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“There’s No Shaking Hands In Baseball”

“There’s No Shaking Hands In Baseball”

 OK, so maybe Tom Hanks’ character didn’t really say this in “League of Their Own”, but he would’ve been right if he had.

The post game handshake. Symbolic of good sportsmanship and the understanding that it was only a game. Throughout youth sports, we teach our players that at the end of the game, we shake hands (or slap high fives) to our opponents and congratulate them on  “good game.” Because it is just that; a game. It is a fundamental of sportsmanship. This gesture shows respect for opponents and is one of the life lessons that can be taught through sports.

The post game shaking of hands continues through High School, except in Kentucky which has banned this practice after fights broke out in the handshake lines. Rather than address these isolated incidents and confront the coaches who were not doing their job of teaching proper values, Kentucky decided to ban the handshake for everyone, thus supporting the old adage of “one bad apple”. Many coaches agree that if players can’t shake hands then we have bigger problems to deal with. But in the other 49 states and in all sports, the postgame handshake is a requirement as it represents sportsmanship. Players and coaches who refuse to shake hands are disciplined. In one case a prominent lacrosse coach was fired for not shaking the hands of the coach in a opposing middle school football game after that coach pulled some unethical tactics that would’ve made Belichick cringe.

The postgame handshake continues in college in all of the sports as recommended by the NCAA. Anyone who has seen the Army Navy football game and the singing of both academies’ Alma Mater at the end of the game understands the symbolism of that event.

In professional sports one of the most poignant moments of any hockey season is the post game handshake after a playoff series. Two teams that have been physical and have fought for upwards of 7 games can come together at the end for the ceremonial handshake. Truly, one of the more touching displays of sportsmanship in sports. All other professional sports have handshakes and congratulations after their games, let it be a handshake at the net, a prayer group at the 50 yard line or casual high fives and handshakes as teams leave the court. Every sport does this…that is…except for baseball.

At the end of the World Series, there is no handshake or congratulations offered. Both teams simply leave the field. (Of course one leaves a bit later after celebrating.) But WHY is this? Why don’t players line up and shake the hands of the players who won? It is done at every level and every sport but why is Major League Baseball different? I don’t buy the old adage that, “It’s just baseball,you don’t do that in baseball”. Who made that tradition up? Ty Cobb? What a wonderful message to send to kids. Why is baseball the only sport that doesn’t exhibit good sportsmanship?

Now granted 162 games, maybe the players don’t need to shake after every game. This could lead to serious carpal tunnel issues. But what about at the end of a 3 game series? Certainly the end of a playoff series deserves this show of respect as they do in hockey after each playoff round. I personally can’t wait for one player to walk over and shake hands of the winning team. I can’t wait for a manager to send his team out and shake hands at home plate. Not just because they are pressured to do so but because it is the right thing to do. Yes, Mr Hanks, there is crying in baseball. There should also be shaking hands in baseball.

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