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Baseball no longer my favorite pasttime

By By Stan Torgerson / sports columnist
July 15, 2003
There was a time when baseball was indeed "The National Pastime." It was the sport fathers talked about with their sons. It was the St. Louis Cardinals' broadcasts with Harry Caray and Jack Buck, nightime required listening on KMOX, the enemy of virtually every kid's homework because who could do homework with the game on the radio in your room? You couldn't do both and the game was higher on the priority list.
It was Stan Musial of the Cardinals and Ted Williams of the Red Sox and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees as well as Luke Appling of the White Sox and so many more, box scores in the newspapers and buying bubble gum with the hope that one of your favorites would be featured on the card inside.
I was one of those kids, and later young men, who worshiped the sport. About 1946 in my first broadcast job at KGLO in Mason City, Iowa I interviewed a dieing Babe Ruth who came to a little town named Storm Lake to inspire the players in an American Legion Tournament. His face was sunken like the Indian on the nickel of that day and his throat cancer had changed his voice to a hoarse, guttural sound that made you agonize over the effort he was making to be heard.
I broadcast baseball for a then Milwaukee Braves farm club at Eau Claire, Wisconsin in the Northern league when Henry Aaron was sent was sent to us as a rookie and had the honor of calling the first home run Aaron ever hit in organized ball, but who knew then he would go on to be the greatest home run hitter of all time?
On that same team was a youngster named Billy Bruton who went on to a fine major league career. The manager of the Eau Claire Braves was Bill Adair. If your memory goes back far enough I don't have to tell you who he was.
Later, in my days behind the microphone for the Memphis Chicks, day in and day out I watched and described one of the greatest shortstops in the history of the game, Louis Aparacio, who also went on to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
For about six of my years with the Ole Miss basketball team my partner was Donnie Kessinger who, also a shortstop, became almost a legend with the Chicago Cubs and played in, if memory serves me correctly, seven major league all star games. And I will never forget our trip to Chicago to broadcast an NIT game when we walked into a downtown restaurant and the place almost stopped dead still when someone said, "There's Donnie Kessinger," and the autograph party began.
All of that background and still, and I'm almost embarrassed to say this, when I look at the rosters of this week's all star baseball game I probably don't recognize half of the players by their names.
Today's "National Pastime" is football. Whether pro or college, today's houshold names play on teams named Saints, Forty Niners, Packers and Buccaneers, not Tigers or White Sox, or Astros or Dodgers.
Baseball did this to themselves. They did it with labor strikes, with showing no respect one year for its premier event, the World Series, with playing an All Star game last year that ended in a tie rather than with a winner, with creating the Ted Williams award in 2001 for the outstanding player in the All Star game and then not giving it to anybody in 2002, with players magnifying injuries or other excuses not to participate in that game and with their feeble effort to build interest in what happens this week by creating a prize, home field advantage in the World Series in an attempt to make the public care. Yet, watch and see if the manager's goal isn't just to get everybody into the game rather than to win the thing.
Baseball did itself wrong by leaving off the team Roger Clemons in the year when he won his 300th game and is 8-6 with a 3.75 ERA, by snubbing Frank Thomas of the White Sox, despite being one of the most feared hitters in the game, by overlooking the hottest young pitcher in the league, Dontrelle Willis, now 8-1 and yet not an all star.
I am familiar with the names Bonds, Rodriguez, Suzuki, Helton and a few others. But who the heck are Rolen, Glaus, Posada, Willis, Castillo or Loaiza? I should know but I don't. Do I watch baseball on TV? Rarely. It moves too slowly for someone who likes the constant excitment of football.
But the crowning blow to a former kid who grew up as a White Sox fan and who has never changed, they're playing the game in Chicago, as far as I'm concerned home of Comiskey Park. Except now they call it U.S.Cellular Field. They've even screwed up the name of the place where I took my bride to a game on our honeymoon, many, many years ago.
I'll watch the game on TV but I won't really care. My heroes are named Bret, Deuce, Marshall, Warren and Michael among others. Not a stranger in that bunch.