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

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

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

Nothing Is Real.

Photo: Rachel Xiao via Pexels.com

Just a few hours ago, the Baltimore Orioles announced on Twitter that tonight they will be playing real life baseball.

I sometimes slam on my brain brakes when I stumble over an especially egregious typo as I’m reading stuff online. What happened here wasn’t a typo exactly, but I slammed on my brain brakes anyway, and I I reread it to make sure that I read what I thought I read. And, what I read was, indeed, what I thought I read.

Real life baseball.

Real life.

Real.

This, today in 2020, transcended typo.

To quote John Lennon – who said a lot of things better than people like me – describing Strawberry Fields, the park of his youth … “nothing is real.”

Because, nothing is real … or right … or normal these days and certainly not baseball, which is kicking off a 66-day season this week and pretending it will somehow, someway equal a real six-month season. Continue reading

One Inning.

© The Baseball Bloggess

Is this what baseball will be, just hanging on to the memory of one last game?

The one game that you thought would go on forever?

The game where you sat, somewhere up in the stands. Tight up against those other fans.

Seeing what you always see and not wondering if you’d ever see the likes of that again.

Was that you?

A fan in the stands.

July 11, 1910

The not-so-good Cardinals are playing the not-so-good Doves on a partly cloudy Monday in St. Louis.

Game time 3:45 at old League Park. You know the place. The one with the beer garden.

The one with the fans. Those St. Louis fans. Those cranks. Those bugs.

They got so crazied up one day back in June that they threw their pop bottles onto left field. So many empty bottles rained down on Pittsburgh’s outfielder that the umpire had to stop the game. He asked a cop to stop the fans.

But, it was awfully hot. And, the cop would not.

And, just a few days ago, a fight broke out in the bleachers. Even the players stopped to watch.

But, things are quiet on July 11. Continue reading

Let Me Just Say This About That …

So, baseball is back. It’s going to be different, but, we’re promised, it’s for the best.

Just remember this: nothing good ever comes from a situation that includes the words “it’s for the best.”

Beginning in late July, each team will play 60 regular-season games crammed into 66 days. For those of you that complain that games are too long, congratulations: You’ll get through an entire season in less than half the time!

“Hurry, Hurry,” you said.

You who complained about the length of games got exactly what you wanted – games will be shorter, in that there will be fewer of them. And, if it was the 3-1/2 hour games that annoyed you and not the 162-game season, then you should have been more specific when you were whipping up your stupid warlock incantation.

People who complain about long baseball games also, invariably, are the ones who complain about how expensive games are. And, yet longer games are a better value for your money, so explain that to me, Complainers.

This is a bizarro season wrapped in strangeness and covered in weird.

In other words, it is just like everything else these days.

And, let me just say this about that … I’m not comfortable reopening my studio, going out in public without a mask, or standing within 15 feet of a stranger. And, I’m not sure I’m comfortable asking Mike Trout and Mookie Betts and the entire Baltimore Orioles roster (whose names sort of escape me at the moment) to do that either.

But, if we’re going to do this … let me just say this about that …

Editor/Husband just asked if we’ll call the rest of the pre-season which will commence on July 1 “Spring Training” and his question paralyzed me. (Correct answer: MLB is calling it “Training.” Because lack of imagination is the springboard to a successful 60-game season.)

This season is so freaky-quirky-nutty-weird already that it’s pretty much a given that the Orioles will win the World Series. Yay.

I want to just touch on a few of the new rules the league has devised to make the upcoming 2020 season more comfortable and maybe even slightly safer for players. These rules – I’m just guessing here – were cobbled together by a special brainstorming team who spent an afternoon holed up in a conference room with six cans of Red Bull, a bag of Cheese Doodles, and a whiteboard. Continue reading

Toot-Toot! Oh, To Be In Fox Lake In 1868

By Royalbroil via Creative Commons

I don’t know much about Fox Lake, Wisconsin. I’d never even heard of it before now.

I bet it’s nice.

1914’ish

Fox Lake, a town of about 1,500 that’s 70-odd miles northwest’ish of Milwaukee, does include an actual lake and Wisconsonites (Wisconsonians?) consider it one of the best in the state for fishing, especially if you like walleye, which is a decidedly Midwestern thing. The lake is also amply populated by northern pike and crappie, along with muskie, bluegill, and bass, but really it’s the walleye that brings the fishermen back to Fox Lake.

Public Domain

I was delighted to discover that Fox Lake is the hometown of Bunny Berigan, the great jazz trumpeter. I had a friend who was head-over-heels for Bunny Berigan and how she picked him out of all the jazz trumpeters in the world escapes me. What, Miles Davis wasn’t good enough?

Maybe it was because of Berigan’s 1935 hit “Chicken and Waffles” …

 

Or maybe she was just soft on Wisconsonites (Wisconsonians?).

(Bunny, whose real first name was Roland, died in 1942 of cirrhosis. He was 33. Fox Lake’s long-running annual Bunny Berigan festival ended, sadly, in 2018.)

If you are now thinking there ain’t no way, no how this story is going to come around to baseball, then clearly you don’t know me well. Continue reading

The Thing About Wednesdays …

© The Baseball Bloggess

Does every day seem like Wednesday to you?

It never feels like the beginning of the week any more. Or, the end.

It just feels like some nebulous place that is neither here nor there.

It seems, as Wednesdays actually are, as far away from the weekend as you can get.  Far away from nights out, restaurants, concerts, day hikes, farmers’ markets. Baseball.

Just one big endless Wednesday.

I have so few routines that haven’t been upended in some way in the past two months.

I rarely check the clock anymore, and I am often surprised when I do.

“It’s 9:30? How did it get to be 9:30?”

“Two o’clock already? I guess I forgot to have lunch.”

Some would say this is a good thing. That being untied to a clock or calendar is a reprieve from the demands of artificial time.

But, I like being tied. I like being needed. I like having something to do. Somewhere to be.

Something.

 

I miss this.

According to a new Gallup poll, 59 percent of Americans reported that they worried “a lot” back in March when this mess unfurled. Just 47 percent now.

In that poll, 72 percent of Americans reported being happy “a lot of the day yesterday.”  That’s a five-percent increase from late March.

Am I happier?

Well, it’s 10 a.m. and I’m still in my pajamas, still enjoying my morning coffee. Continue reading