Monday, October 25, 2004

Days of old

I haven't watched a whole lot of the playoffs. Maybe that's why I have been able to make such unsuccessful predictions. Baseball doesn't interest me a whole lot nowadays. I am far more interested in the history of the game. Some of that has to do with the way the game is played. Some of it has to do with my feeling like I was born a hundred years too late. I think a lot of what is missing from baseball comes from societal trends.

From the aspect of game play, I hate the home run. There has been one decent pitcher's duel in the playoffs this year, the game I chose to watch over the Red Sox-Yankees drama. It was so much fun watching Brandon Backe, a former positional player, thrive in the clutch and carry the Astros to victory both at the end of the regular season and in the playoffs.

Home runs are boring. I hate these slugfests where you sit and wait until someone gets served a mistake that can be crushed into the seats. Teams are foolish nowadays to have anybody in the lineup who cannot take a walk. When so many people can hit home runs with ease, why would you not want a player who can get on base? Who cares about speed anymore? What difference does good defense really make on balls hit over the fence. Baseball is largely miserable to watch nowadays. Bring back the steal, the sacrifice and the hit and run.

As much as I am a fan of the Deadball Era, I wouldn't mind the baseball of my childhood. When thirty home runs in a season was impressive. When you had guys like Willie McGee and Rickey Henderson and John Cangelosi who were fun to watch scamper around the bases, who impacted a game with their natural gifts instead of the artificial muscle-bound players we watch now.

Bring back the Astrodome and the Busch Stadium turf. Bring back Whitey Herzog. And Fernando. And Dave Rozema. Sigh.

I read a book this weekend by Dan Adams entitled Major Leaguers of Clinton County, Pennsylvania. Nine players have been born in Clinton County, which lies in the middle of PA. None have played in sixty years. The heydays were the 1880's when the county produced five players. Why was it such a hotbed then? Part of it was the local sewing machine company that existed there. The company had one of the top semi-pro baseball teams in the region, which produced several of the pitchers from Clinton County that played in the majors. When you had a team like that around, it made it easy for scouts and the baseball network to locate talent. It brought recognition to the town, the company and the region. There was a sense of community that does not exist today. What companies do anything beyond providing the most basic of benefits today? How many benefit the community beyond providing jobs and the occasional corporate sponsorship of a community event?

Can you imagine your employer giving you time to play baseball? Can you imagine feeling enough pride about your place of employemnt to want to do so? I'm sure there are probably some instances, especially among smaller companies, where such consideration for the area around the company is as important as the number of dollars profited. It's just not like it used to be.

Sure, things weren't perfect in the 1880's. Or the 1980's. But why are we so quick to let go of the good things that did exist? Is this really progress?


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