Some of the Bobby Thomson remembrances I’ve seen over the past 24 hours have made references to baseball’s “Golden Age.” Forbes’ Tom Van Riper ain’t havin’ it, though:
Nostalgia holds that the 1950s represented baseball’s golden era. They
didn’t. Thomson’s famous ninth-inning, final-game homer off Ralph
Branca to give the New York Giants the 1951 National League pennant over
the Brooklyn Dodgers occurred in front of 34,000 fans in the
55,000-seat Polo Grounds. These days, can anyone imagine a post season
game played in front of 19,000 empty seats?
I’ve always focused so much on those left field seats in the film of the homer that I’ve never realized that there were that many empty seats that day. Worth noting that, given the park’s configuration, there were a ton of bad seats in the Polo Grounds, but I think the point still holds.
Baseball certainly held greater sway in the public consciousness than the other sports did in the 1950s, but sports didn’t hold as much sway as a whole like they do now. In some ways that was a bad thing. In some ways it was a good thing. Times were just different. I think the most we can say about it is that applying the term “Golden Age” to any age at the expense of others is an exercise in comparing apples to oranges.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.