#8 of the 50 books for 2009

Reel Baseball by Les Krantz

Reel Baseball is a tribute to the days when most baseball fans followed the game through the marvels of newsreels, rather than television. Specifically, the book covers 1932-1965. It also comes with a nice hour long DVD of actual newsreels. The newsreels were the SportsCenter of their era, albeit tending to focus much more broadly– whereas SportsCenter is on several times a day, newsreels had to have a bit of a shelf life.

This is fun stuff, mostly because it’s fun to remember REAL baseball. As a baseball fan, the modern game absolutely sickens me. The steroid scandal has stained the integrity of anyone unfortunate enough to play baseball during its era. Players are beefed up marketing empires, instead of human beings.

Is nostalgia oversimplification? Of course. But is there something wonderful about seeing Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays that isn’t/wasn’t present in Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro or Alex Rodriguez? Yes, there is, and that something makes Reel Baseball worth a browse.

Joe

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5 Responses to “#8 of the 50 books for 2009”

  1. Ricky Says:

    Ah, the modern game isn’t that bad. I read the other day where Leigh Montville, who wrote biographies of both Ruth and Williams, said he was sure either of them would’ve used steroids if they’d been available … particularly Williams, who was obsessed with any edge he could get. I am personally convinced ANY era of baseball players would have done the same as this one had the opportunity existed.

    All things considered, I’d rather have steroids to deal with than a bunch of supremacist a-holes popping greenies because it was all that was available to them at the time. Even pre-dating greenies you’ve got guys like Cap Anson, who was was a bigger dickhead than any three people in baseball today. Mickey Mantle was a godawful husband and father, and Ted Williams was a jerk. Babe Ruth had more veneral diseases than I have pairs of underwear. And even Willie Mays was a pretty notorious amphetamines user, introducing young players to the benefits of them.

    Baseball’s always had problems, and on the whole, I think the current generation isn’t any worse than the others. In fact, it is considerably better in some ways. Don’t let steroids ruin your baseball fandom, as you’re one of the few people I know that really appreciates all the little stuff that makes the game great.

  2. eljoe1235 Says:

    I do think there is a difference. Even bigger than steroids, really (and as you note, a competitive edge is nothing new, just the particular chemicals).

    I think the combination of market explosion and free agency has REALLY hurt baseball. If players switched teams constantly and earned $200,000 a year, I think baseball would be okay. Or if they were paid $10,000.000, but stayed with the same teams, that would also work.

    It’s hard to identify with teams now, and if you can identify with a team, the ridiculous money involved in the game will probably burn you out.

    There’s my $.02 anyhow. But I love it all anyway, no matter how much I complain.

    Joe

  3. Ricky Says:

    I sure won’t deny some of the salaries are obscene, and I agree it can be a drag. On the other hand we don’t let how much money a Dylan or Springsteen makes dampen our enjoyment of their work (and, yes, in the case of Dylan his recent work by itself is enough to dampen our enjoyment). I love Dylan like family, but if he were a baseball player we’d hate his guts because he’d be the guy on the team that wouldn’t ever run out a ground ball. But I digress.

    I can’t draw much of a distinction between baseball players, who are basically just entertainers when it gets right down to it, and singers or actors. I really could do without hearing about how much crappy middle relievers make all the time, but with the economic realities of the game what they are it is need-to-know information for serious fans because the talent/cost ratio is so important in building a winning club.

  4. eljoe1235 Says:

    I guess I should draw an even finer distinction and say that my problem isn’t that these guys get paid, it’s that everybody knows about it and that it’s a constant part of the game.

    I can avoid getting pissy about Dylan or Springsteen’s salaries because 1) nobody really knows what they are and 2) even if people knew, I wouldn’t hear about it constantly.

    I don’t actually blame the players for getting paid. I’ve made the same argument vis-a-vis other entertainers. There is an obscene amount of money in baseball and a large portion does, and really should, trickle down to the players. I just hate knowing about it, and knowing about the greed that goes with it. Somehow, it’s objectionable to know what the players make AND that they’re going on strike, or to know that a guy turns down $10 million a year from his hometown team to sign with the Yankees for $12 million a year.

    Also, ticket prices (and other stadium expenses) do matter. In 1990, when I saw my first big league game, the best seats in Riverfront Stadium were $9. Now, a mediocre seat in the new stadium is solidly five times that. I don’t know how families are supposed to be baseball fans. Unless they’re the children of the players.

    I admit it’s probably easy to be nostalgic for an era I wasn’t alive in. But I like the idea of cheap tickets, nobody knowing (or caring) what players were making, and players sticking with the same team for most of their career.

    Of course, the B-side of this is that players were exploited, were often not fairly paid, and stuck with the same team because they were bound to them regardless of how little that team wanted to pay them.

    But it does sound better as a fan.

    Guiltily,

    Joe

  5. Ricky Says:

    I have to admit I wish for the old days when Wrigley Field was half-empty all the time. They had a four-game series with the Astros in 1981 where they drew 10,000 fans – for the entire series. The had a game in 1977 against J.R. Richard, a badass if there ever was one, where they drew 1,795 fans. Both are anecdotal and entirely typical of that era.

    They weren’t under 37,000 for any game last year, and probably at least 25% (maybe closer to 50%) of the attendees paid a premium for their tickets through some bastardly “ticket service.” I am amazed at the popularity of baseball, especially given other entertainment options have done nothing but increase the past 20 years.

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