Today in the New York Times, let’s play “spot the traditions that never were”
In a sport that clings to its traditions — from managers wearing uniforms to the playing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch — one time-honored feature at the ballpark has taken an absurd turn, at least for the game’s purists: the ceremonial first pitch. For decades, the honor was extended only a few times a season to a rarefied group that included presidents, mayors and military veterans. These days, it is regarded as a marketing opportunity, a sweetener in sponsorship deals between baseball teams and groups that want a piece of the spotlight.
The real tradition in baseball is managers wearing suits, ties, starched collars and bowler hats and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has largely been diminished by the “Sweet Carolines” and “God Bless Americas” of the world. Why should the first pitch, then, be so sacrosanct?
And I dunno, maybe I just go to different ballparks than the Times writers do, but ever since I can remember there have been first pitches — often multiple first pitches — by boy scout troops, Grand Poobahs of various lodges and no small amount of car dealers who later use a still shot from the game to PITCH you the best deals. GET IT?!
Maybe, on the whole this is a newer thing. Given that 85% of the people in the ballpark are still trying to buy beer and find their seats when the first pitch comes — and given that on either side of the first pitch are promotional announcements and bad pop music — I’m having a hard time getting worked up about this so-called sacred tradition being sullied.
Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:
The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.
The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.
A report from Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reveals that prospective Marlins’ owners Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman have already initiated several key firings within the organization. While the sale of the team is still pending final approval next month, Jeter reportedly pushed club president David Samson to remove four special assistants this week: Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, Jack McKeon and Jeff Conine.
Hall of Fame infielder Dawson, outfielder Perez and Marlins’ legend Conine served as special assistants to the president. McKeon, who served as team manager from 2003-2005 (and briefly in 2011), was terminated from a 12-year post as special assistant to owner Jeffrey Loria.
The move didn’t come as a big surprise to Dawson and McKeon, Jackson and Spencer noted. It’s part and parcel of dealing with new ownership. But it was disappointing news nonetheless, especially as the long-tenured McKeon might lose an opportunity to return next September to manage one game and cement his status as the oldest manager in MLB history.
Should the Marlins’ sale go through in October as expected, this figures to be the beginning of several cuts. Per Jackson and Spencer:
Jeter also is expected to fire some people on the baseball side of the operation, though it’s believed president/baseball operations Michael Hill will be retained, at least indefinitely if not permanently.
Any replacements for those already released from the team have yet to be announced.