I will be posting pieces of this story every Tuesday and Thursday beginning November 6th on launchhittingacademy.com and here. Feel free to comment.
After watching the 1999 All Star Game at Fenway Park a man named Tony Johnson had an idea. He watched in awe from the stands of Fenway as baseball's all-time greats came out onto that field. The current players were conversing with the legends of generations past, their camaraderie among them emerging victorious through the generational gap. Tony couldn't help but think about when he use to watch these legends grace the playing field when he was a young boy. His mind began to drift into the serenity of baseball, as games and players ran through his mind. "Oh, how I wish I could see them play once more," he thought.
Tony was a life long fan of baseball, growing up in Brooklyn, NY. His father would take him to see the Dodgers play every summer, which would prove to be his fondest memories from his childhood. He admired the grace of Duke Snider and the courage of Jackie Robinson. He aspired to be a Major Leaguer himself one day. After earning All American Honors in high school, Tony was offered scholarships to play ball at NYU. Unfortunately Tony's college career didn't start off so well. He had trouble adjusting to college pitching and received little playing time. As the year proceeded he began getting more playing time before suffering a leg injury while sliding into home during one of the games. He was not able to fully recover from his injury, effectively ending his playing career and hopes of making the Major Leagues. However, he did go on to earn a Master of Engineering Degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1965.
After seeing this All Star game ceremony he began to wonder. He has spent the last 30 years of his life researching and working with robotics and engineering. He felt that with financial support, he could create a machine that would bring back all the legends for one playoff series to prove who the best of all time was. Tony contacted MLB commissioner Bud Selig with his proposal the following day. He requested financial assistance from Major League Baseball to pursue his invention.
After several weeks of anticipation, Tony was thinking that Bud was never going to return his message and that his dream was going to be over before it began. On October 30th, just three days after the World Series between the Yankees and Braves ended, Tony received a call from Bud's secretary asking if he could meet with him at Yankee Stadium the next day. Tony was excited about meeting with Bud and presenting his proposal to him in person.
Dressed in a black suit and tie, Tony walked into Yankee Stadium with an overwhelming feeling of nerves. He wanted to pursue his dream, but knew that without the MLB funding his project he could never make it happen. With sweaty palms he walked into the front office of Yankee Stadium where Bud was sitting with George Steinbrenner at a large oval oak table. Tony shook their hands and took a seat.
"I've read your proposal that you sent me back in July. And after several months of thinking about it, I am interested. I think you have a great idea and I am sure that whatever funds we put into this project we will surely get back through ticket sales if the project is successful. However, this has not been done before. So, I need you to convince me that this is going to be worth my time and money." Bud said to Tony.
Tony responded, "Well, Mr. Selig, I have been working with robotics and engineering for the past 30 years. We've created things that have never been done before and we didn't believe them to be realistic back when I started, but now they are being mass produced. My company has been researching time travel and reincarnation. I believe that we are on the brink of a huge advancement in these areas, but the funding isn't available to get us there. With your help, I believe we can make this proposal become a reality."
"How long do you foresee this taking? And how much money will you need?" Bud asked.
"It's hard to say how long it will be exactly, but with the proper facilities and equipment I can realistically have this machine created in 5-10 years. As far as funding we are already receiving a grant of $5 billion per year from the US Government towards research. This helps us a lot but we need a little extra for a project of this magnitude."
"How much extra?"
Looking down at the table as he calculated the numbers in his mind, Tony looked up at Bud and answered, "An extra $500 million per year should be more than enough."
"Half a billion per year? That could be a little too much for us to provide regularly. But I love this idea and I know we can make a fortune from it. You were looking for just one playoff series?"
"Yes sir. Eight teams of 25 playing in a basic 5-7-7 playoff."
Bud wrinkled his eyebrow as he thought quietly to himself for a moment. "Hmm. What if we bring back enough players to field all 30 teams before this playoff? Is this a possibility?"
"With the funding I can bring back as many ballplayers as you need. But why do you want so many?"
"Well, you need to look at it from a business perspective. If we have this type of series, a portion of the regular season may need to be shut down. Meaning we will be losing money during that time period. If we field 30 teams to play each of the 30 Major League teams before the series begins, then we can make back that money we provide to you and your company to make it happen."
A wide smile grew on Tony's face, "Yes absolutely that makes perfect sense. So, does this mean that you will help fund this project?"
Bud wrinkled his eyebrows again before responding, "I think we are getting close to making a deal here. I have a few more questions for you though. Who will be coaching and managing these teams? How will the eight teams be put together?"
Tony paused and looked into his palms. He thought back to the games at the Polo Grounds and watching Leo Durocher and Walt Alston managing his Dodgers. Then an idea came to mind, "What if we bring back the best managers also. Like Walt Alston, John McGraw, Casey Stengel. They can manage the teams and have three coaches to go with them."
Bud smiled, "Now that sounds like an idea Mr. Johnson. Bring them back and let them run the helm one last time to determine who the best manager really is. But we still have to decide how to make the teams."
George Steinbrenner spoke up from his silence, "How about a draft?"
Bud responded, "A draft?"
"Yea. Fans love following the draft coverage for the NFL. We have our eight managers and coaching staffs draft their own team from the 30 legends teams and even from the 30 current rosters if they choose to do so."
"I love it!" Bud exclaimed. "Alright Mr. Johnson, I can't make any promises that we can fully fund the $500 million per year, but we will do what we can to make this happen."
Bud stood up and walked over to Tony to shake his hand. Tony shook his hand while standing up and with a crack in his voice said, "Thank you Mr. Selig. That would be great. I will do whatever I can to make this a possibility. I won"t let you down sir."
Tony shook George Steinbrenner's hand and walked out of the office. He couldn't hide the excitement on his way home from Yankee Stadium. He immediately called his partner at work to tell him the good news. They met that evening to begin working on their project.
For the next seven years Tony and his company worked day and night to make this project a success. They had a few missteps along the way, including a near melt down that would have ended the entire project. Bud kept to his word and provided Tony with the funding he needed every step of the way. By December 12, 2005 Tony and his company were proud to announce that their invention was completed and successfully tested.
They were ready to discuss with a committee which included Bud Selig, Hall of Fame Director Dale Petroskey, Players Association President Donald Fehr, Negro League Historians Dr. Larry Hogan, Dick Clark, and Larry Lester, and statistician Bill James. They all met to determine who would manage the eight teams and who their coaching staffs would consist of. They also determined which eight teams would be represented by the legendary rosters and which players would be brought back to fill the 30 rosters. They also agreed on bringing back the best umpires in MLB history, as well as some announcers/commentators such as Red Barber to induce fond memories for older fans that didn't have a television and had to listen to their teams' games on the radio. Talk went into bringing back several important figures in the baseball world that could be honored by throwing out the first pitch of games in the series. The committee met and debated for three months before coming to agreements on nearly all aspects of the series.