Sam

Posts Tagged ‘Mets’

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.

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Catchers masks; then and now

In Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Watching Buster Posey in the World Series, I cannot help but recall the old days when catchers would just flip around their batting helmet before putting on their catcher’s mask and that would be all the protection they needed behind the plate. That has become something of a classic look nowadays as so many catchers, like Posey, have gone to the” hockey style” catcher’s mask, a mask which looks like it was developed not in the musty office of an aging Rawlings sales rep but  in a aero-dynamics lab on an American university campus somewhere. For the old school baseball fan, like myself, who grew up watching austere receivers like Johnny Bench or Bill Freehan the new mask is an eyesore and just another useless accessory, like the ankle guard or personalized wrist band, that threatens the visual simplicity of the game.

And then there are the special oversized helmets for players who have suffered a head injury or concussion, like David Wright, or Francisco Cervelli. Every time I see Cervelli in that ridiculously oversized helmet I cannot help but think of  Marvin the Martian from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons.  I wonder how would Freddie Patek, all 5’4″ of  him would  have looked in one of those ?

This proliferation of specialized helmets is, I suspect, a reflection of our over-protective society and baseball’s propensity in recent years to fashion a new look for itself in an effort to attract younger fans.  Fortunately, I have not met anyone who likes this trend.

Ron Swoboda’s catch

In Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 at 5:38 pm

I remember a few years ago, one of the sponsers during the World Series had a contest to rank the greatest catches ever. I forget which catch was voted # 1 but it may have been a Gary Matthews Jr. catch from a meaningless game few years back ( of course no one mentioned that Matthews’s name had come up several times during the steroids scandal) . The Mays catch in the 1954 World Series came in second I believe. However, nowhere was the Ron Swoboda catch in game 3 of the 1969 World Series mentioned. Mickey Mantle called Swoboda’s catch the “greatest catch he had ever seen.”

Swoboda’s is an amazing play, a combination of, luck, instinct and precision timing. But what fascinates me most is the sheer quickness at which the play unfolds.  Brooks Robinson’s line drive off Tom Seaver is headed to the gap in right center field seemingly before Robinson has even left the batter’s box. There is no reaction time. Swoboda dives for the ball, his body stretched as if on a Medieval rack. He spears the ball in the webbing of his glove, rolls over and is up on his feet in one motion to make the throw into the infield. All this action happens in seconds. That there were 2 runners on in the ninth inning of a one run game, pivotal game 3 of the series, gives it even more meaning.  Had Swoboda not made the catch the Mets very likely would have lost the game and the series to the heavily favored Orioles.  One of the enduring images of the 1960s, the Mets world series victory, would never have occurred.

The catch changed history.