Category Archives: beisbol

Poets Priests And Politicians

Sting turned sixty this month; one day before Dave Winfield did. I’m not sure how much they followed each others careers, but I followed both closely as a tween then teen. I got my first radio around 1980. It was a little portable AM thing, but it was mine. And some AM stations still played current music back then. I was aware of rock music before then. Some kids up the street would play the main riff from “Smoke On The Water” over and over again. But Zenyatta Mondatta had just come out and this was different. It was rock, but it wasn’t blues based. It had a reggae influence. The guitars just sounded… different. I’m not sure if MTV was around yet. We didn’t get cable. But Casey Kasem’s “America’s Top Ten” would show videos. So my brothers and I would watch “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” and other hits of the day.

Yesterday I wrote about some creative baseball players. Today I wanted to mention some baseball poets, priests, and politicians. There have been other poets associated with baseball; including Marianne Moore, Donald Hall, and Carson Cistulli. But there is an active warrior-poet in the bigs. Pitcher Miguel Batista once wrote a serial killer thriller, but he also writes poetry. If you peruse that article, it mentions Fernando Perez as a possible major league poet.

I don’t know if Batter’s Box still does these, but they used to hand out Allan Travers Awards. Travers was a student at Saint Joseph’s in Philly who was recruited by the Tigers to take the mound against the A’s after Detroits players walked off the job in protest of a Ty Cobb suspension. He got shelled. Travers had a higher calling, though. He became a Catholic priest. St. Joe’s, incidentally, has made a greater contribution to sports, and it isn’t Delonte West or Jameer Nelson. From professor Sean Forman created Baseball Reference; one of the greatest achievements of Western Civ. The priesthood itself has made contributuions to understanding baseball. Fr’ Gabriel Costa is a sabermetrician. One wonders if West Pointers eschew bunts and work the count. Finally, former Oakland prospect Grant Desme retired to join a seminary about two years ago.

Many baseball folks got involved in politics. The most famous may be Jim Bunning. He was a Hall of Fame pitcher, not the best one in Cooperstown, but he made it. Along with Robin Roberts and others, he helped the Players Association become a force against the owners. Later, he became a Senator from Kentucky. Unfortunately, towards the end, he was suffering from dementia. What isn’t well known is that one of Bunning’s contempo pitchers also had a political career. Juan Marichal held a cabinet position in the Dominican Republic.

As for the police, there;s always Kevin Romine. Austin’s dad investigates auto theft in L.A.. Maybe he was the guy who found the Dude’s ’73 Torino.


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Media Play

I haven’t written much about baseball lately. Truth be told, I haven’t watched much since the Red Sox collapsed. Maybe I will write a post-mortem on their season, but what can I add that hasn’t already been said? I have been reading about the World Series and it does sound like a classic. Albert Pujols evoked memories of Reggie Jackson over the weekend with his three homer game that was likely the best one game hitting display ever in WS history. Then, on Monday nite, there was the biggest telephonic mixup since last week when Derek Lilliquist misheard TLR. (I have a tendency to think of Carson Daly and Total Request Live when I see Tony LaRussa’s initials.) I’m pulling for Texas to win. They’ve never done it before. They are the AL representative, and Saint Louis has one plenty of times; including five years ago. Bill Lee picked the L.A. Dodgers as the NL’s answer to the Yankees, but I picked Saint Louis when I was in high school and had a fling with the Mets. They were a team to respect, but not like. (I was glad to see Whitey Herzog get inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.)

There used to be a chain of stores called Media Play that sold books, DVDs and CDs. I liked it, but it went out of business around the time Saint Louis defeated Detroit. Today, I wanted to highlight three former baseball players that personify that store’s merchandise; an author, an actor, and a singer.

Before Jim Bouton, there was Jim Brosnan. Brosnan wrote two in-season diaries; The Long Season and Pennant Race. I have yet to read the latter, but I thought that the former was better than Ball Four once I finally read it. Plus, he didn’t have to have Leonard Schecter help him write it. Bouton’s book may have been more historic at the time he wrote it, but I didn’t read it until at least ten years after it came out. Brosnan was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of Eternals four years ago. If you ask me, that is a higher honor than getting a plaque in Cooperstown.

Chuck Connors was an Eisenhower-era Man. He played baseball and hoops and was also Lucas McCain on “The Rifleman.” I’m still in search of the elusive Center of the Entertainment Universe, but he might be it. Dennis Hopper appeared on that Western. And Hopper is The Center of The Hollywood Universe. Connors connects you to the NBA, major league baseball and the Pacific Cast League; which was still big back then. There’s also a football connection. Sid Gillman appeared on the show. He was one of the most influential coaches in football history; practically invented film study. His coaching tree is like a sequoia.

Last but not least, I checked out Dave Marsh’s New Book of Rock Lists the other day and came across Lee Maye. I had heard of The Rifleman even if the show was before my time, but I wasn’t familiar with Maye at all. Phill Millstein argues that this doo wopping outfielder was the best combination baseball player-musical artist. Check the link out.

I was on Monday Night Sports a month ago and he suggested that the reason some players of that era moonlighted in other entertainment fields was because sports salaries weren’t as high as they are now and they needed the money. He may have a point. Ironically, I was talking about Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax and their joint holdout. Chuck Connors helped act as an intermediary between the two pitchers and the Dodgers.

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More about the Leaders of the Free World (and baseball!)

I visited the FDR Home in Hyde Park with my wife and mother-in-law a couple of months ago. It was right after the Bowash earthquake of 2011 and right before Hurricane Irene (why don’t they name earthquakes, too?)

I picked up a souvenier in the gift shop. It was a set of documents relating to presidents and our national pastime. I think it has something from everyone from Hoover to Clinton. My favorites are the JFK telegrams regarding Jackie Robinson and the memo from Donald Rumsfeld recommending that Gerald Ford call Sparky Anderson to congratulate him on the Reds 1975 World Series win. Ford was more of a football man and I know he opted to watch Michigan-Michigan State instead of Game One of the World Seires. (Check out my post from last week about the presidential diary.)

Take a click and enjoy!

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Harry Dalton for the Hall of Fame?

I have piece over at Baseball Past and Present about Harry Dalton’s Cooperstown credentials. I feel it is rather timely, seeing how the Brewers are trying to make the World Series and he was their GM 29 years ago when they once made it all the way to Game Seven but lost to the Cardinals.

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The End of Baseball Blogging and the Last Blogger

Steve Treder makes a good point in this BTF thread that went political soon after it started:

There is something, though, to the notion that “it used to be better,” and it’s this: there was a time when we could engage in genuine, passionate and interesting discussions about various baseball topics — PEDs, the DH, fielding metrics, interleague play, and so on — because there was a certain freshness to them. We hadn’t yet beaten them to a horrible death. But we have now. Do we really need to have a discussion about whether the DH is a good rule? Is there anything that all of us hasn’t said about a question such as that, gazillions of times?

Someone was mourning the good old days when Baseball Think Factory was known as Baseball Primer. In some respects, I miss those days, too. But life goes on, we hope. I think about writing about other topics besides baseball.

This past week I started two or three projects that I’ll probably never finish. One had nothing to do with writing. It was an attempt by me to see if there was a way of factoring semiprimes by treating them all as differences of squares. For a man with no math beyond calculus, this was a dangerous experiment. I have about 1500 words of a totally uncomprehensive history of organized crime on a legal pad. And I have been thinking about using the format of the Pulp Fiction screenplay to write about a famous baseball game from years past.

I did read a short book about the beginning of the Civil War by Emory Thomas and thought for a moment about tracking down some Vietnam vets and start an oral history project on that war. How was your weekend?

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Greenies – An Appeal to Readers

Does anyone here know how teams and players acquired greenies back in the Sixties? Who were the suppliers? I’m sure this was discussed in the steroids threads at BBTF, but I didn’t follow those too closely.


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If Imitation Is Homage, The Wall Street Journal Loves Me

Six Degrees of Jack McKeon

I didn’t write anything about Jack McKeon, but this fits the style of some of my work going back to the Mike Morgan piece I wrote ten years ago.

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Calling Nate Silver

Quinnipiac University has two polls about baseball fandom out this week. One from Pennsylvania and the other from Connecticut.

Overall, most Keystone staters prefer the Phillies, but that might be because they are in the most populous part of the state. Isn’t it sometimes referred to as Pennsyltucky? The New York teams have made some inroads. Some might be commuters who moved to PA for more affordable housing.

I’ve called Connecticut the Alsace=Lorraine of the Boston-New York rivalry. I shouldn’t look to deep into these results. I’m not 538/ But it appears that men are from New York and women are from Boston ;).

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Week 2 Thoughts

Not a good week so far. The Red Sox did take two against the Yankees. The rest of the news wasn’t as good.

When he was on the team, I thought that Manny Ramirez made the Red Sox more interesting. Who else would hide in the Green Monster? Or inexplicably cutoff a throw from center? Or high-five a fan in Baltimore while doubling up a runner? Winning’s great, but it is even better if it is done in an entertaining manner.

I once called Satchel Paige Free Darko. Manny’s had some of the same characteristics, but I’m not sure if Free Darko is the correct term. I may be misinterpreting their philosophy. The Germans probably have a word for the quality in players I’m talking about; great, or very good at the least, and someone you’d make the extra effort to go see.

He scuffled with Kevin Youkilis and the traveling secretary in ’08 and was traded to the Dodgers. He was suspended 50 games in ’09 because he tested positive for hCG; a fertility drug. If the internets aren’t lying, steroid users take this after a steroid cycle to start testosterone production back up. Late last year, he was exiled to the White Sox.

This winter he signed with Tampa, as did Johnny Damon. He was supposed to return to Boston this week along with Damon, but abruptly retired. I heard about it from Joe Castiglione while listening to the home opener on WVEI. He didn’t say it at first, but later on he read a report that Manny had failed another drug test. I’m scratching my head over this. This is like driving through an announced DWI checkpoint after stopping at a bar for a few cold ones.

The Ray’s didn’t need Manny’s presence when they came to Boston. They swept the rain-shortened series. My seat of the pants prediction system had them second to the Red Sox in the division and a strong contender for the wild card over the Yanks, Orioles and Jays.

I haven’t written about the concept of Maranvillains or the beauty of baseball lately. I’m no longer sure that this is why I watch baseball or if that was ever the case. But this Patrick Sullivan article from last year brought to mind the antithesis of Rabbit Maranville and his heirs: Dice-K.

Also, just like so many other Red Sox fans, Daisuke drives me nuts. He works slowly and walks way too many batters. In his final four seasons for the Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka averaged 2.3 walks issued per nine innings. For the Red Sox, his 162-game average BB/9 has jumped to 4.3. Combine the walks, his inefficiency and his unreliability from a health standpoint and it’s all just very maddening.

I like to think that I have a healthy attitude towards sports as part of a balanced life. I’m not one who lives and dies with my favorite sports teams, but even I find him maddening. Some day I’ll have to come up with a list of these guys. As frustrating as Matsuzaker (/Remdawg) might be, Steve Trachsel was probably worse.

But Monday night’s game ended early. I’m not sure what was going on in Dice-K’s head, but he was grooving the ball in the first inning. The wheels fell off in the second and I ran some errands. There was no tension in the game. You knew early on what the likely decision would be.

Tim Wakefield is sort of the anti-Manny. He’s not flashy; doesn’t stir up any controversy. Bill Plaschke and Mikey Adams probably like him. And he might secretly be paying the Red Sox to pitch. But his starts were appointment television over the years for me. Why? He throws the knuckleball.

The knuckler is going the way of the polar bear, but it is one of my favorite pitches to watch. Wakefield and R. A. Dickey used it as their bread and butter pitch. Dickey gets the ball moving in the 70s, but the average Wakefield pitch goes about the Interstate speed limit. But he is a long reliever now; Terry Francona’s loss cigar. (Come to think of it, those guys may be going the way of the polar bear, too.) Wake couldn’t top the bleeding either. The only question remaining in the late innings was whether or not Rays leftfielder Sam Fuld would hit for the cycle. He didn’t, but he did better by a base. He hit two doubles, a triple, and a homer. The end result was a 16-5 loss. Tuesday’s game was a return to baseball normalcy, but Boston was still on the losing end of a 3-2 game.

Carl Crawford is only batting .152 with one double and two walks. People say that he’s pressing. I’m not sure what that means. I have a mental image of two hoopsters trying to trap a point guard in the backcourt when I hear that term. I’m not Walt Hriniak, but I do wonder if his extreme open stance is killing him. I’m not the only one who thinks this. Some folks are talking about the same issue in this Rotoworld thread.

The Jays are in town now. I caught a few of their games with Boston last year and they have an exciting approach to baseball. They may not take pitches much, but Jose Bautista and company rake. ‘Til next time, happy baseball.

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Week 1 Thoughts

In my first account, Theophilus, I wrote about things the Red Sox did on Opening Day and back in 1986. I’ll touch on 1986 a bit and discuss some things about Week 1.

We’re all in.” – Kevin Youkilis in a NESN promo

Poker lingo in baseball goes back to the early days. When Alexander Cartwright and the rest of the Knickerbockers played, outs were hands lost and runs were aces. The Red Sox might not have drawn a 2-7 unsuited, but the start of the season was inauspicious. The Texas Whipsaw Massacre led to Boston pitchers craning their necks far too often to watch balls fly into the stands. And the bats were dead in Cleveland. Through Friday the 8th, the team is batting .205, reaching (On base average) .286, and slugging .306. That’s a 592 OPS. Glenn Hoffman’s career OPS was 623 in a lower scoring era.

Lou Gorman passed away on Opening Day. A poster at BTF wrote a good summary of his Boston tenure. He was the architect of both teams in the 1986 World Series. (I thought about writing a book bout that season, but never did. Mark Simon over at ESPN is running a retrospective of that year as this season unfolds. Check it out.) Gorman came from the fertile Baltimore front office. I took a continuing ed class in March over at Manchester Community College on baseball in the Sixties and was reminded of the awesomeness of the Oriole Way. Earl Weaver was a great manager (and lent his name to my favorite baseball video game. I’d spend hours playing EWB with my brother Martin.) His coaching staff spawned a number of other managers including Billy Hunter, Cal Ripken Sr., and George Bamberger. There was leadership on the field as well. Frank Robinson would don a mop as a wig and preside over a Kangaroo Court. This tradition was passed on and Don Baylor brought it to Boston in 1986. But Harry Dalton was perhaps a more vital cog. His general manager tree includes Lou Gorman, John Schuerholz, Sal Bando, Frank Cashen, and Dan Duquette. Pat Gillick was elected to Cooperstown over the winter. I think Dalton might be a better candidate. He got the Brewers to the World Series. That’s an accomplishment.

Speaking of Baylor, he ended his career with Oakland and played with Jose Canseco. Early in his career he played with Pete Hall who was a teammate of Hank Bauer. Bauer was a Yankee with Phil Rizzutto. Rizzutto provided play by play on Meatloaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” Meatloaf and Canseco are both on this season’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Elsewhere on Opening Day, Robert Redford threw out the first pitch for the Chicago Cubs. Who’s older, Redford or Wilford Brimley? Brimley is, but only by a couple of years. Despite this, Brimley was Pops, the manager while Redford played Roy Hobbs in The Natural. I saw this movie in senior English class. We had a teacher named Miss Sisk and Will and I called her Doug.

There was some college basketball this week. It is a sleazy sport, but that’s not why I didn’t watch it. I’ve had to prune my sports tree over the years and that’s one branch that was lopped off College hoops is a bachelor’s sport anyways. Basketball (and football, for that matter) should be watched in bars; bars where there are bunch of instant refs (just add alcohol.) You know, the guys who think that they can interpret the rulebook better than the officials even though they are viewing the game through a haze of Marlboro Light smoke and light beer belch. Also some folks who nervously step outside to get reception for their cellphones so they can communicate with their bookies add to the ambience. I used to hang out at a place called Elmo’s before mobile communications became ubiquitous. There’d be a line at the payphone full of decrepit types waiting to call their guy looking to parlay their winnings of go double or nothing on the late game. They didn’t know Joey behind the bar. He’d book action on the frickin’ Hula Bowl.

The Red Sox can take some solace in the fact that the UConn Huskies prevailed. They won it all despite a rough patch. Theirs happened to be in the middle of the season instead of the beginning. And the ’98 Yankees faltered out of the blocks. Some think that they may be the best team ever.

I was going to watch Wednesday’s game. I was willing to sacrifice my eyes and watch Dice-K pitch. But NESN had a meaningless Bruins game on. I tried to go to the NESN Plus channel, but accidentally selected an HD channel. I don’t have an HD TV and that fried the cable box,

Thursday was Getaway Day in Cleveland and the game started early. I tried to catch it on radio, but it is difficult to do at work when the phone rings and your mind is at least partially focused on work. It was a pitcher’s duel through most of the game. Lester struck out nine and Fausto Carmona bounced back from his dreadful Opening Day start. But I had a webinar that started before the game ended. I caught the rest of the game on Sox in 2.

It was foggy in Cleveland Thursday, It reminded me of a time in, that’s right, 1986. It was so foggy one nite at old Municipal Stadium that the Indians Red Sox game was called. Bobby Bonds was a coach in Cleveland at the time and he hit fungoes that disappeared into the mist. The umpires had seen, or couldn’t see enough and the game was called. Despite the weather, some players like Marco Scutaro were wearing shades. Choo on the Indians was even wearing lampblack.

In years previous, NESN would introduce the teams defenses by putting names in the nine positions over a backdrop of a baseball diamond. This year, they show head shots of the infield, outfield, and battery that look like baseball cards. NESN treats the games in a fashion that is too lightweight for me. I don’t mind Jerry Remy bantering about his life with Don Orsillo during a blowout, but I don’t care all that much that, for instance, he’s having computer problems or that the flight to Cleveland was bumpy. And they cut away to Heidi Watney in mid-inning. They have plenty of time during the pregame show to talk about chicken and waffles at Progressive Field. Do they really need to do that feature over an at bat? I went to Progressive Field three years ago and wasn’t all that impressed. Out of the new mallparks, I prefer Great American in Cincy and Oriole Park at Camden Yards. But I did like the Stadium mustard they have there.

The game isn’t as interesting if you know the result in advance. I had heard that the Red Sox lost their sixth straight. I didn’t know how, but I knew that the damage was done later in the game, so I read while the first part of the game played on my TV. It turned out that the Indians beat the Red Sox with small ball in the eighth. Adam Everett walked. Why would Josh Bard nibble with Everett? He stole second and two bunts scored him. Who said that industry in the Rust Belt is a thing of the past? That was a manufactured run. The Sox had a chance in the ninth with the big bats coming up, but Youkilis and Gonzalez couldn’t get the ball past the infield. David Ortiz walked and was replaced by Darnell McDonald. JD Drew made weak contact. The Red Sox caught a break when it bounced of the pitcher Perez’s leg, but Darnell McDonald needs to learn how to brake. He overran second base and Adam Everett alertly threw the ball to Cabrera. McDonald slipped and didn’t retreat to the bag in time.

The Sox have been making mental errors like this in the early going. Varitek didn’t tag a runner the previous nite when the force was no longer in effect. It was no sure thing that the Red Sox would have tied the game or gone ahead. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was up next, after all. But McDonald’s gaffe guaranteed a loss.

Finally, Boston won a game once they returned home. I’ll have more thoughts later on the Yankees. It was another day game that I listened to and watched the replay. One thin I will mention is this: I believe that Saltalamacchia is the first player in Boston history to sport a Cool-Flo helmet. He doesn’t wear it at bat, but he does wear it under his amsk while catching. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

‘Til next time, Happy Baseball.

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