4. Yesteryear

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October 5, 2012 by bdetienne

“Touch them all Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.” -Sean McDonough, after Joe Carter hit a bottom of the 9th, two-out, three run homer to win the 1993 World Series.

The MLB playoffs get underway today and the Burtogram HQ staff are excited to see the action unfold over the next four weeks as 10 teams vie for the coveted title World Series Champion. Even though it contains the same drama, excitement, nail-biting, famous (or infamous moments) and an elevation or deflation from the result as the other professional sports leagues’ championship series, there is something different about the baseball postseason. It is like taking a trip to the past.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore

Part of that is the design of the stadiums. Since Oriole Park at Camden Yards was erected in 1989, nearly every venue built for the game of baseball featured a retro look with modern amenities (Sidenote: yes, a number of stadiums feature a HD scoreboard(s) playing video, displaying stats from the game, and scores from other games in the league, as well as plush suites and ample leg room for patrons. Despite this, architects have done a masterful job of making the parks vintage looking. Alternatively, Jerry Jones built an opulent palace for the Dallas Cowboys in 2009, but it is as modern as one can get. It is functional [and beautiful], but it does not put off the same kind of vibe.) When one steps into the ballpark, they step back in time to a different era. Thankfully, the dress code has relaxed but one still gets that antiquated feel from the scenery.

Jackie Robinson steals home in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series.

Another factor that makes baseball’s finale so special is that the game one pays to see is very similar to the one that has been played for 150 years. Science and technology have played an integral role in enhancing and improving the level of athlete that plays the game, but the actual proceedings are very similar. There are still 9 innings and 3 outs for each side. Managers walk out to talk to or take out a pitcher. The game is slow, often having 20-30 seconds between pitches and taking over three hours to play. Fans stand up for the 7th inning stretch. Music is only blaring between innings or during pitching changes, not during the game. Groundskeepers come out a couple of times each game to rake the dirt in the infield. And bonus points for the bunting used during the postseason around the stadium. Same routine, year in and year out.

Two of the best radio/TV announcers of all time, Jack Buck and Harry Caray.

A third reason the baseball playoffs are unique is the commentary provided on both television and radio. Because of the long downtime between pitches and/or meetings at the mound, announcers and color commentators for baseball games are challenged with detailing not only the game action but filling in the dead space. A portion of the time is used to on the players (stats, injuries, stories, etc.). Another part describes the stadium. What is the crowd like? The weather? Funny things? Yet another slice of the pie is dedicated to the situation. What game is it in the series? Who’s ahead and behind? How did the teams arrive there? The other professional sports are moving at a much more rapid pace, at some times continual play, so the focus for the broadcasters is on the game itself, not the surroundings.

President George W. Bush throws out the first pitch before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium, only a few weeks after 9/11.

The MLB playoffs have given us several great memories. Since I started paying attention to the postseason in 1993, I witnessed game-winning home runs. Not one, but two cities end 80+ year championship droughts. Heroes, likely and unlikely, step up and deliver. Arguably one of the best World Series ever. And above them all, a way to distract people and inspire them, giving them something good to think about in the midst of recovering from one of the most tragic days in the history of the United States. Will this year add to the archives? Let’s go “back to the future” and find out.

For a complete schedule of the 2012 MLB Playoffs, click here.

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