Lloyd Waters: Baseball, apple pie and heroes

January 27, 2013|By LLOYD WATERS

Back in the late 1950s and early ’60s, the school ground in Dargan was the place to be if you wanted to play a little baseball. All the kids in the community would enjoy their summer vacations from school by playing the most popular sport.

Nothing quite like a good baseball game or two and a slice of Grandma’s homemade apple pie later.

As we prepared for a big game, I would often toss a bat to another player and while we both grasped the bat we would place one hand above each other’s until the last hand rested on the top of the bat. That person would then have first choice on choosing his team.

The competition would be furious. Selecting a good team would be most important to winning the game.

Everyone played by the same rules. 

The youth of our neighborhood always had a baseball hero. 

I always liked the story of Babe Ruth’s promise to smack a home run for the sick kid in the hospital during the 1926 World Series. In the story, Babe promises the kid he would hit a home run and actually finished that game by hitting three.

Babe Ruth was always a hero of mine.

There were many baseball heroes back in those days and kids always looked up to those players.

Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Stan “The Man” Musial, Yogi Berra, Harmon Killibrew, Hank Aaron and many others were some of my all-time favorites.

There are many fond memories from that uphill school diamond in Dargan.

As I examine the modern era of baseball players, and the low number of Hall of Fame votes cast recently for the likes of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, I wondered how many kids would place these players on their “hero” list today.

When I think of Mark Mc-Gwire and Sammy Sosa’s 1998 race to break Roger Maris’ home-run record of 61, I wondered how these two players could hit 70 and 66 home runs respectively during a season.

As the conversation of steroids became prevalent, it was obvious just how these players would break Maris’ record. 

There was no such conversation when Maris hit his 61 home runs in 1961 to break Babe Ruth’s record. The only issue then was that Ruth hit his 60 homers in fewer games.

Even sadder than those stories of Bonds, Sosa, Clemens and McGwire, from my perspective, is perhaps the story of Pete Rose.

Rose, as you might recall broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hits record in 1985. In 3,562 games played, Pete Rose accumulated 4,256 hits. He had a stellar baseball career that included three World Series championships, three batting titles, 18 all-star game appearances, and an energy and enthusiasm for the game exhibited by few before or after him.

After Rose sprinted to first base after a walk, Whitey Ford presented him with the nickname “Charlie Hustle.”

In 1989, after an extensive investigation by Major League Baseball, Pete Rose was banned from the sport that he loved so much for gambling on baseball games.

The Dowd report suggested that Rose bet on some 52 baseball games in 1987, often placing large bets on a game. The report also concluded that Rose had bet on the team he managed, the Cincinnati Reds, to win, but never on them to lose.

As a result of his gambling problem, Rose has been banned from baseball and has forfeited his eligibility to Cooperstown’s Hall of Fame.

Rose’s new reality show of “Hits and Mrs.” now places him alongside the likes of Kim Kardashian and Honey Boo Boo on the tube.

Money has ruined the game of baseball, just like reality shows have ruined the days of good TV.

I guess Bob Lemon, the Cleveland pitcher, observed it best:

“Baseball was made for kids,” he said, “and grown-ups only screw it up.”

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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