Posts Tagged ‘back in the day’

Interleague play: Frivolity ad nauseam

In Uncategorized on May 21, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Well, I see interleague play has begun again which means it is time for the Sports Purist annual invective against inter-league play.

Nowadays interleague play seems to be all about faux-historical World Series matchups. The most heralded interleague series this year is between the Cubs and Red Sox, the first visit by the Cubs to Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series. Is this series really worthy of all the national interest it has garnared ? The Cubs have been mired in medoicrity for over half a century and the Red Sox were equally bad until Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, with the aid of steroids, brought Bean Town two world championships in recent years. Moreover, when they market this series as the Cubs “first visit to Fenway since 1918 ” Major League Baseball implies that there is continuity in the game. Yet baseball in the dead-ball era and the sport nowadays have so little in common that they don’t easily invite comparison. Babe Ruth led the AL in home runs in 1918 with 11 and two pitchers tied for the most complete games, 30. Does baseball nowadays resemeble anything like this ? Is the 2011 Cubs’ franchise really the same franchise that played in the 1918 World Series ? The 1918 Cubs played at Comisky Park. Wrigley Field had not even been built yet.

As you would expect both the Red Sox and the Cubs took the field this weekend in throwback jerseys, the Cubs in an all gray road uniform and the Red Sox in an all white uniform with matching white cap – looking more like culinary staff at the Savoy Hotel complete with toques than a baseball team. A lot of teams are doing this now, wearing throw-back jerseys that date back half a century. You feel like you are watching a Buster Keaton movie, the aesthetic of an all white, nameless uniform completely lost upon the modern-day viewer. The effect is almost comical.

Interleague play with turn-of-the century throwback jerseys. Baseball circa 2011.

Frivolity ad nauseam.


What is Fantasy Baseball anyway ?

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2011 at 6:41 am

I have never understood fantasy baseball. In fact I really don’t even know what fantasy baseball is. I have so little interest in fantasy baseball that I have never even bothered to google it to find out what it is. People occasionally ask me if I play fantasy baseball but I quickly demur at the suggestion, lest they invite me to join a fantasy baseball league. My concept of fantasy baseball is that is a refuge for grown men who were never good at sports when they were kids and who, as a result, are somewhat insecure about their maleness.

When I was a kid the equivalent of fantasy baseball was Strat-O-Matic. But I never knew anyone who played Strat-O-Matic. None of the kids I hung out with showed any interest and I have only a vague recollection of what a Strat-O-Matic card looked like ( something like a Milbourne card if I recall) . If one somehow found its way into your collection, you just threw it out. Unless it was Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. And even then it didn’t warrant a rubber-band but just sat in the bottom of your shoe-box under your Topps cards. Needless to say, Strat-O-Matic was just for kids. Fantasy baseball, for some reason, has an especial lure for adults. I have no idea why.

People who play fantasy baseball seem to fall into two categories:

1.) The guy you sit next to at the ballpark who keeps score, listens to the game on a headset and wears a replica jersey. He doesn’t talk much during the game, shells a lot of peanuts while keeping score and usually brings a PBJ in wax paper from home. A beer ? Out of the question. He works at a printing company or a Copy Mat and derives great pleasure from discussing fantasy baseball with his co-workers or other initiates to this banal game. He never marries.

2.)The hyper-social male whose frenzied social networking masks a deeply seated insecurity among large groups. He is always schmoozing, patting people on the back, desperately trying to give people the impression that he “belongs.” He plays in a fantasy baseball league and wears this fact as a badge of honor. He is also known as a jerk.

Fantasy baseball: just another reason why baseball was better when I was a kid.

Spring Training, circa 2011

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2011 at 5:42 am

I was talking to a friend in Hong Kong yesterday and he mentioned that it was the first day of Spring Training. Whenever someone talks about Spring Training, I cannot help but think of a wonderful Roger Angell essay, “The old folks behind home,” first published in the New Yorker in 1962 and re-published in Angell’s collection of baseball essays, The Summer Game. Angell’s is a wonderful essay that describes the adagio pace of spring training as it once was, games played in front of sparse crowds, fans -many of them retirees rich in their knowledge of the game – and players mingling in casual proximity as if in the produce section at a local supermarket. I love this essay and read it every March, for this is how I remember Spring training as well.

How different is spring training nowadays. Most games are sold-out, attracting crowds in some parks that would equal crowds during the regular season. A crowd of 15,000 for a Grapefruit League contest, for example, would have been unheard of when I was a kid but it is routine today. As the attendance figures have escalated, so have the ticket prices. In the 1960s a spring training ticket cost $ 0.50. Today when I looked on EBAY there were over 5000 listings for tickets and the going price seemed to be about $ 25.00. Regrettably, the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues are no longer names that resonate as teams are wont to schedule some spring training games in their regular season ballparks or even abroad. It is not uncommon nowadays for teams to play an exhibition game in Tokyo, of all places. Worst of all, teams have fantasy camps to go along with the big-league camp which means that at some point during the spring you have to suffer images of your boyhood idols wearing anachronistic polyester uniforms that do not conceal the comestible excesses of retirement.

In essence Spring Training has become every bit as bad the regular season. The only difference is that games don’t count in the standings.

Who knows that will probably change soon as well.

Professional sports nowadays: Whatever happened to dress codes ?

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2011 at 8:29 pm

With just one game remaining in the college football season and the NFL playoffs underway, I begin to anticipate the dreary month of February. February is always the worst month for me because there is no football (even though I do not consider myself a Pro Football fan anymore – See Sports Purist archives- I do watch the playoffs and the Super Bowl) and baseball has yet to start. In February there is only basketball. And in basketball these days it seems that there are only tattoos.

I can no longer watch the NBA because the tattoos, diamond-stud earings and bling have quite simply become an eyesore. I think this all started with Dennis Rodman about twenty years ago, but there are very few players on the hardwood nowadays who do not sport elaborate and often cryptic tattoos. If you just looked at the bodies -and the attitudes- on the court you could easily imagine that you were walking the streets of gang-infested urban America, not watching a professional basketball game. It’s funny but I was talking to my sister, a rabid sports fan, recently and she said that she no longer watches basketball for precisely the same reason. I have a feeling we are not alone. Are you listening, David Stern ?

What happened to the hair and dress codes that were once so ubiquitous in American professional sports? I think the New York Yankees are the only professional sports team nowadays that requires its players to look like gentlemen (do people even use this word anymore ? ). When you are paying someone millions of dollars a year to project your brand into the community I would think you would have all the right to expect them to act – and dress – with decorum, as the Yankees do. And I often wonder why the NBA, in particular, has not seen proper to limit self-expression in the form of tattoos, especially given the association in American culture of tattoos with gangs. I am sure money is involved somewhere.

I have never understood the appeal of tattoos anyway.

Joe Paterno

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2011 at 1:38 am

I just got back from a short New Year’s trip here in Japan and I wanted to check the NCAA football scores, forgetting as I did that most of the traditional New Years games are now played several days to a full week and a half after January 1st. Alas. All for Television of course. Among the college football headlines today I could not help but see that Joe Paterno is planning on coming back for his 46th season at Penn State. Although I think Paterno has long outlived his effectiveness as a head coach, I think it is wonderful that he still wants to coach and that Penn State continues to support him in this role. To give you an idea of how long Paterno has been at the helm at Penn State consider that when he took over the head coaching job of the Nittany Lions LBJ was president, President Obama was five years old, and the Super Bowl was not even part of the American lexicon.

In these days of a win–at–all costs mentality in college sports, when head football coaches are routinely lured away from very lucrative professional contracts, that a major program like Penn State would choose to employ an 84 year old coach speaks volumes about their loyalty and integrity. Can you see this happening at USC or Ohio State ?

Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing Joe Paterno on the sidelines again next year. If for nothing else Joe Paterno gives us occasion to recall what was once a better time in college football.

The rise of the women’s movement and the decline of the single-bar face mask 1967-1981

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2010 at 6:32 am


A mainstay on NFL football uniforms from the early 1960s through the late 1970s the single bar face mask was worn with less frequency by the mid 1970s and had become obsolete by 1987. Our data set indicates that the three underlying vectors for this change were as follows:

1.) The empowerment of woman in the American workplace.

2.) An increase in the female viewership of prime time television owing to the popularity of shows with women in leading roles e.g. The Flying Nun, That Girl, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

3.) The debut of ABC’s prime time Monday Night Football in September of 1970.

The convergence of all three vectors in the American cultural landscape resulted in a concomittant shift in female behavior with more American women than ever viewing prime time professional football telecasts, beginning in the early 1970s. We analyzed Nielsen ratings of American Professional Football ( NFL) telecasts from our data bracket 1967-1981 and clearly established a pattern where the number of single bar face masks worn in the league declined ( from 48 in 1967 to 3 in 1980) as female viewership for professional football telecasts increased ( women were 5% of the viewing audience in 1970 but 27 % by 1981). Much of this was owing to the increasing popularity of Monday Night Football which by the late 1970s had become one of the most popular programs in prime-time American telvision. We theorize that as more women tuned into watch professional football, the league aimed to reduce levels of violence hoping to make the game more appealing to this new and growing market segment. Our data seriously contradicts our initial hypothesis that the single-bar face mask was was phased out by the league as it sought a sleeker image for itself in post-Nixonian America ( Wilcove and Collingworth 1986).

Sherman L. Peabody PHD
Winston Collingworth PHD
Reddenbacher Institute for Sports and Gender, University of Tulane

The Old Met

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 at 6:07 pm

The Metrodome has been in the news lately. The roof collapsed after a heavy snowfall in the Minneapolis-St Paul area earlier this month forcing the Vikings to move their remaining two home games to another venue. And I read today that hundreds of high school and college baseball games, as well as the Twins winter workouts, will have to be moved or subject to cancellation because the damage will not be repaired until March.

I have always regarded the Metrodome with particular disdain, one reason being that it displaced a venerable stadium in Metropolitan Stadium. Metropolitan Stadium was home to the Twins and Vikings for many years and the scene of some memorable Games including the 1965 All star game and World Series, as well countless Vikings playoff games. It was one of those picturesque stadiums of the 1960s, with grass and fences, as opposed to astro-turf and walls, a look which came to dominate stadiums in the mid-1970s and 1980s. For this reason, Metropolitan Stadium was always one of my favorite venues for the NBC Saturday Game Of The Week.

The great Vikings teams of the 60s and 70s were synonymous with Metropolitan stadium. When I think back to those teams I see the barren playing field, the snow piled up on the sidelines and Alan Page’s vaporized breath as he stands in the huddle.

I never understood why Metropolitan Stadium ceased to be good enough for the Twins and why the Vikings suddenly could no longer play in cold weather. By 1980 the stadium was in need of repairs but renovations -along the lines of the the old Yankee Stadium remodeling from 1973-1976 – could have been undertaken. Instead Metropolitan Stadium fell victim to the civic craze for domed sports and entertainment facilities.

I have often considered re-locating to Minneapolis. I am not sure Tokyo is right for me and California, my home state, is in crisis. In Minnesota I am sure I would find solid midwestern, American values, good schools and affordable home prices. The cold winters do not bother me. Were Metropolitan Stadium still in use I would be there in a heartbeat.

As long as the Metrodome stands, however, the move is on hold.