Sports of now make me long for sports of then

August 16, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

Remember the good old days of professional sports?

Way back when a fastball under the chin didn't always incite a bench-clearing brawl ...

Way back when football players started playing without facemasks and then went to a two-bar guard ...

Way back when professional basketball players didn't run into the stands chasing down fans ...

Way back when a 250-yard drive with a persimmon driver was a huge accomplishment ...

Sound like Archie Bunker? Those were the days.

There was a major leaguer who I knew fairly well - Jim "Mudcat" Grant, a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians before he moved on to Minnesota - who was unafraid, in a sticky situation or just to get a batter off the plate, to throw one high and tight.

In his own Louisiana twang, he always referred to it with a smile and a wink as "a little chin music," a phrase commonly used today. He seldom hit a batter despite the number of inside pitches he threw. And when he did hit someone, purposely or not, you didn't worry about a brawl.


Back in the old days football wasn't being played on artificial turf, and it's good to see so many teams get away from it these days. Players weren't afraid to dig up some turf in the top of their loosely-guarded facemask, get their uniforms totally dingy and most of all, always honor their contract.

The NBA once was worth buying a ticket (when it was necessary to do so) to see the old greats - Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, John Havlicek, K.C. Jones and Oscar Robertson. You knew there was only one thing on their mind - winning - and they were always able to block out the surroundings.

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing better for an amateur like you and me hitting a drive 260, 270 or whatever. But hasn't all the equipment in front of us these days gone a little too far? Jack Nicklaus may be correct when he says there needs to be a halt on further enhancement of equipment.

Nowadays, we have contract hassles with players trying to tell their employers how to run their business, showing tons of disloyalty by not honoring an original contract without renegotiation, steroids, steroids and probably more steroids. No doubt, there will be more T.O.s in the future.

Even race car drivers getting into heated exchanges when they get bumped.

Sports is still a love, but why can't it still be like the good old days?

Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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