Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baseball : Back to the Future

I turned on a ballgame on television tonight. I don't follow baseball as closely now as I did when baseball card cataloging was my full-time job, but the Yankees were playing in Atlanta, so I thought I'd catch a few innings.

A sense of deja vu quickly overtook me, as I was a young baseball fan back in 1957-1958 when the Braves and Yankees contended in the World Series. To be sure, this newfangled abomination known as inter-league play is but a pale shadow of the Fall Classic, but if you squinted a little you might be transported back 50+ years. The jerseys were true throwbacks in form, if not in composition. There was the tomahawk logo on the Braves home whites, and the classic black "NEW YORK" on the Yankees road grays. There was that damnable "A" on the Braves cap, of course, rather than the "M" that should rightfully still be there. And what's with the flat visor brim on some of those guys' lids?

If you look in the Braves dugout, you could be excused for noticing a more than passing resemblance between current manager Bobby Cox, and 1950s skipper Charlie Grimm.

What really struck me as a blast from the past was the racial composition of the starting lineups. There was a certain Caucasian homogenuity (homogeneousness?) among them. There was only one black player on each starting squad, an American and a Latino. Each team also had a couple of Hispanics who could have passed muster on the color line in the pre-Jackie Robinson era. There was even an Indian on the mound, which was a much more common sight in the 1950s than in the past half-century. The only major incongruity was Atlanta's Japanese pitcher.

I'll leave it to the sports sociologists (if there is such a thing) to explain the current state of player rosters. It just struck me as odd that so much of this game seemed to hark back to those I remember from childhood. Too bad I can't go down to the corner store for a nickel pack of cards.

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