1950 VS. 1990
Accolades to Peter Gammons on his fine article 1950 vs. 1990, A Tale of Two Eras (April 16). In my mind there is no question that 1990's players on the whole are more talented because of superior training, size and strength, but I wish I could have been around in the '50s, when baseball was played more for the love of the sport than for financial reward.
GUY H. STRICKER
New Palestine, Ind.
In 1950 there were more minor leagues feeding the major leagues, but people forget about the second "minor league" system that is feeding pro baseball today. College baseball is now a big sport. In the late '40s the top high school players who wanted to make it to the big leagues would probably have signed with the pros. Today that is not the case. With fall and spring schedules at their schools and with summer leagues, top college baseball players are getting extensive training for three or four years before entering the pro ranks.
The aluminum bat used by college players may have a negative effect on their hitting, but otherwise most skills are being developed in college baseball just as well as or better than they were in the very low minors of years ago.
Gammons mentions the short 300-foot porch in rightfield at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, but not the screen that required any ball hit in that direction to reach the upper deck in order to be a home run.
He also writes of the "few square yards" of centerfield real estate that Pirate outfielders patrolled. But another writer once described it as "slightly smaller than the Gobi Desert."
The dimensions of Forbes were these: leftfield, 335 feet; left center power alley, 355 feet; centerfield, 457 feet; right center power alley, 408 feet; rightfield, 300 feet.
In addition, leftfield had a huge hand-operated scoreboard that had to be cleared for a homer, and centerfield was so vast that the batting cage was parked there during games.
BASEBALL IN CANADA
I was more than a little surprised by Peter Gammons's statement ('Money Can't Buy Me Love,' April 23) that Toronto lacks a professional baseball history. I saw my first pro ball game, an International League contest, in 1959 at Maple Leaf Stadium in Toronto. At that time, the baseball Leafs had been around for 73 years and would last another eight before folding in '67. Toronto has a long pro baseball history. Organized teams date from the 1880s, and the city joined the International League in 1886.
Toronto is the city where Babe Ruth, playing for the Providence Grays, hit his first professional home run, on Sept. 5, 1914. And it was in Montreal that Jackie Robinson played for the Montreal Royals before breaking the major league color barrier.
GUILTY, BUT LET ME EXPLAIN
I would like to defend myself in regard to your SCORECARD item that said I hurt my thumb while removing my socks (April 9). This is the second time this incident has been mentioned in your magazine. The first time was in the summer of 1985, and I have never been given a chance to explain what really happened.
In my three years with the Braves, I was both a utility infielder and the third catcher. In the latter capacity, I warmed up pitchers in the bullpen, which is how my left thumb got messed up in the first place. Ken Dayley threw a 90-mph-plus fastball that dipped at the last second and caught me square on the thumb. All catchers have taken one in the same way at some time in their careers. The thumb is bent back farther than it is meant to be, and it is very painful.
As a result of that incident, the ligaments in the second knuckle of the thumb were strained, and they never fully healed. And, yes, two years later, after a game, I reinjured my thumb when I caught it as I was removing my sticky, sweat-soaked uniform socks. But I never missed a game or a practice because of the injury; I even had my best round of batting practice right after the initial injury. I think then—Atlanta Braves manager Eddie Haas was just looking for an excuse to send me to the minors, and this was the one he used.
This is not meant in any way to be critical of the Braves. They gave me a chance to play in the big leagues, something I never thought I would get. I just don't want to be remembered as the idiot who dislocated his thumb taking off his socks.
I am both an art director and a basketball junkie, and my fiancèe, Laura Jean Uckermark, is a good sport, so here's the wedding invitation that we sent out.
Cliffside Park, N.J.
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