My father played excellent tennis and basketball -- he was a guard on the CCNY team under Nat Holman until he left school to put a few cents in the family coffers. During the 20s and 30s he also played some semi-pro baseball. He'd make $5.00 or $10.00 a game as a "ringer" -- and in those days, an extra buck or two went a long way. He was a catcher and had the busted-up fingers to prove it. He paid for the broken bones when the arthritis caught up with him. Although he had been an unusually strong man, in his last years he didn't have enough left in his twisted fingers to pull the match out of the matchbook to light his pipe. But he could still discuss "inshoots" and "outshoots."
Sometime in the early 80s (it was after mom died), he was in the hospital recuperating from a hip replacement. He was not a good patient and the confinement left him testy and bored, but he could be a little cheered by watching whatever sports were on the TV. One day I visited him and found the television off.
"Pop, there's a Yankee game on. Why aren't you watching it?"
He waved his gnarled old hand. "American League. DH rule. Not baseball."
I'm glad he didn't have to see the changes since he left the scene. It's a new, impermanent, history-hostile, TV-friendly, high-scoring production: franchises jumping all around the country; new stadiums with mighty short porches; players coming up to bat wearing not only gold necklaces and earrings, but also helmet, gauntlets and greaves; the incredible shrinking strike zone; pitchers no longer allowed to knock down the over-aggressive batter; an epidemic of steroids that has led to unnaturally bulked-up sluggers; balls flying out of the park as if the guys were playing Sunday-afternoon slow-pitch softball; mediocre hitters slamming 40 hr's a year -- not to mention baseball played in the thin Colorado atmosphere where the batted ball takes off like a rocket and where curve balls can't curve.
I know exactly what my father would say: "Not baseball."