Many secular philosophers have knowledge yet lack wisdom. Through God’s common grace, though, they can sometimes make breakthroughs in key areas, and a letter the American philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002) wrote in 1981 provides an example of that. The subject, of course, is baseball, and as a new season begins we can use this reminder from Rawls (and the person who instructed him about baseball, University of Chicago professor Harry Kalven) as to why baseball is “the best of all games”:
- “First: the rules of the game are in equilibrium.” The distance from home to first, for example, is just right to make many plays close and double plays possible—and that distance has stayed the same since the 19th century.
- “Second: the game does not give unusual preference or advantage to special physical types, e.g., to tall men as in basketball. All sorts of abilities can find a place somewhere. …”
- “Third: the game uses all parts of the body: the arms to throw, the legs to run, and to swing the bat, etc.; per contra soccer where you can’t touch the ball. It calls upon speed, accuracy of throw, gifts of sight for batting, shrewdness for pitchers and catchers, etc. …”
- “Fourth: all plays of the game are open to view: the spectators and the players can see what is going on. Per contra football where it is hard to know what is happening in the battlefront along the line. …”
- “Fifth: baseball is the only game where scoring is not done with the ball, and this has the remarkable effect of concentrating the excitement of plays at different points of the field at the same time. Will the runner cross the plate before the fielder gets to the ball and throws it to home plate, and so on.”
- “Finally, there is the factor of time, the use of which is a central part of any game. Baseball shares with tennis the idea that time never runs out, as it does in basketball and football and soccer. This means that there is always time for the losing side to make a comeback. The last of the ninth inning becomes one of the most potentially exciting parts of the game.”
I’d add some others. Baseball is almost always played outside, on real grass. Everyone in the lineup gets an equal chance to hit, unlike in basketball, where one player can take shot after shot. Except for the pitcher and the designated hitter (in the American League) everyone has to play offense and defense, so teams cannot just have a lineup of behemoth sluggers.
There’s more, but that’s enough for one list.