“Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York,” recites the character Gloucester in Shakespeare’s “Richard III.” 

A few centuries later Steinbeck would co-op the first line, making “The Winter of Our Discontent” the title of his last novel, a not-so-veiled commentary on American moral degradation.

With apologies to both esteemed writers, I am today enlisting the terminology for my own purposes.

Although our own figurative winter of discontent continues (even though it’s hot as blazes outside) with the blasted COVID-19 virus still very much affecting virtually every aspect of our daily lives, we have had a glimpse of glorious summer.

Major League Baseball has returned.  

To be sure, there will be an asterisk beside “2020 MLB Season” in the record books (as there will be for so much else in 2020).  And I am by no means convinced the condensed 60-game season will be played to completion.

But at least they’re trying, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

As I file this column on Friday, only two games have been played. I waited all day Thursday for the 6 p.m.  broadcast from our nation’s capital, with the Yankees taking on the Nationals, reigning World Series champs. Not long before game time, it was announced that Nationals’ outfielder Juan Soto would not be playing, having tested positive for COVID.

I caught my breath when I heard that, but the game went on as planned, with no quarantining required for other team members.  I proceeded with the pouring of my celebratory adult beverage, timed to coincide with the leadoff batter taking the plate at the top of the first inning. 

Before that, America’s favorite doctor, Anthony Fauci, an unabashed Nats fan, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Without question, he needs to keep his day job (which is fine, because we all need him to do that anyway.)

Prior to the national anthem, there was a moving tribute to Black Lives Matter (which also happened in the late game on the west coast with the Dodgers and Giants), in which all players held a symbolic black rope and knelt in a show of unity. Somewhere, Jackie Robinson had to be proud.

A huge storm blew in during the top of the sixth, and the players left the field. About an hour later, with no relief in sight from the torrential rains, it was called.  It was enough for a complete game, and with the Yankees leading 4-1, they were off to a 1-0 start to the season.  

I watched a few innings of the Dodgers-Giants game before calling it a night. It was tied at a run apiece when I went to bed, but the Dodgers rallied with five runs in the bottom of the seventh and added two in the eighth, to win it 8-1.

To say MLB will be different this year would be a great understatement.

Fans make up so much of the pro baseball experience. Between the big cheers for the big plays, there is a constant audible murmur. Even when watching on TV, we can hear it, along with the sound of vendors hawking peanuts, hot dogs and beer.

Hearing none of that and seeing thousands of empty seats is, well, weird.

The game callers, rather than being in the press box, are calling the game from a TV studio, with the exception of a color commentator making observations from a socially distanced perch in the stands.

But the reassuring booming voices of the on-site announcers are still bellowing over the public address systems. There’s a fan soundtrack I had my doubts about, but it really helps, as does the organ music.

Players are forbidden from spitting and are following new rules regarding physical contact.

Both leagues are using the Designated Hitter rule, which many pundits say is long overdue and will survive this season.

There will be a 16-team playoff at season’s end that I still don’t fully understand, with play scheduled to end just as it would have if this had been a normal season. (In my defense, the guys calling both Thursday games also seemed confused about the playoff model).

Yes, things will be different, but I’ll take all of it. I’m willing to fully embrace this asterisk-marked season, quirks and all.

I need it. We need it.

Play ball. 

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].  

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