Changes in the Baseball Culture We Regret

What changes in the baseball culture over the past sixty years bother you most, if at all?

What changes in the baseball culture over the past sixty years bother you most, if at all?

 

Change is inevitable, but here is our personal Pecan Park Eagle List of things we miss from the baseball culture of our anciently long ago 1950s and earlier period.

  1. The Game We Had Prior to the Designated Hitter. The DH is not on my list for the usual reasons. I’ve gotten used to not seeing the pitcher bat since Houston moved to the AL and I don’t miss him. I’ve also come to see that the lost strategy opportunity in which the NL manager has to choose between leaving a bad-hitting pitcher in the game or removing him for a pinch hitter is vastly overrated. As Larry Dierker also has stated, it would have been better from the start had the DH rule changers simply allowed a manager to pinch hit for the pitcher a couple of times per game without having to remove a pitcher from the game. The DH is on this list because it seems to have mainly become a roster spot for “big boppers” who can’t play the field – and it has become an influence upon the growth of power baseball and highly specialized pitching – and not on pitchers who can go the distance – or keeping many bench players and batters who understand and can do situational hitting.
  2. Sandlot Ball. Kids are no longer free to play sandlot baseball on their own. They probably would not choose it anyway today over the digital game diversions they prefer – and the organized adult protective Little League Baseball that 21st century parents prefer for them.
  3. The Ballpark Organ. The ballpark organ used to do all the musical scoring for everything that happened at ballpark. From fouls ball running up and down the scale – to themes for various players, umpires, and game situations. The organist had to be careful what he or she played in reference to the umpires. Our Buff Stadium organist, Ms. Lou Mahan, was once ejected for playing “Three Blind Mice” for the umpires as they walked together to the infield from their dressing room prior to a game. Lou learned to stick with safer stuff, like “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”, when an umpire’s call went badly against the Buffs. And she couldn’t be ejected for that call, given all the blue cigarette smoke that hung around under the covered grandstands on still nights.
  4. Pepper Games. Prior to games at Buff Stadium in Houston, each club would have one or two pepper games going to loosen up reflexes prior to infield practice.
  5. Infield Practice. Every team did it prior to every game. It was beautiful to watch and seemed important to us kids – as important as batting practice. – Guess we were wrong. It ended, somehow, and so did pepper games.
  6. Pitchers who could throw complete games. They reminded us kids that good pitchers hung in there for the distance ride. And pitchers with “rubber arms” could even pitch extra inning games, even extended game shutouts and no-hitters. We never heard of pitch counts. Of course, today we need pitch counts that are long enough to cover the five frames a starter needs for a win, but not so long as to deny the relief specialists all the work they need to do to justify getting paid their own salaries.
  7. Batters who could put the ball in play. Most guys back then knew how to hit behind the runner – and do all the other little situational things that generate runs; things like making pitchers work harder, fouling balls off to tire the pitcher and play with his nerves. One coach we had in grade school put it this way: “Nothing good for the team is going to happen if you strike out a lot, but every time you put the ball in play, it creates chances for a hit or an error by the other team that may help us get the runs we need to win.”
  8. Outfielders who throw the ball to the right base, especially with runners on base. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch a few televised MLB games and see how often you see outfielders throwing behind a base runner – or missing the cut-off man on throws to the plate. – Again, same grade school coach as before, used to tell us this way: After each change in batters, or each change caused by stolen bases, always ask yourselves: ‘What’s the situation? – How many outs?- Are there any runners on base – and where are they?’ And where am I going to throw the ball, if it’s hit to me and I get to it? – And if it’s hit over your head, who on our team am I going to be looking for to throw it to, if I do catch up to it.’ “
  9. The Absence of Blaring Loud Music, Tee Shirt Cannons, and Other Sideline Distractions. The old baseball park was no mausoleum. It was drenched with the sights and sounds of baseball and the smell of hot dogs – with no sideline gimmickry. We weren’t a culture back then that worried about getting bored at a baseball game. We loved keeping score, talking with friends and family, and just riding on the magic carpet of baseball drama – one that always featured our hometown good guys hoping to defeat the visitors and their bad guys.
  10. The Tempo of the Game was Better Back in the Day. We don’t believe that baseball has slowed itself down. We do believe that the “necessary evil” of television has done so, both directly and indirectly. Directly: Into the early 1950s, teams still exchanged places after each half inning and the next-up batting club moved immediately to the plate for their first batter up. Today, there is always that TV commercial break that stops everything, and breaking the tempo of the game for several minutes. Indirectly: Television panders to the human ego’s need for attention. And the narcissists and drama queens (kings?) among baseball players, managers, and even owners is far too long to list here who crave that camera attention. Do we really have to name them? – You know who we’re talking about. – Eh, can you think of any HOF managers over the past half century who may have been helped into the Hall of Fame by their television imagery? And had these same guys been forced to rely upon radio and print news of their game-by-game work over time, how many of them would even be recognized today.

 

How about you? If you have been around long enough to remember the pre-millinial baseball world, what is it that you remember and miss about the old baseball culture. Did our choices ring any bells for you? Did we leave out something that is important to you? Please share your comments in the section that follows every Pecan Park Eagle publication. – We want to know what you think too.

____________________

eagle-0rangeBill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

https://bill37mccurdy.com/

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9 Responses to “Changes in the Baseball Culture We Regret”

  1. bhick6 Says:

    Bill –

    I like your list, but would add another one — fans starting their own cheers, instead of being directed by a Jumbotron. Enjoying games at Wrigley Field in my childhood, I recall chants of “We want a homer!” at critical junctures of the game.

    Bill Hickman

  2. Deek Says:

    Great article . . . thanks. I would add the desecration of minor league ball, in which many of the ‘sins’ you mention are magnified several-fold.

  3. Tom Hunter Says:

    Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, and Zack Grienke are three examples of outstanding pitchers who know how to use a bat. Every player should own a bat and know how to hit or at least lay down a sacrifice bunt. No to the DH. Even though I still root for the Astros.

    And being able to use a bat is greatly improved by a pepper game, which is sometimes defined as playing catch with a bat. Being able to hit the ball in different directions teaches bat control. Now batters swing for the fences (power through the zone) and cannot hit behind a runner in a hit-and-run situation or lift a fly ball to the outfield with a runner at third for a sacrifice. Nothing is more frustrating (or boring) than getting a runner to third with no outs and not being able move him ninety feet.

    Outfield play is the worst. Most outfielders do not know how to approach a low-hit liner. They run in, fall down, and slide instead of staying on their feet, making a shoe-string catch, trapping a one-hopper or blocking the ball with their body.

    Aside from all the unnecessary noise at a baseball game, the other annoying trend is the scourge of cell phones and I-phones, which hold their owners in a zombie-like trance. They are the ones who get hit by foul balls because they are not paying attention to the game. And I am afraid that their presence at games will tip the scales in favor of putting netting up around the entire field to protect the non-fans.

    Finally, one of the things I loved was watching a batter and four or five players with mitts involved in a pepper game, right next to a sign that read “NO PEPPER.” It was my first introduction to irony.

  4. stanfromtacoma Says:

    Bill I agree with your list. I’ll add one more: the situational relief pitcher. I was listening to the Angels/Mariners game last night. Mike Scioscia took out his starter who had been pitching effectively after six innings because he had thrown 100 pitches. He started the seventh inning with a right handed relief pitcher against a right handed batter. The guy threw two pitches to get an out and out marches Scioscia to bring in a left handed pitcher to face the next batter, a left handed hitter. I guess with all the relief pitchers teams carry these days a manager can get away with that. It doesn’t add to my enjoyment of the game though. I am usually not a favor of rule changes but I would like to see something that discourages mid-inning pitching changes when the pitcher is being replaced for reasons other than injury or ineffectiveness.

  5. Larry Dierker Says:

    How about managers arguing with umpires. I’d rather see the men in blue stand up for themselves instead if in front of the dugout donning headsets while awaiting instructions from New York. Over 162 games, more outcomes would be changed by using technology to get balls and strikes right and it wouldn’t add a second to the time of the game. I’d use replays in post season.

    With all the sideshows and pandering to mobile phonies, it seems like MLB is ashamed of the sport itself. If Bud Selig ran the Louvre, he’d run flashing lights around all the picture frames, prompt you to text an answer to trivia question for 10% off in the cafe and place a tasteful note below reminding you that prints are available in the gift shop!

  6. Anthnony Cavender Says:

    In addition to all of the above, playing 162 games in about 180 days, coast to coast, endless playoffs and the threat of November baseball. Cell phones and the internet may spell the end of civilization as we know it, unless people see how it is bleeding the life out of almost everything worthwhile.
    Did the scribes have this same reaction to the printing press?

  7. Cliff Blau Says:

    I miss there being an American League and a National League, and I miss second place teams going home to watch the first place teams on TV instead of playing for the championship.

  8. Deek Says:

    Just thought of another whilst watching tonite’s Astros v Red Sox:
    Home teams wear WHITE, and the visitors wear GREY. A pox upon the ‘softball unis’ now so popular.

  9. Walter Canty Says:

    Hi Bill,
    The thing that I miss most are the St. Louis Browns!

    Walt Canty
    Kingwood, TX

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