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It's The Nationals' Pastime
Jim Kaplan
April 04, 1983
With its tougher style of play and deeper talent, the National League has left the American in its dust
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April 04, 1983

It's The Nationals' Pastime

With its tougher style of play and deeper talent, the National League has left the American in its dust

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Since 1960 the National League has fielded 290 black and Hispanic All-Stars (or an average of 11.2 a year) to 189 for the American (7.3). Admittedly, this trend was most pronounced (11.6-6.1) between 1960 and 1972, but the American League still falls short of parity. The averages since 1973: National 10.4, American 9.1. Six of the last 10 All-Star Game MVPs or co-MVPs have been minority players, all from the National League.

The American League has done better in the Series. Since '73 its entries hold a 53-51 advantage in black and Hispanic-regulars—pitchers who made at least two appearances or hitters who batted 10 or more times in a Series. The team fielding more black and Hispanic regulars won seven of nine Series (1977 is excluded because the Dodgers and Yankees each used four). Of the four blacks and His-panics who won or shared the Series MVP award, two—Reggie Jackson '73 and Reggie Jackson '77—were American Leaguers. (Ever a symbol of something, Jackson is half black and half Hispanic.) Jackson has played for his league's last four World Series winners and hit the game-deciding homer in the Americans' 1971 All-Star win, their most recent victory. How long is he supposed to prop up the American League?

Finally, of the 11 blacks and Hispanics in the Hall of Fame, only one, Satchel Paige, was an American Leaguer, and he clearly was voted in for past achievements in the Negro League. Frank Robinson is the only other member to have American League experience, but he first became a star at Cincinnati.

3) FARM SYSTEM

When polled by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, players, executives and scouts from both leagues voted overwhelmingly for the Dodger farm system as baseball's best. Their logic was understandable: The last four National League Rookies of the Year were Dodgers, and L.A.'s Albuquerque Triple A team in recent seasons has been of almost big league quality.

Players, managers and coaches began selecting an all-rookie team for a bubblegum company in 1959 (the managers took over the voting in '81), and players from American League systems have had a 127-113 edge. The numbers, however, are misleading. National League representatives have been highly distinguished, while the American League contingent has been laden with burnouts and Blue Jays. Sixteen American League players were out of the majors within five years of their selection, as opposed to six National Leaguers. Since 1977 the all-rookie squad has featured eight Toronto players, who had an unusually good chance to start on an expansion team.

4) THE STAR SYNDROME

But if there are a lot of overrated rookies in the American League, they're just following a pattern set by the league's veterans.

Common belief: The National is the league of teams; the American, the league of stars. "I think the American League has more prima donnas," says San Diego Manager Dick Williams, who has managed in both circuits.

Actually, the National is the league of both stars and teams. Each league has 10 or 12 players who are almost certain to make the Hall of Fame and another 10 or 12 who, if they maintain their current pace for several more years, could fall into that category. But the National League has more depth. California Catcher Bob Boone, late of the Phils, says the Nationals are stronger by "six or seven starting pitchers: guys like Carlton, Soto, Rogers, Reuss, Ryan, Valenzuela and Seaver and Richard in past years." Relievers and non-pitchers? In its 11-game All-Star winning streak, the Nationals have outscored the Americans 23-5 over the last three innings.

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