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  • Bill Chastain

TOYS AND GAMES: Bambino’s Blast, Zim, Spring Training

Earlier this week I made my annual pilgrimage to the University of Tampa campus to pay homage to Babe Ruth.Babe Ruth UT 2

A marker commemorating “The Bambino’s” epic 587-foot home run is stationed in front of the John H. Sykes College of Business building. While playing for the Red Sox prior to his trade to the Yankees, Ruth hit his memorable blast against the New York Giants at Plant Field on April 12, 1919.

I used to take a Cuban sandwich to Pepin-Rood Stadium (Plant Field updated) and would eat while visualizing what happened. Improvements to the campus and the stadium have since made such a journey difficult, unless you have an imagination.

Ruth’s ghost hasn’t visited me yet. Hope springs eternal, though.

Still seems odd not seeing Don Zimmer at spring training. The iconic Zim became a mainstay for the Rays during the final stop of his baseball career up until he died in 2014.

I’m lucky to have become friends with Zim. Listening to him spin a yarn brought some of my favorite memories from covering baseball.

Finally, in preparation for the baseball season, I have executed my yearly rituals.

First, I read Ball Four. In my opinion Jim Bouton’s best-seller remains the best non-fiction baseball book I’ve read. Next, I watched my favorite baseball movie, Bang the Drum Slowly — though I so wish Robert De Niro hadn’t butchered the role of dying catcher Bruce Pearson by employing a hackneyed depiction of Southerners. On top of that, he threw like he’d never played sports, and his hitting looked worse. Still, it’s a great movie adapted from a great book.