What's Right--and Wrong--with Baseball, as Seen from the Best Seat in the House
by Mark Hyman and Jon Miller
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The criticism I hear most often from old-timers is that the present-day players aren't as well schooled in the fundamentals as players from other eras. They'll point to outfielders who don't hit cutoffs, base runners who get poor leads, and pitchers who fall behind in the counts. I know Joe feels this way; it's a point he has made many times on Sunday Night Baseball.
I contend that today's ballplayers make no more mistakes than the players of Joe's era. And I'm constantly trying to come up with evidence to support my case.
In my memory, perhaps the most exciting game of the 1960s was the third game of the 1962 National League playoff between the Giants and Dodgers. Two of the best teams of the era, loaded with many of the best players: for the Giants, Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Harvey Kuenn, Felipe Alou, and Juan Marichal; for the Dodgers, Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Tommy and Willie Davis. I was just about to turn eleven years old when that game was played. My exact recollections of what was then a huge event in my life were sketchy, at best, though I remember a tense, well-played game. But I listened to an audio tape of the radio broadcast of the game recently, and I was surprised by what I heard thirty years later.
The game was tense enough, all right, but hardly well played. The Dodgers threw the ball all over the park. They booted ground balls, botched rundown plays, and missed cutoff men. In the third inning, the Dodgers made three errors -- and could have been called for a fourth. They had two Giant runners hung up and didn't put out either one. And with all that help, the Giants scored...twice! That's right, all that help and only two runs.
The Giants' dramatic ninth-inning rally -- they trailed 4-2 going into the inning -- consisted of two hits (one an infield chop off the pitcher's glove), one error, one wild pitch, and four walks. The winning run scored on a bases-loaded walk.
Somebody had to win, and the Giants did. But it was a less-than-compelling advertisement for baseball in the sixties.
I couldn't wait to play the tape for Joe.
"You told me they didn't make those kinds of mistakes in the old days?" I chided. "Neither one sounds like a major-league team."
Joe wasn't moved.
"Just one game," I remember him saying with a smile.
I don't know if today's ballplayers make more mistakes or not. But I do believe that we're more aware of their mistakes than we ever were before. And for that, we can thank TV.
In the 1950s, very few games were on television, and next to none on network TV. When an outfielder threw to the wrong base, who knew? Only eight thousand spectators at the park witnessed it -- or even knew about it. Today, that mistake would be shown on local TV at least, with two or three replays fully revealing the screwup. Then that same mistake would get replayed fifteen more times on SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight, local TV newscasts, and Cable News Network. Now, if you make an error, you're infamous in Samoa.
Copyright © 1998 by Jon Miller and Mark Hyman. Excerpted with permission.