Today, I ran across a German site-read, in German-that proffered my little site to an unsuspecting Germanic people. I hope no one in the Fatherland is basing his view of the American idiom on the variety presented herein. I sent the fellow who runs the site a heads-up and asked him about the state of the game in Germany today.
His name is Gregor Gross and I couldn't help but notice the similarity to one of my favorite role players on the Phils when I was growing up, Greg Gross. I passed on that I once saw Gross as the first-base coach of an independent North Atlantic League (I believe) team who played against the one-year Rhode Island Tigersharks. I was on vacation in Rhode Island and attended a game with 80-odd stalwart fans. The stadium had tree trunk-sized supports that jutted out in plain view. An injured Rhode Island player sat in the row in front of me (directly behind home) and groused to his girlfriend about his lack of use and having to live with his parents. And amid all of the under-talented ballplayers was Greg Gross manning the coach's box at first. That made my night.
Anyway, I explained that I did not know much about the German brand of baseball. I've noticed that German immigrants once dotted major-league rosters until about the 1920s. In 2002, Steve Kent become the first German-born player in the majors in 25 years, and I don't know if was a native German or an American service man's son, who happened to be born while his father served in Germany. I know that Spalding's White Stockings conspicuously averted Germany in their famous 1888-'89 World Tour. But that was all.
Gregor sent me a treasure trove of information regarding the amateur system, what it's like to play in that system, the availability of Major League ball in Germany, etc. By the way he's an Indians fan. Here 'tis:
In Germany we have an amateur-league-system that is similar to one we have for soccer. Let me explain, and start at the top. In Soccer you have the Bundesliga, with 18 teams playing for the champion. If you like, I can tell you how they play and determine who the champ is, but right now, lets look at the relegation. The three teams with the poorest record at the end of the season get relegated to the Second League Zweite Liga ) with 18 teams. That is also, where my favorite soccer team player (FC Union Berlin). There, the three best teams advance to the Bundesliga, and the four worst teams are relegated to the Regional League. Now here it gets complicated, because you have one Zweite Liga but three regional leagues placed all over germany ( and you have to sort the relegation teams in their region, but what if four teams are relegated that belong in one ? ). From every regional league one team advances to the Zweite Liga ( that makes three, if you have counted ). And in one regional league a second place team advances. That second place will rotate through the regional leagues, so every three years you have two teams advancing in your region.
Now, if for example three teams relegate to one regional league, there will be lesser teams relegated from that regional teams to hold the team count at 18 ( so sometimes you would be relegated but are not, if there is no team relegating from the Zweite Liga to your regional league, and vice-versa ).
And so it goes on, we have a hierarchic system with ten levels. As you see, at the bottom level, you have the most numbers of leagues at the same level ( in Berlin alone 4 leagues there ), and with every level you advance you get lesser leagues at the same level. Until you get to the fourth level, when there is only one per region. However, you then have many regions, until with every advance in level those get put together, so in the end at the regional league level you have three regions all over germany.
If I could not make it clear, feel free to ask a question here and there. This is complicated stuff, until you have been growing into it. An oversight of the european system can also be found here.
Now, in baseball it is similar, only that you have only four levels in that hierarchic system. You also have relegation ( though it never works, because almost no one wants to advance to the highest level. Youīve got to cover all of germany then with your team, as the premium league is nationwide and only the teams already playing there have enough sponsorship to cover the costs. ). The league is to be found here and the hierarchic system of leagues can be found here. Statistics of the First League are to be found here ( as you can see, they play have no DH sometimes ). Champs were the Paderborn Untouchables.
To the state of the game: I had playing leftfield in the lowest level for some seasons. Back then ( 93-95 or something ) we played on ash. When you played on grass everyone was throwing himself in the dirt just for the fun of it. It still hurt, because we were not allowed to play on the good fields ( those were only for soccer ). The team I played for had three teams in three levels, our big team playing in the first league. Even they had to use those poor grass fields ( though they never played on ash ). You had ridiculous short right field ( ground rule doubles only ) and a big left field ( like Polo Grounds mirrored, I believe ). Most players in the first league were either american soldiers or ex-american soldiers who lived here, or caribbean people who lived here. The game was fun, we even had a batting cage and a pitching machine.
To baseball in TV: Some years ago, you could watch baseball for free here. It was one game a week. Since TV in germany is generally for free, and Pay-TV hasnīt made it on the market, that was good until it lasted. Now Pay-TV wants to make it, and therefore has been trying to buy all sports. In soccer they got half of the games, in american sports they now have all. However, from 82 mio. germans there are not even 1.5 mio. who pay for their TV. Someone ought to tell MLB that if they like to have a german audience, they should broadcast their games on free TV. So my baseball ( and football ) consum is now down to Internet. But I am going to go DSL very soon, and I hope to get a videofeed of some Tribe games, even if I have to pay.
Why I am so interested in baseball ? I watched Major League Baseball, the movies, and since became addicted to the Tribe. Bill James and Baseball Prospectus ( Baseball Prospectus first, for accuracy ) then formed my interest for statistics and my dislike of many major league general manager. As we speak of it, I apply for diamondmind - leagues as Cam La Thrift, if you know what I mean. But as a Tribe fan, I also do wonder what GMīs like John Hart think ( Brian Giles trade ). The jury on Shapiro is still out ( as someone on BP has put it: for every step forward comes a step backward ), but in general is the direction that the Tribe heads, a good one.
Your Phillies may be congratulated to Jim Thome, as he is by far my most loved player. I like his true outcome stuff, BB, K, HR and I like this stance from last season with the stick up hovering over his head. What I donīt like on this situation is that the Phillies, they of the third biggest town in US, get their pockets full of luxury tax money from the Indians, who ran their team wisely throughout the 90s, and now lure their top slugger away with all that money. But no Philly ever brought that system up, it was a sucker like Bud, so who am I to blame them for using loopholes ?
I love to see that Bud being a weenie, or rather a schnitzengruben, transcends cultural barriers.