future Los Angeles, and Crespi described the occasion:
“After traveling about a league and a half through the pass between low hills, we entered a very spacious valley, well grown with cottonwoods and alders, among which ran a beautiful river from north-northwest, and then, doubling the point of a steep hill [Elysian Park], it went on afterward to the south.
“This plain where the river runs is very extensive. It has good land for planting all kinds of grain and seeds, and is the most suitable site of all we have seen for a mission, for it has all the requisites for a large settlement….
“As soon as we arrived, about eight heathen from a good village [Yang-na] came to visit us; they live in this delightful place among the trees on the river…. They presented us with some baskets of pinole made from seeds of sage and other grasses. Their chief brought some strings of beads made of shells, and they threw us three handfuls of them. Some of the old men were smoking pipes well made of baked clay, and they puffed at us three mouthfuls of smoke. We gave them a little tobacco and some glass beads and they went away pleased.”
Today, not much more is known about the peaceful Yang-nas, except that they spoke in a Shoshone Indian dialect, lived in huts made from the surrounding brush, and their diet included pinon nuts. It’s not such a big leap from pinon nuts and the Yang-nas to peanuts and baseball.
Had O’Malley known of this connection, he surely would have jumped at the chance to rename his team and the stadium in honor of the first Los Angeles residents. Visualize his portly body shaking with laughter at the thought of pitting his Los Angeles Yang-nas against their former bitter New York borough rivals, the Yankees, in a World Series in Yang-na Stadium.