Posted: Tuesday August 4, 2009 1:33PM; Updated: Tuesday August 4, 2009 5:29PM
Youppi was the first mascot to be thrown out of a major league game, in 1989.
25 Things We Miss In Baseball
Let's pause and give thanks that the franchises in Boston, Cincinnati and on the South Side of Chicago aren't being named today. We might be stuck with clubs named the Baggies, the Bell Bottoms and the Cuffs. Who knows what color stockings the Red Sox, Reds (née the Redlegs), and White Sox wear these days, or if they wear them at all. With just about every player of the last 15 years wearing his pant legs down to his shoe tops (or beyond; we're looking at you, Ryan Howard) a treasured uniform quirk has disappeared: the stirrup.
In the early 20th century clothing dyes weren't colorfast: Anyone who got spiked risked blood poisoning if the ink from his hose seeped into an open wound. So ballplayers wore white sock underlayers -- still called sanitaries -- with fancier colored, loop-bottomed socks on top. Over the years stirrups became baseball's version of the flair in Office Space, a way to show some personality. Some players wore them low, to flash the stripes near their knees (take a bow, Carl Yastrzemski). Others pulled their stirrups so taut that the loops became tension wires, thin strips of color beneath skin-tight double-knits (hello, Wade Boggs). In between were the sensible sorts, the Tom Seavers, the guys whose stirrups straddled the middle ground -- a few inches of loop down low, a few inches of solid color up top.If you paid attention in the '70s and '80s, you could spot a player by his stirrups. And if you were a Little Leaguer back then, stirrup style was a huge game-day decision. (I liked to think I had an ERA like Seaver and socks like Boggs.) Now? Aside from a few throwbacks (Jamie Moyer and Juan Pierre, we salute you), there's not a stirrup to be seen. Too bad. The baseball uniform is more boring than ever. And no one wants an expansion team named the Boot Cuts. —Stephen Cannella
2. Home Run Derby
Say "Home Run Derby" to today's younger generation of fans, and they immediately conjure the annual live, musclebound ESPN extravaganza at the All-Star break. But to those of us of a certain age, the original is still the greatest: the 1960 syndicated TV show that was pure low-rent, low-tech fun. The 26 episodes pitted 19 sluggers of the day -- from Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron to Bob Cerv, Jackie Jensen and Jim Lemon -- in taped, nine-inning slugfests held at Los Angeles’s Wrigley Field, a minor-league park that would in ’61 become the first home of the expansion Angels. (In the empty ballpark, every shot resounded.) Each week's winner received the munificent sum of $2,000 and a chance to face another opponent in the next episode; the runner-up took home $1,000. It is a measure of the era’s chump-change salaries that almost all the power hitters of the era participated.
In those days of rationed televised baseball, getting to see our heroes in mano-a-mano combat was not only a thrill but also an argument-settler. Would the Mick out-homer the Say Hey Kid, my hero then and still? The anticipation among my Little League circle was as high as if the Yanks and Giants were playing in the Fall Classic. Accordingly, I was crushed when Mantle overcame a six-homer deficit to prevail 9-8.
But the real treat was provided by the unintentionally hilarious byplay between the sluggers and the host, Mark Scott, the type of Hollywood-handsome, big-voiced announcer in fashion then on game shows, local stations and radio. Between turns at bat, each hitter sat down next to Scott and watched his opponent bang away. Here’s the pitch. Whack! “That one went a long way, didn’t it?” Scott would ask Mick/Willie/Hank.
“Yup,” Mick/Willie/Hank would answer. Or: “That’s right, Mark.” Or: “Sure did.”
Did we hang on every word? Yup. That Derby has stuck with us all these years, hasn’t it? That’s right, Mark. And this show helped some of us decide to be either ballplayers or sportswriters, didn’t it?Sure did. —Dick Friedman
3. "NO PEPPER" Signs
They used to be like airline food. The mere sight of one caused everyone, no matter how refined their sense of humor, to launch into a Seinfeldian riff about the need to ban such a harmless pursuit. “Is this the most hazardous thing they could think of? Come on! They’re major leaguers!” The cool thing about the signs was that they lent an air of danger to pepper, which we, as kids back in the day, used to play. We were engaging in an act that someone had deemed to be too dangerous for Reggie Jackson or Pete Rose. Then somewhere along the line, the anti-pepper movement won. The signs disappeared, no longer necessary because the game had vanished, too. And now we’ll never know what was so dangerous about it. —Mark Bechtel
A banner hung over the entrance: IT'S GREAT TO BE AT DODGERTOWN! And quickly you understood why. You walked down the magical pathways made of crushed seashells. Down Vin Scully Way and down Don Drysdale Drive, the streets lined with baseball-globed lampposts, azaleas in bloom and the occasional royal palm. In the distance the crack of bats echoed. The smell of freshly cut grass (somehow, it was always freshly cut) in the air. Here time moved as slowly as Tommy Lasorda waddled around the grounds in those last years of this baseball paradise. Dodgertown was spring training at its best.
At Holman Stadium, games had the intimacy of a middle school play. Neither the stands -- just 17 rows deep -- nor the dugouts were roofed. During games, players from opposing teams carried on conversations as they sat side by side on a grassy hill, under the shade of palm trees, just beyond right field. It was on these resplendent grounds that Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider and Sandy Koufax trained. Nowhere in the baseball universe did past and present blend so wonderfully. Even in recent years Koufax taught the art of the curveball to minor leaguers on the back fields. Lasorda, the mayor of Dodgertown, welcomed fans from a golf cart.This spring, the Dodgers packed up their bags and relocated to an $80 million complex in Glendale, Ariz., a sprawling estate they share with the Chicago White Sox. And spring would never be the same. —Albert Chen
5. Walking Out Through Right Field at Old Yankee Stadium
You can cue the maudlin strains of Sinatra’s There Used to Be a Ballpark and I still won’t get teary-eyed about the loss of the old Yankee Stadium, or rail against the ultrasonic, jumbotronic palace that has taken its place. What I do miss is a priceless piece of magic that had long exited the stadium in the Bronx: the ability to walk out on the field after the game and depart through the outfield.
Ballparks are routinely eulogized as cathedrals, but it really did seem like hallowed ground when I went to my first game in 1961. I was eight. The dazzling green grass emerging from the darkness of the stadium ramps made you feel like you’d made it to the Promised Land. That was the year that Mantle and Maris were chasing Babe Ruth's record, and their totals would be updated daily on a makeshift scoreboard in the window of the pizzeria on the main street in my little town. My dad wasn’t a big sports fan, but he got tickets for us to see the Yanks play the Tigers.
I have two distinct and beautiful memories from that day. One was the thrill of seeing a big-league triple (Tigers rookie second baseman Jake Wood hit it). But the really magical moment came after the game, when I tugged on my dad’s sleeve and whined sufficiently that he let me follow the crowd out of the gate onto the field and walk along the warning track and across that sacred grass where Mickey Mantle had trod.The Yankees discontinued the practice sometime later in the '60s. The new stadium cost $1.5 billion, and for some little kid -- and maybe the little kid who needs to be kept alive in big kids -- that one thing might make it seem worth the price. —Greg Kelly
6. Listening to Baseball on the Radio
Once upon a time, before Sirius and XM and MLB.com, there was a thing we called radio. It came in two varieties: FM and AM. The former was for music and the latter was for everything else –- especially, to a pre-adolescent boy in suburban Detroit, baseball.
Listening to Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey call Tigers games on WJR was a pleasure, and a frequent pleasure at that. The rarer treat was to dial in distant games on the radio in the car, usually late at night (i.e., after 8 o’clock), often on a Saturday. (It seemed that car antennae were particularly receptive and that megahertz traveled farther through the night sky.)
We would park somewhere (often in our driveway) and I would turn the knob slowly, like a safecracker, listening for the faint, scratchy, recognizable tones of a ballgame. I could often pull in Cincinnati’s powerful station, WLW -- which a teenager could pick up on his braces -- and KMOX from St. Louis.
This was not about hearing the famed tones of Joe Nuxhall or Jack Buck -- I didn’t know who they were then. It was a chance to hear what the ball sounded like off the bats of Hank Aaron, Pete Rose and Willie Stargell. Growing up in Detroit, this was as close to watching a National Leaguer play as I could get, outside of an All-Star Game or a World Series.And what I remember thinking was, “Hey, these greats sound a lot like my guys, Al Kaline, Willie Horton and Bill Freehan.” —Richard Demak
7. Quality Mustaches
Where have you gone, Rollie Fingers? Or, more accurately, where has the cool mustache gone? The handlebar –- along with the other great facial hair features of yesteryear -– is as much a relic of the past as eight-track tapes. And that’s a shame. Even a decent mutton chop would add flair to the game, because anything is better than today’s variations of chin straps, extra-long goatees and exotic sideburn designs. Not everyone needs to look like they play for the straitlaced Yankees, but if you’re going to grow something, do it right. Look like a big leaguer. When it comes to facial follicles, bushy is anything but bush league. —Ted Keith
8. When Catchers Wore Caps
Like hockey players, catchers have steadily disappeared under increasing layers of protective gear. In fact, the current catcher’s helmet, introduced in 1997 by Charlie O’Brien of the Blue Jays, was based on the modern goalie mask with a head-encompassing fiberglass/Kevlar shell and attached wire cage. Some backstops, such as Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, still wear the traditional mask, in use for more than a century, with a batting helmet turned backward as introduced by another Twin, Earl Battey, in 1962. But there’s a romance attached to the old days when catchers wore a cloth fielder’s cap along with a mask. Maybe it has something to do with baseball’s, well, uniformity. Managers and coaches dress like players, and the players look alike, save for the catcher in his tools of ignorance. His cap, however, made him feel a little more part of the team. Battey donned his helmet after his cheekbones were broken, and O’Brien took matters a step further when two consecutive foul tips to the mask made him see stars. I can’t fault either of them, but the old cloth cap was the surest sign that the catcher was the toughest guy on the field. —John Rolfe
9. Wimpy Middle Infielders
As kids, some of us were -- how to put it? -- wimps. Small. Skinny. Able to put the bat on the ball consistently, unable to make it travel much farther than the pitcher’s mound. But that was fine, at least as dreams of a major league career went. Because before steroids, before weight training, before Cal Ripken Jr., before this crazy idea that baseball players had to be good at the plate and in the field, there was a class of ballplayer that gave hope to every kid who still weighed 50 pounds in the fifth grade: the minuscule middle infielder. They were the guys for whom terms like "scrappy" and "good-field, no-hit" were coined. Freddie Patek. Duane Kuiper. Jerry Remy. Mark Belanger. Those guys couldn’t hit a lick. And, let’s be honest, they looked kind of goofy, too.But they were big leaguers. As youngsters, most of us always knew we’d never be tall enough for the NBA or hulking enough for the NFL. But baseball, there was a sport that regular-sized people could play, and therein lied much of its appeal. Little Leaguers of my era could look at Patek and think, “He’s only an inch taller than I am!” Of Kuiper: “He only has one more major league homer than I do!” And of Remy: “His perm is worse than Mom’s!” The common man is gone from the game, even at positions where power, strength and offensive ability once took a back seat to defensive skills, strategic smarts and whatever the noun form of scrappy is. (And no, Dustin Pedroia doesn’t count. He’s a slugger masquerading as a little guy.) The great baseball illusion is dead: There’s no room for wimps any more. Thanks, Cal. —S.C.
I can recall virtually nothing about what happened on the field during the one game I ever attended at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium -- that’s Stade Olympique, if we’re being fancy -- back in 1999. I know it was May, and I know the miserable Expos played the slightly-less-miserable Brewers, and so baseball-reference.com tells me that about 8,000 of us watched Montreal win 12-4 behind four RBIs from Vladimir Guerrero.
What I do remember about that night in Montreal is everything else: the dim, rec-room quality of the light inside the Big O. The uneven Astroturf, as thin as pool-table felt. The single usher who enthusiastically chased away kids who tried to sneak down to the field-level seats, which, like most of the rest of the stadium, were all but empty.
Most of all, though, I remember Youppi!, that 7-foot-tall whatever-it-is whose orange fur provided the one dash of bright color inside the dank, blue-gray-green Big O. As professional baseball died its slow and agonizing death in Montreal –- the Expos didn’t become the Washington Nationals until six brutal years after I saw them -- Youppi! silently danced on the dugout, pranked the opposing team, hugged terrified little kids, and, like the fiddlers on the Titanic, did everything to divert attention from the inevitable, which finally came on Sept. 29, 2004, when the Expos played their last home game. There was talk that Youppi! might follow the team to D.C., but the Nats instead commissioned a generally charmless eagle mascot named Screech.
Baseball’s loss was hockey’s gain: the Canadiens quickly hired Youppi! to roam around their home games, and he (she?) exchanged an Expos jersey for a Habs sweater.
The Expos are gone now, but with each theatrically wordless gesture in the Bell Centre, Youppi! reminds us of them, and of a simpler time when every team didn’t play in a bright, cutely retro ballpark with steakhouses, thickly padded seats and enormous videoboards.So, gesture on, Youppi!. Gesture on. —Ben Reiter
11. Fans Running Out Onto the Field
The other day a replay of the deciding game of the 1976 ALCS was on TV. It ends with Chris Chambliss hitting a pennant-clinching walkoff homer, which is a misnomer because Chambliss didn’t walk at all. He was running like he was being chased -- because he was. As soon as the ball hit the seats, a gaggle of shaggy New Yorkers in bell bottoms streamed out of the Yankee Stadium stands and descended on the infield. By the time Chambliss rounded third, he looked like Adrian Peterson: helmet clutched to his chest like a football, dodging whomever he could and plowing over everyone else. Nobody meant him any harm, of course. They just wanted to be a part of a spontaneous celebration (and maybe steal Chambliss’ helmet). It was cool. Now, though, the ninth inning of a deciding game means cops (on foot, on horseback, in tanks) ringing the field, keeping anyone from even thinking about rushing the diamond. So what are we left with? A scene of contrived mayhem in which bunch of dudes jump onto a pile -- surrounded by acres of nothing -- then put on goggles and go celebrate in a locker room that’s been covered with those giant clear tarps that serial killers use, lest anyone’s street clothes get soggy. Want to liven it up? Easy. Make it spontaneous. Let fans back on the field. —M.B.
12. The Baseball Bunch
Can you imagine one of the best players in baseball hosting a weekly television show in which he teaches kids the fundamentals of the game? Of course you can't. But that's just what Johnny Bench did from 1982 to 1985 on The Baseball Bunch, which was often paired with This Week In Baseball (narrated by Mel Allen) to form an awesome hour of television.Each week, Bench was joined by a fellow big leaguer and the two ran a group of youngsters through drills on things like stealing bases, bunting and fielding grounders. The show also featured Tommy Lasorda as "The Wizard," who would deliver a message to the kids about how to play the game properly. This lecture was accompanied by highlights and bloopers, which may not seem like a big deal now, but in the days before 700 hundred daily SportsCenters, the MLB Network (and this thing called the Internet), it was genuinely exciting to see highlights. For any kid who grew up in the '80s and loved the national pastime, The Baseball Bunch was must-see TV. —Jimmy Traina
13. Organ Music
Attention, teams: Do you think fans are impressed with your piped-in stadium music? Do you think we care that Ozzy Osbourne announces Chipper Jones’ at-bats, or that Mariano Rivera enters as the Sandman? Please. Take your Young Jeezy and your Lil’ Wayne, your AC/DC and your White Stripes, take all your studio-created and digitally transmitted noise and throw it out. Instead, give me Omaha’s Lambert Bartak warming up the College World Series crowd with one of the hundreds of tunes he pulls off the top of his head. Give me Philadelphia’s Peggy Lee embarrassing an on-field streaker with a quick rendition of Is That All There Is? Give me a human being, one with talent and poise, one with an eye on the game and an ear for the crowd, one who knows that the music should lie quietly in the background, except for in those moments that demand it take center stage. Just give me an organist. Let the baseball do the rest.—Jordan Conn
14. Pitchers With High Leg Kicks
There’s no worse sin in baseball than hurting a guy’s arm. Which is why no one throws complete games anymore and why pitchers are moving closer and closer to a standardized delivery. With precious few exceptions, it’s a compact, drop-and-drive, by-the-book motion. (Rumor is, every member of the Giants front office takes two Xanax whenever Tim Lincecum pitches.) Gone are the days of elaborate windups -- the swinging of the arms, the rocking to and fro, the kicking of the legs. (Juan Marichal’s attempt to touch the sun with his toe is the most obvious example, though a personal favorite was Jack Brennan of the Indians, who used to come to a stop with his left foot in the air, like John Cleese in the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch.) It might make sense; that much wasted effort can’t be good. But at least when you saw a Marichal (or even a Brennan) pitch, you knew who you were looking at. And it’s a whole lot more fun to pretend to be Marichal on the playground than Roger Clemens. —M.B.
15. Tiger Stadium’s Short Porch in Right field
Sitting alongside the American League’s most cavernous center field (440 feet), Detroit’s right field foul pole stood just 325 feet from home plate. It was born in 1938 when the structure’s expansion was completed and lasted until 1999. The second deck in right field hung 10 feet over the playing surface and created one of the most unique features of any ballpark past or present. Motown fans and foes saw countless Norm Cash, Gates Brown and Lou Whitaker warning track fly balls magically transformed into Tigers runs due more to trajectory than distance. Unlike the faux-features shoehorned into some of today’s modern ballparks, designed more to satisfy the public’s thirst for nostalgia than for the quality of the game, Tiger Stadium’s signature attribute was an invention of necessity —- right field was flush against Trumbull Avenue, forcing expansion away from the street when more seats were needed. At least its memory lives on: The Pepsi right-field porch at Citi Field, the new home of the Mets, was inspired by Tiger Stadium, which Jeff Wilpon, the team’s chief operating office, visited as a kid with his grandfather. —David Sabino
16. Basket Catches
The motion was simple, a bend of the wrist and spread of the fingers creating a waist-high cradle for the free-falling baseball. The arms barely moved. Fundamentals were ignored. But then the ball dropped and the glove popped and the crowd "Ahhhed!" and suddenly, the routine had become the extraordinary. At least that’s how it was in the Deadball Era, when Rabbit Maranville roamed the infield, turning pop-ups into highlights before highlights even existed. The basket catch was casual then, its degree of difficulty obscured by nonchalance. It was just something that a few fielders -- Maranville and, later, Willie Mays chief among them -- perfected to fans’ delight.
In the 2006 book A Young Baseball Player’s Guide to Fielding and Defense, authors Don Oster and Bill McMillan list the basket technique under the subhead "Catches Not to Make." Too much flash. Too big a risk. Now a pariah at the ballpark, the basket has been relegated to the back yard. Sure, it makes cameos every now and then -- Ichiro evoked memories of Mays with a wall-smacking grab against Boston last year -- but it’s now an act of desperation, only to be made when impossible angles render fundamentals irrelevant.The Tom Emanskis of the world have had their way, and thousands of players have probably raised their fielding percentages because of it. That’s fine. The glove is a tool. But once upon a time, it could also be a toy.—J.C.
17. Bill Veeck
We need to stop taking this sport so seriously. The richer baseball becomes as a business, the more protective everyone gets of everything. Fun -- the lifeblood and foundation of the game – is being squeezed out. But who in major league baseball with access to the levers of power can make the game pure fun again? Who can give us more innovations like doubleheaders, ivy-covered walls and exploding scoreboards? Nobody. Not anymore, at least. Bill Veeck was an owner, a visionary and, thanks to the 1948 Cleveland Indians, a world champion. He may also have been the last man in the exclusive fraternity of major league baseball who knew that baseball, before it was about multi-million dollar contracts, drug scandals and TV deals, was about fun. That it was a game. And because he did, and because he won anyway, he was one other thing, too: a Hall of Famer. —T.K.
18. The Eephus Pitch
It is one of the game’s universal truths that the best pitch in baseball is still a fastball, and it is one of the game’s beauties that this has been universally true since Abner Doubleday (or whomever) first picked up a ball. The hallmarks of a good fastball –- straight, hard, precise and with as much velocity as can be summoned -- may be effective, but it’s so, so … common. Every one throws a fastball. In fact, everyone throws a fastball a lot. Tim Wakefield might be the only big league pitcher who doesn’t throw one at least 50 percent of the time.
Wakefield’s specialty is the knuckleball, but that is downright standard compared to the true opposite of the fastball. The eephus pitch. Think of a pitch thrown with as much arc as possible. Instead of it being thrown hard, imagine it being so slow it wouldn’t be ticketed for speeding in a school zone (Dave LaRoche, the last great practitioner of the eephus, once claimed he could throw it in the low 30s). And instead of precision, imagine it being simply lobbed toward the plate in the general vicinity of the strike zone, sort of like the way your dad pitched to you when you were eight years old.Pitcher Orlando Hernandez broke it out once a couple years ago, but when Alex Rodriguez teed off on it, the pitch was a memory again almost before A-Rod’s homer came out of orbit. Before Hernandez, there was a plethora of eephus experimenters, from LaRoche’s La Lob to Bill Lee’s spaceball to Steve Hamilton’s Folly Floater. The origins of the pitch can be traced –- on an arc, of course –- back to Rip Sewell of the Pirates, who floated his way to the 1946 All-Star Game on the strength of his invention. He then surrendered a memorable home run to Ted Williams off an eephus pitch and was never heard from again. —T.K.
19. Ted Kluszewski's Guns
Many years ago, I was given a set of 3x5 cards with black-and-white pictures of major leaguers from the 1950s. One player stood out. Not Mickey Mantle. Not Willie Mays. Not Duke Snider. Klu. Ted Kluszewski. My god, those arms. He looked like he could literally scare the ball over the fence. In a 1956 article in Sports Illustrated, Robert Creamer desribed Klu at the plate: “He swings his bat with none of Ted Williams' grace, or Stan Musial's precision, or Mickey Mantle's explosive coordination. He holds the bat no more than half way back, it seems, more like a man with a fly swatter who is willing to land heavily on the fly if it comes within reach but who isn't about to get excited over the chase. When the pitch approaches the plate, he brings the bat down in a short, level swing ... and meets the ball. That's about all. There's not much wrist action and comparatively little follow-through. It's all arms. But the overwhelming power resident in those arms cows the ball, reverses its direction and sends it flying toward the distant fences.” Plenty of today’s players could put Klu’s guns to shame -- they weren’t shapely so much as just thick. But that’s why we miss them: They were unlike anything else in the game. —M.B.
Roger McDowell will go down in major league history as the greatest prankster to step on the diamond. He is most famed (along with being Seinfeld's second spitter) for being the guy who could skillfully wrap a wad of chewing gum around a cigarette, then secretly place the contraption on the heels of unsuspecting teammates and light ‘em up. That's the old-fashioned hotfoot. While today's Mets have fired up their fans for all the wrong reasons, McDowell's antics help give the 1986 World champions some fire and fun in the clubhouse. Maybe it's time K-Rod learned the hotfoot. —Nicki Jhabvala
21. Bullpens In Foul Territory
The worst thing about all of the new parks that have been built in recent years? Easy. All the bullpens are behind the outfield wall. Each team should be required to put their bullpen down the foul lines. It was always fun to watch a reliever who was warming up dodge a hard-hit ball. Plus, it would be easier for cameramen to keep an eye on what relievers do during the course of a game, even if it's not always pretty. Then there's the issue of the fans. We'd never advocate anything getting ugly or personal, but Yankees fans down the first-base line should be able to tell Jonathon Papelbon what they think of him as he's warming up. And Red Sox fans should get the same perk with Mariano Rivera. Fans get some access in the outfield, but not nearly as much as they'd have if the bullpens were down the lines. — J.T.
22. Old-School Managers
In an age when statistics, pitch-counts and matchups rule nearly every decision-making process, it has become conceivable that a computer might soon fare just as well as most of the men who manage today's major league teams. Now if you were to tell fiery types such as Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, Sparky Anderson and Whitey Herzog that they'd have to depend on numbers on a spreadsheet and not on their gut instincts to make in-game decisions, you'd be guaranteed a fight. Although some of their practices (e.g., kicking dirt on umpires) can't be condoned, the entertainment value and gamesmanship that these men displayed on the field were the stuff of legend. None of them had a computer on their desks or printouts in the dugouts. And none of them needed them to win. —D.S.
23. World Series Day Games
It has been a quarter century since someone threw the first pitch of a World Series game outdoors and in the daylight. That's too bad. Baseball's best teams deserve their moment in the sun.
The sport has all but lost a generation of fans to late start times and early bedtimes. The first game of the 1967 World Series started at one o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon. It drew more than 40 million television viewers. Game 3 of the 2008 Series, which began at 10:06 p.m. ET on a Sunday and didn't end until 1:47 a.m. Monday, drew a scant 7.3 million.
Sure, there was a cruel irony when you lived and died with your team all summer only to find yourself stuck in school when they yelled “Play Ball” for Game 1. But there was something rebellious -- noble, even -- about playing hooky or (cough, cough) feigning an illness to get out of class and catch the game.
Even though it was a school night, my mom let me stay up to watch every out of Game 1 of the 1982 World Series, and of course my Brewers won 10-0. But when Game 2 went late, I had to hit the hay with the Brewers up 4-2 in the sixth inning -- only to wake up to the horror that they had blown the lead and lost 5-4. I was sure, had I been allowed to stay up, that I could have willed The Crew to a 2-0 series lead. Instead, they went on to lose in seven.At least in those days the Saturday and Sunday games started at the kid-friendly time of 2 p.m. CT and ended just before dinner. That created another memorable effect: the autumn twilight that gilded the late innings. From Willie Mays' over-the-shoulder grab to Don Larsen's perfecto to Bill Mazeroski's Series-winning blast, some of the Fall Classic's more iconic moments happened as the shadows crept past first base as if Old Man Winter was trying to steal second. —Rob Peterson
24. Balanced Schedules
First, the good news (for some): the Dodgers and Giants meet 18 times this season. Same with the Yankees and Red Sox. Now the bad news (for all): the Diamondbacks vs. Padres must be endured 18 times. The Royals vs. Indians, too. For this, we can thank the gift that has long since stopped giving: the unbalanced schedule. Whatever happened to matchups that occurred often enough to be interesting but infrequently enough to not be diluted? Most important, whatever happened to slicing up the season evenly so that everybody played everybody else the same number of times, thereby ensuring that champions were decided as fairly as possible? Well, first the three-division format and wild card happened. And then the strike happened. And then inter-league play happened. And then, finally, the unbalanced schedule happened, and it shows no signs of going away. It had brought higher attendance and higher revenues but it has also created controversy: Having playoff teams determined in some measure by the benefit of a weak schedule is simply not good for the game. —T.K.
25. Bullpen Carts
Try explaining the idea to a kid who's never seen one, and you'll get a quizzical look. So professional athletes needed a motorized cart (or buggy or tugboat or jalopy) to ferry him all of 500 feet? Yes, but bullpen carts were the Zambonis of baseball –- lumbering, kitschy but undeniably cool.
In the 1970s and '80s it seemed like every team had one. There was something about these cute curricles that captured the zeitgeist of the era. The Indians introduced the idea back in 1950, using a “little red auto” to transport pitchers to the mound. The White Sox upped the ante, employing a golf cart for their own hurlers –- and dispatching a black Cadillac, supplied by a local funeral home, for the visiting bullpen. Chicago later used a converted snowmobile that was fitted with special skis so as to not harm the Comiskey Park grass. Soon Brewers hurlers were cruising in on a Harley, Mariners relievers were sailing in on a tricked-out tugboat, Yankees pitchers made their entrance in a pinstriped Datsun and the Phillies' relief corps had its very own fire truck.Sure, they were gas guzzlers that probably contributed to an epidemic of overweight pitchers, but the wee vehicles did provide protection. Said Orioles lefty Mike Flanagan in 1979, “I could never play in New York. The first time I ever came into a game there, I got in the bullpen car and they told me to lock the doors.” Bullpen carts are still used in Japan, and a company called Baker Sports Promotional Vehicles has created a new, fuel-efficient model that promises “a sports icon is back.” So I'm signaling to bullpens everywhere: It's time to call in the carts again.—Aimee Crawford
MLB Truth & Rumors