Vintage Baseball

June 3, 2008

I was adding the Eight Men Out Tour to the front page of the IHC website today which reminded me of what is perhaps the most awesome part (next to the tour of my office space–the historic home of Meredith Nicholson, of course) of the day long Eight Men Out festivities: the Vintage Baseball Game Round Robin Tournament.

I probably shouldn’t say it, but I’m not a huge fan of baseball. Back in the late 80s I received a one-two punch–Pete Rose-gate and The Strike–and I’ve been out of baseball ever since. But the idea of three baseball games played by 1867 rules sounds just flat spectacular. It’s a sporting event! it’s history! it’s possibly illegal!1 I hope they wear 1867 attire as well.

This entry was posted by: Jim

Photo of Grover Lowdermilk–St. Louis Nationals by The Library of Congress under no known copyright restrictions

1. I’m sure it’s not illegal, but maybe slightly unsafe? I mean, they changed those rules for a reason, right?



  1. Jim,

    The 1994 strike essentially killed baseball in Montreal. I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing considering that franchise was never going to get out of Olympic Stadium. Not to mention the numerous potential individual record-breaking performances that were wiped out as well.

    Yeah, I remember it vividly. And this was before Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro before Congress and the rest of the steroids crew/scandal. But I will say this in defense of baseball – nothing beats watching one of my near-9 year old boys enjoy playing the game. NOTHING.

  2. Yeah, there is something deeply familial about baseball. I don’t know if the Indians thought they worked or not but I thought last year’s ad campaign, where Love of Baseball was contagious between family members, was basically perfect.

    I’m a fan of two sports, boxing and football, and I can trace my love of each to my parents: father and mother respectively, but we never “shared” those sports between us like parents share baseball with their kids.

    Y’know, it just dawned on me that I brought up Pete Rose and The Strike in the same post as Eight Men Out, which was, of course, about the Black Sox scandal. I must seem like a real baseball hater. I deny the charge.

    I have very fond memories of screaming “Petey” every time Pete Rose went to bat, and I collected baseball cards until at least 1992 or 1993, despite having fallen out of love with the sport.

    Even now, with all the scandals, I’m not an enemy of baseball. Maybe that’s why the Vintage baseball games seem so cool, it forces spectators to see baseball in its original, untainted form, so that they can see past all the scandals of the late 20th and early 21st centuries and down to the sport itself.

  3. I wouldn’t accuse you of hating baseball, rather I think you’ve fallen into the segment of our society where Major League Baseball is irrelevant. You’re not alone; football is now the country’s #1 spectator sport and I do not think it is a mere coincidence that the popularity of baseball has fallen while that of football has risen.

    I’m with you on boxing. I just wish there was more boxing on TV. I remember in my youth watching Wide World of Sports and getting excited at the possibility of watching Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Roberto Duran, et. al., on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. At least we can afford to have HBO and its impeccable boxing coverage. Can’t beat a good fight late on a Saturday night when the whole house is quiet.

    I must admit that I am thrilled that one of my sons enjoys baseball so much. His grandfather (my father-in-law) is a tried-and-true basketball fanatic, having played at Shortridge High in the 50s followed by a stint on Butler’s basketball team. He definitely got to his grandson with the basketball. But my son came to like baseball on his own – it’s not like I have a storied career playing. Heck, I think I maybe hit the ball a dozen times in all the years I played as a kid. To say that an eight-year-old can find the enjoyment in baseball that I’ve never lost, well, I’m thrilled.

    Thanks for the reply!

  4. […] meant something different than what I am about to respond to here, but nevertheless his comment to yesterday’s vintage baseball post got me thinking about the what we mean when we say that “X is/is not relevant.” Without […]

  5. I think that it is the decrease in interest in baseball that is NOT irrelevant. Let me preface this with the fact that I am a baseball fan AND I enjoy watching football on Sunday afternoons. That said, I think that the major reason people have fallen out of love with baseball (aside from the obvious scandals) is the fact that baseball is a patient game. There is no clock, there must be nine innings and there is a TON of strategy involved. As a result, game tend to last a long time and there is not a lot of action.

    To see this, compare a “great” baseball game to a “great” football game. The “great” baseball game we all talk about the next day is the no-hitter, the perfect game, or the one-run nail bitter. Generally the “great” football game is the blow-out where the QB passed from 400 yards plus. Football, NASCAR, and (while I suspect based on my limited exposure) boxing all involve rather fast pace play with limited strategy and this fits the “fast-pace” America right now with its 30-minute sitcoms and need for instant messaging.

    I think the fact that baseball is becoming less relevant (especially in the terms of Jim’s post on this topic) in society gives a good hints as to why newspapers are folding up (excuse the pun) across the country and the entertainment fare on both the TV and the movie house is quickly adjusting to the lowest common denominator.

    Baseball is a “thinking man’s” game (no offense to other sports mentioned previously) that takes patients and time. Given this is a humanities blog I will give a relevant citation: Check out “Three Nights in August” by Buzz Bissinger. It is an interesting read.

  6. I have a few problems with Jeremy’s comment, which I run through in brief:

    1. I think baseball remains relevant, as relevant as it ever was, even if the cultural cache is more diluted than it used to be–see today’s post on this subject.

    2. I’m generally not partial to The Myths of the Decline, i.e. humans are meaner, ruder, dumber, less polite, more violent, etc. than they used to be, which is basically what this sounds like. In the context of baseball and this comment there is a false presumption made which I warned of in today’s post–that somehow the “nature” of baseball was indicative of the age somehow. Jeremy is proposing that baseball is a game of patience that no longer holds interest for the fast paced average American. According to this argument NASCAR, basketball, football,and boxing hold our attention in ways that baseball no longer can which accounts for the decline in its popularity. I think this is untrue.

    It is not, of course, untrue, that there is a decline in baseball’s viewers; Nielsen can tell us that. But where we place the blame for that is up for interpretation. So in response to the idea that baseball is from an age of more patient Americans, I say these two things as my rebuttal:

    A. The Golden Age of boxing, that of Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, and others was also during one of baseball’s most popular eras. It was, I hasten to add, the same era that invented auto racing.

    B. To apply the same principle in reverse, the contemporary age is seeing the decline of ever-popular fast paced horse racing and the increase in the far more quiet and patient game of golf.

    3. I’ve often heard from baseball fans that there is more strategy in baseball than in contemporaneous sport. My feeling is that this is wrong, but I think–right or wrong–it is essentially unprovable. There are, for example, 11 players per side on a football field where every player is in motion at once. There is an argument to be made that football is the strategy heavy apple to baseball’s patient orange. But essentially, “more strategy” is probably unquantifiable. Boxing too is an incredibly strategy-laden endeavor, although boxers, due to the nature of their sport, do not have playbooks to weigh.

    4. I cannot check out Buzz’s book because he hates bloggers.

    Although I disagree with Jeremy’s analysis for the reasons posted here, I am not discounting them outright and am curious what others think on the subject.

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