Missing the DH… the Doubleheader!

I don’t know what I miss most about baseball when I was a kid; pitchers who often went the distance for their W or L, or doubleheaders. There was a time when you could plan a whole day and night around baseball. You might be able to catch two games in about 5 hours. If your favorite team lost the first one, you still had a chance to see a victory. Now in the days of teams charging for everything, and baseball players unions arguing steadfastly against them, doubleheaders are almost a rarity as a pitcher finishing a season with 20 complete games.

Of the 8 seasons Nolan Ryan pitched for the halos, five of those seasons saw Ryan pitch 20 complete games or more. If you’re young and you’re saying to yourself that Ryan was a freak, and was probably the only man macho enough to do that, you’re wrong. Ryan only led the league once in those five seasons. Pitchers went the distance. There was no 6th inning guy, 7th inning hold expert, 8th inning setup man, and only semi-frequently was there a 9th inning closer. These starters got the assignment for the day, and unless they got tattooed, they typically went the distance.

In 1974, Ryan started 41 games and pitched 332.2 innings. 26 of those starts were complete games. And while Ryan is a Hall of Famer and one of the dominant arms in the games at the time, many other pitchers threw as many innings and CGs, as the powerful righty. Ferguson Jenkins threw 29 complete games that year, along with 328 innings. In fact 1974 saw 7 AL pitchers over 300 innings, and 9 guys with 20 or more saves in the junior circuit. Baseball introduced the save in 1969, and HOF Rollie Fingers was the top man in 1974 with 24. He still pitched in 76 games, and had a record of 9-5 as a reliever.

Today the complete game still exists, but in far less frequency. Last season not one pitcher had 20 compete games in the American League. Roy Halladay led the league with 9. And a handful of guys are tied for 9th place in the AL, with 2. If you love baseball from decades past, you have to love that Nolan Ryan has stepped it up in Texas. He’s eliminated pitch counts, and basically all babying of pitchers. I read about a year ago how disgusted he was with one of this pitchers. Without revealing who the pitcher was, Ryan said in about the 5th inning the pitcher was nearing a pitch count of about 90. On each subsequent pitch, he’d look into the dugout. This pitcher was eyeballing the pitching coach and manager to come get him. He wasn’t hurt. He was nearing that magical number. They are reteaching the pitching psychology in Texas, and while it pains me to this day, that the Ryan ever wore another uniform after 1979, I admire his approach in Arlington.

Sadly while I do enjoy a good pitchers duel, even in an 8-6 game, I really long for doubleheaders. First there were doubleheaders that counted in the standings, then in Anaheim, there were doubleheaders that were a dream for kids. I wasn’t alive in 1967, but here’s an ad for one of the greatest promotions of all time courtesy of Yesterland.com. Really what could rival this? An afternoon at the ballpark, and an evening in Frontierland and Tomorrowland. I am old enough to remember the last few of these promotions in the 70s. But as a kid, I loved the Angels more than Mickey Mouse. So I more appreciated Willie Mays’ promotion of “lets play two!”

In 1974, the Angels played in 8 SCHEDULED double headers. It was a Saturday or Sunday you could plan on spending catching 8-10 ABs from your favorite player. And they did it in respectable time. The combined times for the Angels’ doubleheaders than year were 5:21, 4:43, 4:15, 5:35, 5:16, 4:49, 4:20, and 4:32. In 2009, the Yankees and Red Sox first 8 games finished in times of 4:57, 4:21, 4:21, 3:48, 3:47, 3:04, 3:23 and 3:39. A doubleheader nowadays is extremely rare. They are forced upon teams and players unions vote against them. Often times teams and players would rather fly across the country on an off day to get the game in, instead of playing a day/night doubleheader. Every once in a while there will be a rain out in September and no chance of making up the game without playing two. But those old-fashioned day/nights at the ballpark are long gone. I know now my kids couldn’t handle sitting in the park for 5 hours to watch two games. But as for that $5 Angels-Disneyland promotion, they’d definitely soar for that California Adventure, sotospeak.


~ by sotospeaks on August 31, 2010.

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