Game On / An accessible Series
CHICAGO, OCTOBER 2016: Chicago Cubs fans gather in front of the Wrigley Field marquee for the historic beginning of the 2016 World Series. Wrigley Field had been the only major league park where night games were not played — until 1988, when lights were installed.
Wrigley Field photo Kent Weakley/shutterstock.com
October has always been one of my favorite months of the year what with Halloween, the crisp days of fall, the beginning of football season, and, of course, Tommy Agee.
My thoughts inevitably turn to Agee at this time because on the afternoon of Tuesday, October 14, 1969, Agee, centerfielder for the New York Mets, hit a home run and made two highlight-reel catches in centerfield as the Miracle Mets beat the Baltimore Orioles, 5-1, in game three of the World Series. Of course, I never saw any of this. I was in sixth grade and at school during the game. But thanks to the covert help of a transistor radio and earplugs, I was able to imagine his heroics. In fact, upon hearing the broadcast of his second amazing catch, I barked out a loud “yes” during class, necessitating my teacher to not-so-gently confiscate this forbidden equipment.
This October, Agee lives and not just in my memories. Ironically, some four decades after he and his Mets won the World Series, he just could be an answer to two issues facing Major League Baseball: attendance and participation.
Attendance at stadiums around the country has been on a decline since hitting an all-time high of seventy-four million fans in 2013. At the same time, participation in youth baseball, according to a report by the Sports Fitness Industry Association, declined by some four-three percent from 2009 to 2014. Both statistics have major league baseball—and me—concerned. For me, and many my age, watching the games inspired me to play, to emulate, to pretend I was the next Agee, Tom Seaver, or Brooks Robinson.
This year’s World Series will be played at night, most likely too late for many eleven-year-olds. Why can’t a few of the World Series or playoff games take place during the day. That way, more kids can watch, be inspired, and maybe want to play baseball themselves. Of course, that’s a big ask when the almighty dollar runs sports, including baseball, whose thirty teams, according to Forbes, have an aggregate annual revenue approaching $10 billion (thanks in large part to television).
Nonetheless, there must be room for some nostalgia for the times when the World Series was played during the day, when kids like me could watch and dream. Even if it’s just one game. I think Tommy Agee would agree.
Tom Koller is senior associate athletics director at Buffalo State College.