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A terrible thing has been happening in the universe of major league baseball. Unshakable laws have been shaken; brutal forces have smashed a system that was long in harmony.
'Tis all in
pieces, all coherence gone,
So John Donne wrote on learning of Galileo's discoveries, which confirmed that the earth was not the center of the universe and thereby upset an order that man had always believed in. I can't pretend that the recent convulsion in baseball is as great, but I think I know how Donne and his contemporaries felt. Almost overnight millions of baseball fans have been overwhelmed with anxiety. It is true that whenever somebody in the past tampered with the major leagues we felt the world tremble, but it always quieted down again. Now we know it never will.
I remember that the first time I felt grave doubts as to the immutability of nature's laws was in 1953 when the Boston Braves were plucked bodily out of Boston and installed in an alien city. This event altered an order that had existed since 1903, and it gave me an uneasy feeling that my secure world was beginning to crack. I recovered, but then teams that had been fixed for more than half a century in St. Louis and Philadelphia shot out of their orbits and landed in Baltimore and Kansas City. Now surely the cosmos was splitting, and I suffered spells of edginess and depression.
Nothing abnormal happened for a while after that, and I soothed myself with the thought that the worst was over. But in 1958, quite suddenly, two teams from my native New York trekked across the western deserts and over the Rockies to camp in far California. This was a cataclysm too severe to grasp. My universe shook with unholy tremors.
I was not prepared, however, for things to become as deranged as they have in the past few months. I am told that in my tormented sleep I now cry out words like " Houston," " Minneapolis," " Chavez Ravine" and "Joe Cronin," and in my nightmares I see hordes of baseball players hurtling through the skies over America, bound for destinations that they never quite reach.
For the worst is not over. Greedy hands are juggling teams from town to town without a twinge of compassion. They create whole new clubs and graft them hurriedly onto our cosmos, marring its ancient rhythm. They bicker and talk of money, leaving no doubt that they will continue to exploit our world until it, and all who love it, are destroyed.
Those of us who did love it are beyond mere melancholy and malaise. We tremble with fury and ache with despair, and our friends and relatives fear for our health. It is for their sake that I attempt here to explain.
My own addiction began in 1931, when I was 9. I noticed immediately that the two major leagues were not ordinary institutions, mortal and fallible. There was about them a mathematical precision. They operated within a system as delicately balanced as the movement of planets, and I assumed they were inviolate.
The cornerstone of the system was the structure of the National and American leagues, the "elder loop" and the "inner circuit." (Fixed clich�s were an integral part of this fixed universe.) How the 11 cities that among them boasted of 16 clubs originally won their place in baseball's aristocracy above the hundreds of teams in that abysmal realm called "the minors" I never knew or even asked. Some divine right had put them there, and that was that.