Roger Angel predicted MLB’s predicament, 57 years ago

I didn’t watch the All-Star game on Tuesday night, but I wasn’t making a statement. I forgot that it was on. I suppose that’s something of a statement in and of itself. The game has become a celebration of Major League Baseball’s gimmickry rather than a celebration of the players– witness the awful uniforms, for example. Part of the fun used to be seeing all those players in their own uniforms gathered in the same dugout. You might even see Cardinal Lou Brock sporting Billy Williams’ Chicago Cubs helmet. A small detail, but a cool one, nonetheless.

Interestingly, while updating Safe at Home: A Season in the Valley, I came across this quote from Roger Angel, one I had forgotten I had used:

Baseball’s clock ticks inwardly and silently, and a man absorbed in a ball game is caught in a slow, green place of removal and concentration and in a tension that is screwed up slowly and ever more tightly with each pitcher’s windup and with the almost imperceptible forward lean and little half-step with which the fielders accompany each pitch. Whatever the pace of the particular baseball game we are watching, whatever its outcome, it holds us in its own continuum and mercifully releases us from our own. Any persistent effort to destroy this unique phenomenon, to “use up” baseball’s time with planned distractions, will in fact transform the sport into another mere entertainment and thus hasten its descent to the status of a boring and stylized curiosity

This is taken from The Summer Game, written in 1965, i.e. 57 years ago.

There has been a “persistent” and sadly, successful effort to destroy baseball’s continuum and now we are stuck, at least on the major league level, with mere entertainment. And what is the main complaint of the suits who run the game? It’s boring, just as Angel predicted over half a century ago.

Ladies and gentlemen of MLB, you have made it so.

AL All-Stars, Washington, 1969. Frank Howard was the only guy who made Boog Powell look small.

About Austin Gisriel

You know the guy that records a baseball game from the West Coast in July and doesn't watch it until January just to see baseball in the winter? That's me. I'm a writer always in search of a good story, baseball or otherwise.
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6 Responses to Roger Angel predicted MLB’s predicament, 57 years ago

  1. Allyn says:

    I also didn’t watch the All-Star Game. Like you, there was no statement. I just didn’t care.

    It’s a meaningless exhibition game, one that has grown increasingly loud, gimmicky, and self-important over the last twenty years as MLB tries to plaster over the inherent meaninglessness of the game. There was a time when I would vote for the all-stars, but with the confusing rounds and second chances MLB has added to get fans more hyped, all it’s done is turn me off even more.

    I’ve seen fans suggest “fixes” to the ASG over the years, including a midseason, multi-game tournament, but why? Any “fix” doesn’t address the central issue — it’s still just a meaningless game. Maybe the fix is to retire it for ten years and return to it when — or if — there’s actually demand for it.

    If the All-Star Game went away, I don’t know that I’d miss it.

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    • Well-said, Allyn. And to think, in the early ’60s, there were TWO All-Star games played, one coming at season’s end. I think the diminution of the ASG began when inter-league play was adopted.

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      • Allyn says:

        That’s exactly it. When trades between leagues were extremely rare and there was no interleague play, an exhibition game where your location faves get a chance to show their skills against players they would otherwise never, ever face has a built-in appeal. Now you can see your favorite players square off against the opposite league in spring training (once a very limited thing, only followed by the hardest of the hard core; now a very mainstream thing and commonly broadcast on television) and for something like a third of the regular season. The historical cachet has become lost.

        The next thing that’s coming is the expansion to 32 teams, probably by the end of the decade. We’ll end up with an awful situation of 8 divisions of 4 teams each. Some historical rivalries will end, the lines between the leagues will blur even further in some of the proposals I’ve seen. I’ll become an old man yelling at the clouds the day that happens.

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      • Well said, Allyn. They don’t know what to do with Tampa and Oakland, but sure, let’s find 2 more cities and dilute the talent even further! Maybe Harrisburg will get a team. (See you tomorrow night, I hope!)

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  2. Tom Newkirk says:

    Sad.

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