Well, you wanted to know the best thing to come out of my “stay home quarantine.” Truth be told, we managed to get out yesterday, for lunch at O’Charley’s, after which we stopped at our recently-reopened Starbucks, bought a couple of drinks through the drive-thru, then sat in the parking lot, in the car, drinking them. It was strange being a nearly-empty restaurant and sitting in the parking lot of a place we go all the time to sit for several hours, but it was nice to get out of the house.
When we got home, I sat and watched videos on YouTube, and discovered that someone had loaded all the episodes of the 1960 show Home Run Derby out there, and I’ve been binge-watching them. The players were the top power hitters in the major leagues in 1959, most of whom were still playing when I was growing up. Each match would pit two of the sluggers against each other, one of whom was the winner from the previous week. They would play a nine-inning “game” with each player coming up to bat in each inning. Only the home runs counted; anything else was an out. At the end of 9 innings (or 8 1/2 if the winner from the week before was ahead), the winner received a check for $2000, while the loser received $1000. Any player who hit three home runs in a row received an extra $500.
It struck me as I watched the games how different things are today. The players looked and acted the part: their uniforms were worn correctly, they were clean-shaven and generally without visible tattoos. More importantly, they were polite to each other. No trash talk, no heckling the guy from the bench, not badmouthing their opponent while they were talking to Mark Scott, the announcer, no arguing with the umpire. In short, they were gentlemen, shaking hands, wishing their opponent luck, being good winners and losers.
They played the games at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, which was built to similar specifications as the one in Chicago (the Cubs had a farm team, the Angels, in Los Angeles before the Dodgers moved there). It was in the middle of a neighborhood, and you could see houses on the other side of the left-field wall. (I wonder how many windows the sluggers broke?)
While I and other baseball fans await the beginning of the season, watching old games and shows like Home Run Derby keeps us happy, and still connected to the game, and perhaps to our baseball heritage.