Thursday, June 29, 2017

How long is too long for a ball game?

I recently had reason to go scouring the Internet for a baseball box score for the first ball game I ever went to live – a 1979 battle with the New York Yankees visiting Chicago to play the White Sox.
One-time White Sox pitcher Ken Kravec ...

It amazes me the amount of detail I do recall, such as eventual Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Hunter getting knocked out by the Sox within two innings (he went on to retire from the game following that season), a hard-hit line drive double by Reggie Jackson that I still recall as the hardest-hit ball I have ever seen.

AND A GRAND slam home run by Jay Johnstone of the Yankees that ultimately gave the Bronx Bombers an 8-5 victory over the ball club that was two years removed from being the South Side Hit Men.

So what’s of interest in a ballgame played some 38 seasons ago between ball clubs that finished in fifth and fourth place (Chicago and New York, respectively) in their divisions – the World Series that year involved “the Family” of Pittsburgh beating on the Baltimore Orioles?

What caught my attention was a tiny little detail at the end of the box score – listed down there with the attendance (a near-capacity crowd of 43,373 tickets sold) and the umpires for the game.

It was 2:19. That’s not a biblical verse. It’s the amount of time it took to play nine full innings of baseball on a sunny, but chilly, day in April of ’79.
... took on Hall of Famer Hunter many years ago

I’M PLANNING ON going to the White Sox game to be played Thursday night against the Yankees, and about the only thing I’m sure of is that when we’re two hours into the game, we’re not going to be anywhere close to being finished. Tuesday night’s White Sox 4-3 victory over the Yankees took 3 hours, 25 minutes to play.

Major League Baseball games may have managed to cut themselves down a little bit from the 2014 game length average of 3 hours, 8 minutes (last year, games averaged 3 hours, 26 seconds each).

But I’m going to be honest; I don’t recall anything significantly brief or prompt about that first game all those years ago. We have managed to drag down the pace of play to the point where many people have been lulled into thinking what we have now is somehow normal.
Foley achieved highlight in promptly-played game

I also found it odd the way that when the White Sox paid tribute a week ago to now-retired pitcher Mark Buehrle, several people went out of their way to offer up their praise for the way he used to be capable of pitching efficiently to the point where his games could last ONLY two-and-a-half hours on average.

IN SHORT, BUEHRLE would have been the norm back when I was a kid. Now, he gets great praise for doing what everyone used to be capable of doing. It also helped to reinforce the point that when Comcast Sports Chicago chose to rebroadcast the 2009 no-hit perfect game Buehrle pitched against the Tampa Bay Rays, the total broadcast took barely over two hours to complete.

I’ll be honest – the current pace of play is such that around 10 p.m. Thursday night, I’m going to be thinking seriously about whether I need to leave the ballgame early to catch the proper commuter trains to get back home.

Or will seeing the entirety of a ball game be worth not actually getting home until about Midnight?

Now I know there are some baseball fans who argue that the issue of a game’s pace is overexaggerated. They claim they’re baseball fans, and they want MORE game for their money. So who cares how long it goes, or if some games can approach the four-hour mark in length.
It wasn't Cocoa Puffs the Comiskey scoreboard went cuckoo for

PERSONALLY, I HAVE always thought that a quick-paced ball game is a well-played one. A game that drags out is usually one where the pitching stinks, the defense is bobbling the ball about and the sloppiness of play has overtaken everything.

For what I pay these days to get a ticket to see a major league ballgame, I’d want to see something of quality. That doesn’t mean artificially drawn out.

It even produces memories such as the first time I ever actually saw the Comiskey Park scoreboard go cuckoo with the fireworks and light show for a Sox home run. Catcher Marv Foley hit one of the 12 home runs he ever hit during five seasons of playing major league ball – and he did it off a future Hall of Famer.

Maybe Foley and I are the only ones who remember the shot. But it is moments like this that make baseball fun to watch, no matter how much some people want to muck it up with games that drag out forever.


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