Sweep. Swept. Swupt.

You may not think “swupt” is a word.

You are wrong. (Technically, you are right. But, today, you are wrong.)

To be swupt is to lose all four games of a four-game series to the Boston Red Sox. Which is what the Baltimore Orioles did this week.

Losing 2-5, 2-5, 1-5, 3-5. Or, to simplify things, losing the series 8-20.

(Orioles Magic? Orioles Tragic.)

Losing ugly and losing, at least for the moment, their hold of a post-season wild card spot.

With just one week left in the regular season, there aren’t many moments left to right this shaky ship.

Broadcasters and managers and players will tell you that it is very hard to win all four games of a four-game series. (They will also tell you that visiting teams hate four-game series for weird reasons … like players don’t like to stay in the same hotel and town for so long. It’s four games. It’s one game more than a typical three-game series. Are players seriously that sensitive that playing one more day is such a burden? You know what’s a burden? Watching your very most favorite team in the whole wide entire world give up five – FIVE! – unearned runs in a single game and then lose that game to the Red Sox, 5-1.)

The Red Sox must have been miserable this week what with the burden of this four-game series and all.

Here’s rookie Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi overcoming the sadness of a four-game series by celebrating following one of their wins this week by dancing like Michael Jackson.

benintendi

Look how happy they are! (The Orioles were happy once.)

Just for the record, the University of Virginia kept Benintendi, then a center fielder at the University of Arkansas, hitless during the 2014 NCAA Regionals Tournament.

I know, because I was there. Here’s an ESPN screen cap of the Baseball Bloggess and Editor/Husband watching it happen.

uva-vs-arkansas-regionals-2014

Sure, no one looks very happy, but Virginia shut out Arkansas that day 3-0.

The Orioles are seven games back and in third place in the AL East. They are a half game back of the second Wild Card spot.

Dear Orioles, There are nine games left to play. Fix this.

 

 

My Dad’s Green Hammock & Vin

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be a bridge to the past and to unite generations. The sport of baseball does that, and I am just a part of it.” ~ Vin Scully, Dodgers Broadcaster since 1950

I think we all have squishy memories.

The squishy ones are the memories that have no specific moment or event to make them distinct. They remember no special day or place. No exact time. Instead of one particular thing, a bunch of routine moments from the past squish together to make one single thought.

I have a lot of squishy memories.

Here’s one.

When I was a kid we lived in California. And, on Saturdays, after the lawn was mowed and the Saturday chores were done, my dad would stretch out on his green hammock (a hammock supported by a metal frame, rather than trees, with white fringe along its sides, and with a matching green pillow attached at the top.)

The Googler, which is a frightening tool, took “vintage green hammock with white fringe” and gave me this photo of my dad’s hammock.

dads-hammock

This is the exact one. The very same one that I haven’t seen in 40 years. I was so surprised to see it, I did a double-take. And, then I patted myself on the back for remembering it perfectly, right down to the pillow.

I can see my dad on that hammock on Saturday afternoons in California, drinking a Coors beer, with a blue portable radio that he brought out onto the patio with him. Listening to a ballgame.

Almost always, listening to Vin Scully call a Dodgers game.

This is something Vin Scully still does. Something he has done for 67 years. Something that he will only do for two more weeks before he retires at age 88.

To hear Vin Scully’s voice is to bring me back to Saturdays with my dad in his hammock. Sunny, warm days, when the most important choice I had to make was deciding whether to roller skate first, then go swimming, or to go swimming first, then roller skate.

To hear Vin’s voice is to have that Saturday back. A day in California a long time ago, when I was small and my dad was in his hammock.

And, when Vin retires at the end of this season, that memory will fade just a little, become just a little bit blurrier, a little bit squishier.

A lovely interview on National Public Radio this morning with Vin Scully. Listen here.

vin-scully-npr

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/494684760/494684761

Marvin Goodwin, “The Gentleman of Gordonsville”

I have 290 Virginia-born ballplayers to account for. I have 114 Virginia birthplaces to visit.

Where do I start?

Somewhat unrandomly, I’ve ended up in a little town just 25 minutes away from our house – a place I’ve been to scads of times.steinbeck-travels-with-charley

Not exactly out seeing the unseen world, but you gotta start somewhere.

What were you expecting, John Steinbeck? (Steinbeck made up a lot of Travels with Charley, you know. He said he listened to the Yankees-Pirates World Series while driving around with his dog in the fall of 1960, but now I’m not even sure that’s true. In any event, I’m not making up any part of my trip to Gordonsville, Virginia.)

marvin-goodwin-photo

Marvin Goodwin was born in 1891 in Gordonsville, which is a little town in the middle-ish of Virginia. He was a pitcher who had a few good – well, good enough – big-league seasons between 1916 and 1925.

gordonsville-map

Gordonsville was a small town back then and it’s a small town now.

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Let’s Go Virginia’ing!

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag

You should probably know a little bit about the place where you live.

You know, the stuff they teach you in school. Your state song. Your state flower. Your state motto.

But, what if you’re not from around here? What if you moved to a place once you were out of school? How are you supposed to learn all that?

Virginia postcard

I moved to Virginia after college and have lived here for more than half of my life. And, sure, I know a few things about this place.

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“Gentlemen, It Was Awful.”

T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month.

TS Eliot

T.S. Eliot, Public Domain

How did I get in this post?

Eliot didn’t mean baseball. If he had he would have said August.

But, Eliot was a baseball fan and, it’s said, his heart was broken when his team, the Red Sox, sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919.

So, yeh, he knew cruel.

(Hemingway once slammed Eliot’s writing by telling a friend that Eliot “never hit a ball out of the infield in his life.” Also cruel.)

The Baltimore Orioles are slowly tumbling down the AL East ladder.

They’ve been looking increasingly listless and pitiful, like a ratty old tomcat trying to hack out a hairball. So much hacking and all that comes out is a desperate, sad noise that sounds, best I can translate, something like, “Ggggackuck [brief pause] Aahkgggackuck [longer pause] geeeeeeack.” Then he stops, swallows, shakes his head, and starts all over again.

snowball 2 hairball

I mean, you still love that ratty old tomcat, sure, but mainly you’re just hoping you’re not the one who’s going to get stuck cleaning up whatever is trying so hard to come out.

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Like A Team Of Shaky Maracas

Baltimore Orioles utility infielder Ryan “Flash” Flaherty, who hasn’t pitched since high school, pitches the 9th in the Orioles painful 12-2 loss to the Houston Astros on Saturday.

I’m sitting here on the porch and the cicadas are so loud in the trees I can barely hear myself type.  (That would be a trite way to start except that it’s true.)

Seriously. Listen. I recorded them for you:

Cicadas are living maracas.

 

13,000 people have watched this YouTube video about how to draw maracas. This is what people do.

maracas

Not bragging, but I drew that.

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“Hot As Hell, Ain’t It Prez?”

100 degrees

It is 100 here again today. It is hot and humid and sticky. It is miserable.

If it is not 100 degrees where you are, I am both happy for you and a little annoyed that you deserve better weather than me.

There is baseball this afternoon in Richmond – minor league ball – and in younger times we would go.

But, not today. Not when it’s 100. Because these are not younger times and age slows you down. Age tires you out. And, age protects you from doing stupid things like going to a baseball game when it is 100 degrees outside.

Because 100 is a lot of anything.

Dennis Eckersley threw 100 complete games in his career.  Which is strange because I’m of the generation that remembers him mainly as a shaggy-headed closer.

Eckersley, 1978-ish.

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Dear Yoga. Thank You. Signed, Baltimore Orioles.

the only thing missing is you

When I’m not at the ballpark, you can often find me here … in my Yoga studio in Orange, Virginia. (Sorry, still haven’t figured out how to take a selfie.)

As I began my fifth year of “bloggessing” yesterday, the Baltimore Orioles finished their three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians, ensuring one more night of sweet dreams atop the AL East.

AL East Standings

Look! It’s the Orioles!

Stay with me. This Bloggess Public Service Announcement will take only a few seconds of your time …

Yesterday. Orioles and Indians. Bottom of the 9th  Tied at 3.

One man on base, two outs. Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold comes in to pinch hit. Yes, the O’s were pinning their hopes on someone who hadn’t even played that day. He doesn’t get many chances to play at all, really.

And, this happened …

Two-run walk-off home run.

Game over. Orioles win.

How can a player come in, tamp down the stress, focus, and crush a baseball like that?

Let Nolan’s wife Jenny explain:

The moral of the story ….

Yoga cannot guarantee that you will hit a walk-off home run for your team.  But, if Yoga helps Nolan Reimold perform at the highest level … along with scores of other big leaguers who rely on Yoga every day to keep them strong, toned, mentally focused, steady, and flexible … imagine what it could do for you.

mats-mats-mats-e1419795494514

If you’ve got an hour, I’ve got the mats.  (And, if you’re not nearby, I’m sure there’s a Yoga studio near you … and they’ll have a mat you can borrow.)

The Cleanup Hitter

The 4th batter in a baseball lineup is the Cleanup Hitter.

(In a perfect world, the Cleanup Hitter’s job is to clean up the bases with a home run or a double. You know, something awesome, exciting, and powerful.)

Today, the Baseball Bloggess celebrates its (her? my?) 4th birthday. And, to celebrate, a bit of cleanup is in order.

I take a lot of photos at ballgames. But, I’m trying to watch and score the game, too – so I don’t capture much of the action … no exciting steals of second, no miracle catches at the wall.

There’s not a lot of dust kicking up in my photos.

Most of the photos I take just sit quietly on my computer, in their folders, like the utility guy on the bench patiently waiting for a chance to play.

So, here’s some cleanup – four recent photos that I’m sweet on, but don’t quite fit anywhere.

Orioles Outfielder Joey Rickard … 

Joey Rickard Orioles vs Angels 7 9 2016

© The Baseball Bloggess

“Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. [C]ome, take fear from bats.” ~ Pedro Ceranno in the movie Major League (1988)

The Baltimore Orioles bats went cold this month.

Power bats slump from time to time, and teams often slump together.

I think Rickard’s putting a spell on his bat here as he comes to the plate.

Poor Joey went on the DL this week and is out for the next four to six weeks with a thumb injury.  Heal up, Joey, the team needs you!

But, I think his spell worked, because the team bats are finding their mojo again … and, hey, look at this …

al east standings

Photo: Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles. Camden Yards, Baltimore. July 9, 2016.

Another Bunt! … 

© The Baseball Bloggess

University of Virginia third baseman Justin Novak lays down a bunt.

A few days ago I wrote about bunts and how much I love them. And, you all agreed!

I think we love bunts because we are thoughtful and cerebral and strategic. (And, because, at some point in Little League or junior high gym class, we bunted. Sure, we couldn’t hit one out, but, by golly, we could bunt.)

Photo: Georgia Tech at University of Virginia. Davenport Field, Charlottesville, VA. May 14, 2016.

Jubilation …

© The Baseball Bloggess

University of Virginia celebrating a run.

In a pivotal series against the University of North Carolina in April it looked like the University of Virginia had turned their season around.

The turnaround got the Cavaliers to the NCAA Regional Tournament in June, but that’s where their season ended.

Still, this photo is one of my favorites. Because … happy. That’s all. Just happy.

Photo: University of North Carolina at University of Virginia. Davenport Field, Charlottesville, VA. April 17, 2016.

Racing Mascots … 

© The Baseball Bloggess

There’s more to baseball than baseball.

The Washington Nationals Racing President Thomas Jefferson visits Charlottesville from time to time and is here racing – or being chased by, depending on how you look at things – Cosmo, a sheepdog, and “Prairiewether Lewis,” a prairie dog, at a recent Tom Sox game.

(A question you may have: Why does a prairie dog – a species that doesn’t even live in Virginia — represent the Charlottesville Tom Sox? Editor/Husband responds: “In 1805, the explorers Lewis and Clark sent a live prairie dog to President Jefferson at the White House.” Yes, he really knows this stuff.)

Photo: Covington Lumberjacks at Charlottesville Tom Sox. (Valley League) Cville Weekly Ballpark, Charlottesville, VA. July 7, 2016.

Last month, a Facebook exec predicted that in the next five years Facebook would “probably be all video.”

According to Cisco Systems: “It would take an individual five-million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month in 2020.”

Words are, sadly, obsolete.

But, on the bright side, I’ve still got five years to figure out how to use the video camera on my six-year-old Droid phone.

Happy Birthday, Baseball Bloggess … here’s to four – and, apparently, only four – more years.

Also, cleaning up today? Those pesky ads that sometimes appear at the bottom of these posts. I keep worrying that some political ad will find its way on here and ruin your day. You can’t buy me, you angry political meanies! Get off my blog!  Which is to say, those little ads that pop-up at the bottom of posts should now be gone. (But, if you see one, let me know so I can stamp my feet and complain to someone.)

 

“Get Up There & Bunt”

No one really likes the bunt.

Baseball players bunt because their manager tells them to or because nothing else seems to be working.

They bunt – usually as a sacrifice, giving up an out in the process – because they have to.

No one likes the bunt, do they? I mean really really likes it?

President William Taft hated the bunt. And, now he’s celebrated as one of the Racing Presidents at Washington Nationals games …

© The Baseball Bloggess, 2016

“It also came out at the game that Mr. Taft does not like the bunt.  … ‘I like to see them hit it out for all that is in them.’”  The New York Times, May 31, 1909

In 2005, then-Nationals Manager Frank Robinson told The Washington Post that even his pitchers complained when he called on them to bunt.

 

“They cry about it,” Robinson said. “They’ll say, ‘I’m a pretty good hitter.’ I’ll say, ‘You’re hitting .130. How is that a pretty good hitter?’ I tell them to get up there and bunt.”

And, yes, legendary Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver didn’t like the bunt either: “I’ve got nothing against the bunt – in its place. But most of the time that place is the bottom of a long-forgotten closet.”

Some experts argue that at the college level it’s more difficult to bunt with an aluminum bat. But, I see it at college games all the time.

Justin Novak Bunts UVA E Carolina Regional 6 4 16

© The Baseball Bloggess

University of Virginia third baseman Justin Novak squares to bunt in the 2016 NCAA Regional Tournament

Some fans and players might consider a bunt dull baseball. I think it’s beautiful.

Even Babe Ruth knew a well-placed bunt can make all the difference …

Babe Ruth Bunted NYTimes 10 11 1921

New York Times, October 11, 1921

Babe Ruth “near collapse” wins the game with a bunt!

A batter squares up to bunt – and with that one simple movement and change of position he has told everyone, including every infielder, exactly what he intends to do. He knows that where he drops that bunt is key. He knows he’s going to have to run like hell.

It’s sort of gutsy when you stop to think about it.

Oh, and last week’s Korean All-Star Game included a bunting competition which is sort of like if you took bunting and curling and mooshed them together.

The result is absolutely awesome.