When Maranville broke in with the Braves in 1912, Ty Cobb's $9,000 salary was the highest pay in the majors. Maranville received $125 a month, the going rate for rookies. His winning share from the 1914 World Series, in which the Braves pulled the upset of the ages by beating the Athletics in four straight, was $2,812.
"A ballplayer can't afford to horse around now," the Rabbit went on. "His arms and legs are so valuable he'd be a sucker to risk them to get a laugh. Years ago it was no great tragedy if you knocked an arm or a leg out of whack. You went back to work for a living and made almost as much dough. A sore arm today is like losing a small fortune. You can't get a bang out of a job when every move may be your last one at $20,000 to $80,000 a year."
Modern capitalists in spiked shoes, coddled and attended by a covey of medical specialists, seem to last only about half as long as the Rabbit did strictly on gusto. He weighed all of 150 pounds, and his muscular development was negligible, yet his career in the National League spanned 24 years. After breaking a leg in spring training in 1934, he came back the following season at the age of 43 to play second base for the Braves, and four years later he still was taking his cuts as a playing manager in the Eastern League.
The Rabbit was the butt for most of his own gags. When he was in a batting slump, he occasionally trotted up to the plate, chirped, "Strike three," before a pitch was thrown, then went back to the dugout. Upon hitting a high foul, he would mount his bat like a hobbyhorse and attempt to hex the catcher by pursuing him with shrill imprecations.
His other target, it is pertinent to note, was players who annoyed everyone with delaying tactics. Once, when a pitcher tried to pick him off second base half a dozen times, the Rabbit cooled off the chump by crawling back to the bag between the umpire's straddled legs. When his own pitcher stalled, he would lean against an imaginary wall behind the infield and sag slowly until he collapsed on the ground. If Maranville were playing today, he would spend more time on the flat of his back than a British heavyweight during working hours.
On July 23 the first formal TV broadcast from the U.S. relayed to Europe by Telstar carried a few moments from a game between the Cubs and Phillies. That portion of the program aroused much interest overseas. "We only got a brief look at the game," a carpenter in Rome commented, "but it looked like it might be fun."
It sure might be, amico, if the heroes got the lead out of their pants and performed the chores they are paid to perform. The time consumed by interminable conferences and silly posturing probably has done more to drive away fans than any other factor.
A football and a baseball are in play about the same length of time during a regulation game, but pro football has adopted a few simple procedures to give the illusion of high-powered action. The players dash in and out of the huddle as though they are being chased by process servers. Even when the clock is stopped after a score or a grounded pass, the gladiators line up with snap and precision. More often than not, kickoffs into the end zone are run out at great risk to life and limb; such derring-do runs frequently result in less yardage than a touchback.
Baseball, on the other hand, is infested with pointless loafing that exhausts the patience of its customers. In 1905 the average playing time of a major-league game was one hour and 49 minutes. Last season it was 2:41, and this year the figure will be pushed up a few more notches. The Mets, to cite a horrible example, are taking an average of two hours and 54 minutes to lose. Incredible as it seems, a 1962 ball club, operating under the rules in force in 1905, requires almost an hour more to complete a game.
The worst time killers are, of course, the conferences on the mound that drain off the tension whenever a dramatic situation is building up. The catcher and the infielders congregate to commiserate with the pitcher on his ineptitude or, it seems, try to give the oaf courage to carry on and face the next hitter. Such meetings not only are annoying but are contrary to a basic concept of sport.