Doug Wolter: Where have you gone, Dick McAuliffe?
I’m trying to care. I want to return to the game I loved as a child. But it’s hard.
When you’re a baseball fan, you know you’re getting old when lots of the players you idolized when you were younger begin to die off. Over the last year or so, my childhood hero, the Detroit Tigers’ Al Kaline, passed away at 85. Gone also are Lou Brock, Tommy Lasorda, Bob Gibson, Joe Morgan, Whitey Ford, and many other familar names -- even the peerless Hank Aaron.
At this moment, major league baseball is being defined by a work stoppage, or lockout. Whatever you want to call it, it threatens once again the sanctity of our “national sport” as owners and players once again prove to us how cynical and selfish they can be.
I’m trying to care. I want to return to the game I loved as a child. But it’s hard. I missed almost an entire baseball season last year, frustrated at the burgeoning politicization of the game -- the sports’ willingness to sell out so many of their most dedicated fans for no good reason.
Makes me long for the good ol’ days.
I watched a replay on the baseball network last night from the 2001 World Series. Interesting, I think, that it is at least as enjoyable to watch that old game as it is to watch one from 2021.
I see that some baseball writer penned a column online discussing Hall of Fame controversies, but I’m really not interested. Perhaps it’s because I became a verified senior citizen in November, turning 65, that I prefer to remember my favorite baseball fan years not so much dominated by the very best players I saw, but for the pantheon of personal favorites that I recall.
When you’re a kid, your baseball eyes are big. Players don’t need to be superstars to remain in a space inside your head for decade upon decade. Where have you gone, Dick McAuliffe? Jim Northrup, we hardly knew ye. Old-timers, do you remember the Minnesota Twins’ Bob Allison? Ted Uhlaender? Don Mincher?
I think it was in the 1990s that my recall abilities began to weaken regarding MLB players. I used to be able to remember entire lineups when I was a teen-ager, but now in my mature years I struggle to recognize many of the player names I come across.
This is a problem, I think, for the future of major league baseball. Not that pro baseball needs to cater to us old guys, but because with so many other sports vying for attention, there are comparatively so few younger sports fans fanatical enough to familiarize themselves with the names of the game like we used to do. I don’t want to say they’re too busy playing their PlayStations, but if it’s not that, it’s something else.
There’s just so much sports going on, and there’s a “can’t-miss” game for you to watch on TV every week. You tend to become bored with it all, but there I was on New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s Day glued to the television watching college football bowl game after bowl game. I think the only time I had a real emotion was in witnessing Iowa’s last-minute loss to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl. Can’t understand why the Hawkeyes didn’t even try to get a first down in the final three and a half minutes. Stupid. Just plain stupid.
Mostly, I was frustrated at all the commercial breaks in all of those bowl games. I guess those bowls are more about making money than satisfying the fans. But why should I talk? I still kept watching, even though there were probably more ads during those games than actual football action.
I don’t know, but the older I get the more I feel that big-time college sports and big-time professional sports take us for suckers. But what are we to do, watch more cable news shows? Yuck.
So, yeah, I’d like to become more of an MLB fan this year, if only I could. But rediscovering my “big eyes” after all these years is a hard thing to do.