Baseball—a major symptom and casualty of the deterioration of our culture

(July 15: this thread is still continuing, three days after it started.)

David B. writes:

You once told me that you were a football fan until the late 1960s. Were you ever a baseball fan, or a New York Yankee fan? I was a Yankee fan in my childhood.

This is the last year for the present Yankee Stadium. They are building a new one in the same area, which supposedly will look more like the original, which was redone in the 1970’s. I used to read from the late 60’s until the 90’s that Yankee stadium was in a “bad neighborhood” which held down attendance. However, attendance for the last decade has been very good.

Have you ever gone to Yankee Stadium to see baseball?

LA replies:

I was a Yankees fan when I was kid. In my adult life, I’ve been a baseball fan only intermittently, but when I get into it, I get into it. When I lived in Colorado I ignored professional sports altogether. When I came back East in 1978 I became a big fan of the great 1978 Yankee team and followed the season closely. I was absorbed in the spectacular Mets team of 1985 and 1986. But after the late 1980s, my interest in the game waned and then disappeared. Not because I don’t love the game. I love it. The most insignificant, low-scoring game between two teams that have no chance at the pennant (or whatever they call it nowadays) is still one of the most interesting things in the world. Each game is unique, has its own unfolding shape. Every pitch is interesting to watch. The best game I ever saw (in person) was a Mets game at Shea stadium in 1989 in which there were no runs scored between the fifth and the 15th inning. But I cannot stand what baseball has become.

The last time I was at Yankee stadium was several years ago. The very loud rock music played during the game made it a very unpleasant experience, not something I would want to repeat. they even play loud music during the innings, as well as between innings. It’s an assault on one’s senses and mind and simply destroys the experience and integrity of the game.

As for the neighborhood around Yankee Stadium, I wouldn’t call it a bad neighborhood, in the sense of dangerous or threatening. It’s sort of a run-down neighborhood, which is surprising, given the number of people that go through it to see the games.

David B. replies:

Thanks for the reply. I don’t watch games on TV as much as I used to, but I have noticed the rock music. I had lost interest because of the steroid use, but I’m going to try and watch some games this year.

LA replies:

The gross fat physiques of many of the players, particularly the blacks and Hispanics, combined with their ultra tight uniforms, are repulsive and a complete turnoff. There is nothing of athletic grace about them. For people to go on being uncritical fans means they’ve turned off the normal human dislike of the ugly.

Think of Willie Mays compared to any of these human SUVs playing the game today.

- end of initial entry -

Donald W. writes:

These days, baseball players do not wear their uniforms nearly as tight as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. If you check out Yahoo sports on the internet, you can find lots of photos that will bear this out.

LA replies:

Maybe some teams’ uniforms have gotten less tight in recent years, but I’ve seen an awful lot that are as I described.

Or maybe, even if the uniforms were also tight in the ’70s, they didn’t seem so tight and so gross, because the players then were still Homo sapiens, rather, as is the case today, Homo SUViens.

Shrewsbury writes (July 13):

Shrewsbury briefly made it back to New York last summer, and took Shrewsbury fils to a game at Yankee Stadium, the third deck of which the elder Shrewsbury were wont to haunt as a yute in the 1960s; Shrewsbury fils is a rabid Yankees fan, apparently by some process of Lamarckian inheritance, since the elder Shrewsbury had ceased to follow baseball soon after he had procreated, and made no attempt to encourage yankeephilia in his progeny.

For the elder Shrewsbury on this foray there was one madeleine-biting moment when he inhaled an air of “dawgs wit kraut”* in the heavy Bronx atmosphere—not the hideously dry, odorless California vacuum which is such a depressing contrast to the rich, muggy, nourishing humidity of Gotham. Generally however the experience was rather ghastly for him. The atomic PA system, the hideous Jumbotron where erewhile the sedate centerfield scoreboard had stood, dominated the environment, filling every moment with strobe effects, colossal images of the players’ talking heads, blaring, eardrum-abusing samples of each player’s favorite pop song whenever he came to bat, with enough bass to liquify one’s internal organs—a scene from Idiocracy. The actual baseball game seemed to be reduced to an insignificant sideshow.

Baseball is a contemplative game, but not one moment for contemplation was permitted. Gone were the sublime summer sounds of wood smacking and leather slapping horsehide, the lazy crowd murmurs, an awareness of breezes…no, it was more like being trapped in a video game than attending a baseball match. It was not an European-American milieu.

What is more, the current ubiquity of the Hispanic player throughout Major League Baseball—I believe the depraved Mets have made a point of hiring Dominicans, who now constitute the majority of the ball club—induces at least in this former enthusiast a sickening ennui. Thanks, but if I want to see concentrations of Lateeenos and hear thumping Lateeeno music, I’ll just walk around my block. (By the way, if Charles Murray is reading this—Mr. Murray, if you still want to trade your domicile in a “white-bread” village for Shrewsbury’s house here in a vibrant SoCal neighborhood where people get shot—let’s talk!) Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I just couldn’t care less what these Lateeeno players do. It always seems like I’m watching one of those Caribbean winter leagues. One problem of course is that 80% of them are named either Rodriguez, Ramirez, or Gonzalez, so you can’t tell the players even with a scorecard. In short, they don’t seem like real baseball players, and I can’t get interested in watching them. And I never even felt that way about black players, even though I am odious hate-spewing racist scum (well, one can only try).

Anyway, there is Shrewsbury’s lament, and excuse me, but I have to go spew some hatred now….

I remain,

Yr. cultish sycophant,


* This reminds me that on the mischling Shrewsbury’s Jewish side he had a great-uncle in vaudeville who composed a song, the sheet music for which I once saw, entitled “I Wanna Wiener widda Woiks.”

LA replies:

Boy! Have you made my point. I barely touched on the horrid Plutonian phenomenon. You have filled it out in four dimensions.

However, on Hispanics, just as with blacks, it wasn’t always as it is now. I forgot to mention in my previous comment, but when I was a kid I was a passionate San Francisco Giants fan from about 1960 to 1965. And that team was heavily Hispanic: the great Juan Marischal, Jesus and Felipe Alou, Orlando Cepeda. And there was nothing that prevented me from identifying with these players. I think it was because they were functioning as minority individuals within an Anglo-European-based American culture, not as a majority presence within the de-nationalized culture we have now.

Mark Jaws writes:

While I heartily agree with Shrewsbury concerning the difficulty in keeping track of so many Ramirez’s and Gonzalez’s plaguing contemporary baseball as opposed to the Kalines and Mantles and Killebrews of yesteryear, I have been to several baseball games in the past few years and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself, though it may have had more to do with the female pulchritude in the stands than with the game.

What really has rubbed me the wrong way about your posting is how you, a NY Metropolitan area boy, could have stuck with the Giants after the Mets entered the league in 1962! How could one possibly prefer Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marishal and Felipe Alou to the likes of Ed Kranepool, Dennis Ribant and Choo Choo Coleman? Is there something wrong with you?

LA replies:

But the Giants also had Willie Mays (batting number 3) and the mighty Willie McCovey (batting number 4), That’s an exciting team.

And I think the Giants were overall the best team in baseball in the first half of the Sixties, though they never came out on top. Rather, they consistently came in second, year after year, while other teams rose and fell.

A thrill for me was seeing a game at Candlestick Park in 1968. Mays had a couple of hits, and McCovey had, I think, a three run homer. But that ball park was way too windy.

I didn’t follow the Mets during that period.

Gintas writes:

I, too, have lost much interest in baseball. I used to peruse the Baseball Encyclopedia, memorizing stats endlessly. I grew up rooting for the Baltimore Orioles, the great Earl Weaver teams. If there is anything I hate, it’s the Yankees. But it’s a respectful hate.

The games today are indeed like a video game, a brief distraction for people who cannot feel the gentle flow of a 162-game season. Wildcard “races” mean a contest among .500 teams, not among the greats. It brings in the money, I suppose.

I went to a minor league game last year, and it was great fun. Minor league games are full of goofiness, with strange contests and silly promotions, and there is the loud rock, but there is a smallness that moderates the worst of it. On the plus side, the crowd was small and the stadium intimate, and there was no Jumbotron.

It was late, the game was tied, and I wanted the game over so we could go home and put the halflings to bed. The visiting catcher was up with two outs in the top of the 10th, battling, with two strikes fouling off several pitches. I yelled out, “c’mon, strike out already, it’s getting late.” I knew he could hear me, everyone around could hear me, the stadium was very quiet. There was something Ruthian about his hitting a home run on the next pitch. I did not spoil the moment by saying anything.

LA replies:

Great story. What about Reggie Jackson at the plate, 1978, in between pitches he’s doing something strange, standing very still, head bent, looking down at the ground at his feet. Phil Rizutto says, “Hey, he’s meditating!” The other announcer says, “He’s in his own little world.” Rizutto says, “His own big world.” Then Jackson hits a home run.

Daniel H. writes:

At least the National League still plays baseball, I don’t know what we should really call that game that is played in the American League (this from a former Yankee fan).

The Designated Hitter is the worst thing to befall baseball. It has totally disrupted the strategy of the game. DH apologists deny this, but it is true. Furthermore, it puts NL teams at a permanent disadvantage for the World Series. They can’t staff the roster for this very specific function, but in the World Series have to go up against AL teams that can and do. I was at the Met game on Friday, against Colorado. Pitcher’s duel. Both managers really had to think their way through this one. Great game. Mets won, 2-1.

Also, the uniforms: Remember how cool baseball uniforms used to be, with the peculiar baseball socks that came up to just shy of the knee? Even when loose, they were trim. Now these lard *sses waddle around in the sports equivalent of the leisure suit. When I played little league I would wear the uniform all day. I just loved how cool it felt. Don’t get me started about jerri curls and flashy gold chains.

Philip M. writes from England:

1/ Spencer/Auster. Yawn. More “cod war” than “cold war.” Sorry. But hey—it’s your site, and each to his own. I hope you win, just wake me up when he raises the white flag. Never did like his site.

2/Baseball thread—fascinating. I have seen so much baseball in what you call the “movies” and what we call the “sequence of consecutive pictures of objects photographed in motion by a specially designed motion-picture camera and projected onto a screen-ies” (we Brits are rubbish at thinking up handy nicknames, or “nickies” as we call them) but this is the first time I have heard a bona-fide American talking about the experience. Sounds like the same thing has happened to your national sport that happened to our football (proper football—not the game where men in giant Joan Collins Dynasty-era-shoulder pads THROW a ball at each other—the one you play with your FEET!). I found it interesting that you supported different teams in your life. [LA replies: That’s partly a result of the fact that my interest has been intermittant. But I’m not typical and you can’t go by me.] of the It hink that that just shows I was not a serious fan. This would be a HUGE no-no over here. It’s your tribe, and you are expected to stick with it to the bitter end…much more tribal. Interesting to ponder why this is the case.

3/ “It is really the case that Iraq is approaching the point where it can sustain its own existence without U.S. troops?”

The cynic: It always could, Mr President. Just needed to find a strong leader—preferably a Sunni to balance the Shia power in Iran (I hear the tikriti tribe have some promising individuals), one who is corrupt enough to be bidable by the West, secular enough not to let the Islamists get a foothold and to protect the rights of the ancient Christian community, brutal enough to hold together a country of disparate elements that could cause real problems if it splits apart, and just incompetent and unpopular enough that Israel/the West can contain/bomb him if need be without any consequences.

Bush: But we ain’t gonna find someone like that just hanging around!

Phil M

Just kidding about number 1. Keep up the good work.

Jeff in England writes:

Check out cricket old chap.

Cricket makes baseball seem like a game for simpletons as well as demanding amazing amounts of concentration (for five days in Test cricket) and stamina. Most Americans don’t “get it” but I can assure you it is a far superior game to baseball. Any game with a field position called Silly Mid On has to be superior.

Shrewsbury writes:

Thanks so much for your generous appraisal of my humble effort.

I read your remarks about the traitor San Francisco Giants with interest, and was reminded that as a yute I especially didn’t like the traitor Giants (though not as much as I especially didn’t like the traitor Dodgers), perhaps chiefly because they had so many Hispanic players on their team. Was young Shrewsbury a hate-spewing bigot even then? Maybe. But back in ‘65 when Juan Marichal clobbered John Roseboro’s unsuspecting noggin with a beisboll bat, I was little surprised, and even somewhat puzzled by the resulting scandal—because I saw that sort of behavior every day amongst my vibrant school chums. For instance, one day whilst I was pitching in a pick-up beisboll game, a Puerto Rican came after me with his bat … because I had just struck him out! A mutual (Italian) friend intervened and was able to reactivate the excitable batsman’s frontal cortex to the extent that he did not after all try to kill me.

Well, like the song in South Pacific said, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear … ,” and boy did we get object lessons in the old NYC publik skool system. Not that it was the sort of instruction that Richard Rodgers had in mind.

LA writes:

Remember the first time you walked into the stands of a major league baseball stadium and you felt you had suddenly entered another world, a paradise, a vast, magical garden that was also a stage spread at your feet? Rick Darby at Reflecting Light evokes the real beauty of a ball game, the way the stadium looks, the way that little white sphere looks arching up and up through the sky over the green expanse.

James N. writes (July 15):

It’s funny that you and I share an interest in both Bob Dylan and Willie Mays. I was raised the product of a mixed marriage (Dad Giants, Mom Dodgers), and I can remember the first time I walked out into the stands and saw the green field at the Polo Grounds like it was yesterday. The Giants beat the Cubs, and Whitey Lockman hit a home run. I’ve stayed a Giants fan, even though we haven’t had a home game in 51 years.

Just before Ted Gold, a member of the Weathermen, blew himself up making bombs in a Greenwich Village town house, he said that he couldn’t become a really good communist until Willie Mays retired.

The ties that bind…

LA replies:

In other words, as long as there was something in society that had a transcendent value to Gold, he couldn’t be a good communist. But look at what he’s saying. He’s saying that Willie Mays had a transcendent value to him. But other people have other things that have transcendent value to them. And Gold says that as long as people find transcendent value in something that exists, they can’t be good communists. Therefore the only way a person can be a good communist is by placing no transcendent values on anything that currently exists. You can only be a good communist, by denying transcendent value to everything that exists.

Alan Roebuck writes:

There’s another reason why today’s players often look like SUVs, unlike those in your youth. Until the late ’70s, there was a general taboo against weight training, as well as, er, other means of bulking up: big muscles were thought to be more of a liability than an asset because players needed to be flexible and nimble.

The first famous incident of a well-known player having his performance clearly enhanced by weight training involved Boston’s Fred Lynn in 1979, and after that, weight training began to become widespread. And with the need for muscle mass came an increased temptation to use steroids.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 12, 2008 03:22 PM | Send

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