A View From Studio 3: Baseball 50 years ago
Like millions of Americans, I love baseball and its rich history. Like millions of Americans, I am beyond intrigued with the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. My DVR has been working overtime recording documentaries about one of our country's darkest days. First-hand accounts of the tragedy send chills down your spine. Watching the Zapruder film still makes your jaw drop. You can see new details each and every time it's played.
Rewind, play, pause … rewind, play, pause.
Critical moments in world history viewed over and over and over. One angle, one camera, and a half-century later, still thousands of unanswered questions.
Given our ability in 2013 to document every moment in our lives and deliver them to a worldwide audience in a split second, it seems inconceivable that in 1963 it took the better part of a half-hour for news of the President's shooting to spread outside of Dealey Plaza.
Wednesday, while catching up on a few unwatched Kennedy programs, I was catapulted back to into today's reality when baseball news broke. The Prince Fielder /Ian Kinsler trade was complete. Emails, tweets and a text message from a friend came rolling in. The deal was done, and almost instantly, everyone knew about it and millions provided instant analysis. Breaking news of any kind in today's world doesn't resemble breaking news in decades gone by.
Think about that.
A baseball trade. A tiny news event that has little or no impact outside of the game. Yet, it had the sports world and the social media world abuzz. That made me think and wonder about how different life is now than it must have been in 1963. I have no sure way of knowing. Obviously, the way information is shared is dramatically different. But I decided to examine how our great game of baseball has changed. Hoping that would provide some perspective.
In November 1963, baseball was a month removed from a Dodgers World Series sweep against the Yankees. Sandy Koufax was Series MVP and becoming a household name. Yogi Berra was still active but coming to the end of his brilliant career. New York was nearing the end of a dynasty that saw it play in 22 World Series in a 29-year time frame. Safe to say, we will never see that happen again. Oh, and the final game of that '63 Fall Classic was played on Oct. 6. Nearly a month earlier than the World Series ends with the current four-round format.
A half-century ago, Major League Baseball was still six years away from dividing the two leagues into four divisions. The cities of Atlanta, San Diego, Oakland, Arlington and Montreal had no Major League baseball.
Many of the cities that had teams were drawing fewer than 1 million fans per season. Fewer than 10,000 fans per game. The Dodgers, meanwhile, were a blockbuster hit in Los Angeles, drawing 2.5 million fans to brand-new Dodger Stadium. Today, Dodger Stadium is the third-oldest ballpark in the game. Since 1963, dozens of stadiums have been built. Dozens have been torn down or abandoned.
Fifty years ago, the designated hitter didn't exist, and as incredible as it seems, wearing a batting helmet was optional.
Free agency was a term never used. In fact, the minimum player's salary was less than $7,000 per year. It would be another decade before players were free to sign with clubs of their choice. Labor peace was never a problem because the players' union, while in existence, was barely active.
Baseball. Ever changing and forever providing perspective on time and events inside and outside of the game. A game that pales in comparison to real-world events and real-world problems. But as we reach the 50-year anniversary of Kennedy's death, it provides a reference point for those of us who weren't around on Nov. 22, 1963.
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. Follow him on twitter @mattyallofmlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.