Baseball Turns 100, April 1, 1969
April 1, 2009 | 8:00 am
Ross Newhan's story explained the confusing reasons for the event, "the second time in 30 years that we have paused to observe baseball's 100th anniversary." The Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869 signed their players to season-long contracts, making it the first all-professional team.
What I found most interesting was Newhan's assessment of the game in 1969 and how things have changed since then.
"Baseball's bats appear broken. Only six major league hitters finished with averages above .300 last year. In one fifth of all games there was a shutout. Over the last six seasons, home runs have dropped from 3,000 to 1,944. Mickey Mantle has retired and the years weigh on Willie Mays. Expansion has diluted the talent and the emphasis is on pitching and defense."
That brand of baseball seems like 100 years ago.
Bill Rigney was optimistic and excited about the Angels, who then got off to a slow start that cost him his job. Walter Alston liked the kids coming up in the Dodgers' system and said the older players knew their potential replacements were "only a telephone call away."
He was especially excited about Ted Sizemore. "This is the boy who was converted from catching to the outfield with Spokane last year and from the outfield to second base during the winter," Alston wrote. "So I got into the act, too, and converted him from a second baseman to shortstop in our fifth spring game.
"We are still wondering where some of our Dodgers can play but I'm still looking for a spot this kid CAN'T play."
Sizemore was the National League's rookie of the year in 1969, then was traded to the Cardinals after the 1970 season in a deal that sent Dick Allen to the Dodgers.