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Oldtimers still know fundamentals/Paul Peterson

July 31, 2012
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette , The Daily Mining Gazette

It never fails to confound me when I see a highly paid major league baseball player fail to execute a simple fundamental play on the field.

This year's version of the Detroit Tigers is a prime example of that lack of fundamentals. Things like dropping down a sacrifice bunt, backing up a play in the outfield, or just basic baserunning often seem to be just an afterthought in Motown these days.

Talking heads like Detroit color man Rod Allen gravely tell us that "sluggers" like Brennan Boesch and Delman Young aren't expected to bunt because they are seldom asked to do it.

And here we all thought spring training was held specifically to address those kind of concerns.

You almost have to go to an oldtimers baseball game - like the one played last Saturday afternoon in Kearsarge - to see the fundamentals practiced.

Now, the Portage Lake and Wolverine oldtimers teams are just that .... oldtimers.

But they still practice the basics of the game, even though their arms and legs are weary from decades of playing. A number of them even have knee or hip replacements.

And they jokingly say that the two main items in their equipment bags are Ace bandages and liniment cream.

I've always believed that the basics of baseball are learned by playing every day.

And these oldtimers did just that in their youth. They found empty lots or fields to play the game as much as they could.

Finding enough players wasn't ever a problem in the so-called old days, either.

If players were in short supply, you could always play "pitchers mound out," or limit hitting to just one field. By using just a little imagination, you could always make sure there was going to be a ballgame that day.

If you were fortunate enough to land a spot on a local Twilight League roster, you learned very quickly that you better learn to lay down a bunt when asked by your manager.

Managers like the late Merv Klemett of Bancroft and Scurb Durocher of Stanton, and Paul Hill of Wolverine and Bob Michaelson of Tapiola demanded that everyone execute at least a handful of successful bunts in batting practice.

Failure to do so could end up with the erring player sitting on the bench.

Speaking of Klemett, I still remember an oldtimers game several years ago when he stepped to the plate late in a tied game with a runner on second base and none out.

Hobbled by a leg injury that made even walking a chore, Klemett laid down a perfect bunt that moved a Portage Lake runner (he later scored the go-ahead run) into scoring position.

Never mind that bunting had been banned from the game many years before - Klemett was simply doing what he had instinctively learned after six decades in the sport.

And the Wolverine manager didn't even protest the move. He understood that was the correct way to play the game ...



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