Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Has It Really Been 30 Years?

As sports fanatics, we all use the events around our favorite teams and players to reflect back to our youth. When I think of growing up in Queens, NY in the seventies, I recall the lean years of the Mets and the resurgence of the once dynastic Yankees. The NFL and NBA in the seventies were not all that relevant in New York City, as it had been a decade since Joe Willie shocked the world, Bill Parcells was a few years away, and the Knicks Championship years seemed a distant memory. As for hockey, the Rangers continued to be a running punchline, and the Isles were still in their embryonic stage. There was always passion for baseball however.

In 1979, the Yankees were fresh of back-to-back World Series titles, the team’s first since 1962, also the inaugural year for the Metropolitans. “Pops” Stargell and the “We are Family” Pirates celebrated with the Steelers in “The City of Champions”, after overcoming a 3-1 Series deficit to the Orioles. While the Steelers would go on to capture 2 more Super Bowl titles in the new millennium, the Pirates, save for a brief pre-steroid Barry Bonds playoff run, would plunge to the depths of Major League Baseball, culminating in the team’s current run of 17 straight losing seasons.

Thirty years ago, there was no Wild Card playoff berth, the Brewers were an American League team, and there was a Canadian team called the Montreal Expos. In 2009, the Wild Card berth has drastically changed the landscape of September baseball, the Brewers are a National League team, and the Montreal Expos are now the Washington Nationals. There is one other “minor” difference in today’s game….the impact of modern economics.

When I attended Game 6 of the 1977 World Series at Yankee Stadium (yes, the one where Reggie smacked three straight HR’s….and yes, I’m a lifelong Mets fan), my Upper Deck ticket cost $10. When the 2009 World Series kicks off in about a week, I won’t be able to park my car for $10.

While it wouldn’t be realistic to expect the cost of attending a baseball game to remain the same after the passage of 30 years, I am saddened by the fact that my experiences as a young fan cannot possibly be replicated by my son and today’s youth. I had the good fortune to be able to take a bus or train to Shea Stadium, walk up to the ticket window and plunk down 3 bucks for an Upper Deck General Admission ticket. At those prices, even a kid that earned 15 or twenty dollars a week from his paper route could take in a bunch of games each year.

This is my inaugural article for Baseball Reflections, so I don’t want to introduce myself as a complainer…..although that would be quite easy, as I sit back once again and watch the Yankees storm through the post-season, while the Mets lick their wounds and look towards February.

Three decades after my love affair with baseball began, although I do not have the time to watch or attend as many games as I once did, my passion remains high. In 2009, I can live in Atlanta, and watch practically every MLB game that is played on a once unimaginably large screen, with a lifelike defined image. If it’s the bottom of the ninth, and my team is rallying, I can press a button on my remote control, step away to refresh my beverage, and return to the game without missing a pitch. There’s a price to pay for thirty years of advancement, but those that are technological in nature are well worth it.

With so many years of memories and experiences, I could take this article through the World Series and into Spring Training. I will however close out my maiden voyage on Baseball Reflections by thanking Peter for the opportunity to share my thoughts with his readers. I look forward to a weekly visit, and more trips down memory lane.

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