The last few nights after coming home from work, I've been watching the 1974 All-Star Game on youtube.
As you might suspect, if you are my age, it was fascinating. I switched it on because I wanted to see the players that I've known from the 1975 Topps All-Star cards in action, the players I watched as a kid. But I saw so much more than that, from the players I never saw play live -- like Dick Allen and Hank Aaron here -- to so many elements of that time that I've forgotten or never knew.
Here is what I took away from that game, won 7-2 by the National League, by the way:
- Broadcasters were more respectful and never critical about the players on the field. The broadcasting crew for this game was Curt Gowdy, Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek. It was hours of effusive praise for longtime veterans and players just starting out. Not a soul pointed out a mental error, a strategical error, nothing.
- About the only negative you heard were the broadcasters mocking my favorite player, Ron Cey. Cey did quite well in that game, knocking in two runs. But all they wanted to talk about was the way Cey ran and how short his arms were.
- Like I said, I got my first glimpse of Allen, Aaron, Don Kessinger, Al Kaline and Frank Robinson in action. Allen looked like he could hit a ball off the wall anytime he wanted.
- The broadcast was very proud of the fact that they were featuring two hand-held cameras throughout the game and it presented random camera views like looking down the first base line from right field and camping behind the manager in the dugout to show you what the manager saw. At one point, Gowdy exclaimed, "what will it be like 10 years from now!"
- Steve Garvey, who was written in as a starter, won the MVP award that game, but after watching it, he wasn't a clear-cut winner. The MVP presentation between Kubek, Garvey and commissioner Bowie Kuhn couldn't have been more awkward.
- All of the player interviews seemed to come straight from Gil Thorpe. "Gee golly, I just hope to make the most of this opportunity and it's great to be out here with the guys." Ballplayer cliches haven't changed a lot, but the cliches in 1974 seemed much more clean-cut and heart-felt.
- There was no such thing as calling off an infielder on a pop fly back then. Several times, infielders raced far into the outfield to make a catch and the outfielder wasn't even a factor.
- The broadcasters couldn't wait to see stolen bases and bunts. I mean they were in a fever pitch. There was constant speculation about who would bunt, and anytime anyone got on base, that familiar split screen from the '70s would pop up as the broadcasters worked themselves into a lather.
- It was really an exciting time in baseball. Aaron had broken the home run record three months earlier, Lou Brock was going for the single-season stolen base mark, and Mike Marshall (who batted, by the way) was in the middle of appearing in 106 games.
- I don't know how anyone hit Gaylord Perry then. He had a high leg kick and hid the ball well. I couldn't see anything he threw.
- Young Cesar Cedeno was very good.
- It was interesting seeing Catfish Hunter as an Oakland A, Bobby Grich as a Baltimore Oriole and Andy Messersmith as a L.A. Dodger. Thanks to free agency, those players had moved on to other teams by the time I really started watching baseball.
- The commercials at the time were obsessed with two things: wild animals (lions, bulls, etc.) and proving the toughness of whatever they were selling -- shooting locks with bullets, leaving headlights on in the desert, etc.
- Bert Campaneris played the whole game. He was 0-for-4 and looked as useless at the plate as shortstops were in the '70s.
- Viewing Mike Schmidt without a mustache is uncomfortable.
- Two things about the All-Star Game haven't changed: 1. Broadcasters repeatedly trying to convince you that the players are really trying out there, especially after a diving stop; 2. Fans booing if a home player doesn't get an opportunity they think he deserves. The game was played in Pittsburgh and fans booed because pitcher Ken Brett was replaced for a pinch-hitter (p.s.: Brett could actually hit very well).
- Too many players from that game are no longer here: Hunter, Brett, Thurman Munson, Lynn McGlothen, Bobby Murcer.
- Reggie Smith hit a home run! Yay! As Cardinal! Boo!
- I miss '70s style station identification, I miss variety shows (the Mac Davis Show!), I miss Garagiola's sayings, stuff about "room service fastballs."
- If no one told you the year of the video, it wouldn't take you long to find out. A streaker jumped onto the field and there was at least one public service announcement about the energy crisis.
Anyway, it was a great time waster and a little more enjoyable than watching past World Series games, which seem to be wrapped up in too much angst.
And for indulging me with a bunch of reminiscing, here is the puzzle on the back of the 1974 All-Star cards:
Sadly, I can't find a video of the 1973 All-Star Game.