Reusse: Nine traditions lost from baseball

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2013 - 12:43 AM

Baseball is a tradition-filled sport. But some are disappearing. A list of those should make oldtimers and youngsters alike smile at how the game once was.

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In this July 22, 1972 file photo, New York Yankee greats Mickey Mantle, left, and Joe DiMaggio, doff their caps to the crowd at Yankee Stadium as they appeared for an old timers game between games of a doubleheader between the Yankees and the California Angels.

Photo: Hh, Associated Press - Ap

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There are numerous lost traditions in today’s baseball. The Star Tribune decided to come up with nine innings worth of these, a complete game. That happens to be one of the traditions, the complete game (Bob Gibson had 28 for St. Louis in both 1968 and 1969), that didn’t make the cut.

Other traditions lost from our list included boiled hot dogs taken from tepid water and slathered with mustard by vendors, and dugout agitators formerly known as “bench jockeys,’’ and bad-breathed managers such as Billy Martin and Earl Weaver kicking dirt on umpires, while league officials look at it as entertainment.

A more recent tradition is players engaging in the intake of steroids and human growth hormones, but we aren’t sure that one is lost as of yet, so we skipped it. Here’s our list.

FIRST INNING: The Sunday doubleheader

Bill Veeck became the owner of the Chicago White Sox for the second time in 1975, helping to save the team from a move to St. Petersburg, Fla. His son Mike went to work promoting and selling tickets.

“I think we scheduled nine Sunday doubleheaders in 1976,’’ Mike said. “The theory was the people from Indiana or from Dubuque could drive to Chicago on Sunday morning knowing they would get a full dose of baseball.’’

Veeck was close. The White Sox were home for nine Sundays between May 23 and Sept. 12 and seven were scheduled doubleheaders. Counting the notorious twi-nighters used mostly to make up postponements, the White Sox played 11 doubleheaders at Comiskey Park and three on the road that season.

“Play nine, hopefully, and come back 22 minutes later and play another one,’’ Veeck said. “Of course, television wasn’t as involved and we played a lot faster.’’

Indeed. The Twins played a doubleheader in Comiskey on July 28. The opener was 13-8 for the Twins and took what was then an excruciating 3 hours even; the second game was 7-4 Sox and was played in 2:15. You could add 45 minutes, minimum, to each of those games at today’s pace.

Today, the owners start a season determined to have 81 home gates – no scheduled doubleheaders, and makeup games as either day-night (split) doubleheaders or on mutual off-days.

“The manager, the coaches and the players absolutely would prefer to the second game immediately after the first,’’ Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “With the split, you sit around for hours. Those are the longest days of the season; they wear on the players.

“We also know it’s never going back to the way it was. Lots of season tickets in today’s game; lots of money involved. The owners need it to pay those big salaries.’’

SECOND INNING: Fungoes & Infield

Fungoes were much in evidence when early arrivers came to the ballpark in days of yore. They were long, lean hunks of wood made by Lousiville Slugger, used to hit fly balls to outfielders and ground balls to infielders.

The legend said they were light, but “not when you’re hitting a couple of hundred ground balls,’’ Gardenhire said. “The new ones are great, made out of that composite wood, and very light.’’

There were fungo magicians in most every organization. “The most famous fungo guy was Jimmy Reese, with the Angels,’’ Twins coach Scott Ullger said. “They said he could pitch batting practice hitting balls with a fungo.’’

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