Down tradition avenue in baseball

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2013 - 12:53 AM

It’s a tradition-filled sport. But some are disappearing. A list of those should make old-timers and youngsters alike smile at how the game once was.

Pepper was a popular warmup game. It required only a little space on the sidelines and involved a handful of players, one hitting the ball, the others fielding it and throwing it back to the batter. Some ballparks ban it now. Not that anyone plays it.

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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 — Bob Gibson had 28 complete games 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.

 

1THE 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’s estimate was close. The White Sox were home for nine Sundays between May 23 and Sept. 12, and seven were scheduled doubleheaders.

“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, 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 [have] 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.’’

 

2fungoes & 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.’’

Gardenhire had an old infielder named Johnny Antonelli (not the former Giants pitcher) in the Mets’ organization as a coach and fungo-hitting antagonist.

“He would be barking, ‘Gardenhire, stay down on the ball, hustle, hustle,’ and hit me all the ground balls I could take,’’ Gardenhire said. “I loved the guy.’’

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  • Texas Rangers’, from left, Ian Kinsler, Gerald Laird, Hank Blalock and Michael Young share a laugh as they participate in a pepper drill during morning practice at baseball spring training in Surprise, Ariz., Tuesday, March 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) ORG XMIT: AZTG115

  • Boston Red Sox pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd pops up an inside pitch during a pepper drill at the first day of workouts at training camp in Winter Haven, Florida on Monday, Feb. 24, 1986. Boyd led the Red Sox in wins with a 15-13 record in 1985. (AP Photo/Peter Southwick) ORG XMIT: APHS412726

  • Maxine Putz, 92, keeps a scorebook whether watching the Twins at home or in person with granddaugher Megan Olson.

  • Frank Quilici, above left, and Jim “Mudcat” Grant, two former Twins, fooled around at a old-timers game in 1976.Former batterymates Yogi Berra, left, and Whitey Ford rode in a golf cart during the Yankees’ old-timers day last month.

  • Hall of Famer catcher Yogi Berra, left, and pitcher Whitey Ford ride in the shade of a golf cart before the New York Yankees 67th annual Old Timers Day baseball game Sunday, June 23, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) ORG XMIT: MIN2013071219200186

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