We lose sight of it sometimes as we strain to look over the outer fences, but home is the heart of baseball. When the Reds moved out of Crosely Field and into Riverfront Stadium, despite the haste to enter into the shiny new stadium, the team didn’t merely move Tony Perez’s shoes from one locker room to another. There was a ceremony, and a great whirring helicopter, and home plate was ritually moved from one residence to the other.

There’s precious little of this when mere mortals change addresses. Doors barge open, furniture is shoved inside, and everyone wanders around looking for the garage door opener, which is in the microwave, which is on top of the couch.

This is all part of the depersonalization inherent in the moving process; you don’t know where any of your stuff is, so your life is chaos. You can’t get anything done. A shower involves a 20-minute rummage through storage containers. Throwing together a casserole would involve a major architectural expedition and narration from a British actor. And all this is happening in your home.

Home in baseball is a blank spot, for all its importance, and the owner of it changes nine times a game. The verging Hall of Famer shares it with the rookie who will never visit here again after this at-bat. The vacant space leaves room for the authorship of history, whether in Game 7 of the World Series or a sparsely attended August afternoon grind. The umpire brushes away the evidence of the past, and we move on.

As Josh the Pilot and I prepare our house for market, we eliminate all signs of ourselves there, box by box; the scuff marks and holes in the wall and any sign of building or tearing down are wiped out. It is total self-annihilation, and it’s exhausting. This week I fell asleep on the space on the carpet where the couch once rested, my head cushioned by what was left of the bubble wrap.

The point of this is so that potential buyers can see themselves living there. The point is no longer a middle-age writer and her imported husband. We’re out; you’re up.

In the same way, when we first pushed open the door to tour our apartment, there was little sign of the previous tenant. What I have learned is that she owned a white dish towel which she rarely used, given its abandoned location deep on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet and that she had dark hair. (I know, too, that she did a crap job of move-out cleaning.) Still, she’s out; we’re up.

Our realtor suggested that we pour bleach down various drains to produce the impression that the place has been thoroughly cleaned. Instead, it smells like somebody who watches “Dateline” is doing a bang-up job of cleaning up a crime scene. That’s fitting; our DNA has been washed away from the last place we nested.

The embedded genetic code of the nearest sports team is a social shortcut to hometowns, which is why when I went to see Brooks and Dunn in college, they appeared on stage wearing Notre Dame jerseys and cowboy hats, but it’s dangerously easy to get this sort of thing wrong, and then people make fun of you on the internet. That is why, as I sat in a restaurant this week (the measuring cups are… somewhere), and glanced up at coverage of the Home Run Derby, the camera was fixing on crowd members wearing a cacophony of jerseys. You’ve left home. You need to let everyone else know about it.

So the point of baseball isn’t just, as George Carlin pointed out, to go home and be safe. It’s the perilous, weaving, fantastic lifelong journey we remember.

18 Responses

  1. Scott C

    I understand the moving part, through 69 years of life I have lived in 25 different homes not including dorm rooms, some of those were only temporary residences for 2 to six months while in the process of moving, you take those out and we are still at 20. Take out the one I don’t remember because I was under two years of age and we have 19. Moving is hard, the hardest one was probably leaving the home we built in Virginia, also the longest we lived anywhere. But even with all the temporariness of places I rested my head at night there have always been constants. As a child it was my parents and siblings. As and adult it has been my wife and children (until they left home, but it has also been sports, Cincinnati Reds baseball and UNC basketball. Living in NC in the 80’s I would sometimes sit in the drive way to listen to WLW and the game, it brought a sense of home to me. Now I can watch games on MLB.com and I can watch UNC basketball when its not on national TV through the ACC network. Isn’t technology grand. But as the old saying goes, “Home is where the heart is.”

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      We’ve moved so much you’d think we’d be experts… but every time there’s panic packing at the last second and constant extra trips. Maybe eventually we’ll figure it out…

      • Scott C

        I don’t know, I’m not sure we’ve figured it out yet and we are much older.

  2. Rednat

    it is funny I had some good times at old crosley field with my dad.
    i have had fun with friends and family at gabp.
    but nothing compares to the experiences i had at riverfront. that truly is the ‘HOME’ of the reds in my opinion.
    5 world series
    Rose Breaks Cobb hit record
    Tom Browning perfect game.

    I still don’t understand why we had to blow it up!

    • David

      Sometimes we have to blow up our homes to save them! And…that is just total nonsense from me.
      Once again, a very sweet and funny essay from Mary Beth.

      And sometimes, we all feel very far from home. Especially when I think of this phrase…..” and this is the old left hander, rounding third and heading for home. Goodnight, everyone.”

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        Many thanks 🙂 Yep, home is wherever you could pull in Marty and Joe!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      If you saw the ladies’ rooms, you’d understand why.

  3. Cyrus

    Mary Beth is such a gifted writer. It’s like each word is an ingredient in one of those casseroles that has been carefully selected and measured to insure nothing is wasted. It’s why her entries on this site go down so easy and leave you satisfied but wishing it was Thanksgiving and, therefore, okay to have seconds…or thirds…or…

  4. Daytonnati

    The best exploitation of home town bias I ever saw was at Riverfront Coliseum in the mid-80s. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band appeared for two sold-out shows. Clarence Clemens, aka “The Big Man”, and legendary sax player, was wearing an all-white Miami Vice-like suit. After a few songs, he casually unbuttoned his suit jacket and removed it revealing a home white Reds jersey. The place go nuts, then he casually turns around to reveal it is “Rose 14”, taking the noise level even higher.

    Paul McCartney appeared at GABP a few years ago for an outdoor show wearing a red blazer and specifically mentioned “home of the Reds” to a great reaction.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Wow, even Springsteen and Paul McCartney stooping to the home team mention!

      You know who pretty much never does this, despite being part owner of a baseball team? Jimmy Buffett. I guess he figures he’s covered by writing us into a song or two.

  5. Mark Moore

    Crazy week for me, so I’m late commenting, but great article as always.

    Unlike my wife and daughters, I don’t really have a “hometown”. I’m a native of Upstate NY so I have roots there, but the place where I lived the longest really isn’t my hometown (though it is for both of my daughters, or at least where they were born).

    Home is, as someone once said, the place where when you show up they have to let you in. It’s variable for most of us, yet it also provides a place to feel more grounded. At least that’s how I see it.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I think that’s a great way to put it. I’m a rare Cincinnatian in that I feel divided in where I’d like to live since I’ve had time in other places, but yep, this is will always be the place of origin for me, and there’s something special about that.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Greatly appreciate the kind words 🙂