9 Years … 9 Things.

It was two weeks ago that WordPress reminded me that The Baseball Bloggess is 9 years old. Happy belated birth’a’versary, me!

I would have written about this two weeks ago, but I was busy watching the Baltimore Orioles sweep the Washington Nationals that weekend. That sweeping by the lowly – but occasionally feisty – Orioles was the tipping point that led the Nationals to, quite literally, trade away 30 percent of their lineup, including sending two beloved players, Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, to the Dodgers.

Dear Washington Nationals Fans,

Sorry about that.

Your Friend, The Baseball Bloggess

Sure, I’m a little late, but I’m ready to celebrate 9 years of honing the qwerty skills I learned in Mr. Brown’s high school typing class. Whether you’ve been reading from the beginning (that’s just you, Editor/Husband) or happened upon this for the first time today, The Baseball Bloggess is glad you’re here and considers you a close personal friend.

From 9 innings to 9 players on a lineup card, baseball is a 9’centric game.

So, here are 9, 9’ish things as I belatedly celebrate the 9-year birth’a’versary of The Baseball Bloggess.

1) The 9th Most Popular Post On This Website: Edd Roush Takes A Nap In The Outfield

I gotta hand it to Cincinnati Reds fans – they love baseball history.

Well, they love this story anyway, of how, in 1920, future Hall of Fame outfielder Edd Roush found a way to take a nap … in center field … during a game. But then, who doesn’t love a good napping story?

Public Domain, via The Library of Congress

Does he look tired to you? Continue reading

The Wheelbarrow

 

 

The True Part: This wheelbarrow sits in the middle of a nearby farmyard. I pass it every time I drive or walk down our road. It’s been there for years, through at least the last two families who have lived there. I don’t know how it got there or why it stays there. But, it got me thinking  …

The Wheelbarrow

He could tell you the exact moment when he knew his playing days were through.

It happened toward the end of a meaningless game on a humid Wednesday at the end of September. He was at bat, a 3-0 count, when Swelter Feeney’s fastball caromed off his wrist. Feeney hit batters all the time, so it didn’t surprise him. If he had jerked away a second sooner, maybe it wouldn’t have hit him square on the bones. But, he hadn’t, and it did. He knew right away it was bad. He knew right away things had changed.

He jogged to first and fought back a grimace. Bones were broken – at least one, probably more – in his wrist. He was sure of that. Teams didn’t have trainers back then and he didn’t need a doctor to tell him his hand would never be the same.

He bluffed his way through the rest of the game – a game they lost – hiding the fast-swelling hand from prying eyes. Didn’t say a word. He didn’t want to lose his job, the only job he ever wanted.

That night he ate nearly an entire bottle of aspirin and tied an old rag around the wrist to quiet the throbbing. He found a pair of old tin snips and, with his good hand, cut a circle out of a pie pan and pushed a thin piece of tin into his glove, loosening the leather laces and splitting part of the glove at the bottom so he could press his swollen hand behind the tin, which, he hoped, would soften the blow of ball into glove. It helped. But, only a little. Continue reading

12 Things You Should Know About Matt Kilroy, The “Little Whirlwind”

On May 5, 2021, Baltimore Orioles twirler John Means tossed the first Orioles one-pitcher, no-hitter since Jim Palmer in 1969.

Embed from Getty Images

But, you have to go all the way back to 1886 to get to the very first Baltimore Orioles no-hitter.

Matt Kilroy

Before I tell you 12 things you should know about Matt Kilroy, the 1886 pitcher who did that, let’s get any dreamy-eyed 1886 nonsense out of the way.

Forever ago.

There are no “good old days.” You might think you missed out on something special, but you didn’t.

1886 was lousy. It was unsafe. It was unsanitary. And, the average lifespan in the United States was 39.

Albert Pujols, 41. Nelson Cruz, 40. Yadier Molina, 38. You get my point.

It was tuberculosis that probably got you. Or, rabid mad dogs in New York City. Or, a horse fell on you or a carriage ran over you. Or a bridge or building collapsed on you. Or your entire town burned down with you in it.

Or, you were a child, which was extremely dangerous. As John Graunt, the 17th-century founder of demography sweetly put it: “Being a child was to forever be on the brink of death.”

You think wearing a mask for a year was a bother?

Stop your whimpering.

Try living through the recurring epidemics of cholera, typhoid, typhus, scarlet fever, smallpox, and yellow fever that mowed down Baltimore, Boston, Memphis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, over and over and over between 1865 and 1873.

And, if you did live through the latest epidemic – and you probably didn’t, but if you did –  chances are, unless you were awfully rich, you lived in a house with no hot water, no shower, and – this is important – no toilet.

If you think the most important room in your house is your man cave, you are wrong. It is your bathroom. And, you should go in there right now, get down on your knees, and thank the modern gods for installing one in your house.

Good Things That Happened in 1886 Continue reading

I Have Been Awake Since 4 a.m.

© The Baseball Bloggess

I have been awake since 4 a.m.

It is Opening Day.

For this one brief moment, I can see summer spread out before me like outfield grass. Outfield grass that’s been so meticulously tended, sculpted, fed … loved … that it makes you squint hard for a second as you adjust to its blinding greenness.

Summer is a mile long, a mile wide. It reaches as far as the eye can see.

There is only baseball.

It is all I can see.

I have been awake since 4 a.m.

Thinking of twirlers with arms of smoked steel.

Bats overflowing with bingles, loopers, and skitterers, and lusty home run wallops.

And, bunts. Don’t forget the bunts.

Thinking of stolen bases. And, the 4-6-3.

And, late-in-the-game outfielders floating at the wall and stretching and lifting higher and higher – and gravity is beyond my understanding and I guess beyond theirs too, because they float much higher than any other human possibly can – and with one final reach, one last elastic, impossible stretch, their glove barely, just barely, just just just …

… barely corrals that demon ball that saves the run that gives your team one more chance.

I have been awake since 4 a.m.

It is Opening Day.

The day when you don’t think of the World Series, because the World Series signals the end … when baseball disappears again. It is a million-million miles away.

It doesn’t matter. Summer lasts forever.

I have been awake since 4 a.m.

It is Opening Day.

To prove just how over-the-top giddy I am right now and because all teams are wonderful on Opening Day … tell me who your team is in the comments below and I will tell you why your team is wonderful. And, I will mean it.

______

9 a.m. Update — It is Opening Day, except when it’s not. Rain has postponed the Orioles/Red Sox game. But, summer lasts forever … and there’s always tomorrow.

Re-Opening Day

What did we talk about before covid became all we talked about?

If there were no vaccine waiting lists to talk about … or rumors of covid outbreaks in the next town over … or side-eye mentions of unmasked neighbors … or whining about all the things that are still closed … what, exactly, did we talk about?

I don’t remember.

Even when we’re not talking about covid, we’re talking about covid.

Which brings me to baseball.

On March 13, 2021, Editor/Husband and I – double-masked and with a fresh bottle of hand-sanitizer in my bag – carefully inched our way back to baseball.

368 days.

It had been 368 days since we had last sat outside … scorecard open … game unfolding.

But, then … yesterday happened.

Things are not normal yet. But there is just a glimmer of a kinda-sorta-almost normal’ish life out there.

I don’t suppose you’re all that interested in how the Virginia Cavaliers were trounced 12-4 by Notre Dame yesterday.

Good. Because, I have more important things to cover.

1) Socially Distanced And Masked Means … Socially Distanced And Masked, People.

The University of Virginia is slowly, slowly letting people dribble back in to baseball. And, yesterday, we got to be part of the dribble. Where you sit is assigned and clearly marked (and if one should sit outside their approved “safe seats” an usher will politely assist in proper re-seating). Masks, always. Hand sanitizer stations everywhere.

We had an entire row to ourselves … no one directly in front, no one directly behind. No one nearby. It was luxurious. Continue reading

Patience, Time (… And Baseball)

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” ~ Leo Tolstoy, War And Peace

It’s game day. Today, at 3 p.m., Virginia plays George Washington at nearby Disharoon Park in Charlottesville.

The Cavaliers are off to a wobbly 4-3 start. But, I’m not worried. They are a stacked team. They will be fine.

Today, at 7 a.m., I am having my coffee. I should be scouring the weather report, calculating temperature and wind speed to determine how many layers I will need to sit through an early March baseball game.

I should be scanning the rosters, recharging my camera, making sure the scorecard is ready to go.

These are little nothing chores. Things I rarely think about as I’m doing them. The routine of a baseball fan.

I should be doing all these things.

I am not.

Only a few fans can attend and they must be spread widely through the park.

Where I Am Not.

Instead, I’m sitting here wondering where the past year went.

One year. March to March. One big blurry uncomfortable inconsiderate wasted lost year. Continue reading

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