It’s been well documented that the Millennials don’t quite grasp what once was “America’s Favorite Pastime”. Too slow for this group with the speedy thumbs. Who wants to spend 3 hours at a baseball game (playing or watching) when there are so many other, more compelling activities to keep them occupied? Like what, I ask.
Don’t get me wrong I love our Millennials. I have two boys that are part of what is now the country’s largest, most obsessed about consumer group. They are simply products of their environment. The 18-34 year olds came of age at the same time the internet did. They can’t help it if they grew up with a mouse in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Participation rates in little league baseball have plummeted. Families have opted out in favor of soccer and other activities. You hear everything from baseball is boring to my kids just aren’t interested.
Rewind back to when us Boomers were in our formative years. On any day I didn’t have school I woke up in anticipation of playing – outside, with my friends. In the spring, summer and fall it was all about baseball. Growing up in northern New Jersey we were literally 45 minutes from the baseball Mecca. It’s hard to imagine, in the 50’s, the metropolitan area supported 3 professional baseball teams including the Giants, the Dodgers and of course my personal favorite the Yankees.
From a very early age, I can remember when we’d get together with my Dad’s family, it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to baseball. “Hey did you see that shot Mantle hit last night?” “Do you think the Yanks can win another pennant?” People felt free to be critical of their team or the players. However, it would’ve been blasphemy for anyone to criticize the game itself. Nobody was griping about the games being too long or boring. This was America’s Favorite Pastime baby!
Things do have a tendency to change over 4 or 5 decades. Now, if you follow the game, you can hardly go a day without hearing about how the game needs to change. MLB is obsessed with making the game more attractive to “fringe viewers”. In general the lords of major league baseball are searching for all kinds of ways to speed up the game. They’ve already instituted a timer on manager visits to the mound. Last I heard they want to put a clock on the pitchers and batters too. Now they are talking about tinkering with the strike zone (making it smaller) so there can be more offense. This doesn’t necessarily jive with the “speed up the game” initiative but it supposedly makes baseball more exciting. I even read there’s consideration being given to changing the extra innings rules! Someone out there thinks it’s a good idea to start every extra inning with a runner on second base. What the…? Then we all know the technology exists to take the human element out of calling balls and strikes. STOP THE MADNESS.
I have to admit, I’m old school which doesn’t mean I’m against change. I think change is good as long as it has purpose. Part of baseball’s charm is there is no time clock. Games can last 2 hours or 6 hours. It was never intended to fit into a certain time frame and I’m okay with that. Baseball’s change agents would say they are adapting the game for the modern day fan. That’s hogwash in my humble opinion. They are constantly reevaluating the game for the money. That’s not necessarily bad but drop the “It’s for the fan” BS. It’s all about the Benjamins!
I’ll close with one of my fondest baseball memories… The year was 1967, Tuesday, August 29th, to be exact. My pal Marty, me and our Dads attended a “Twi-Night Doubleheader” at Yankee Stadium. (Only a handful of you remember those!) Yes, the doubleheader went extinct around the same time as the dinosaur and the twi-nighter went with it.
Our Dads got off work early that day and we arrived at the stadium around 4:00pm – ready to enjoy 18 innings of the greatest rivalry in sport – RED SOX/YANKEES! Unfortunately these two games were meaningless as our beloved Yanks were going nowhere with a record of (59-73). But, this was the Red Sox – throw the records out the window. It was time for baseball in the Bronx.
Little did we know 18 innings would turn into 30 of which we stayed and watched for 26! Our Dads were troopers during that night and into the wee hours of the morning. Marty and I wanted to stay until the fat lady sang. Marty Sr. and Joe had work the next day! We left after the bottom of the 17th. That’s the bad news. The good news… We listened to the game (on AM radio) during the entire ride home. In the bottom of the 20th, as we pulled into the driveway, we heard yet another HOLY COW from The Scooter* as the Yankees scored the winning run. It was 2:00AM. That’s baseball my friends.
*The Scooter was Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop (1941-1956) and spent the next 40 years as an announcer on Yanks radio and television broadcasts.
BOSTON RED SOX VS. NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 29, 1967
RED SOX 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 12 2
YANKEES 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 17 1
WP Jim Bouton
LP Bucky Brandon
Time of Game: 6:09