Baseball Then and Now!
To say playing and watching baseball has changed over the last half century is a gross understatement. To say it’s more like comparing day and night would be closer to the truth. Baseball like most everything in our lives has changed dramatically and in my humble opinion not for the better. It’s no longer a game that kids play for fun and joy it’s become “big business”…even on the playgrounds and schoolyards across the country. Young boys and teenagers today play baseball for a different reason than we did growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. We played for the love of the game and for comradely among our peers, we were in love with baseball and with each other, we were a team, a family and because we cared for each other we learned values that would serve us well throughout our lives. It never occurred to us that sometime in the future we could make money playing the game that we were addicted to. Playing baseball was all we wanted to do all day and even after washing the dinner dishes we would go outside in the backyard and swing our bats in a make-believe game. We woke up in the morning thinking of how many hits we would get that day. Baseball was our religion and our constitution, we wanted to play the game for the rest of our lives and never thought of remuneration for it.
These days almost every kid playing baseball has dollar signs in his or her eyes, thinking that just maybe he or she might be good enough to get a million dollar contract. Maybe they might be lucky enough to be an adult playing a kids game and making millions doing it. Major League players are like rock stars today they are the top wage earners right behind Wall Street brokers and they are much more famous. It wasn’t always that way. During the 40’s, 50’s and even 60’s Big League players had to find jobs during the off-season to supplement their incomes and sustain their lifestyles. Today their minimum wage is in the $600,000 range and most players’ make millions more as opposed to many teachers who make $40,000 working all year.
This anomaly has changed the game. It is literally like hitting the lottery if you can make it to the Major Leagues. Sparky Anderson said of the money he was paid to manage, “I can’t believe they are paying us all this money to play baseball when we played it for free as kids”. Sparky and I were friends since we were kids and I know that if he didn’t have a family to support he’d have played the game for free as an adult. Baseball was in his blood and he played for the love of the game. In my opinion the sport of baseball is no longer a sport, it is the circus of the 21st Century, and it’s a spectacle of Roman proportions.
Playing for big money, as with all professional sports, has ruined it for me and besides that, play for pay has destroyed sportsmanship. Benny Lefebvre my American Legion coach said, “If you play sports for many years as a young person and you don’t learn sportsmanship then you’ve wasted your time.” I still think that’s what sports should be all about…not the money.
Carl Paul Maggio