Ahhh, Sports …

“You could be a kid for as long as you want when you play baseball.” ~ Cal Ripken, Jr.

© The Baseball Bloggess, 2021 regular season

Kids, these days.

The Virginia Cavaliers will play Dallas Baptist in the Columbia, SC best-of-three NCAA Super Regional which begins today (Saturday) with Game 1 at noon EST. (It airs on ESPNU.)

All baseball is good baseball, but there is a wonderful je ne sais quoi to college baseball.

Where something like this can happen to a team that, just a few weeks ago, wasn’t even expected to make the post season …

Columbia, SC Regionals last weekend.

Where something like this can happen on a Tuesday:

Tuesday. Game 5, ODU vs UVa, Columbia, SC Regionals. 

Continue reading

12 Things You Should Know About Matt Kilroy, The “Little Whirlwind”

On May 5, 2021, Baltimore Orioles twirler John Means tossed the first Orioles one-pitcher, no-hitter since Jim Palmer in 1969.

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But, you have to go all the way back to 1886 to get to the very first Baltimore Orioles no-hitter.

Matt Kilroy

Before I tell you 12 things you should know about Matt Kilroy, the 1886 pitcher who did that, let’s get any dreamy-eyed 1886 nonsense out of the way.

Forever ago.

There are no “good old days.” You might think you missed out on something special, but you didn’t.

1886 was lousy. It was unsafe. It was unsanitary. And, the average lifespan in the United States was 39.

Albert Pujols, 41. Nelson Cruz, 40. Yadier Molina, 38. You get my point.

It was tuberculosis that probably got you. Or, rabid mad dogs in New York City. Or, a horse fell on you or a carriage ran over you. Or a bridge or building collapsed on you. Or your entire town burned down with you in it.

Or, you were a child, which was extremely dangerous. As John Graunt, the 17th-century founder of demography sweetly put it: “Being a child was to forever be on the brink of death.”

You think wearing a mask for a year was a bother?

Stop your whimpering.

Try living through the recurring epidemics of cholera, typhoid, typhus, scarlet fever, smallpox, and yellow fever that mowed down Baltimore, Boston, Memphis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, over and over and over between 1865 and 1873.

And, if you did live through the latest epidemic – and you probably didn’t, but if you did –  chances are, unless you were awfully rich, you lived in a house with no hot water, no shower, and – this is important – no toilet.

If you think the most important room in your house is your man cave, you are wrong. It is your bathroom. And, you should go in there right now, get down on your knees, and thank the modern gods for installing one in your house.

Good Things That Happened in 1886 Continue reading

I Am All That Is Left Of My Mother.

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It has become harder to write about my mom each Mother’s Day, when she is no longer here and there is nothing new to say. “Just start making stuff up,” Editor/Husband suggested. “Tell them about the time she taught you to throw the knuckleball.” That is the only baseball you will read about here today. The rest of this is true.

I am all that is left of my mother.

I was the only one. The one-and-only child, who was, if I’m being honest, something of an accident … coming late to a father who didn’t think children fit with his plans and a mother who was, I guess, good whichever way maternity went.

To my credit, I seem to have ingratiated myself into their lives, so I rarely felt like an afterthought.

Her.

Me.

Us.

My mom’s been gone 14 years now. Saying “been gone” makes it easier, doesn’t it? To say she’s been dead 14 years seems so cold. So final. She’s been gone – just out to do some shopping or spending time in her garden. It’s so much easier that way.

But, as the years go by, I find that my memories of her have become blurry, as most memories do with time. I remember fewer events that we shared. Instead, I simply feel her. The presence of her inside me.

If it’s late in the day and I’m feeling especially weary, I will look in the mirror and see her looking back at me. She carried a lot of hurt and pain. She earned her weariness. She looks back at me from the mirror when I’m weary from much more mundane things.

She would worry, I think, that I look tired and that I haven’t bothered to put on makeup for most of the past year. “A little makeup,” she would say, “would brighten you up and hide those dark circles.”

I inherited some of her good traits – but not her best ones. And, I inherited some of her bad traits – but not her worst ones.

I am an amalgam of not-the-best and not-the-worst of my mother.

I’m all that’s left of her.

Can I tell you about her? Continue reading

In Praise Of Mays

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“Willie Mays makes us young again. He makes us feel good about ourselves, our environment. He makes us reflect and smile. He makes us want to do better and be kinder.”

~ John Shea, sportswriter and co-author, with Mays, of 24: Life Stories And Lessons From The Say Hey Kid

Willie Mays turns 90 today.

He is the oldest living member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. That he still attends games, visits the clubhouse to encourage players, does interviews, is one of the game’s greatest ambassadors, and has time leftover to write a memoir, is testament to his legend and greatness.

“I like to help people when I go to the ballpark,” Mays told Shea recently. “Help the Giants. Do what you can do. That’s all. That’s my goal. They helped me when I was a young man, a teenager. They signed me out of Birmingham.”

I have often written on here that Babe Ruth was the greatest ballplayer ever.

But, I think I was wrong. It is Willie, not Babe, who is the greatest ever.

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Playing stickball with neighborhood kids, circa 1954.

“I was always aware that you play baseball for people who paid money to come see you play,” Willie said in his memoir last year. “You play for those people. You want to make them smile, have a good time. Sometimes I’d hesitate, count to three, then I’d get there just in time to make the play. You’d hear the crowd. Sometimes you had to do that in order for people to come back the next day.” Continue reading

About Last Night …

Last night, in the eighth inning with the New York Yankees trailing the Tampa Rays 8-2, Yankees fans got a little upset.

Is “upset” the word I’m looking for?

Annoyed? Concerned? Bothered?

Here, watch. You tell me.

Before you get you all judge’y about this or a little gloat’y because, c’mon, it’s the Yankees …

Before you note (correctly) that Yankees fans were upset at their underperforming Yankees and yet are throwing their baseballs at the Tampa Rays which seems like misdirected anger …

And, on the same night that both teams are wearing their #42 jerseys honoring Jackie Robinson, which makes this even more unseemly …

Before you think, well, maybe the fans weren’t really throwing baseballs, maybe it was more like they were gently lobbing them. It was a chilly 45 degrees out, after all, so it is possible – I’m just saying “possible” – that tossing baseballs onto the field was more a way to warm up their hands than an indictment on a team headed south …

And, before you point out that the Tampa Rays responded by tossing the baseballs back to the fans who had thrown them on the field in the first place, making the Rays either perplexingly polite or just out of touch with New Yorkers …

Continue reading

12 Things You Should Know About “Highball” Wilson

You would think that someone who cares deeply for baseball’s rich history would thoughtfully choose which players she highlights and celebrates.

You would think that she wouldn’t just see a player named “Highball” and think, “Oh my God, a pitcher named Highball. I’m gonna have to write about him.”

You would think.

Here Are 12 Things You Should Know About Highball Wilson.

1.

Public Domain

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Highball Wilson was not named Highball by his parents. Highball Wilson, a righty pitcher, was born Howard Paul Wilson in Philadelphia on August 9, 1878. (I realize that this would be a far more interesting post if his parents had named him Highball, and I’m sorry if you feel duped.)

(Highball Wilson was one of five future big leaguers born in Philadelphia in 1878. Only Highball played more than one season.)

2.

So, who named him Highball? Continue reading

I Have Been Awake Since 4 a.m.

© The Baseball Bloggess

I have been awake since 4 a.m.

It is Opening Day.

For this one brief moment, I can see summer spread out before me like outfield grass. Outfield grass that’s been so meticulously tended, sculpted, fed … loved … that it makes you squint hard for a second as you adjust to its blinding greenness.

Summer is a mile long, a mile wide. It reaches as far as the eye can see.

There is only baseball.

It is all I can see.

I have been awake since 4 a.m.

Thinking of twirlers with arms of smoked steel.

Bats overflowing with bingles, loopers, and skitterers, and lusty home run wallops.

And, bunts. Don’t forget the bunts.

Thinking of stolen bases. And, the 4-6-3.

And, late-in-the-game outfielders floating at the wall and stretching and lifting higher and higher – and gravity is beyond my understanding and I guess beyond theirs too, because they float much higher than any other human possibly can – and with one final reach, one last elastic, impossible stretch, their glove barely, just barely, just just just …

… barely corrals that demon ball that saves the run that gives your team one more chance.

I have been awake since 4 a.m.

It is Opening Day.

The day when you don’t think of the World Series, because the World Series signals the end … when baseball disappears again. It is a million-million miles away.

It doesn’t matter. Summer lasts forever.

I have been awake since 4 a.m.

It is Opening Day.

To prove just how over-the-top giddy I am right now and because all teams are wonderful on Opening Day … tell me who your team is in the comments below and I will tell you why your team is wonderful. And, I will mean it.

______

9 a.m. Update — It is Opening Day, except when it’s not. Rain has postponed the Orioles/Red Sox game. But, summer lasts forever … and there’s always tomorrow.

“If We Only Knew …”

© The Baseball Bloggess

On the eve of baseball’s “Opening Day, Pandemic Year 2,” it’s only fitting that I write something that isn’t about baseball at all.

Bill, who writes the very fine blog “A Silly Place” – and, when not writing, cheers for the Yankees and Syracuse – often brings together different bloggers to respond to his questions. It’s like dinner party conversation in the ether.

He invited me to take part in his latest community blog post, asking: “If we had known what was coming last March, what would we have done, or not done?” 

As someone who has an opinion on everything, I had some thoughts – from missing that last baseball game to the loss of a favorite Japanese restaurant.

But, as I write in Bill’s post, “If We Only Knew” … I’m pretty sure that deep down we all knew this was coming:

I think we treat scientists the same way we treated our parents when we were teenagers coming home from a party at 2 a.m. “Yes, Dad, I do know what time it is. 10:30 curfew? Gosh, I don’t remember you saying that.”

Just like when we were 17 … we didn’t listen and we got grounded. I was grounded as a teen from time to time, but never for an entire year. We clearly did something really bad by not listening to the scientists.

I also share some bubonic plague back story, because no discussion of a pandemic is complete without a Black Death fun fact.

Check out Bill’s full post ”If We Only Knew” here … you’ll find my full piece, along with responses from these interesting bloggers:

Bill (A Silly Place),  Lisa (Positively Living Podcast), Alexia (My Life in Triplicate), Jeff (30-Second Read), Rosie (Rosie Culture), Renata (Buffalo Sauce Everywhere), Lindsay (Live, parent, teach, repeat), and Savannah (Sunshine With Savannah).

Happy Opening Day Eve!

Baseball returns tomorrow and you know what that means … for the next 24 hours, the Baltimore Orioles are tied for first atop the AL East.

And, pandemic be damned, I’m back to baseball writing tomorrow … 

 

Re-Opening Day

What did we talk about before covid became all we talked about?

If there were no vaccine waiting lists to talk about … or rumors of covid outbreaks in the next town over … or side-eye mentions of unmasked neighbors … or whining about all the things that are still closed … what, exactly, did we talk about?

I don’t remember.

Even when we’re not talking about covid, we’re talking about covid.

Which brings me to baseball.

On March 13, 2021, Editor/Husband and I – double-masked and with a fresh bottle of hand-sanitizer in my bag – carefully inched our way back to baseball.

368 days.

It had been 368 days since we had last sat outside … scorecard open … game unfolding.

But, then … yesterday happened.

Things are not normal yet. But there is just a glimmer of a kinda-sorta-almost normal’ish life out there.

I don’t suppose you’re all that interested in how the Virginia Cavaliers were trounced 12-4 by Notre Dame yesterday.

Good. Because, I have more important things to cover.

1) Socially Distanced And Masked Means … Socially Distanced And Masked, People.

The University of Virginia is slowly, slowly letting people dribble back in to baseball. And, yesterday, we got to be part of the dribble. Where you sit is assigned and clearly marked (and if one should sit outside their approved “safe seats” an usher will politely assist in proper re-seating). Masks, always. Hand sanitizer stations everywhere.

We had an entire row to ourselves … no one directly in front, no one directly behind. No one nearby. It was luxurious. Continue reading

Patience, Time (… And Baseball)

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” ~ Leo Tolstoy, War And Peace

It’s game day. Today, at 3 p.m., Virginia plays George Washington at nearby Disharoon Park in Charlottesville.

The Cavaliers are off to a wobbly 4-3 start. But, I’m not worried. They are a stacked team. They will be fine.

Today, at 7 a.m., I am having my coffee. I should be scouring the weather report, calculating temperature and wind speed to determine how many layers I will need to sit through an early March baseball game.

I should be scanning the rosters, recharging my camera, making sure the scorecard is ready to go.

These are little nothing chores. Things I rarely think about as I’m doing them. The routine of a baseball fan.

I should be doing all these things.

I am not.

Only a few fans can attend and they must be spread widely through the park.

Where I Am Not.

Instead, I’m sitting here wondering where the past year went.

One year. March to March. One big blurry uncomfortable inconsiderate wasted lost year. Continue reading