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.