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

Free Baseball: 1-2-3 Edition

One A’s pitcher – and former UVa Hoo — tells us about life on the DL.

Two Dodger’s pitchers you may have heard of.

And, three home runs – a dinger, a moon shot, and a slam – from a Met.

Here’s your Free Baseball* 1-2-3 Edition.

1. Doolittle on Doolittle

Sean Doolittle, Oakland A’s reliever, former University of Virginia Hoo, and native South Dakotan (that’s the fancy-pants Dakota), has spent much of this season on the disabled list.

But, he’s been checking in on Twitter …

And, his heartfelt piece on ESPN.com this week about life on the DL is a must-read – for baseball fans, of course, but also for anyone who has had to heal from a serious injury and has had to battle to get back the life their injury took away.

doolittle column

“I’ve found that in this game, all you can ask for is a chance,” he writes. Read here.

2. McCarthy on Greinke & Kershaw

Technically that’s three Dodger’s pitchers, but Brandon McCarthy is writing specifically about Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, and his piece this week on ESPN.com helps explain why they are two of the best pitchers in the world and we are not.

mccarthy guest columnist

Read here.

McCarthy, another pitcher who has spent much of this season on the DL, is a pretty sassy tweeter, too …

3. Yoenis Cespedes

I just wanted to see if I could spell Yoenis Cespedes without checking my work.  (Answer: Yes, I can. But, thank you, spell check for helpfully suggesting “Yemenis Cesspits,” anyway.)

Last night, the brand new New York Met, traded from the Tigers just a couple weeks ago, came through with three home runs against Colorado – a solo homer, a two-run homer, and a grand slam. If he could have mustered up a three-run shot, he would have hit for the Home Run Cycle. I’m not even sure that’s a thing.

That added up to seven RBI … and I believe he snuck a stolen base in there, too.

yoenis homers video

It was, he said, “the best night I have ever had.”

Watch here.

There you go … 1-2-3.

______________________________________

* Free Baseball refers to extra innings that come after a nine-inning game ends in a tie. Here it’s the extra things that don’t quite fit into my regular-sized posts.

 

#42

Embed from Getty Images

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” ~ Jackie Robinson

On Tuesday, April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson played in a game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In that moment, he integrated major league ball. Baseball changed. America changed. And, the civil rights movement was moved profoundly forward.

Today, major league baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson – and the impact he had on the game of baseball and on the battle for civil rights. Major league baseball has retired Jackie’s number 42, but, in tonight’s games*, in honor of Jackie, every major league player will wear #42.

Robinson was clear in his autobiography I Never Had It Made that civil rights meant far more than just allowing a black man to play in what was until then a white man’s game. Civil rights in America, he explained, is not won until every person – black or white, male or female, rich or poor – is afforded the same rights and the same fair shake in our society. We’re not there yet.

There’s a “superstar” ballplayer (who goes nameless here) who likes to Tweet a lot and tell reporters that we fans have no idea – no idea – how hard a ballplayer’s job is … how hard it is to live his life and do what he does. I agree. I have no idea how he does what he does out on the field. I know it takes enormous work and dedication to make it to the highest level of sport; to make it look so easy when I know it is not.

But, he has no idea – no idea – what Jackie Robinson endured on the field and off. It was not an easy life for Robinson and he could have walked away. He did not. And, for that, ballplayers and fans alike – all Americans – owe him an enormous debt.

Robinson started and played first base that night. That game, he later said, was a “miserable” one for him. He went 0-for-3, reached base on an error, and scored a run. But, the Dodgers won, defeating the Boston Braves 5-3.

And, America changed forever.

Embed from Getty Images

Thank you, Jackie.

* Tonight’s Baltimore Orioles – Tampa Bay Rays game has been postponed due to rain. They’ll wear their #42 jerseys tomorrow.

 

 

Where In The World … ?

In 1903, the Boston Americans won baseball’s very first World Series.

I know, I know – the “Americans” won America’s “World” Series. How not-very-worldly of us.

(The Boston Americans, by the way, included Cy Young, the winningest pitcher in the history of baseball. They would occasionally take spring training in Charlottesville, Virginia – just down the road from me. In 1908, they started calling themselves the Red Sox and are known today for their generous facial hair.)

1903_World_Series_-_Boston_Americans

The Boston Americans (front row) defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates (back row) in the nine-game 1903 World Series. ~ public domain image

My Canadian friend Susie (hi Susie!) always reminds me that Canada “invented” baseball. And, while that’s not exactly true, it is not exactly untrue either, and it’s quite a bit truer than Abner Doubleday’s claim, which isn’t true at all.

But, what is true is that Jackie Robinson’s first professional integrated regular season games were played with the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm club. And, what is also true is that Robinson called Montreal one of his favorite places because the people there were “warm and wonderful” and treated the Robinson family with respect.

So maybe “World” Series is a bit of a stretch. But, at least the world plays baseball.

You want to talk about a stretch, how about calling the Winter Olympics the world’s games, when nearly half of the world’s population lives in countries that are snow free?

Baseball is nearly everywhere today.

And, while there is no baseball in Antarctica, there are penguins and you can click here to play baseball with them.

Every other continent, not covered by an ice sheet, will have a baseball game going on in some field, or village, or town, or city, somewhere. And, the best of those players might get a chance in the big leagues.

Just look at the free-agent multi-multi-million-dollar signings in recent months – Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic), Masahiro Tanaka (Japan), Shin-Soo Choo (South Korea).

Spoiler Alert: The Baltimore Orioles will win the World Series this season thanks to their off-season pick ups of pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez (Dominican Republic) and Suk-min Yoon (South Korea), and veteran power hitter Nelson Cruz (Dominican Republic, again). They will win despite the fact that they nearly signed, and then quickly unsigned, Grant Balfour, a seasoned, but moody, reliever from Australia.

The 2014 baseball season began this weekend in Australia when the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks kicked off their first game at 4 a.m. EDT on Saturday.

I am an insanely passionate baseball fan. But, I did not get up to watch. The Orioles will play 162 regular season games in 2014, and I will try to watch them all (except when they’re on the West Coast playing and I’m on the East Coast sleeping).

There will be plenty of baseball that doesn’t require a 4 a.m. pot of coffee.

That said, boy oh boy, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw looked sharp.

Clayton Kershaw, sometime around 4 a.m. EDT on Saturday.

Here’s legendary Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully with a koala bear.

vin koala

The two games this weekend were held at the Sydney Cricket Ground that was reconfigured for baseball. The New York Giants and Chicago White Sox played an exhibition game there way back in 1914.

The Giants won that game.

The Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks this weekend.

Embed from Getty Images

One of the fellas at the MLB channel called the Cricket Ground a mix of World Cup and Wimbledon.

I love baseball’s international spirit.  I love that players come from all over, and a team may have two or three translators hanging around the dugout to help everyone communicate.

Players from Japan and the Dominican Republic and Cuba are some of the best players in major league ball today.

But, baseball also thrives closer to home in Indian Nation.

I just discovered that Jacoby Ellsbury and Joba Chamberlain are Native American.

National Public Radio’s Only A Game had a wonderful story this weekend about baseball and Navajo Nation.  Click here.

This season, the Class A Spokane Indians will honor the tribes of the Pacific Northwest by wearing the Native American Salish language on their jerseys.

Spokane, in Salish, looks a bit like a cat just ran over the keyboard, or something like this:

Sp’q’n’i

spokane jersey

(I must have one!)

(I think Sp’q’n’i is about to make my spell-checker explode.)

Baseball season is finally here. You know what to do.

Root for your “home” team … whether it’s the Baltimore Orioles (whoo!) or the Toronto Blue Jays (hi again Susie!), or an outfielder from Cienfuegos, Cuba or an infielder from Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, or  a pitcher from Habikino, Osaka, Japan.

Or, the Sp’q’n’i … yeh, especially Sp’q’n’i.

(Road trip, anyone?)

“Oh, to be 22 …”

“Oh, to be 22 and a Dodger.” ~ Vin Scully

(Describing Dodger Rookie Yasiel Puig after a magnificent throw from right to get the runner at home and end the inning. August 31, 2013. You can see it all here.)

Oh, to be 85 and to see baseball as Vin Scully does.

I’m not a Los Angeles Dodgers fan (though my dad was, in a “I don’t like baseball, but I do like the Dodgers” sort of way).

But, I always like to listen to Vin, the voice of the Dodgers for the past 64 years. (And, soon to be 65 years, as he’s just signed on for 2014.)

He is, quite simply, the voice of baseball. Scully is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, is regularly chosen as the best broadcaster in baseball, and has been calling Dodgers games – on radio and, today, on television — since 1950. Since they were the Brooklyn Dodgers.

When I listen to Vin Scully doing a game today I imagine my dad, out in the backyard in California on a long-ago Saturday, beer in hand in his beloved green hammock, listening to a game on the radio. Vin Scully calling a Dodgers game, same as today. Only the names have changed.

And, long ago doesn’t seem all that long ago.

Whether describing a baby wearing a hat, marveling over a cloud formation, or his regular nightly depictions of the sun setting over Dodger Stadium, baseball becomes richer when Vin Scully is sharing it with you.

The world becomes sweet and timeless and precious.

So, I went to a game on Sunday. And, I took my camera (which is new and foreign and intimidating). I tried to see the things that Vin Scully would see, if he were at the park with me.

Harrisburg Senators (AA Washington Nationals team) vs. Richmond Flying Squirrels (AA San Francisco Giants team). September 1, 2013

(Second to the last game of the AA season. Harrisburg will go to the playoffs. The Squirrels’ season will end on Labor Day.)

Squirrel Autograph Day

It was Flying Squirrels autograph day at the park. Oh, to be 22 …

more autographs

Jarrett Parker

The Squirrels’ Jarrett Parker (UVA alum) … dreaming of the AAA Fresno Grizzlies?

Having A Catch

Having a catch before the game.

upper deck

Zinger

Every team deserves a mascot (hear that Chicago Cubs?). The Flying Squirrels have two. This is Zinger. He is a giant acorn.

fans

swing

This is not a homerun swing.

Lollis homerun

This is. (The Squirrels’ Ryan Lollis, leading off the first inning.)

cotton candy

Hey, snacks!

pitchers mound

Not a good day to be a Harrisburg pitcher.

man on first

right field

Right field can seem awfully far away sometimes.

bullpen

The relievers in their bullpen. (Even minor league teams have their candy backpack … it’s over there on the ground on the left.)

old stadium

All you have to do is turn a camera button and your 21st-century game looks like 1964.

older stadium

Or, 1934. (That’s Editor/Husband on the left keeping track of the pitching changes in his program.)

overexposed

When you get cocky, your camera will change all your settings.

clouds

Some clouds for Vin.

gloves

And, just as quickly as it started, the minor league season is over. Wasn’t it just Opening Day? Where did the summer go? And, how many days until spring?

(And, Vin Scully would be disappointed if I neglected to give you the final score.  Richmond Flying Squirrels 7. Harrisburg Senators 3.)

#3: From Daytona Beach to Dodgertown

If you think about it, 67 years is not such long a time.

Sometimes it takes the post office 67 years to deliver a letter.

Sometimes it takes 67 years to become an Eagle Scout.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were both born in 1946 – 67 years ago.

So were pitchers Bill (Spaceman) Lee and Catfish Hunter. (And, why aren’t player nicknames as good as those anymore?)  So were Bobby Bonds and Rollie Fingers.

And, Reggie Jackson.

It was 67 not-so-long years ago that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by playing a racially integrated, professional game.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Reproduction number #LC-L9-54-3566-O

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Reproduction number #LC-L9-54-3566-O

But, no, not as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  (You knew there had to be a twist, didn’t you?)

He did it during Spring Training, on Sunday, March 17, 1946, at City Island Park in Daytona Beach, Florida as a member of the Class AAA Montreal Royals, a Dodgers farm-team.

I don’t think a lot of my friends understand my passion for baseball (hi there, friends!)

One of the reasons is that baseball so perfectly seems to mirror the tenor of the times. It’s an opening to history and reflects us as a society and as a culture.

( I also love three-run homers, double steals, and spectacular defensive plays.  But, I digress …)

Many historians believe that the modern era of civil rights began with the integration of major league baseball.

And, so we come to Jackie Robinson and Daytona Beach, the only place in 1946 Florida that would allow a colored man to play in a white man’s game on a white man’s field.

Continue reading

I’m Thankful The Thanking Is Nearly Over

I am thankful that Thanksgiving is nearly over. Only a few more daily “I am thankful for …” posts on Facebook and Twitter.

I love my friends. I don’t mindlessly “friend” every person who bumps their grocery cart into me. I’m a selective Facebooker.

But, even so … the string of daily posted thankful messages can wear. When you’re thankful your manicurist convinced you to try “Berry Naughty”, well, really? Really? 

Deep down, I guess I am thankful for these thankful posts, even the seemingly frivolous ones — as they’re much better than the mean-spirited and loud political ones of the past few months.

First, there are the thankful people who have lived amazing lives … recounting their adventures, day by day. “I’m thankful for my time in the Peace Corps when I built a road for an isolated village in Paraguay.” “I’m thankful for my mother who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.”

But, even amazing lives peter out as the month goes on. What began as “I’m thankful for the people I met when I worked in an orphanage in Nepal”, by now has become, “I’m thankful the grocery store had Panko crumbs this afternoon. Dinner is saved!”

I love the spirit of these messages. But, there’s also an underlying sense of failure for the rest of us. I haven’t lived an exciting life. I haven’t done amazing things. Now, I just feel bad. Put on the spot, I’m really just thankful that my husband cleaned up Smokey Jo’s hairball this morning, allowing me a few extra minutes of sleep.

There’s another kind of serial thanker out there: The person who has decided to thank family and friends, by name, every day. This is a brilliant marketing strategy. We all tune in daily – hoping, expecting – that we will be named next.

I’m beginning to lose hope with one longtime friend, who has mowed through three, four people a day, and has now taken to thanking the birds who stopped by the feeder outside her kitchen window.

I’m thinking that perhaps I could draft up a nice little something about me that she could post. I could remind her of all the reasons why she ought to be thanking me, including that I have now saved her the trouble of writing up something about why she is thankful for me. I guarantee, your house finches will not be so thoughtful.

I am thankful. Honest, I am. I am thankful for every moment, at least I try to be. So what if I don’t feel the need to share every detail with the world? Because, when you’re so vocal in your thanks for the things in your life, you may be hurting someone else because they do not share your good fortune.

Grateful that your home survived Superstorm Sandy? Of course you are. But, remember that someone near you was not so lucky. Don’t revel. Don’t gloat by saying you’re thankful that your candidate won, saving the world from certain destruction. Conversely, don’t pout by saying you’re thankful that, while your candidate lost, God will save the world from certain destruction.

See? It’s hard to be thankful and humble at the same time. At least on the Internet.

This Mutts cartoon was published in 2002. It’s one of my favorites. See more wonderful Mutts cartoons at http://www.muttscomics.com

But, I’m thankful for you.

Even if I don’t know you. If I DO know you, you have enriched my life in the flesh. But, even if I’ve never laid eyes on you, you’ve been kind enough to read these words from time to time. And, that is a very generous thing to do.

Really, I’m thankful for you.

My dad was a North Dakota farmer. But, he remembered most fondly his time in L.A. in the 1950s where he ran a string of successful gas stations. When he died, I found this photo and a letter from the corporate head recognizing him for having the cleanest, most efficient stations. His love of Los Angeles and L.A. sports never left him.

Six years ago, my dad died. On Thanksgiving Day. 

A friend said, “Your Thanksgivings will never be the same.” But I disagreed. My dad knew that I loved Thanksgiving (and the Macy’s Parade and the Rockettes. Oh, the Rockettes!).

He wouldn’t want to take that joy away from me.

My dad gave me my love of sports. Although he preferred the Rams (L.A. and St. Louis) and the Lakers (L.A., but not Minneapolis).

He would root for the Dodgers, if pressed, but he never quite understood my love of baseball. “You didn’t get that from me, kid.” But, he was all about sports, so I probably did.

For years, he would, in the name of economy, save his copies of Sports Illustrated and mail them to me – often with little snarky comments written in the margins, and pictures of his favorite NBA players circled in Sharpie. Sure, just getting me my own subscription would have been cheaper. But, not nearly has special.

So, I’m thankful for my dad.  And, for baseball.  And, for the off-season, which is a nice time to catch up with life, and start that beautiful longing for the next game.

And, you.  Don’t forget that I’m thankful for you.

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” ~ The Buddha