Baseball: How I (A Girl) Would Improve America’s Pastime
This post is very long, with numerous, interesting and fun baseball-related videos. The content may incite discussions, debates and diatribes – an Umpire may be required. It is strongly suggested you grab some “peanuts and Cracker Jacks” before you begin. Play Ball!
September 30, 1927
To all the guys who might be reading this, I should warn you that I’m not a jock, I’m not even a guy, I’m a girl… I don’t throw like one, but I’m a girl… Well, technically, I’m a fully grown woman, but I was once a girl who grew up loving baseball, loving the Yankees… in part because they resided in the Bronx where my grandparents lived, where I spent my summers, and in part because they were the Yankees… you know, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizutto, Casey Stengel and, my personal favorite, Yogi Berra. And, yes, my heart was broken when they tore down Yankee Stadium. (But let’s not talk about that!)
When Baseball Was Wonderful
My love of baseball extends beyond the game itself, beyond the stats and the baseball cards. There are aspects of it that I have always been inexplicably drawn to… For instance, the baseball period between the late 1800s and the early 1900s speaks to me. I don’t know why, but it does. Early baseball photography narrates its own poetic story through the sullied cracked faces and the penetrating eyes of those pioneer ballplayers who look like they have been to battle.
Performed by Jackie Gleason
I love the old ballparks, the smell of the freshly cut grass, the smack of a bat hitting a ball just so, the roar of the crowd, the seventh inning stretch, the body twitches of a runner on third about to steal home, the grace and beauty of a powerfully pitched ball, the umpire’s “Sssstrrrrrike” and “Play Ball!”
And I love the history, the poems, the songs, the stories, the romance of old-time baseball… I love it all.
by Jerry Colonna
So, perhaps, it is not too surprising that growing up I played sandlot baseball with the boys in my neighborhood, once getting knocked out as I stood on the mound, delivering what I thought was a perfectly pitched ball, which suddenly became a perfectly hit ball that smacked me on the side of the head. I heard an explosive pop and blacked out. I woke up on the ground, sometime later, surrounded by the guys staring down at me.
“Whew, we thought you were dead!” they chimed in, nervously laughing. My head was killing me, but all I could think to ask was, “Did you get him out?”
Still, I know, that for a lot of guys out there, a girl, a woman, will never know much about baseball – sandlot credentials aside – and her opinion won’t amount to much. So, take this with a grain of sand or use it to inspire some spirited discussions, but here is how I would improve America’s pastime… Baseball.
Suggestions for Improving Baseball
Rick Monday Saves the U.S. Flag
There are two sports movies, ‘The Rookie’ and ‘The Replacements,’ which inspired this idea: each team will hold open tryouts one day in the span of a month – no two teams on any given day, 30 teams, 30 days – giving anybody a shot at trying out for their favorite team.
Think about the marketing possibilities; about the untapped raw talent; about the dreams that could be made true; about the excitement it could generate to have your neighbor, your mailman, your dad, your son, all of a sudden become a major league ballplayer!
Through the Worst Baseball Call
Like it or not, the players are role-models, so, I say: no chewing tobacco, no spitting, no picking your nose, stop adjusting your cup, no swearing, no fighting, no womanizing, no smoking, and call your moms more often!
The Case for Instant Replay
What are you afraid of MLB? If football can do it, so can baseball. Instant replay will prevent an umpire from stealing a no-hitter from a really good guy and a great pitcher. (You know who you are.) Instant replay can help settle really bad calls and avoid ‘makeup’ calls.
If we can allow the time for the coaches and players and umps to stand out on the field and argue for an eternity, maybe we can avoid all that arguing, avoid the fights, and allow a couple of minutes for a quick review of an instant replay.
A little fan-friendly customer service training for the players would be a good thing. You know, a smile, a ball signing, a wave now and then, or if it’s just not in them, they can learn to fake being nice to the kids and their fans. It’s not a lot of effort, it’s good PR, and they will make the day of some kid who idolizes them.
The Case for Anger Management Classes
These anger management classes would benefit coaches, players, umpires… even fans. Let’s bring it down a notch, in the end, it is supposed to be a game. (Dodgers and Giants fans, are you listening?)
Call me crazy, but does 2,479 games sound like a lot? (Specifically, 2,430 regular season games + 49 possible post-season games.) Crazy, right? There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball and each team plays 162 games, 81 home and 81 away – no wonder there are so many injuries by the time they get to the post-season!
If the season weren’t already long enough, then the addition of the league championship series and the division series, which have further extended the season from April to late October into November, surely has made it more than long enough. What will happen with the expansion of the playoffs from 8 to 10 teams in 2012?!?! Does each team really need to play each of the other division teams 15 to 19 times (depending on the league and division)? How about the 250+ inter-league games, do we need all of those?
The teams might actually fill their stadiums if there were fewer games and, as a result, each game meant a little more. Just a thought.
Ed Sullivan Show | April 13, 1958
Yankees & Composer, Jack Norworth
Okay, if the season isn’t long enough for you, how about sitting through a four-hour game? Why does it sometimes take four hours to play a game – it is not a marathon, it is a game. I understand that in part that’s a result of extra innings, but sometimes the games drag on because of little things, like the guys adjusting their batting gloves after every pitch. Let’s hustle out there – no leisurely walks to and from the outfield, no meandering from the dugout to the batters box, chop-chop, let’s go, people are paying good money to watch you play. Let’s work on that.
What’s up with East coast games on a Sunday night that start at 8pm and end past midnight? That’s fine for us on the West coast, but back East these late games make it tough for young kids, or people who have to work Monday morning, or older people – by which I mean anyone over the age of 25 – who are not accustomed to getting by on a couple of hours of sleep due to a night ball game that went into the next day. Seriously, MLB, can’t you start a Sunday night ballgame before 8pm? Yes, you can.
We really need to work on this one, from tickets to hot dogs – we need to lower the cost of attending a baseball game. It costs a fortune for a family of four to attend a ballgame, consider the $50 ticket, the $25 parking, the $7 game program, the $6 hot dog, the $5 soda, the $3 ice cream cone, and forget about getting any souvenirs.
Angry MLB Fans Speak Out
We’ve lost the affordability for any parent to take their family to a ball game. America’s pastime has become cost-prohibitive for most families. I wonder what will happen to Baseball’s popularity when average Americans, especially young Americans, are no longer able to afford to go to ballgames?
How will the young ones develop their love for the game when there are no memories of attending a major league ballgame with their mom and dad; no memories of walking into an enormous and majestic ballpark as the ballplayers warm up on the field; no memories of singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame‘ with hundreds of thousands of other fans?
Hmmm… Soccer, anyone?
When MLB teams started catering to rich corporations for their big corporate dollars, they stopped thinking about the average American family. So, I suggest, no more corporate luxury boxes, prime seats, and waiters serving fancy foods – yes, I have been in a luxury box during a game and I couldn’t tell that I was at a ballgame.
The San Francisco Giants’ Ballpark
The corporations might put money in the pockets of the MLB and the owners of the teams, but the game will lose its fans. The corporate box attendees are not true fans. These corporations use their prime tickets or luxury boxes to impress visiting clients or colleagues. These corporate attendees show up late and leave early, spend the time talking on their cell phones – not following the game, and dress like they are going out to a party afterward.
The race for the almighty dollar has turned ballparks into multi-purpose amusement park-malls with diverse restaurants, a plethora of activities – from miniature golf to water slides, art galleries, and stores galore! The ballgame itself has become almost secondary, merely an excuse for attending an amusement park-mall, which has unfortunately been mislabeled a ballpark.
In truth, it’s annoying, it takes away from the game, it’s distracting, and it pushes up the price of all the seats, especially the good seats. (And the fact that the Steinbrenners demolished Yankee Stadium to build a new one that could accommodate big corporate luxury boxes… well, as you can see, that has not colored my biased opinion one tiny bit.)
This, I think, most of us can agree to: taxpayers should not have to pay for the ballparks and stadiums that make billionaire team owners richer. Let the team owners or Major League Baseball pay for them. They are the ones who make huge profits through their lucrative monopoly.
for Yankee Stadium
The taxpayers have enough trouble finding the money to fix the roads, maintain the schools, pay for police and fire departments, and meet our obligations to take care of the sick, poor and elderly. We cannot afford to finance the building of stadiums for billionaires. Do I need to say more?
In the 1922 decision in Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League, the Supreme Court declared that baseball was a game, not a business, giving Major League Baseball, in effect, an anti-trust exemption. When the court revisited the issue in 1953, it left the matter to Congress to correct through legislation, if warranted. Congress has yet to pass any legislation that would take away MLB’s exemption.
Well, it may have started out as a game, but I think the billionaire owners and the millionaire players and the corporate luxury boxes in the stadiums clearly show that somewhere along the way, baseball evolved into BIG business. So, I think it is time that we get rid of MLB’s anti-trust exemption, after all, no other sport has it. Leave the 19th Century romantic view of baseball in the history books and in the old photographs where it belongs, and let’s look at baseball for what it is: a big business monopoly. It is time Congress corrected that.
From one MLB park to another, why is the distance from home plate to the fence allowed to vary anywhere from 302′ to 355′ along the foul line and 390′ to 435′ through center field?
Most other distances on the field are strictly controlled: from the mound to home plate it is 60′-6″; from base to base it is 90′ precisely; the pitcher’s mound is 18′ in diameter; and so on. But the height and distance of the outfield fence is allowed to vary, even though something as important as home runs are clearly impacted by those changes in height and distance.
Consistency in the distance to the outfield fence and the height of that fence should be the same across ballparks, if not, what’s the point of comparing home run stats?
Let’s have consistent and clearly specified standards in gloves, cleats, uniforms, and bats… like we have with the balls. Have you seen the size of some of those gloves, lately? What’s next for those outfielders… nets on a stick? (And, while we’re talking about it… no metal bats, for anyone.)
Just pick one already! Why do teams need so many versions of a uniform in one season, or completely different uniforms over the years? (Marketing, I know. This is one way MLB gets people to buy the latest jerseys and hats, even if they have a dozen other versions.)
The Yankees and Dodgers understand that once you find a classic look, you stick with it – even more than 70 years later. (There is no denying the beauty of those Yankee pinstripes.) A few more honorable mentions from current uniforms would have to include: the Detroit Tigers, the Oakland A’s, and the Boston Red Sox.
All the crazy experiments with uniform styles and colors over the years are… well, unfortunate… Just consider the uniforms worn by the 1980 Houston Astros… or the 1971 Baltimore Orioles… or the mid-1970s Cleveland Indians… or the 1979 Philadelphia Phillies… or the 1970s San Diego Padres… or the 1972 Oakland Athletics alternate uniforms… or… I could go on!
Hmmm… Then again, maybe it’s a good thing that teams keep changing their uniforms, especially if they look like those unfortunate experiments mentioned above. Keep trying until you get it right, I guess… and then, please, stop!
No Designated, Courtesy or Pinch Hitters and Runners:
Yes, I really hate the designated hitter, the pinch hitter, the pinch runner, and Charlie Finley’s ill-fated designated runner. I don’t care if you are a great pitcher who can’t hit, or a great batter who weighs 300lbs and can’t run, or if you got injured running around the bases.
In His Own Words
If you want to play baseball, you need to be a complete player, which means you need to throw, catch, hit and run – that in a nutshell is the game.
All these designated, courtesy, and pinch runners and hitters are as ridiculous to me as a designated cup adjuster, or a pinch nose picker, or… well, you get the idea.
The players will need to be jacks of all skills: the pitchers will have to bat, the batters will need to run, the runners will need to field a ground ball… and if you are injured on the field, then hobble across the bases, but unless you are out cold taken away on a stretcher, you will need to swing a bat and cross the finish line (home plate) on your own.
Yankees vs Phillies
The trading has gotten ridiculous. How late into a season are the teams allowed to swap players? Too late into a season! I don’t like it when they bring in hired guns to go into the playoffs. For me, the joy in baseball is not just about winning, it’s about teamwork, it’s about beginning and ending a journey together – getting through the good and the bad together.
So, I propose that the team you start with, is the team you end with – replacements can only come from your farm system, and only in case of injury. This will bring another element to the game, the manager will be forced to strategically play and protect the players for the long-haul. In effect, your end-of-pre-season team is your end-of-post-season team.
Yankees vs Dodgers
Encourage Teams to Develop Their Own Players:
The buying of great players from other teams in order to build a team of superstars should be discouraged – see the ‘No Trading’ section above. Each team should have to develop their own players through their farm system. What is the point of having a farm system, if you are just going to buy the best players from other teams? You want to watch a team of superstars, wait for the All-Star game. (Hey, if the pinstripes fit…)
Who’s On First? by Abbott & Costello
Grow Team Fan Loyalty:
This one is related to the previous two… For many kids today, their loyalty is to their favorite player, and it travels as the player travels from team to team.
Can you blame them?
What’s the point of becoming a fan of a team, when – after getting to know the players, memorizing their names and stats – you wake up one morning to read, mid-season, that your favorite player today will be playing for the enemy, next week. Or worse, to read that a hated player from an opponent’s team will be allowed to play on your team in the post-season! It’s easier to just follow your favorite player from team to team.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Old Busch Stadium
If the MLB teams want to grow their fan base, if they want to fill their stadiums, if they want to keep people in their seats through the ninth, how about keeping a player for at least 5 years, let the fans get to know the players individually and as part of a team.
Fan loyalty will increase when the fans can invest emotionally in their team, like in a soap-opera, vicariously living the ups and downs of the players, reading about the great friendships and competitive relationships between them, really caring when a player is injured and whether he gets better or not, because your team and the other guys will depend on it. Make it a book with a cast of characters that cannot be put down.
(Contains Adult Language)
Zero Tolerance on Cheating & Gambling:
If you are a player caught cheating the first time, you are kicked out of baseball, no ifs, ands, buts, or Hall of Fame. That means no corked bats, no spit balls, no steroid use, no gambling, no breaking the rules. The players are adults, they understand what is and isn’t allowed, there is no need for a second chance on using steroids or corked bats or greased balls or illegal substances. These are all intentional acts. (I’m not budging on this one.)
Steroids in Baseball
Steroids & Enhancements:
Strict steroid testing, ongoing education, and banishment as punishment – a zero tolerance policy. Stringent control and standards need to be applied to any performance enhancement drugs, supplements, and/or vitamins that may be allowed in the future.
Voting for a Commissioner:
Allow the fans to vote for the Commissioner of Baseball, who will be limited to a three year term – long enough to get something done and, if not, long enough for the fans to know they need a new commissioner. (And, no former owners allowed on the ballot.)
All-Star Games Only After the Post-Season:
Why take a chance on allowing players, with World Series potential, to get hurt during a game that doesn’t really mean much, in the middle of the season, when we don’t yet know who the ‘super stars’ of any given season will be? Why not wait until after the post-season? Then again, does a season with nearly 2,500 games really need one more game?
October 5, 1959
Why do we call the World Series the ‘WORLD’ Series, when we don’t play other countries? (We cherry pick players from other countries, but that’s not the same thing.) If we want to call it the World Series, then perhaps we should play the best teams from other countries, otherwise, it is just the Major League Baseball Championship Series.
However, why not have a real world series with champion teams from countries around the world? Imagine our MLB Championship team playing against national teams from Japan, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, to name a few. Baseball could become bigger than soccer is around the world! (“Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuun!!!!!!” No, it doesn’t work.)
by Professional Baseball Scorekeepers
Stop Changing the Rules:
Perhaps no one can do anything about this one, but for kids and adults who love to memorize the players’ stats and argue over who was the better player or team – something that is so much a part of the game – the constant changing of the rules makes the comparison impossible to do across eras.
How do you compare anything like home runs in a season when the number of games played in a season has changed over the decades? How do you compare this pitcher with that pitcher, when the mound height has been lowered (from 15 inches to 10 inches) to encourage more hits? How do you compare this batter with that batter when the strike zone has been made smaller?
These and countless other changes have made it impossible to compare stats from today to stats from old. Perhaps MLB can develop a software program for the fans that will translate the differentials and make it possible to compare two sets of stats from across different baseball eras and ballparks – it would resolve many a passionate argument. Until then, stop changing the rules.
Comcast Sportsnet Chronicle
Let Them Move:
The Baseball Commissioner, Mr. Selig, seems to pick and choose how and to whom he will apply the rules in many situations. Such a situation is his decision to not allow the Oakland A’s to move to San Jose.
Why? Because the San Francisco Giants don’t want them to. The Giants claim marketing rights in the San Jose area. But, why not swap? After all, Oakland is closer to San Francisco. The simple answer is that San Jose has big corporate money in Silicon Valley and Oakland does not. Ironically, the A’s used to have marketing rights over San Jose, until they gave those rights to San Francisco at a time when the Giants were thinking about moving south, long before they got their new stadium.
What I don’t understand is Bud Selig’s inconsistency – why can Washington D.C. get the Nationals – formerly known as the Montreal Expos – when they are so close to Baltimore? What about the Orioles’ marketing rights? The poor A’s have ranked in the bottom five in home attendance in the last five seasons, and their stadium is falling apart. San Jose is a more populace and prosperous city than Oakland and without its own baseball franchise. I say, let the A’s move, the Bay Area can handle it, MLB can handle it, and the Giants will get used it. Play Ball!!
The Negro Baseball Leagues
Let Them Play:
Baseball, through the decades, has learned to be all-inclusive, inviting Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian players, among others, to join their ranks. But there is one important group that has been shut out: women.
Hold on, I’m not saying give them a free-ride, but if they have the talent and can play with the big boys, why not? When the men went off to war in the 1940s, specifically 1943 to 1954, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League sprung up and the women surprised everyone by playing very good and very aggressive baseball – even in little skirts. So, I say: let them play! (But lose the skirts.)
The Naming of Ballparks:
This is more of an annoyance, but since we are on the topic of improving things… please name the ballparks after the teams that play in them or the cities in which they reside. I really don’t like this revolving door of corporate names that has become a trend since the mid-1990s.
For example, here in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Giants played originally in Candlestick Park (1960-1995), which became 3Com Park (1995-2002), which later changed its corporate name a few more times, but by 2000 the Giants had moved to a new ballpark… PacBell Park (2000-2003), which was renamed SBC Park (2004-2005), which then became AT&T Park (2006-2011), but who knows what it will be named next.
The wasted cost in signage, not just for the teams, but for the cities, is in the millions. (Not to mention the confusion to the fans and the sports announcers.) Just pick a stadium name everyone can live with – for instance the team or city name – and stop selling the naming rights to the highest bidder. For Pete’s sake, what’s next, Viagra Stadium?
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
The Naming of Teams:
This suggestion might seem silly, but… The teams must use the name of the city in which they play, not the one they wished they played in. (Yes, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, I am talking to you!)
And, please, indulge me this aside, since we are on the topic, football teams have this problem, too. Specifically, the New York Giants and the New York Jets, who both play in New Jersey – that’s not even a different city, it’s a different state!
What’s wrong with Jersey, anyway?!?! I mean, aside from the whole Jersey Shore thing… and the New Jersey Housewives thing… oh, yes, and the Sopranos thing… or the whole Mob thing, in general… you know, the first thing, not the second thing… oh, fuggedaboutit!
The Star-Spangled Banner
Learn the Songs:
This final suggestion is for all of us… the fans. Before going out to the ball game, to avoid all that embarrassing mumbling, we might want to learn the words to the songs: ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ – considering that we sing them at every single game. So, thanks to the Internet, here are a couple of sing-a-long karaoke videos to help in that endeavor… or just for fun!
And that’s how this girl would improve America’s national pastime
“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game.”
Martie Hevia (c) 2013 – All Rights Reserved