The history of the World Series program

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Last winter I wrote a guest piece for Baseball Prospectus about a concept I call “metafandom.” In the intro, I described one of my most prized possessions: a poster I’ve had since I was a kid — and which is framed and hanging on the wall 10 feet from where I sit as a write this — with the cover of all of the World Series programs from 1903 through 1981.

It was a free giveaway from the Lipton Tea Company in 1982. I got mine — and about 10 extra copies of it people left laying around and which my brother and I snagged — at Tiger Stadium sometime in the first half of the 1982 season. It’s a gorgeous poster, reproducing what were, for the most part, the gorgeous covers of those Series programs.

And they were not just gorgeous. They were influential on me. I used them to memorize all of the World Series participants. And, in some small ways, to learn a bit about popular art styles of the 20th Century. I mean, is this cool or what?

Over at the New York Times there’s a great story about the World Series programs, and a slide show with closeup versions and stuff. It’s great fun and, for me at least, it gives life to something that has always been important to me. The only sad part? This passage which explains why the covers got so blah starting in 1974:

In 1974, the league started producing a single program for both teams. The content inside was expanded to include material on all four teams in the postseason. The price was doubled to $2, and steadily escalated until 2003, when $15 was charged for the first time.

I get why they did this — the programs are big sellers now and they want them ready more than two days in advance — but they became so generic after that. A picture of the World Series trophy, maybe. Some illustration of a non-identifiable player in a plain uniform throwing a pitch to no one. Lots of AL and NL logos. They all look like the cover of baseball video games too cheap to enter into a merchandising agreement with the league and the union.

But I still have my poster and 1903-1973, and that’s pretty cool.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.