As my St. Louis Cardinals battle in the World Series, a great baseball quote comes to mind. In the era of Billyball at Yankee Stadium more than 30 years ago, Graig Nettles observed “When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a baseball player, And I wanted to join the circus. Playing for the Yankees has allowed me to do both at the same time.”
The team was owned by George Steinbrenner. He hired and fired Billy Martin as his field boss several times. Reggie Jackson was Mr. October.
What happened to baseball since then? The economics now seem totally out of this world. Reggie and his pals, including Nettles, were ‘the best team money could buy” before any kind of salary cap. Their total payroll in 1977 was $3.4 million.
In 2013 David Ortiz of the RedSox makes a base salary of $14 million, but he is still a ‘bargain’ compared to the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. A Rod played in only a handful of games this year, but he still took home $29 million.
The numbers are staggering, especially when watching World Series games at Fenway in Boston, which opened in 1912. A few years after that, the RedSox signed a young bull of a pitcher named George Herman Ruth. Babe had a fabulous arm, but he was even better swinging the bat, so they made him an outfielder. In 1920, Ruth was sold to the Yankees and baseball’s greatest decade began.
It is still a wonderful game to watch in October, especially when you record it on the PVR and zoom through all the commercials and the endless boring analysis.
So whatever happened to Graig Nettles? He is 69 and lives in Knoxville Tennessee. He has survived prostate cancer. He loves to watch kids play ball, as long as no one pays them money. What a concept.
I’m Roger Currie