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A Baseball Memoir
by Chuck Bednar

Category: Sports/Entertainment
Description: Baseball is probably the greatest game ever invented. I love the sport, and if you're reading this, I assume you do as well. There's nothing quite like playing or viewing a game of baseball on a warm summer day. Watching in the stands as a pitcher, like a sniper, tries to nail a slight target with pinpoint accuracy. Looking on at the game of cat and mouse played between a hurler and a baserunner. Hearing just the right tone as the bat meets the ball - that special crack that let's you know when a hitter has gotten it all. There just isn't anything like it. It was my pleasure to write about baseball for several years on a variety of levels. I started as a high school and American Legion correspondent for a local paper and wound up as a columnist for a nationally-known network of Web sites. A Baseball Memoir takes a look back at Major League Baseball during my last 21 months covering the sport (January 2000 to September 2001). You'll find a little bit of everything in this book. Parts of it simply recap the major events that transpired, including the John Rocker scandal, the 2000 Subway Series, and Barry Bonds' chase for the home run record. Some parts offer statistical information while others offer analysis and still others provide out-and-out editorial opinion. There's even a little bit of nostalgia and a pinch of social commentary thrown in for good measure. More than anything else, though, this book is one fan's look back at the incomparable sport of baseball in all its glory.
eBook Publisher: DiskUs Publishing, 2003 2003
eBookwise Release Date: September 2010

eBookeBook

Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [232 KB]
Words: 51638
Reading time: 147-206 min.


INTRODUCTION

~

Baseball is probably the greatest game ever invented.

I love the sport, and if you're reading this, I assume you do as well. There's nothing quite like playing or viewing a game of baseball on a warm summer day. Watching in the stands as a pitcher, like a sniper, tries to nail a slight target with pinpoint accuracy. Looking on at the game of cat and mouse played between a hurler and a base runner. Hearing just the right tone as the bat meets the ball - that special crack that let's you know when a hitter has gotten it all. There just isn't anything like it.

It was my pleasure to write about baseball for several years on a variety of levels. I started as a high school and American Legion correspondent for a local paper and wound up as a columnist for a nationally known network of Web sites. A Baseball Memoir takes a look back at Major League Baseball during my last 21 months covering the sport (January 2000 to September 2001).

You'll find a little bit of everything in this book. Parts of it simply recap the major events that transpired, including the John Rocker scandal, the 2000 Subway Series, and Barry Bonds' chase for the home run record. Some parts offer statistical information while others offer analysis and still others provide out-and-out editorial opinion. There's even a little bit of nostalgia and a pinch of social commentary thrown in for good measure. More than anything else, though, this book is one fan's look back at the incomparable sport of baseball in all its glory.

And thank you for purchasing A Baseball Memoir. Please enjoy it.

- Chuck Bednar

* * * *

CHAPTER 1

~

New Years Day 2000 marked the end of one millennium and the start of another

It had been a momentous 1,000 years for many reasons - not the least of which was the advent of baseball. According to the Information Please Almanac, the National League was founded 876 years into that millennium. The American League came into existence 901 years into said millennium, and the two joined to become Major League Baseball roughly 960 years in

Despite its relatively young age, baseball gave a lot of people a lot of memories during the millennium that was. Fans were introduced to legends such as Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and Willie Mays. There were the Negro Leagues, Murders' Row, and the Black Sox Scandal. Home Run Kings and Ironmen alike were crowned and later dethroned. There were strikes and strikeouts, pennant races and record chases

And there was a man who went by the name of George Herman Ruth, or simply "Babe" Ruth, named the best player of the 20th century by the Associated Press, was undoubtedly a fantastic player. He led the league in home runs 12 times during his 20 seasons, and was the all-time leader in home-run percentage, walks, and slugging percentage. As good as he was on the field, though, it was his larger than life persona that made him a legend

"I've seen them; kids, men, women, worshippers all, hoping to get his name on a torn, dirty piece of paper, or hoping for a grunt of recognition when they said, 'Hi-ya, Babe!'" former teammate Waite Hoyt once said. "He never let them down; not once. He was the greatest crowd pleaser of them all.

When you take it all into consideration, there should be little doubt as to why baseball emerged as America's National Pastime

It seems fitting, then, that even as baseball headed into the future that was the year 2000, it would first stop to pay tribute to its past. Namely, honoring two of the figures that helped cultivate its heritage - Carlton Fisk and Tony Perez - with election to the Baseball Hall of Fame midway through the month

Fisk, perhaps best known for hitting his dramatic "foul-pole" home run in the 1975 World Series, played a total of 24 big league seasons with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox. He was an 11-time All Star as well as the American League Rookie of the Year in 1972. Fisk set the all-time record for games played as a catcher, participating in 2,226 during his illustrious career. At the time, his 376 career home runs ranked 43rd on the all-time list. Fisk was elected to the Hall of Fame on his second try

The wait was much longer for Perez, who was finally set to make the trip to Cooperstown on his ninth ballot. While Perez also saw action with the Expos, Red Sox, and Phillies, he is most remembered as an integral cog in Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" of the 1960s and 1970s. He was a seven-time All-Star and hit more than 100 RBI in six different seasons. Perez played most of his career at first base, but also played third base. He finished his career with 379 home runs and 1,652 RBI (18th best all-time as of his election)

Both Fisk and Perez deserved their induction. Yet, I couldn't help but wonder why the Baseball Writers Association of America omitted some of the other players on the 2000 ballot - players like Dale Murphy, Jim Rice, Gary Carter, and Steve Garvey. They were every bit as deserving

Most unforgivable was the exclusion of Murphy from the class of 2000. Murphy has perhaps the most impressive on-field credentials of any of the slighted candidates. The former Braves slugger, who also played for the Phillies and Rockies, was at the time one of only four players in baseball history to win consecutive NL MVP awards. He finished just two home runs short of the magic 400 and was a five-time Gold Glove winner. Murphy was the all-time Atlanta Braves leader in several offensive categories, including runs (1,103), hits (1,901), singles (1,187), doubles (306), home runs (371), and RBI (1,143). Add in Murphy's history as a tremendous community leader and all-around humanitarian, and you have a player tailor-made for the Hall of Fame

Rice, who played left field for the Red Sox from 1974 to 1989, was an eight-time All Star. He was named the league's Most Valuable Player in 1978 when he led the league in home runs (46), triples (15), hits (213), and RBI (139). By 1980, Rice was in the top five in Red Sox history in nine different offensive categories, and was third in team history in homers and RBI behind a duo of Hall of Famers in Carl Yastremski and Ted Williams

Carter was unquestionably the best defensive catcher this side of Johnny Bench. He was a three-time Gold Glover while leading the league in fielding percentage twice, assists five times, and putouts on six occasions. Offensively, he recorded more than 100 RBI four times and hit at least 20 homers on nine different occasions during his 18-year career. Carter was also a two-time All-Star Game MVP and led the league in RBI (106) in 1984

Consistency is what made Garvey a great player as both a Dodger and a Padre. He played more than 1,000 consecutive games at first base for Los Angeles and was named the league's MVP in 1974. He was voted most valuable in two All Star Games as well as in two National League Championship Series. He finished his career with a .294 batting average and more than 2,600 hits. Garvey was also a four-time Gold Glove winner and the first first-baseman in San Diego history to play an entire season without committing an error

Why were such great and memorable players left in the cold? Sadly, it seems as though baseball's glorious history is to blame. It seemed as though there were just too many talented stars on the ballot all at once. In addition to Fisk, Perez, Murphy, Carter, Rice, and Garvey, the ballot included: Goose Gossage, Jim Kaat, Jack Morris, Dave Parker, Luis Tiant, and Keith Hernandez, among others. All of them were fantastic stars, and their place in baseball history is ensured. Even if their place in the Hall of Fame is not

The past fondly recalled, it was time to deal with baseball's future

January ended with owners from each of baseball's 30 teams unanimously passing a resolution that would gave commissioner Bud Selig a vast array of new powers, including the ability to block trades and force revenue sharing. According to the Associated Press, the pact, which had been introduced by Padres president Larry Lucchino, called for Selig to "take such action as he deems appropriate to ensure an appropriate level of long-term competitive balance.

The commissioner now had a greater ability to enforce his authority under baseball's "best interest" clause. According to the new constitution, Selig could now fine teams up to $2 million (up from $250,000) and club employees $500,000 (up from $25,000). The owners also relinquished all their rights to income generated through Internet radio and video broadcasts, voting to allow the commissioner to distribute said moneys to small market teams

Was it the right move? Given baseball's continued unwillingness to install a reasonable salary cap, it was the next best move the owners could have made to ensure their sport would remain competitive in the 21st century

According to the AP, only one team that was not among the upper half of the league in payroll - the 1997 Houston Astros - had reached the playoffs since the 1994 strike. The eight teams that reached the playoffs in 1999 each ranked in the top 10 payrolls. The fact was that baseball had become a sport dominated by the big markets ever since the resignation of Fay Vincent in 1994 resulted in the position of commissioner having as much impact on baseball as the Queen does in Parliament

The commissioner's new powers were thought to be a true blessing for baseball fans - especially the revenue sharing, which would ideally allow Selig to bring to baseball the same type of parity that the NFL had been enjoying during this era. The thinking was that these new initiatives would give smaller budget teams a chance to blossom into serious playoff contenders

Also, the increased fines were intended to cut down the sport's increasing number of conduct problems. While baseball was still far from the level found in the NBA or NHL, there certainly were a growing number of problems, and baseball was deadly serious about maintaining their image

A lesson a certain Atlanta Braves pitcher was about to find out the hard way


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