From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR
“Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
“I don’t care if I never get back…”
I do. I do care if I never/ever get back.
I need the baseball game to be over, eventually. I’ll need to go to sleep or to work or to the store. Something.
But baseball is making it hard on people who don’t have anything to do but watch baseball, and even those people have to go buy a stamp or to the ATM sometime, surely.
I bring this up because if baseball, unchecked, keeps getting longer, then eventually our grandchildren are going to see the Fall Classic being played in March, which is when spring training starts. There won’t be an off-season because there won’t be time for it. Do you want your husband involved in a baseball fantasy league every day of the year? Do you want people asking you for a Padres score in January?
I think not.
October baseball began this week. Along with air conditioning, plumbing, cable television, the wedge, the inclined plane and possibly Dolly Parton, October baseball is one of man’s greatest inventions. But even it is being marred by the length of time it takes to play a simple nine-inning contest.
In the early ’60s, the time of the average major league baseball game was 2 hours and 25 minutes. Today, the average length of the very same game is about two minutes short of 3 hours.
Part of it is advertising and part of it is an increased number of pitching changes. But the main reason games are longer is because the pitcher and batters are, in general, treating each pitch and swing as if the history of civilization as we know it hinged on the outcome.
There are other things wrong with the game, sure. Nobody will pull their pants up high enough to show socks anymore; (every rookie needs to see a picture of Lou Brock around 1969 and be made to wear his uni like that. Man could wear a uniform like Pavarotti could hit a high C.)
Plus, concessions rival the cost of tuition, and people singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during seventh inning stretches are, generally, already physically at the game so…does that make sense? (You do the math.)
But none of that slows down Today’s Game. What does is the pitcher pretending to do calculus in his head before delivering each one of the 80-to-110 pitches he’ll throw during the game. Meanwhile, the batter takes more time adjusting his gloves and digging in – after most every pitch – than most people take to buy an automobile.
Throw the ball already! Stay in the box! You guys aren’t teaming up to perform a liver transplant. It’s a simple at-bat.
In the corner I keep an old television, and often I have discs in there of baseball games from years ago, decades ago, playing with no sound. I just look over and feel comforted. Recently I saw Mickey Mantle of the Yankees come to the plate against Vern Law of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Vern Law got rid of the ball like it was on fire, and Mantle never left the batter’s box. It was a beautiful thing.
And this was during the seventh and deciding game of the 1960 World Series.
The whole game was like that. It would have taken a pry bar to get Yogi Berra out of the box.
So it can be done. There are even rules in place governing pace of play, but baseball does a poor, poor job of enforcing them. (By “poor job” I mean they don’t enforce them at all.) Instead, almost every pitcher and batter are allowed to constantly get ready for their “Sunset Boulevard” moment, their “close up,” another sad example of how ESPN has changed the world.
October Baseball is here, and I can’t wait…so throw the ball!