Posts Tagged ‘Polo Grounds’

Dog Pee, the DH and Willie Mays

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Willie Mays, "the catch," 1954 World Series, the Polo Grounds.

By Bob Gaydos

I wasn’t planning to write for the Zest blog this week because I had other stuff on my mind and nothing about which I felt a need to expound. That wasn’t good enough for my fellow Zester, Mike Kaufman.

He felt a need to call me out in a column he wrote — he actually did two of them — on whether it’s OK to let your dog pee on a neighbor’s mailbox post. Really. Even did a poll on it. Since I thought this question was covered by the “do unto others” credo by which we all aspire to live, I ignored it. But he insisted. Yes or no, Bob, pee or no pee. Exasperated, I answered: No pee! No pee! Never let your dog pee on my or anybody else’s mailbox post! Yucch.

But the pee question turned out to be a straw dog. Mike, a former sports writer, was really calling me out on the designated hitter in baseball, which I had supported in one of my previous posts. At the end of his dog pee column, he added: “NOTE TO BOB GAYDOS: Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees was the American League’s first designated hitter on Opening Day 1973. Thirty years later he expressed regrets: ‘I screwed up the game of baseball. Baseball needed a jolt of offense for attendance, so they decided on the DH. I never thought it would last this long.’ If even Blomberg can recant, it is not too late for you, Bob. Please come to your senses. Come home to the real game of baseball.”

First of all, Ron Blomberg is one of those Old Timers Day “Oh yeah, he was a Yankee, too“ guys. He had a couple of decent years and faded fast. He was never big enough to screw up the Yankees, let alone the whole game of baseball.

But Blomberg and Kaufman miss the point. There is simply no going back to anything. Baseball has evolved over the years, becoming more attuned to what fans like, which is more offense. It’s why they lowered the pitching mound. Sure, everyone can appreciate a good pitching matchup and no-hitters are special. But a whole season of teams batting .256 facing each other and watching opposing pitchers avoid number eight hitters with .230 averages to get at a pitcher who is an almost sure out is not fun. Nor does it necessarily win games. Good pitching always trumps all else. But when all else is equal, the teams that can hit — and that means mostly American League teams with designated hitters — will prevail. Look at the inter-league games records. The American League destroys the National League

I don‘t know what happens to pitchers when they leave high school. Until then they are usually the best players all around on all their teams. That means they could hit, too. But even before the DH, major league pitchers were no longer feared hitters. Players can’t bunt anymore. It’s a disgrace. The hit and run is almost obsolete. Baseball went bonkers with steroids for a while, and everyone was a home run threat. Now, things are back to seeming normalcy, but next year teams are going to play teams in the other league every day. That’s not fair to American League teams whose pitchers will have to bat. National League teams will gladly find a guy on the bench to add some punch to their anemic lineups.

The point is, the players union will never give up the jobs and the fans who see the DH every day will never go back to so-called “real baseball.” Not that long ago, baseball players used to leave their gloves on the field and wearing a batting helmet was unknown. But once upon a time, in the 1860s, nobody (not even the catcher) wore a glove, the ball was pitched underhanded from 45-feet from home plate, the ball could be caught on a bounce or on the fly for an out and you couldn’t overrun first base. In addition, foul balls were not strikes and if the umpire, standing to the side of the batter, didn’t happen to see the pitch, it didn’t count.

Now, that’s old time baseball, too, and they still play it in Cape May County, N.J., Michael, if you’re interested. For a whole season, I’m sticking with the current version.

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While I’m at it, I might as well take care of all the dog-eared baseball questions. In response to my own poll (“Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?”), my colleague Jeffrey Page responded: “Bob, What about the Question of the Eternal Triangle: Mantle? Mays? Snider? My heart says Duke. My head says Willie. Mantle? He was pretty good, too.”

OMG, Brooklyn, get over yourself. Yes, New York City had the three best center fielders in baseball in the 1950s, but the Duke was always number three and you know that in your head, if not your heart. Mantle could have been the best ever but he drank like a fish and wrecked his leg and was still an all-time great and notches above Snider. But Willie Mays had it all, including a flair for the dramatic. I watched him rain triples and chase down fly balls all around the Polo Grounds and my head and heart have never doubted his preeminence. Best ever. Willie, Mickey and the Duke. 1,2,3.

* * *

Which brings me back to Michael and his dog pee. The most fascinating thing about his poll to me is that, of the 10 people who replied, four apparently said let your dog go wherever, whenever. I want their names, Michael. I don’t have a dog, but I have a friend who has three and they’re looking for new fields of dreams.

 bob@zestoforange.com