Well, the onset on COVID-19 has certainly impacted this blue marble we live on so we need to do what we can in order to get through this.
On other words, we don’t go down our own path, contrary to what health officials are recommending.
That was my soap box speech.
I am in self-isolation and with no current sports to watch I was hoping our two national sports networks would dig into the archives and give us some classics. I see plenty of Maple Leaf hockey games and last years Raptors history making run but not much else. So, I have turned to YouTube to quench my thirst. Major League Baseball is on my list of searches and I have come up with some dandy choices for codgers my age who can recall some of these games.
I started with Game Seven of the 1971 World Series between the Pirates and Orioles as it was one of those matchups which featured a bit of everything. Plus, I was a huge Roberto Clemente fan growing up.
Baltimore had three 20-game winners in Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson and Jim Palmer but also had 21 game winner Dave McNally to throw at batters which made for a powerful foursome to face.
The Pirates countered with offence in the form of Willie Stargell who slammed 48 home runs and added 125 rbi’s. Bob Robertson hit 26 dingers with 72 rbi’s and the great Roberto Clemente hit .341 at the age of 37. It was to be his last World Series and final curtain on the big stage as he died in a plane crash, December 1972.
The Pirates pitching staff was to be their weak link according to the pundits with Doc Ellis (19 wins) and Steve Blass (15 Wins) as their aces. Solid but didn’t really instill fear in other teams.
Blass came out and won two games, including the game seven complete game clincher. Clemente hit safely in all seven games and was the MVP, the first time a Spanish-speaking player earned that honour.
The Orioles hung tough due to their pitching and the outstanding play of third baseman Brooks Robinson, the Human Vacuum Cleaner.
But it was the Pirates year, winning World series number two in their history. Some things stood out for me in this series as it relates to the way the game is played now.
We have seen teams use the shift to defend against certain players and the Pirates used it during this series so this is nothing new as some might have you believe. We also saw games where the bullpen was essentially a cheering squad. Starters did manage to go the distance many times. The Orioles had one game where they used all three of their 20 game winners to preserve a win.
It was also very interesting to see a pitched ball hit the ground and kept in play. These days a new ball is brought in each time there is a smudge on the ball. A ball’s lifespan can be one pitch if it heads into the stands as a souvenir. Many are taken out of play after hitting the dirt or even after a base hit. Most wind up as batting practice balls or shipped to minor league teams.
The games moved along at a very good pace back then and there could be several reasons for that, including replay challenges not being in existence or the habit of changing pitchers to face one batter. Game one was played in 2:06 and the longest game was the ten inning Baltimore win which clocked in at 2:59.
Another stark difference between then and now was how much the players got for their effort. The winners share was $18,165 and the losers took home $13,906. In 2019, Washington National players banked $382,358 and Houston players tucked away $256,030.
My how times have changed.