As American As Baseball… In Bikinis & Snowshoes, Of Course!
It’s officially Spring!
Even if we still have snow on the ground in many places in the United States, it is “officially” Spring. And with the coming of Spring, two things cannot be far behind… cherry blossoms (especially in Washington DC) and Baseball!
If you’re like many Americans, you’ve likely heard this phrase at some point, “As American as Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Apple Pie”.
General Motors even modified it as their car slogan… “As American as Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet!” with a catchy tune that seems to stay in your brain forever.
“Well — it’s our game; that’s the chief fact in connection with it; America’s game; it has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere; it belongs as much to our institutions; fits into them as significantly as our Constitution’s laws; is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”— Walt Whitman
Things change and now most of our cars, even the so-called American brands are using parts sourced all over the world.
Baseball has been adopted and adapted around the world, and is played at competitive levels by many countries outside the United States, such as South Korea, Japan, Cuba, Colombia, and the Netherlands.
In fact, even when I was in Azerbaijan, we had enough skilled local players to create a sort of international league, and each Saturday, once Spring had come to Baku, you would find us on a field somewhere practicing our bunts, squeeze plays, throwing around the horn, making circus catches look like cans of corn… well, ok not really- we would dive for the balls we should have caught, swing at pitches we thought we should hit but were in fact miles to low.
Interestingly, we did get a chance to play with some of the former Russian National Team players. Fakhri was my favorite, a dead-serious left-handed batter who hit a line drive between first (where I played) and second base like it came out of a grenade launcher! The first time I caught one I thought I had broken my hand! But it was worth it to see the look on his face when he realized “a girl” had put him out. I laughed to myself, as I reached for the ice bucket.
No matter where we go, at home or abroad, in peacetime or at war, one thing never changes: the love of the game.
In fact, one of our long treasured comedic routines is about baseball. You may have heard this before, but who can resist its fun? You’ll even find this in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY as well. Have a listen (again) to the comedic duo of Bud Abbott & Lou Costello doing their (now famous) “Who’s on first?” routine.
Yes despite the popularity of football and other sports, Americans still enjoy baseball, in its many forms: hardball (baseball), softball, mushball, “Over The Line”, and “Snowshoe” Baseball. Uh, yes, you read that right… snowshoes!
Now, for our many international readers who may not have played, or watched, American baseball, here’s a clip to get you started (don’t worry, it’s very short and interesting):
Okay, so everyone is on the same page with baseball, right?
Good, because this, my friend, is what lies ahead for you. American fans, you know us- always quiet and subdued, never showing our feelings… Wait a minute,um, nope, definitely not us… This is one time when Americans get to be loud… crazy loud! And in DC even the stuffy politicians cheer loudly! (This was filmed at a “must win” Washington Nationals game.)
(Thanks to http://www.sportsmancave.com/nationals-live-by-the-long-ball/ for sharing your video)
Now we’re going change it up and take you to some rather “unusual variations” on our national pastime.
“In Wisconsin, there is a fun tradition. For the last 52 years, the small Wisconsin town of Tomahawk, population about 800 people, has attracted thousands of tourists with the help of snowshoe baseball.
Snowshoe baseball is not the most competitive sport ever invented, as the main goal of the game is to bring the community closer and put on a fun spectacle, but it’s always a blast to watch.”
Take a look…
The slogan for the town’s interesting baseball games?
“Snowshoe baseball \snoh-shoo beys-bawl \ n: played in summer, in snowshoes, and yes, it’s as insane as it sounds” ™ (Tomahawk, Wisconsin)
I hope you took the time to watch that one… it was unlike anything I had ever seen- by a long shot!
Okay then, moving west, from “snow to beach”…
Traveling from the eastern US, from Wisconsin and its snowshoe baseball, to an equally unique summer classic out west in California, we come to Mission Beach (San Diego, CA) and the annual “Over The Line Tournament”.
In San Diego where I used to live in the early days, when my (then) husband was in the Navy, we used to go down to Mission Beach and watch something called Over The Line.
It’s a huge event to go to an Over The Line Tournament- though it has become as equally “famous” for its drinking and bikini watching as for actually watching ‘OTL’ as it is locally known, but all in all, the annual OTL tournament has raised many thousands of dollars for local charities. (The bikini videos are on the OMBAC website, they’re a little more than PG-13!)
Whatever floats your boat, as they say in San Diego!
2014 will mark the 60th annual OTL tournament, so crazy or not, it has been around Mission Beach long enough to be deemed an institution by locals and traveling teams alike. The OTL tourney is sponsored and organized by the O.M.B.A.C organization (Old Mission Beach Athletic Club).
For Over The Line, the field is a half diamond- a triangle, basically, with just three players fielding and three opponents batting. The team at bat tosses a ball for the batter (from basically beside the batter) and if it goes “Over The Line” of the triangle it’s a hit. The first three hits equal a run and thereafter, for each additional hit a run is scored.
So OTL is just like baseball except for the field, the teams and that it is played on sand, on the beach? Yes, sort of like 2-man beach volleyball meets baseball…
Of course, what else would you expect from the Beach Capital of America?
If you want to play, you need a few B’s: bring your balls, beers, and babes to a beach near you… oh and a few bats, too.
And, just in case you want to know, boa constrictors are 4th on the list of verboten B’s, by the way! Right after bottles, babies and bowsers.
So now you know why they call it “Over The Line” … just a special brand of California beach baseball.
There are many variations- from east to west and north to south- but one thing they all have in common is camaraderie.
Friendly Americans looking to have fun with others. That’s what we hope we’re exporting as we travel around the world.
It’s what baseball means to us, no matter how we play it.
(Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie ... and showshoes? That may take some getting used to!)