Baseball has lost its magic

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 8, 2002

On a recent Saturday night where I found myself with nothing to do, I slipped in my favorite movie, "Field of Dreams."

The Kevin Costner classic has a poignant father-son storyline which revolves around the game of baseball.

Watching the movie always serves to take me back in time, even to when I started keeping up with the "National Pastime," when baseball was actually still somewhat pure, and heading to the ballpark to watch a game or even listening to announcers such as Jack Buck or Harry Caray call a game, still conjured warm and fuzzy feelings.

Of course those days are long gone now.

Sadly, baseball is only a shadow of its former glory as dissension and controversy have brought on a reeling effect to the game that many of us used to love so deeply.

Don't be mistaken, the game can still be fun to watch, especially when it comes to watching the pitching wizardry of stars such as Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling, and of course the slugging prowess of future Hall of Famers such as Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.

But baseball today still pales in comparison to baseball the way it was played in the 1950's and 1960's.

Expansions over the past few years have diluted pitching to the point where great pitching performances are a rarity as sluggers such as Sosa and Bonds have basically taken over the game.

And even much of the luster has been lost on prodigious offensive displays, due to the current question of whether many sluggers are actually performing well due to increased work in the gym or whether it is through the use of steroids or other illegal drugs.

And guess what, discussion is continuing to build that another work stoppage of major league players is bound to happen sooner than later.

Other issues also continue to plague the sport, such as the possible future contraction of several teams and the disparity between small-market and large-market franchises.

Baseball nearly succeeded in permanently alienating its fans several years ago after its last work stoppage, but fortunately the sport was salvaged by the dramatic Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run chase of 1998.

If another work stoppage should occur, I think that perhaps only a miracle could bring the fans back the next time.

And if a work stoppage does lead to a slow, painful death of what used to be referred to as the "National Pastime," then incompetent Commissioner Bud Selig, arrogant owners and selfish and greedy players have only themselves to blame.

And what a waste that would be.

Baseball is currently thriving, with a host of new ballparks, established stars and strong attendance and television ratings, and just think of what would be lost if baseball continues to destroy itself.

At least we do still have movies around such as "Field of Dreams", "Pride of the Yankees" and "The Natural" to remind us what the game of baseball used to be.

Stan J. Griffin is

a reporter and columnist for the Star News