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Batter Up!

Baseball is not successful in the United States because we have the Major Leagues. The Major Leagues are successful because we have baseball. Baseball is not merely a specialized discipline or an abstract intellectual concept. It is an integral thread in the cultural fabric of this land, just as soccer (the European football) is in many other countries. We are born into a society in which our sports play a daily and palpable part. Our parents and peers talk about them and, on whatever level they can, participate in them. The newspapers are perused by many for pictures and details of sporting events which the 11 o'clock TV news might have missed. Millions of advertising dollars are spent each year on prime time television assaults on spectator sportsmen. And throughout our formative years (and often well into our adulthood), we ourselves spend hours of our lives throwing or catching or pitching or batting or kicking or stroking or performing whatever mechanics are involved in the sport of our choice.

Is it not precisely because we have ourselves, in fantasy and deed, performed acts of valor and skill, engaged (successfully) in our own mini-skirmishes, that we so idolize our superstars? Is it not because we have, in effect, fought the same fight, that we have learned to recognize superior ability in athletes? Haven't the Babes, Mickeys, and Reggies always depended on our passions and enthusiasms, our total and unreserved loyalty which comes only of our own involvements?

Don't the major leaguers require both our informed judgment and our emotional responsiveness for their very existence?

What, you may ask, is a sports commentary doing in a music journal? The answer lies in the analogy.

Only a tiny percentage of our public responds today with equal vigor and qualification to the work of art, the new composition, the stunning performance, as does the larger public to the great play, the peppery personality, and — most of all-the sport itself. Of all the fine arts, music most patently permits a remarkable gamut of participation, individual and group, from the virtual outset of exposure. How expert, after all, does one have to be to play a simple recorder duo or sing in a glee club? In those countries in which music-making — not only music — listening is a required component in the curriculum, involvement in the musical experience is a lifelong pursuit, not summarily terminated at graduation from school. Thus, young children grow into homes where music is made. It becomes an integral staple in the cultural diet.

Do we in America wish to give impetus to our many musics? Do we wish to encourage the amateur and strengthen the bonds between him and the professional? Do we prize the unique enthusiasm which comes only from personal and direct participation, and would we like to live among more true lovers of music?

Batter up!

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