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

It Was Just A Distraction

© The Baseball Bloggess

The Dodgers won the 2020 World Series last night. The World Series that, back in July, I was pretty sure we would never get to.

And, now we have. And, now it’s over. And, now we rest.

I didn’t believe Major League Baseball could pull it off.

As with many things, I was wrong.

(Or, maybe I was right … since Justin Turner of the Dodgers was pulled in the 8th inning last night after testing positive for covid … and then returned to the field for the celebration. What kind of quarantine is that, MLB?)

I haven’t written much on here … this pandemic has squeezed the words right out of me. But, I refuse to let October close without saying something.

Baseball was a sorely needed distraction this season. Maybe not for you. But, it was for me.

It never rose above that, though. It was always just a distraction.

It was like watching a small-town parade … it passed by and it was nice, sure … each game was the high school marching band or the float pulled on a flat-bed trailer by the local bank or the team of 10-year-olds twirling batons and marching down Main Street.

That’s all it was … each game a tissue-paper float in a small-town parade.

But, baseball has always been more than that for me.

More than just a parade.

A parade disappears. No one remembers a parade after the last town car, carrying the Parade Princess and her Court, turns the corner and slips out of sight.

This season baseball was just a forgettable distraction. Nice, sure. To be able to turn away for just a few minutes from the news, the covid, the politics, the protests, was a relief. Not to ignore the bad things, but simply to take a breath and think of something else – anything else – for a couple of minutes.

Maybe the beloved movie Animal House can explain this better than me.

I am Flounder. John Belushi’s Bluto is baseball.

 

“My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.”

(I could continue the Animal House analogy – the state of the world today is Flounder’s brother’s car. And, we shouldn’t have trusted our car with … well, anyway … back to distractions.) Continue reading

An Embarrassment Of Abandoned Words

Every few days, I sit down to write something blogg’ish.

And, every few days of late, I abandon the task.

It seems that every time I sit down to write, the news overtakes whatever it is I’m thinking about. Baseball musings take a back seat to the pandemic, to wildfires, to hurricanes, to floods, to racial injustice, to politics, to despair.

What I’m left with is a discarded pile of unfinished thoughts that I don’t have the heart to recycle.

Here are a random few of my most recent abandoned words. It’s all I have for you …

Embed from Getty Images

 

Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day every year. Players of every color wear his number 42. We are unabashedly proud of this. We act like we single-handedly destroyed racial inequality on April 15, 1947.

Hardly.

Abandoned, September 13, 2020.

If this baseball season is so efficiently compact and the games nipped into shortness – seven-inning double headers, super-speedy extra innings – why am I so tired?

Abandoned, September 6, 2020 Continue reading

The Kinda-Sorta-Almost Midway Point

I suppose 2020 is not the first time someone chose to watch, or not watch, baseball based on principles.

Baseball is a reflection of who we are at this moment in history. Who we were yesterday is reflected in an aging box score and who we become tomorrow will come into focus sometime during tomorrow’s games.

So, who are we?

Are you watching baseball in 2020 or are you sitting it out – sitting it out because you’re concerned that players are risking their health by playing … sitting it out because they are wearing “Black Lives Matter” patches on their sleeves … sitting it out because it’s a shortened season that might become meaningless … sitting it out because of new rules like that man-on-second-to-start-extra-innings thing?

Everybody’s got their reasons.

But, hey, about that new rule.

I thought it was stupid. Not just stupid, but crazy-stupid.

Come to find out, it’s not so bad. When the game you’re watching slogs into hour four and your team can’t seem to push one more lousy run across, that one lousy run being all your team needs to win … and all you can think is that this game is going to go on for another four freaking hours and it’s nearly midnight …

Yeh, all of a sudden, you’ve got a man on second and no outs. That perks me right up.

So, let me just say this about that – I was wrong. That stupid new rule about starting a man on second in extra innings wasn’t so stupid after all.

This is how the new rule works.

And, seven-inning games for double headers?

Hallelujah!

So who are we then, baseball fans?

Conflicted. Continue reading

Chapter Two: Pete The Girl

This may be the slowest serial ever. If you don’t remember Chapter One – which was months ago – you’ll find it here.

Photo by Michael Morse on Pexels.com

There is no such thing as an uncomplicated ballplayer.

He wasn’t sure how long it’d been. How long since his brain would flicker as he tried to recall a word, a name, a something else.

“Normal aging,” the doc said. “Nothing to worry about.” But that was years ago – 10, maybe more. It was just annoying then. A lost name here or there. It was more than that now.

He would be talking to someone he knew. Someone he knew he knew and suddenly his mind would go numb – the person would keep talking but he wouldn’t catch a word. Instead, he’d be consumed by the realization that he no longer knew the person’s name.

The name he knew he knew.

He would start through the alphabet, like thumbing the pages of an old phone book.

Allan. Bill. Cameron. Danny.

Danny? Is it Danny?

The name would usually come to him. But, not always. It made him wonder – is this how it ends, everything just goes blank?

His hands trembled a little now, too. And, when they did he would lace and squeeze his fingers together or hold his wrist tight with his other hand, or rub his palms as though washing them with air. Little things that no one would notice and that would slow the tremors that came more often now.

She noticed.

Pam. Patti. Polly. Penny.

Peach.

Maybe it was because Peach was a little girl, so when she stood next to her grandfather her eyes were closer to his hands than to his eyes. Or, maybe it was because she wasn’t trying not to notice, which was what her mother and the others would do.

They’d pretend not to see, but Peach didn’t.

“Grampa, why’s your hand shaking?”

Dammit.

He paused for a moment just to make sure. Pam, Patti, Polly, Penny …

“I don’t know, Peach.”

She smiled, turned, and ran up the stairs. She clattered around and quickly ran back down. She was holding her grandfather’s baseball glove – now her glove – with a ball shoved into its worn pocket. Continue reading

The #8. The Cal Ripken, Jr. Anniversary Of Blogging.

Eight years ago today, the Orioles lost.

And, I started this blog.

Eight is not a particularly momentous, landmark’ish anniversary. But, should you insist, gifts of pottery are appropriate.

In the baseball world, eight would be the “centerfielder anniversary” … so I give you this Orioles’ish clip: Adam Jones, playing centerfield for Team USA, robbing Manny Machado, playing for the Dominican Republic, in the World Baseball Classic in 2017:

In the baseball world, this would also be the #8 Cal Ripken, Jr. anniversary … so I give you this from 1996:

“… a career high eight runs, matching his uniform number.”

Continue reading

I Will Make The Most Of It.

© The Baseball Bloggess

“Is it as good as you remembered?”

You know what I mean.

You go back to your old stomping grounds – your childhood home, your college campus, or that place where you did that thing that you did for the very first time – and you are sure you will conjure up the very same feelings, the very same wonder, the very same joy that whatever it was once brought you.

It never does, does it?

So when I write “Happy Opening Day” … as I write every year … I know there’s no going back to baseball’s old stomping grounds this year.

Opening Day has always been – should always be – a time of hope, a time of joy. Even when your team is crummy, there’s still hope, right? Maybe not as crummy? Not as crummy as last year.

I don’t feel hopeful today.

I feel foreboding.

You’ve got one team that doesn’t have a home to play in. Players opting out for their own safety. Empty stadiums filled with weird artificial noise.

Artificial joy.

But, as long as they insist on playing, I will make the most of it.

Happy Opening Day.

Go O’s!