Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has dual arts degrees from Ohio State University.

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If you wonder why there’s so many arguments, fights, and bean-ball incidents in major league baseball, look no further than a juiced-up baseball and the fools who run the game – ones that never played the game, and one in particular who’s turned his back on ‘the code’.

By now we’ve all seen the film from Tuesday night.  We’ve all sat and watched the Reds and Pirates tumble and tussle for ten minutes at the end of the Reds’ blowout loss to Pittsburgh.

Now, we all have to listen to one talking head after another, giving their perspective on Clint Hurdle, David Bell, Amir Garrett, Yasiel Puig, and the mounting tensions between the two teams since the Reds Derek Dietrich stood at home plate and watched his April home run leave PNC Park.  They say (at least some) that’s what started it.  I, for one, disagree.

What started all this bean-ball business in major league baseball…is major league baseball itself, and the continual watering down of the game to try and eliminate confrontation, hard play, injury, and to create some bogus image of professionals who play the game the “right way”.  One more attempt to prove to culture that we’re a kinder, gentler people capable of checking competitive emotion at the door, moments after getting your brains beat out, like what happened Tuesday.

And the hidden culprit in all of this is baseball executives, and the not-so-hidden attempt to make the game more popular by creating a hitter-friendly environment, thereby creating more runs, more home runs, and more excitement.  Yes, obviously…they’ve juiced the baseballs, as our own Hal McCoy wrote last week – to the point where even balls hit of the end of the bat to the opposite field now travel 400 feet.

They’re not only going to set a record for home runs in a season this year…they’re going to wipe out the old record by 20%, or more, and it’s only August 1.  That’s embarrassing to pitchers, by the way, and they’re prone to react.

Compound the issue by penalizing those same pitchers who throw inside just to protect themselves  – tell them that they can’t throw what the old-timers called “the purpose pitch”, “chin music”, “the equalizer”, or as one pitching coach once said, “the-think-about-it” pitch,  and you’ve got the perfect scenario for fights, brawls, and injuries worse than what happens by sliding hard into second base.

Brutal as it may sound, this never used to happen in the 50s, the 60s, and the 70s-80s era of the game, when the players pretty much policed themselves on the field.  There was this code – albeit an unwritten one – that said if you disrespect the game or an opponent you’re going to pay.  And you’re going to remember.

Of course, baseball administrators, like Joe Torre, have taken exception to this over the years, trying to clean up the game’s image to where you can take your kids to the park and not see someone get decapitated, at the worst…or ejected, at the least.  The irony of all this is that Torre played for years during the 60s and 70s, he got thrown at, and was ejected 90 times during his years as a major league manager.  Joe Torre KNEW the best days of baseball – he KNEW the code of the field – and now he turns his back and goes corporate.

Trust me, if you make the baseball, itself, as fair as it was in the 70s, if you quit trying to make every game a ‘home run derby’, if you allow players to realize that they themselves are responsible for the safety of the game (and the consequences), this will all go away.

Some make the argument that the players union stands in the way, but let someone get irrevocably hurt as a result of an on-field action and see how quickly they clean themselves up.  None of them stand to make the money they’re making now outside of baseball, so they’re going to protect that reality by every means possible.  Let ‘the code’ come back and see just how well, and how quickly, it works.

As it is, trusting Rob Manfred and Joe Torre to do what’s best for baseball is like trusting the federal government to do what’s best with your health insurance.  Lots of talk, but no one trusts the ‘suits’.  Talk’s cheap, and we forget too soon.

A 90 mile-per-hour fastball between the shoulders from Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson seemed to work better.  Nothing like a big blue welt…to make you remember.

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