7 Old-School Baseball Practices We Wish Were Still in Today's Game

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2013

7 Old-School Baseball Practices We Wish Were Still in Today's Game

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    Baseball is the greatest game on the planet—we all know that—but there are some great aspects of our national pastime that have gone by the wayside for one reason or another that would likely be welcomed back with open arms.

    Whether they didn't make sense from a financial standpoint, a personnel standpoint or were simply a result of the changing times, some things that made baseball great in the past are no more.

    So here are the seven old-school baseball practices we wish were still a part of today's game. Feel free to suggest anything I may have forgotten that should make a return as well.

Intimidating Pitchers

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    While it is the power-hitting slugger who strikes fear into the hearts of opponents these days, there was a time where starting pitchers were the aggressors on the field.

    Pitchers commanded the inside corner, and weren't afraid to brush a hitter back, knock him off the plate or even plunk a batter to keep them from crowding the plate.

    Guys like Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal and others were downright nasty on the mound, and it was part of the reason they were so successful during their careers.

    Last season, Cole Hamels plunked rookie Bryce Harper and later admitted to throwing at him on purpose. What would have been common place a few decades ago was suddenly front-page news, showing how far we've come from the days of intimidators on the mound (h/t ESPN).

Epic Mustaches

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    Facial hair is as much a part of baseball as peanuts and cracker jacks, and it is certainly still prevalent throughout the league.

    However, the days of awesome mustaches league-wide are behind us, and that is a real shame for us baseball fans.

    Guys like reliever Clay Zavada and slugger Jason Giambi still rock some impressive 'staches, but we may never see awesome facial hair as wide spread as we did in decades past. 

Player Managers

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    Not since Pete Rose has there been a player-manager in the MLB, and that was an understandable time to put a stop to the practice.

    His combination of gambling on his own team and consistently writing his own name in the lineup when he was well past his prime was everything that can go wrong when a player runs a team.

    With the hiring of recently retired players Robin Ventura and Mike Matheny last season, more and more teams are opting to go with younger managers.

    That puts to rest the argument that players would have trouble responding to one of their peers, but there is no question it would be tough for a player nowadays to balance the duties of playing and managing.

    Prior to hiring Ventura, the White Sox reportedly kicked around the idea of hiring Paul Konerko to serve as a player-manager (h/t ESPN), so the chance remains that we could still see one sometime down the line.

Workhorse Starting Pitchers

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    As the price of starting pitching continues to skyrocket, teams are becoming more and more careful with their investments.

    Workhorse starting pitchers are a dying breed, as teams closely analyze pitch counts and have a bevy of relief pitchers at their disposal to help shorten a starter's outing.

    Last season, a total of 31 pitchers topped the 200-inning mark, with Tigers ace Justin Verlander leading the MLB with 238.1 innings pitched.

    Looking back 30 years ago to 1982, the number of pitchers to top 200 innings was 50. Steve Carlton led the league with 295.2 innings of work, and a total of 20 pitchers threw more innings than Verlander did last season.

    From a business standpoint, doing everything you can to keep your multi-million dollar starting pitcher from landing on the disabled list or tiring down the stretch makes plenty of sense.

    However, from a fan's perspective, I would much rather watch two frontline starters battle it out for nine innings than see both of them give way to middle relievers with ERAs over 5.00 because their pitch count hit 100.

Stadium Quirks

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    These days, baseball stadiums are more than just a place to take in a baseball game. They are state of the art, multi-million dollar facilities that make taking in a game as enjoyable an experience as possible for fans.

    However, one can't help but miss the quirky features of some of the game's classic stadiums:

    The Polo Grounds had ridiculous dimensions, at 258-feet down the right field line compared to 483-feet to dead center field.

    Crosley Field in Cincinnati had a 15-degree incline in left field and a massive scoreboard that took up all of center field.

    The former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field, ranks as perhaps the most legendary of all defunct stadiums and is revered as much for its beautiful outward appearance as it was for its cozy inside that seated just 25,000.

    There is no denying that new parks like Yankee Stadium, PNC Park and AT&T Park are fantastic facilities, but they tend to lack the quirks that made some past stadiums great.

Eccentric Owners

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    Baseball has become such a cut-and-dry business, that owners are one in the same in their approach to building and marketing a team.

    Some franchises have more free-spending owners, and some have more hands-on owners, but they all follow the same basic approach to running a team.

    Back in the day that wasn't always the case, and one owner in particular who jumps to mind as being original in his approach was Charlie O. Finley of the Athletics.

    Finley made some memorable additions to the Kansas City Athletics stadium, here are just a few of them:

    —A device that came out of the ground named "Harvey" that was a rabbit holding a basket of balls for the umpire when a new ball was needed.

    —A compressed air device named "Little Blowhard" that blew dirt off of home plate so the umpire didn't need to dust it off.

    —A petting zoo with goats, sheep, monkeys, bats and birds among other things down the left-field line.

    —A flock of sheep wearing Athletics blankets, complete with shepherd, down the right-field line.

    —He attempted to move the right-field wall in to 296 feet, putting some bleachers in right field with a makeshift fence around them. The league shot that idea down, however.

    These are the sort of things that you may find at the minor league level these days, but returning some out-of-the-box thinking to the major league level would certainly be interesting.

Scheduled Doubleheaders

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    Back in the day, scheduled doubleheaders were common place throughout the major leagues and were a genuine treat for fans.

    Seeing as they are not ideal from a financial standpoint, and tend to throw off the rest of rest of today's five-man rotations, they have largely gone the wayside.

    There were 20 total doubleheaders last season due to rainouts, but the last time there was a scheduled doubleheader was on July 17, 2011 when the Los Angeles Angels played the Oakland Athletics.

    Prior to that game, the last scheduled doubleheader was nearly eight years prior when the San Diego Padres played the Philadelphia Phillies on August 2, 2003.

    They're not likely to make a comeback any time soon for the aforementioned reasons, but they are a genuine treat for fans and would certainly be a welcome return from an outsider standpoint.