The Kinda-Sorta-Almost Midway Point

I suppose 2020 is not the first time someone chose to watch, or not watch, baseball based on principles.

Baseball is a reflection of who we are at this moment in history. Who we were yesterday is reflected in an aging box score and who we become tomorrow will come into focus sometime during tomorrow’s games.

So, who are we?

Are you watching baseball in 2020 or are you sitting it out – sitting it out because you’re concerned that players are risking their health by playing … sitting it out because they are wearing “Black Lives Matter” patches on their sleeves … sitting it out because it’s a shortened season that might become meaningless … sitting it out because of new rules like that man-on-second-to-start-extra-innings thing?

Everybody’s got their reasons.

But, hey, about that new rule.

I thought it was stupid. Not just stupid, but crazy-stupid.

Come to find out, it’s not so bad. When the game you’re watching slogs into hour four and your team can’t seem to push one more lousy run across, that one lousy run being all your team needs to win … and all you can think is that this game is going to go on for another four freaking hours and it’s nearly midnight …

Yeh, all of a sudden, you’ve got a man on second and no outs. That perks me right up.

So, let me just say this about that – I was wrong. That stupid new rule about starting a man on second in extra innings wasn’t so stupid after all.

This is how the new rule works.

And, seven-inning games for double headers?

Hallelujah!

So who are we then, baseball fans?

Conflicted. Continue reading

Far From The Madding Crowd

All this talk about sports returning — without fans — reminded me that we had a fan-free dress rehearsal back in 2015. At the time, I wrote this: “Little did we know that the game would set into motion the greatest sea-change in 21st-century baseball – the end of fans in the bleachers.” Ahead of my time, I guess. ~ The Baseball Bloggess

The Baseball Bloggess

camden yards 2014 An empty Camden Yards in 2014. ©The Baseball Bloggess

Dear Future Person,

Sure, I know why you’re here. You want to know what happened on April 29, 2015 – long before you were born – and how one game of baseball changed everything.

(But, before we get to that, let me tell you that I’m delighted that you still have, and enjoy, baseball in your world. We fans never believed the annoying naysayers who insisted the sport was dying. We knew they were idiots wrong. And, I’m also really proud of you for finally outlawing football at all levels because of the well-documented, long-term damage it does to players. Well done, Future World!)

We knew the game on April 29 would be historic before it even started. We just had no idea how historic it would be. And, how it would turn baseball on its head.

The Baltimore Orioles and…

View original post 950 more words

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

Major A.K. Fulton. The Good Luck Baseball Fan.

I suppose I should tell you that the Baltimore Orioles won two of their first three games this season, defeating the Yankees … in New York.

“At the corner of Unacceptable and Intolerable, the Yankees lost a season-opening series to the Orioles.”The New York Post

Even the Cleveland Spiders, the worst team ever, won 20 games in 1899 (they lost 134), so don’t get too giddy about two wins — no matter how unexpected. (Still … yay.)

That’s not why I’m here, anyway. I’m here to tell you about Major Albert Kimberly (A.K.) Fulton of Baltimore and his strange connection to the Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s.

And, I’m starting at the end …

The Baltimore Sun, 2/1/1900

Major Fulton was 63 when he died in January 1900, living a generous 16 additional years beyond the frighteningly short life expectancy of the time. Continue reading

“The Sandwiches Were Said To Be Delicious.”

The Baltimore Sun, 9/26/1954

“The ghosts of Wee Willie Keeler and all the other old-time Oriole greats, who love so much to win, will have to await some other year before they can frolic again in triumph.” ~ The Baltimore Sun, September 26, 1954

On September 25, 1954, on the last day of the regular season, the Baltimore Orioles lost their 100th game.

Losing 100 games is that limbo bar that separates the terrible teams that lose 99 from the truly awful ones who lose 100.

Like the 1954 Orioles.

1954 Orioles

It is possible that the Tigers, the Phillies, and the Giants could cross under that 100-loss bar this season. But, with just a week to play, it’s not likely.

The 2017 Orioles were eliminated from the post-season last night with their 9-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

If the O’s lose their remaining six games – and I strongly urge them not to do this – they will have lost 88.

At least it’s not 100.

The 1954 Orioles, formerly the St. Louis Browns, were finishing up their first season in Baltimore on September 25. They were the first major league team in the city since 1901.

Continue reading

Home Teams & The Cap Game

Do you root, root, root for the home team?

If you did last night …

Congratulations! Your team won.

Because last night, for the first time in baseball history (well, actually for the first time in any history), all 15 home major league baseball teams won their games.

And, for the first time ever, all 15 away major league teams lost.

(Stupid Baltimore.)

os mariners box

Because math is not my thing (in the same way that algebra, calculus, and trigonometry are not my things, inasmuch as they are math and, as I said, math is not my thing), I could not add up all the games that have ever been played to determine the average win percentage for home teams.

But, like always, I don’t need math. Because, Baseball Reference has already done all the mathy things required and found that, if you’re the home team, you are slightly more likely to win than lose your game. Home teams win about 54 percent of the time.

It’s just not likely that all you home teams will choose to do it on the same day.

All 30 major league teams actually playing on the same day doesn’t happen every day – because of off days and travel days and rain-out days and winter, not to mention the many decades when there were not 30 major league teams at all.

If your team won last night, please stop reading now. The rest of this post is not for you.

***

Dear Everybody Else, this is to cheer you up after your loss.

(Hey, winners, I knew you’d keep reading.)

One of the things that makes baseball spectularly better than any other sport is all the stuff there is to do when the game is at a break. Between innings there are songs to sing, games to play, mascots racing, trivia contests, and fan cams. So much to do!

There is the old favorite cap game. At Camden Yards in Baltimore it’s the Old Bay “Crab Shuffle”.

 

I just discovered that baseball has kindly put its cap game online so we no longer need to wait for a break between innings to play. Please forgive baseball’s abhorrently awful decision to use the Toronto Blue Jays cap. Play here.

toronto cap game

Baseball’s popular cap game is a family-friendly version of the old street con Three Card Monte.  Funny thing … Three Card Monte is expressly illegal in Canada.

So, I assume, is this cap game.

So, if you’re a Blue Jays fan in Toronto, please don’t play this game. (Also, if you’re a Blue Jays fan, your team won last night, why are you still reading this?)

 

 

Far From The Madding Crowd

camden yards 2014

An empty Camden Yards in 2014. ©The Baseball Bloggess

Dear Future Person,

Sure, I know why you’re here. You want to know what happened on April 29, 2015 – long before you were born – and how one game of baseball changed everything.

(But, before we get to that, let me tell you that I’m delighted that you still have, and enjoy, baseball in your world. We fans never believed the annoying naysayers who insisted the sport was dying. We knew they were idiots wrong. And, I’m also really proud of you for finally outlawing football at all levels because of the well-documented, long-term damage it does to players. Well done, Future World!)

We knew the game on April 29 would be historic before it even started. We just had no idea how historic it would be. And, how it would turn baseball on its head.

The Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox played to an empty stadium that day. It was the first time that no fans attended a major league game. Baltimore was in turmoil (probably similar to the unrest and turmoil you have in your own cities, as some things, sadly, don’t ever seem to change). For the safety of the community, the game was closed to the public.

To read news accounts, you’d think that it was a ghostly quiet game, seen by few.  You’ll see “eerie” and “unsettling” used by a lot of reporters. Here are other words used in game day reports: “strange,” “eerie,” “surreal,” “hushed and surreal,” “uncomfortable,” “uniquely eerie,” “eerie and amusing,” “poignant,” “sad [and] lifeless,” “odd,” “eerily quiet,” “kind of eerie,” “eerily empty,” and “eerie.”

eerie

(Good job with the thesaurus, reporters.)

Let me clear up a few things. This game was seen by more people than would ordinarily watch an April baseball game on a Tuesday afternoon by two teams hovering around .500.

There was no room in the press box to handle the overflow of reporters who were clamoring to call the game “eerie.” There were cameras and announcers, same as always, sending the game out live on TV, streaming free on the Internet, and on radio. (Ask your grandparents to explain that radio part.)

The players enjoyed themselves.

caleb

O’s catcher Caleb Joseph having fun with imaginary fans.

People stood outside the ballpark peering through the gates or rented $300 suites at a nearby hotel to look down on the field.

hilton1

It made the national news.

guess the attendance

And, Saturday Night Live.

But, little did we know that the game would set into motion the greatest sea-change in 21st-century baseball – the end of fans in the bleachers.

I know this may sound strange (unsettling maybe, eerie, perhaps), but up until April 29, we fans thought we were indispensible. We cheered and chanted and carried on at games. We were certain that our cheers and boos could make a difference. We were the 10th man. Except we weren’t.

On April 29, we learned the truth. We were as disposable as a bag of stale sunflower seeds.

The game itself was pretty much like any other game.

The Orioles got off to such a fast 6-0 start in the first inning that I tweeted this.

if this keeps up

Lots of O’s fans retweeted me. Because it was so, well, ridiculous.

The Orioles went on to win 8-2. Their usually unsettled starter Ubaldo Jimenez was eerily settled and dominating.

buck

In the post-game press conference, Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked: “Once the game started, how cognizant were you that there was nobody here?”

And, there was an awkward pause, a flustered and eerie silence, before Buck said, “That would be pretty self-incriminating. I can’t win answering that question.” And, then he said this, “It was still baseball between the lines.”

He wouldn’t admit it, but our absence hadn’t made a difference.

They hadn’t even noticed we were gone.

crush vine

O’s first baseman Chris Davis tosses a ball … to no one.

As the 2015 season began, one of the big stories was how baseball needed to speed up its games. The average game in 2014 ran just over three hours.

The game without fans? Two hours and three minutes. An hour faster. Come to find out, we were the slow pokes.

time of game

Once owners and their accountants realized that they could play speedy games without fans and still turn a profit, our days were numbered.

We were downsized until we were gone.

And, that dear Future Person, is why there are no fans at your baseball games. Oh sure, the luxury suites are still there. Those were too lucrative to lose. But, no bleachers, no upper tiers, no lower tiers.

Just wide open empty space where foul balls and home runs collect like dust bunnies under a bed.

crush homer

Chris Davis’ home run hit Eutaw Street. “Innings later, the ball was still just sitting there, unclaimed.” ~ SB Nation

Without us there are no piles of peanut shells and spilled beer to clean up. No drunk fights to break up. No fan, walloped with a foul ball he didn’t see coming, to bandage up.

We were more trouble than we were worth.

Future Person, you’ll never know how wonderful it is to gather up the family and spread out at a game. To fill up on peanuts and popcorn and French fries and cotton candy (do you even know what cotton candy is?). To yell at the umpires, cheer the mascot races, root for the home team, and heckle the other guy’s outfielders. To soak in the summer heat or, even better, the chill of October, from awesome seats on the first-base side. To catch a foul ball or a home run.

I’m glad you still have baseball, even if you must watch games from the safety of your techno-televisiony-hologram devices. At least you have something.

And, I’m glad that scientists figured out a way to ensure that Vin Scully still calls Dodger games, extending his baseball career for hundreds of years to come.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I’m glad you finally brought the DH to the National League. It shouldn’t have taken so long, but the National League can be stubborn sometimes, so really, good for you.

But, I’m sorry about the empty games.

davenport empty

© The Baseball Bloggess

 

davenport blue seats

©The Baseball Bloggess

There’s not much time left for fans, I guess. I hope we make the most of it.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, by Thomas Gray. 1751

box

 

Dear America

Dear America,

Baseball’s American League Championship Series (ALCS) begins Friday.  And, I know you’re rooting for the Kansas City Royals, but hear me out.

map

Baltimore is a fine, fine city, and the Baltimore Orioles are a fine, fine ballclub. There’s plenty of room on the train to Birdland and I’ve saved you a seat!

I checked StubHub Wednesday morning and Standing Room tickets for Friday’s game at beautiful Oriole Park at Camden Yards can be yours for just $98 a ticket. Looking for standing room tickets to Monday’s game at Kauffman Stadium in KC? $196.

Advantage, Baltimore.

(Dear Slowpoke, all those “cheap” “seats” are now gone.)

Baltimore is the birthplace of Babe Ruth.

Public Domain

Public Domain.

They built Camden Yards – and centerfield – over the spot where he lived. He is the greatest baseball player ever.

Cal Ripken, Jr. and brother Billy were born close by. So were Harold Baines and Buttercup Dickerson. (Buttercup!)

Born in Kansas City? David Cone.

Advantage, do I need to spell this out?

Hint, it starts with a B, as in Babe.

Here are a few more things in Baltimore’s favor.

America’s first professional sports organization was born in Baltimore in 1743 – the Maryland Jockey Club.

The first hot air balloon to go up in the air with a person in a basket?  1784. Baltimore.

The first sugar refinery (1796), the first electric refrigerator (1803), and the first ice cream freezer (1848). All Baltimore. Yes, thank Baltimore next time you wolf down an entire container of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie with an oversized tablespoon after a crappy day at work. (What? Just me?)

chocolate fudge brownie

Bottle caps. Duck Pin Bowling. John Waters.

Baltimore. Baltimore. Baltimore.

You know that song Kansas City? There’s this famous lyric:

I’m gonna be standing on the corner
12th Street and Vine
With my Kansas City baby
And a bottle of Kansas City wine

Guess what? There’s no corner of 12th Street and Vine. The roads don’t meet.

Nice song, though.

Still, it’s no National Anthem.

Baltimore.

1814.

Stay for the “OH!” at the 1:05 mark.

And, let’s not forget … there’s Dancing in the Streets in Baltimore, baby!

 

Baltimore, Maryland is known for Old Bay seasoning and Maryland crabs.  Kansas City is known for barbeque that is sweet and saucy.

flavor

Hey, I’m a vegetarian, you’re going to have to score this one yourself.

It was in Kansas City that Walt Disney dreamed up Mickey Mouse.  It was in Baltimore that David Simon dreamed up The Wire.

mouse wire

I’m sure that Kansas City is a lovely place.  Although, most of it lives in Missouri, not Kansas, which seems a bit shady, if you ask me.

Still, Kansas City is home to the first suburban shopping center – The Plaza. Kansas City’s Swope Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country – more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park.

If it weren’t for Kansas City we wouldn’t have Teflon-coated frying pans and electric hair clippers. Really. Those are really important things.

I mentioned that Baltimore gave us ice cream freezers, didn’t I?

Ice_Cream_dessert_02

Photo used with permission by: LotusHead, http://www.pixelpusher.co.za

Both cities have rich baseball histories.

The Baltimore Orioles have been a part of baseball – in one iteration or another – since the late 1800s. In just the past 40-odd years, these greats have played for Baltimore: Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Mike Flanagan, Mike Mussina, and Cal Ripken.

The Royals’ long and storied baseball history began in 1969, as an expansion team. It has its share of greats, too, I’m sure. Like George Brett and outfield-wall-climbing Bo Jackson. I’m sure there have been others.

The Royals have a big, lovable lion mascot named Sluggerrr.

The Orioles have a big, loveable oriole bird mascot named … um … I think he’s just called The Bird.

mascots

Both, awfully cute. Battle of the Mascots … Tie.

Both cities celebrate baseball’s history. Baltimore has the Babe Ruth Museum. Kansas City has the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and considers itself the birthplace of the Negro leagues. Both cities honor baseball well. They both win on that count.

museums

Hooray for history!

So, does one team deserve to win more than the other?

The Royals last won the World Series in 1985. The Orioles in 1983.

Both are underdogs. Small-market teams that are regularly bullied by teams with far bigger payrolls (Tigers, Yankees). Both were expected to finish last (or nearly last) by almost every baseball “expert” this spring. Both are hard-working and drama-free. Both have excited, fired-up, feisty fans.

Really, both are deserving.

But, wait. Before you pull on that Royal blue sweatshirt.

puppy

I can’t promise you a puppy … or Stevie …

stevie closeup

© The Baseball Bloggess

Not for sale.

But, there is this …

America loves an underdog, right? Who doesn’t?

Let’s look at the map again.

map

Nearly everyone in America is rooting for the Kansas City Royals.

So, who’s the underdog?

jj hardy bw

© The Baseball Bloggess

“I think it helped being the underdogs. It’s just going to get more fun.” ~ Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy

Let’s all have fun.

Ahh, who am I kidding?

May the underdog Orioles have a little bit more fun.”

Let’s Go O’s!

we wont stop

Photo: J.J. Hardy. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland.  Royals at Orioles. April 27, 2014.  

 

Fan of the Game

Luke was at Camden Yards in Baltimore last night. He brought this sign.

??????????

O Yeah! Luke & his Orioles Beast of the East sign.

Between every inning and half-inning, Luke stood up and held up his sign trying to get the attention of the camera people so that they would show his sign on the Jumbotron in Center Field.

Luke is awesome. He never faltered and he never lost hope.

Never faltering and never losing hope are incredibly important qualities for any true baseball fan.

Luke told me that his mother actually made the sign – not him. “I slept in,” he admitted.

This is another important quality for a true baseball fan: pacing. The understanding that night games can often run into the wee hours requires the ability to catch a few extra snooze minutes whenever possible.

Luke cheered and clapped, and every time the public address system yelled “Charge!”, Luke yelled “Charge!” Absolute joy for baseball and the Orioles.

Luke’s favorite player? Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. Manny didn’t play last night – he’s out after season-ending knee surgery last month. But, Luke didn’t dwell on that disappointment.

The only thing that mattered was the game at hand.

And, don’t think that Luke’s cheers weren’t heard.

Last season, Baltimore Style Magazine asked Machado if he was aware of the crowd when playing. He said:

“Totally. … [Y]ou can always feel the energy. You hear people in the background. It’s gotten really loud in Baltimore lately. I love it.”

It was loud last night.

Even when the Red Sox got off to a fast 2-0 start.

But, did Luke give up hope? What do you think?

??????????

Final Score: Baltimore Orioles 7. Boston Red Sox 2.

Fan of the Game: Luke.

box score 9 20 14

Photos: Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore, Maryland. September 20, 2014

Fan-Tastic, Part 3

Joe Nathan, the Detroit Tigers closer, got a little frustrated during Wednesday’s game versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Tigers won and all, but Nathan was a little shaky in the ninth, walking the first two batters and making things interesting. (He’s been “a little shaky” a lot this season.)

This led to some booing from equally frustrated Tiger fans.

So, Nathan did this.

nathan

Let me say this about that.

Joe Nathan, I don’t care if they booed you. No need to be a dolt.

And, fans, don’t boo your players.

Even when they frustrate you and annoy you and make you want to slam your head into the wall. Even when they blow the save or give up a walk-off homer and lose the game. (Brian Matusz, you sure do work my nerves some days.)

They’re doing their best.

Okay, there are a few times when you are allowed to – even encouraged to – boo your team.

  1. Not running out ground balls to first.
  2. Lack of hustle.
  3. Not hustling.
  4. Lazy hustling.
  5. Hustle atrophy.
  6. Hustlessness.
  7. When cheering for your favorite player sounds a lot like booing … Nelson Cruuuuuuuzzzzzz … Louuuuuuuu Pinella.
  8. And, of course, when your closer does this to you …

But, booing, generally speaking, doesn’t help. (Oakland fans, are you listening?)

It won’t make the blown save disappear or turn a bottom-of-the-ninth two-out strike out into a walk-off win. It won’t make anyone play harder. It won’t make anything better. And, it could make things abundantly worse. (Oakland, I’m not kidding here.)

The only time booing really made a difference was in ancient Rome when the cries of displeased fans would occasionally determine which gladiators lived and which, uh, umm, didn’t. Joe Nathan would have been a short-lived gladiator.

But some of us must boo, mustn’t we? Like the dinner party guest who must poo-poo every story you tell … one-up your vacation … your job … your kids.

(Oh my, your precious daughter won a Scrabble tournament with the word ‘jonquil’? I see why you’re so proud. My cat beheaded a mouse on my Yoga mat, dissected its intestines and set them aside, and then barfed the rest of it up into two separate piles. Can your daughter do that?*)

* True story: My cat Polly barfed as I was writing about cats barfing. How cool is that!

Polly

Polly. Not sorry.

Nathan apologized for his obnoxious behavior the next day.

And, he should, because, despite sometimes booing, baseball fans are the most wonderful hodge-podge of people around.

Like Tim Pinkard who attended his first Houston Astros game on Tuesday and caught Chris Carter’s home run ball. And, then caught another Chris Carter home run ball. Watch it here.

pinkard

Here’s to the fans. The managers may be the brains. The players may be the brawn. But, fans are the heart … and without them … well, there’s no $9 million payday for Joe Nathan is there, Joe?

“I do love … the baseball that is in the heads of baseball fans. I love the dreams of glory of 10-year-olds, the reminiscences of 70-year-olds. The greatest baseball arena is in our heads, what we bring to the games, to the telecasts, to reading newspaper reports.” ~ Stan Isaacs, Newsday sports columnist (1929-2013).

Davenport Field

Fans on the hill. Davenport Field, University of Virginia

Squirrel Girl

Richmond Flying Squirrels, The Diamond, Richmond, Virginia

Oriole Bird

7th Inning Stretch, Orioles Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland

Cardinals Fans

Cardinal Fans at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland

Orioles Fans

Orioles fans at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland

Beverly and Francisco Squirrel

Beverly brings “Francisco The Flying Squirrel” to nearly every Flying Squirrels ballgame. (It “stands” during the national anthem and the 7th inning stretch.) The Diamond, Richmond, Virginia

___________

Here’s more …

Fan-Tastic, Part 1 ~ Our grandparents were bad (and dangerous) baseball fans. 

Fan-Tastic, Part 2 ~ Today’s rules of proper fan behavior.  Bring your miniature horse to a game? Okay. How about a grapefruit? Not okay.

Fan Photos: Davenport Field, Charlottesville, Virginia. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore,  Maryland. The Diamond, Richmond, Virginia. 2014