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Saturday, April 15, 2017

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: THEN AND NOW

I have been a fan of major league baseball for as long as I can remember.  I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio so as a kid I kept close track of our home town Reds.  During those days in the 1950’s the Reds had an exciting team but didn’t usually win more games than they lost because they lacked one of the first ingredients for success in the game:  good pitching.  They were exciting to follow because although they gave up a lot of runs, they also scored a lot with great hitters like Ted Kluszewski, Gus Bell, Wally Post and Jim Greengrass.  Consequently, we saw a lot of 10-9 games with the Reds on the short end but they won their share of those high scoring games too.

Regardless of their inadequacies on the pitchers’ mound those Reds teams and other major league teams of their era were a lot different from teams of today.  A major reason is that they didn’t make the high salaries that players make today.  During the early to late 1950’s players were fortunate to make $10,000 for a season.  Most of them had second jobs like pitcher Bud Podbielan of the Reds who worked part time at a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Cincinnati to make ends meet.  In 1957 a great young pitcher on the Reds named Jim Maloney held out in spring training for a $20,000 contract; chicken feed by today’s standards.  As good as he was, he wound up signing for $17,000 as the team wouldn’t budge on its offer.  A guy like Maloney would be making millions today.

That era was also different from today because of the players’ attitude toward fans.  Those guys were a lot more accessible that the millionaires we have on the diamonds today.  I remember when Jerry Colangelo was involved with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2003, some of the players balked because Colangelo insisted that they sign autographs for ten minutes before games.  It doesn’t seem like much of a hardship but with the millions those guys were making some felt it to be a burden. 

As a comparison, I remember going to Reds games in Cincinnati as a kid and collecting autographs from the players before games.  They used to hang out under the grandstand at old Crosley Field to grab a few puffs off a Camel or Lucky Strike before they went out to warm up.  That area was where we kids invaded to get autographs.  Those players were of a different mindset than many of today.  They were happy to sign our books and many even seemed flattered to be asked for an autograph.

When visiting teams came to Cincinnati to play the Reds, it was time for me to take the trolley bus downtown and hang around the hotel lobbies where the visiting teams stayed.  I acquired many great autographs from guys like Willie Mays and Monte Irvin of the 1954 World Series Champion New York Giants plus the rest of the Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, and , of course, the Reds..  Willie and Monte even took the time to add a message to me next to their name.  Monte died recently but Willie is still hanging on in his late 80’s

Those were fun days to grow up.  It was an era when sports weren’t taken as seriously as now and people seemed to have more of a sense of humor.  Today there are guys making millions who couldn’t make a team in the days of fewer major league clubs.  It’s lucky timing for them.

(Please leave comments below.  Thanks!)


33 comments:

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks for reading! Please leave comments if you wish. JM

Joe Finnerty said...

TV and jet aircraft changed the finances of the game.

Team owners of old were notorious tightwads.

Ruth saved baseball from the boredom of moving runners along one base at a time.

What great autographs you shared. I saw both these memorable fellows play at the Polo Grounds.

nativekentuckian said...

Hi Jim!

Hope you and Barb are doing well......Just wanted to mention that the one and only time I was ever able to attend a baseball game was in the late 50's.......and the most memorable thing about it was.......that it was at Crosley Field!....God Bless you both....Your friend, Sonny

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Joe,

Great to hear from you; it's been a while.

I agree on Babe; he really opened a lot of eyes with his power. He was an amazing athlete and I'm sure he never worked out in his life in any gym. The man was simply born to hit and he was also a great pitcher.

I have most of the '54 Phillies, Giants, and Reds. It was quite an era. Those guys smoked, drank, and still could play double headers on Sunday. I was fortunate to attend a game at the Polo Grounds a s a kid. It was quite a thrill to see those guys play at home.

Take care and stay in touch.

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Sonny.

Good to hear from you.

Crosley Field was quite a place. Very small, had the brewery behind the left field wall, and was a small field. It only held 30,000 but it was quite a commotion when the Reds were playing well. Great fun in those days. My best to Leon.

Rick Kepple said...

In 2000, I was hired as a sports editor for the Waynesville (Mo.) Daily Guide in Missouri, because I am a great writer and certainly not because of my expertise in those pastimes!

In fact, I had to go to the public library to study the intricacies about Baseball, Football and other sports. I had a real bad habit of "setting up the news" where I'd ask an athlete to repeat until I got some great photos! Bad me, but they sold papers!

I was put on news after I was sent to a Cardinals baseball team in St. Louis, interviewed some of the players, wandered the arena, the dugout and had full run of the place, but not at all the story they wanted. I had the dream job and I didn't like it!

Dell Mack convinced me to stay in the video and music business, Jimmy. Seems I might actually be right for the entertainment industry. I'd like to work for SN someday. Yeah, Dell, Dannie O'Reilly (side-man guitarist) and a drummer from the old days are coming into record music this week, Jimmy. I have SN to thank for my new life. I'm not a real fan of sports, Jimmy.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

A lot of changes have taken place over the years in Baseball and other sports too. A lot of the players used to play for the love of the game. Today, the money is so great that many lose the charm of the guys from the old days when there wasn't so much money involved. There are guys making millions now who wouldn't even be able to make some of the teams from the past. With expansion of the leagues over the years the competition has become greater and the talent level lower.

Guys who hit over .230 years ago are now making millions. It's all about supply and demand as are most things in life.

Arizona Dave said...

Great article Jim...my baseball history goes back to the early 50s when the Memphis Chicks were a Double A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox....in the Louie Aparicio, Sammy Esposito, John Romano, & Jim Landis days.....went to many exhibition games and remember Tito Franconia as a rookie playing for the Cleveland Indians.....got my share of autographs over the years including Hank Aaron, Bob Feller, Mickey Mantle, Nolan Ryan, David Wells(no relationship), Rollie Finger, just to name a few... and an autographed baseball of the 1969 New York Mets who won the World Series...wonder what that would go for on Ebay..

Got a new set of Callaway Irons and Driver on the way....Have shot my age 50 times now, the most recent at Tonto Verde, so maybe new clubs will help an older golfer keep it going.

Mike Slater said...

Hi Jim,

I have to agree with you on Baseball today as compared to the old days. Being born in
1951 I didn't get to see some of the great players until the late 50's and 60's. Players like Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale in their best years rarely made more than a $100,000. Can you imagine what they would earn today?

Being in Arizona we didn't have any pro sports teams and the only games I could get on radio or TV were from LA. So I became a Dodger fan. I could name every player and their stats.

Then in 1963 the Dodgers meet the New York Yankees in the World Series. I was in Catholic grad school at the time and would sneak my transistor radio to school and listen to the games until the Nun caught me and took it away after game 2. So when the next game was on I told my mother I was sick so I could stay home and watch the game. It was great that the Dodgers sweep the Yankees in 4 games.

The thing that ruined Baseball for me was free agency. Guys don't play for the love of the game or championships they just play for the money.

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Dave,

I remember the Memphis Chicks. Lots of minor league teams in the old days before TV came around showing a lot of major league games. The fans flocked to those games and a lot of minor league teams disappeared. Kind of like cars replacing the horse and buggy.

Those are some great names you mentioned. As good as a lot of guys are today I don't think they could beat out guys like Feller, Aaron, Mantle, Rollie Fingers, etc. Fingers was a cool guy: he had that great mustache when he pitched for the Oakland A's. He was a great late inning closer AND he could come in and give the team 5 or 6 innings if needed. He once said that either way was fine with him. Players were studs in those days.

That's a great ball you have from the Mets. Guys like Seaver, Martlack were on that team. They were tough!

New Callaways, huh? Great brand. I still go out and hit my 1980's Ping Eye 2s. Since I have never broken 92 no new clubs for me!

Take care, ttanks for the comment.

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Marshall,

Glad you enjoyed the piece.

I have been very fortunate with my autograph seeking from the old days. Cincy was a good place to grow up because with the Reds there all the National League teams came to town.

My fave team other than the Reds was the N. Y. Giants especially after they knocked off the Indians in four games after the Indians had won 111 games that year. The Giants won 97 so the arguments abounded as to the quality of the American League. "Say Hey" Willie had a good Series and Dusty Rhodes won the opener with that 257 foot homer to right in the Polo Grounds. I love that photo of Dave Pope trying to leap up the wall and catch it.

In later years Hank Bauer had a liquor store in Prairie Village, Kansas near where I lived. I used to stop in for 6 packs and shoot the bull with him about the old days. He was a nice guy.

I guess baseball is something I could talk about forever. I cherish those autographs I have of the Reds, Phillies, and Giants from the '50s. I think those guys had more fun in those days than the guys now in spite of the millions they make now. Priorities have changed a lot over the years.

Thanks for your comment. I always enjoy your pieces in the magazine.

Jim McAllister said...

From Marshall Trimble:

Great piece Jim. I first became interested in big league baseball during the 1948 World Series between the Boston Braves and the Cleveland Indians. Lou Boudreau the Indians shortstop and manager became my hero and still is one of them. We didn't have television in northern Arizona and the radio was hard to pick up in those mountains so we devoured the sports page of the Republic. In 1951 the Yankees came to Phoenix to train. I caught the train and came out to the old stadium on south Central and saw Berra, Rizzuto, Bauer, Reynolds, Raschi, Coleman, and a kid named Mantle. It was like a surreal dream for me and I've never forgotten it. I kinda lost interest when the Dodgers and Giants left New York. Dylan was right. Marshall

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Mike,

I well remember the '63 season mainly because I was stationed in Germany from June until October and listened to many games on the Armed Forces Network and read the accounts of those games in one of the best newspapers I have ever read, the "Stars and Stripes."

I hated the Yankees in those days and was really rooting for the Dodgers. It was a quickie as the Dodgers knocked them off in 4 games. It was a good example of how good pitching would always neutralize hitting as Drysdale and Koufax both dominated. I think Pete Richert even pitched a decent game.

Jim Bouton never had a chance!

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

I hated the Yankees because they used to beat the Dodgers like a drum. The Dodgers finally won in 55 and 63. It was especially nice in 63 with a 4 game sweep.

The one two punch of Koufax and Drysdale was nice because the Dodgers weren't a great hitting team and didn't score and lot of runs.

From 55 to 66 the Dodgers had a good run. They won 4 out of 5 World Series titles but after 66 Koufax retired and it was awhile before they won another one.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

I really liked that '63 Series. I listened to it over Armed Forces radio while I was stationed in Germany.

Sandy Koufax had been a great high school basketball player and was recruited by my alma mater, the University of Cincinnati. Needless to say that when they discovered his ability to throw fastballs 100 mph basketball was put on the back burner.

I went to a game in August,1961 between the Reds and the Dodgers at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. Koufax was pitching for the Dodgers and I always remember one at bat where he hit a sharp line drive to right field that the Reds' outfielder scooped up and threw him out at first base. Sandy batted right handed and wasn't much of a hitter so they played him really shallow in right. It's a play one doesn't see very often. He sure made up for his crappy hitting when he got on the mound!

Koufax and Don Drysdale were a hell of a combination on the mound. Right handed hitters never dug in on Don with that sidearm fastball he had!

Jim McAllister said...

From Jim Johnson

Never involved with baseball as a kid. I think I missed much as I have now begun to read all about the D’Backs and the game. It is kind of fascinating.

You have some very nice heirloom artifacts (autographs). I HOPE YOU HAVE SOMEONE TO PASS THEM TOO WHO APPRECIATES WHAT YOU DID AS a KID.

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Jim,

Baseball was a lot of fun as a kid for me whether I was playing or following the Cincinnati Reds. It's a lot different now with all the money involved and so many player with "attitudes" but I still enjoy watching games even though my interest is not anything close to when i was a kid.

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

Drysdale had quite a reputation with right handed batters and he had no problem hitting them with a pitch. At 6' 6" not many players wanted to charge the mound.

Don wasn't a fan of walking a batter on four pitches. He said why waste four pitches when I can hit him with one pitch.

He had a great sense of humor. He hit Mickey Mantle in the arm with a pitch and walked to the plate and asked Mickey if he wanted him to autograph his bruise for him.

I miss the old days of Baseball with all the great players. Most players today would never have made the teams in the 50's and 60's.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

So true about a lot of players today: They would not have made the major leagues many years ago. especially since there were only eight teams in each league so only the best guys made the major league rosters. I see guys now who stick with teams and aren't worth a sh-t as pitchers, fielders, or hitters. Today if you can hit .230 you have a job. In the 50s you may not have even been in Class A.

Drysdale was definitely a tough guy. When the Dodgers had him and Koufax they were basically unbeatable

Rick Kepple said...

I told you before Jimmy, but as a kid on the farm, we played baseball between us four boys and sometimes had visitors for extra players. If a ball was struck to the outfield and it rolled through a cow pie or in it, Time Out was called and the runner had to stop on the last base passed until the ball was wiped off in the grass. A spit shine and wiped off in the grass until a greenish tint remained staining it forever!
Well then, Time-In was called and the runner could proceed to the next base and they often took home plate.

So Dell Mack, Dannie O'Reilly and "Julio" showed up to record yesterday. The engineer blew off the two CEO's and the drummer. So I engineered the sound. Dell said that they're gonna keep me doing that job, because I was always ready for the next take. I'm now taking YouTube lessons in how to mix and master. It's Adobe Audition. I'm trying to learn PreSonus Studio 1 (2) Professional (I paid for it) and it's much harder. I've sent off for information about subscription Pro Tools. No clue what I'm doing, but I'm apparently pretty good at it!

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

That sounds like a helluva ball game. It reminds me of the days when we kids played in the street in Cincinnati and had all kinds of ground rules to cover items like breaking windows, hitting a car, etc. I think those days were more fun than playing on a regular field. When the weather cooled off we played football and had another set of rules. Those were great days

Keep working on the YouTube stuff. It's a great item and can get a lot of exposure.

My best to Dannie, Dell, and the guys.

JM

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

If you remember the 1965 World Series between the Dodgers and the Twins Koufax was supposed to pitch the first game but sat out because of the Jewish holiday. Drysdale got the start and lost. When the game was over he walked up to his manager and said "I bet you wished I was Jewish too." The old players had a sense of humor.

You're right about Baseball today. It's not the same anymore. I'm just glad I grew up in the 50's and 60's and got the chance to see some of the great ball players.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

I remember that series very well in '65. I had gotten out of the USAF on Sept. 10 and was enrolled at the University of Cincinnati. Being a big fan of Koufax and the Dodgers, I used to watch as much of the games as I could between classes in the student union or a local bar since the games were mainly in the daytime in those days. The Twins were a pretty good team with guys like Tony Oliva but no match for the one, two punch of Sandy and Don.

Great comment by Drysdale. I had never heard that one! He was married to that great girl basketball player who works for the Suns before he died.

Rick Kepple said...

Thanks Jim, for the encouragement for YouTube video production. The channel has 5 subscribers. Just five, Jimmy. Not even friends and family of anyone subscribed! And that's most channels on YouTube now. This chick I like, I overheard her on the phone telling someone that she doesn't want material things, but just to be loved, while just a moment before she just asked me for a hundred bucks! I showed a friend a video from another creator and he said, "Is that one of your films?" I'm not even popular in my own area, Jimmy!

Now I know why people watch baseball. I won't. That implies Americans still act as a team and they don't.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

Love your quote "This chick I like, I overheard her on the phone telling someone that she doesn't want material things, but just to be loved, while just a moment before she just asked me for a hundred bucks!"

Just more reinforcement of what we have all learned over the years about some chicks. She will probably tell you that "Hell, I gotta eat!"

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

Another great pitcher of that era I enjoyed watching was Bob Gibson of the Cardinals. Much like Drysdale Gibson would intimidate batters and being a former Golden Gloves boxer wasn't afraid to mix it up with a batter.

In the 1968 season he had a 1.12 era which is unheard of today. In the first game of the 68 World Series he struck out 17 Tigers breaking the record of 15 that Koufax had in 63.

Could you imagine if a team had Koufax, Drysdale and Gibson?

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

No question about it; Gibby was one of the best. He was very serious on the mound and didn't want to hear any crap from anyone including his catcher Tim McCarver.

During the '68 Series against Detroit Gibson was having a bit of control problems so Tim went out to the mound to see if he could help in some way. Gibson stared at him and said "Get the hell out of here! The only thing you know about pitching is that it's hard to hit!"

Lesson learned by McCarver: Don't mess with Bob Gibson when he is pissed off.

I miss guys like that. Today most of the guys are just a bunch of overpaid twerps. They are making millions hitting .220 whereas they couldn't even make the roster in the past.

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

I miss those guys too. Todays players aren't the same. You don't see pitchers with 300 innings a year anymore. Now they have pitch counts and relievers. It's something for a pitcher to win 20 games anymore. Another thing you rarely see is a pitcher pinch hitting. Drysdale and Gibson were good with a bat and on occasion would have the highest batting average on the team.

My brother is a big Baseball fan and I told him about your blog. He may check it out. If you see a Steve Slater that's him.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

Yeah, the 300 inning guys are long gone. Many years ago it wasn't uncommon for one guy to pitch both games of a double header. Speaking of double headers, that's another thing that has pretty much disappeared.

Today a guy is considered a workhorse if he can go seven innings. Dizzy Dean would be embarrassed to admit he went less than nine.

You're right about Gibby and Don: They did some pinch hitting. I think it was a pride thing for guys like them.

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

Another thing you rarely see in Baseball or any pro sport is ownership getting private funding for their stadiums. As a taxpayer I don't like being tax for millionaire play grounds.

I remember when the D-Backs were

formed the Maricopa Board of Supervisors levied a tax to help pay for the new stadium. We didn't even get to vote on it.

One Supervisor get shot over it and one later ran for Congress and was soundly defeated.

When I lived in Gledale at least I had a chance to vote on the Cardinal stadium.

Now we see the Coyotes want a new arena and the D-Backs complainging about thier stadium. If they don't get whant they want they always threaten to leave.

I liked the Valley much better when there were no pro sports teams.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

I agree. I wish they would all leave if they don't like where they play.

The Diamondbacks are the worst of all. They have a beautiful 18 year old stadium paid for by taxes and they are demanding the taxpayers buy them a new one. I loved the comment by one of the county supervisors when he told the head guy to "Take your f---ing team and go back to West Virginia." I wish they would.

The Coyotes and Suns aren't quite as bad but they want new places too. The good news is that the public gets to vote on it so I don't see them getting the votes. They can all leave as far as I am concerned.

The Salt River Tribe over here is pretty tight with the Diamondbacks and provide them with a spring training park. Maybe they will step in and build something for them. They have lots of money and lots of land to build on.

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

It's not like these teams are racking up championships either. They're mediocre teams at best. I wouldn't pay to go see any of them or pay outlandish prices for food and drinks.

The Suns have been here for 49 years with nothing to show for it. The D-backs have 1 championship which was the only time I ever rooted for the Yankees. The Cardinals haven't won a title since 1947. I'm not a hockey fan so I could care less about the Coyotes.

If any of them want to leave I'm sure Delta Air Lines is ready when they are.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

I agree totally. The Suns are especially annoying as they basically admitted they were starting weak lineups at the end of the season so they would be sure to lose thus ensuring a better draft choice next season. Plus, they have a coach who is clueless.

I've always disliked the Cardinals from the days I lived in Kansas City and they were in St. Louis. The Bidwill family is probably the worst ownership in sports. It's too bad the voters knuckled under and bought them the stadium in Glendale. If they wouldn't have thrown in a clause to build playgrounds for kids, they probably wouldn't have had the votes to win that election for their stadium.

As far as hockey, I knew that would flop in Glendale. All the hockey fans are in Scottsdale and the area is too far away.

I'm definitely not the sports fan I used to be.