a baseball pitcher…
I came across this on ebay this morning.
The description says they believe this was sold at the 1939 World’s Fair. According to what they hear from the previous owner.
No home should be without at least one of these.
Ebay is a nice source for all sorts of baseball things; you’ll never know what you’ll find. Perhaps a bronze sculpture of Lou Gehrig is more to your liking?
Done in 1988 by R.P. Daus, it’s priced at $4,500, and “TODAY , IT IS CONSIDERED AMONG THE FINEST SPORTS SCULPTURE EVER PRODUCED.”
Or perhaps something smaller? Here’s a 1969 Pittsburgh Pirates viewfinder. Look inside to see pictures of Clemente, Stargell, all your favorites. $18.27, but the bids are still coming in.
No? Not a Pirates fan? Maybe a 1976 Reds serving tray would be more to your liking?
Or a 1965 Show-and Tell thing on Babe Ruth’s called shot? Just $30!
Or maybe something smaller?
a 1960s Senators pin. Suitable for work. $5. Won’t last long at that price!
The 1950s Tiger pin is nicer, but $29.
Which makes me wonder where oh where is my Tony Oliva pin? I haven’t seen that around here for quite awhile…
Here we are, in the heat of the playoffs, and we’ve got four classic teams left in the running, the Tigers against the Red Sox, and the Cardinals against the Dodgers. So far, in keeping with baseball’s increasing irrelevancy in the National Dialogue, I have not watched any of the games. From a distance it seems like all the series were close and competitive, and especially the Tigers-A’s series, going the full five games, with the Tigers winning 3-0 behind Verlander in the final game. Verlander had an off-year this season, with a 13-12 record and a 3.46 ERA, so it was nice to see him come up with a big win here. I do feel for the A’s though, for some reason. Probably because of the Moneyball book, and wanting Billy Beane to win the series.
All major league sports go on too long. In the next century there will only be a week-long hot stove league. Playoffs will extend the game into February, with the world series being played in early March. The season will be a long slog aimed at eliminating the two worst teams in each league. After the season there will be a 7 game wild-card playoff aimed at eliminating the third worst team, and the winner of that series will be the wild card in the next seven game series between the three less worse teams. All the early losers will descend into the losers-bracket, for more exciting action. If all goes well, there will be about 150 playoff games, slowly whittling the contenders down to the two lucky champions to play in the World Series, just prior to the opening of spring training.
Needless to say, I think baseball has lost some drama by extending the playoffs endlessly. Unless you live in one of those playoff cities (and soon everyone will live in a playoff city by default) it’s hard to generate much interest for those early games. I think the playoffs initially made sense, East Division vs. West Division, though they should have been best of seven series from the beginning. Now there is just too much, too long.
The best records in the two leagues:
St. Louis 97-65
Los Angeles 92-70
If this were the old days, where the season was actually a pennant race, rather than a play-off race, we’d be having a Red Sox – Cardinals World Series. We’ll see if it comes to that. It’s a fairly rare occurrence these days, where the best teams over the season wind up playing in the series. The playoffs are a whole new ball game. Who’s peaking at the right moment? Who has the hot hand? Who’s healthy? In a seven game series, pretty much anything can happen.
Lest you think I’ve stopped reading the baseball books, I recently finished reading the updates to the original Ball Four, published as Ball Four: the Final Pitch, in 2001. It was great. Here Bouton talks about his comeback, in 1978, with the Atlanta Braves, how that happened, and why. He talks about his marriage ending and about meeting his future wife, and their life together. And he tells about the death of his daughter Laurie in a car accident in 1997, how that changed him, and how he survived.
Later, thinking about the book, it occurred to me that it was a lot like a personal letter written to an old friend – there’s that level of familiarity and that sort of relaxed sort of story-telling. Which made me think, “when was the last time I wrote a letter to anyone?” Delivered by the U.S. postal service? It’s been a few years, and I imagine that’s the way it is for most people now. Thousands of emails, no letters. It’s just not the same, I think you’d agree. A hand-written letter is totally a different experience. For one, in my case, it would be much more difficult to read. Penmanship is another thing that has faded into the mists of time.
I’ve got one more Bouton book on my shelf – the book he wrote about trying to save an old ball park in a small town in New York. I don’t know the whole story around that, but I’m looking forward to the book. Like a letter waiting to be read.
I saw an article in last week’s Sunday NY Times about how baseball is losing popularity, feels “irrelevant,” (at least to that writer,) and not a part of the national conversation anymore. The article mentioned that television ratings for the World Series (and all baseball games) have been steadily dropping, as opposed to football and basketball, and talked a little about why this might be. There’s the slow pace of play, of course. And, while expansion may have been great for adding new fans across the country, it begat a “regional” nature to the sport – there’re few teams with a national following. (Though I could say the same about all the professional sports. How many people across the country root for the Bengals or the Jets or the Thunder or the Nets? There’s a few marquee teams, and then everyone else with more of a local fan base. Which is generally the idea, I think.) Baseball has failed to “sell” its young stars to the public, and apparently wallows in the mire of nostalgia.
One big thing the author missed was the way baseball on TV has changed – constant commercial interruptions and advertising sponsorships for every moment of the game. I can’t stand the hucksterism. Every instant replay, every trip to the pitcher’s mound has its own corporate sponsor and scripted blather. The ball boy runs new balls out to the umpire, (I’m surprised that’s not sponsored yet, but perhaps it is): “The ball boy brings the umpire some new baseballs. These new baseballs are sponsored by Ford Motor Company – Have a ball! Drive the new Ford Cataclysm.” Seriously, who can stand to watch anything on television any more? Thank god we are reaching the end of the Television Age. Sad to say that the internet is going down the same bad road.
I noticed a huge difference earlier this year, when I watched the kinoscope of the 1960 World Series, recorded on film from the TV broadcast. Back then it was about 99% baseball and 1% advertising. It sped the game up and kept you in the game. You weren’t constantly jerked around to buy something. When I listen to games on the radio it’s a bit better, but the advertising / sponsorships are omnipresent there too. The World Bank scoreboard, or the BlackWater Injury Update. Please, give us a break. Must every broadcast moment have its own sponsor? (This paragraph was brought to you by Arco Coffee. We roast coffee the old-fashioned way, but using new-fangled gizmos. It’s tradition. And it’s technology. In one great smooth cup of java. Arco Coffee. Live richer longer lives with Arco.)
There are other factors, of course. Football and basketball have to deal with the same TV advertising issues, and it doesn’t seem to get in the way. No, that’s probably wrong, I’m sure it gets in the way, but these sports have overcome it through spectacle and action.
The implied theme of the article was that it was a bad thing that baseball is irrelevant to so many people now. Well, people’s tastes change over time, and with today’s flash and trash “popular culture,” I think in fact that it’s definitely a positive thing to be less popular these days. I’m sure the baseball owners feel differently about that, but If that’s what it takes to be popular, no thank you. Perhaps baseball is just more of a niche sport now, for those who grow weary of the gaudy, overblown money-grubbing techno-porn ego-spectacle that is professional sport today.