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A Baseball Complaint
Two former players remember the sport's good ol' days.

The two former baseball players are having a lively chat with the TV host. The topic of the moment: how their game has changed.

I won’t name the show yet, but nobody’s shouting at anybody, so you can rule out ESPN. It is, however, one of the nation’s most popular programs, and a panel of celebrities shares the stage with the ballplayers. They’re old men now, and age has quieted their voices, so the celebs lean in to hear their words of wisdom.

They are words that will sound familiar to any modern baseball fan.

One man played for Boston, and he has the most to say about the game’s evolution. The topic of home runs comes up, specifically how neither he nor his fellow guest hit many of them. (In fact, the twosome played a combined 26 years and managed just 83 homers between them.)

“Why would we make any home runs?” the Boston guy quips. “They didn’t have no rubber ball in those days.”

He clearly doesn’t put much credence in the modern offensive explosion. The ball is so much livelier these days, he says. And the new ballparks are oh-so tiny. Nobody mentions performance-enhancing drugs, but you can practically hear his dreams of finding the Fountain of Youth, if only to get a fair shot at those livelier balls, at those bandbox ballparks.

And this is a guy who had a fair run of success. He played in the World Series. So did his fellow ballplayer. In fact, the two men played in the very same Series, albeit on opposite teams. But there is no animosity between them. The past is past, and they’re now merely old men thinking back on the good ol’ days.

One of them, the Boston guy, is named Freddy Parent. The other, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is Tommy Leach. And if you don’t remember when Boston played Pittsburgh in a World Series, well, it did happen quite some time ago.

Because the popular TV show the men are on is called “I’ve Got A Secret.” This particular episode first aired in 1963.

And the secret is that both men played in baseball’s very first World Series.

I caught this gem of a rerun in the wee morning hours a few weeks back. Game Show Network was airing the show, and it was one of those can’t-sleep, remote-control-flipping discovery moments.

The images were in black and white, but the conversation was plenty colorful. Host Gary Moore wore a bow tie. Panelist Bill Cullen wore flat-top hair and black rocket-scientist glasses. No flashing lights or special effects or playing down to the audience’s lowest common denominator. No screaming louder to make your point better. TV was a very different place 50 years ago.

So, in some ways, was the realm of sports. But, judging by the banter of Parent and Leach, not in all ways. Few sports complaints or arguments are truly new. Theirs of 50 years ago could be heard in any sports bar today.

And, I’d fairly wager, in any sports bar 50 years from now.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, where I tweet as howiemag. And listen to me chat sports with Mitch Teich monthly on WUWM's "Lake Effect."

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