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Insights: Sports

Baseball may evolve, but some things never change. A pundit looks at the state of the game
Roger Kahn
From the Print Edition:
The Sopranos, Mar/Apr 01

(continued from page 2)

Problems? As I found myself discussing on a radio show with Tommy John, today's super-rich players are less disciplined performers than the long ago Boys of Summer. Bernie Williams, the Yankees' fine center fielder, pauses to watch his clouts head toward the north Bronx. No, you hit, and then you run. The first base coach will clue you soon enough. Todd Zeile of the New York Mets, another gifted ballplayer, clouted a drive to left field in Game 1 of last year's World Series. As far as I know, Zeile is the only descendent of John Adams playing in the majors. Certain he had hit a homer, Zeile watched the ball in flight. So did the runner on first, Timo Perez. The drive hit the top of the fence and bounded into play. The Yankees threw out Perez trying to score. The Mets lost the game, 4-3, lost their edge and, eventually, the Series. Someone said the wind in left had shifted. John Adams wrote in 1776, "All great changes are irksome." Come on, Zeile. Come on, guys. Play hard. Run hard. All of the time.

No one ever created Branch Rickey's pyramidal screen, but televised baseball still is flawed. With huge screens and informed commentary by such as Tim McCarver, we see pitching and some other aspects as never before. But commercials clutter the game. Commercials between innings seem never to end. Commercials between pitching changes take up enough time for three other fellows to warm up. Pitching changes come late in a game, toward a climactic time, and these commercials give some viewers practice at hitting the mute button. Others switch to channel 69, and watch The Revenge of the Spanker.

Smart owners and managers win. Great performers, such as Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and the lamentably retired Will Clark, play like hell. Mediocre journalists pump out the Selig/Organized Baseball line. Fault lines stretch from coast to coast, but do you want to change this native art form? Do you really want to socialize baseball?

Not me, and I voted for Henry Wallace.


Roger Kahn is the author of The Boys of Summer. His latest work is The Head Game, published by Harcourt.

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