Paul Greenberg

You go into a baseball stadium with a certain childlike anticipation, and you should leave it with a certain mature wisdom. We go to baseball games for the same reason the Greeks went to tragedies. Baseball offers something of the same catharsis, the same sense of elevation after a game well played. The feeling was palpable at this final game at the 74-year-old ballpark.

The 8,307 paid customers -- the third-largest crowd in Ray Winder's history -- were outnumbered by all the ghosts, all the memories of games played here, all the Texas League championships won and mainly lost here.

A. Bartlett Giamatti, baseball commissioner and philosopher but mainly fan, readily understood the game's sense of tragedy, being a Red Sox fan.

To quote his little book on the subject: "It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, you rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then, just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops."

But win or lose, we never stop loving the game. We love it as we love something better than ourselves. We love it because it is whole as we want to be whole, as we want our country to be whole. As with love, there is no rational explanation, not a complete one, anyway, for why we love this game, this essentially pastoral pursuit in a now urban America, this most intellectual of physical sports.

In the end, baseball's appeal must be felt, not demonstrated by some pallid Euclidian proof, and if you can't feel it, then there's something missing, and not in the game.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.