The tools of what I consider to be the greatest game in the word. Photo courtesy of littlerockchristian.com
A LOOK AT THE CONTINUED APPEAL THAT BASEBALL HAS, IN LIGHT OF THE MAJOR LEAGUES BEGINNING THEIR SEASON
I know, I know…
The bulk of Americans haven’t seen baseball as relevant for quite a while, as football – the high school and college kind as well as the NFL – has been considered this nation’s top spectator sport for several decades, and especially this century.
I’ve heard all the negative comments about baseball:
“It’s too boring!”
“All they do is stand around!”
“Why should I spend so much money on a glove and a bat (true, they don’t come cheap)?”
“You make more money in the NFL and the NBA!”
“Baseball’s just too stuck in the past!”
As someone who has had a fondness of baseball and has considered it my favorite sport for four-fifths of my life, I do see the point of those who find the sport boring; I get bored anytime I watch a game, particularly a little league game, where the pitchers aren’t able to throw strikes, ten runs are scored every inning on both sides, and no one’s hit the ball.
There are reasons why baseball (and softball) still holds the number one place in my heart – and this coming from a guy who loves college football and who’s been a passionate fan of the team of my alma mater, UCLA, for roughly 35 years.
Let me list some of the factors as to why baseball still matters and should continue to be called the National Pastime in my book:
1. LONGER CAREERS
The average career of an NFL player: Four Years.
The average career of an NBA player: About the same as his NFL counterpart.
The average career of a Major League Baseball player: 7-10 years.
Which leads us to the reason why that is so…
2. HEALTH AND SAFETY
The issues that NFL players have had with concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, have been well documented, as has been the tragedies of former stars such as Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Andre Waters committing suicide due to the condition’s effects.
Simply put, baseball doesn’t have those issues as even the catcher, who experiences the most trauma of any position with foul tips and collisions, doesn’t get his head and body knocked around hundreds of times per game like a football player does.
Minimum salary of an MLB player: $507,000
Minimum salary of an NFL player in 2015 (rookie): $435,000
This coming season it will be $450,000.
Which is still less than a rookie baseball player just up from the minors.
And in addition to that, the average salary of an NFL player – $2.11 million – is roughly half that of his Major League counterpart.
So in a nutshell…
Baseball players make more money.
A Japanese player scoring a run in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. Photo courtesy of espn.go.com
4. HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
Sportscaster Bob Costas put it perfectly in Ken Burns’ acclaimed documentary “Baseball” when he said,
“What is Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar)’s final point total? And what was Wilt (Chamberlin)’s when Kareem passed it? What is Walter Payton’s final yardage total? And what was Jim Brown’s when Walter passed it?
Even the most fervent football or basketball fan doesn’t know.
But the casual baseball fan knows that 1941 was the year of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams’ .406, and that 1947 was the year of Jackie Robinson…”
I’d even venture that the rabid, die-hard women’s softball fan wouldn’t know who the all-time leaders in hits, home runs, batting average, and strikeouts are.
But the casual baseball fan knows that Pete Rose’s 4,256 hits, Ty Cobb’s .367 average, and Barry Bonds’ 762 home runs are the all-time records in those categories.
Which leads us to this final factor of why baseball should still be considered #1…
5. THE CHARM OF THE GAME
There’s a reason why despite it’s supposed irrelevance, the number of fans attending baseball games are at an all-time high at all levels, at the college and the minor league levels as well as in “The Show”.
Largely of the history involved in it, but also because it has a charm – akin to a longtime family heirloom that has been passed down generations, or a heavy quilt that you had for most of your life that you like to wrap yourself up in on a cold night because it’s so comfortable – that football and basketball simply cannot match.
Putting it another way:
When Opening Day comes around for the MLB season, I get a good, holiday-like feeling that I don’t get for the openings of football or basketball as in those sports, they don’t do anything special to mark the occasion that baseball does.
Maybe I’m a little naive, a bit too nostalgic for the past, but…
My sentiments for baseball haven’t changed since I first followed the game in the mid-1970s.
And I don’t see it changing, even after I’m dead and cremated.
What former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda called “Blue Heaven On Earth” – Dodger Stadium, a place where I have been over fifty times, attending 50 Dodger games over nearly forty years. Photo courtesy of salesianalumni.com