As described, by the Korean media outlet, Dekhnews, “the Doosan Bears and LG Twins played their opening match of the tournament against each other. In their opening match Doosan Bears defeated LG Twins by a great margin of 8-2.” Note the use of “match” rather than game. Also note face masks worn by umpires and players and coaches in the dugout. 5/6/20 [Photo: David Kramer, 6:21 a.m. EST]
[NOTICE: This story is mostly about the 1975 baseball playoffs (below) when Carlton Fisk homered to win game six of the World Series. Be patient.]
For a couple of months, I’ve attempted to convince you and myself that we don’t miss sports.
In Who needs live sports when you have “This Date in Sports”, I claimed the This Date in Sports feature replacing box scores satisfies our appetite for live sports. In the No sports? Talker has you covered. (Parts I – IV) series, we make the persuasive case that archived Talker stories are ample substitutes for the “real” thing.
However, the itch for professional baseball has returned. I first felt the twing the other day at Cobb’s Hill where I watched a minor leaguer with the Corpus Christi Hooks, AA Texa League, throwing to a catcher. The young man, from Olean who played for Buffalo State, is back home trying to stay in pitching shape while the season is suspended. (I’ve not yet been able to find his name as the Hooks’ business office is closed.)
The man was in good spirits, mentioning that his team still pays him, a little. At the same time, I felt sympathy for the pitcher. This year should be his fourth minor league season, often considered a make-or-break year. A lost or severely truncated season could sabotage his career. If we have minor league baseball at Frontier Field this summer, most likely fans will be socially distanced. I haven’t been to a game in a couple of years, but will certainly attend, six or more feet apart.
I am a baseball/softball umpire and worry there will be no season. So far, play is suspended indefinitely, and when deemed safe, I wonder how strongly player interest will emerge, especially if face masks are required.
Several days ago, “No Fans. No Food. No High-Fives. Play Ball!” The New York Times ran a front page story about Chinese Professional Baseball League (Taiwan) games played in empty stadiums as dummies and cardboard cutouts replaced fans.
The article also discussed that ESPN is broadcasting early morning (U.S. time) KBO League (South Korea) games. So, enjoying a baseball-inspired breakfast of crackerjacks, hot dogs and Genny beer, starting at about 6:45 a.m. , I watched the last three innings of the Doosan Bears 8-2 victory over the LG Twins.
A few days ago, NYTIMES columnist Tyler Kepner, “We Have Seen the Future, and It’s in South Korea” (5/7/20), also had a somewhat filling baseball breakfast, even without a Genny Cream. Kepner reminds us that in 2015 a game was played in Baltimore with no fans. But that game was an anomaly, necessitated by the unrest in Baltimore after Freddie Gray death while in police custody.
More to the point, Kepner says, “Playing in empty stadiums will almost certainly be the norm when — and if — M.L.B. returns this season, and the K.B.O. offers something of a preview, “adding as some consolation, “The absence of fans is not glaring on television, at least not to new K.B.O. viewers.”
Kepner is right. The game was watchable, reminding me of sparsely attended games at that old mausoleum, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, when the camera rarely panned the upper or lower decks, perpetuating the illusion that Indian fans abounded.
Unfortunately, Kepner is also right that cheerless stadiums will be, for now, our future. I’ll probably watch some MLB games, half-halfheartedly. I’ll stick with radio and manufactured boos and cheers like back when radio broadcasters received telegrams from reporters in the grandstands. The announcers then recreated the game, including simulating crowd noise by repeating the word “rhubarb.”
The prognosis for live professional baseball is not goog. So, I’ve turned to another replacement: reliving old games and seasons.
Every true baseball fan knows exactly where they were for certain iconic moments, such as when Carlton Fisk waved, urged and willed the ball fair when homering off Rawly Eastwick in the 12th inning to win game six of the 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds.
As for where was I, asleep. The games dragged well past midnight and — as a school night — my bedtime. My overwhelmed father did rush to awake me in time for post game interviews with Fisk and his fellow exultant Bosoxers.
As seen in 30 years ago when Billy Buck broke Rhode Island’s heart , I remember exactly where I was eleven years later for an another immortal sixth game of the World Series involving — in a reversal of fate — the Red Sox.
The 1986 playoff featured three of the most famous postseason games in baseball history: game 6 of the NLCS New York Mets vs. Houston Astros, game 5 of the ALSC Boston Red Sox vs. the California Angels and game 6 of the WS New York Met vs. Boston Red Sox.
I watched the NLCS on a small black and white tv on a Saturday afternoon in the package store where I worked on the East Side of Providence, accompanied by beer salesmen — falling behind their schedules — who drew around the tv as the game went 16 innings. I watched the NLCS on the same tv in the bedroom of the nearby apartment I rented in a 19th century home once owned by a wealthy whaling merchant. The landlady — dear, doty and aged Mrs. Schermerhorn — was like Hepzibah Pyncheon directly out of Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables.
I watched game six of the World Series in Spat’s on the east Side of Providence:
When Mookie Wilson’s slow roller slipped past Billy Buck, just across the bar I watched a man break his beer bottle in despair. The shards cut his hand, drawing blood. The bartender silently cleaned off his wound with a towel. The man left, drifting off into the early morning fog on Thayer Street. His look mirrored what we all felt. The Sox would also lose game 7 and the World Series.
Just as the Red Sox did eleven years earlier.
One vicarious benefit of reliving old games is they remind of us our own sporting heroics. legends in our minds. Right now, the decades long Sunday Game at the Corners played either at the Twelve Corners Middle School of the Brighton High School softball field is eagerly awaiting resuming play when deemed safe. All are invited at 9:30 Sunday mornings.
Until play resumes at the Game at the Corners, we only have memories. Like the Fisk or Carbo three run shot, I hit to win one game, although admittedly we playing on the “bandbox” high school field with short porches. Another game was memorable because I gave up a game winning home run — and celebrated. For that game, the batting team pitched to itself. In one game, I walloped a triple. The women who took the photo, Shadi, knows nothing about baseball. She cheered, “Homerun, Yah!” I let her remain in ignorance.After watching game six, I decided to relive the entire 1975 postseason. I retrieved an official 1976 baseball guide from under attic piles and hunted down countless baseball cards. First, I had to partially break the spine of the guide using a box cutting razor knife and then carefully cut off the needed pages. Then was endless hours of toil scanning, photographing and merging images, uploading files and painstakingly recording the company, date and special notations on each card.
Through this toil, I was taken back in time to when I sat with my father at the tv in rapt attention (except for the Fisk HR). The irony is that, in 1975, I actually didn’t care that much. Only now, I trick myself — like implanted memories — that I was on the edge of my seat for every pitch.
I didn’t care that much because my team, the Texas Rangers, were not in the playoffs.1974 was the first year I closely followed baseball. I had to choose a favorite team so I picked the Texas Rangers who had just hired Billy Martin. In 1972 and 1973, the Rangers were a combined 111 – 205, truly woeful. But Martin inspired the team that included newcomer Ferguson Jenkins. The Rangers went from last to second, four games behind the world champion Oakland A’s.
Jeff Burroughs, 1974 American League MVP, was my favorite player. I even sent him a card to autograph; he did. Burroughs’ later claim to fame was in 1992 and 1993 when Burroughs coached his son’s Little League team, the Long Beach All-Stars with Sean as their star player, to back to back Little League World Series championships.
Denny McClain never played for the Rangers. On March 4, 1972, he was traded by Texas to the akland Athletics in exchange for Jim Panther and Don Stanhouse.
In 1977, my father and I saw three Ranger/Blue Jay games at old Exhibition Stadium.I had high hopes going into 1975 as the A’s lost their star pitcher Catfish Hunter to the New York Yankees as a free agent. But the A’s still had too much talent, and overmatching us again. At the time, for me the highlight of the post season was the Red Sox getting swept by the A’s in three games, ending Oakland’s string of three straight world series championships.