Baseball Dreams, A Forgotten Hoops Star, & Sen. McCain’s Best Baseball Moment

Let me save you some time.

Here are three sports’y things you should make time for. And, one thing you shouldn’t.

First, shouldn’t.

When Sports Illustrated includes a recipe – and, I assure you, they do slip recipes into their magazine from time to time – don’t think, “Oh, look, Sports Illustrated has a recipe. How quirky! Maybe I should try it!” No. No, you shouldn’t.

What idiot would actually make a BBQ sauce with two kinds of mustard, some bourbon, and an awful lot of vinegar simply because Sports Illustrated published it?

Sports Illustrated has its place … in the kitchen is not one of them.

(Editor/Husband dunked a cracker in it and thinks it has potential. He is wrong. It is awful.)

So, before you go rushing off to buy bourbon (it’s not like you have any just lying around, right?) or to watch college football (which, I’m told, is a thing) … here are three things you should make time for. 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

Worst Place

Editor/Husband thinks it’s important to tell you, before you go any further, that I had a migraine. He thinks this is the headache – and the headache sleep – talking. (Maybe. Maybe he’s right.)

A line of trees curved around the outfield. Trees where the fence would be. Should be. But, this outfield was lined only with trees.

And, in the trees, high up, with their legs splayed over the thicker branches like they were riding ponies, were men. Fans. All sorts of men, at different heights among the tree branches. Different ages, but none too young, and none too old. And, every one, with legs splayed over the branches. Tree riders.

And, some were smoking. And, some hadn’t shaved. And, each one held a rolled-up newspaper that he beat in rhythm – along with the others – against the branches, rattling the leaves. They all seemed angry. Or, maybe they were just irritated that nothing had happened yet in a game that had yet to start.

And, there was an umpire explaining the ground rules. Explaining them to me, perhaps, but mostly to the players.

Explaining why the third base line that ran in from left field, was not a line but a crick of running water. But, not quite a crick, exactly, but something narrower than that. What would you call it? Would you call it a rill? OK, that’s what it was. A rill. And, the water in the rill bubbled and ran from the left field line, cut through third base, and flowed to home, and continued past home, extending into a wide field well behind where the game would be played and out of sight.

Continue reading

We Broke The All-Star Break

The Baltimore Orioles entered the All-Star break — baseball’s halfway point — on Sunday with two things:

1) A 28-69 record which is almost, but not quite, the worst record in baseball. (Ummm, thanks, 27-68 Royals?), and

2) Shortstop Manny Machado, a starting All-Star and one of the best players in the game.

The Orioles leave the All-Star break with just one thing. Almost, but not quite, the worst record in baseball.

Some things that might be helpful for you to know, should your team ever end up being as awfuliciously bad as the Orioles are this season.

Continue reading

Two Games. In 2018. In The Middle Of Virginia.

Charlottesville, Virginia. Saturday Night. 88 Degrees At Gametime.

I appreciate all you photographers who come out to ballgames with your fancy cameras and your lenses that weigh more than my cat.

Do These Cookbooks Make Me Look Fat?

I like the way your photos are all alive with action … with kicked-up dust and the satisfying blurless smack of bat against ball. You’re always in the exact right place at the exact right time to catch the pick off with its ball-into-glove-into-face-of-player-diving-dirt-side-down-into-the-bag action-packedness.

If I sound a little jealous … well …

I can’t do that.

Chain link fences and nets get in my way.

I’d screw it up anyway.

I suck at this picture-taking thing.

Can I document two games in Charlottesville, Virginia without actually showing the game?

Probably not. But, here we go anyway.

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.

 

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

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