Take Me Out To The Old Ball Game

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

   Pee Wee Reese

PhotobucketWhen I was ten I loved the Dodgers. The Brooklyn Dodgers. Especially Pee Wee Reese.  And Duke Snyder.  And Carl Furillo.  I loved baseball.  And then one day, to my utter amazement, the newspapers reported that the Dodgers were leaving me for their new love, the kids in Los Angeles.  How could they do that?  What had I done to be unworthy of them?  Had they been cheating on me throughout the season? It felt like a bad break up, a contested divorce.  It felt terrible.  There was no loyalty to me and to Brooklyn.  Only dollars.  And betrayal.  And leaving and going to LA.

Baseball back then was a game for kids. There were Sunday afternoon double headers with one admission fee.  There were day games.  You took a portable radio to school during the world series, because you hoped that Mrs. Powderly would let you hear the game.  And you ran home at 3:15 to catch the last innings.  Baseball’s all star game, which was a dream come true for a kid, was a day game.  It was played in the afternoon.  So I could see Joe Dimaggio, and Jackie Robinson, and Pee Wee, and Willie Mays.  And buying things was cheap: hot dogs, and soda and cracker jacks.  These were for kids, except for beer, which was for the adults.

Players didn’t play baseball all year.  They had other jobs.  In the off season they sold cars or insurance or worked in an office or on the farm.  They didn’t make big bucks.  You could see them doing their real jobs.  Baseball was their reward.

But now we’re in an entirely different era.  Today Mannie Ramirez, who might have been one of the greatest right hand hitters, earned a 50 game suspension for using steroids.  So now he’s got his asterisk, he’s the greatest right hand hitter*.  And A*Rod.  He’s got an asterisk.  And Mark M*Guire, and Sammy S*sa, and in addition to an asterisk, Jose C*nseco needs money so he’s doing ultimate fighting.  And we have no idea who the other 103 players were who tested positive for drugs along with A*Rod.  And all of them have *s also.  It used to be that the asterisk was reserved for Roger Maris whose sin was that he hit 60 home runs in a 162 game season, not in 156 games.  Even the asterisk has now been devalued.  Now it denotes cheating and drug use.

Now the all star game is at night.  The world series is at night.  The division series is at night.  The first pitch in these games is at about 9 pm ET, so any east coast kid who wants to see his/her heroes is not going to get past the third inning.  And beer at the ballpark is more than $6.  And hot dogs are more than $4.  And there are few day games.  And there are no double headers with single admission.  And there are new abominations: corporate boxes with glass windows facing the field and air conditioning, and restaurants with table cloths and silverware, and take out, and microbreweries, and there are no really cheap seats.  I could argue that the designated hitter was a debasement of the game.  But compared to these other, appalling changes, the DH is nothing.

It used to be a ritual to sneak off from work or school to go to Ebbetts Field for the afternoon game during the week.  There is no equivalent now to that spontaneous act of childishness, of playing hookie.

I still follow the Mets.  I still love major league baseball.  The green grass of the outfield.  The roar of the crowd.  The sound of bat on ball.  The bright lights.  But today’s announcement of Mannie Ramirez’s 50 game suspension shows the dark shadow of the kids’ game I used to love.  It used to be about hitting a round ball with a round bat.  Now it’s about something else entirely.  It’s about money, and enormous salaries to players, and great profits to owners, and public financing for private stadiums, and naming rights, and having agents, and endorsements.  It’s about everything except that naive, joyful game of hitting a round ball with a round bat and 3 strikes still being an out.

There used to be a Ballantine Beer sign in the ball park.  It had 3 rings for Purity, Body, And Flavor. Ironically, it’s the purity in the game that has gone.

I mourn its loss.  

15 comments

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  1. Thanks for reading.

    • Edger on May 8, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Steve Goodman on the roof of Wrigley Field

    Hey, it’s not the Dodgers, but it’s pretty good, eh, David?



    Do they still play the blues in Chicago

    When baseball season rolls around

    When the snow melts away,

    Do the Cubbies still play

    In their ivy-covered burial ground

    When I was a boy they were my pride and joy

    But now they only bring fatigue

    To the home of the brave

    The land of the free

    And the doormat of the National League

    Told his friends “You know the law of averages says:

    Anything will happen that can”

    That’s what it says

    “But the last time the Cubs won a National League pennant

    Was the year we dropped the bomb on Japan”

    The Cubs made me a criminal

    Sent me down a wayward path

    They stole my youth from me

    (that’s the truth)

    I’d forsake my teachers

    To go sit in the bleachers

    In flagrant truancy

    Full lyrics here… 😉

  2. at GOS

    • kj on May 8, 2009 at 4:07 am

    i was nicknamed from age 2-to-teenager after a certain baseball manager.  

    f-i-l played minor league.  spouse grew up in sandlots in texas.

    brother and nephew were in the stands when Cal ran his lap a few years back. bought me a tee-shirt.

    not an active fan, but i love me the White/Red Sox.  either color is works.  🙂

    nice essay, thanks.

  3. you can easily see the difference in how players looked before steroids and how they look now.

  4. oh, poor boy, it is true: you practically have to be rich, now, to see MLB in NYC.

    Where I work is one block from a minor league stadium.  I’ve never been to a game there–don’t like baseball all that much–but I think this is the future of the sport.  For example, I’ve always kinda been sorry I didn’t see a minor-league game out on Coney Island before I left the city.  Sun, sand, surf, Nathan’s hotdogs, and if the game was boring, Steeplechase Pier.

    Good to see you again.

  5. and he too mourns the days when the players neck sizes were close to normal. When I met him he was wearing a beautiful Met’s jacket. He was a fan as he’s from NYC but when they traded Tom Sever he declared that they were nothing but ‘a bunch of bums disguised as baseball players’

    He never stopped however being a baseball addict. After living in LA he became a Angels fan and still roots for his team. He loves the stats, it’s what he does for a living, and plays fantasy leagues. When he moved his office out of our house I found a whole filing cabinet filled to the brim with baseball stats and papers from his league. He still does it now, online so the evidence is not visible to my wifely eyes. LOL!

    When the Angels won the world series a few years ago he said it was the ultimate for him and he can now be more relaxed about the seasons. I think he is kidding himself as I know the expression on his face he gets when the season heats up, and the Angels are winning.

    Maybe I will take him out to the local farm team game. It sports real grass and signs the games are in the afternoons and the rookies necks haven’t yet become the size of redwoods. I think TV wrecked professional sports as even the rules are changed to facilitate the timing and the ads.    

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