October 25, 2007
Here, Sonny, Catch!

Sitting here watching the World Series (LET'S go RED Sox, bom, bom, bom-bom-bom -- and how about that ca-razy percussion section in the bullpen?), I was struck by the now-common sight of a fielder flipping a foul ball into the stands. It's routine now, of course, but it wasn't always so.

FenwayPark1970,postcard.jpgIt's one of those things that, once you see it, seems so obviously right. What kid who goes to a big-league game doesn't dream about being able to bring home a real, Major League baseball? And it doesn't matter how old that kid is.

When you compare the money that is spent on putting a team on the field to the Costco-like price of a baseball (I mean, I assume they buy them in bulk), and the public relations value of donating a dozen or so during the course of the game, it's the very definition of a no-brainer.

But I don't remember ever that seeing that when I was growing up watching the game. One day, someone in some ballclub's management saw it happen -- perhaps a ball was tossed by a player who remembered when he was a kid at the park himself -- and said, hey, why don't we do that all the time?

It's a nice example of picking the low-hanging fruit when you're looking for ways to innovate (which simply means, thinking differently to change things for the better), and points up what may be its first principle:

Start by examining what resources you have immediately at hand. You may be amazed at what significant changes you can make with a very small amount of effort.

(We love baseball here at Idea Champions -- check out "Measuring Up," our foremost expert Mr. Vadeboncoeur's earlier post on how the Kansas City Royals have begun to "think outside the radar gun.")

Photo of vintage 1970 postcard of Fenway Park
uploaded to Flickr by vinceconnare

Posted by at October 25, 2007 11:10 PM


(One reader, writing Mitch on other subjects, added this story about his memories of teams' attitudes about giving away baseballs in an earlier era:)

About throwing the baseball into the stands: I grew up as a hopeless Chicago Cubs fan. Big losers that they were, they had some unbelievably great teams that provided a lot of great and often ridiculous childhood memories. The manager at the time was the much-hated-by-everybody-on-the-planet Leo Durocher. He was the main reason the Cubs would go into what we called the "September Swoon" each season.

The Cubs were the only team in the major leagues that refused to play at night because the poor Wrigley family didn't think it would be a good investment to install all of those lights! And of course the months of July and August in Chicago are blazing hot to say the least. Leo insisted the pitchers finished all nine innings each day, and that the starting players played all nine innings every day. Each season they would build up a huge lead on the rest of the league until the September Swoon would creep up and make it impossible for those poor guys (or sissies, as Leo called them) to keep the energy up.

Okay, sorry for the delay, and back to the memory you brought back...on one of those hot days Ron Santo made the, as you mentioned, unheard of before gesture of throwing a foul ball into the stands to a kid near the front. The fans went wild, but Leo was so furious that Mr. Santo would have the audacity to distract the rest of the team from their focus on the game, that he fined him!!!

Take me out to the ballgame,
Denny Snyder

Posted by: Bill Ross [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 31, 2007 12:41 PM

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