In Praise Of “Peculiarly Hypnotic Tedium”

Good news, baseball fans!

All your griping about long and slow baseball games has paid off.

Games are shorter!

Last year the length of the average baseball game dropped – dropped! – to 3 hours and 4 minutes. That’s a savings of 4 minutes per game over 2017.

I hate math, but check out this wizardry …

With a 162-game season, there were 2,430 regular season games scheduled in 2018. At 4 minutes saved per game, that comes out to 9,720 free minutes or – and this is going to blow your mind – 162 hours saved!

Pulitizer-winning novelist Philip Roth once called baseball’s pace “peculiarly hypnotic tedium” and, just to be clear, he meant that in a good way.

I’m sure you put your 4-minute-per-game savings to good use last season.

Maybe you used your free minutes to watch Bongo Cat play Africa

 

The average American shower takes 8 minutes – so you could have had half a shower, which is time enough to soap, but maybe not enough to rinse.

Fun Fact: The 3 hour, 4 minute average baseball game is almost identical to the length of an average NFL football game, but without all the brain-damaging concussions.

(It’s odd that some people who complain about baseball games being too long and slow are the same ones who complain that the off-season – without baseball – is also too long and slow. I watched the Orioles lose 115 games last season. What’s your hurry?) Continue reading

Richmond’s Baseball Kid – “Granny” Hamner

Are you old?

Do you live with, work with, know young people?

Are they pretty sure they know more than you do?

Try this …

When you don’t want to do something, pretend like you’re too old to know how to do it. Look befuddled. “Gosh, this computering is hard. I just don’t get it.”

Young people love to know more than you.

“Here,” the young person will say impatiently, “Give it to me.”

Do not fight them on this. GIVE IT TO THEM.

The young person will then take over and do your work for you.

They will think you are stupid. But, you are very smart. Sit back and relax and let the youngster do your work.

Crazy kids.

Which brings me to the ballplayer kid they called Granny.

Granny Hamner was born Granville Wilbur Hamner in April 1927 in Richmond, Virginia – one of 35 major league players born there. Continue reading

“All Up For The Lucky Seventh”

There are three lessons I hope you will learn from The Baseball Bloggess today:

1) The Seventh Inning Stretch has a special place in baseball history. It’s been around longer than you have. It’s what sets baseball apart from sports that make no demands of its fans.

2) The Seventh Inning Stretch is not a suggestion. It is not an invitation. It is a requirement. It is a job. Your job. All the instruction that you need can be found in its title. During the seventh inning, you stretch. It’s not hard to figure out. It’s not the balk rule, people. It’s simple.

Who – You.

What – Stretch.

Where – Are you here? Then, here.

When – The Seventh Inning.

Even a cat could figure it out.

3) Sitting can kill. Continue reading

1910: The Battle For The “Buzz Wagon”

When your team goes bad … and not run-of-the-mill bad, but wholesale “we are the worst of the worst, nearly the worst that ever was, and there is no clear indication that we will ever not be the worst” bad … you start digging around to assure yourself that someone out there, long ago, was worse than you.

Bad news, Orioles fans.

The 2018 Baltimore Orioles are among baseball’s stinkiest ever. And, there’s still a week to go.

While the 1910 baseball season won’t change that, it might help assure you that your grandfather or great-grandmother or great-great-someone also once felt the sting of horrible, horrible failure.

Well, if they lived in St. Louis, anyway.

1910 St. Louis Browns

In 1910, the St. Louis Browns (who would, in 1954, become the Baltimore Orioles) won 47 games and lost 107.

No need to rehash the Browns’ rotten year. Let’s just talk about the double-header on October 9, 1910, the last day of the season.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/9/1910

Continue reading

1884: Richmond Joins The Major Leagues

Our story so far … On August 2, 1884, after an atrocious 12-51 record, the Washington Nationals of the American Association folded mid-season. The Richmond Virginians, playing in the lesser Eastern League, were tapped to complete the remaining games on Washington’s schedule. Those games represent the only major league games in Richmond baseball history.

If you’re going to picture Richmond, Virginia’s history of major league baseball – 71 days and 46 games in 1884 – you’re going to have to use your imagination.

They played at Virginia Ball-Park.

And, the outfield – rocky and uneven, but wider and deeper than most outfields – was over here, more or less …

… where the controversial statue of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart stands today on Richmond’s Monument Avenue.

And, the front gate, home plate, and wooden grandstand where the brass band would play were over here …

… where the even more controversial statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee now stands just a few blocks away.

That’s Richmond, Virginia in a nutshell. Its history is a wonderful pastoral pastime and its history is a conflicted and ugly war. And, sometimes they converge.

Like they did in 1884. Continue reading

1884: Those Other Washington Nationals

“We are going to have a genuine baseball revival this season.” –  Lloyd Moxley, 1884.

Lloyd. Lloyd. Lloyd.

God knows you tried.

There you were spending your money on a brand new baseball team, bringing major league baseball to Washington, DC. You had plans. Big plans.

You polished up a ballpark. Paid for a fine team of players.

You filled the schedule with Ladies Days, giving women free admission.

You put comfortable cushions on the seats.

You bought a “giant gong” to announce the start of games.

Sure, you wouldn’t sell alcohol, but who needs beer when you’ve got cigar stands and concessions galore? Continue reading

“The Sum Total Of Our Historic Life.”

On April 7, 1889, American poet Walt Whitman and his friend Horace Traubel had this conversation.

Whitman said to his friend, “Did you see the baseball boys are home from their tour around the world? How I’d like to meet them — talk with them: maybe ask them some questions.” Traubel replied, “Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic!”

Whitman responded, “That’s beautiful: the hurrah game! Well — it’s our game: that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game: has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphere — belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”

“Is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”

That’s what makes baseball beautiful. Not today’s games – of which there will be many – not yesterday’s – and not, especially, the one last night that the Orioles let get away (again).

Not any one, but the sum total of them.

The hurrah game. It’s who we are, isn’t it? Or, who we wish to be.

Dorthea Lange, the famed photographer who, better than anyone, documented the Great Depression, took this photo in Cedar Grove, North Carolina (about 20 miles north of Chapel Hill).

Public Domain, Library of Congress #LC-USF34-020008-E

The photograph’s title at the Library Congress, and the title that I am going to believe Lange gave this photo herself, reads:

“Rural filling station becomes community center and general grounds for loafing. The men in baseball suits are on a local team which will play a game nearby. The team is called the Cedargrove Team.”

The community center and men in baseball suits photo was taken by Lange on July 4, 1939.

May your Fourth of July be hopeful. May there be a Hurrah Game for you. And, may your team, dressed in their best baseball suits, win.

 

They Called Him Dad

Dad Clarke never married. He had no children.

But, baseball fans called him Dad, reporters called him Dad, everyone called him Dad, although his given name, which was given in 1865, was William.

Public Domain

Dad Clarke, circa 1888.

He is the only childless “Dad” I know.

I wonder if that seemed peculiar to him? To be a Dad in name only?

There are a lot of dads in baseball. The lower-case, fathers-with-children kind. Some ballplayers today have kids like other people have Tupperware. Just lots of kids. Preternaturally fertile, these players.

(Full disclosure: I am a kidless writer. I do not know beans about parenting. But, I had a dad, and I called him Dad, so I’m confident that I’m qualified to write this.)

There are only a handful of ballplayers who, over the years, were known primarily as “Dad.” Not as a sometime nickname, but as the name that overrode the name they were given.

Or, were there?

Continue reading

“How The Other Club Won A Victory From The Orioles.”

Baltimore Sun, June 28, 1892

“The Oft-Told Tale.”

Dear Baltimore Orioles,

Me, again.

You’ve lost three straight to the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays … whose motto this season is “We stink, too, but nowhere near as bad as the O’s.”

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how awful you are. Do you?

(Not you, Adam Jones. You’re still trying. You can stop reading now. This is for everybody else …)

This may seem like uncharted territory to some of you, but really it’s not.

Look at the 1892 Orioles.

They stunk, too.

Baltimore Sun, June 29, 1892

Baltimore Sun, July 14, 1892

Continue reading

“The Word Is Lachrymose.”

At 17-40, the Baltimore Orioles have the worst record in baseball. They have won just two of their last 10 games. I don’t even remember the wins. All I remember are the losses … every single day a loss … an endless parade of gloomy, lifeless, uncaring losses, like the endless days of rain that have dumped some 20 inches in our pitiful mushy yard since this pitiful baseball season began.

This mud pond used to be the road to our house. Better bring your swim fins!

Hey, I know the rules. Someone has to have the worst record in baseball. I just wish it wasn’t the O’s.

Public Domain, 1901

Grantland Rice In His Ball Playing Days. Vanderbilt Captain and Shortstop. 1901

Dear Grantland Rice, Legendary sportswriter, poet, and understander of loss, futility, and baseball’s broken dreams, what say you?

Continue reading