Monday, April 1, 2013
The Major League Baseball season opened Sunday night, although it really swung into high gear on Monday.
The openers come less than a week after Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlanders signed a seven-year extension worth $180 million and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey got nine years and $167 million.
With those signings in mind, we bring you a Jim Murray column from Opening Day in 1978.
Friday, April 7, 1978, SPORTS
Copyright 1978/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY
Here We Go Again
Today is the day a couple hundred bizarrely costumed millionaires step out in the public and begin earning more money faster for doing less than any group since the Hohenzollerns or the Hapsburgs. Never have so many done so little for so much. The baseball season opens.
You can't beat the hours, the working conditions are ideal, and, as Vin Scully would say, there's no heavy lifting. Some of them are going to get almost $5,000 a day for just standing there for an hour chewing gum, or for sitting on a cushioned seat all night trying to stay awake and look interested.
It's called "our national pastime" — and it consists mainly of throwing sockfuls of money at a group of individuals who have a talent so esoteric as to be invisible to three-quarters of the world's population. Guys used to have to have railroads in the family for generations to pile up the kind of money these plutocrats have. They're instant millionaires. Some of them are going from $20,000 a year to $450,000 a year-in one year. Even their agents have fur coats.
The country screams about a coal miners' wage hike, or a steel price increase, but sports stars live in mansions not even the inventor of the open-hearth furnace could afford. Guys who flunk out of high school drive Rolls-Royces while class valedictorians pump gas. Horatio Alger would never believe this world. The only good thing about it is, nobody could fix a World Series any more with these kind of salaries.
But only the wages will change. The game will remain the same. As the season progresses, expect the following events to transpire:
April 12 — The first story speculating on whether Rod Carew will hit .400 will appear. He won't. Neither will anyone else.
April 21 — A wire service story will report Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson no longer speak, which will immediately up Reggie Jackson's batting average by 60 points.
May 1 — Thurman Munson will bite somebody.
May 3 —Of all the free agents signed, the ones with the California Angels will wrench their backs putting out the cat or break their hands pushing a stalled Maserati.
May 10 — Charlie Finley will offer to move his Oakland franchise in any direction as the team shows a minus attendance with more people in the dugouts than the stands, on some nights more umpires than spectators. Bowie Kuhn will nix the deal because it's in the best interests of Charlie Finley.
May 20 — Steve Garvey will go 4-for-4, thereby earning the instant enmity of the rest of the infield, but the Dodgers will continue to lead the league in hugging. And not much else.
May 30 — Jimmy the Greek will pick the wrong teams in all divisions.
June 15 — Because the Yankees are trailing by two games, George Steinbrenner will buy up the American League. Bowie Kuhn will OK it.
July 2 — Howard Cossell will describe a Monday night game-accurately-as "dull." Most people will think he's overrating it. The TV camera will show a designated hitter sound asleep in the dugout, but the letter writers will still say only a Communist wouldn't love baseball.
Aug. 14 — The Baltimore Orioles will threaten to move. The Atlanta Braves will threaten to stay.
Aug. 20 — Nolan Ryan will set a world record for pitches in a single game, 705. This will give him 19,000 for the season, 9,000 strikes, 500 wild, 81 hit batsmen, and the rest bouncers —not to the infield, to the plate.
Oct. 21 — The Philadelphia Phillies will get in the World Series — but not for long. Reggie Jackson will hit a home run every time up, and television will show him doing a commercial for a compact car — which he keeps in the trunk of his Rolls.
And, over the winter, 100 new guys who batted .240 or more will become free agents and sign for an average of $350,000 apiece over the next 10 years, and at the same time the White House will call an emergency conference over whether bituminous coal miners have to buy their own canaries, and if not what it'll do to the country's wage-price spiral. The public will back a baseball players strike to lower the games to seven innings, on grounds the greedy owners only want the extra two innings to sell more peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
Jim Murray Memorial Foundation | P.O. Box 60753 | Pasadena | CA | 91116
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