I have been watching and observing sports for over 60 years. Over those years many things have change in each of the major team sports. Most of these changes have been for the better. Better training, better equipment, and better playing fields have helped all the sports be more entertaining. There are some things in each sport, that will never be seen again, that made each sport unique and were outstanding athletic accomplishments. I feel sad that the younger generation of sport fans will never see these things, that were almost common, from the late 50’s, to the late 70’s. It was a different way the sport was played, that made the sport a little more fun and inspiring. Today each sport is pretty much thriving, so I don’t think any of these things will ever be seen again, even though they would help their respective sport to be better. Some will never be seen again, because the players just cannot perform the tasks anymore, and probably never will. Let’s take a look at each sport.
Baseball will never see these pitching performances ever again. Going back to 1960, on opening Don Drysdale pitched an opening day 11 inning complete game beating the Chicago Cubs 3 to 2. In the greatest pitching duel of all time Warren Spahn, 42 years old at the time, battled Juan Marichal for 16 innings, 0-0 until fittingly Willie Mays hit a home run in the bottom of the 16th, to end one of the greatest games in Major League history. Each pitcher threw well over 200 pitches. Mickey Lolich of the Detroit Tigers, in 1971 threw 376 innings and completed 29 games. Today pitchers don’t complete 29 games in their career. The last time any pitcher threw 300 innings was Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980. This year in the American League nobody threw 200 innings. We will never see a base stealing, superior defensive and great pitching team win a World Series ever again. The Los Angeles Dodgers played in 4 World Series, won 3, from 1959 to 1966 with this type of team. This type of team will never exist in baseball again, even though that formula could still win.
Football will never see the Wishbone offense, one of the most exciting and explosive offenses in the history of college football. It had its peak in the late 60’s up until the early 80’s. The company line has been that defenses devised ways of stopping the Wishbone. In reality the NFL put the clamps on the Wishbone. The Wishbone required a quarterback who was athletic, quick and deceptive with the ball for the attack to be formidable. He had to have some throwing ability but did not have to be tall. He needed to be able to read the line of scrimmage for the Wishbone to work. This was not the prototype QB the NFL was looking for. Being the minor leagues of pro football, colleges had to start producing what the NFL wanted. Then when the pro spread offense became popular in the NFL in the 80’s, the college game just followed suit to keep the NFL happy. We will never see an NFL quarterback call all his own plays. It wasn’t by accident that in the 50’s, 60’s, and most of the 70’s the quarterback was called the field general. Every quarterback in the NFL, with exception of the Cleveland Browns, called his own plays. Rarely was a play sent in from the bench. On rare occasions, when a play would be sent in, many times it would be ignored. We will never see the two-back offense in the NFL,again. There were some historic tandems in the 60’s and 70’s. Cleveland had Jim Brown and Bobby Mitchell. The list of great running tandems can just roll off the tongue: Taylor and Hornung, Kiick and Csonka, Harris and Blier. Everybody knows who they played for. This all ended in the 80’s thanks to Bill Walsh. You could call it, the end of deception in pro football. It is the main reason you see so many 3rd, 4th and 1 yd. to go failures.
In basketball you will never really see fast break offense again. This was the most exciting basketball ever. The 60’s 70’s and 80’s was the fast break era in basketball, led by the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. Today the fast break is only run when the opportunity presents itself. The 3-point shot may have something to do with this, but most of all, I think it is just an easier way to play the game, having some sort of half court set offense. Then there is hockey, God love them. You will never see players in hockey play without helmets or goalies without facemasks. In the sixties and seventies your manhood was challenged, if you thought about wearing some kind of face and head protection. Many players were either embarrassed or afraid to ask for a helmet or mask. It was not until 1979, that helmets were mandated in hockey and that was only for the new players coming in. If you did not wear a helmet up to that point, you could continue to play and get your head bashed in by another player or the puck. Hockey’s version of keeping players safe.
I feel quite fortunate that I did get to see all the things that I mentioned, that will never be seen again. The list is not complete, but it will do for now. I think that for the most part these sports have suffered, with the exception of hockey, for these things that will never be seen or done again. Yes, the athletes today, are bigger, faster, and quicker than their counterparts of times gone by. However, players in the past have done things that none of them will ever do. The athletes of today will never experience some of the tactics and strategies that had made their particular sport great.