The Joy and Hate of and in Baseball

The fans/students at the University of Pittsburgh, cheering the game-ending Bill Mazeroski home-run in the 9th inning of the 7th game of the 1960 World Series.

I still have mixed feelings about baseball. The 1994 strike turned me off for years until 2004 and the Red Sox. The steroid scandals were and are an embarrassment. The prima donna aspect of many of the players is nettling (did Robin Yount or Paul  Molitor [can you tell where I’m from?] ever point to heaven or make a grand gesture just because they hit a double?). Yet, it is still the best team game.

There is no clock in baseball (though the players need to stop stepping out of the batter’s box to preen themselves, needlessly prolonging games, watch this from 1987 for an example of how they didn’t used to take 5-9 seconds outside the box) and each stadium has different dimensions and surfaces to play on, as well as each city having different wind patterns that affect fly balls. At the end of each game the losing team doesn’t come out of the dugout to shake hands with the victors. They stay, battered and beaten, feeling the pain of loss–often sullenly watching the other team celebrate:

Baseball is serious and bitter. There isn’t room for forgiveness. There is hate, hard hate, a lot of it. Here is former Balitmore Orioles manager Earl Weaver’s famous tirade on September 17, 1980 in a game against the Detroit Tigers. “First base umpire Bill Haller, who was wearing a microphone for a documentary on the daily life of an MLB umpire, called a balk on Oriole pitcher Mike Flanagan. Weaver charged out of the dugout and began screaming at Haller, who was already angry at Weaver for publicly questioning his honesty by suggesting he be prohibited from working Tigers games because his brother was the Tigers’ catcher.” – Wikipedia

A few notes on the great game last night:

-Through eight innings the Cardinals had three hits. They had ten hits in the final three innings.

-Going back to 1980 there have been 24 game 6 or game 7’s in the World Series. The road team has won only four out of those twenty-four times.

1981 L.A. Dodgers against the Yankees in Game 6

1992 Toronto against the Braves in Game 6

1997 Cleveland against the Marlins in Game 6 (Cleveland lost in seven)

2003 Florida Marlins against the Yankees in Game 6



23 thoughts on “The Joy and Hate of and in Baseball

  1. Greg, the game’s still too fresh in my mind — & too wildly, bracingly serendipitous — for me to add much. I guess I’ll just put in a word for some fielding gems in a WS contest with a surprising number of errors.

    1) Here’s to Napoli at catcher & Beltre at third, combining in that splendid, smart pickoff.

    2) Here’s to Furcal at short, putting his hitting woes out of mind to make a couple of glittering, floating spins & throws.

    • Well John, I only watched from the 7th inning on. But it seems the key, key, key play (and I don’t believe in the blame game that has taken over sports) is that rightfielder Cruz slowing down on the triple by Freese in the 10th. With more of an effort, he might have made that catch. It would have been a hard catch, but he would have had more of chance. Game of inches. Might have been the greatest catch to end a world series.

      • Greg, all due respect, but I can’t fault Cruz there. That ball was a rocket. The only two right fielders I can think of that might’ve caught up with it — maight have — are Dwight Evans at his best & the incomparable Roberto Clemente.

        The young Ken Griffey? He played center.

            • Reggie would’ve loved a game like last night’s. He was showbiz baseball at its best. When he had his three-homer Series game in ’77, against the Dodgers, the radiance practically set you blinking each time he came out to the plate.

              Clemente could rise to that level, imposing his will on a very difficult game. Check the highlights from the ’71 Series some time. He’s the hot knife & everyone else is the butter.

  2. I was out when the Phillies went out, though I’ve watched a few innings here and there. From what I’ve seen, the games have looked pretty good—they’re both strong teams.

    I dunno if it’s the best team game, though. The problem with baseball as a team sport is that too much relies on the pitcher*. Meanwhile, the left fielder stands around, picking his nose. And batters go up by themselves. It’s really a game of individuals; “team moments” account for maybe 5% of any game. None of which is to knock it, though; I love the sport.

    *Case in point. I attended a Cubs game this past summer. Good game, tied 0-0 until the 7th or so, when the Cubs rallied and scored a run. Then, in the top of the 8th, the Cubs’s relief pitcher came in and walked three guys and gave up like seven hits, and allowed the visiting team to score three runs. Then he got taken out—he didn’t manage a single out. Another relief pitcher came in and ended the inning. The Cubs went on to lose, all because of that first relief pitcher. And there was nothing anyone else on the team could do about it, really. Pretty sucky.

    • Also baseball is only game in which the defense has the “ball.” There is a hidden aspect to baseball that hardly ever gets pointed out. It might look like the left fielder is doing nothing, but actually on every pitch (and there are about 250-300 in each game) the defense is making adjustments. Depending on the count, fielders are shifting. Also, the signs that the manager is relaying to the 3rd base coach, who is relaying them to the player at the plate when runners are on.

      The Quarterback runs the show in football, to a different degree, but pretty much, football depends on the quarterback.

      Sounds like the Cubs manager should have taken that guy out sooner if he gave up three walks and seven hits.

      • Oh, I know the other players are doing things, but, c’mon, the left fielder doesn’t really do that much compared to the pitcher. I think it’s pretty obvious that, say, basketball or soccer or hockey are much more team sports, in that they constantly involve all of the players on both teams (the ones on the field at least, and not those on the bench—but baseball’s even worse in that regard).

        Yeah, I don’t know why they didn’t take that pitcher out sooner. He scuttled the whole game. But why did the Cardinals load the bases in the seventh two games back? One of which was an intentional walk, if I recall. Baseball’s a game in which you often get yourself into the problems you then have to get out of.

                • Though he has defensive fielders behind him, is a baseball pitcher “on defense?” He has 27 outs to actively record (or score), and in defending against those outs, sometimes the batting opposition records runs…

                  So long as they’re not playing teams from the SEC, when our glorious Oregon Ducks take the field, their opponent often has an offensive strategy predicated on slowing down the game and “preventing” UofO from scoring more touchdowns…

                  When the Swiss national soccer team knocks the ball around the midfield, it may be offensive as theater, but their approach to possession is essentially “defensive”…

                  …sorry for crashing the conversation – wife’s out of town, there’s been a lotta Sesame Street and sticker projects around here the past few days.

  3. Deepak Chopra thinks last night’s game was deeply spiritual. Any team that can come back from the brink of extinction over and over again, deserves admiration and respect no matter which side of the fence you are on.

  4. Rollie Fingers was a peacock and Gorman Thomas would stand in the batter’s box and admire particularly long flyouts…

    Which is to say I’m not sure today’s players have become that much more self-aggrandizing, as every generation thinks the heroes from their youth behaved with more lunch-bucket stoicism. When you’re nine, nothing about Reggie Jackson (or Mickey Mantle (or Babe Ruth)) would necessarily rub you the wrong way. For me, once my kids are old enough to understand the rules of the game, the hardest thing to explain about baseball will be the player movement, how the rosters can completely change complexion from one year to the next. Even when the teams were bad (and my Padres were always bad), you developed that connection to the players from one season to the next, to the point that now, decades later, the names Moose Haas, Ben Oglivie, and Don Money probably bring a smile to your face far out of proportion to their actual on-field production. Okay, not Ben Oglivie, he deserves the nostalgia – dude swung a huge stick.

    • True and Babe Ruth called his shot, maybe. I actually was nine when Reggie’s Angels played the Brewers in the ALCS and I knew Reggie was a hot dog. The rosters didn’t change as much 20-25 years ago as they do now – I think of that as a weakness, but that’s baseball.

      I do think the celebrations in all sports (even tennis with Nadal and Jokovic) are way over the top, but indicative of the ego driven time we live in. Did Walter Payton ever dance around in the end zone? Morgan on the Brewers is the most painful case of prima donna.

      Hey, the Padres came close in ’84.

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