Remembering Don Mincher

From SABR member David Laurila at Baseball Prospectus on March 6, 2012:

First baseman Don Mincher died on Sunday at age 73. In his memory, we’ll be re-running David Laurila‘s two-part interview with him, which originally ran as a two-part “Prospectus Q&A” column on January and 11th and 12th, 2011.

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David Laurila: What was baseball like in your era?

Don Mincher: You know, David, the big thing that’s different today, from my era, is first of all—of course—the money. You know, you just can’t get away from talking about the money and the lifestyles. Another one is the designated hitter and the difference it has made. It’s a different ballgame. There is also the closer and the set-up man, and what have you. I can’t imagine back in my day, in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, any pitcher that went out with a notion of going seven innings. Everybody that I played with or against walked out there with the intention of going nine innings. They weren’t looking for a set-up man or a closer; they were looking to finish games. It didn’t always happen, but it was a mindset.

Regarding the DH, in 1972, I retired after our Oakland team won the first of three World Series; I retired after the season. During the holidays Charlie Finley called and asked me to come back for another couple of years. I asked why, because we had already had that conversation. He told me that he had just passed the designated hitter rule. I said, “Charlie, what is that?” He said, “This is a term that is used for a guy that all he does is hit; he doesn’t have to play a position and I want you to come back and be the designated hitter for the Oakland A’s in 1973.” I said no, and it is the only decision I ever made in baseball that I regretted, not going back for the ’73 season as the DH. I couldn’t believe it. I could not envision a guy playing in the game and not playing a position—all you do is hit—so I didn’t do that. I went ahead and retired. Of course, Oakland won the World Series in ’73 and ’74.

There is also the way the game was played. I mean, I played my whole career adoring Mickey Mantle. He was just… I played against him for 13 years, but he was still my hero. I don’t find that much anymore.

Our teams in Minnesota and Oakland were very close-knit, not only in the clubhouse and on the playing field, but our families were very close. We did things together; we had family events. I suspect that’s not the way it is today.

Baseball is still primarily the same, you know. Ninety feet between the bases, three outs in an inning—that all remains the same. It’s a game that’s played with a bat and a ball, and speed, but today, now you’ve got miles per hour, now you’ve got all these percentages that are figured. And what a difference it makes, David, to have ESPN showing every move you may or may not have made every night. We didn’t have that during my era. If you had a bad game or did something stupid on the field, it wasn’t shown all over the nation that night. That was a big difference. It was just a different time and a different way.

But, you know, the money is the biggest difference. I just cannot, in my mind, envision playing the game of baseball for even $1 million a year, and they’re making up to $27 million a year now. It just doesn’t correlate in my mind, when the best of our era—the very best—the Mantles, the Williams, the Mays… $100 to $125 [thousand] was their top. It doesn’t compute in my mind, the money that’s going around. And of course, the higher the salaries, the higher the ticket prices, and unbelievably, the higher the attendance. It doesn’t equate in my mind, but it’s a fact.

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16172

Read Part 2 here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16173



Originally published: March 6, 2012. Last Updated: March 6, 2012.

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