Lindbergh: ‘Lords of the Realm’ at 25, the book that foreshadowed the 1994 baseball strike

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on May 2, 2019:

“There was something about the national pastime that made the people in it behave badly. They were, perhaps, blinded by the light of what it represented—a glowing distillate of America. Men fought to control it as if they could own it. They wallowed in dubious battle, locked in ugly trench warfare for dominion over the green fields. The money poured into the game and men gorged and gouged over it—made damned fools of themselves over it. And the fans, ever forgiving, were still there.” —John Helyar, Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball

John Helyar remembers the moment he realized that writing about the business of baseball had changed the way he watched the game. It was October 14, 1992, and the obscenely slow Sid Bream had just beaten Barry Bonds’s throw home to seal a walk-off win for the Braves in NLCS Game 7. A crowd of almost 52,000 fans made Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium shake, causing visible tremors on the broadcast when the camera zoomed in on the happy pileup at home plate.

Helyar, a lifelong Red Sox fan, had also adopted the Braves after the Wall Street Journal transferred him to Atlanta in the mid-1980s, and he celebrated their historic comeback from a spot deep in the left-center-field stands. But amid the euphoria of the Braves’ big moment, he pulled out a pair of binoculars and trained them on the Pirates’ private box, where he spied owner Doug Danforth and GM Ted Simmons looking “slumped and devastated.” Bonds had just played his last game for Pittsburgh, and although Danforth didn’t know it, his defeated franchise was about to embark on a streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons. “This was their last chance to win anything before the club was to be broken up by free agency,” Helyar recalls. “This was, I felt, the very definition of mixed feelings.”

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Originally published: May 2, 2019. Last Updated: May 2, 2019.