Posts Tagged ‘Hank Aaron’

Post 3-11 Sports purist

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2011 at 5:29 am

It has been awhile since I have written anything. Living here in Tokyo we endured the earthquake of March 11 ( what is now being referred to here as ‘3-11″ ) and have been collectively paralyzed by everything that followed, most notably Fukushima. But life is slowly getting back to normal here: the trains are packed during the morning commute; the spate of post-disaster TV news programs, some of them very good, have given way to the insipid variety programs that define Japanese TV; people are thinking about foreign travel, hot springs and food again. So when I received an email the other day from a friend bemoaning Bud Selig’s plan to expand the playoffs I realized it was time for the Sports Purist to get back to “normal” too.

Since the season opened, there has been a lot to opine about including the Barry Bonds trial, the brutal beating of a fan outside Dodger Stadium , Manny Ramirez’s very un-graceful “retirement.” But let’s start with Bud Selig.

I have never understood Bud Selig. Selig has always been a self-professed baseball fan, frequently talking about his love for those great Milwaukee Braves teams of the late 1950s while a kid growing up in Milwaukee. He has been a lifelong friend of Henry Aaron which means that he can’t be all that bad. Or at least you would think. Yet Selig has done more to ruin the game during his tenure than any commissioner before him. Under Selig we have seen:

– Inter-league play which deprives the World Series of considerable mystique.
– World Series games frequently played into late October, early November.
– Rampant drug use.
– A gimmicky winner-takes-all format for the all-star game.
– A tie in an all-star game.
– Hallowed baseball records broken by ball players on steroids.
– Two Red Sox World Series championships ( right there that tells you that something is out of kilter)
– A disastrous players strike in 1994, until the strike one of baseballs most exciting seasons ever.
– Regular season games played on foreign soil including an “opening day” in Tokyo
– An astronomical rise in players salaries and ticket prices so that the demographic in any major league park nowadays is decidedly white and middle class ( Dodger Stadium is not a ballpark. It is a drug-infested neighborhood).

Anyway, I can do without Bud Selig. Even if he is a friend of Henry Aaron’s.


Opening Day – smorgasboard for the masses

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Well another baseball season is just around the corner. How I used to look forward to Opening Day and the traditional matinée between the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves.  That game used to be the only game played on Opening Day while all the other major league teams went into action on the following day.  The Reds-Braves opener had all the sacredness of National Holiday.  Just as Thanksgiving falls on the last Thursday in November, so the Reds-Braves contest was held on the first Monday in April.  That the opening game was never nationally televised – not even when Hank Aaron opened the 1974 season one home run shy of Babe Ruth’s record – but simply played for the enjoyment of the sun-soaked denizens of Crosley Field or Riverfront Stadium gave it a decidedly small town feel – an echo of baseball’s origins in Cincinnati.

But things have changed under the shrewd commisionership of Bud Selig.  This year, for example, on the same day the Yanks and Bosox meet in the season opener – a Sunday night game slotted for a prime time national broadcast – the Giants will be playing the Mariners in the last exhibition game of the Cactus League season.  A few years ago,  the Yanks and Red Sox opened the season – in Tokyo of all places – while a week of spring training games back home was still on the schedule. This is sheer lunacy.  Why does the league have to tinker with every sacred tradition ? The reason of course is money.   I just hope the next commissioner of Baseball – hopefully someone along the lines of Bart Giamatti ( pictured in his early days at Yale) or Fay Vincent, two individuals who never would have even thought to tinker with the Braves- Reds  opening day tradition  –  will put an end to this madness.

Then and Now

In Trivia and Nostalgia on June 18, 2009 at 4:09 pm


I normally don’t attend inter-league contests on the principal that the National and American leagues should not meet until the World Series( I am the” Sports Purist” after all, an unsolicited  name fashioned for me by my friend Lin ). But a friend of a friend came up with a “club box” ( the Giants BTW have an absurd 14 tiers of ticket prices) for this past Tuesday’s contest between the Giants and the Angels and so I said “what the heck” and went to the game.

Seats were great. The game less so. Giants fell behind early 7-1 leaving “Tom” and me plenty of time to reminisce about baseball’s Golden Age. I think we got started in O’Neils bar before the game where, under the influence of a couple of Guinesses,  I had to tell a young couple decked out in bright red, garish Angels gear that the face of the Angels franchise in the 1960s was a phenom shortstop by the name of Jim Fregosi. Of course they had never heard of him. It never ceases to astonish me how little people, who say they are fans, know about the history of the game.

Anyway, during the game Tom and I got on the subject of the paltry salaries of  the players of yesteryear. I brought up the name of Larry Colton, a pitcher for the Phils who, after leaving the Phils, clerked at Northside Books in Berkeley Ca. That was in the early 70s and he probably made about $3.25 an hour. But that didn’t matter to us. We used to go talk to him all the time, just in awe that a major league pitcher was down there standing behind the counter at the local bookstore.

Duke Snider – as Doris Kearns Goodwin’ mentions in her book on the Brooklyn Dodgers Wait til Next Year – was a mailman in the off-season. Can you imagine growing up in those days in Brooklyn and seeing Duke Snider at your door with a package ? This is just one more example of how the game has changed over the years. In the old days, the players were just like you and me, getting up every day and going to spiritually taxing, hum-drum jobs. The economic gulf  between most players and fans didn’t exist,  and doctors, as they should, made more than pitchers.

 It was a different game then.