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J. Conrad's blog
Sunday, 12 July 2009
Pining for Yesteryear
Topic: The Curmudgeon

After my morning writing session I thought about baseball—the business it’s become and the way the game was once played.

My research for Cobb’s Conscience has revealed a lot about the legendary Georgia Peach as well as the way the game was played at the beginning of the last century.

Cobb was a showman, often announcing to opposing pitchers his intention to steal a base.

Herman Schaefer, a team mate of Cobb’s and second baseman, once stole second base and promptly stole his way back to first just to see if it could be done.

Tigers’ manager Hughie Jennings, with his “Eeee—yahhhh!” cry, routinely tore up the grass around the coach’s box, performed an Indian war dance, and blew a policeman’s whistle. American League president Ban Johnson once suspended Jennings for ten days for “objectionable noisemaking.”

Even as recently as the 1960s the game was more entertainment. Tigers’ first baseman Norm Cash once approached the batter’s box with a table leg, claiming the stuff Nolan Ryan was tossing that day en route to his second career no-hitter was unhittable with a regulation piece of lumber.

Baseball has always been a business, even in Cobb’s day, from the owner’s perspective. But players today, in large part due to their huge contracts, approach the game as a business. Gone is the fun in playing a kid’s game.

All of which leaves me longing for the past, a much simpler time.

A colleague of mine eschews old movies, citing bad acting and poorly written screenplays.

Yes, today’s actors are superior to yesteryears. In Hollywood’s early days actors employed stage acting, emoting, or playing the emotion. In time, method acting took over, giving more realism. Today we have more accomplished actors with more range, but we have fewer movie stars. Russell Crowe is one of our most capable actors, but Clark Gable was a bigger movie star even if he earned less money per picture.

I enjoy some of today’s movies and admire the craftsmanship of actors and directors alike, but I also miss that invisible barrier that exists in old movies, that separated the viewer from the screen. I don’t mind knowing I’m watching a movie. Sometimes I don’t want to be immersed so totally in a screenplay that I forget I’m but a viewer.

On television, shows like Criminal Minds, with their penchant for real life drama, leave me decidedly uncomfortable.

In a society becoming more and more desensitized to sex and violence, I sometimes long for the days when Rob and Laura Petrie couldn’t be shown together in the same bed. In the 1960s I had no idea what a man and a woman did together in bed. Today, twelve-year-olds indulge in sexual activities.

We can’t go back to the way it was anymore than Adam and Eve could regain their innocence after partaking of the forbidden fruit. But it doesn’t stop me from regretting my own lost innocence and fearing for the future of this country.

Every generation perhaps looks back into their past to see the good old days. I wonder what the Millennium Generation will look back upon with fondness.


Posted by J. Conrad Guest at 11:48 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 12 July 2009 11:50 AM EDT
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