They say it’s the best time of year for baseball, the playoffs, World Series in daytime (above), and all that was good from a different era. But for a number of reasons I say baseball, the game that I love, will never see that day again. Read on.
This column is for baseball men. That’s right…die-hard, throwback, tobacco-chewin’, spittin’, Weidemann (or Burger) drinkin’ baseball men. Someone that paid a dime for a scorecard at Crosley Field, scored the game, and kept it all these years for posterity. That’s who I’m writing for. Everyone else go turn on The Voice and watch Miley Cyrus wearing the only outfit she owns.
I received a welcome email Wednesday from an old friend from umpiring days. Tim Peterson wrote to me from Wichita, Kansas. I’ve known him since my days in the American Association Triple A league, and we reconnected several years ago through Press Pros. Tim’s retired now after spending his life building airplanes for the Cessna company.
“I’m watching the Orioles and the Blue Jays,” he wrote Tuesday evening. “I was thinking of you and the old days. Wondered if you even still care about baseball? If you do, this must be your season of the year…Regards!”
His question, and his reference to the old days jogged my mind, my emotions about baseball when I was growing up, imitating my favorite Reds…Roy McMillan, Vada Pinson, Wally Post, and such. I thought of the years when I played, the years afterwards when I umpired minor league baseball, and the years since as an observer and writer. Yes, Tim, this should be my season because the World Series has always meant so much to the rank-and-file baseball fan. I can recite ’em all to ya’, right back to the days of Pie Traynor and the Pittsburgh Pirates…1909!
But Tim, to be honest, it isn’t my season anymore. To be sure I still love the game and enjoy watching it. Only, I find myself now seeking a good high school or college team, even Little League, where the joy of seeing someone do something they didn’t know they could do is irrepressible, not a bargaining chip for the next contract…and more money.
To be honest – and I will be – I can give you ten good reasons major league baseball has left me sitting at home on October evenings sifting between channels, beginning with….
1) They play all the post-season games at night now. They start late, finish even later, and are so slow to watch because of commercials and over-analyzation that they’re tiresome. Truthfully, by the time they finish I don’t care who wins. It’s a far different event than growing up when the World Series came on a 1 pm in the afternoon to a ten minute warmup with Mel Allen, the starting lineups, and then play ball. I still remember the sun-splashed outfield in Yankee Stadium, and the shadows creeping over the grandstand as the games stretched into late afternoon. Now it’s like watching a Greek wedding. It goes on forever and I have to go to bed.
2) The arrogance of major league baseball is annoying. The last time I went to a ballpark it was frighteningly expensive, players largely ignore fans seeking photos or autographs, and the ushers and security people outnumbered the spectators in Cleveland that night. You sit in the seat you bought, regardless of an empty stadium, and that’s the rule. This is in contrast to growing up when you got in for 75 cents and no one minded if you sat wherever there was an empty seat; and five dollars kept you fed all day. The players union will no longer stand for double-headers because it’s too long a work day…too much baseball. Good for the players, terrible for the fans.
3) To the baseball purist the uniforms worn now are insulting. I give for an example the Arizona Diamondbacks, who this year looked an awful lot like Kettering Fairmont. Baggy pants that drag the ground, no stirrup socks, flat-billed hats and tattoos. Johnny Cueto has so much hair he has to wear some kind of skull cap just to get a baseball cap on his head. I don’t even like the shoes. Josh Donaldson was wearing white high-tops Tuesday that looked like something you’d see on the Champs-Élysées in spring. I don’t like the five cleat design in the front of the shoe. I liked the old style…three in front, and three in back. Black, with the tongue turned down over the laces. The Wilson model A6004 was always my favorite. My friend, Bill Sturwold, tells me…I’m just old!
4) I’ve always hated the designated hitter rule. I won’t go into it here, but I know there’s a very strong lobby to make it universal to both major leagues. Makes me puke, along with inter-league play, and video review of umpires calls!
5) Pardon me while I rant, but I hate the re-entry rule in amateur baseball even more. It’s designed, of course, to get more players participating in the actual game…without actually being able to play the game. If they could they’d be in the lineup to start with. I call it socialized baseball!
6) While I’m on amateur baseball…I can’t stand aluminum bats and wish God in Heaven would make ash trees grow as thick as dandelions. The original argument for aluminum was it was cheaper than the expense of replacing broken wood bats. Well, now a good aluminum stick goes for up to $400, and I checked this week…you can buy professional quality wood bats from Hillerich and Bradsby (Louisville Slugger) for about $50 when you buy in them six at a time.
7) The “business” of baseball leaves me cold. Free agency might be good for the players, but it sucks for the fans because no one ever stays with a team long enough to develop an identity. When I was a kid I could not only tell you the Reds starting lineup, but cite the names of the bench players and the bullpen, as well. I even knew who was on the 40-man roster and all the stats on the back of their Topps cards. When someone was traded or left the organization it was front page news. Now…I have no idea from one year to the next. It reminds me of the culture of America, where all that’s cared about is what benefits one social demographic or another. Everybody wants something for themselves, but doesn’t care about what’s best for the country. So it is with baseball players, as opposed to the game of baseball, and baseball fans.
8) As an extension to the “business of baseball”, what the Reds management did to the team this summer for the sake of building for the future was disgusting. You trade all the proven major league talent because you don’t want to pay for proven big league talent…and then charge major league prices for Triple A baseball. Walt Jocketty and Dick Williams put me in mind of listening to a Trump vs. Clinton debate. You really wonder if they have any idea of what they’re doing.
9) In the heyday of baseball the season was 154 games, you had your pennant winners, and then the World Series. It was over by the second week of October. Now the season is 162 games, you have a Wild Card game, divisional series, league championship series, and finally the World Series. An additional three weeks of baseball in cold weather that extends (this year) into the first week of November. Translation: Even to a baseball fan like myself…it’s too much of a good thing!
10) I want to limit this to ten, but there’s more, believe me. But what I really want to watch is the series between Toronto and Texas and whatever bad blood there is left over from Toronto Joey Bautista flipping a bat after hitting a home run in last year’s divisional series. And you remember when they met for the first time this year? Texas infielder Rougned Odor (the most unfortunate name in current day baseball) popped Bautista in the nose after he slid hard into second base, trying to break up a force play. A great fight ensued and for five minutes it looked like old-time baseball – Giants-Dodgers, Cubs-Cardinals, Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose. I’m gonna’ watch that series.
And publicly, to Tim Peterson, thanks for remembering – thanks for thinking of me. It’s nice to be associated with something you love. Baseball as it was. Baseball as it should be. Baseball that will never be again!