If this were an ordinary, ho-hum, just-another-April, April …
If this were just a plain ol’ kick-winter-to-the-curb April …
If this were an April, the way Aprils are meant to be … the way they should be … the way they need to be …
There would be baseball.
There would be other things, too. There would be restaurants and movies and the ability to go into stores without worrying that taking one step inside is going to be the one step that tries to kill you.
There would be parties and concerts and – I know I mentioned this already – baseball.
So, here we are, near April’s end and the Baltimore Orioles are undefeated. UN. DE. FEAT. ED. Didn’t see that coming, did you?
For those of you baseball-complainers …
Those who complain …
… the games are too slow … too long … cost too much … play music too loud … allow cheaters to cheat …
For those who grumble that …
… the human mistakes of human umpires are unacceptable … that error-less robo-umpires are unacceptable … that the Red Sox were penalized too much for their cheating and the Astros penalized too little … or the other way ’round … that the Home Run Derby is inane … that the All-Star Game is unnecessary … that superstar athletes are grossly overpaid for playing a children’s game … that the waiting around between every pitch seems to take so damn long …
To all of you who ever complained …
I would take a six-hour slogging Yankees-Red Sox game right now.
I would watch every second. And, I would cheer for both teams.
(Dear Baltimore Orioles, I’m just kidding. I wouldn’t cheer. Honest.)
There’s not much to read on the sports pages, so you have to dig to find baseball.
Three cheers to The Athletic who seems to always find some interesting baseball nook or cranny to dig into. The 30 best songs about baseball? Check. The history of Sunday Night Baseball? Check. Lou Gehrig’s “Bat Zero”? Check. How players use their cleats as a form of self-expression? Super-Duper Check!
(The Athletic is offering a 90-day free subscription and you would be a doofus not to take the deal – and, come on, don’t be a cheapskate, pop for the full subscription when the freebie ends.)
And, here’s some baseball worth reading tucked in unlikely places:
From The Atlantic: The Brainiest Hitter: Can Joey Votto Outsmart Age?
How can one not appreciate a player who does Yoga and crosswords and builds his career around adages like this: “The swing should be built around you, not you built around the swing.”
From National Public Radio: You’re Out! No Fans — Or Spitting — As Baseball Returns To South Korea
This is worth the listen just to hear former Oriole (and former A, Cub, Astro, Red, and Marlin) Dan Straily, now pitching in South Korea, muse about the ban on spitting in Korea’s soon-to-start season:
“I want someone to find me a game in history where baseball players did not spit on the field. I’ve never been to the baseball field and thought to myself, like, ‘OK don’t spit.’ It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know why we all do it, it’s just like one of those things that happens.”
(For the record, I have held a job for decades and never once had to stop and remind myself, “OK, don’t spit.” In fact, now that I realize that not spitting in public is an incredible sign of not only good hygiene but amazing restraint, I think I’ll add it to my resume. Professional Qualities: Doesn’t spit.)
From The New Yorker: How Anthony Fauci Came To Be America’s Doctor.
The award for most unlikely appearance of baseball in a non-baseball story goes to The New Yorker for allowing Dr. Anthony Fauci to explain in a recent profile why he grew up a Yankees fan in Brooklyn.
“We spent our days arguing who was better: Duke Snider versus Mickey Mantle; Roy Campanella versus Yogi Berra; Pee Wee Reese versus Phil Rizzuto and on and on. Those were the days, my friend.”
(The profile also details Fauci’s history during the AIDS epidemic and today battling coronavirus. Definitely worth a read for all that stuff, too.)
From ESPN: The Last Dance
Are you watching The Last Dance – chronicling the 1997-98 season of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls – on ESPN? (It’s not too late to hop in … new episodes air this Sunday. And, seriously, what else are you doing? Just sitting around in your sweatpants rationing your toilet paper and waiting to see if baseball is back? Reality check – you have plenty and it’s not.)
MLB.com interviews the filmmaker … and he’s got a lot of baseball to discuss. And, let me give you a little spoiler … Jordan’s minor league baseball career will be addressed. Read the full baseball-juicy interview here.
The Death of Steve Dalkowski
It’s heartbreaking to see newspapers filled with obituaries of so many people who have died from the coronavirus. Fathers. Sisters. Friends. Colleagues. Young. Old. You probably know someone … and I truly am sorry for your loss.
Here is one more …
“Steve Dalkowski, who entered baseball lore as the hardest-throwing pitcher in history, with a fastball that was as uncontrollable as it was unhittable and who was considered perhaps the game’s greatest unharnessed talent, died April 19 at a hospital in New Britain, Conn. He was 80.” — The Washington Post.
Maybe his name doesn’t ring a bell. But, Dalkowski was also the inspiration for Nuke Laloosh in Bull Durham.
Dalkowski played in the Baltimore Orioles organization in the late 1950s until 1965, but despite his powerful arm – and a fastball that was estimated to hit 120 mph – he never made it to the majors.
“It’s the gift from the gods — the arm, the power,” Ron Shelton, who made Bull Durham, once wrote. “That is what haunts us. He had it all and didn’t know it. That’s why Steve Dalkowski stays in our minds. He had the equivalent of Michelangelo’s gift but could never finish a painting.”
Two excellent remembrances …
From The Washington Post:
FiveThirtyEight is the preeminent resource for political wonks and geeks who like opinion polls. Sports is its side hustle.
In true FiveThirtyEight form, there are a lot of numbers in this story … numbers, numbers, blah-blah, numbers in columns, numbers in rows, yada-yada.
It all looks pretty interesting, I guess, if you’re the kind of mathlete’ish person who likes numbers and believes they belong in sentences.
My takeaway is that long season, short season, expanded playoffs … the Baltimore Orioles will be probably be stinky under any scenario.
(Dear Baltimore Orioles, It’s April 25. You’re still undefeated. I miss you very much.)
Hang in there, my baseball family, and stay safe. And, stay patient, too. I think it’ll be awhile before we can argue about how awful the three-batter minimum rule is. Or, isn’t. But, probably is.