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May 9, 2014

Bob Bestler | Baseball boring? It’s still a grand old game

I’ve always loved baseball, but a recent Sports Illustrated article gave one more reason why the game has become so boring to the average fan.

I’ve always loved baseball, but a recent Sports Illustrated article gave one more reason why the game has become so boring to the average fan.

The story said strikeouts are at an all-time high and every strikeout means there is virtually no action on the playing field for about five minutes, more or less.

SI noted that the last strikeout-free game was in 1985, a year in which major league baseball recorded 25,788 singles and 22,451 strikeouts. Compare that to this year’s rate: 4,273 singles and already 5,977 strikeouts.

I mention the strikeout count not to turn anyone off to the grand old game, but because I think it suddenly puts me in good company.

A few years ago, while still in the Myrtle Beach loop, I played in a Legends of the Game exhibition at whatever the Pelicans stadium was called at the time.

I’ve already written about my first at-bat.

Tug McGraw, a former Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets star, did not appreciate my standing at the plate without a helmet.

The Tugger took it personally, as if I was saying: You don’t throw hard enough to hurt me, old man. Truth was, I was too much a rookie to even consider a helmet.

McGraw immediately beaned me, a glancing blow off my left shoulder. My instant reaction was to rush the mound, but I knew a fight with Faith Hill’s father-in-law would be a PR disaster.

I didn’t forgive McGraw until he died a few years later, then wrote a nice eulogy. I’m such a big person, you know.

Next time up, I faced Kent Tekulve, a former Pittsburgh Pirate with a wicked under-hand rifle and one of baseball’s all-time best relief pitchers.

I had actually talked to Tekulve before the game and asked how much he had left after so many years in retirement.

“About 75 percent,’’ he said.

So when I got up to face him, I figured I could handle anything he threw.

Uh-uh. Didn’t happen exactly that way.

Three pitches in the same spot, knee high, outside corner, coming in, it seemed, at about 130 mph, followed by three weak swings. Whiff. Whiff. Whiff. I think the ball was on the way back to Tekulve before each swing was finished.

I wasn’t happy about it, but now, looking back, I think it completed my baseball resume.

I was struck out by one of the best -- almost like a modern-day big leaguer, according to SI.

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