I was watching one of 2009’s great developments, the MLB Network, and they are currently airing…and will several times this week…”the Sandberg game,” from June 23, 1984…in which Ryne Sandberg hit two home runs off Bruce Sutter and the Cubs beat the Cardinals 12-11 in 12 innings.
Two things stand out to me from that game. First, the players were soooo much smaller in 1984 than they are 25 years later. Sure, the steroids era had an effect on the size of players, but there’s more at play here than chemical enhancement.
The biggest Cardinal in that game in 1984 was George Hendrick, who stood 6-3 and weighed 195. The Cardinals didn’t have another 200-pound player in the starting lineup that day, and they only had two others (David Green and Art Howe) that stood more than six feet. The Cubs were bigger. Their catcher, Jody Davis, was 6-3 and 210. Leon Durham was 6-1 and 210 and their right fielder, Keith Moreland (a former Texas football player) was 6-0 and 200. Sandberg checked in at 6-2 and 180.
In essence, if you were a 6-2, 200 pound position player that day, you were a big guy.
Fast forward to last season’s July 4 game between the Cardinals and the Cubs. Chicago’s Derrek Lee is 6-5 and 205. Aramis Ramirez is 6-1 and 220. Geovany Soto is 6-1 and 230, and their second baseman that day, Mark DeRosa, is 6-1 and 200.
The Cardinals featured 6-3, 210 pound Albert Pujols, 6-1, 200 pound Rick Ankiel, 6-5, 245 pound Troy Glaus and 6-5, 230 pound Chris Duncan. The Cardinal catcher, Yadier Molina, is 5-11 and 225.
So 25 years after the Sandberg game, a player that was big became average sized.
It’s remarkable how much bigger today’s players are. They’re broader, taller, bigger boned…just bigger. Evolution is having an effect on baseball just like it is the rest of society. Beyond anything illegal, players have access to fantastic weight training facilities, lots of nutritional advice and the natural progression of our species.
The other thing I noticed about that game is that there was virtually no signage in Wrigley Field. There was a huge Torco (Torco?) billboard beyond the right field wall, that is now property of Southwest Airlines.
Now, Budweiser is featured on a roof beyond left field, Under Armour has purchased signs on the outfield’s wagon gate walls, they have ribbon boards along the left and right field lines and a color board below their manual scoreboard. Those boards advertise numerous companies throughout a game. Bud Light sponsors the bleachers, and the dugouts are replete with advertising. Compared to a quarter century ago, there’s a TON of signage…and revenue…that wasn’t at Wrigley…and in baseball…before.
As I reminisced about the old days, the size of players and the amount of advertising today didn’t affect me at all. There were only two things that made me long for the old days. If MLB had two inning closers and lots of running, I could be as enthralled with baseball in 2009 as I was in 1984.