BOCA RATON, FL – Just to get away from the dispiriting, negative stories floating around the world, I’ll focus this op-ed on something lighter and really meaningless… like baseball and its future. Those of us “old farts” who can remember going to Ebbets Field, The Polo Grounds, or the original, hallowed Yankee Stadium, recall the clothing that the cheering throngs wore to the games. Men wore suits, ties and hats, women fans wore dresses and carried hand bags. They were full of joy. Look at the vintage, grainy, black and white movies of those games and weep. But more than that has changed and will change in the next few weeks when a delayed, abbreviated “Virus Baseball” season begins. We should add the caution word… “hopefully.”
This season will have each team play only 60 games, down over 100 from all previous seasons in history. As one of the rule changes in the offing, the National League will usher in the Designated Hitter (DH) rule that the American League has foolishly used for years. Next, there’ll be no more spitting in the dugouts. Not even littering the dugout floor with empty, moist, spat out peanut shells will be permitted. No more communal male showering in the clubhouses. Too dangerous to the health of the millionaires playing a child’s sport. There’ll be no more of pitchers licking their fingers and rubbing their saliva on fresh baseballs. They will have neatly packed wet-wipes in their pockets. Pitchers will be using balls hygienically stuffed in bags specifically for their use. No more of the umpires throwing out fresh balls to the pitchers.
There will be no fraternizing on the field, in dugouts or in the bullpens. Life threatening. Six feet minimum distance will be maintained on the field and in dugouts. Does that mean that runners may not slide into fielders during play? Does that mean that the defensive players may not “tag out” runners with the ball for fear of spreading the disease? Does that mean that players cannot pat fellow players on the behind or backs for doing splendorous things on the field? Does that mean that dugouts, where players sit will have to be extended way out to the ends of the stadium to comply with social distancing? And what do the baseball mavens plan to do if a few players come down with the disease? Cancel games? So many new things to ponder.
But just how will we view the games? From seats in the stadium like in the past? How will they work it out to have families social distancing in the box seats or the bleachers? How about the vendors hawking beer, soda, peanuts to the fans in the stands? How will they collect payment or make change without fingers contaminating currency and coins?
To throw a monkey wrench into the future of baseball we have to consider that the annual All Star game would have been played this week and no one seems to have been concerned. May the fact that so many of the players, millionaires many times over, spoiled rotten with their self importance as athletes and peddlers of endorsed products, could have eroded the sport’s popularity with the common fan? What if fans are no longer interested in supporting the players who kneel during the anthem, who defame our flag and demean the democracy that permitted them to attain their great wealth and star-like status? Let the fans sit back and rethink the importance this kids’ game is to them. The baseball is in their hands. Watch out for the beanball spitter.