"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, sportsnetwork.com
Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) --
The way baseball was played this year, and in recent seasons past, it seems that the future will be left to a farm boy capable of uprooting an oak with his bare hands and having the surname of who else but "The Mighty Casey." It is more than appropriate. It is mandatory to invoke that sobriquet of stardom and standing.
Ernest Thayer penned the classic poem Casey at the Bat in 1888.|
This transcends the four-minute mile, 20-foot pole vault, 10 second 100-yard dash, 100-point game, four goals in hockey, undefeated NFL season, no-hitters back to back or George Blanda going on until he was into his early seventies. There is no end in sight. The bats are better, the balls have more bounce, the pitchers are pathetic for the most part, the outfield fences have been brought in just shy of the infield, hitters are bench pressing small Volkswagens for exercise, and umpires are forcing everyone on the mound to groove for fear of not knowing where a strike is any longer. It is, in fact, a hitter's paradise.
San Francisco's Barry Bonds claimed his share of history with 73 round trippers this season, belting them out as easily as batting practice. And, while he was doing that, Sammy Sosa, in case you hadn't noticed, had 64 and Alex Rodriguez made the turn at third heading to home plate 52 times.
Look at it this way, in 1911 Frank Schulte of the Chicago Cubs hit 21 home runs to become the first player with 20-plus in a season. Then, in 1915, Gavvy Cravath of the Philadelphia ball club laced 24 of them. Babe Ruth, then with Boston, belted 29 for a new record, upped that to 54 in 1920 when he was with the Yankees while the NL leader was Cy Williams with a very meager 15. The Babe increased the ante to 59 in 1921 and then it was 1927 when the rotund one, pitcher converted to outfielder, hit and subsequently held the record of 60 homers for 32 years. Roger Maris' 61 was good for another 37 and Mark McGwire's 70 amounted to Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame albeit a somewhat expanded version in three very short years.
In between, lots of famous names were in the 50's - Hack Wilson, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Ralph Kiner, Johnny Mize, Willie Mays, and Mickey Mantle.
Center field at Pacific Bell Park is 404 feet. It does not diminish what someone as talented as Barry Bonds accomplished, it just puts it in perspective. When Ruth and Maris were playing center field at Yankee Stadium any shot hit in that direction required a passport or temporary visa before a ball was allowed to land there.
Barry Bonds rounds the bases after hitting his 73rd home run of the season against the Los Angeles Dodgers.|
How easy has it become? Well, in order to take the bat out of his hands, Bonds had 56 multi-walk games. And, to show how much he was appreciated by baseball itself, as he rounded the bases after hitting number 71, he wasn't embraced by any of the Dodgers. He is not in the running for the most loved player in the game by other teams, fans, some of his own teammates or any of the hierarchy of the sport. When McGwire broke the record it was New Year's Eve all over again. Bonds belts his 71st, followed by his 72nd, and there is five-minute celebration...maybe.
When he hit number 73 against the Dodgers' Dennis Springer it was a pitch that I could have put in the stands, more like a slow motion delivery of a knuckleball with the ball looking for the thick part of Bonds' bat. Why was it thrown? Maybe Springer was seeking a place in history for himself since I cannot think of any other way his name will find its way into any record books. Heck, if Bonds had not taken a day off on Saturday he might have reached 75. Who knows? But, why not? He had four homers in his final three games. Then again, McGwire had hit two on his final day and five in his final three games.
There was a time when anyone that had a 100 RBI season was ready to renegotiate his contract when the century mark was in sight. Now it is as common as the scowl on Larry Bowa's face each time his Philadelphia Phillies make a mental error.
What about Billy Joe Bob Tommy Lee? He is out there somewhere smacking fallen apples into the distant orchard with nothing more than a carefully honed hickory stick fashioned out of a fallen branch. The boy has a future.
Are the pitchers really not that good any longer given the few exceptions that exist? The balls are certainly made differently, bats are better, players are much more physical and in better condition than the cigar smoking, beer guzzling competitors of yesteryear. Well, the cigars and beer are still there but the equipment rooms of today were not in vogue between Ruth, Gehrig, Cobb and Foxx and Mantle, Mays, DiMaggio and Williams. Nor were there the strength-enhancing supplements that the McGwires of the sport are popping like so many M&M's.
Records are made to be broken but some just should not be, as in Wilt Chamberlain's scoring 100 points in a single NBA game. Can someone do it in the future? Sure, if they keep giving him the ball every time down the court. Today's players are just too good and there is too much talent on a given team to have that happen.
How many home runs can Billy Joe Bob Tommy Lee Casey stroke when he grows up? Why not one every game? The original Mighty Casey struck out at the most inopportune moment. Yes, he was unauthentic and fabulously figmental but that is what legends are made of. The sad ending of that saga is what made it so wonderful. The delight and delirium of what Bonds has achieved, the memories of the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa race to the wire BB (Before Barry), the anticipation of what will happen next year when someone else, pun intended, steps up to the plate. That is major league baseball today.
If Bonds bows out, as has been rumored, he will do so on a high note that can be heard from coast-to-coast, for the time being. There is nothing that his detractors can do, except wait for Casey. He is coming. It is just a matter of time. But, for the moment, like him or not, well done Barry!
When I watched Roger Maris hit 61, did I ever think that this would happen? You gotta be kidding!