Time appears to us linearly, each moment weighted equally. One second passes the same as the next, the same as the one before it. A tree, perhaps, experiences the inexorable current of moments that sweep by us at once toward the past and the future in this way: not a one different from another, none so distinct as to feel longer or shorter than it is. Humans, on the other hand, are not bound so strictly to temporality. We are capable, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) proposes in his seminal autobiography, Confessions, of transcending this linear experience by virtue of our participation in the divine.
Indeed, for those who bear weight of consciousness, time thickens and thins, expands and contracts. Two periods identical in duration may be experienced as if the one were a year and the other an hour. How else can one explain the way tonight’s game seemed to span from April to October, from 2001 to 2022? In a single game, the full drama of a season, the unbearable weight of anxious generations, the intolerable tension of any given pitch.
At one point, toward the end of the night, Aaron Goldsmith quipped, “try explaining this game to someone”. Some of us, Aaron, have no choice but to do so. I’m as lost for words now as he was then. In scanning the box score I find myself recalling Matt Brash’s start, JP Crawford’s home run, the balk (???) as if they were relics of an era that has passed me by. So set the box score aside, you’ll find no use for it here.
Near the end of Confessions, Augustine departs from his autobiography to offer something of a meta-commentary on our perception of time in the light of eternity. He proposes a three-fold structure of the present (more insightful and complex than I can capture here): the present looking back (which he calls memory), the present conscious of its own presentness (contemplation), and the present looking forward (expectation). We draw on each of these at all times, of course, almost constantly aware of our vantage at the precipitous, razor-thin line between now and then. How tenuous our position!
There are moments, however, where we perceive that beautiful, awful all-at-once-ness of our present. This experience is often deemed as (or at least described as part-and-parcel with), transcendence. Tonight’s game, which occurred, by our reckoning inside of time, from 6:10 to 10:16 PDT on Saturday, April 23, 2022 AD, a span of 4 hours and 6 minutes, extended in all directions toward eternity: in the strictest sense of the term this game was transcendent, at once recalling, contemplating, and expecting.
Orthodox Christian theologian David Bentley Hart proposes in his essay “A Perfect Game” that baseball has an essentially Platonist structure, drawing on eternity in every aspect of its play. “Home plate,” he suggests, “is an open corner on the universe,” a vantage from which we look out toward eternity. He goes on to claim that “the limits we place on the game’s endless vistas are merely the accommodation we strike between infinite possibility and finite actuality.” Augustine’s analysis of time is precisely this: an accommodation between infinity and finitude, eternity and temporality.
So, indeed, was this game.
What Hart deems the “intolerable” tensions of baseball are just that: moments thickened to such extremes that it feels as if the whole charade could burst, as though one could be made to plummet into eternity by virtue of too great a significance. No one ever said transcendence was comfortable.
What ended a blowout in October began in April, around 6:10pm, as something like a normal game of baseball, with all the hope in the world: two starters, even a collection of fielders not obviously elect or reprobate. In a frenzy ordered by some principle beyond my understanding, there unfolded a sequence in which the Royals gained a brief lead, perhaps a couple of weeks, before caving to the immeasurable power of J.P. Crawford. Crawford’s might was augmented and extended by his teammates for around two months, until (by his own fault, some would say), the wheels came off the damn thing. It appeared as though the M’s might keep a stride ahead of the Royals when Suárez brought home France, but a combination of Santana, Perez, Olivares, and Dozier cobbled together a lead for Kansas City, in this case a stand-in for the entire weight of the universe against Seattle.
Hope had been defeated. It was late August, without warning, and every dream of summer and glory was lost at once in the deafening silence of the crowd. That it was only April 23rd became a mere fact of life, a shadow of the real Being of the game which had become season.
Just as suddenly, however, Ty France roused his sleepers from their graves, scoring Julio only on account of the latter’s speed.
Inject Julio’s reaction into my veins asap pic.twitter.com/GGWa1Tp1H0— Kendall (@_kendallrjones_) April 24, 2022
Now, with the game begun anew in a sense, came the intolerable and inexorable tension between actuality and possibility. As baseball so often tends towards, the role of hero went next not to a hero of might, but of patience. Royals pitcher Jake Brentz issued four consecutive walks, resulting in the scoring of the only run needed to win the game. None of these walks required more than a modicum of plate discipline to be accepted by the batters, until the only one that mattered.
All baseball fans are aware, if unconsciously, that every moment in a game is pregnant with possibility: each pause contains limitless potential energy. In the set before a pitch, at once, the baseball imagination calls to mind all past outcomes, anticipates all futures, and contemplates the present circumstance in the full reality of its being.
Watching Julio take pitch after pitch, including ones that not a night earlier might have been called strikes, I was suddenly aware with a figurative sobriety that this game was in the process of etching itself permanently onto the minds of tens of thousands. From its beginnings in April, the game had extended itself (in the Augustinian sense) towards both the specific and eternal October, out in all directions from a single point to the past and present and the reality beyond time where lies all hope. In hearing Winker’s bat cave to a ball thereafter redirected for a double I could sense the rumblings of creation within and without me. In realizing with mouth agape that France really did eke one out of the park for his fifth hit of the game, I grasped for a moment the fullness of time, the circle and the current, rushing around and before and behind me.
Before the bat flip, Julio Rodríguez looked back to make sure he'd drawn ball four:— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) April 24, 2022
"I knew it was a ball, but I was like, 'Man, if you call that right now, we're going to have some words.' I feel like that would've been the time where you would see me get fired up." pic.twitter.com/krn6QXHKgx
My apologies to all who missed the game: you cannot get it back. The hour is past, its transcendence confined to the memory of those who witnessed it. I wish it weren’t so, I wish with all my heart that I could take you, reader, back to the moment in which exclaiming “finally, finally, finally” at an RBI double felt like the collective exorcism of demons weeks or decades in the making, depending on how you look at it. I cannot on this side of eternity. You’ll just have to take my word for it.