"Those who love baseball love its languorous flow, its slow build to a climax and its ever- present prospects for redemption—within a season begun badly or maybe, as 29 of 30 clubs ultimately must admit, next year. Baseball is not like war—it is like life, filled with losses and disappointments that provide rich context to the occasional victory, making it all the more delicious." – John Thorn
"Here in the Wild Card era, this was excitement practically everywhere, with practically everyone watching everything. Maybe you were watching it on MLB.TV, clicking from one game to the next, while you had another game on the TV. Maybe you were watching your cable and ESPN highlights, with the radio on. Maybe you were listening to one game on MLB.com Gameday Audio, trying to somehow cover every base when so many simultaneous games had playoff implications. Maybe you were at a sports bar, watching every monitor you could possibly see." - Mark Newman, mlb.com
As a baseball nut who remembers when baseball was king, it is kind of sad to see the game no longer on the top shelve.
Then again, we baseball fans ain’t hurting. The game is rich in experience, offering a long and storied past, a long regular season and sometimes, gut-wrenching conclusions.
Regarding the pennant races, baseball is going through a change. The term “pennant race,” one that fit perfectly from the late 19th Century to about 15 years ago, is used less and less. Now, with the wild card and three divisions, we say “playoff chase” or variations thereof. If your golden age came when just one team per league advanced to the Fall Classic, and/or when one team per division played for the pennant, it’s tempting to think how those days were better. Times and paradigms change, however, and as fans we either live in the past or embrace the present.
As every baseball fan knows, this year’s playoff chase is very exciting. Going into last night’s games, baseball was all abuzz with the fact that seven teams in the National League were vying for four spots and a four way tie-breaker was possible. Even the esteemed David Pinto had a tough time keeping all the different outcomes straight. It's a little bit more clear this morning, but we could still have baseball on Monday.
Assessing the season we've been having, one ESPN broadcaster said it's the best race ever. Whoa Nelly, I thought. There's a lot of great pennant races to rank. Remember 1908? Three great teams in each league all down to the final day and chaos at the Polo Grounds.
But yea, this season does have more teams involved. As John Brattain put it, “As a fan it just doesn’t get much better.”
Parity. Not everyone would agree it’s a great thing, but baseball has it. As one observer put it:
"Last years' World Series participants are not in the picture, the year before's have finished with losing records. There is a good chance the World Series winner will be the 8th straight different winner. The two teams with the longest droughts could be the World Series antagonists. Whatever else it may be, however else it might indicate mediocrity & instability... We have unprecedented PARITY."
All this comes at a time when baseball is booming in attendance. (Funny how the traditional media hasn’t picked up on it). Regular readers of Maury Brown’s Business of Baseball blog know that the minors and majors are seeing healthy numbers and records broken for attendance. Some games on TV are seeing increases in ratings.
Baseball’s glorious past has never been as poignant as it has been this week with the looking backs at the end of the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. In addition to the events and articles I listed the other day, there are also oral histories recorded at StoryCorps.
Brooklyn Dodgers fan Harvey Sherman’s story is currently on the home page of their website, as well as being linked at NPR.
"When I walked out of the Ebbets Field, I stood a block away and just looked back. The lights were still on and I said goodbye. It was over. I never thought the Dodgers would leave. It was like a divorce. You felt like a child in a divorce and that you had no control over what was happening."
Dodgers, Dodgers, Dodgers. Why is the nostalgia always about the Brooklyn Dodgers and not the New York Giants?
Ryan Chatelain tries to answer that question with his piece titled “Baseball Giants all but gone in NYC's memory.”
John Thorn agrees the score is lopsided:
"Yet, it's still puzzling that the Giants' fanfare today seems to border on extinction while the Dodgers' Brooklyn days have become legendary."
Thorn, historian and New York City baseball fan, offers up some great answers, although I bet you some will be challenged by the Polo Grounders at Baseball Fever.
Whether you’re dipping into its storied past or immersed in a playoff chase, baseball has something to keep every fan on the edge of their seats. Baseball isn’t king anymore, but to those who love it, the game is as vibrant and vital as it ever was.