Baseball strikes out on politics

  • Saturday, April 17, 2021 1:30am
  • Opinion

You can’t escape politics anywhere now – not even in America’s once great pastime, baseball.

A “pastime,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “something that amuses and serves to make time pass agreeably.”

Boy, did the Pittsburgh Pirates accomplish that for me most of my early life.

Pirates radio broadcasts on KDKA were background music throughout Western Pennsylvania when I grew up in the ’70s and baseball was weaved happily and deeply into the fabric our young lives.

In the summer I heard the voice of Pirates play-by-play man Bob Prince echoing from half a dozen porch radios in my neighborhood.

I loved hearing my dad and Uncle Mike talk about the Pirates improbable World Series victory over the Yankees in 1960.

I remember the warm, sunny autumn of 1971, when I spent hours listening to a small transistor radio as the Pirates won the World Series again.

Though the Pirates have been underwhelming in recent decades, my high school friends – all of us sharing a happy connection to baseball – have made it a point each year to enjoy a reunion or two at PNC Park.

A hot dog, an ice-cold beer and the camaraderie of life-long friends always offered a welcome respite to the stresses and strains of our daily, middle-aged lives.

But such an escape is no longer possible because of people who insist on injecting their political demands into every moment of our waking lives – including baseball.

In a healthy representative republic in which hardball politics is played by both major parties, it’s essential for both winners and losers of elections to accept the final results as legitimate.

Unfortunately, as we all know, that didn’t happen the past two presidential elections – particularly the Trump-Biden race in which most states relaxed their voting rules in response to COVID-19 health concerns.

The point is that the integrity of the vote is essential to a well-functioning republic. Regardless if your candidate wins or loses, it is essential we all trust that the election tally is accurate.

To that end, many Republican-controlled states like Georgia are revisiting their post-COVID election laws. Its new voting integrity rules, written and passed by a Republican legislature, now require mail-in ballots to be validated by an I.D.

Though it’s a measure Americans overwhelmingly agree with and support, requiring a voter to show I.D. has become a major controversy in our highly-divided and increasingly uncivil political discourse.

Some Democrat opponents of Georgia’s new voting rules, including President Biden, have argued that the changes were an effort by Republicans to suppress black votes and return to the days of Jim Crow.

Some, including the president, went so far as to mischaracterize some of the changes, according to The Washington Post.

The partisan debate over Georgia’s new voting laws quickly shifted outside of the sphere of politics when Major League Baseball decided to pick sides.

MLB decided to punish the state of Georgia by moving this year’s scheduled All-Star Game from Atlanta to another state, which has set off a bunch of new nasty political arguments.

Baseball was once a welcome escape – an oasis from the rough and tumble of politics. But no more.

The deadly virus of partisan politics – which seems to have infected our every waking moment – has made it nearly impossible “to be amused and pass one’s time agreeably” even at a baseball game.

We can describe our once great pastime by borrowing a saying from my boyhood play-by-play man Bob Prince:

“You can kiss it goodbye!”

Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. Send comments to

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