In 1934, Lefty Gomez, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and other American League and National League stars barnstormed in Japan. Gomez captured many images of the trip with his 16-mm camera. An excerpt from the forthcoming book Lefty: American Odyssey is featured in this week’s Sports Illustrated. Some of the intriguing video footage can be viewed, courtesy of Random House.
The video, described as “never-seen-before footage,” is compelling by itself. The included narrative successfully adds perspective to what would have been the perception of Babe Ruth travelling abroad to a country where he was revered. There is also the added perception of what the experience would have been like for the American baseball stars. This adds a great deal of depth and meaning to Lefty’s remarkable video.
The book can be previewed and purchased through Random House.
They used to be different. They had different presidents, different balls, different umpires, and different rules. Today, the only difference between the two leagues is the DH, of which both sides of the argument have been covered. It was another thing that made baseball stand out from all the other sports, but for whatever reason, they decided to get rid of it.
When I was a kid, it was always a treat to watch the All-Star game every year. Not because all the best players were playing (it certainly played a big role), but because it was one of the few times where the National League would play the American League. The only other time was the World Series. As a fan of the National League (and it’s still the superior league) I would always root for them to win. It was one of the few times it happened, so it was a huge event.
Then the almost unthinkable happened for a purist like me. In 1996, it was announced that, beginning in 1997, there would be interleague play during the regular season. The leagues would play each other in two different two week intervals. When it started, the games had no bearing on division standings like they do now. The World Series and All-Star game was cheapened a little bit.
Another shot in the gut was when baseball decided to get rid of American League Umpires and National League umpires and make them Major League umpires. Before umpires would only umpire games in their respective leagues, so all the teams would know the umpires really well and vice versa. Now, they are umpiring games for all 30 teams and you don’t see the same umpire as often.
Things went from bad to worse in 2000 when Bud Selig announced that they were dissolving the American and National League as separate entities and would consumed by Major League Baseball. Major League Baseball has been an umbrella over the two leagues, but it only was there to settle disputes between the leagues, or keep them in line. Now Major League Baseball is controlling all aspects of both leagues.
The “once a year” type feeling of the All-Star game or the World Series has all but vanished. It went from something special, to something run of the mill. For what reason? Baseball has only experienced a decline in popularity. If baseball gets rid of everything that sets them a part, it will only get lost in the crowd. Baseball needs to stand out.
My friend Henry, wrote an article on what he thinks the DH rule should be. I disagree with his idea for a number of reasons. The first, and foremost reason, is that i think it takes most of the strategy out of the game.
When you have the pitcher batting, it puts a lot more in your head than if you don’t. It adds multiple layers of strategy. Do you push your starter one more inning because he’s due up 2nd the next inning? Do you burn a reliever to pitch to one batter and lift him for a pinch hitter? Do you let your reliever hit? If you have bases loaded in the fifth inning and your pitcher is up, do you take the chance to score runs, or do you let him hit?
All of these questions are irrelevant in the American League (AL). They only thing they worry about is if they can get through their lineup to get to their designated hitter (DH). Late in the game, where the managers really earn their money, there is almost nothing a manager in the AL has to do. There is a lot more on the mind of a National League (NL) manager.
The AL was very successful for decades without the DH rule. Then, all of a sudden, for no reason, there was a DH rule. It is a pointless rule that should be abolished league-wide. Back in the day, with two league presidents, the decisions could have been made by the AL president. We don’t have that luxury anymore, but that’s a story for another day.