Posts Tagged ‘yankees’

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.


Meaningless statistics

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 4:11 pm

It being November, I told myself I was not going to write any more about baseball. In November people should turn their thoughts to football and Thanksgiving, and nothing else. I am The Sports Purist after all. But seeing as the Giants World Series celebration is not until tomorrow I will chime in on one more very irritating custom nowadays, namely the overuse of statistics during broadcasts.

Statistics, most of them quite meaningless, have come to dominate baseball broadcasts nowadays. Computers can do amazing things such as tell you what a player’s average is against a certain pitcher or in a particular ballpark. Unfortunately they can also tell you what a player’s average was on days when he ate a tuna sandwhich as opposed to roast beef. One statistic that we hear all the time now, for example, is that so and so  led the league in RBIs with runners in scoring position with two outs and two strikes . Do we really care about this kind of statistic ?  I think not, especially when we learn that so and so is a lifetime .248 hitter who promptly strikes out with the bases loaded – as if on cue.

Another case in point: yesterday following the Giants triumph. Chris Rose of FOX informed Edgar Renteria that he was one of only four players to have game winning hits in two separate World Series. As he named the three other players Rose hesitated before each name with all the studied drama of Bob Barker revealing what is behind Door # 1, Door # 2 and Door # 3.  Renteria appeared dumb with astonishment to learn that he was in the class of three legendary Hall of Famers.  Or maybe he simply didn’t understand what Rose was saying since his English is not that good. Who knows, but the mere fact, that Edgar Renteria is mentioned in the same breath as Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio and Yogi Berra tells you what a meaningless statistic it was.

OK, that is enough baseball for the year.

Parade of Millionaires

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2010 at 1:30 am

Watching the Rangers celebration following their victory against the Yankees the other day, I couldn’t help but think of Chris Chambliss’s game winning home run off Mark Littell in game 5 of the 1976 AL Championship series. Remember that scene of total pandemonium as fans spilled out of the stands and onto the field. Chambliss could not even finish rounding the bases but headed straight for the dugout after touching second base. In fact some of the baseball’s most memorable images are as much about the fans as they are about any player or great play. Another example is the timeless picture of Bill Mazeroski’s crossing the plate as he is mobbed by fans after his HR in game 7 of the 1960 World Series.

Contrast these images to the highly choreographed celebrations that we see during the playoffs and World Series nowadays. The Rangers , for example, took a “victory lap” and then ascended a stage that had been erected out by second base where they accepted the AL Championship trophy and gave interviews on National TV while sipping Ginger Ale. The whole thing looked more like a political convention than a pennant celebration. Fans, of course, were not allowed onto the field. They never are any more. Alas.

I have often wondered about this. When I was a kid you always looked forward to that last out of the World Series when fans spilled out onto the field in unbridled joy and anarchy. In fact, they still allow this in college sports. Watch an NCAA football game and you will see fans routinely tear down goal posts after an upset. But MLB for some reason no longer allows fans on the field and teams, come playoff time, line the perimeter of the field with heavy security to prevent such behavior.

The cynical side of me says that they do this not to protect fans, as teams are wont to say, but to protect the players and, more importantly, the millions and millions of dollars invested in them. Regardless, the result is that great moments do not become great images. Compare Chambliss’s HR to Aaron Boones HR in game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship series. Although both home runs sent the Yankees to the World Series, Boone’s home run, one could argue, was much more dramatic coming as it did in extra innings against the arch rival Red Sox. Yet that moment is not imprinted in our minds because there was no ensuing celebration like we saw with the Chamblis home run. Fans were kept off the field while Boone simply rounded the bases and went into the dugout. One of the great finishes in baseball history ended just like any other game.

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.

Pom Poms

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 at 3:09 am

I tuned into the Giants – Phils game five today. Good game but for the likes of me I cannot understand why teams are handing out pom poms. It looked as if everyone at ATT Park tonight had a bright orange pom pom. It is hard enough trying to watch a game nowadays when the 11 year old kid in front of you has a foam finger and oversized foam rodeo hat and the vendor with the rainbow cotton candy ( it is no longer pink , folks)  is obstructing your vision every couple of innings. But can you imagine trying to watch a ballgame when EVERYONE in your section is waving a bright orange pom pom ? I certainly can’t. Unfortunately, most of the teams encourage this pop frenzy. There are a few exceptions like the Yankees and Red Sox. Indeed, the vibe at the ballpark these days – with the blaring music, dot racing, kissing contests, food courts, and pom poms is more similar to an amusement park than to a ballgame. Contrast this to the baseball crowds of old, like the photo above of Milwaukee Braves fans lining up for the World Series in 1957. Do these look like the kind of people who would be waving pom poms ? I think not.

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.

Tiger Woods and the new morality in American sports.

In Uncategorized on March 16, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Well, it is no surprise that Tiger Woods has announced that he will participate in this years Masters.  In fact, Tiger’s break from golf was very disingenuous coming as it did in golf’s offseason; to this point Tiger has missed only 3 “minor” tournaments. I think we knew all along that he would be back for the Masters because it just seems like the, pre-packaged made for TV sports “comeback”  that we have come to expect from the major networks. It doesn’t matter that Tiger was absent not because of a torn fibula or rotator cuff but  because he had been caught cheating on his wife with a parade of busty bimbos and was too ashamed to appear in public.  And what will the reaction of the galleries  be ?  I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone at Augusta cheered Tiger just as Dodger fans cheered Manny Ramirez upon his return last year after a 50 game suspension for steroid use. The plain fact is that athletes nowadays are not held to very high standards. An athlete can do something disgraceful, such as Marion Jones, or act with complete hypocrisy, such as Tiger,  but as long as they have not lost their game people will cheer for them.  In all honesty, athletes have always been given a break. When incidents of supposed domestic violence in Willie Mays’s marriage were reported  in the San Francisco papers in 1961 no one really cared – according to James Hirsch in his new biography of Mays.  But there was nevertheless a moral code which, if transgressed, made it difficult for a player to continue to compete in the public arena.  A good example is Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich who in the mid 1970s swapped wives – and eventually their entire families – and were subsequently booed in every city they played in.  Both were out of baseball in a matter of a few years despite promising careers.  The Tiger Woods scandal has had all the sleazy headlines of the Kekich-Peterson affair and Tiger for his hypocrisy should hear thunderous and incessant jeers upon his return. But this will not happen. because people, as I said, just don’t care anymore.