Sam

Posts Tagged ‘Wrigley Field’

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.

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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.