Baseball has not lost its luster with me

May 09, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

I can think of hundreds of reasons why major league baseball has been, and always will be, my favorite professional sport.

I still feel that way despite all the grumbling over alleged steroid use and the escalating payrolls that eventually reach the fan.

If you're as old as I am, you'll remember the days when you could watch a game from the bleachers for a mere $2. A reserved seat was $7 and a general admission ducat was $5, pretty much the same numbers you pay today for a scholastic event.

In the eyes of many, baseball has lost grip with its moniker as the national pastime. That may be true in some regard.


Despite recent transgressions, what other sport can dominate the pages of newspapers, the video transmission on television and the audio broadcasts as does baseball?

What other sport has a lifetime of heroes such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Honus Wagner up through the years to Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Stan Musial to stars most recently like Cal Ripken, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols.

That just tips the iceberg since baseball's invention in Cooperstown, N.Y., by Abner Doubleday, which also brings another thought to mind. Isn't it absolutely great that high school teams get an opportunity to go to Cooperstown, visit the museum and play a game? Does that happen in Springfield, Mass., or Canton, Ohio?

I purposely left out the recent home run kings - Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds - in the listing of heroes. We'll just have to see what the future holds in store for the record books and any asterisk-related marks.

However, I am somewhat mystified why we have the current hype of Bonds surpassing Babe Ruth. The last time I looked, Henry Aaron had 755 home runs, Ruth had 714 and in my book, what's the big deal? Yeah, I know, Ruth is, and probably always will be the icon when it comes to home runs. Aaron will never catch a break for what he did.

But, that's another of the hundreds of reasons why I love the game.

I go back to meeting my very first player in person - it was an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians by the name of Al Luplow - and at the same time I met Tribe manager Birdie Tebbetts. From that time on as an 8-year-old, I was more than hooked.

Where else, on a bright sunny afternoon, could you hear the cries of "peanuts, popcorn, get your ice cold beer here?" Again, the modern times have taken over to a degree. For spending hundreds more on a night out at the ballpark these days, you can indulge in your favorite alcoholic beverage from the "100 beers of the world" counter, dip your chicken fingers in your favorite sauce or any other concoction. But still, you can't beat the peanuts and popcorn.

I'm so glad I grew up in the era of baseball getting to see so many players like Frank and Brooks Robinson, Rocky Colavito, Gaylord Perry, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose and others mentioned above play the grand ole' game.

I'm so glad Wrigley Field and Fenway Park still stand. If you never did, I wish you would have had a chance to visit Ebbets Field (Brooklyn), Briggs Stadium (Detroit), Forbes Field (Pittsburgh) or even the old Colt 45 Stadium in Houston. They were classics and I almost liked Forbes Field as much as I did Municipal Stadium, home of my Cleveland Indians.

I was as much a collector of baseball cards as anyone else when I was a kid. I scoured the boxscores every day - couldn't wait to get hold of the newspaper to see the individual names and what they had done the previous game. Of course, that was before the Internet, and now, we get up-to-the minute pitch reports.

I don't get to the ballpark near as much as I used to. But that will never keep baseball from being my favorite sport.

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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