A baseball season takes 162 games and six months to complete. The game becomes a part of your life, and when it is gone you can’t help but miss it. Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione recognizes this at the end of every season by reading a part of A. Bartlett Giamatti’s essay Green Fields of the Mind to conclude the season. Whether the season ends in last place or with a World Series victory, Castiglione, like his predecessor Ken Coleman before him, recites the somber words starting with “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.”
Dr. A. Barlett Giamatti was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in South Hadley where his father was a professor at Mount Holyoke College. Giamatti followed in his father’s footsteps and attended Yale, where he received his PhD in 1964. He became a professor of English Renaissance Literature at Yale, and later became the youngest person in history to become President of the institution.
Despite being a brilliant academic, his greatest love was baseball. He grew up a Red Sox fan, and stayed one until his death in 1989. When rumors swirled of his candidacy for the Yale Presidency, he famously said that the only thing he wanted to be president of was the American League. He did become president of the National League in 1986, and Commissioner of Baseball in 1989. As president he was seen as fair and firm; he called for stricter enforcement of the balk rule in the NL, worked to improve the fan experience, and worked to improve minority hiring in baseball. As Commissioner, he is most famous for banning Pete Rose from baseball for his involvement in betting on the game. The banishment occurred just eight days before Giamatti’s death.
The essay Green Fields of the Mind was first published in the Yale Alumni Magazine in 1977. The story is about a game between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles where the Sox had the opportunity to make the playoffs by beating Baltimore, and with that, extend the season and the summer. Giamatti laments that when the Red Sox lost, baseball ends and we also lose summertime and the feeling that goes with it. He says “You count on it, 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.”
According to the Yale Alumni Magazine, the essay was not published when it was first submitted. “(Giamatti) was secretary for his college class, and one afternoon when ‘I had absolutely nothing to say about my classmates,’ he wrote ‘Green Fields’ instead, and submitted it as class notes. The piece was, in his words, ‘properly and immediately’ rejected as unsuitable for the class notes section. But two months later, when he became president of Yale, it was resurrected for use in the magazine’s op-ed section.”
In addition to lamenting the loss of summer and baseball, it also celebrates listening to the broadcast of the game on the radio. “The real activity was done with the radio–not the all-seeing, all-falsifying television–and was the playing of the game in the only place it will last, the enclosed green field of the mind. There, in that warm, bright place, what the old poet called Mutability does not so quickly come.” This makes Castiglione’s reading even more appropriate.
Giamatti never got to see the Red Sox finally breakthrough and win a World Series in 2004. Even with the recent World Series championships, the feeling you get as the baseball season ends, however it ends, feels exactly as Giamatti put it in Green Fields of the Mind. The only thing that makes the season ending feel any better is hearing Castiglione share those words, and knowing that you are not alone in your disappointment.
You can read the complete essay here.
Ron Chimelis, “Bart Giamatti’s baseball legacy was brief but memorable,” MassLive, January 23, 2018, https://www.masslive.com/sports/2018/01/bart_giamattis_baseball_legacy.html
Mark Alden Branch, “The Story of ‘Green Fields of the Mind’,” Yale Alumni Magazine, September/October 2012, https://yalealumnimagazine.com/articles/3549-the-story-of-green-fields-of-the-mind
“A. Bartlett Giamatti: Seventh Commissioner of Baseball,” MLB.com, https://www.mlb.com/official-information/commissioners/giamatti