Tommy Lasorda, former manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and one of baseball's all-time great ambassadors, once was asked about his love for the game.
"There are only two seasons: winter and baseball," Lasorda said.
Those words always have stuck with me. I have loved baseball since my early days in grade school. Growing up in north-central Ohio, there were many years my mom would allow me to stay home from school on Opening Day to watch the Cleveland Indians' first game of the season.
There are so many things that always have drawn me to the game. The pace of the game is perfect, its statistics are a number lover's dream come true, and the in-stadium pleasure of watching a Major League Baseball game is unmatched by any other sport.
Exhibition games begin this week at spring training camps in Florida and Arizona, and all seems right with the world. This also is a good week to review some of the finest thoughts concerning the greatest game. Here are a few of the notes, quotes and anecdotes that I feel capture baseball at its best:
º "There are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary. And there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance." -- actress Susan Sarandon, playing the role of baseball groupie Annie Savoy in the movie "Bull Durham."
That movie, plus "Field of Dreams," should be required viewing for all baseball fans each and every spring.
º "Bob Gibson is the luckiest pitcher I ever saw. He always pitches when the other team doesn't score any runs. -- Tim McCarver.
Was there ever any doubt McCarver was destined to be one of the top baseball analysts of his generation?
º "I gave Mike Cuellar more chances than my first wife." -- Earl Weaver, former manager of the Baltimore Orioles.
º "If a horse can't eat it, I don't wanna play on it." -- Dick Allen.
The always-controversial Dick Allen is my all-time favorite player, and that is one of my all-time favorite lines, captured during the early days of artificial turf, which at the time was akin to playing on concrete.
º "There have been only two authentic geniuses in the world, Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare." -- actress Tallulah Bankhead.
She had a point.
º "You see, you spend a good part of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out it was the other way around all the time." -- former pitcher Jim Bouton, who authored the groundbreaking book "Ball Four."
Another excellent point.
º "If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there is a man on base." -- columnist Dave Barry.
Or who was on deck.
º "A hot dog at the game beats roast beef at the Ritz." -- the late, great actor Humphrey Bogart.
Truer words were never spoken.
º "The baseball mania has run its course. It has no future as a professional endeavor," -- Cincinnati Gazette editorial, 1879.
Obviously, that writer was not a baseball fan.