Reader Mail

Interleague Encounters

There's no substitute for up close and in person. Also: More tales from Symphony Hall. Amnesty and enforcement. What is McCain selling? Slap shots. Plus more.

6.21.07

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TALES FROM TALLADEGA HALL
Re: Stephen M. Davis's Symphony Flags and the letters under "A Checkered Hoosier Past" in Reader Mail's Boys Will Be Boisterous:

Hopefully you can stand one more letter about applause at symphonies.

When I was in high school in Birmingham (the one in Alabama for all you Michiganders) one of my classmates and I went to the symphony. Having played an instrument and having had a lot of exposure to classical music, of course I knew not to clap between movements. However... For a particular piece during this performance, I was informed by my friend, who played the violin and lived and breathed classical music, that the first movement was so long that it was traditional to clap afterwards. (Unfortunately, not even Google can dredge up the name of the piece.) So, the first movement ends and we clap. On purpose. The only two true classical music aficionados in the entire hall. Now THAT'S pretentious. The conductor acted a bit surprised, looked over at us, and began the second movement. I decided not to listen to my friend anymore.

The Alabama Symphony Orchestra goes out of business every other year. Maybe that flag thing would be a great idea, especially with Talladega down the road. At least I could have hit my friend over the head with it.
-- Andrew J. Macfadyen, M.D.
Omaha, Nebraska

HIGH FLIES
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's America's Game Gone Lame:

I am a long-time baseball fan and most would consider me a traditionalist but I have to disagree with Lisa on this one. I am one who appreciates getting to see teams and players that I would not otherwise have the opportunity to see in person. My dad telling me about the time he saw Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play the Browns in St. Louis was an awe-inspiring tale to a young boy. Telling my sons about the time I saw Bob Gibson face Sandy Koufax at Busch Stadium in St. Louis generated a great deal more excitement than relating to them that I once watched them pitch against each other on television. Watching the stars of the game on TV is just not the same as seeing them at the ballpark. I relish the chance to take my grandchildren to the ballpark to see great players like Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds or pitchers like Tom Glavine or John Smoltz when they come to Kansas City.

I agree that the unbalanced schedule is less than ideal but then so is the playoff system itself. How many times have we seen a team that was clearly the league's best during the regular season lose a chance to go to the World Series because they were victimized by a hot team in a short League Championship Series? The purist in me says that the two best teams should be pitted against each one another in order to truly call it the World Series. Multiple divisions within each league produces imbalance when one division is clearly superior to the other ones. It could be argued that the AL Central had three of the best four teams in the American League last year but only two could go to the playoffs. Also, I don't believe that anyone would argue that the St. Louis Cardinals were the best team in baseball last year even though they won the World Series. So, should we abandon the playoff system just because the best team doesn't always make it to the championship game? I believe that would be tough sell even to purists like me.

My point is that baseball is a great game for reasons that transcend any changes made by marketing executives for the purpose of increasing fan interest or increasing revenues. In fact, some of the dumb things players and owners have done would have long ago destroyed a lesser game. For the most part, the game has remained impervious to the many alterations imposed upon it by people more concerned about the bottom line than in preserving the integrity of the game. But, I have learned that even changes that appear to in some way damage the game's structure can have a positive side. Even to someone like me who believes that no one should tamper with the tradition that makes baseball America's national pastime.
-- Rick Arand
Lee's Summit, Missouri

Overall, I agree with Lisa Fabrizio's argument against interleague play. To add to her points, the "regional rivalries" created by this new system are phony. For instance, my hometown San Diego Padres are matched up with the Seattle Mariners. And out here in my current residence, South Florida, the Marlins are paired off with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Neither one conjures up memories of the great Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry.

Whether I'm in FL or visiting family and friends in CA, I'll hear the same things from the radio/TV announcers: "Join the Padres/Marlins as they continue their rivalry against the Mariners/Devil Rays." The response is always the same from the fans: "What rivalry?" It strains credulity to create a sports rivalry out of thin air where one does not exist.

One point of disagreement: it is enjoyable to see players and teams you do not normally get to watch in person. Fabrizio argues that you can watch any team on satellite TV. But this misses the point: they're still not playing my team. When interleague play first started in 1997, it was thrilling to see the Seattle Mariners, featuring a healthy Ken Griffey, Jr., a young A-Rod, Jay Buhner, and Randy Johnson taking the same field as my beloved Padres.

Or last year, following the Marlins' second fire sale, what a thrill it was, when the Red Sox came to town, for the fans to cheer one more time for departed stars like Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. And this year, fans will get to see longtime favorite Luis Castillo when the Minnesota Twins come to town.

I'm sure we have not heard the last word on interleague play. Now, if only we could do something about baseball's even sadder invention: having the All-Star game decide who gets home-field advantage in the World Series.
-- Greg Hoadley
Deerfield Beach, Florida

Lisa Fabrizio's interesting column makes a good argument against interleague play and parity of schedule is the key point. But it was while watching an interleague contest last weekend between the Phillies and the Tigers that the wisdom of the Designated Hitter rule became very clear to me. Since this game was in the National League town, the DH was not recognized and the pitchers had to bat. Of course this meant that there was an automatic out every nine batters (although Jeremy Bonderman did get his first major league hit starting a big inning for the Tigers), but it also means that the 8th batter in the line-up doesn't get pitched to most of the time, in anticipation that the next batter will be an automatic out. This effectively gives NL pitchers about two innings in every game that are almost guaranteed to not produce any runs. If you face six batters in an inning and the first one is the lead-off hitter, you will certainly see some runs scored. Not true if the 4th or 5th batter leads off the inning: two hits, two outs, a walk then the pitcher is up for the third out. No wonder NL pitchers have better statistics.

Now I'm not in favor of changing rules just to have more offense in a game. I think they've done too much already toward that end by shrinking the strike zone to the size of a beer can, not by a rule change but by an unspoken consensus between the umpires. And I think the NBA has ruined basketball by trying to raise scores and point totals. (Remember the last time someone got called for traveling? Me neither.) But the one knock that younger people have against baseball is that it is too slow. I don't agree but in a NL game there are clearly full innings that you don't need to watch, even in a tight game. I consider myself a baseball purist and a student of the game but this is one rule that should be maintained in the AL and adopted in the NL. This is one big reason that the National League has been the inferior league for some time. Like a misguided governor trying to prop up dying industries, like manufacturing in an information age, as if it could always be like it was in 1961 (let's say Granholm for example, in Michigan, just for argument's sake) the National League will find that the world will continue to change whether they are with it or not.
-- P.T. Bruen
Dearborn, Michigan

Interleague play is fine. Maybe Fabrizio's idea of the Red Sox playing the Yanks 30 times is just dandy, but it would be nice if folks down here in Houston, limping through series after series with the likes of Pittsburgh and the Reds, could see the best teams money could buy every once in a while. You telling me that Detroit playing Florida is any different than Detroit playing KC? Or the Marlins playing the Nationals? This is simply an article written by a chick, wanting to be one of the guys, pretending to be elitist.
-- Steve Benton
Houston, Texas

Repeat after me: MLB stands for Major League Business, not Major League Baseball. Don't ever forget it.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

MONSTROUS TOO
Re: Quin Hillyer's Poisonous and Treasonous:

Quin: Keep preaching. We have to defeat this monstrosity.

I have, once again, contacted my senators asking that they oppose the bill. Amazing that the illegal alien bill keeps resurfacing in the face of wide public disapproval. Makes one wonder why it is back. There has to be more to it than that the Democrat party wants more voters or that certain businesses want low paid labor.

I sure wish someone could explain it to me.
-- Nelson Ward
Cowles, New Mexico

It is curious that the networks have not featured any interviews of which I am aware of Senator Simpson and Fr. Theodore Hesburgh. Simpson was in charge of the last immigration bill. Fr. Hesburgh was on the immigration commission suggesting the bill, if I'm not mistaken. Maybe Simpson doesn't want to be interviewed. The lone comment about the immigration bill from Fr. Hesburgh of which I am aware is that he said the big fault and cause of failure for the previous bill was that it did not have effective enforcement. He said a new bill had as its first indispensable requirement strong enforcement. For that matter, I think reporters should be asking Senator Biden what he meant when he said that the only thing that mattered for a new immigration law was that it have enforcement. He could be asked what he meant by that and whether he still believes it.
-- Richard L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque, Iowa

Quin Hillyer writes: "...it breeds only further contempt: the contempt for our laws it will instill in the minds of illegal immigrants, and the contempt for our system with which a clear majority of Americans will greet such legislation if passed into law."

As we all know Ted Kennedy is the author of this horror show bill...more proof that the (Poisonous and Treasonous) acorn does not fall far from the (Poisonous and Treasonous) tree.
-- Reid Bogie
Waterbury, Connecticut

I call and email my senators and Bush almost everyday. Am also a member of www.numbersusa.com where I can send free faxes. This is going to take everyone letting your senators know you put them in office to work for you, not Mexico. We put them in office and we can take them out. Don't wait for someone else to do the contacting, get busy.
-- Elaine Kyle

NOT BUYING
Re: Jennifer Rubin's McCainomics:

Could I please have a huge portion of whatever Jennifer Rubin is smoking? She seems to accept as fact whatever the McCain camp is doling out. I cannot believe anyone is that dumb. McCain is a flaming liberal who will tax & spend & control. Period.

Any serious journalist would have taken Holtz-Eakin to task on every single one of those statements. McCain has NO track record to prove any degree of fiscal conservatism.
-- K. Ryan

BLAME DISTRIBUTION
Re: The "Duke Out" letters in Reader Mail's Boys Will Be Boisterous:

There seems to be plenty of blame to go around concerning the Duke Lacrosse-Nifong incident and I just wanted to add my two cents worth of blame for the voters who re-elected Mr. Nifong. They should be at the top of the list. Shame!
-- Bob L. Martin
Muskogee, Oklahoma

If we wish to pass laws against young men acting like idiots let us be honest and do that. The Duke young men deserved the trouble and embarrassment they received up to the point it was clear that they didn't do anything illegal. When the power of government was used to devastate their lives with false information and implications of rape, a very big wrong occurred. That wrong was perpetrated by the prosecutor, the police, outside rabble rousers and the local populace. Jay, Michael, Dianne and Annette see this as a opportunity to preen. This provided a chance to interject the complex Jewish and Mormon thought that came to the amazing conclusion that cavorting with strippers might have a downside. Dianne was able to remember what a fantastic mother she was and Annette hoped that somebody would scold the boys for good measure. For Jay and Michael, the rest of us can't make the distinctions you guys do. For Dianne, would you really feed your child to the Mike Nifong reelection campaign for an indiscretion? What a mom! For Annette, what makes you think that these young men haven't got an earful from their families and priests?
-- Clif Briner

Annette Cwik appears to be channeling Nancy Grace, who never lets ignorance of the facts get in the way of a story.

David Evans, the indicted team captain, admitted responsibility for a bad decision and began apologizing on behalf of the team publicly and profusely before his indictment. He and others cooperated with police by giving them unfettered access to the "scene" and contemporaneous statements, without benefit of counsel. If Ms. Cwik wants to administer a balancing slap, I'd suggest she start with one to herself.
-- Robert Martins
Alexandria, Virginia

ALL THAT UNJAZZ
Re: Aaron Jones's letter (under "A Checkered Hoosier Past") in Reader Mail's Boys Will Be Boisterous:

Aaron Jones made a legitimate point regarding audiences, radio in particular. As a retired broadcaster who once kinda "specialized" in playing jazz, I'm amused by the bunch of pretenders who play "soft" or "mellow" "jazz" (stopped listening to 'em, so I'm not certain of their present Positioning Statement) with guys like Kenny Gorlick, Fourplay, et al. Better they should call their offerings something like "Soft, Pabulum Elevator Music." Just think of all the great music they could play, if they only had the knowledge and/or guts.

Come to think of it, the latter part of the preceding sentence might apply to wimpy Dubya and running the country too.
-- frost

REUNION
Re: Bernard Chapin's In the Words of Our Friend:

It is wonderful to read Jed Babbin's words again. I have missed them. And, as usual, he leaves us begging for more.

I can't wait to read the story of the dog in the nighttime.
-- Cara Lyons Lege'

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