Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Few Reasons Why Baseball Was Better Then

There are plenty of things to like about baseball today. Anywhere we are, we can see our favorite major league team in action on television or online. The detailed statistics and rich history of the game make for great conversation and analysis. Baseball is still played outside on beautiful summer days and evenings. Discrimination doesn't keep certain players out of the big leagues. Despite all this, there is something to be said about the way baseball used to be. I would enjoy it if these aspects of the 1897 game were still prevalent today:

1) Pitchers pitched the whole game, nearly all of the time. None of this 5 1/3 innings and go to the bullpen stuff. You finished what you started. And you didn't get five days off between starts, either, despite pitching more innings per start. A three man rotation was a luxury. And no one knew what a pitch count was.

2) They only used a few baseballs per game, at the most. Going through three baseballs in one game was relatively unusual. Today, going through three baseballs in one inning is remarkably rare. The thing that might drive me the most crazy about major league baseball today concerns pitches in the dirt. Watch an inning on television, and you will see what I mean. When the baseball hits the dirt, its life in the big leagues is over. It is thrown out of play, automatically. They say it has something to do with the dirt not really being dirt and scuffing up the ball much more than natural stuff. (However, I will concede that one benefit of today's approach is it allows for fans to keep foul balls as souvenirs.)

3) Nearly all players, even major leaguers, played mostly for love of the game and not for insane sums of money. Fortunately, this is a characteristic that has endured in most minor leagues, and I think it adds a unique feel to those games. There are too many major league players who don't seem to really mind if they strikeout or give up a home run. They sometimes lack that competitive, scrappy edge that players of old had in abundance. And they seem less like "regular guys", which has always been a strength of baseball.

4) The players faced more adversity, in general. Long train rides, no air conditioning, frequent doubleheaders, no night games, no guaranteed contracts, primitive facilities and equipment, and the list goes on.

These are obviously fairly subjective items, but these are some of the things that I think baseball could benefit from still having. In a perfect world, perhaps.

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