Sam

Posts Tagged ‘Dodger Stadium’

Fans and players – then and now

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm

One of my pastimes is collecting vintage sports photos, some of which you see here on the Sports Purist. I recently bought this photo of Reggie Smith taken in the mid 1960s. When I look at this wonderful picture I cannot help but think how sports in America has changed over the last 40 years. Is there any ballpark in America nowadays where you could find a crowd that resembles this wholesome vignette of Fenway Park circa 1966? The answer is, of course, no. Crowds at ballparks and stadiums nowadays are often rude, inebriated and sometimes violent -witness the Bryan Stow beating at Dodger Stadium at the beginning of this season or the shooting of two fans following a 49ers exhibition game this past summer. In fact, I found it very interesting that after the Stow incident many longtime Dodger fans said they no longer attended Dodger games because the gang presence at Dodger Stadium had become too ominous. Needless to say, it is hard to reconcile my image of picturesque Dodger Stadium over the years with the reality of the place nowadays. Many of the other parks are no different.

The other thing that struck me about this photo is the proximity between player and fans, the physical proximity but the emotional proximity as well. Smith seems genuinely at home with the fans as they do with him. Maybe this is because Smith’s income, when this picture was taken, was probably at or around the MLB minimum in 1966, under $ 10,000 a year. In other words, what the average American was making back in 1966. The only thing that sets Smith apart from everyone else in the photo is the fact that he is wearing a uniform and they are not. Yes, he is black and they are white but even race does not register in this photo. Looking at this image one cannot help but feel that there was once a unique closeness between players and fans, a closeness which no longer exists.

Finally, one other thing that makes this photo so wonderful: when is the last time you were in an American ballpark or stadium and did not see a tattoo?

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Why yesterday’s players were better

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2011 at 12:12 am

I don’t know how many times I have gotten into arguments with people who insist that professional baseball players nowadays are stronger, faster and overall better athletes than ballplayers of an earlier era. Even experienced broadcasters and analysts adhere to this belief. The facts however just don’t support this mis-guided point of view. A case in point: in the history of Tiger Stadium from 1912-1999 only four players hit the ball over the left-field roof: Frank Howard, Harmon Killebrew, Cecil Fielder and Mark McGwire. McGwire’s scandalous record speaks for itself. Although Cecil Fielder’s name has never been linked to steroids he did play in an era which was defined by steroid use and it would not, therefore, be unreasonable to suspect that he may also have used steroids at some point. Frank Howard and Harmon Killebrew, on the other hand, played when performance enhancing drugs were non-existent in American professional sports, and one could argue that they are the only two players who legitimately hit the ball out of Tiger Stadium in its 97 year history.

Similarly only three players have managed to hit the ball completely out of Dodger Stadium: Mike Piazza , Mark McGwire and Willie Stargell who in fact did it twice. Only Stargell’s and McGwire’s drives left the park on the fly. Piazza’s HR hit the roof in left field and bounced into the parking lot. Once again, McGwire’s record speaks for itself. Was Piazza’s home-run legitimate ? Probably not, for he also has long been suspected of using steroids. Willie Stargell on steroids ? Forget it.

In fact, if you google the older ballparks and the longest HRs in those parks, you will see that the longest HRs were hit by players going back one or two generations e.g. a Ted Williams HR at Fenway in 1946 that was measured at 502 ft – regarded as the longest ever HR at Fenway – or a Dave Kingman shot at Wrigley Field in 1976 which almost hit the scoreboard. In the history of Shea Stadium 1964-2007 only one player ever hit a ball into the third deck in LF. That was Tommie Agee in April of 1969. Not even Mark McGwire on steroids could accomplish that.

If today’s players are better athletes then why don’t they hit the ball as far as players in the “old” days ?

The answer: they can’t.

Turnpike Stadium

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 at 7:55 pm

I just finished watching the Rangers conclude their series with the Yankees, on their way to their first World Series. Athough I have rooted for the Yankees for years I find myself indifferent to their fortunes now – since they have moved into the new “Yankee Stadium.” By the fourth or fifth inning today I found myself rooting for Texas, a strange phenomena in itself. I mean I don’t even like the Rangers, one reason being that the stadium they play in is a claustrophobic monument to bad architecture. It looks more like a set at the Grand Ole Opry than a baseball park. I cringe to think that the World Series will be played there.

The old Arlington Stadium, on the other hand, seemed like a nice place to watch a game. It was built in 1965 as Turnpike Stadium and was similar to other Modernist ballparks of the era e.g. Candlestick Park , Dodger Stadium, the Oakland Coliseum. The open design of these stadiums lent itself to introspection. Between pitches you would often find yourself looking into the blue void beyond the outfield thinking of nothing in particular, maybe a distant memory from your childhood, or a time when you saw Mickey Mantle play or maybe just something as mundane as the new AC Delco battery in your car.  In this sense, the design of ballparks like Arlington Stadium, underscored baseball’s nature as a quiet, reflective game.

Unfortunately, parks nowadays, like the new Rangers stadium, are anything but meditative. Your senses are bombarded from the minute you enter the gate. All the concession stands have TV monitors, the radio broadcast is audible in the bathrooms and your ears are assualted with rock music between every batter.

Silence is no longer golden. Apparently, it is now bad business.