Writer’s Workshop: Bingeing on “Home Run Derby”

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.

20 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Bingeing on “Home Run Derby”

  1. Eating out? it feels so great. We were so happy to eat huge sausages on hoagie rolls INSIDE a local Italian Beef eatery. They had the misfortune of opening brand new just prior to the virus shut-down, so it was tough on them I’m sure. But that hung in there with drive through until this week when they were allowed to open.

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  2. I am sick of this trash talk crap which does not teach anyone how to handle themselves with respect and some dignity. I wonder if these so called reality shows are to blame like Survivor. I have to send this to my brother who may be interested in this:)

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    1. It’s always been around, but it’s always been restricted to the field. In public, the players were all gentlemen. I think social media has had a hand in it…

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  3. Going out to eat inside a restaurant? Aren’t you the swanky one! Nothing like that is happening here. I rarely watch YouTube. Hadn’t really thought of that before…

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  4. I’d never heard of Home Run Derby, so now I’ve learned something new! How fun to see the contrast in today vs. then. Where are we headed?
    And… you have restaurants that are open for dine-in?

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    1. Yes, Georgia is opening, slowly but surely.

      I’m not exactly sure where we’re going with baseball, or pro sports in general. They’re coming very close to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. I’m concerned they’ll have to raise ticket prices so high that all but the fans with huge amounts of disposable income will have to settle for watching the games on TV (or listening on the radio). Soon, going to a game is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime proposition for most people. You don’t make new fans that way…

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  5. It’s crazy how much has changed in terms of how the men presented themselves, the prizes and even how the show was broadcast. Makes me wonder what it will all look like 50 years from now!

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    1. Remember, too, this was a time when ballplayers made so little money playing that they had to get jobs in the offseason. They needed the money, even though they were the stars in the major leagues. And they were on a very short leash: they HAD to put on a good public face, or the owner of the team (and the players, who were essentially slave labor) would cut them, and they’d have a heck of a time catching on somewhere else. Now, they don’t care. At this rate, professional sports might not even be around in 50 years…

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  6. I’ve watched these before…it’s so different and I like them much better. I don’t need 20 different camera angles and color graphs to show where the balls went.

    I’ve watched the 72-74 World Series highlights and re-watched my favorite World Series…the 1981 World Series with Howard Cosell announcing. I was 14 and my Dodgers finally beat the Yankees.

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    1. I’d just as soon listen to the games on the radio, to be honest. A good play-by-play announcer and a color commentator can do the seeing for me. If I want to see the highlights, they’re easy enough to find, and if I can’t find them it’s no big loss. I’ve been listening for over 50 years. You might say I’m used to it…

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      1. In Tennessee occasionally I would somehow get Vin Scully on radio and I would be in heaven. I think it’s when they played in Atlanta or St Louis…baseball is made for radio.

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        1. I was in Southern California on business a while back, and happened to find Vin Scully calling a game when I was in the car. I drove around most of the evening just listening to him. He was outstanding. I’ve been lucky to have heard some of the great broadcasters, guys like Scully, Jack Buck, Harry Caray (and his son was excellent), Bob Elson, Jack Brickhouse, Mel Allen, and on and on.

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          1. I did listen to Jack Buck out of St Louis the most because I could get him. They were artists at doing it. Mel Allen I only caught announcing television.

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  7. Last week I watched Game 5 of the 1969 World Series. What struck me? The crowd at Shea Stadium. The men were wearing suits and ties, the ladies were dressed up in skirts and high heels.

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    1. I know! The men were wearing fedoras, too, I’ll bet. I watched the World Series film from 1959 (White Sox vs. Dodgers) and it was the same at Comiskey Park. It was different at the LA Coliseum, but even then, they weren’t dressed like they had just come from the beach. It was a big deal to go to a ballgame.

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  8. Watched Mickey Mantle v Willie Mays myself today. Good to hear you got out of the house. Hang in there.

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    1. I started with Mickey vs. Ernie Banks and just got to where Hank Aaron lost to Wally Post after six wins. Hank made the most money on that show. Today I start with Post vs. “Dr. Strangeglove,” Dick Stuart (or as Mark Scott calls him, Dick Sturrit)…

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