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

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Emmet Heidrick

If you follow baseball history blogs, maybe you’ve bumped into Verdun2’s Blog, a collection of baseball history, player tributes, and poignant remembrances of the author’s time in Vietnam during the war, which always find a baseball spin. Last fall, “v”, the blog’s mysterious author, decided to take a break. He pops back in from time to time, but not with the regularity fans would like.

One of his semi-regular columns was “A Dozen Things You Should Know About” which covered ballplayers … from forgotten greats to Hall of Famers.

I asked v if he would be ok if I took on the “Dozen Things” franchise while he’s on break.

And, he said, “yes.” Even though he knew, deep down, I would take an irreverent and less numbers’y, tone. But, he said “yes” anyway, because he’s awesome.

So, until v’s return … here we go:

12 Things You Should Know About Emmet Heidrick

1)

circa 1900. Public Domain

Emmet Heidrick, one of the greatest outfielders at the turn of the 20th century, was born in Queenstown, Pennsylvania – about 50 miles NE of Pittsburgh – in 1876.

Heidrick’s father Levi, a successful lumberman, followed the trees … and their investment potential. Soon after Emmet’s birth, he bought a sawmill and moved his family to DuBois, Pennsylvania. In 1894, he bought another mill in nearby Brookville and moved his family there, which is where Emmet got his baseball start.

2)

Business acumen must be hereditary, because, no matter his baseball talents, family business not only distracted Emmet Heidrick from the game, but also influenced it.

In baseball’s earliest days, ballplayers generally came from poor, often immigrant, stock. They played ball because there wasn’t much else available. Other jobs open to them were poorly paid, backbreaking, dangerous, and, often, could kill you.

Heidrick, a college boy, came from a wealthy family with a prosperous business. Baseball was well beneath the Heidrick family’s place in society, as the family would remind him.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself … Continue reading

Berra, Cobb, and … Schilling?

1971 “will be the year Yogi Berra, the Montclair Millionaire, makes the Hall of Fame.” ~ The New York Daily News, January 1, 1971

It was not.

On January 21, 1971, the Baseball Writers Association of America chose to elect no one to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

1953

Not even Yogi Berra.

On January 26, 2021, the Baseball Writers Association of America – for the ninth time in history – elected no one to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

(I’ll get back to 1971 and Yogi, I promise.)

In a pandemic year when nothing is normal, the Hall of Fame’s non-election election this year seemed, well, pretty normal.

I could write about Curt Schilling – controversial, cranky, insolent, nogoodnik – who was among those not elected in 2021.

There are so many Curt’ish things we could discuss …

… the hurtful, hateful things he says that color his character and his worthiness to join the greats of Cooperstown … or

… his worthy statistics that stand up fine against other pitchers in the Hall. 11-2 in the post-season, alone. 11-2! … or

… how you weren’t surprised – because you weren’t, were you? – when Schilling, almost immediately after the Hall of Fame’s no-election announcement, released an obsequious, but quite polite, letter to the Hall requesting he be removed from consideration in 2022.

We could spend the rest of today coming up with ways to describe Curt Schilling … and we could call him a sore-loser lunkhead idiot, but, better, let’s call him a hoddydoddy or a jobbernowl because I spent a lot of time digging up those words and I don’t want them to go to waste.

Schilling wouldn’t be the first jerk in the Hall of Fame.

The Hall has its share of drunkards and carousers, racists, bullies, and homophobes, Klansmen and crooks, adulterers, cheaters, and scoundrels. A drug smuggler and, possibly, even a murderer.

Let’s just say, if every member of the Baseball Hall of Fame were still alive and they all came to your house for dinner, you’d do well to count the silverware when they left. Continue reading

Biden, Harris, and Baseball

There’s a Phillies fan and a Giants fan working in the White House now. More on the new Administration’s ties to baseball in this excellent rundown from “The Baseball Sociologist” …

The Baseball Sociologist

Kamala Harris, Doug Emhoff, and the Oxford Kamalas softball team, July 2018. Photo by Kamala Harris via Wikipedia.

As the nation gains a new president and vice president today, there is at least one important question to be answered: what are their views on baseball?

Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have acknowledged they are baseball fans. Biden played some baseball in high school, though he was considered a better football player. In the 1970s he was on the Democrats’ team for several Congressional baseball games. He also coached his son, Beau’s, Little League team.

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Four For Your “Darkest Winter Days” Reading List

Here are some things you can do while locked down in a pandemic …

a) write a novel.

b) write something that isn’t a novel, but is long and meaningful and kinda-sorta like a novel.

c) spend way too much time trying to pry the space bar off your laptop’s keyboard to get the gunk out from underit because itisn’tworkingright and it’sveryfrustrating.

d) sit and look at your computer screen and wonder where the words went.

On the off chance you answered c) … pleasesendinstructions. (I’m serious.)

And, to those who answered d) … I’m with you. And, in truth, I’m a little jealous of those super-ambitious people who have found their muse in the midst of crisis.

There is one thing you can do when the words in your head disappear. Read other people’s.

Brief baseball aside … because this is a baseball blog, after all …

In the spring of 2018, a college baseball pitcher – a walk-on who didn’t see a lot of playing time – quit his team. Balancing academics with the demands of playing college ball, even when you’re hardly playing, got to be too much. So he quit baseball. I asked him what he was studying, and he said he thought he wanted to write.

I gave him the only advice I know, “Write every day, and read more than you write.”

I have a folder on my computer called “Write Every Day.” Aside from an inspiring amount of words back in March, it’s been pretty quiet lately.  I’m a lousy counselor.

But, reading … that I can still do.

“Reading is throwing shade … a brutal insult wrapped inside a glorious wordplay.”

Here are four books for your “darkest days ahead” reading list. And, while two of these are not baseball books, they are baseball’ish … in that the game hovers in the background, just as it should in a “normal” world. Continue reading

True Stuff …

Five things you don’t need to know about me, but I’m telling you anyway.

One. I Really Dislike Baseball Statistics.

Babe Ruth and Willie Mays didn’t need WAR stats to know they were the best in the game. Similarly, I don’t need WAR to tell me that Mookie Betts is one of baseball’s best players today and [insert name of someone who really annoyed you last season] isn’t.

If a sportswriter includes more numbers than actual words in their story, I’m out. Out.

Sure, I’ll take the basics … batting averages, home runs, ERAs, stolen bases, errors.

But, beyond that? You can call them “advanced metrics” but really they’re just a mess of numbers hiding behind a mess of letters …

OPS, OPS+, P/GS, IR-A%, BQR, LIPS, wRC+

Who needs all that?

This …

3/11/2020, UMass-Lowell at Virginia.

This Is All I Need. 

Baseball is a team sport. Individual statistics are like artificial preservatives, unnecessary and probably not good for you.

Two. Fantasy Sports Are Stupid.

I like making declarative sentences like this, because people who play fantasy sports get all agitated and blustery whenever someone tells them their pretend sport is stupid.

Agitated and Blustery.

If you spend a week deciding who’s going to “play” in your pretend football game, you probably need to find another sport to watch.

Three. I Can’t Stream The Internet, But Even If I Could … Continue reading