Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Then and now in beisbol....

In Game 3 of the 1997 American League Championship Series, Baltimore pitcher Mike Mussina struck out 15 Cleveland Indians in seven innings. Indians pitcher Orel Hershiser had seven strikeouts in seven innings. The game started at 4:17 p.m. in Cleveland, and 13 of the first 18 outs were strikeouts.

"I think it’s unfair to have to go out and play a baseball game at 4 o’clock in the afternoon with the sun going down,” Mussina said after the game, which the Indians won, 2-1, in 12 innings. “It’s just not fair because you can’t see."
NY Times, 10-06-09

Further back: the the darkest* moment in Cleveland's benighted baseball history was the '54 World Series. But it had nothing to do with shadows creeping across the playing field. The Tribe having won 111 games on the way to the pennant, were swept by the Giants in a 4-game series, played on 4 consecutive days, in bright sunlight without shadows.

The 1954 World Series began in the early afternoonon of September 29 at the Polo Grounds. Marv Grissom threw the first pitch, hitting Al Smith, with Doby on deck, Avila in the hole and Rosen ready to clean up. Nothing worked for the Tribe that afternoon. And Willie Mays iced the win by making the play of the decade in center. One hundred two (102) hours later, it (the entire World Series) was over, at the end of game four at Lakefront Stadium in Cleveland.

So intent on moving the season to its conclusion, the Commissioner of Baseball didn't even allow a day off for travel. I couldn't find evidence of whether the trip to game three in Cleveland was by air or rail travel; the 20th Century Limited would have been an easy choice.

Baseball in the age of TV has been bent to the desires of revenue-hungry advocates of spectacle, not to mention the endless parade of advertising, necessitating strings of official time-outs.

And since most of the games are played on week-nights, we get scenes of the Boys of Summer shivering their way through games played on the cusp of winter. I liked it better the way they did it in '54...mostly. I refuse--still--to forgive Al Lopez for not going to Rapid Robert in the 4th game.

*In truth, the death by beanball of Ray Chapman, at the plate in the Polo Grounds against the Yankees, was the worst day--Aug. 16, 1920. But, to an 11 year old fan, who hadn't yet read enough baseball history, there was no comparison.

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.