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Monday, August 18, 2014

To the man who taught me the infield fly rule

I originally planned to post this last month, but obvious events made it feel inappropriate.

My father, Lawrence Wasserman, passed away July 10, at age 85. A friend once told me that losing a parent is when you really become an adult; I kind of believe that. Dan, being Dan, was one of the first people to reach out and extend condolences from afar--in fact, it was one of our last text exchanges. To tie this back to an earlier post, I just ended shloshim, the 30-day period of mourning in the Jewish faith, so this seemed a good time to write.

My dad was a huge baseball fan. He somehow became a Yankees fan in 1930s/1940s Brooklyn, an interesting choice that probably subjected him to some abuse (although his consolation was that the Yankees always won and the Dodgers always lost). He passed that love of the game down to me (even if I traded the Yankees for the Cubs as an adult--don't ask). I still cry at the end of Field of Dreams ("Dad, you wanna have a catch?"), because, who doesn't?

More importantly, though he certainly could not have imagined it at the time, he set me down the path of my two-plus-year (and counting) scholarly obsession with the Infield Fly Rule.

Crazy as it sounds, one of my vivid snapshot memories of childhood is that moment when I first learned about this crazy rule. I was about eight years old and my dad and I were watching a Yankee game on TV. One of the announcers said "Infield Fly Rule is in effect" (standard baseball broadcaster lingo on IFR plays, for reasons I have not yet been able to uncover); I asked what that meant and he explained. And he obviously did it in very clear terms, because I immediately understood both the rule and its logic and his explanation stuck with me going forward. If, as I have argued, to understand the infield fly rule is to understand baseball, then my dad understood baseball. And he made sure I did, as well.

One of the last times I visited him in New Jersey in the spring, I brought along two of my infield fly articles. He flipped through them while we were sitting together talking and he read them after I left. And I am quite certain it is the only thing I have written as a prawf that he read or understood. So that alone made this whole project worthwhile.

Alav ha'shalom.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 18, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman | Permalink

Comments

R.I.P., Mr. Lawrence Wasserman. Your articles on the infield fly rule are a valuable contribution, as well as a veritable tribute to your father, Howard.

Posted by: P.O. | Aug 18, 2014 11:53:30 AM

Howard, this is a nicely captured wonderful moment that speaks volumes. I'm so glad you followed your passion in scholarship and that you shared your appreciation with the rest of us. For the record, I tear up just reading those lines from "Field of Dreams."

Posted by: Alex Pearl | Aug 18, 2014 2:28:44 PM

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