If you grew up as a fan of baseball in the 1970s, there was a staple in games that is missing from today’s sport. I’m not talking about Astroturf, no-hit shortstops, or wild hair. I’m talking about the bullpen cart.
The bullpen cart was first introduced in Major League Baseball in the 1950s, according to Michael Clair at MLB.com. It is not clear what the impetus was behind having a reliever ushered in through transportation, but one theory is that it was considered a time-saver in cavernous stadiums like Cleveland Municipal Stadium, and the fad simply caught on league-wide. The Kansas City Athletics had one beginning in 1955, but at that point, teams were still using generic cars, golf carts or even motorcycles.
Eventually teams began using custom-made baseball-themed carts, including the Royals when they entered the league in 1969.
Baseball-themed carts hit their heyday in the 1970s, with teams getting more creative about their mode of transportation. The White Sox used a Chrysler LeBaron, the Yankees used a Datsun, and the Mariners had this wonderful monstrosity:
Eventually the fad faded, and relievers had to trudge all the way in from the bullpen on their own two legs. People forgot about the bullpen cart for decades.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are bringing back the bullpen cart this season. Club President Derrick Hall says it was an idea the club had been working on for several years.
“Fans of baseball in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and even the 90s enjoyed watching their favorite players emerge from the bullpen in various vehicles and we’re excited for this special delivery to come to Chase Field.”
Could other teams soon follow suit? There are a few incentives that could lead to return of the bullpen cart. First, it could shave a few seconds of dead time from the game, and Commissioner Rob Manfred is all about eliminating every second of wasted time he can from the game of baseball. Second, there are some marketing opportunities to be had. The Royals could have a tractor brought to you by Mahindra, that’s right Mahindra. Third, it taps into the nostalgia of the past, and nostalgia-peddling is big business these days.
I’m all for tapping into nostalgia with some good dumb fun. I think Marc Normandin put it best.
Bullpen carts are stupid which is exactly why they should exist.— Marc Normandin (@Marc_Normandin) March 6, 2018
Hop in, Royals.
Should the Royals get a bullpen cart? How would you design it?