CHAD’S THOUGHTS ON BASEBALL’S SLOW PLAY; THE LOGO

April 27, 2010

Norman Chad had this to say in his syndicated column that appeared in the LA Times:
“So umpire Joe West recently complained about how long Red Sox-Yankees games take to play — “It’s pathetic and embarrassing,” he said — setting off a
minor firestorm about baseball’s slow pace. Now, I’ll let you be the judge about Red Sox-Yankees games — there’s undoubtedly one on TV at this very
moment — and let me be the judge about baseball’s slow pace.
The line at the post office is slow. Baseball is slower.
Granted, complaining that baseball is too slow is like complaining that Too Tall Jones is too tall. Part of the game’s appeal is its leisurely pace. But there’s a fine line between leisurely and languid, just like there’s a fine line between comatose and dead.
Defending his turf, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon said last month, “Have you ever gone to watch a movie and thought, ‘Man, this movie is so good, I wish it would have never ended.’ That’s like a Red Sox-Yankees game. Why would you want it to end? . . . If you don’t want to be there, don’t be there. Go home.
“Now, I’ll give Papelbon the benefit of the doubt here — after all, he’s a relief pitcher, not a customer relations specialist — but I wish he’d understand that a really long movie might run 2 1/2 hours while Red Sox-Yankees games routinely approach 2 1/2 days. I wish he’d understand there’s a difference between sitting in a movie theater and sitting in 42-degree weather.
Most of all, I wish he’d just wind up and deliver. Papelbon once had a ball called on him because he took too long to pitch. He wanders around the mound so much, I half-expect him to build a gazebo out there.
West said it succinctly and correctly: “They take too long to play.”
Frankly, I haven’t watched a baseball game on TV start to finish since the advent of the remote. I used to click away between innings, now I click away
between pitches. I once watched the entirety of Ken Burns’s Civil War documentary during a single Jason Bay at-bat.
(Speaking of which, this reminds me of an NHL TV problem that it will not address: two intermissions. You cannot give viewers two 15-minute opportunities to wander away. Heck, Elvis could rise from the grave and be in concert for the first time in 33 years, and if his show has two intermissions, half the crowd would be at IHOP by the time The King came out for his third set.)
Hey, I like watching pitch after pitch fouled off as much as the next guy, but I cannot stand to watch strikes called balls. The strike zone is like the Bermuda
Triangle: You hear a lot about it but nobody knows exactly where it is.
And how many precious seconds are lost to hitters messing around with their batting gloves? You know, I’ve never seen a surgeon ask for time, step away
from the operating table and adjust his surgical gloves.
Then there are the endless mound confabs. In Game 4 of last year’s World Series, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada and pitcher CC Sabathia met at the mound eight times in one inning; I thought one of them was trying to refinance his second mortgage. Frankly, all mound meetings should be banned — unless you’re Crash Davis and need a live rooster to take the curse off Jose’s glove.
Here are several other ways to speed up the game:
— Limit Tony La Russa to two double-switches per series.
— Credit teams with an extra half-run if a home run trot takes less than 15 seconds.
— In extra innings, the hitting team starts with a runner on second. If the game reaches the 12th inning, the defensive team has to take one player off the field.
— Just as football stole the format for replay challenge from Scrabble, baseball should steal something from poker — namely, you should be allowed to fold.
Example: Bottom of the eighth, two out and weak-hitting catcher Lou Marson is up for the Indians against Mariano Rivera. The Indians don’t have to waste
time or a pinch hitter; rather, they simply fold and concede the out. Score it as an unassisted putout for the catcher.
— Build a moat around the batter’s box.
— Stop playing album version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during seventh-inning stretch.
— No more Red Sox-Yankees games.

Ask The Slouch

Q: When youth baseball and softball games are over, players line up and shake hands with the other team. In Major League Baseball, the winning team’s players line up and congratulate only themselves. What happened? (Dale Jarvis; Medina, Ohio)
A: When you’re a kid, it’s a “Field of Dreams.” When you grow up, it becomes “Wall Street.”

Q: When your ex-wives departed via free agency, were you awarded compensatory picks? (Mike Herbert; Annandale)
A: I’ve never sought compensatory picks — I prefer to build the next divorce from scratch.
 
Q: Where did you have Jimmy Clausen in your mock draft? (Don Parks; Oakland, Calif.)
A: Since 2007, I only do a WNBA mock draft.

Q: Now that the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is set to expand to a 68-team field, how long do you think it will be before the National Heads-Up
Poker Championship follows suit? (Nick Herman; Mauldin, S.C.)
A: Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

Jerry Crowe wrote in the LA Times about the creation of the NBA’s iconic logo:

“Neither West nor the league will acknowledge it, but it’s common knowledge that the player depicted in that iconic image really is the Lakers great. And now it’s confirmed by the man who created it, Alan Siegel.

Jerry West claims he’s not so presumptuous as to assume his image is depicted on one of the most recognizable emblems in sports: the NBA logo.

The NBA too is coy.

Alan Siegel is not.

“It’s Jerry West,” he says.

Siegel, 71, designed the familiar logo in 1969, taking a Wen Roberts photograph of the Lakers star and turning it into an iconic image.

In red, white and blue, it shows a player in silhouette purposefully dribbling the ball upcourt with his left hand.

Siegel, a branding expert and lifelong basketball fan, believes he knows why the NBA is reluctant to acknowledge the obvious.

“They want to institutionalize it rather than individualize it,” he says during an interview over lunch near his office in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.
“It’s become such a ubiquitous, classic symbol and focal point of their identity and their licensing program that they don’t necessarily want to identify it with one player.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern, through a spokesman, declines to comment, saying he doesn’t know whether West is on the logo.

“There’s no record of it here,” spokesman Tim Frank says.

Siegel’s original artwork has been lost over the years through several office moves, but the designer recites the story of the logo in detail. In 1969, Siegel and his business partner, the late Robert Gale, opened their branding consultancy.

In a previous job, Siegel says, he oversaw development of Major League Baseball’s logo, which was developed in 1968 and introduced during baseball’s centennial in 1969. It too is red, white and blue and features a player — a batter — in silhouette.

It’s no accident, Siegel notes, that the logos are similar.

He says that J. Walter Kennedy, the NBA’s commissioner from 1963 to 1975, told him that “he basically wanted to have a family relationship with baseball
and to use red, white and blue to position basketball as an All-American game.”

Siegel says he came up with 40 or 50 designs, none of which featured any players other than West, but Kennedy gravitated toward the derivative of the
baseball logo.

“And in those days,” the designer says, “it was top down. He made the decision. There was no research. There was no discussion. He said, ‘We’re doing this.’
“Siegel, 6 feet 2, was a star basketball player at Long Beach High on Long Island. He says he turned down dozens of basketball scholarships to attend
Cornell, where he left the basketball team after one season to concentrate on academics.

A childhood friend, the late sportswriter and broadcaster Dick Schaap, also was a Cornell graduate. And later, when Siegel was searching for an image to use in the NBA logo, Schaap gave him access to the photo archives at Sport magazine.

“I found this picture of Jerry West dribbling down the court,” Siegel says, “and, of course, growing up in New York and my father having season tickets for college and pro games at Madison Square Garden, I’d seen West play a lot.”

West, in fact, was one of Siegel’s favorite players — along with John Havlicek and Oscar Robertson — but that’s not why he chose to feature the former
West Virginia star in his design.

The photo, Siegel says, just grabbed him.

“It had a nice flavor to it,” he says, “so I took that picture and we traced it. It was perfect. It was vertical and it had a sense of movement. It was just one of
those things that clicked.”

Kennedy thought so too.

“Nobody else said anything,” Siegel says. “And when we did the publicity, nobody ever asked whether it was Jerry West.

“If you did it today, they’d want 50 designs. They’d get focus groups and test it. They’d make a whole big deal about it and they’d probably end up with a
design that wasn’t as good.”

West, calling it “awkward” to comment on the logo when the NBA won’t confirm he’s on it, remembers thinking when he first saw Siegel’s design, “That looks like somebody familiar.”

Siegel, a Knicks season-ticket holder for more than 30 years, says he twice met West, once at a restaurant in Los Angeles and more recently at a Lakers
game at Staples Center.

At the restaurant, Siegel says, “I introduced myself and told him I’d designed the logo. And he said, ‘Who was the commissioner then?’ I said, ‘Kennedy,’ and he said, ‘OK,’ and went on with his lunch.”

At the game, “he was sort of friendly but noncommittal, so he’s never really said anything to me about it,” Siegel says.

In a new biography, “Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon,” it’s noted that West is not above jokingly introducing himself by saying, “I’m the
logo.”

Today, he demurs: “If that’s me, I’m extremely flattered.”

But of course it’s him.

In recent years, some have suggested that the logo be updated, that perhaps it should feature Michael Jordan.

“Fine with me,” West says.

Siegel says no.

“I’m a fairly sophisticated marketing guy,” he says, “and I think something that’s so well-known and symbolic of high-level basketball around the world,
it would be a mistake to change it.

“It has significance and appeal because it’s historical. It doesn’t look like a modern player. It’s a classic image.”

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