Its critics contend that baseball is a static game, an exercise in inertia—all those men loitering about waiting for someone to hit the ball. Football, with its repeated episodes of calculated violence, meshes better with the tempo of life in the '70s, they claim. But baseball's pace is part of its charm, those deadly quiet moments broken so suddenly by the desperate action. As Douglass Wallop, author of "Damn Yankees," wrote in his informal history of the sport: "The game may at times seem merely a set piece, a tableau of men frozen—yet at any given moment the tableau can explode. With one pitch, one swing of a bat, as many as 13 men can be set in swift motion, each darting his way through an intricate pattern of movement, a pattern with the precision and often the grace of choreography." The practiced eye of the true baseball enthusiast sometimes can pick up all 13 players at once, but no human eye can match the camera's in recording what really happens when the bodies start flying and the base-path dust swirls up. As the photographs on these pages show, the action indeed suggests The Dance, but here it is a rugged dance and a hazardous one, too. A Pete Rose bowling into home plate or a Richie Allen slashing into second base is as much a part of the times as any suicide blitz a marauding opposition linebacker ever threw at Johnny Unitas.
Elevation is a principle of survival for a major league shortstop. Here the Giants' Chris Speier executes a graceful leap over the hurtling body of the Dodgers' big Richie Allen.
Cheered by Leo Durocher, the Reds' Pete Rose lowered the boom on Cleveland Catcher Ray Fosse to win the 1970 All-Star Game. Later, in the Series, Rose was the victim when he failed to take out Baltimore's Dave Johnson and went sprawling. Below, Pirate Vic Davalillo (all of 155) did get his man—Met Bud Harrelson (150)—and both ate dust.
Phillie Second Baseman Denny Doyle(15), rocked by a hard slide, is toppled, but Met Jerry Grote (below) remains upright and looks for new worlds to conquer after tagging Dodger Manny Mota at home plate.