The World Series welcomes back baseball’s casual fan with open arms every October. America’s pastime, has become just that, a relic of a distant sporting era.
Baseball guys that grind out 162 games are few and far between. The NFL has emerged as king, and other sports like soccer are gaining more steam with MLB’s would-be secondary fan market.
While the Fall Classic brings seasonal fans to the table. The sport as a whole has an ongoing problem with their current crop of ‘gatekeepers’ unintentionally building walls that prevent the potential growth of the game.
Baseball used to be fun.
Baseball used to have character.
More accurately, baseball used to have characters.
Guys like Dock Ellis are a rare breed in 2021. If you’re not familiar with the legend that is Dock Phillip Ellis Jr., you need to watch this video immediately.
Ellis’ career will always be overshadowed by his drug and alcohol use, but he was more than that to baseball. Dock was an outspoken, unapologetic, black player in the 70s. He was fearless on and off the mound, and must see TV…if you could even watch live games on TV back then.
Ellis took the bump in the 1st ever all black starting line up in 1971 with the Pirates (he gave up 3 earned runs, lasted 1.1 innings, and walked 4, but who’s counting). Pittsburgh won the World Series that year, and Ellis won 19 games.
Tom Verducci, a steward of Major League Baseball would disapprove of Dock’s flamboyant lifestyle. Verducci, a big proponent of what he considers integrity, wouldn’t find the above LSD video entertaining either. Tom is too busy talking about his character clause, so it’d only be, ‘just and due’ to release my own character clause to even out the playing field.
Do you remember guys like Kyle Farnsworth? Of course you do.
Grooving 101 mile per hour fastballs right down the heart of the plate, and repeatedly taken deep by the opposition. This 6’4, 230 pound Kansan, was an absolute flamethrower. Yes, he did give up his fair share of homers, 132 to be exact, but he also managed to shell out a modest amount of haymakers himself too.
In 2003 with the Cubs, Farnsworth was confronted by Reds pitcher Paul Wilson…it didn’t end up being much of a challenge, as the Cincinnati right-hander was pummeled by a perfect form tackle delivered from Farnsworth.
If his stature alone wasn’t intimidating enough, his persona at the ballpark was, even if he wasn’t pitching. During a 2005 bench-clearing brawl between the Tigers and Royals, Jeremy Affeldt felt the brunt of this when he was on the wrong end of an impeccably executed suplex by Farnsworth.
Kyle Farnsworth played for 9 different teams over the span of 16 years in the bigs. After being cut by the Astros, he tried out for, and made a semi-pro football team recording 11 sacks as a pass rusher in one season. Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders...Kyle Farnsworth.
Ken Rosenthal; another caretaker of the game doesn’t watch baseball to see a pitcher put on a clinic in the art of form tackling. A huge bow tie guy (which he wears for a good cause, and should be recognized), Rosenthal prefers sportsmanship and guidelines. For the MLB fan that tunes in every now and again, the bow tie guy is flat out boring, don’t take my word for it, just look at the players…they look thrilled to talk to this guy.
You know who wasn't boring? Randall Simon.
A free-swinging hefty lefty, Simon was known for taking wild cuts at anything inside, and outside of the K-Zone. He was a notorious bad ball hitter that didn’t wear batting gloves, and dug out the back of the batter’s box violently, while smacking his hand on his right quad after every pitch.
His most memorable moment on the field came in 2003, when he hit a 2-run homer in game 3 of the NLCS for the Cubs.
His most infamous moment came off the field, when he hit an Italian racing sausage with a bat while standing in the visitor’s dugout. The incident portrayed Simon as a guy with an angry demeanor and a screw-loose.
You probably didn’t know that the woman in the meat costume thought the situation was blown out of proportion, and that Simon would go on to pay for her to vacation in his native Curacao free of charge.
Being a staunch advocate for baseball’s imaginary rules and regulations is uninteresting and stale.
Guys like Bob Uecker, José Lima (rip), Ron Washington, or even the entire 2003 Red Sox bullpen…those are the guys that give baseball life.
Winston Wolf said, “just because you are a character, doesn't mean that you have character.”
But sometimes a guy can have it, and be it.