So Pete Rose is pulling a Bill
Clinton. You remember how it goes; get caught at something, then deny, deny and
deny until they air the evidence. Next give a convincing teary-eyed, lip-biting
admission and finally, make a good act of contrition like attending services at
a black church. More
A Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy
Strike three, ball four;
Walk - a run'll tie the score!
Fly ball, double play;
Yankees win again today.
Those damn Yankees!
Why can't we beat 'em?
Those immortal words of Joe Boyd, fictitious protagonist of Broadway's Damn
Yankees and lifelong Washington Senators fan, are echoed throughout
the land every October. In Joe's case, the answer to his plaintive
question is easily answered; "First in war, first in peace and last
in the American League. " More
Of The Fall – Baseball's Greatest Myth
And so here we are, in glorious autumn. The last bout of summer
humidity is behind us, candidates are on the stump, the kiddies are back in
school and the Fall Classic beckons. And with the coming of the World Series,
many legends and not a few myths remind us why baseball is and hopefully always
will be our national pastime. For every curse that dooms the fervent fans of
entire cities as well as their progeny, there are also myths that were cooked up
in some long-ago hot-stove league and served up with relish every October.
Please allow your humble correspondent, at grave risk of offending loyal
readers, to shine a light of truth on one of the tastiest. More
Babe And The Braggart
BONDS BASHES BABE, (New York
Bonds is thinking of a number. Not
just any number, but the number 714, the home run total of one George Herman
Ruth. Why, you might ask yourself,
would Bonds concern himself with a record broken nearly 30 years ago? Why not go
after the established Major League record of 755 dingers held by Hank Aaron?
Well, for what it's worth, here's Barry's answer:
isn't a number that's always caught my eye--the only number I'm concerned with
is Babe Ruth's. As a left-handed
hitter, I wiped him out. That's it.
And in the baseball world, Babe Ruth's everything, right? I got his
(single season) slugging percentage, I got him on on-base, I got him on walks
and then I'll take his (lifetime) home run record and that's it.
Don't talk about him no more."
then expanded on his thoughtful and eloquent commentary regarding the Babe with
this cryptic remark, "But from what I hear, you have to go back to the
Negro Leagues too." He then
went on to point out that, "You have Josh Gibson, who hit 84 home runs.
Why doesn't it count? But you can tell me in 1886 that the Pittsburgh
Pirates won the game by 20 runs or lost the game by 20 runs.
But yet, their (Negro League) stats do not count."
is Barry dissing the Babe on account of racism?
That would seem to be the point of Bond's diatribe, given that he has
been lately trying to raise the consciousness of the baseball world to a better
understanding of Negro League history. Studying
history is always a good thing but one wishes that Barry would broaden his
research to include all manner of baseball's greatest players across the racial
spectrum (including the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t begin play
could begin by taking a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
There he would find the plaques of 16 veterans of the Negro and Mexican
leagues hanging on its hallowed walls, proving that at least to some, their
stats do count. It’s just that they count as a different set of numbers as
well they should. For better or for
worse, you can’t change history. (Lucky
for Mr. Bonds, as he would have the number 962 in his sights as that is the
lifetime home run total of Mr. Gibson--Oops!
I forgot that Mr. Bonds is not interested in breaking the records of
people of color.) The fact is, that
baseball integrated far sooner than the rest of American society in general.
when whiling away the day in that quaint town in western New York, he might do a
little brushing up on the stats of the aforementioned Mr. Ruth, who ironically,
throughout his career was savaged by bigoted fans for his “Negro-ish” looks.
Bonds could surpass some of the Babe's numbers is open to debate.
There are however, many more he cannot hope to equal.
For example, he will not retire with a .342 batting average, nor will he
ever catch the Bambino in (lifetime) slugging average, on-base percentage or
World Series rings. He has already
passed the Babe in strikeouts and will definitely pass him on the all-time walks
list, which puts him in good company seeing as how Ruth was often intentionally
walked in front of Lou Gehrig, one of the best RBI men of all time, while Bonds
was often walked to pitch to certain Hall of Famer Andy Van Slyke.
is well-chronicled that Ruth out-homered every other American League team in
1927. For Bonds to have come close
to this in 2001, he would have had to hit 131 taters, just to tie the lowest
total of any other NL team. Speaking
of home run dominance, the Babe led the league in that category an incredible 12
times while Bonds, for all his braggadocio has managed that feat a total of
twice, which is twice less than that of the esteemed Mr. Aaron, who had the
class to challenge and surpass Ruth where it mattered, on the field.
And while it is true that both Mr. B’s won only one batting title
apiece, consider that Bonds’ excellent mark of .370 which garnered last
year’s crown was topped by the Babe six times!
not to beat a dead horse, but then there's that darned pitching issue.
Had Ruth not pitched for five years (94-46, .671 winning percentage),
Bonds would have no chance at any of the Babe's career marks.
But he did, which only elevates him in the baseball pantheon.
Only the Babe, over those five magic years, can lay claim to hitting more
home runs (49) than he allowed (9).
even giving lip service to modern baseball apologists, if you believe that
today’s pitchers are bigger, stronger, etc., and that Ruth didn’t have to
face the Negro League pitchers who managed to serve up 962 fat ones to Josh
Gibson, consider that the Bambino faced the same shrimpy, weaklings (like Walter
Johnson) as his contemporaries and still remains the undisputed Sultan of Swat
in the minds of many.
Herman Ruth stands as the only player in any league to have a stadium, a WWII
password and a curse associated with his name.
Add to this, that many still remember where they were when he died and
you still feel the electricity and charisma generated by the man these long
decades after his passing. The
bitter Mr. Bonds plays in a stadium that is named after a phone company and the
only curse associated with his name seems to apply to the World Series
aspirations of the teams graced by his presence.
BASEBALL MUST DO AWAY WITH INTER-LEAGUE PLAY
Stove League, 1999
have been numerous changes to the game of baseball in the last thirty years or
so. From the designated hitter in
the American League, the installation of artificial turf stadiums, to the
constant tinkering with the height of the pitcher's mound, and the
"liveliness " of the very ball itself.
No one expects a sport more than a century old to remain true to its
original rules and practices, and good arguments can be made for or against
these and other changes.
like the DH rule were made to bring more excitement (read offense) and keep
older or more specialized players in the game.
(Personally, I am in favor of the DH being implemented by the National
League, the only such organization in all of professional ball which doesn't use
it. But that's an argument for
another day.) Other changes were
made in a quest to "even up" the ever-changing cycles, such as
lowering the mound in times when pitching dominates, and vice versa. Some, like
the wild-card were born of expansion. Still
others were made for financial considerations only. The construction of domed stadiums and fields with artificial
turf brought less rainouts and more opportunities for revenue via rock concerts,
trade shows, et. al.
two years ago, in an effort to bolster popularity and regain a fan base that it
was losing to the NBA and general malaise about the game itself, Major League
Baseball introduced an experiment called inter-league play.
It is too easy to look back now at the just completed 1998 season, a
renaissance of all the great and wonderful things people have always loved about
baseball, and say: "What were they thinking about? The game will always produce great moments and players
without any artificial tinkering". You
know what they say about hindsight.
might say the above argument can be turned against my endorsement of the DH rule
and maybe you'd be right. But my
absolute hatred of inter-league baseball is based on a much different premise.
The afore-mentioned changes tweaked the game closer to the 21st century
without altering its main allure: Baseball is Baseball.
It is unique in its recollection of a simpler time, even as it improves
itself through minor adjustments. It
is still about a sun-splashed day where no time limits can intrude upon its
stage, where one can view the wonderful symmetry of its composition. This is where the conflict begins.
I have said, people love baseball because it is not football, hockey, or
basketball. Ask any lapsed hockey
or basketball fan why they barely yawn through the regular seasons of those
sports. It is because those regular
seasons have been rendered meaningless by the watering down of their schedules
and by letting too many teams into the playoffs. And in football, the 1970 league merger diminished great
rivalries and brought forth…(shudder) the dreaded term - parity.
in baseball was the playing field truly level within one's division.
Even more so when the "balanced" schedule was introduced.
Uniforms, strike zones and entire teams could change, but one thing was
constant: every team in a division
played exactly the same schedule as everyone else.
The Yankees and Red Sox played the same number of games against each
other as well as all the other American League teams.
Symmetry. Three strikes,
four balls, ninety feet, nine innings. Same
we have inter-league play. In order to introduce phony (and unnecessary)
rivalries, we have thrown that blessed symmetry to the winds.
The Red Sox must now face the NL East teams while the White Sox face much
weaker NL Central foes. Worse still is the way the DH conflict intrudes into the mix.
For better or worse, baseball is the only sport which consists of two
separate entities. The NL and AL
have their own rules, officials, and even logos.
Now, when an AL team plays in an NL park they must use NL rules, i.e., no
DH. In this age of wild-card races,
one can only shudder at the thought of a mid-season at bat, by say, Andy Petitte
impacting his team's chances for post-season play.
Worst of all is the prospect of a fan of say, the Orioles, rightly
claiming his team was robbed by the schedule makers!
of the reasons for inter-league play, we are told, is so that fans can see
players they don't normally get to see in their home parks.
Nonsense! In today's
cable-ready age they can see more players than ever before.
What about those who want to see opposite league players in person you
ask? Consider this:
when NL fans go to their parks to see AL teams, they often miss that
team's best hitter, the DH!
don't deny the fact that in certain markets, inter-league play is
beneficial to the owners and some fans.
But is creating artificial rivalries by ignoring real ones really good
for the game? For every
Seattle vs. San Francisco "thriller", that is one less game for the
Mariners to play the hated Yankees. Rivalries will ebb and flow as the teams' fortunes rise and
fall. The Dodgers and Yankees had
one of the best rivalries of all and never played a single regular season game.
finally brings me to the World Series. No
other championship can rival it for sheer grandeur and suspense.
Often the two contestants in other sports championships have met each
other in the "regular" season, sometimes on numerous occasions.
Where is the joy of speculation of the outcome that is lost when this is
the case? Thankfully, this has not
yet happened in baseball, but will if inter-league play continues.
is the last year of the experiment. Hopefully,
MLB will see the folly in this blatant money-grab and let the game do what it
does best: revert to its pastoral symmetry and produce more years like 1998.