40 Years Ago: When Baseball Was Truly America's Pastime

Michael AkelsonCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2010

Do you guys remember what baseball was like 40 years ago?

Before the average baseball fan knew what a pitch count was.

Before six innings was considered an outstanding start.

Before stadiums were named after buisnesses' rather than individuals who achieved outstanding success in our game.

Before steroids came about and numbers actually mattered.

Before players played for the love of the game and not the love of $100 million contracts.

Those were the days.

When you didn't need to work overtime for a month to go to a game, and you didn't need to visit the ATM before purchasing a hot dog.

Back when you could go to the ballpark at a reasonable price and watch Juan Marichal duel with Tom Seaver in an extra-inning thriller where neither pitcher would be taken out of the game, even if their pitch count exceeded 200. 

Back when nine players played in harmony knowing that if they didn't do so there was somebody behind them on the depth chart that would. Rather then nine bags of money going their separate ways the second the game is considered final.

Surely you remember the days when elite home-run hitters like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were actually able to keep their averages above .300.

The time when truly clean players like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris chased a record. Rather than juicers like Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire who almost made us believe that the impossible was possible.

Back in the days when the words Mitchell Report and BALCO didn't mean anything to anybody. The same days when nobody would ever mention the words baseball and needles in the same sentence.

However that's what's sad about it.

Baseball has changed a great deal since the glory days and I can't say it's for the better.

Whether it's phonies like Jason Giambi or Mo Vaughn getting enough money to literally end world hunger, or ticket prices skyrocketing to an all-time high in a declining economy.

There's a countless list of things that have gone wrong with baseball and turned America's pastime into nothing but a league of selfish players with boatloads of cash. I'm not saying all baseball players are like this because a good majority aren't, but a nice portion of the baseball players in today's game do seem to play their best in contract years.

Players squeeze every cent they can get into deals that already award them enough money to buy their own bank to keep their money in.  

Pitchers pitch every fifth day and rarely throw more then 110 pitches in the process.

A true baseball great is a rarity in today's game. A player willing to put it all on the line for his team just for one chance at a ring. A player who still knows what smallball is and isn't afraid to lay down a sac bunt or go the other way with a man on second base and less then two outs.

Baseball will always be America's game and no matter what happens it will still be baseball. Whether you love or hate the new ways of our favorite game, it still is and always will be baseball.

Baseball will always be a great sport and nothing can ever change that, but we may never again see the days of players like Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax.

The ending of the steroid era brings much hope, but that is just one flaw in a game which has developed an array of flaws over the least 40 years.

Love it or hate it this is what baseball has become, and in the end it is what we will have to grow to love.