I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable sports fan — even golf, which we all know is NOT a sport — and I believe I am fair (to a point) when rating teams vs. teams or players vs. players.
I realize today’s athletes are light years ahead of the guys from the 1960s and previously athletically, but that does not, in my opinion, make today’s ballplayer better. For what is better? I admit to being “old school,” but when Babe Ruth hit 54 and 59 home runs in 1920 and ’21 and the next closest guy hit 19 and 24, well, how can you be much better than that?
I actually had a disagreement when a bright young man said Bill Russell would get murdered in today’s NBA. Not sure how to respond to that. I admitted Russell would have some trouble adjusting to today’s NBA game, yet he is 86 years old. In his prime, he would be rebounding, blocking shots, taking names and winning NBA titles.
As to the three major sports, I like football, love basketball and LOVE baseball. Fact is, if they never played another football game I wouldn’t miss it. Even though I hate what basketball has become, there are still times when I can see a team playing with the beauty of the game I grew up with and is now a thing of the past.
But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, comes close to baseball. It is a beautiful game that lends itself to poetry. The history of the game is the history of our country. I look back to the game of the mid-to-late 1900s and everything was beautiful — the ballparks, the players, the announcers and the writers. There are more smells related to the game that will stop me in my tracks (popcorn, the oil from a glove, the smell of a baseball) and instantly transport me to a ballfield from my youth.
The stadiums were cathedrals, each one different, as opposed to the rigid dimensions of a football field or basketball court. There is nothing like that today. There are no Red Smiths, no Red Barbers, no Vin Scullys, no Studs Turkel, no Shirley Povich, no Roger Kahn. Baseball is the most romantic of all sports and, in my opinion, the greatest by far. People who say there is not enough “action” in baseball simply don’t get the game. I think it says a lot of where we are as a county that baseball is so far down on the list of popular sports.
Sorry. Like I said, old school. Stay safe and Let’s Play Ball!
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Doug Berlin is a Jamestown resident.