11/23/12 3:15 PM ET
Why we are grateful for Major League Baseball
Sport has given the world legendary parks, legendary players, legendary voices
By Terence Moore / MLB.com
Glad you asked.
Let's start with Wrigley Field, which is baseball's greatest ballpark east of AT&T Park in San Francisco. Not even a collection of the best fiction writers could have devised a place as grand as the one on the corner of Addison and Clark Streets on Chicago's North Side.
The ivy walls. The seats on the rooftops of nearby buildings for a perfect view of the field. The ancient scoreboard that dominates the bleachers beyond center field. The atmosphere throughout Wrigleyville that gives you a timeless sensation.
I say Wrigley, but others would say Fenway.
No worries. Fenway also works. In fact, when it comes to blessings and baseballs, you can't do much better than that cozy place, which produced the Splendid Splinter, Yaz, Big Papi and a couple of other nicknames for the ages, such as Green Monster and Pesky's Pole.
Speaking of "no worries," there will be no work stoppages in baseball in the near future. The owners and the players are operating under a current agreement that guarantees at least 21 consecutive years of labor peace through December 2016.
So the world is thankful. It also should be thankful that Major League Baseball is more popular than ever, and not just because Commissioner Bud Selig has said as much for a while.
Baseball's television money says so.
In August, ESPN reportedly upped its payments to baseball, from $360 million to $700 million per year, in a new deal that runs eight seasons. Soon after that, baseball agreed to an eight-year deal with FOX and Turner that reportedly doubled the annual payments of those networks to $800 million annually.
More cash in the game helps baseball do what it has done well in recent years, which continues to be the undisputed leader in parity among professional sports leagues. Since 2005, the lower-revenue Chicago White Sox have captured a World Series, and the Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros have appeared in one each.
Despite it all, the world is thankful that parity hasn't dimmed the historically bright glow around the New York Yankees. Love them or hate them, you can't ignore them -- huge crowds (more money) whenever and wherever they play, and staggering television ratings for their games, which helps everybody.
The Yankees trigger another thought: baseball's living legends. The world is thankful for them, because their names rank among the most magical people in either hemisphere.
Hank Aaron. Let that marinate for a moment. More than a few folks know he slammed a bunch of home runs, and they know he did so with the dignity of a Martin Luther King Jr. He even has a yearly award named in his honor that goes to the top hitter in each league.
Yogi Berra. It causes you to smile, because it unleashes a slew of Yogi-isms in your mind. Now consider a few "7s" involving Berra. He's 87. He hasn't managed in 27 years, and he hasn't played in 47 years. Still, he has remained relevant because he has been featured in some of the funniest commercials on television in recent years.
Stan Musial is more musical than comical.
He has played his harmonica for decades, nearly as well as he played baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. He probably is the oldest of baseball's living legends, having turned 92 on Wednesday. But he was healthy enough in October to make an appearance at Busch Stadium during a National League Championship Series game between the Cardinals and Giants.
About the Giants: They are blessed with as many living legends as anybody in baseball, and most of them remain visible around the ballclub.
Willie Mays. Ever hear of him? He pops into the Giants' clubhouse on occasion, from Spring Training through the fall. The same goes for Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry.
As for other living legends who should receive eternal hugs, there is Rachel Robinson, Jackie's graceful widow.
She is 90 years young.
By comparison, Vin Scully is a young whippersnapper. He'll turn 85 next week, and he already has announced that he'll continue as a living legend for a 64th season of broadcasting Dodgers baseball.
And the world is thankful. Not only for Scully, but for all the legendary baseball announcers, such as Milo Hamilton.
At 85, Hamilton decided that 59 years of talking baseball behind the mike was enough. So after broadcasting the Houston Astros this year and other teams through the decades, he announced he was retiring. Hamilton is the one who shouted the classic: "Outta here! It's gone! It's 715! There's a new home run champion of all time, and it's Henry Aaron!"
But back to the living legends among players.
Ernie Banks. Johnny Bench. Al Kaline. Sandy Koufax. Whitey Ford. The Robinsons -- Frank and Brooks. On and on, we can go with those of the past, and we also could mention several of the present who deserve our gratitude -- Derek Jeter, for instance.
Jeter is the Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle of the current Yankees. Actually, Jeter is more than that.
Jeter is baseball.
So are hot dogs, seventh-inning stretches and Cracker Jack.
For which we're all thankful.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.