As a local representative of the Abner Doubleday Anti-Change Association, it is my sad duty to inform you, Mr. Bush, that your Texas Rangers are in deep, deep trouble. Fortunately we can help-but you must act immediately.
First, a word about ADACA, which is duly registered with the Single-Issue Fanatics of America. Of course we know that some historians question whether Abner Doubleday really invented baseball, as legend maintains. So what? Babe Ruth may not have been calling his shot that day, either. Perhaps he was flicking a fly off his bat or pointing toward a favorite tavern where his mates could join him. The point is that people have believed both stories for decades, and in baseball, anything that sounds good, enhances enjoyment, and has been around a long time is automatically good. In baseball, an old myth is belter than a new truth.
Now about your problems. First, forget the Rangers’ schizoid spring. They’ll finish on the high side of .500, a dramatic improvement over most of their history. But therein lies the looming crisis. Soon-next year or the year after-this team will jell and make the playoffs, probably in a huge new stadium. And once you have a certified winner, the old “If It Ain’t Broke” mentality will take over. Then it may be too late to preserve real baseball in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Real baseball, not some phony circus that resembles outtakes from “Entertainment Tonight.” Surely a true conservative like yourself will want to join ADACA and institute the following reforms:
Take a pledge of “No New Domes”-not ever. We do need a new stadium, something far removed from the water parks and roller-coasters of Funworld, U.S.A. As we shall see, grave problems stem from viewing The Game as merely another item on the consumer’s menu. But no domes; baseball was made to traffic with the elements. The wet outfield grass that slows down a rippling liner, the cruel wind that blows a sure homer foul-these are among the givens of The Game. A few rainouts we can take, especially if they’re made up later with doublehead-ers. Plus, a dome will admit that old devil, Multiple Use. We’ll have high school football, demolition derbys, yecch. A baseball stadium is a shrine where beloved rituals are enacted. Would you hold a garage sale in Mr. Criswell’s church? Finally, three more strikes against dome-ains: you can’t hit a home run in the Astrodome; you can hit nothing but home runs in the Kingdome; and the Metrodome is more often called the Humpdome. ’Nuff said.
Ban The Wave and the Dot Races. The Wave is a football import from tundra towns like Buffalo and Cleveland, where it was used to prevent people from freezing to death and sticking to their seats. As for the dot races, this mindless diversion is either rigged or it depends on blind chance, and thus it stands in marked contrast to The Game. Between innings, we need relative quiet to think about the hitters coming up and to watch the pitcher getting ready. Besides, it’s rank sacrilege: I’ve seen ninth-inning grand slams that didn’t get nearly the ovation given to Green, Yellow, and Red.
Go all the way with replay. ADACA worries about the replay, because fens who know they’ll be shown the great plays may tend to gab and daydream. But we have a rule to settle such disputes: if a proposed innovation means more baseball, it’s good. So stop the censorship and take replay all the way. Show us the Rangers’ errors and the controversial calls. You can learn a lot from a botched double play. Sure, we’ll yell for the umpire’s scalp a little more, but we’ll also gasp when we see how often the umps are right on those whisker-close plays.
Bring back “Talkin’ Baseball” as the theme song. Music is always problematic at the ballpark; ADACA does not share the American belief that adding one Real Good Thing to another Real Good Thing makes two Real Good Things. Too often, we lose the charm of both in the mixture. Yes, some of the ballpark songs have been nice and even dramatically fitting. When the Rangers were in the kennel, the Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight” made perfect sense as a prelude to another loss. Others have been terrible (“Girl Watcher” is a nice idea but a moronic song). But if we’re to have music, it must be baseball music, and “Talkin’ Baseball” is ideal because it’s a quick lesson in The Game’s history: “The Whiz Kids had won it, Bobby Thompson had done it,” etc. In three quick stanzas a kid can learn about The Scooter, the Barber, and the Newk, and of course Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. Perfect.
Bring back the REAL trivia contest.
Before your time, George, they asked fiendishly difficult questions like “Who gave up Willie Mays’s first home run?” and “Who was the last man who ever batted for the Brooklyn Dodgers?” You wrote down your answer on a slip of paper and gave it to an usher. The winner got a prize. It’s a great way to encourage and reward real involvement in The Game.
Hire designated old-timers to educate newcomers. George, you’ve got virgin fans out there who don’t know what DiMaggio did before he sold coffee. They think the ERA has something to do with women. The old-timers could be players who toiled before the salary boom, ex-umpires, scouts, etc. They’ll each be assigned a section where they’ll dispense wisdom, memories, and tall tales. “See ’at fellah there? Lookit “im bring his foot up when he swings, jist like ol’ Mel Ott. Reminds me of the time. , .”With these guys around, you won’t need The Chicken.
Order two hours of autograph signing per player per week. Some guys are already great about this, but it shouldn’t be optional. The reluctant can be reminded that those eager kids are all that’s standing between them and some nice opportunities in mobile home sales.
Drastically reduce player interviews. These have two grim results: a fog of cliches about “intensity” and “doing what we have to do,” and the dread Out of Their League Syndrome, wherein athletes are lured into dissertations on the trade deficit, the Pope’s latest encyclical, and their favorite novelists. Sadly, eloquence is not the forte of your average ballplayer, though a few can turn a memorable phrase. Three or four years back Charlie Hough bested Tom Seaver in a tense contest, Afterwards, asked how it felt to out-duel a master, Hough sloughed off the praise; “When I’m finished in this game, I’m going back to California. When he’s finished, he’s going to the Hall of Fame.”
The story is told of Babe Ruth, uneducated but unaware of the fact, challenging a group of sportswriters to ask him about the great world beyond the white lines. “Okay, Babe,” piped one. “What do you think about the Napoleonic Era?” After a pause the Sultan of Swat answered: “I think they shoulda scored it a hit.”
You see, George? Some things never change. And don’t you just love it?
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