Notes from the Southwest Corner: Whatever it is, it ain’t baseball

This was one of my old curmudgeon rants in my third weekly column for The Lebanon Democrat. i was correctly criticized for raining on the Boston Red Sox’s World Series Champion parade. i confess my Padres now are doing the same thing, hopefully with the same result, as was done by the winning Red Sox back in 2007. So i think i understand impact of a parade rain. Yeh, my team now also resembles Saruman. Still, major league baseball and other pro sports are out of control, and the crazy money being spent by fans to bulge the pockets of owners and fans is profane.

In Sunday’s San Diego Union-Tribune sports section, Aaron Rodgers, the 2020 MVP quarterback for the Green Bay Packers reportedly described this season as “180 days of having my nose hair scraped.” My thought was what if they had not had a season and devoted those nearly one million COVID tests to folks who were in much greater need than football players, and that doesn’t even count baseball and basketball player tests.

Our priorities remain nonsensical to me.

SAN DIEGO, CA – Mercifully, the World Series is over. 

Admittedly, this former sports editor did check the scores as the games progressed, but I didn’t watch. I chuckled occasionally thinking of what Fred Russell, the dean of Southern sports writers would have thought of what should be called “money ball,” which is not the strategy for obtaining players made famous by Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics.

The games were delayed and played at night for prime time television coverage. The Colorado Rockies had to wait eight days while the Boston Red Sox toyed in the American League playoffs. 

In the halcyon days of post World War II, the major leagues were far, far away, only something to dream and imagine as a boy in Middle Tennessee. 

We might have seen major leaguers going up or down when we made a trip to Sulphur Dell in Nashville to watch the original “Vols” play Double A ball against the Memphis Chicks, Chattanooga Lookouts, New Orleans Pelicans, Birmingham Barons, Little Rock Travelers, Mobile Bears, and Atlanta Crackers. 

The World Series was time for the Yankees to dominate, usually against the Dodgers. After television crept into our consciousness, my father and I would watch the Game of the Week with Dizzy Dean on Saturdays and the World Series. Then, my father was a Yankee friend. I rooted for the Dodgers. He won.

We played baseball from March to September and watched the Series the first days of October. When we couldn’t get to a real diamond, we played on lots. When lots weren’t available, we played in backyards. If space was a problem, we played “whiffle ball” and stick ball. 

As I recall, the first youth league in Lebanon was the Pony League. We played on the McClain Elementary School playground diamond. At nine while riding my bike to a game, I ran off the sidewalk, took a header and knocked out half of one front tooth. The next year the Pony League was replaced by Little League. I don’t think my tooth had anything to do with it.

What I saw of this year’s series bore little resemblance to baseball back then. Many players looked more like they played in a softball beer league than the majors. Mickey Mantle, Pee Wee Reese, Bob Gibson, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente played hard but dressed to perfection.  There were the extremists who were sleeveless like Rocky Colavito, but they were considered on the fringe in terms of the dress code. This year’s players looked like they were about to lose their pants.

Falstaff’s Game of the Week has evolved into overpaid super stars playing a modified game for the new version of gossip mongers, the sports fan of the twenty-first century. 

Bowie Kuhn, who passed away in March of this year, tried to fool us by not wearing an overcoat in the freezing weather of night games of the World Series when he was commissioner. Perhaps Bowie was the turning point. Professional baseball evolved from sport to entertainment.

The loved and hated Yankees have been replaced by the Red Sox. Deep pockets rule. Strangely, Larry Luchinno, the Bosox president, came from San Diego where he championed frugality and attacked the Yankees for buying pennants. He even called the Yanks the “Evil Empire.” Now, if not the “Evil Empire,” the Red Sox are the baseball equivalent of Saruman, the second level evil in The Lord of the Rings.

Now there are two different games. One league has pitchers who don’t bat and “designated hitters” who don’t play defense. So two different games are played in the series, depending on which team is host. 

Fred Russell would be sad but would find some way to express the irony with humor.

And Mr. Bush Babb, the overseer at the Cedar Grove Cemetery who played against Ty Cobb in the first Southern League before the irascible Georgia Peach made his name with the Detroit Tigers, would be aghast.

I must confess I am a contributor to this silly game of entertainment. Out here in the Southwest corner, I am a season ticket holder for the Padre games at Petco Park.

I often try to conjure up Sulphur Dell when I take my seat. San Diego is a long, long way from Nashville, and professional baseball is not the same. Baseball as I knew it is much like the home run Dick Shively would announce on the Vols’ radio network, “It’s going, going, gone.”

And yes, if it didn’t cost so much i would still have season tickets for the Padre games…that is, of course, if they will let fans in the stands.

1 thought on “Notes from the Southwest Corner: Whatever it is, it ain’t baseball

  1. Jim,
    You wrote about the Pony League at McClain School. I played in the Colt League over on the Cumberland baseball field. This was BW (before Woody) when the field was more like a gloried cow pasture…no outfield fence, just a backstop behind home plate. But I enjoyed it, even if I spent most of the time as a reserve sitting on the bench. Next year Babe Ruth began but I was too old to play.

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