Some people tell me that baseball is showbiz. I laugh at them! Sure, it's true that tickets are bought at box offices and there are ushers to take you to your reserved seats, but at this point, the resemblance ends. Finis, finito, that's it!
Ball players are not actors. No way. Before a Broadway production Lunt and Fontaine spent weeks memorizing lines, moves and expressions. There was a script to be followed. Things were planned out down to the exact wattage of the stage lights. Could you ever imagine that Sal Maglie met Carl Furillo before a game and said, "Look on the 0 and 2 pitch I'm going to stick in your ear."
There is no rehearsal for a ball player. He hones his skills at batting and fielding practice. He works up a sweat. He gets no cues other than those from his memory bank, instincts and his third base coach. It's the pitcher against the batter. No retakes. No ad-libs. Their flubs are permanently recorded for posterity in the daily box scores and on the videos of the evening news.
Ball park audiences run into the tens of thousands of live fans who are quick and non-hesitant to express their feelings about the players. If the fifteen million dollar star is not hitting, he gets booed and jeered by the seatholders. That's the way it was, is and always will be. You will not hear any polite applause after a misplayed grounder. As bad a performance a star gives on the stage, are there ever boos?
From kindergarten on, actors are told that they should be nervous before a stage performance. For what earthly reason? Lines are memorized and rehearsed endlessly. Tape is secured to the stage floor to tell the perfomers just where to stand and prompters are quick to throw out a forgotten line. As a youngster I was taken to see South Pacific so often, I ended up knowing Ezio Pinza's lines nearly as well as he did. There are no surprises for the actor. Just follow the prepared, well planned script.
On the contrary, there is only one thing a batter knows when he is up at bat. It is a good bet the pitcher will throw him a 97MPH fastball, a curve, a slider, a change of pace or a splitter. And mind you, this is in the center of a stadium packed with thousands of screaming meemies who are often of the hostile variety. His decision to swing must be made in something like one hundredth of a second.
Should the batter add to his already burdensome problems by thinking about his picture being received live on millions of television sets? He knows it all right, but he is not a performer. He is a highly skilled athlete. He looks at thousands of whizzing pitches a season, runs the bases and then is expected to don a glove and play the field, all with professional expertise.
The pro baseballer has a difficult chore to perform. He must produce day in and day out or risk his job being taken over by another. That's the way of baseball life. The major leaguer must work his way up through the minor leagues avoiding injuries and always improving on his skills. High profile actors pick and choose from the many scripts offered them. There can be none of this in baseball.
There will never be a private dressing room with a star on the door for any big leaguer. His uniform, except for the number on the back is indistinguishable from that of the kid just up from high school ball. They both sit on the same bench, get to hit against the same opposition and if the rookie should outshine the veteran, their roles are quickly reversed. It's a dog eat dog world in baseball. Tell that to the pampered star in showbiz.