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The National Pastime Today – April 12, 2018

So here we are—a dozen games into the MLB season.  150 more to go.  The big surprise?  The New York Mets!  Here’s hoping, for long suffering Mets fans’ sake at least, the club is at the start of something special. Or at least competent. After all, Forbes just reminded us again that the Yankees are worth $4 billion. As is our custom around these parts, in TNP Today we link the links, providing a current story with a historical perspective piece. Enjoy!


April 12, 2018
Original artwork: Bob Coyne

Brawlin’ Baseball Style

The Yankees and Red Sox are at it again. A spikes up slide. A plunked batter. A posturing push and shove fight, followed by a more legitimate tussle. All with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge towering over the fracas. As NBC Sports Boston pointed out, the Red Sox players followed baseball protocol when they rallied around their teammate. But is protocol broken? By way of historical context, consider that baseball has a long history of unwritten rules, especially about fighting and retribution. The game has a byzantine code of dos and don’ts. There are, as Paul Dickson summed them up, the “hoodoos, superstitions and rituals” of baseball. Then there’s the stuff that will cause payback. Stand a watch your towering homerun from home plate?  Recklessly take out an infielder attempting to turn a double play?  “Nobody did that stuff,” Yogi Berra explained. “You just respected the game.” At least players were supposed to respect the game. As long as the remembered its unwritten rules.     

The Newest Revolutionary Manager

Maybe it’s going to be Gabe Kapler that finally, really revolutionizes baseball. The Philadelphia Phillies’ new manager is wonderfully profiled by Tom Verducci in a wide ranging piece that discusses analytics, fluorescent lighting, and shirtlessness. We at the National Pastime Museum wish Kapler well. But we’d also like to point out that he’s only the most recent incarnation of a long trend: the maverick manager. The manager who’s willing to try something new, and who (and this is important) gets attention from the press as being innovative. From Ed Barrow to Tony La Russa, MLB managers have tried, and sometimes succeeded in, changing the way baseball is played. The Cubs even tried having rotating managers. Experimentation has become a tradition. And that’s why, as Bob Klapisch pointed out, managers still matter. A lot.