Horsehide Harangue

WARNING: Old Crank Alert!

When I was a kid in the early 1950s I’d go to the ballpark to watch the Cedar Rapids Indians of the old Three I League. You could hear the infielders chattering as they took grounders before the game. During the game, you could actually converse without yelling. Between innings you could actually hear the smack of the ball in the first baseman’s mitt as his fellow infielders returned his gently tossed grounders. There were no artificial cues to MAKE NOISE; no loud music between innings; and no obnoxious public address announcers yakking about whatever.

Calm and quiet ballpark atmosphere goes with the game itself. If something exciting happens in the game, the crowd gets excited; it knows when to cheer. Baseball is a balmy summer evening, a time to escape the hubbub of daily life and relax at the yard. Or it used to be. Now the hubbub just continues at the yard.

But that’s only one of my pet peeves—the one that keeps me from the ballpark. Others tick me off as I watch the games on television. Similar to the annoying commercials that have ruined ball games on the radio, ads now pop up during televised games—silent and devious as they block the screen between pitches.

One more television rant before I get to the game on the field: Why the hell does the camera follow the ball hit by the batter into the outfield only to suddenly cut to a base runner crossing the plate? It seems at least once a game this idiotic change of cameras misses the outfielder booting the ball. Keep the damn camera on the ball until the play is complete! The announcers can let us know if a runner is scoring.

Finally, the universal pet peeve of every ball fan: the dimwit slugger who belts a long drive toward the wall, gazes at it with rapt admiration as he goes into his home-run trot, only to see it hit the wall, then run like hell to barely make it to second base.

A variation of this is the high pop-up—the batter tosses his bat aside in disgust and jogs toward first. The infielder either muffs it, misjudges the ball, or the wind blows it and it drops to the ground. The batter makes it to first base, but should be on second. Or worse, he realizes his embarrassing mistake and sprints to second where he’s thrown out.

What makes these screw-ups so exasperating is that the same players do it over and over. Barry Bonds made a career of it. And the managers rarely do anything about it, especially if the culprit is a superstar.

That’s all I got.

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