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Radio Free Montone: Play Ball!

John Montone

By John Montone, 1010 WINS

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — The Major League Baseball season opened in Australia.

In North America opening day was a night game.  On the morning of the Mets opener at CitiField it was snowing.  It was also still March.

When I was a lad and ballplayers made so little money, they had to sell used cars, drive trucks or work for insurance companies in the off-season — the season began in April. And almost every game until the weather warmed up was played in sunlight. There were two leagues of 10 teams each and two pennant winners, one from the American League and one from the National League.  They met in the World Series which usually concluded by the second week in October.  Those games were also played during the day.

The two leagues played by the same rules.  The designated hitter, the type of specialized position that has always existed in football and basketball, did not exist in baseball until 1973 when the American League adopted it.  It rewarded big, lumbering sluggers who were not adept at the other skills required to play the game.  The National League still does not use the DH and that makes a mess out of every World Series.

When I was in grade school Sunday afternoons in the spring and summer were spent watching the Mets play doubleheaders.  Not the modern doubleheader in which game one starts in the afternoon and when it is over everyone must leave the ballpark so a new crowd can return that night for game two.  Two for the price of two.

No, back in the day you bought one ticket and got to watch two ballgames.  The first of the twin bill would start around 1 p.m. and the final out of the nightcap would usually be recorded around 7 p.m.  Figure 20 minutes between games and you had 18-innings of baseball played in a little over five and a half hours.

In the DH league where pitchers often walk 10 or more batters a game and final scores could be mistaken for football games, 9-innings may take 4 1/2 hours.  Of course, extra long commercial breaks and batters stepping out of the box after every pitch add to the length of the game.  I can’t remember many of the Mets hitters of my childhood adjusting their batting gloves or wrist bands while Don Drysdale or Bob Gibson was on the mound.  Not if they wanted to live to appear on Kiner’s Korner after the game.

Now in 2014, MLB has added instant replay.  Instead of an Earl Weaver/Billy Martin dirt kicking tantrum, we will be treated to four or five different views of base runners sliding around or into a tag.  Or outfielders snagging or trapping fly balls.  How can an ump toss a manager if the skipper is in the clubhouse watching the replay?  Speaking of replays, in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series when Tommie Agee made two of the greatest clutch catches ever, each diving grab received one replay.

Now routine ground balls to short may be shown two or three times.

Six divisions. 10 playoff teams. Four wildcards. A play-in game. Two division series. Two league championship series. And a World Series that usually ends in November.

So what’s an old guy to say except…play ball!

John Montone,  1010 WINS News.

Be well.