WPCNR QUARTERLY STATE OF LIFE SERIES # 6. News & Comment By John F. Bailey. March 29, 2023:
Time to be a kid again
Ball is coming back
This year it really is a brand new ball game.
Pitch Clocks. Batter clocks. Big Bases. No overshifting — and we do not know a lot of the nuances of these new rules. Limiting throws to first. The 10th inning Tiebreaker which I hate.
What if a center moves past straightaway center– is that “offside?” Or after the ball is pitched can the outfielders take off into gaps in anticipation of the direction the batter is going to hit to? It may absolutely help outfield defenders. Is a ball called by the umpire, or does the centerfielder have to spend time in a penalty box for an inning and they have to play two outfielders? I shouldn’t have suggested I hope Joe Torre does not see this column!
I have not seen any telecasts of “Exhibition Games” from Florida for the Bombers train and the Metropolitans train, nor heard any radio broadcasts from Florida.
Baseball is the worst sold, worst promoted professional sport. The owners do not promote to young fans. They rely on websites and all sports radio to get their news out. Radio telecasts of Exhibition games on a lazy cold miserable March are like an oasis or were. I guess John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman did some games but at odd times of games. When they break up that play-by-play team it will be a sad day because Waldman is by far the best color commentary on baseball, never gives you cliches like the other announcers.
Look for sponsors on every pitch soon on the radio. “The payoff pitch is brought to you by Republic Bank.” The commercializing of the Yankee radio broadcasts is tough to take. I do not understand how Sterling and Waldman stand it. Sterling (“It is high, it is far, it is gone!”)s now an easy listening announcer similar to the broadcasters when I was growing up: Harry Kalas, By Saam, Bob Prince (“You can kiss it Goodbye”), Ernie Harwell (“For the Taggas,” “Long Gone”)
I loved Exhibition games because it did not matter who won the game. It was for fun for the fans.
But it is a tense time. Baseball is so competitive. Every player is competing and hoping they do not get hurt. The pressure is intense.
The big worry is getting injured and that has happened a lot this spring.
However starting the baseball season on March 31 in the north for the most part is crazy. MLB does a March opener to play nothing but single games. There no more 2 for the price of one doubleheaders scheduled. And when the make-up games come they do it as a day night separate admission doubleheader or the awful twilight-nighter that gets you home at midnight from Da Bronx.
You will be playing possibly in snow at the Yankee opener or Met opener. I remember getting snowed out on April 6 in the 1990s when I went to an opener.
Cold means pulled muscles more injuries. Or worse sore arms. Teams do not hit their stride until June when it starts getting really warm.
Now we have very expanded playoffs, getting more like the NBA, NHL and NFL every year.
The trouble is baseball has no form. The best team over a season can get taken out when three pitchers get hot in a short series.
As the late Commissioner Fay Vincent said baseball is a game that breaks your heart. They do it every year.
Some other observations, I think the games will be just as slow as they ever have due to the pitching changes.
I think strategies have to be invented to play the tie breaker better. Defend third base is the key — to snuff the push to hit the ball to right. that gets the runner to third to score on an out. Of course few hitters can hit specifically to an area.
The larger bases may help stealing but pitchouts will be key after the your throws over twice. You have go after the first throw over, so they will be ready for that, too.
The stealing will not be as successful as you think. Hit run? Hitters strike out too much to risk a base runner getting caught by a throw down. Incidentally, does the catcher get to throw down to first at will, no limit? Really baseball’s explanations of these rules has been amateurishly vague. They should offer a Free rules guide to fans.
Pitching management is the key. Bullpens are the name of the game now.
No, I no longer love the game. But you never forget your first love. There is nothing like being in the ballpark. The shadows, the sun, the scoreboards. The beer.
As Bogie once said, “Baseball. It’s my game. Sunshine. Pretty girls, lots of them. A hot dog at the game beats roast beef at The Ritz.”
The State of Ball is always on my mind.
I married Brenda Starr because she sat through a doubleheader (scheduled) in 1970 when the Mets were playing the Big Red Machine. It had rained most of the morning. I said we’ll go to the game anyway. We go. We pay the usual fortune to park..go up to front row seats in the upper deck just off first. There are 6 inches of water under our seats.
I decide well it’s still raining, so we left and I drove back to Jersey, but a strange force drew me to the radio and I said let’s just see…and Bob Murphy is saying…”Well they are taking the tarp off the field and we’ll be playing.”
I turned the car around and drove us back to Shea. Paid to park again. Got in our seats by the time it started.
The Mets split two 1-run games.
I figured that I would never meet another woman who would ever do that.
So here is my poem “Opening Day” I wrote many years ago for all you fans out there
OPENING DAY is better than Christmas Day,
When you look out and know they’ll play,
Dreary gray or brilliant spring sunray
Opening Day means The Big Show is back today.
Decades past, Opening Day for fanatics starved,
Eager for sharp crack of ash on horsehide carved;
Pennants snapping in northwest winds
Top ramparts of inviting walls arches and sculpted friezes wistfully escarped.
Fans lucky to get away with ducats
Marvel at flannels sharp whites pristine,
To play in the warm zephyrs in NY blazened caps,
Dashing specks of white warmup on the greenest green.
Motor cars pant in traffic jams on the Deegan,
Down Yawkey Way, on 35th and Shields or Waveland’s jam.
The first glimpse of storied Park,
The place where ball is played, where ghosts of Ted, Babe, Duke
Mel, Spahnie, Whitey, Mickey, Willie, Yaz, Minnie and Sandy lark.
Pay a fortune to park, pass stogie smoking old men
at the same gates for a hundred years,
Now out into the street
You go, aroma of roasting chestnuts, pungent cigars sweet,
Cries of “scorecard heah” “programs,heah” shout out, neath light towers to heaven.
Fans in cap and uniform, little boys and girls gawk in awe hoping to make the Anthem
Never seeing such sheer walls, topped with the legend “GameToday 1:30 PM.”
Clutching slim cardboard tix to Section 14 Upper Deck up to the turnstiles
Festooned with souvenirs more dear as diamonds, beyond, the lure of endless aisles.
Into press of crowd, grizzled usher,
RIPS YOUR TICKET.
Turnstile turns, clicks, and into the cathedral of ball you go
Into the rotunda greeted with magic signs dazzling the senses —
UPPER LEVELS SECTIONS 1 to 39, 2 to 40
Hawkers shout –Voices of Flatbush — colorful books in hand
“Yeabook heah,” “Dodger Yearbook here,” “Hot dog, heah,”
Assail ears! Up ramps you climb to the sign “NEXT HOMESTAND”
Walking the catwalk,sliver of blue is first look of the magic sphere
Into the sunlight splaying the vast rake of the mighty stand.
Below are baseball knights of the diamond in white hues
Cavorting, snapping throws across immaculate red clay
As majestic fungo bats — CRACK! send white spheres soaring to filling bleachers a mile away,
Bunting flutter from the deck rails red, white and true blues.
Old Glory furls on highest pole in centerfield
Colorful signage deliver the manly flavor of the only real game,
GILLETTE To Look Sharp, The Red Sox use Lifeboy, Schaefer It’s A Hit
Hey, Neighbor Have a Gansett, White Owl Cigars, Hit Sign Win Suit
From old friendly walls, to Gladys Gooding on the organ
Comfy old green scoreboard display
Today’s games in the bigs BETTER THAN CNN
CHI CLE BOS DET, CHI STL, NY WAS make you king for a day.
Two Bits for a scorecard, usher wipes your seat, ballpark fills your heart.
Penciling lineup 42 2B, 1 SS, 14 1B, 4 CF, 39 C, 6 RF, 23 LF 19 3B 36 P
Smell of beer, peanuts and pretzels.
Nippy air, warm rays sink into face feels nice,
Starters wheel,deal, kicking high on sidelines fueling expectancy
Men in blue, arms folded solemnly conduct the home plate regimen
Casey, Ralph , Walter, Joe,Sparky exchange lineup cards and knowing
Ground rules by heart, go over them for ritual’s sake.
Bob Shepard “The Voice of God” entones “Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Yankee Stadium.”
“Please rise for the playing of our national anthem,”
Nancy Faust at organ note by note renders baseball’s theme song
Rising on the breeze, uniting do-rag and ball cap,
Fedora, ponytail and bouffant in the spirit of the great game.
Grass is never greener on opening days
Strikes are louder, long drives electrify alleys
Beers with whiter than white high creamy heads, Taste crisp cold mellow best brew you drink all year
Smashes laser through short in the gap in raucous rallies
Magicians without wands start 6-4-3s, (if you’re scoring at home)
Backhand sure hits losing their caps
“Oh what a play”s crackle on WGN with “CUBS WIN!”‘S
Jack and Mel, Vince, Red, Curt and Murph , Gussie, Marty, John and Suzyn , Ernie, The Gunner, are back at mikes turning mundane days
Into joy with a ninth inning elixir and “happy recaps”
Thunderous ROARS AWARD the 2-out winner again creating big kids’ grins.