An Un-Level Playing Field

I never thought I would be in favor of Major League interleague games.  My father always said they made sense, but it took a while for me to get used to the idea, just as  it took a while to get used to the addition of a wild card team; now there are two in each league.

The League Championship Series was not easy to accept when first implemented, either, but it is part of the game now – just like the designated-hitter rule in the American League that was added 40 years ago in 1973.

I always wondered why the designated-hitter was never approved for the National League, especially since Commissioner Selig has consolidated the umpires, and interleague play has been so popular. Shouldn’t all the teams be playing each other on a level playing field?

There was no level playing field at Sulphur Dell, come to think of it. The right fielder, if standing at the base of the right field fence, stood 22 1/2 feet above the playing surface.  Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

The story goes that Nashville’s Phil Weintraub, playing the right field ‘porch’ back in the 30s, ran down the slope to field a hard-hit grounder, only to have it go between his legs. As he turned to run up the hill to retrieve the ball, it bounded off the fence and once again went between his legs. Finally grabbing the ball on his way back down the hill, Weintraub overthrew the third baseman in his attempt to make a play on the batter who had rounded second. As the ball bounced off of the grandstand and into left field, the batter scored.

Weintraub was given three errors on the same play. As told by Nashville’s Mr. Baseball Junie McBride, who passed away in 2009, Weintraub argued that a player couldn’t make three errors on one play, but the scorer said one certainly could.

In the late 50s the owners of the Nashville Vols talked about leveling Sulphur Dell to make it easier for players to navigate the outfield, but it never happened. It is good that it didn’t, as the stories such as told about Weintraub are treasures that only add to the mystique and memories of the old ballpark.

Now, if we could just get the dh in the National League…

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Filed under History, Research

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