The Wheelbarrow

 

 

The True Part: This wheelbarrow sits in the middle of a nearby farmyard. I pass it every time I drive or walk down our road. It’s been there for years, through at least the last two families who have lived there. I don’t know how it got there or why it stays there. But, it got me thinking  …

The Wheelbarrow

He could tell you the exact moment when he knew his playing days were through.

It happened toward the end of a meaningless game on a humid Wednesday at the end of September. He was at bat, a 3-0 count, when Swelter Feeney’s fastball caromed off his wrist. Feeney hit batters all the time, so it didn’t surprise him. If he had jerked away a second sooner, maybe it wouldn’t have hit him square on the bones. But, he hadn’t, and it did. He knew right away it was bad. He knew right away things had changed.

He jogged to first and fought back a grimace. Bones were broken – at least one, probably more – in his wrist. He was sure of that. Teams didn’t have trainers back then and he didn’t need a doctor to tell him his hand would never be the same.

He bluffed his way through the rest of the game – a game they lost – hiding the fast-swelling hand from prying eyes. Didn’t say a word. He didn’t want to lose his job, the only job he ever wanted.

That night he ate nearly an entire bottle of aspirin and tied an old rag around the wrist to quiet the throbbing. He found a pair of old tin snips and, with his good hand, cut a circle out of a pie pan and pushed a thin piece of tin into his glove, loosening the leather laces and splitting part of the glove at the bottom so he could press his swollen hand behind the tin, which, he hoped, would soften the blow of ball into glove. It helped. But, only a little. Continue reading

Baseball & The Moon

“The love of base ball is wide spread. A little six year old was sitting upon the steps, with a base ball in his hand, gazing intently at the moon. ‘Pa, is there only one man in the moon?’ asked he.

“’That’s the tradition my son; the man in the moon is the only inhabitant of that bright world we have ever heard of.’

“After a moment of pause he remarked with a sigh, ‘He must be lonesome, pa, with no one to play base ball with.’”

— The Marysville (Kansas) Enterprise, 1867

Photo: “Kids In June.” The Baseball Bloggess, 6/26/2021

Photo: Pixabay via Pexels.com

 

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

Dear Baltimore Orioles,

Hi.

It’s been a while since we talked and I didn’t want it to come to this. Really, I didn’t.

But, you leave me no choice.

You see, I’ve put up with a lot from you lately. And, by lately, I mean over the past 1,183 days.

That starting point is not arbitrary. It was March 29, 2018 – Opening Day. You won that game. Good for you.

Sure, it took 11 innings. But, you won.

In the past 1,183 days since Opening Day 2018 you have played 458 games. You’ve lost 67 percent of them – 309 games.

You’ve lost games by a run, two runs, 13 runs. Like Baskin-Robbins ice cream, you offer a lot of variety in your losses.

Baseball Nut? Yes. Pink Bubblegum? Entirely unnecessary.

While I hate math, even I can see that you have lost nearly all of the games you have played since 2018.

Nearly all of them.  

I have kept my mouth shut long enough. Continue reading

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

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 …