It's always easy for me to tell when January is nearing an end. I don't even need to look at a calendar.
I start to get the fever -- baseball fever.
Just the other day I saw that one of the Major League Baseball teams opens spring training Feb. 11. Do you realize how close we are to that date? Be still, my beating heart.
Sure, I love football, basketball, auto racing and just about any other sport you might quiz me about. But baseball? For some reason, that always sport been special.
I loved baseball before girls.
Some of my fondest memories growing up were hitting wiffleball home runs and pretending I was Vic Davalillo, Max Alvis, Leon Wagner or any number of the other Cleveland Indians of my youth.
And I still cherish my baseball card collection.
When most kids my age in first and second grade were reading comic strips, I was devouring box scores.
When most of my buddies were watching cartoons, I was tuned in to the game of the week.
I reminisce like this every year at this time, and even more so when I come across some of my favorite baseball-related quotes. Such as:
º "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." -- Rogers Hornsby.
I always sympathized with the Rajah.
º "A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings." -- Earl Wilson.
There is no drama better than a baseball game.
º "I see great things in baseball. It's our game -- the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us." -- Walt Whitman.
A little wordy, but so-o-o-o-o true.
º "The charm of baseball is that, dull as it may be on the field, it is endlessly fascinating as a rehash." -- the late, great former baseball columnist Jim Murray.
There's a lot of truth to Murray's account. I still remember a foul ball my dad dropped in 1961 during the second game of an Indians-Twins doubleheader.
º "If a horse can't eat it, I don't want to play on it." -- Dick Allen.
Arguably my all-time favorite player, Richie "Call me Dick" Allen and I have always felt the same about artificial turf.
And my favorite quote related to the greatest game will always be:
"You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four," 1970.
To this day, I know exactly how Jim Bouton felt.