Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Baseball's Latest Golden Era

In baseball's past, there are two widely recognized "golden eras." The 1920's, when Babe Ruth's prolific feats spurred a resurrection of the grand old game and transformed it forever, is one. The fans, disillusioned from the Black Sox gambling scandal of 1919, came back with a vengeance to see Ruth and his newly starstruck emulators hit the long ball, the fan favorite ever since. A Yankee dynasty was born. Baseball and radio were married and enjoying their honeymoon.

The 1950's, when arguably the greatest concentration of talent in the game occurred, is another. The population of the country had increased greatly since the turn of the century, black and Latin players were added to the pool in large numbers, while the number of teams and players remained constant. The depression of the 30's and the war of the 40's that decimated rosters through military service, were past. The three New York teams produced three hall-of-fame rookie outfielders simultaneously; Mays, Mantle and Snider. Many of the greatest of the all-time greats all played at the same time. The greatest pennant race ever occurred ('51 Giants/Dodgers), the storied Bums of '55 gave the little guy his day in the sun, another Yankee dynasty flourished, and television brought the images into America's living room.

Now, I believe we are in a third "golden era" of baseball. It started about a decade ago, in the mid 90's. A new group of superstars have shined, both on the mound and at the plate. These stars will go down as among the greatest of the greatest. Records have been broken and broken again. The dark streak of the strike of '94 was erased with the rays of excellence on the field. Advanced diet, medicine and training regimens have given us superior specimens of athletic performance. Glorious new ballparks have been built that rival the old gems of baseball lore. The talent pool was expanded again with an influx of players from Japan, Korea and Cuba. The best players have been nothing short of dominating. McGwire, Sosa, Bonds. The Big Unit, Pedro, the Rocket. A-Rod, Pujols, Maddux, Ichiro, Mariano Rivera. A new Yankee dynasty arose and the internet threw baseball stats and the fans that feed from them head first into the ocean of the information age.

I've noticed a similar pattern in each of these "golden eras." A dark period or blot is followed by a new wave of players playing great ball in a revolutionary way. The Yankees come to dominance and all of these things are accompanied by an explosion of a recent technology. It'll be interesting to read about this last decade 20 years from now. What will the historians write? Whatever it is, I will remember this time well.


  1. I have the same impression that the stars of today are as good or better than anyone ever. A-Rod, whom I have followed from his brief stint in Tacoma, is, IMO, the ultimate player.

    My wife is a fan of Randy Johnson whose feats turned her on to baseball when we were in Seattle. One time, she told me that we should go to the game because the "Big Eunuch" was pitching. She really thought that was his moniker! I don't let her live it down.