By In Baseball, History

Pennant Porch and Great American

Before we get into the remarkable — and painful — dinger-dinged pitching season for the Cincinnati Reds, we should talk for a good while about Pennant Porch and the 1964 Kansas City Athletics.  We should always take time, every now and again, to talk about Pennant Porch.

No team had ever given up 200 home runs in a season before 1964. The closest had been … the 1962 Kansas City Athletics, who gave up 199. Well, the Kansas City Athletics did love to give up the the long ball. The 1956 Athletics still hold the record for most homers allowed to one team … you can guess the team. That was the year Mickey Mantle won the triple crown, and he hit nine of his 52 homers against the A’s. Even more impressively, Hank Bauer hit 10 of his 26 homers against the A’s, and Yogi Berra hit nine of his 30 homers against the A’s. All in all, the Yankees hit an astonishing 56 home runs in 22 games against Kansas City.

Well, Athletics owner Charlie Finley thought he knew the real secret to the Yankees success.

For Charlie, it all came down to the dimensions at Yankee Stadium.

It is unclear how exactly this loony idea came into Finley’s head. Finley would tell people he picked it up from the manager of the 1964 A’s — former Yankee star pitcher Eddie Lopat — but to be fair to Lopat he publicly repudiated the idea over and over. Anyway, crazy ideas floated into Finley’s head all the time, some of them semi-fun (brightly colored uniforms, fun nicknames like “Catfish” Hunter and “Blue Moon” Odom, bonuses to players growing mustaches, hiring a young MC Hammer to hang around the Oakland A’s) and some of them semi-crazy (orange baseballs, a poison pen award to his least favorite sportswriters, a mascot mule called “Charley O,” etc.).

Finley’s first big idea as an owner was to win the 1964 pennant by making Kansas City Municipal Stadium the exact dimensions of Yankee Stadium. He expounded:

“To me, getting caught playing baseball in Yankee Stadium is like getting caught in a crap game with loaded dice,” he said.

“I am convinced (the dimensions of Yankee Stadium) is the answer to the great success of the Yankees,” he said.

“It is almost inconceivable how (MLB and the American League) have continuously permitted the New York Yankees to completely dominate the American League by allowing them to play in Yankee Stadium with such grossly unfair advantages,” he said.

What a cuckoo bird. The guy really thought that the New York Yankees of Stengel and Mantle and DiMaggio and Ford and the rest won because of their stadium dimensions.

Yes, Yankee Stadium back then was oddly shaped. It was 301 feet directly down the left field line and 296 down the right field line. The right field fence rather gradually moved out, but the left field wall jutted so that the wall in straightaway left was 402 feet away, and in left-center it was 457 feet. This made it BRUTAL on right-handed hitters and helps explain why Joe DiMaggio only once hit 40 homers in a season. DiMaggio hit 20-plus homers on the road four times, but never hit 20 homers in a season at Yankee Stadium in a season.

Still, Finley was absolutely sure that the short dimensions down the line — particularly down the right-field line — made the Yankees all but invincible at home. Why? They could just homer opponents to oblivion. “Psychologically, teams going into Yankee Stadium are beaten before they start,” he said. “They win two out of every three games they play there because each year they hit more home runs.” He then recited a bunch of statistics so specific, they HAD to be true. They were not.

It is interesting that one statistic that Finley did not mention was that the Yankees, more or less every year, hit MORE HOME RUNS ON THE ROAD THAN AT HOME. In the decade leading up to Pennant Porch, the Yankees hit 950 homers on the road against 830 at Yankee Stadium.

But we cannot get too caught up in Finley’s madness. The point is that he believed Yankee Stadium dimensions were the key to winning and so, naturally, he wanted his own home ballpark in Kansas City to mirror those dimensions. “I feel,” Finley said, “that in revamping my ballpark to go along with the Yankees, I will be, for the first time, able to compete with them on an equal basis. … I’m out to win at Kansas City. If it means copying Yankee tactics, that’s not beneath my dignity.”

There really wasn’t much beneath Charlie Finley’s dignity. Unfortunately for Finley, it turned out that retrofitting Municipal Stadium to exact Yankee Stadium measurements was (1) Against the rules of baseball; (2) Physically impossible and (3) Stupid. None of these stopped him, though. No, Finley was not allowed to have a wall closer than 325 feet to home play, but he was convinced that the rule would allow him to build “Pennant Porch,” a small bleacher area in right field for fans to sit in. The front of Pennant Porch, by coincidence, was 44 inches high (same height as wall at Yankee Stadium) and 296 feet from home plate (same distance as Yankee Stadium). just like Yankee Stadium.

Finley believed that by the pure wording on the rulebook, he was allowed to build Pennant Porch (“I can’t operate on intent,” he said). Baseball disagreed. They made him tear the thing down and rebuild it so that the wall was no closer than 325 feet. Finley fumed but he did it.

He then threw a classic fit. He changed the name to “Half Pennant Porch.” He had his grounds crew mow the grass so that it aligned perfectly with Yankee Stadium dimensions — that way fans would know any ball that went over the grass would have been a home run at that other park. Bill James recalls that, for a while, when the ball went over the grass, Finley would have the public address announcer say, “That would have been a home run at Yankee Stadium.”

They apparently stopped doing that shortly after the Minnesota Twins hit four consecutive home runs to beat the Athletics on May 2, 1964. That was the same day Northern Dancer won the Kentucky Derby and Finley was in Louisville to see the race. He called his publicity director Jim Schaaf for some play-by-play when the game went into extra innings and when Schaaf told him that the Twins (Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall, Harmon Killebrew) hit four homers in a row. Finley ranted, “That’s impossible I don’t believe it!”

“Just wait ’til you read the morning paper,” Schaaf said calmly.

Finley would learn to believe it. Though he did not get to bring the right and left field fences in to Yankee Stadium measurements, he did move in the fences all around the field. He built a new wire fence in centerfield in front of the old 420-foot fence, apparently forgetting that Yankee Stadium had a cavernous centerfield. He also acquired 30-year-old sluggers Jim Gentile and Rocky Colavito. His A’s were going to slug their way to the pennant! And, like magic, the A’s home runs skyrocketed! They had hit only 95 homers in 1963. They hit 165 homers in 1964. Win win!

Except — and this was a valuable baseball lesson for Finley — the other team gets to hit too. And the A’s pitchers allowed an insane 132 home runs at home. How ridiculous was that? The three best teams in the league (the Yankees, Orioles and White Sox) did not allow 132 home runs TOTAL, home and road. It was a home run free-for-all in Kansas City. The A’s pitchers smashed the major league record by allowing 220 home runs for the season. Orlando Pena became just the second American League pitcher to allow 40 homers in a season. A 20-year-old rookie named Aurelio Monteagudo somehow managed to give up 11 home runs in 33 innings.

Another rookie, Jack Aker, made his major league debut at Finley’s retrofitted Municipal Stadium and the first batter he faced, Jimmie Hall, homered into Pennant Porch. An inning later, Don Mincher homered. A shell-shocked Aker did not have to pitch at Municipal Stadium again for three or so weeks. When he did, the first batter he faced, Ron Hansen, homered. After he gave up another homer, he was sent down to the Finley-free safety of the minor league world.

When the season ended — and the A’s had lost 105 games — there was a touching little story in The Sporting News titled “Battered A’s Hurlers Hope Finley Moves Fences Back.”

The A’s record of 220 homers allowed lasted 23 years before getting broken by the 1987 Orioles (226). The Orioles record has been broken 10 times since, most prominently by the 1996 Tigers who allowed a preposterous 241 home runs. That was a magnificent record, a team record. Twenty-seven different Tigers pitchers gave up a home run that year — and only one of them (Felipe Lira) allowed more than 25. It was the record of Mike Christopher (12 homers in 30 innings) and Todd Van Poppel (11 homers in 36 innings) and Mike Walker (10 homers in 27 innings). It did not seem beatable.

And then: This year’s Cincinnati Reds. For context: These Reds do play in a homer-heavy ballpark; it annually ranks just behind Coors Field for home runs, and it might be an even BETTER home run park for lefties than Coors. So that hurts. We also are playing in what is probably the biggest home run season in baseball history. It doesn’t FEEL like that, doesn’t feel quite like the Selig Era when it comes to home runs but that’s because there are no outliers, no McGwires or Sosas or Bonds. Nobody will hit 60 homers this year. Nobody will even hit 50. But EVERYONE will hit 20. Baseball will almost certainly set a record for most players with 20-plus homers in a season. There are already 99. The record is 103.

All of which is to say: The stars were aligned for a team to give up more home runs than any team in baseball history. And it’s the Cincinnati Reds. They broke the record with two weeks to spare. Like with the 1996 Tigers, it has been a team effort — 29 different pitchers have allowed a home run. But Brandon Finnegan and Dan Straily have led the way. Finnegan is in his first full year as a Major League starter and it’s fair to say he has struggled with command — he leads the National League in both walks (84) and homers allowed (29). He came to the majors rather famously, just out of college, as a reliever for the pennant-chasing Kansas City Royals. He was fun to watch and had some success by throwing as he could which is exactly what the Royals asked him to do.

He was a left-handed martyr.

Chucking is easy, young man.

Pitching is harder.

Meanwhile, Straily is a fastball, slider, change-up pitcher who cannot get away with mistakes over the middle of the plate. He has made at least 28 of those.

The Reds have had 15 different pitchers start games this year. All of them have contributed mightily to this record. Joe Moscot gave up 10 homers in 21 innings. Rookie Tim Melville somehow gave up five homers in nine innings. Out of the pen, Layne Somsen became the first player from Yankton, South Dakota to make it into a Major League Baseball game. In his first outing, he retired the Phillies on seven pitches. In his second, he gave up homers to Yan Gomes and Marlon Byrd.

The Reds staff has had a lot of injuries this year … but this is obviously a team that is drifting. The reason I love the Pennant Porch story so much is because it mocks the very idea of quick fixes and secret plans. Baseball success — and life success — comes through diligence and patience and getting up from the depths again and again.  If you are a Reds fan and you see Cincinnati try to build its way back up through small moves and smart draft picks and intense player development and smart hires, then you can hope.

If you see them talk about moving the fences back at Great American Ballpark, look out.

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39 Responses to Pennant Porch and Great American

  1. BSG says:

    I am a Reds fan, and I have enjoyed the effort of the team in the 2nd half. They have a winning record and Joey Votto is on yet another 2nd half tear. They have been more fun to watch than the doldrums of the mid aughties teams.

    The more interesting discussion is why home runs are up? The total number of runs scored are not rising with the HR totals. The Royals won the World Series last years with a low powered/high percentage offense, and despite breaking the 96 Tigers’ record, the 16 Reds will not lose more than 100 games, nor will they finish with the worst record in the majors. Are GMs building their teams around the Adam Dunn HR/BB/K formula for success?

  2. Keith K. says:

    So why, in this “biggest year of home runs in baseball history,” are there no outliers? Why no 50-homer guys?

    • invitro says:

      Great question. I’m not convinced that this should be called the biggest year of home runs though, if it’s based solely on the number of 20 HR hitters. That seems like it could be cherry-picking or arbitrary. Anyway, it’s interesting.

      • Darrel says:

        Pretty sure that was just an illustration. I think the total number of HR hit is on pace to be the most ever.

        • invitro says:

          Well, it’s close. I didn’t look at every season, but in 2000 there were 5693 HR, that’s 190 per team. In 2016 there are/were 5272 HR after an average of 151 games, that projects to 5656 in 162 games. It looks certain to be at least #2. Now, Gary Sanchez didn’t play most of 2016, so maybe the 2016 projections should be raised several notches (the phenom hit 2 more HR tonight, and my fantasy team loves it!).

  3. Bud Simpson says:

    My first game at Kansas City Municipal was 1955, the summer the A’s landed in Kansas City from Philadelphia. We were bleacher kids in the Finley A’s era. Ours was a short bus ride to the stadium, and we spent our summers at Municipal. It was a great place to grow up. The story of Finley’s unhinged antics, including the Pennant Porch, the sheep in the outfield, Harvey the Ball-Delivering Rabbit (which, I am told, is being searched for under the developed neighborhood at the site of Municipal at 22nd and Brooklyn.), and his attempts to dethrone the Yankees and out-Veeck Bill Veeck has faded into the memories of old guys like me. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Darrel says:

    I have a new cause. It is going to be annoying and ridiculous and all the BR are going to hate me but I just can’t stands it no more.

    Every time Joe calls the Steroid era the “Selig Era”, as he does here, I am calling BS. He says it like good ole Bud sourced, ordered, delivered, and injected all of the PED’s into Mcgwire, Sosa, Clemens, Ortiz, Bonds et al. No mention of Don Fehr at all. He is the one figure in the hierarchy of baseball management most responsible for the lack of testing and punishment. The union simply would not even discuss let alone allow for it.Oh yeah there was also, you know, THE PLAYERS THAT ACTUALLY TOOK THE DAMN STEROIDS. Now I am know fan of Selig but to use that phrase is to suggest he is solely or at least mainly responsible for the drug fueled 90’s. Of course he shares blame but there is so much blame to around that the “Selig Era” cheap shots need to go away.*

    *Sheepishly puts soapbox under desk until needed again.

    • invitro says:

      Were you a big fan of baseball in those days? I was, and Selig really did seem like the dominant person in baseball, while as you know, steroids weren’t mentioned much, and when they were, it was as if they weren’t any big deal. I sympathize with what you’re saying, but if you’re gonna name an era after its main personality, Selig is probably the best choice for the 1990’s. (I guess Bonds is #2.)

      • invitro says:

        And so I’m thinking, who was the dominant personality in baseball for each year? When I started getting crazy about baseball in 1980, it was Rose, even with his age, or maybe Reggie or Schmidt. In 1982-1984, it seems like it was Dale Murphy, but I lived on the border of the Southeast so my memory could be skewed. Then Mattingly for 1985-6, and Canseco in 1987-90. Selig comes in some time in the early 1990’s, McGwire in 1998, then Bonds through at least 2004. Then Jeter, for a long run, through his retirement; he’s completely different from Rose, but their stardom has about the same feel. But since Jeter retired, I have no idea. There really isn’t a superduperstar in baseball. Or much of anyone you could call a “living legend”. Ortiz is a pretty big deal in his final season, but he’s nothing outside of baseball. I think Kershaw is the closest thing to a living legend right now, but he’s less than nothing outside of baseball. Oh well, maybe I’m just getting old and baseball stars just don’t seem so big, except that Jeter was almost as big as I remember Rose being, just a few years ago. (I suppose Mattingly wasn’t a big deal outside baseball, but he was just such a big star in the game, probably as big as a player can get without ever making the playoffs until his final season.)

        • Blimey14 says:

          I’ve collected the Sports Illustrated, Sport Magazine, Baseball Digest and just about everything I can get a hold of for the decade of the sixties and by far the most written about player was Sandy Koufax, followed by Willie Mays and Frank Robinson. Bob Gibson, Mickey Mantle, Lou Brock, Brooks Robinson and Roberto Clemente were also written about a lot. Interesting is that more seemed to be written about Hank Aaron is the fifties and seventies than the sixties. Also Dick Allen and Roger Maris were written about but quite a bit was negative.

          • invitro says:

            Thanks for the comment. It’s interesting that Koufax would be first, not surprising but I would’ve guessed Mays or Mantle. I forgot at least one guy in my list… after Canseco and before Selig, from about 1990 to 1992, Nolan Ryan WAS baseball. Ryan was my first favorite player, but only for a few years, and I’d long “moved on” by the time he became an ultrastar.

        • Ed says:

          Mike Trout SHOULD be approaching living legend status, since he’s probably the best young baseball player in history, but NOBODY cares about him. He’s anonymous outside of baseball circles. And it seems like even baseball fans don’t really care or notice that he’s playing at an unprecedented level.

          I think that’s because baseball just doesn’t have the national cachet that it had in the past. Football is clearly America’s sport. Basketball ebbs and flows but interest in soccer keeps on rising.

          Mike Trout in the 1950s would be an absolute superstar. In the 2010s he merits a shrug.

          • invitro says:

            I agree. I like to check on Trouty from time to time and see if he’s still #1 in WAR by his age. I think he is now, but I’m not sure… maybe Mays or Williams? Anyway… baseball is certainly not the national sport is was for decades, and was when I was a kid & teenager. But I suppose it’s more popular on a local level than ever has been, based on attendance. So is Trout a megastar in Los Angeles?

            I’ve gotta deny that interest in soccer is rising, though. I think there are a lot of sportswriters (like Joe) who keep trying to cram it down our throats. It’s always a different soccer league or tournament… the World Cup, then outdoor US pro soccer, then indoor US pro soccer, then women’s soccer, then the World Cup again, and lately it’s been the European league. None of them take, except for the World Cup for a couple weeks every four years.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Everything you say is true but it also doesn’t help that the Angels are not only a bad team, but second fiddle in Los Angeles. He needs to at least be in the playoffs for people to notice.

        • Ed says:

          Oh, interest in soccer is DEFINITELY rising. It probably isn’t at all among older Americans, but the younger generation is invested in European soccer. Not ALL of them, of course, but I’m 33. I enjoy European soccer (the MLS is a joke), although I don’t follow it closely. But I’d say at least half the people I know my age are very interested, and watch it more than baseball. And I’d guess 60+% of people I know in their 20s have at least a passing interest.

          There’s a reason US stations are now carrying most of the major European leagues — there’s enough interest to make it worth buying the rights. That wasn’t true just 10-15 years ago.

      • Darrel says:

        I appreciate what you’re saying there but when exactly in all of that time did the MLBPA not completely destroy the owners in any labour negotiation. They were undefeated. Yes Bud was out there in public more but let’s not confuse that with who truly held all of the power at the time. The inference Joe often makes is that if Bud and the owners would have wanted to they could have snapped their fingers and the steroid era would have gone away. This could not be further from the truth. Fehr and the union would have never allowed it. Only when until public opinion hit critical mass and congress got involved did they come to the table and even then with a ridiculously weak proposal.

        • Karyn says:

          Selig and owners could have raised the issue. They chose not to, because they were making money hand over fist (chicks dig the longball).
          You can’t blame the players and the players’ union and completely absolve the owners.

        • J Hench says:

          Darrel, at the risk of putting words into Joe’s mouth, I do not think he calls it the Selig Era to suggest that Selig was primarily responsible for steroids – not exactly, anyway. Joe has said on many occasions that the high offense in that era was a result not just of steroids, but of a combination of many factors, including many new parks (most of which were hitters parks), 2 expansions (leading to many AAA pitchers getting big league time), expansion of pitching staffs from 10 to even 13 (leading to even more pitchers who might not have been on rosters a few years earlier getting time in the bigs), to possibly a juiced ball. With the exception of the expansion of pitching staffs, these changes were all pushed by and trumpeted by Selig. Joe is calling it the Selig era to subtly remind people that there were other changes going on than just steroids in that time period.

          Personally, I’d rather not be reminded of Bud Selig (or Donald Fehr) at all, after having had to grow up with them. But I’m not the one writing great, well-researched essays for free on the internet, so I’ll take what I can get.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          That may be true, but it certainly benefitted the owners to look the other way, not dissimilarly to the earl 20th century, where gambling by players was prevalent and game fixing, if not prevalent, was at least rumored. The owners did nothing until the Black Sox scandal forced to clean up the game. Everyone assumes the union would have said no categorically, but that’s not necessarily true. The question is, did the owners ever approach the union? I suspect not. Assuming they would have said no is not evidence.

    • PhilM says:

      I came up with some of my own “eras” in baseball, attempting to demarcate them according to actual events and demonstrable run-scoring changes on the field, rather than decades or external criteria. Here’s what I settled on:

      -The Dead-Ball era (1901-1919: 320 teams) covers the establishment of the two eight-team leagues through the departure of the spitball and the arrival of the home run hitters.
      -Lively Ball followed (1920-1941: 352 teams), once baseballs began to be replaced routinely during games and Babe Ruth did remarkable things to the firm and clean ones.
      -The War & Peace era (1942-1960: 304 teams) saw wartime rosters/restrictions/equipment, integration, franchise migration to the West Coast, and night baseball transform the existing sixteen franchises.
      -Expansion (1961-1972: 254 teams) added more teams in several waves, saw a bigger strike zone called, and generated the mythic “Year of the Pitcher” in 1968.
      -The DH Era (1973-1992: 512 teams), tried to restore balance, with the peak of artificial turf, a lowered pitcher’s mound, and a tightened strike zone, as well as additions of another true hitter and two more teams to the Junior Circuit.
      -The Coors Plus era (1993-2009: 500 teams), saw a wave of new, hitter-friendly ballparks, amplified by more expansion, the rise in popularity of harder maple-wood bats, and the “nutrition plus” approach to performance enhancement that at least some of the players perpetrated.

      Now that run-scoring is definitely down since 2010, we’re in a new “era” which I’m calling “The Shift” for lack of a better term at the moment. We’ll see how long it lasts.

    • Dr. Doom says:

      So, Darrel, here’s why you’re wrong.

      1. “Steroid Era” would probably be the only era in the history of the game named for something negative. That’s completely preposterous, considering it was a relatively positive era (and I don’t just mean the steroid tests – hey oh!). We don’t talk about the “Segregation Era,” the “Gambling Era,” the “Collusion Era,” or any other perfectly good and descriptive names for times in baseball history. But, for some reason, the baseball of my youth is INSISTED upon by others as being the worst, most degenerate era in the history of the game, when it is objectively not. To give it such a name is to codify that idea.

      2. Joe is not using “Selig Era” to blame Bud Selig solely for steroids in baseball. Obviously, the players had more to do with it than he did. But, as commissioner, he has some responsibility for it. I don’t think it’s inappropriate to consider him more at fault than anyone, because he COULD have tried to quash it, but didn’t. Don Fehr was just doing his job in protecting the players. But part of the commissioner’s duty is the integrity of the game – not the Union leader’s job. Selig was not doing it.

      3. Saying that those years were the “Steroid Era” implies that a.) there weren’t steroids before then, and b.) there aren’t steroids anymore. Those are both objectively untrue. So why use a name you KNOW to be untrue, when you could use one that describes the era better?

      4. Maybe YOU think of ’90s and early aughts baseball as being primarily about HRs and steroids. But I don’t. I think about Interleague Play, about Ken Griffey making baseball (for a brief moment) insanely cool. I think about Ripken’s streak. I think about the tied All-Star Game and yeah, HRs. But I think of dominant pitching and the threat of contraction and my beloved Brewers not really having an owner because he was acting commissioner and Tony Gwynn’s run at .400 and the Yankees winning too many games in ’98 and contracts exploding and the money-money-money that entered baseball. Almost NONE of those things have ANYTHING to do with steroids. Almost every single one has Bud Selig’s fingerprint SOMEWHERE in it. So you’re welcome to call it the “Steroid Era” if you want. And you’re not wrong that there were a lot of steroids in baseball. But you’re wrong that it’s the best name.

      • Dr. Doom says:

        Oh, and I forgot the Strike, and also the now 20+ (!!!) years of labor peace in baseball, too. So mentally add those to my long list of things during the Selig Era.

      • Darrel says:

        I obviously disagree Doom but appreciate your points. Most specifically I take issue with contention that Joe is not using “Selig era” as an attack on the man. He clearly has chosen to use the name of the commissioner to denote a very dirty era in baseball’s history. By doing so he is intimating if not outright saying that it was his fault. To say that this isn’t pointing the finger at one individual for all of the wrongs of the era is, in my opinion, naive.
        Saying that we cant define an era as Steroid era because there was use before and after those specific dates feels a little too defensive of the period for my tastes. Of course there was use before and there still will be after. Having said that I don’t think anybody can reasonably argue that there was not a significant spike in that time frame.
        As for point 4, I would not argue there were numerous wonderful baseball moments during this time. But to argue that the most enduring moments were not Sosa/Mcgwire and a swollen headed Bonds doing unnatural things is simple rewriting history to suit your argument. Many if not all of things you mentioned are at least tangentially tied to steroid use. The 98 Yankees might had a few users huh. Dominant pitching you say. I assume you mean guys like Roger Clemens. The money that flowed after the strike was largely Sosa/Mcgwire fueled. Are we 100% sure that Ripken didn’t have an occasional pick me up to get out there every day(be shocked if he did by the way but….).
        My point is simply that way too many factors played apart to lay it all at the feet of one man. It simply feels cheap and wrong especially from Joe who refuses at almost any other time to say a bad word about anybody even frankly when he obviously should.

        • Dr. Doom says:

          First of all, I don’t think Joe is “blaming” Selig for the steroid era. You obviously think that it was a bad thing (morally speaking). Joe does not agree with that. It’s patently obvious from his many, many posts on the subject that he doesn’t think of the steroid epidemic was morally reprehensible. It was just a thing that happened. So there’s no need for “blame.” But for people like yourself, it was a “dirty” era. Joe has made the point (over and over and over again) that EVERY era of baseball is dirty. There was nothing spectacular about that time except the offensive numbers (which, by the way, still were on par with the 1930s, and not as out-of-whack with history as everyone seems to think). So you’re talking about the whole CONCEPT in a way that is unfair, because you’re assigning YOUR feelings about the 90s and early-aughts to Joe, who DOES NOT share them. You say it’s “dirty” and talk about the “wrongs of the era,” so it’s pretty obvious where you come down on this whole thing. But seriously, if you read Joe’s writing carefully, he obviously does not share that perspective at all.

          Second of all, you accuse me of “rewriting history to suit your argument.” That is also untrue. First of all, I was writing about MY memories, during my formative years as a baseball fan. I don’t know when you were brought up, but if you’re a big baseball fan, I bet you can pull up ALL SORTS of things from your elementary-and-middle-school-years. While OTHER people may mainly remember two or three things from the decade, you might remember a hundred.

          But besides that, the history of the Selig era was CONSTATNLY evolving, and has been revised to the point that you point out (correctly, I think) that, in most people’s minds, the legacy is the HRs. That’s just not an accurate description of the era, though.

          As of 1995, if you had asked for Selig’s legacy, it would’ve been the strike. In 1997, it would’ve been interleague play. In 1995, Cal Ripken was credited with single-handedly “saving” baseball from public ill-will following the strike. Of course, later, the HR craze erased the idea of Ripken as savior. But I remember reading DOZENS of articles in the mid-1990s about how Ripken restored America’s faith in the game. Then Interleague was ruining everything. Then the HRs saved everything. Then the All-Star Game was broken. Then steroids were evil. Then the game was financially healthier than ever. Look, if you choose to pull one narrative out of that and say that it was the dominant story, that is YOU remembering the era the way that you choose. But honestly, I don’t think it’s fair to say it was “overwhelming.” It was the biggest of those stories, but it isn’t even 30% of the story of the Selig Era. Again, you can dispute that if you want to, but I don’t think you’re right, and you don’t think I’m right.

          For example, you claim that the ’98 Yankees are tainted by steroid use… well, so is every other team, so what’s the difference? If everyone was juicing, they were still the best team in a juiced-up league, and one of the greats in history. I mention pitching, you zero in on Clemens, conveniently ignoring the Braves triumvirate (Maddux-Smoltz-Glavine), Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, and Pedro Martinez, who were putting in seasons even better than Clemens. Yet, conveniently, you name the one (unproven, by the way – the only person attesting to Clemens’ steroid use is Brian McNamee, a morally reprehensible liar whom everyone believes because it’s convenient for their narrative about an unlikeable player) steroid-user in the bunch.

          Finally, I guess my summary statement is this: your argument flows like this:
          Steroids are the story
          Calling it the “Selig Era” makes it sound like they’re his fault.
          Just call it the “Steroid Era.”
          Mine flows like this:
          Calling it the “Steroid Era” makes you forget everything else.
          Stop calling it the “Steroid Era.”
          Think about steroids, but don’t forget the other interesting stuff that happened during baseball’s most eventful decade-and-a-half.

          I don’t know that there’s EVER a way to find common ground between those two points, but I appreciate your efforts to do so, and your civility in writing, and hope that mine is taken to be kind, as well.

          • invitro says:

            “But, for some reason, the baseball of my youth is INSISTED upon by others as being the worst, most degenerate era in the history of the game, when it is objectively not. To give it such a name is to codify that idea.” — First, it’s really stupid to use the word “objective” here, since what you’re talking about is as SUBJECTIVE as possible.
            Second, I agree that it wasn’t the most “degenerate” era, though this is a fact-free assessment and I could change my mind easily. What IS objective is that this era is the only one where players with stats good enough for the HoF were instead rejected, en masse. And the reason why is steroids (I’m not saying it was a good or bad reason of course). So, though I’m not sure that “Steroid Era” is the best term, there is a good reason for choosing it. And since the players’ records and failure to get elected to the HoF are hard stats, they will be remembered for decades, and I think “Steroid Era” is very likely to be the term used in a hundred years, just as “Dead Ball Era” is today.

          • Darrel says:

            My points about the Yankees and Clemens were not meant to single them out just to point out that many of the wonderful moments you choose to remember were tainted by steroids(I obviously stepped on some Yankee fandom there sorry). I think it is also fair to say that the game at that time shall be spoken about historically as tainted or dirty. At least the offensive numbers will be.
            Sounds like I’m probably 10 years or so older than you and you speak about the memories from middle school fondly and that seems to be the crux of it for you. You don’t want to have your favourite childhood memories sullied. I get that. I hate to hear the stories about the early 90’s Cowboys and don’t want to believe all that went on with that group. What you may want to consider though is you are remembering through the eyes of a child. The better angels of childhood often mask the demons lurking in the shadows.

    • KHAZAD says:

      Selig did everything he could to ignore steroids, right up until the time he had no choice. He used steroids and the threat of testing to achieve gains in other areas in negotiations, but outside of those negotiations, he stuck his head in the sand like an ostrich, ignoring overwhelming evidence and claiming that he felt it wasn’t a problem publicly against overwhelming evidence. He raked in the gains from the post strike steroid fueled power surge with both hands, still claiming ignorance. When the Canseco book came out and congress got involved for whatever their reasoning was for making it a congressional issue, he did a complete about face and became like a reformed smoker who wrinkles their nose and coughs when someone lights up a block away outdoors, or someone who has alot of questionable fun in their life but gets religion late and walks around morosely judging everyone else.

      Even at the end he claimed to not have even heard any steroid rumors until 1999, when fans had been talking about it and articles being written about it since the steroid fueled lat 80s A’s. It was already a problem in 1992 when he came in. I remember speculating about Palmeiro that year when I saw him pull a seemingly unpullable ball for a home run. I remember hoping that the one good thing that might come from the 1994 strike might be testing, but it was never brought up by him as an issue (at least publicly) during the negotiations. 1999 was at least three years after the point where I could not have a detailed conversation about baseball with anyone without someone bringing up steroids.

      In the late 90s, when it became obvious to nearly everyone that it was a major problem, he nodded and winked and talked about how great Mcgwire and Sosa were, and the MLB based many of their ads on the longball, the money rolled in, and he (and the owners) were loving it.

      The man is completely full of crap, a liar of the first order, and it is most definitely his era. He turned a blind eye and made the league a bunch of money while ignoring the integrity of the game, and then only when forced to, he made the necessary rules and tried to rewrite history with him as the knight on the white horse who saves the day.

      The saddest part of all is that some people like you were fooled by the act.

  5. Mark Daniel says:

    Wow, that Pennant Porch looks pretty rickety. I don’t think that thing would pass the building code today. And what is behind the Pennant Porch? Grass? It was a different time back then, that’s for sure.

  6. Mike says:

    Not to spoil the basic foundations of this rip roaring debate, but Clemens wasn’t on the ’98 Yanks. He was on the Blue Jays (winning the second of back-to-back Cy Youngs).

  7. KS Dave says:

    On MLB opening day in 1964 I would have been 13 years old and I have distinct memories of the pennant porch. I followed the A’s back then as my dad and uncles would have the radio broadcast on for most games through the summer. We would go to old Municipal Stadium several times a year to take in a game.

    I hope I have this right, but this is my memory. Charlie built the pennant porch but he knew that he was going to have to take it down to comply with the commissioner’s ruling. He did this on opening day! The porch was up, umpires met, fingers were pointed and it had to come down before the game could begin. The bleachers were mobile in some fashion (on wheels?) and were towed out with a tractor or put on a trailer. The tractor paraded the bleachers around the field in front of the grandstands to an ovation from the Yankee-hating crowed! The vague corners of my mind seem to remember an opening day video report from one of the local TV stations which documented the spectacle.

    In the picture, yes that is grass behind the temporary bleachers. That is right field leading up to the original right field wall with a grassy slope behind. This is the grassy slope where the showman Finley put a flock of sheep and a shepherd during at least one of his KC years.

    The 1/2 pennant porch was subsequently constructed which, if I remember this right, had an overhanging roof line which guess what – matched the Yankee right field dimension! I don’t know how long that stayed up. Oh Charlie!

  8. DSE4AU says:

    KS Dave, that is interesting, and might explain why it appears the foul pole is BEHIND the seats, and that there is actually fair ball territory to the right side of the bleachers (a small sliver between the line and the wall after the 296 marker! I doubt anyone could hit a ball there, but if they did it would be very difficult to play as the OF!

    • Chris H says:

      I had thought the purpose of that weird little triangular strip to the right of the Pennant Porch was to make the field technically comply with the rules. This is all from memory, but I think the rules were changed to explicitly state that a baseball field had to be 325′ down the lines. But I don’t think anyone added “and the fence can’t anywhere be less than 325′ from home plate,” so that Finley was technically within the rules by building that pointy section 296′ from the plate.

      Or maybe it just seems Finley-like to lawyer the rulebook that way.

  9. TWolf says:

    My youth was spent in Kansas City and I saw or listened to many Athletics games during
    the Arnold Johnson era (1955-1960) and the Finley era (1961-1967). I was a real baseball nerd and the A’s were about the most important thing in my life. Even during the Johnson era the team would change the distance or the height of the left field fence almost every year. The distances of the fences (330 LF, 375 LCF, 421 CF, 387 RCF, 353 RF) were very reasonable, but the prevailing winds tended to carry a lot of fly balls over the left field area, mostly by visiting hitters. At the time of the 1960 All Star game in K. C., there was a high screen above the left field fence.

    After Finley became owner in 1961, he moved left field back so that the distance down the left field foul line was 370 feet. In 1964 he brought the fences in so the field could be more like Yankee stadium. In the years 1966 and 1967 he had fences moved back again when the Athletics started laying the foundation of a great pitching staff.

    What can be learned from this is that the size of the home playing field will have only a marginal effect on the overall success of the team. Eventually, when the players on the great Yankee teams of the 1950’s and 1960’s got older and could not be adequately replaced
    they plummeted in the standings regardless of the dimensions of Yankee Stadium. When the Kansas City Athletics gradually added great players, they became the three time World Champion Oakland A’s.

  10. Luis says:

    You have to love the website that mentions Aurelio Monteagudo. Aurelio was a Cuban born that played for a long time in Venezuela during the winter where I saw him pitch on his last years, and eventually became a Venezuelan citizen. He used to say famously that when he won the press and the fans would call him “Venezuelan”, but when he lost he’d be called “Cuban.”

  11. Erik says:

    Finley’s Yankees fixation is interesting since his A’s (when in Oakland) did something no team besides the Yankees has done.

    Only 7 MLB teams have won more than one World Series in a row. Chronologically: Cubs, Athletics, Red Sox, Giants, Yankees, Reds, Blue Jays.

    But only two teams have ever won more than *two* in a row: the Yankees, of course, who have streaks of 5, 4, and 3 (and then 3 at 2), and Finley’s ’72-’74 Oakland A’s.

    That was the powerhouse team when I was growing up, but I didn’t know until recently how rare that string was.

  12. Anon says:

    I have a relative from Yankton, SD so a couple other famous people from Yankton:
    – Tom Brokaw – born in another town in SD but raised in Yankton
    – Adam Vinatieri – native of Yankton
    – Lyle Alzado – went to now-defunct Yankton College

  13. steve adey says:

    Charlie Finley, Bill Veeck. . . we used to have baseball team owners who seemed to enjoy the game. Some of them we loved, others (many others) we hated. Quick! Name current a team owner. They are corporations and partnerships who focus on the bottom line. Kids aren’t interested in baseball these days? When’s the last time they got to see a midget pinch hitter? Team’s in last place (or at least out of the race)? Hire a rapper coach and send him out to argue with the umpire. Let Lady Gaga pitch to Big Papi.

  14. Mike Schilling says:

    That was the year Mickey Mantle won the triple crown, and he hit nine of his 52 homers against the A’s.
    Against the A’s or in KC? Because there were only seven other teams in the league, so Mantle averaged a bit over seven against each of them. It would be weird if they were so evenly distributed that the highest against any team was nine.

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