The History of Team Chemistry in Baseball

Hugs and Laughs were no everyday experience for Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson back in 1997.

Hugs and Laughs were no everyday experience for Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson back in 1997.


As we implicitly reviewed in yesterday’s column, “Destiny’s Demise”, the pain for Adam, of living alone with pleasure in Eden, proved also to be the birth of our first and arguably still greatest social fear – the fear of loneliness. Good cases also exist for our fears of the unknown (alone) – and the dreadnought fear of being unloved –  or not respected – figuring into the mix up top too, of course, and they each are also ubiquitously present in that earliest moment in recorded social time.

The Fall of Eden

Once God created woman for the supposed sake of satisfying Adam’s desire for human companionship, the game of life changed. It introduced the potential for human social rebellion in the matter of human ego, as in “who’s running this place, God or Mankind”? So God introduced, for the first time, the presence of potential pain for missing the mark of His expectations (also called “sinning'”) by humanity. – Adam and Eve could do anything they wanted in Eden – and it would be OK – just as long as they remembered and abided with God’s new rule that they should never eat the fruit of the apple tree.

What a deal! Bernie Madoff could have Ponzi-schemed Eden to his heartless pocket book’s delight – had he been around to prey upon Adam and Eve back then – and it would have been OK – as long as the three of them did not toast the deal with shared glasses of apple cider.

It worked out much more simply. Adam and Eve blew it all by biting into the apple. Eden fell. No more entitlement. God put on an early record of “Get a Job” by The Coasters – and we’ve been either working or looking for a way around it ever since. The eternal “pleasure-pain era” was now in effect, but with pleasure becoming downright elusive, delusional, short-lived, or sometime non-existent in the face of the other realities produced by either Adam and Eve’s original sin – or the simple reality of living in a world that is basically governed daily by the natural laws of physics and chemistry. As human beings, Adam and Eve, and all the rest of us who have followed, would now face the challenge of finding ways to live is spite of – The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Conquest, War, Famine, and Death.

The Pleasure-Pain Distribution in The Early Egyptian Model

In ancient Egypt, only the top 1% knew anything of transitory pleasure. And their mark in life was to pass on down the social cycle all the pain of building the pyramids as the ultimate victory for the elite over the Four Horsemen. If the actual stone-pushers felt anything but pain, it came at the moment they fell in their tracks – and their lifeless bodies could not be beaten into ever working again. There was no discussion of team chemistry in those days. The Pharaoh owned 100% of the power chemistry – and everyone else was low gradiently – to no gradiently – chained to each other as the team assigned to the job of getting the will of the sand kings done.

The Real Birth of Team Chemistry: July 4, 1776

Team Chemistry as a valuable aspect of human accomplishment did not truly flourish in fuller ways until our American Revolution. Until then, it probably only happened in those instances in which a relatively small number of humans were forced by the circumstances of their labor to find a way to work together for the sake of their shared instincts for survival. – Shipwreck survivors come to mind. – It would have been pretty hard for s surviving captain on the beach to still give orders to thirty other men who had been slave oarsmen on his ship. In fact it would have been pretty hard for that captain to even have survived on the beach under those circumstances. – The birth of America marked the first serious time in history that freedom and equality, at least, were written into the founding documentation, even if the actuality from what happened there still came about in total ignorance of black slavery in the South, the universal treatment of women as non-voting entities, and the dismissal of men who owned no real estate as pretty much “second-class” citizens with no vote in the new democracy.

Our National Pastime

As flawed and embarrassing as that start was, it was the beginning of a culture that would provide leisure time, even if it were Sunday only, to pretty much all American people by the late 19th century. And the game of “base ball” – from the even earlier discernible times – found itself evolving into something that began to receive notice as “our national pastime”.  Without much further research, we are not sure when that reference was first made in print – nor are we aware of when a lesser know descriptor – “team chemistry” – found its way into commonly referenced usage in application to baseball. – We simply know it happened.

The Henry Ford Contribution

Henry Ford invented the assembly line as a way to build cars faster. The problem for workers was that they no longer worked on the whole assembly of a complete auto. Many complained that it was too boring to simply stand there and do the same partial thing repetitively – all day – without the former satisfaction of being involved in all aspects of producing one whole car. – Paraphrasing here, Henry Ford’s answer was straight foreword: “All we’re asking of you here is that you simply give us an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”

Words were not enough. The dispute between management and labor continued, leading eventually to the start of the United Auto Workers union as the voice of labor.

The Production-Morale Continuum

Industrial psychology got involved and came up with the idea for the Production-Morale Continuum as a way of helping corporate management and labor find their best balance between those two important ingredients. What we like about it is the fact that one may even overlay what we shall call the Pleasure-Pain Continuum over it to support how important getting this issue resolved is to finding the best fit for both management and labor.  Here’s what we mean:

Management: If you are management, what are you willing to give labor in service to the accomplishment goals that are important to you. – And is the pleasure of reaching those goals worth the pain of what you have to pay your workers to get it done?

Labor: If you are labor, what does management have to give you to make your best efforts at work possible? – And is the pleasure you derive from your paycheck worth the pain of what you have to do to get it?

So, What is Team Chemistry in Baseball?

If the preceding section made sense to you, team chemistry is everything else. It can even be the factor that transforms a silly looking and strange talking guy who once released a bird from his cap from being an absolutely forgettable managerial failure with the Braves and Dodgers during the 1930s into becoming a Hall of Fame managerial genius with the New York Yankees from 1949-1960.

If you are management, “team chemistry” works better at that level if the owner, the GM, and the manager all openly share the same realistic season goals for their team. Obviously, if the owner is expecting a World Series title, if the GM will be happy with a playoff appearance, and, if the manager is just hoping to reach .500, there are going to be problems very quickly.

On the other hand, if all three levels of management start out together wanting a World Series win, but over the years, the owner simply begins to settle privately for turning a good profit as he guts the farm system as a cost-saving measure, there are going to be problems too. Somebody’s going to get fired. And it’s never going to be the owner.

As for the players, and the team chemistry with their manager, how often do we see the pattern of a club spinning its wheels forever because they alternate managers from one end of the Production-Morale Continuum to the other. For example, Adolph Hitler gets hired to demand production of his players. If he lasts even two full seasons, he is then replaced by Kris Kringle for the sake of everyone’s morale. When the team’s rally under their new manager is either short-lived or never really in the hunt for a title, the cycle repeats. The problem exists until the club either comes to terms with the talent level of their players – or comes to terms with the fact that “carrots or sticks” alone cannot make things better in the long run – or they simply acknowledge that their club is the kind of kiss-ankle organization which only talks like winners as they play each actual card like losers by just doing what they’ve always done.

Nothing gets better when people are just doing what they have to do to protect their point of view or keep their jobs. And so, the cycle repeats:

GM: “We’re getting nowhere with Kringle. The team is happier, but we’ve lost 9 out of 1o games since he took over as manager.”


GM: “We can’t DIAL Hitler. – We just FIRED Hitler.”


GM: “Yes Sir.”

In the end, most World Series winners attribute victory to “team chemistry”, but that’s only because the joy of victory is powerful enough to cover many tears upon the soul during a long tough season. – One more time, check out the loving celebratory picture of Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson from 1997. Even before the world had PhotoShop, pictures were known to lie.


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas







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