Being a baseball junkie has never been so easy! The MLB Network (both on television and satellite radio) make following the game a matter of course 24/7/365 if that is desired. And the internet gives such quick access to stats, pictures, simulations, forums, etc.. As the Russian comic, Yakov Smirnoff, used to say, “What a country!”
This week it has been even more apparent to me as I have been following the World Baseball Classic (WBC) more closely than I have in the past. American fans seem pretty sedate when you see how the people from the Dominican Republic cheer and go crazy over a walk. If you see the Japan games in Tokyo, you have the spectacle of an entire stadium singing a team fight song…a FULL-LENGTH fight song! I don’t understand what they are singing, but they sure look happy singing it.
But, I am old enough to remember when the off-season and even Spring Training were really “down” times for the baseball fan. You might find a bit or two of info in the daily sports section. Once a week you could devout the Sporting News (back when it was the Bible of baseball). Maybe, just maybe, the local news would carry a weekly report from the training camp of the local team IF you were in a major league city. But mostly, it was quiet.
In those days I would literally scour what I could in search of some new baseball tidbit. I literally read every baseball book in my local library (I can still remember looking at book spines for the Dewey number 796.357), and would pester the librarian to get more. She was a very patient lady.
And a kind lady, too. One day she smiled at me and asked me to follow her into another part of the library. It was an area I had never paid attention to as it did not contain books. However, it was a media room, and she had set up for me a World Series highlight film from a 1950s Series (I cannot recall which one). The Yankees were featured (which does not narrow it down much), and it was black and white, but I did not care! The grin did not leave my face for the entire film, and when it was done I asked to see it again (she let me). And one of the things I remembered from that film was the name Lew Fonseca. The name stuck with me as I knew I had read it in some of the baseball books.
Sure enough, Fonseca was a driving force behind those great films shot for American military troops and other venues. He often served as director and narrator. And he was pretty much the definition of a “baseball lifer.”
He had a decent career that spanned about twelve years, although he was a regular player in only about five of those seasons. Even so, he had a lifetime batting average of .316, and he led the American League in hitting while with the Cleveland Indians in 1929 (.369). That same season he drove in 103 runs and slugged at a .532 clip. But his career was injury plagued and shortened.
While a player, however, he became well-known in baseball as one of the first men to use film in analyzing baseball games and players. He was said to be adept at finding flaws in players and learning how to exploit those flaws while he as manager of the Chicago White Sox, 1932-1934. However, his winning percentage was only .380, so maybe he did not exploit those flaws as well as some thought. Regardless, he developed a reputation for his work with film, and after his playing and managing career he became director of promotions for both the American and National leagues. In this capacity Fonseca worked on World Series highlight films from their inception in 1943 through 1969. And that was how I became better acquainted with him, his work and his career. Those films got a young baseball junkie through quite a few cold winter days!