The Troubling Story Of Baseball’s Douglas Neff

I could tell you about baseball.

I could tell you that Douglas Neff – or D.W. Neff, as he was called from time to time – was a star athlete at the University of Virginia, played 33 big league games in 1914 and ’15 for the Washington Nationals, then retired, fought in a war, and faded into the much-less-documented world of ordinary life.

I could tell you about Harrisonburg, Virginia where Neff, the son of a prominent local doctor, was born in 1891.

Harrisonburg is on the “other” side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the western edge of Virginia.

I could tell you about Boboko, Harrisonburg’s tiny Indonesian restaurant and its delicious food, which you will find just across the street from the Harrisonburg Farmers Market.

Delicious.

Neff’s childhood home is gone. But, I can show you where it once was.

Here …

… where this parking lot is now – also across from the Farmers Market.

Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University, with 21,000 students, and Eastern Mennonite University, with 1,100 more. Add another 54,000 residents, and Harrisonburg has sprawled so big and so wide that it now has two – two! – Walmarts.

Like this – only sprawlier.

I had it all planned out – to tell you about Neff and baseball, and Harrisonburg and Boboko, the tiny Indonesian restaurant.

But, some things don’t go as planned. Continue reading

Real Baseball. Games In February. Games That Count.

You can cheer for spring training and it might be warm where you are. But, it’s not quite spring – not quite, not yet – in Virginia.

Last week.

But, it is baseball season. And, not the warm-up-the-bones-in-games-that-don’t-count variety that the big leaguers are playing in Arizona and Florida right now.

Real baseball. Games that count.

The 2019 University of Virginia baseball team began their outside team practices back in January. In cold, snowy, polar votex’y Virginia.

Their regular season began two weeks ago. (Ok, their regular season began two weeks ago … in Arizona. I’ll give you that. But, your nit-picking is missing the point. My point.)

Last weekend, they played Villanova in Charlottesville and it was cold. Bone-chillingly-butt-numbingly-nose-frozenly cold.

(Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that cold on Sunday, and, yes, some people wore shorts to Sunday’s game. But, people who wear shorts in not-freezing-but-still-not-warm winter weather are not to be trusted.)

It was cold – 45-degrees cold – on Friday.

And, before you interrupt me again to tell me how soft people are today and how back in the day people lived without heat or fluffy parkas or polartec or hand warmers, let me point out that the University of Virginia baseball team 100 years ago – the 1919 team – had not even ventured outdoors until the middle of February because their baseball season would not begin for several weeks and it was too cold to practice outside. Continue reading

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

“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

Baseball’s Perfect Imperfection

I’m embarrassingly non-controversial.

Well, when it comes to baseball anyway. There are no dust-ups here, my opinions are welcoming of all other baseball opinions. I don’t like to argue.

Sure, I have controversial opinions about other stuff.  And, I’m sure you’ll agree I’m right about all of them.

Hash Browns vs. Home Fries.

By Marshall Astor, via Creative Commons 2.0

Home Fries.

Sylvester vs. Tweety.

Sylvester. Please, Tweety sucks.

Serial Comma vs. the Dangerous Anarchy of Punctuation Without The Sanity of the Serial Comma.

Serial Comma, Serial Comma, and Serial Comma.

Continue reading

New Year’s Rulin’s

First of all, New Year’s Resolutions are stupid.

Because if you waited an entire year to decide you need to make some major life change, because, while unpleasant, you know it will be good for you, then why did you wait until today to start it?

I’ll tell you why. Because you don’t want to do it. That’s why. And, eventually, we don’t do the things we don’t want to do.

So, resolutions stink when you make them – because they are things you don’t want to do. And, they stink even more when you fail at them – because now you’re a failure.

Resolutions just stink.

But, there are always exceptions. Woody Guthrie wrote these – his “New Year’s Rulin’s” for 1942.

I can’t tell you if he kept them, but I’m hopeful he at least took the occasional bath and sent money to his kids.

Continue reading

Waiting To Go Home

We were booted out of our house today.

Me, Editor/Husband, and all three cats.

Workmen are in there doing workingmen things. Things that must be done without the interference of humans or cats.

It has taken us the better part of a week to prepare the house for this upheaval.

And, today, I am tired, stressed, and, at least for now, homeless.

(I am promised that our home will be opened back up to us by dinnertime. Yes, dinnertime. So, sure, I’m being a little melodramatic here. But, I’m also so tired my eyes hurt. And, cranky. And, I’m sitting here in my studio with the volume on my phone turned all the way up so I don’t miss the text that says I can come home.)

As the workmen do their workingmen things, and the cats are boarding at the vets thinking cat thoughts about how much they hate us now for taking them away from home this morning, I am looking through the photos I’ve taken over the past year.

There’s a lot of waiting going on.

Charlottesville Tom Sox, June 2017 © The Baseball Bloggess

Continue reading

Artie!

Look, I’m not one to tell you what to do with your Labor Day Monday. You worked hard for this day off. You should enjoy every single minute of it.

If you think napping in a hammock is the best way to celebrate, then, hey, I’m not going to tell you to do anything different.

Really? Hammock napping? That’s the best you can do?

What if it rains?

Here.

Here’s what you should do with your Labor Day Monday.

Watch Artie Lewicki make his big league debut with the Detroit Tigers.

Embed from Getty Images

Artie Lewicki pitching for Virginia in 2014

Last week, the Tigers traded Cy-Young-pitcher-with-the-hot-model-girlfriend Justin Verlander and a boatload of cash to the Houston Astros for a handful of prospects (none of whom was rookie outfielder Derek Fisher, so I immediately lost interest in whatever prospects the Astros gave up).

Into Verlander’s spot in the Tiger’s rotation? University of Virginia alum Artie Lewicki, who will make his big league debut, getting his call up from the AAA Toledo Mud Hens.

Continue reading

“Welcome Fans!”

“Virginia is a team that more than deserved to be a very high seed and host a regional. Why that didn’t happen, I don’t know.” ~ Jim Schlossnagle, Coach, Texas Christian University Horned Frogs

Last Sunday, the NCAA named its 16 host teams for their post-season Regional Tournaments which began yesterday.

The University of Virginia — ranked #13 in the country by D1 Baseball, #11 in USA Today‘s Coaches Poll, and #10 in the Baseball Writers Poll — was not among them.

In the scope of injustices in this world, the NCAA’s slight is plenty misguided, sure, but still pretty teeny-tiny.

And, sure you can argue that Virginia is still one of the 64 teams competing in the post-season this weekend. Look at poor Miami, left out for the first time in 44 years.

Yes, you can argue that at least Virginia gets to play today.

(Don’t try to make me feel better. I’m steamed about this.)

Continue reading

Our Season In The Blue Seats (part 3)

Sure, I know I’m wearing out my welcome, but here’s one last look from our season in Virginia baseball’s blue seats.

Last post on this. Promise.

If you’re playing catch-up … here’s “Our Season In The Blue Seats” (part 1) and (part 2).

I have a college chum who is an accomplished photographer. He tried to help me understand how carefully manipulating the wheels and buttons and levers on my camera can create a beautiful photo. But, I just can’t seem to ever get it right, especially when I’m trying to shoot through — and wash out — the protective netting at a game while actually also watching the game.

So, my pictures are frustratingly not right most of the time. Which is ok, because if people like me could take a great photo with ease, all the good photographers in the world would be out of work. Which is to say, I’m keeping all the professional sports photographers in business, which makes me a job creator. You’re welcome.

I took a lot of pictures while we watched Virginia baseball from the coveted blue seats this season. A lot.

These were all shot through the protective netting. They are my favorites.

Virginia Pitcher Teddy Paisley.

I’ve been waiting all season to tell you about Teddy Paisley.

Continue reading