Check out this glorious old photo from the 1937 All Star Game featuring seven American League players. From left to right, Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx and Hank Greenberg. All seven would eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame. Just the picture itself conjures up images of depression-era baseball where fans would still manage to scrape together the 75 cents needed for a ticket to the game. Those who couldn't afford the ticket price would huddle around small radios. They might even catch first inning action if they had remembered to warm up the radio in advance of the game's start time. Young boys would play pick-up games of baseball in any empty neighborhood lot, or in the street where a manhole cover might make the perfect makeshift home plate. A group of 10 boys might be able to come up with a couple of bats and a few gloves that both teams would share with no regard to actual ownership of said items. Baseball was an escape from the troubles and hardships of the depression. Yankee greats like Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio still brought an impressive number of fans to the ballpark, but player salaries were cut as a result of the reduction in attendance at most games. Even so, life was good and it was good to be a baseball player with a job in the 1930s. If you doubt this, you need only refer to the words of the great Lou Gehrig who, despite being given the diagnosis of his terminal illness only weeks before, declared himself the "luckiest man on the face of the Earth" because he felt privileged just for the opportunity to be a part of it all. This, the Golden Age of Baseball, cemented the notion of baseball as our National Pastime.
Baseball traditionalists get this. No. Actually, they FEEL this with every fiber of their being. Those of us who love the game feel entrusted with this sacred history and gladly accept the role as guardian of its purity and significance. This (admittedly, self-appointed) stewardship leads us to sometimes do crazy things (like contact a baseball club when they erect an ugly blue sign on a previously pristine and architecturally significant ballpark). We can't help ourselves. Any offense to the game and its history eats away at us with that gnawing "something just isn't right about this" feeling and we feel compelled to say something.
I've had this same unsettled feeling ever since I watched the All Star Game the other night. As batter after batter approached the plate, I noticed a disturbing trend. First, I noticed the neon yellow batting gloves, then the neon spikes and then finally a full neon compression sleeve extending from the uniform of A's third baseman, Josh Donaldson. Now maybe it's just me, but unless there was a post-game Wham concert that I was unaware of, there is no place in baseball for neon. Baseball is all about tradition and history. Baseball is timeless. Trendy fashion accessories have no place in the game. Let us fondly remember days past when the only thing about a baseball great that screamed, "Look at me!" was his batting average or his ERA. Photos taken from these games are passed down for generations and no one wants to look back on these moments captured in time with the type of what-was-I-thinking feeling we get when seeing our yearbook photos from a time when we thought scrunchies and parachute pants were a good look. So, Major League Baseball, I'm calling you out and asking you to stop the madness. Guard the dignity of the game in honor of all of the greats that came before us, and for the benefit of all of the young boys who should be playing pick-up games in the streets instead of lining up at the local sporting goods stores to buy neon baseball gear. Don't let this be our history: