Glory Days of the 50s and 60s
Oh, for the good old days when Major League Baseball meant two leagues, 16 teams and a playoff format spelled WORLD SERIES.
That’s right … the best team in each league, best-of-seven, and Shazzam!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t go around talking about walking five miles to school in two feet of snow. I actually prefer automobiles to the horse and buggy and I love air-conditioning.
Baseball, though – I’ve got to admit being somewhat stuck in the 1950s and 60s. I still follow the game closely, and I certainly have great admiration for Pujols, Halladay, Jeter and Chipper. Not so much for the Steroid Gang, always wondering what their numbers should really be.
Some folks may feel the 50s were boring, with the Yankees and Dodgers seemingly meeting every October. But we knew the world was right when that happened. It was something we could count on, along with the Splendid Splinter and Stan the Man batting .300 and Warren Spahn winning 20.
And there was something special about two of the three teams from Gotham battling it out. Ditto with tales of Willie, Mickey and the Duke patrolling center field in the hub of big league ball back then. (And, no, I am not from New York. I’m an old Southerner.)
Maz’s home run – arguably the most dramatic climax to any sports championship – ushered in the 60s, which saw huge changes which still affect baseball. After Maris broke the Babe’s record, rules were altered to slow scoring. Then, before the decade ended, it was decided that pitching had become too dominant, so the mound was lowered.
There were three expansion seasons in the 60s. The American League added two teams in 1961 and the National added two the next year. In 1969, each league added two more teams and also split into a pair of six-team divisions.
So, the majors increased by fifty percent over eight years, from 16 franchises to 24. And, while it was good to see opportunities materialize for career minor leaguers whose numbers warranted a shot at The Show, it was just as disappointing to see pitching diluted (as many feel is still the case.)
I do not like that today’s stars (i.e., their agents) can hold clubs hostage to get contracts that almost guarantee little, if any, production at the tail end.
But I also did not like that stars were once held hostage by the clubs, which basically laughed when an icon like Mickey Mantle put up unbelievable stats and then had the audacity to ask for a raise.
So, I am glad for free agency.
I have to wonder, in light of Sir Albert’s new deal, what in the world would Willie Mays get today? I guess a team would have to pay him 40 million a year and throw in half ownership.
Getting down to what I plan to do here – I want to simply share memories I love. More specifically, I will be reviving many of the Glory Days, how I refer to the 50s and 60s.
We’ll be talking about Little Looie and Nellie; Rocky and his flying home runs; Terry’s dad, Tito Francona, and the year his highest average did not win a batting title; about the original Big Red Machine; several workhorse hurlers who never heard of pitch counts; and much more.
It should be fun. Looking back always is, and after all, nostalgia is what baseball is all about.