To paraphrase Andy Griffith on my revered 45 RPM, “What It Was Was Football,” modified to “What it is wasn’t baseball.”
i remain amazed that 30 of the richest men in our country, even if some aren’t citizens, and 900-plus men, some of whom are also not citizens of this country, who work for those other 30 guys and make a minimum of $600,000 and a maximum of over $43 Million per year are arguing over which of the two parties can get more.
i’m sorry, folks, but i would be absolutely jubilant if someone paid me to play a game i love for over a half-mil for nine months out of the year…except it is no longer the game i love.
All of these guys are guilty in continually making changes to the game to make more money, which has morphed baseball into true “money ball,” and not the kind Billy Beane employs. It just ain’t baseball anymore. It’s specialists. It’s designated hitters. It’s pitchers that can only go six innings max and that’s after elbow surgery. It’s statistics ruling rather than bunts, stolen bases, stealing home. It’s super athletes who have worked since their first tooth all day, every day except when someone was treating them like royalty. It’s entertainment. It’s business. It’s nearly impossible for two people to go see a game in the stadium for less than $100. We, the citizens, act like it’s a sport and our team gets our love and admiration…and our money.
Baseball was two young boys tossing a bat, catching it and swapping grips up to the top to have the first choice of a player for his team. Then after the teams were set, they repeated the process to determine who would be home team. The bases were real bags or paper sacks filled with something, or hats or even gloves, placed by stepping off the 90 feet. The field rarely had outfield fences, just a big lot somewhere. Dirt or grass were irrelevant. It was what was there. There were one or two scuffed up and dirty balls and about three or four bats, at least one with a nail and glue patching up a crack. Some players had to share gloves. The game played by the rules. Nine innings…unless it ran past supper time. Everybody played but the least skilled played right field.
Baseball was in the backyard, played with a whiffle ball but a real bat. As few as two could play. Hitting the ball past objects like trees and trash cans were designated for singles, doubles, triples. A home run was over the garage, the hedge, onto the driveway, or off the house.
Baseball was played, not watched, except for rare trips to Sulphur Dell to watch the Double-A Nashville Vols with the short right field fence climbing to around 50 feet and slopes up to all the outfield fences, and wooden stands, and once a week, there was television, one game on Saturday with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese and Falstaff beer.
Baseball players were heroes who worked real jobs during the offseason to make ends meet. Black and white television. Playing the game with a finesse and expertise that alluded the young men watching even though they tried hard to emulate the stances and the throws and the swagger of their heroes. It was a sport.
Baseball was nine and ten-year olds on a playground field, mostly dirt played with matching team tee shirts and jeans, learning the game. Baseball was Little League in its infancy with snot-nosed kids playing without parents getting into fights with umpires.
Baseball was hot summer nights and nine-inning games played under the lights of the Babe Ruth field, hoping some of the girls were in the bleachers when you made a great stop of a grounder or a diving catch in the outfield or hit a rope down the left field foul line for a triple, sliding into third and acquiring a magnificent strawberry on your left hip from the slide on the hard clay ground.
Baseball was sitting on the slope running down the first base line on a sunny spring day watching the college boys chatter on the infield.
Baseball was keeping score while drinking a beer, eating a hot dog and later peanuts with the spent shells crunching under one’s feet, all for five bucks.
It’s gone. Even the youngsters are dedicated, working at the game, learning how to throw, how to set up for a ground ball, hours and hours working, not playing, to get to the next level.
There is no joy in Mudville. Not because Casey struck out, but because it once was baseball. It ain’t no more.