Young Baseball Fans: Watch MLB Network to See How the Game Has Changed
Yesterday, I sat down in my favorite chair and turned on the television.
When I got to the MLB Network, they were showing the sixth game of the 1952 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
As I watched the end of the show and the last inning of the game, I thought back to an article I read on Bleacher Report a few days ago by a young man who wrote about turning 10 years old in 1995.
The scenes from the 1952 game brought thoughts of how much the game has changed and about how much of the game young fans might not know.
I was born in 1953, a few months after the Yankees won Game 7 of the 1952 World Series, which was their fourth championship in a row.
The last season the Dodgers played in Ebbetts Field I was four years old, so I have no memory of seeing games televised from Brooklyn when they were still playing there. And, of course, in the mid-'50s there were not nearly as many televised games.
Several things struck me as I watched that '52 Series game and then watched later some of the "Prime 9" shows.
A lot has changed about this wonderful game and young fans could learn a great deal and gain an understanding of the changes through which this game has gone over the years.
Here are some of the things I noticed just yesterday and which I would encourage young fans to look for.
Let's start with the umpires. If you watched the old games, the umps were dressed all in black and wore what looked sort of like suit coats.
And the biggest difference was the balloon chest protector which the home plate ump wore.
The balloon was still used until a few years ago. Now all the umps wear the chest protector under their shirt. It sure looked different when they were using the balloon.
Also take a look at the bases in the old films. You will see that they were the loose sacks which were strapped down with spikes.
I can vividly remember in my youth having to scratch around in the dirt where the long spikes with a triangle top were to be found. You would then take the straps on the base and loop them through the triangles and buckle them down.
The bases were much softer and had more give than the solid bases with the peg that goes into the channel in the ground, which are universally used today.
This is going to sound corny, but as a teenager we would fill feedsacks with wood chips and just lay them on the ground and those were our bases. No straps, no spikes, just a sack on the ground.
Also, in listening to the announcer of the '52 game, I think it was Red Barber, he noted an interesting thing.
As one Dodger runner took his lead off the base, Yankee pitcher, Allie Reynolds threw to first. The runner dived back into the bag.
Barber made a point of the dive saying that this runner felt as though it allowed him to get back to the bag faster than sliding.
In today's game no runner would go feet-first back into the base. Everyone dives back to first and that is the only way I ever remember being taught as a kid learning the game.
But apparently in 1952 it was a somewhat unusual way of avoiding the pickoff.
Also notice the uniforms. They were loose, baggy, and looked heavy. Players have said they were hot and heavy. They were made of flannel.
And the pants were worn high, just below the knee, with the sanitary hose and stirrup sock showing below. Some who might read this may not even know what sanitaries and stirrups were.
Sanitary hose were very thin white socks that were worn beneath the stirrup.
The stirrup was a "sock" with no foot in it, but instead with just a thin piece of cloth that went under your foot like a stirrup on a saddle.
The top was then pulled up and it was always the team color. The stirrup let the white sanitary show through where the loop went under your foot.
Again, I can remember as a kid being taught how to put on your socks and uniform pants and being taught to turn the pants back down over the socks so you had some extra padding at the knee and so that it also held your socks up.
Now, almost no one wears stirrups at all and we have gone through the period when every single player wore their pants down to their shoe tops and we are now back at the place where the pants are being worn high with the color of the sock showing again.
Another remarkable eye-catcher in the Series film was that no one wore a batting helmet back then. Every close up of every player showed them dig in with just their regular cap.
Even the catchers were wearing nothing but their caps beneath their mask. There wasn't much thought of safety at that time.
In another vintage film I saw recently, Larry Doby was shown. Doby was the first black player in the American League and played for the Indians.
This film from the late '50s showed him with what looked like rigid ear muffs on at the plate. He wore the precursor to the present batting helmet, a device that just covered the ears and had a small area around each ear and was held on by a strap over the top of the head. It was worn over the regular cap.
Also, it was great seeing the dugouts at the old Ebbetts Field. They were tiny. One shot clearly showed Yankee manager Casey Stengel sitting in the dugout and getting up to adjust his defense.
In doing so, Casey had to be careful not to hit his head on the dugout roof and he was practically sitting in the lap of the player or coach sitting next to him.
Casey would have been very familiar with the dugouts since he had played for the Dodgers on that same field 30 years before.
And there did not appear to be any bench or any padding in the dugout. It looked like a simple concrete box with the players sitting on concrete and concrete all around them.
In another clip, from one of the "Prime 9" shows, it featured Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth and showed them following each other in batting practice before a game.
There was no cage and after Ruth had swatted a pitch away, he turned from the plate as Gehrig came into the frame.
Ruth nonchalantly handed Gehrig the bat he had been using for batting practice and Lou stepped in and took his swings. They were using the same bat for batting practice.
I'm not sure if they used the same bat in the game too or if this was an unusual film, but it sure looked strange for one of the greatest hitters in the game just to hand the bat off to the next guy who was going to hit.
Also, if you look at the pictures of the old ball parks, you will notice that the outfield walls had no padding. There were many advertisements on the outfield, especially in Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn. But as the players went back, they were running into a solid wall.
This was a real problem for one Dodger. Pete Reiser was one of the best prospects who ever came to the big leagues. He could do it all and he was fearless.
His fearlessness was the problem because Reiser never shied from an outfield wall. In fact, he ran into them so hard that more than once he knocked himself out. He was injured so often and so seriously running into the walls that he shortened his career.
For all those young fans out there, take advantage of what the MLB Network has to offer and watch as many of the old shows as you can. You will learn so much about the way the game used to be played.
Listen to the announcers and you will pick up the flow of the game and the timing. It is a great way to gain a better appreciation of this wonderful sport.
I have loved this game as long as I can remember.
I have cherished the time I have been able to spend with the game in all its many aspects.
But MLB has allowed me to see things I could not possibly see in any other way. Because nowhere else can you get the vintage film of the game as it once was played.
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