The Best Baseball Words of 2019

Dear Holiday Revelers & Readers,

Did you really expect me to thoughtfully paw through an entire decade in my New Year’s wrap-up?

I’m running on a cup of coffee here. We’ll be lucky if I can remember back to January.

But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t collected some special things – 2019 things – for you.

Reading is one of my favorite things. It’s like the easiest hobby in the world. It’s why I don’t have a fitbit – I’d rather be reading than marching around in circles trying to “get my steps in.”

And, I’d rather be writing. To you.

And, while I’m delighted … honored … and, to be honest, a little surprised … that you stop by to read my words from time to time …  (Wait, do I owe you money? Is that why you’re here?) … I’m even more delighted to send you off with a pocketful of links to other writers who have written good stuff this year.

Even if baseball’s not your thing (insert bewildered, sorta sad, but mostly just bemused emoji face here), if you like words, sweetly strung together like the innings of a no hitter, you’ll like these words. I’m sure of it.

Sorry, increasingly feeble, laid-off-half-its-staff, soon-to-be-a-monthly Sports Illustrated, you don’t make my list this year.

But these did …Bitmoji Image Continue reading

Some Things Should Stay The Same: 1857 Edition

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

We’re taking a holiday sidetrack through 1857 today — from baseball to one of the most ubiquitous Christmas Carols.

On Christmas Day when I was a kid, my dad would take all the wrapped gifts marked for him and line them up in front of his chair. He would then randomly pick one and declare that it was the best of all. And, that was the gift he would open last. And, by last, I mean later in the day. Much later. Sometimes he would save that last gift until well into the evening when mom was already thinking about taking down the tree. (Mom usually had the Christmas tree stripped and down by lunchtime on the 26th.)

Throughout Christmas Day, my dad would ask if I had any more packages to open, and when I would sadly answer “no,” he would pick up his gift and say, “I still have one to open and it’s the best.”

The Baseball Bloggess grabbing for just one more gift.

So, stick with me because the best story I will tell you today will be the one I tell last.

First, baseball.

If you want to snoop through all the stories of baseball – or “base ball” or “base-ball” – in newspapers in 1857, it won’t take long. A couple dozen mentions are all you will find.

When this peculiar, relatively new game appears in Bloomington, Indiana in June 1857, the local paper reports:

“It is a lively and exciting game, with lots of exercise and fun in it. We hope it will speedily become popular here.”

It was, they said, a game for young men. And, with life expectancy hovering around 38 back then, pretty much everything was for young men. (Sorry, ladies, no baseball for you.) Continue reading

Mom, Babe Ruth Came To Thanksgiving Dinner Again.

(Here’s a Thanksgiving story for you … )

November 28, 2019

Dear Mom,

I told him not to, but Andy brought out that damn baseball again and set it on the table before dinner.

He did it while I was in the kitchen trying to keep the turkey from drying out. (You have to tell me again … I brined it for days. I set an alarm and basted it every 15 minutes when it was in the oven, just like you said. My hand is numb from all the basting. That’s not permanent, is it?)

Andy was threatening to deep fry again. He’s going to set the neighborhood on fire with that turkey deep fryer. So, I went out to the garage covered it in dish soap and the kids’ school paste last week. (Thanks for the idea.) I blamed the neighbor kids. Halloween prank, I said. It saved Thanksgiving, but he’ll have it cleaned up before Christmas unless I figure out how to make it disappear for good.

I told Andy this year we needed a peaceful Thanksgiving. Leave the baseball alone. The thing is disgusting – it smells of dead mouse. (If we all die of the plague, you’ll know why.)

“But, it’s tradition,” Andy says.

I can’t even grab the ball off the table because my hand is still numb from all the turkey basting. (Not permanent, right?)

It’s too late, anyway. There’s the knock at the door.

The knock that comes as soon as the Thanksgiving meal is set out. As soon as the turkey is carved, the potatoes mashed, and the Tofurkey is on a plate for Lily, who has suddenly decided she’s going vegan this year.

“Don’t answer it.” I say that every year. I might as well be talking to the cat. Lily and Sam hear the knock,  sit up straight, eyes lighting up. Sam yells, “YESSSS!” and Andy smiles because he thinks he’s raised them right.

Right enough to know you always answer the door on Thanksgiving when the baseball that smells like a dead mouse is sitting on the Thanksgiving table.

Even when I say, “Don’t answer it.” Because we all know who it is.

It’s Babe Ruth.

Who’s going to believe that Babe Ruth comes to our house every Thanksgiving, when he’s been dead for 70 years? Continue reading

Dear Washington Nationals Fans

“It is now the Nationals who rule the town and bring the city together.” — Fred Wertheimer, one of the nation’s leading campaign finance and ethics reformers. And, a Nationals fan. via The Wall Street Journal.

Dear Washington Nationals Fans,

This one is for you.

Embed from Getty Images

 

All of you.

You, the lifelong Nationals fan who is just 15 years old (or younger) so “lifelong fan” is not some throw-away term, but really, truly what you have been since your – and the Nationals’ – embryonic days.

You, the Canadian who saw the Montreal Expos, before they were the Nationals, play in Olympic Stadium and were lucky enough not to be killed when the stadium roof and concrete support beams started to give way in small and not-so-small chunks.

You, the Washingtonian who truly is “long-suffering” as you knew and loved those other Washington teams. The Senators who became the Minnesota Twins. And, the other Senators, who became the Texas Rangers.

You, my friend Colleen – who is the very best kind of Nationals fan, the one who enjoys the moment without making me feel bad about the Baltimore Orioles 108-loss season.

You, who danced with “Mad Max” Scherzer, when he, for once, didn’t seem mad at all. Continue reading

Choosing The Right 2019 World Series Team For You

Back in April my cat, Mookie Wilson-Betts, chose the San Francisco Giants to win the World Series.

Hey! You there in the back chortling. He is a … CAT. Beyond turning his nose up this morning at the expensive food that he thought was so delicious last week that I went ahead and bought him a case … beyond that … what does he know?

I am painfully aware that if you’ve read this far you could very well have no idea who is playing in the World Series, which kicks off on Tuesday.

Pay attention … this will be on the test:

American League Champions

Houston Astros

versus

National League Champions

Washington Nationals

I hate to be a bandwagoneer, but I think we ought to find a team for you cheer for. I’m going to do my best to make this as painless, and as baseball-free, as possible.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way.

Are You From Virginia?

You probably should root for the Nats … they’re close by, sorta neighborish … and they include …

Lynchburg, Virginia-born Daniel Hudson

And, from the University of Virginia …

Ryan Zimmerman

And, Sean Doolittle.

UNLESS … and this is important, people … you’re from the Richmond area, home of …

Three-time Cy Young Winner and Houston Astro, Justin Verlander.

Please consult a map for further direction.

Are You Warm And Fuzzy?

Which fits you better … Continue reading

Paul Hines:  A Little More To Unspool

I warned you about this yesterday when I wrote:

“his story rolls out … like a 4 a.m. dream that unspools out of sequence.”

So, may I trouble you with just one more story about Paul Hines, the Virginia-born ballplayer who, in 1878, made baseball’s first unassisted triple play?

Providence Grays, 1882

Paul Hines

The story goes that President William McKinley became friends with Hines in the 1870s and later gave Hines his post-baseball job as the Department of Agriculture postmaster.

President William McKinley

But, aside from one mention in Hines’ 1935 obituary, I couldn’t confirm a connection between McKinley and Hines. That Associated Press obituary said they became pals when Hines first played for the Washington Nationals and McKinley was in Congress. But, Hines was long gone from DC and playing in Chicago when McKinley first came to Congress in 1877, so those years don’t jibe. Continue reading

Paul Hines, Baseball Player: The Unblurrification

It’s the first thing I do every morning. I feed the three cats. They are my top priority and the cats expect no less. I could do it in my sleep and I think, in a way, that’s sort of what I do.

“Feed us.”

Memories get old and, eventually, blurry. Like the minutes when you first wake up, there’s still some nighttime left in your head. Those weird 4 a.m. dreams haven’t quite disappeared. You’re not asleep, but you’re not quite awake. It’s still a little blurry.

Paul Hines, baseball player, is like that. Blurry.

1890

It was a long time ago. There’s no video, no newsreels, no oral histories hidden away in boxes, no people left who saw him play.

And, that makes me wonder about the things that Paul Hines did. Did he really do them? And, if he did, why are people so focused on proving he didn’t?

I make my coffee only after the cats are fed. Often, coffee must wait so I can move the cat plates around so that Zuzu doesn’t push into Mookie’s plate before Mookie is through. I’m the cafeteria monitor. The cat-feteria monitor. Once the plates are reordered, then I make my coffee. That, too, I think I could do in my sleep.

The Unblurrification

Paul Hines was born in Virginia in 1855. Of the nearly 300 big leaguers born in Virginia, he was the first. Continue reading

100

Dear Baltimore Orioles,

Sure, we knew it was going to happen. You lost your 100th game last night, to the Detroit Tigers, the team with the worst record in baseball … even worse than yours.

But, look! You can lose a game (a game you coulda, shoulda won) by giving up a grand slam in the 12th and you’re still not the worst team in baseball.

So, there is that.

You were going to lose 100 games this season, we knew that all along. But, you stretched it out a bit this year. With two weeks left, you’ve already won more games then you did last season. Yay.

I guess.

Someone on Twitter noticed that today’s game – Baltimore Orioles at the Detroit Tigers – will mark the first time in American League history that two teams with 100 or more losses each will play each other.

So, see. You’re making history, too! Continue reading

“The Lost Ballplayers of Orange”: Sept. 30 at the Orange County Historical Society

This happened:

Not long ago, I was seated at dinner across from a college-aged pitcher. Making small talk’s not my thing, but I gave it a go. I asked him what he was studying. “History,” he said, between bites of food. “Interesting! What era of history is your specialty?” Maybe I was the first to ever ask him that. When you’re a pitcher, people are probably more interested in your fastball than in your class schedule. He thought for a moment and finally he said, “I like studying war.”

Welp.

I told him that I liked history, too, and that I often wrote about baseball history.

His eyes briefly grew big. And then he said, “Wow. I didn’t know you could do that.”

Then he went back to his dinner and that was the end of that.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t realize baseball even had a history worth knowing.

But it is worth knowing. Baseball’s long history provides a unique reflection of who we are as a nation, as a culture, as a society.

And, there’s plenty of baseball history right here in Virginia.

Join me, The Baseball Bloggess, on Monday, September 30 at the Orange County Historical Society in downtown Orange, Virginia. I’ll be talking about – what else? – baseball history …

160 Games: The Lost Ballplayers of Orange Continue reading

Would It Make You Feel Any Better …

On August 14, 2019, after their 82nd loss of the season, the Baltimore Orioles were officially eliminated from the postseason.

On the plus side, with the World Series now off my “to-do” list, I’m available throughout October for lunch at the restaurant of your choice. (Your treat, right?)

Dear Baltimore Orioles,

Nothing. I got nothing.

Your Weary Friend, The Baseball Bloggess

Bitmoji Image

Wait. Let me try again.

Dear Baltimore Orioles,

Me again.

Would it make you feel any better if I told you I was sorry? Continue reading