It was once about scorecards, home runs and hot dogs. Bobbleheads, mascots and funny-smelling urinals at Wrigley Field.
Fan giveaways, thousands of identical Derek Jeter jerseys, and the odd "Kiss Cam" that would pair two swamp ogres and force them to smooch.
Baseball used to be about all of those things. It was fun. It was part of the game. A tradition that had withstood the test of time.
A testament that could draw a smile from Babe Ruth himself. Baseball was always warm and fuzzy.
That's how most of us viewed baseball. Bud Selig's ratings may have dropped while the NFL played leap frog, but at least we knew America's pastime was intact...even if the steroid era is the thorn in baseball's paw.
Yes, believe it or not, baseball was "just a game." But performance-enhancing drugs is the least of the game's concerns right now. MLB has blood on its hands, and for all the wrong reasons.
On Opening Day, Dodger Stadium filled to the rafters for a rival game against the San Francisco Giants. It was a humble atmosphere. Dodger Dogs were passed around, a sea of blue, accompanied by a few funny slurs directed toward Tim Lincecum in the dugout.
Typical April baseball, really.
Then things proceeded to turn ugly. That sea of blue turned to one big blew...soccer-hooligan style.
Bryan Stow, a 42-year-old man from Santa Cruz, Calif., was assaulted when leaving the stadium. He was beaten and kicked by two Dodgers fans dressed in team attire, as fears of brain damage now occupy the thoughts of Stow's family.
Ruth may have been smiling before. Now he is rolling his eyes.
Somewhere along the line, baseball has strayed from its former identity. The majority of fans show up for nine innings to catch a foul ball. The other 10 percent show up to imitate Bobby Cox, and attempt to break the record for most ejections.
And to think, I once thought baseball had matured. How stupid of me. Turns out it's still stuck in the same loop.
I guess it would be wrong to throw MLB entirely under the bus. The NFL has had the same problems at select stadiums.
But MLB's solution to the issue is almost as unbelievable as the situation itself. Especially considering the ongoing casualties Dodger Stadium has faced in the past 10 years.
What, you haven't heard? Yeah, it's happened before.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt now has the Los Angeles police involved following the beating. He thinks the presence of law enforcement will help to reduce fan violence, keep troublemakers at home, and clean up the hostile grandstands.
Smart thinking, 99. Forget throwing baseball under the bus. It's in the traffic, directly in the path of an 18-wheeler.
McCourt's move is a short-term solution. It will keep the brawlers away from the stadium for a few weeks, direct them toward Los Angeles Clippers games, or Friday Night Fights at a local downtown bar.
This will displease street thugs like "Bubba" who sport a Matt Kemp jersey and call themselves fans. But at least kids will be safe...and of course, that's the most important thing.
Yet it isn't a long-term solution we can hang our hat on. Are we really going to allow the police to surround Dodger Stadium for something as innocent as a baseball game? Hopefully not. Then again, MLB doesn't seem to care. They are on the ropes enough as it is.
That's why another solution needs to be invented. So here it is:
It's simple, and also cost-effective. It's been under our noses from the very beginning. And as a fan of the game, it's surprising that this solution wasn't put into effect a long time ago.
It's fair to say that most players would agree. I'm hard stretched to think of any baseball game where I haven't heard a drunken heckler verbally assaulting a batter at the plate, only to fall quiet for a brief second while he takes another slurp of his beverage.
Oh, and by the way, the old "Hey batter, batter, swing!" doesn't suffice as an insult these days. Shane Victorino can testify. His shirt never did smell the same after receiving a Bud Light bath. That's what you get when you try to perform a catch in the outfield.
No, banning alcohol would prevent these vicious beatings. Fans won't appreciate it. Let's face it, the majority of folks do the right thing. Like in high school, though, a couple of bad seeds have to ruin the experience for everybody.
Story of our lives.
But if fans want to act like Cliff Clavin from "Cheers," maybe it's time to invest in a new sport, because baseball may become boring to you as a sober citizen.
Alcohol and baseball have been intertwined in a love-hate relationship since it began. In 2007, the Seattle Mariners banned alcohol in the clubhouse, as did the Cardinals, Cubs and several other major league teams.
Babe Ruth also struggled. Ruth and Mr. Jack Daniels got on well. His alcoholic tendencies are nothing to make fun of, but it did lead to some funny moments in the Great Bambino's career.
Cigar in one hand, glass in the other...reporters always knew they were in for a story.
But that's where I get off. Ruth knew how to behave, most of the time. It was within his character to do so.
Often it resulted in suspensions, other times it was as harmless as his overpowering figure. Today's troublemakers, well, they are a different kind entirely.
While you sit there and contemplate watching baseball without a stern can of Miller Lite, contemplate the kids that are being affected.
Erick Gustafson took his son to a Dodger game last season, only, his son was a Cardinals fan. The Los Angeles faithful bombarded his son with insults...did they forget this was a 10-year-old boy?
Surely, it's gone too far.
If you are opposed to banning alcohol entirely, fine. Limitations do need to be set, though. The seventh inning would be a perfect time for stadium bars to shut. A safe trip home for patrons is ensured, especially for fans supporting the rival team.
Police presence will stop trouble. Dodger Stadium may look like a prison surrounded by watch towers in a month's time, but it's a necessary step in relieving the danger. At least according to McCourt, anyway.
Former Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Lemon famously said "Baseball is a kid's game, grown-ups only screw it up."
Too right, Bob. They've certainly done a number this time.
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