“Gentlemen, It Was Awful.”

T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month.

TS Eliot

T.S. Eliot, Public Domain

How did I get in this post?

Eliot didn’t mean baseball. If he had he would have said August.

But, Eliot was a baseball fan and, it’s said, his heart was broken when his team, the Red Sox, sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919.

So, yeh, he knew cruel.

(Hemingway once slammed Eliot’s writing by telling a friend that Eliot “never hit a ball out of the infield in his life.” Also cruel.)

The Baltimore Orioles are slowly tumbling down the AL East ladder.

They’ve been looking increasingly listless and pitiful, like a ratty old tomcat trying to hack out a hairball. So much hacking and all that comes out is a desperate, sad noise that sounds, best I can translate, something like, “Ggggackuck [brief pause] Aahkgggackuck [longer pause] geeeeeeack.” Then he stops, swallows, shakes his head, and starts all over again.

snowball 2 hairball

I mean, you still love that ratty old tomcat, sure, but mainly you’re just hoping you’re not the one who’s going to get stuck cleaning up whatever is trying so hard to come out.

Continue reading

The Babe & Bruce. Shreveport, 1921.

When Ruth, the mighty Soccaneer,
Stands up to sock the ball,
The throng is bound to raise a cheer
No matter what befall.
It thrills the vast and noisy crowd
To see a four-base clout.
And yet the cheer is just as loud
When someone strikes him out.

~ John B. Sheridan, Sportswriter | March 1921

Babe Ruth 1921

Babe Ruth, 1921. Public Domain.

When Babe Ruth, the home run hero of 1920, arrived at Yankees’ spring training in Shreveport, Louisiana in March 1921, he was out of shape and overweight.

He was, The New York Times said, the “Bulky Babe.”

The Sporting News was less poetic. The Babe “is fat and is working like a coal heaver to get in shape.”

pablo

(See, Panda Bear, you weren’t the first chubby to turn up at spring training.)

But, that didn’t stop several hundreds of Shreveport fans from turning out to greet Babe Ruth at the train station when he arrived in town on March 5. Shreveport had America’s biggest celebrity in their midst.

Arrival of Ruth NYT 3 6 1921

New York Times, 3/6/21

He fought his way past the cheering crowd and made his way to his hotel, The Sporting News reported, “where he was sat upon by scores of kids, who followed him to his room and were not satisfied until all had shaken hands and the Babe had shown them how he hit home runs by batting imaginary balls over the chandelier.”

The Babe, looking all jaunty. 1921, Shreveport

Public Domain

Babe Ruth in Shreveport, March 1921. 

During his month in Shreveport, the citizens showered him with gifts, and turned out at games – and practices – by the thousands. A local Essex car dealer gave him a car to use during spring training. The license plate read simply: “Babe Ruth’s Essex.” (“Babe Ruth’s Essex” was found one morning abandoned in the middle of the street when Babe rode off with someone else during a night of carousing.)

richmond times dispatch 3 13 21

Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/13/21

 

1921 essex

A 1921 Essex.

But, I’m just using the Sultan of Swat to lure you in. He’s not the star of this post. Bruce Price is.

Price was 24, a local, pitching for the Shreveport Gassers, a Texas League team.

Think of the Gassers as the Washington Generals to the Yankees’ Harlem Globetrotters. Just a small town practice squad for the Yankees to feast on that spring.

Two years ago, I wrote about unusual spring training spots, including Shreveport.

Last November, I found this comment at the bottom of the post:

janets quote2

It’s easy to write about Babe and the ’21 Yankees who, historian Robert Creamer wrote, “roared into that Louisiana city like cowboys coming to town on Saturday night.”

Broads. And booze. Abandoned cars. And Ruthian home runs that sailed over outfield walls and into the streets. That broke the windows of passing street cars.

(I had you at broads and booze, didn’t I?)

But, maybe it’s time to write about the Shreveport pitcher who got the Babe out.

So I sent an email to Janet Johnson who wrote me right back.

She confirmed that it was her grandfather, Bruce Price, “Papa Bruce” to family, who struck out Babe Ruth.

Bruce Price

Bruce Price. Courtesy of Janet Johnson.

He was a smallish pitcher – maybe 5’8” and 150 pounds or so. A righty.

“My dad says Papa would go pitch for teams in little towns in the area.  He also said he played baseball at Louisiana Tech one year but never went to class,” Johnson said.

Price had a wicked curve. He told folks he “could throw a baseball and make it curve through the crook of a stovepipe without ever touching metal.”

Like this.

It may have been that curveball that buckled the Babe.

But, the box score from that March 12, 1921 game, like many family memories, had gotten a little fuzzy with age.

NYT March 13 1921 Yankees Shreveport Box Score

The New York Times, 3/13/21

 Fun Fact: That’s not how you spell Shreveport.

Turns out, Price hadn’t struck the Babe out twice. But, there’s still a story to tell.

The Gassers starting pitcher was shelled that day, giving up six runs over three innings. Price came in in relief, pitching the 4th, 5th, and 6th. He pitched three scoreless innings and faced Ruth once, getting him to hit a weak infield grounder that Price easily fielded.

If you want to quibble about a strike out’s value over an infield out, go ahead. An out’s an out, if you ask me, and I think Price did Ruth a favor by making him leg out a play to first. After all, it was early in the spring and Ruth still had 20 pounds to lose.

The fans had come to see Babe Ruth, but as the game went on they began to cheer their hometown boys instead, especially when the Gassers got Ruth out.

Despite Ruth’s 0-for-5 day, the Yankees won 7-3.

Bruce Price’s ERA? 0.00

Price Pitching Line 3 12 21

In 1983, Wiley Hilburn of The Shreveport Times wrote that the Babe asked about Price after the game. “Who is that narrow [bastard]?” and later told a reporter, “I like that little Price.”

Decades later, Price described how he pitched Ruth: “It was inside low and inside high. … He would take one step with his left foot toward me, and then bring his right foot around to swing. I’d hesitate with my throw and try to throw his timing off.”

The Babe bounced back the next day in Ruthian style, going 6-for-6 – three homers, three singles – and the Yankees stepped on the Gassers 21-3.

New York Times

The New York Times, 3/14/21

(The Gassers did finally take one from the Yankees, 3-2 in 11 innings, on the last game of the spring.)

Price played a few more years on local teams, got married to a girl named Maggie, had four children, farmed, and drove a school bus.

“He never passed up an opportunity to go fishing,” Johnson told me. “He absolutely loved being out on the lake — any lake — but would not eat fish at all. He liked his coffee so strong that my mom would boil some water to dilute hers when we came to visit.”

He rarely missed church on Sunday, played the harmonica, and raised a family that stayed close to home.

“Everyone who knew Bruce just loved him,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s father – Price’s eldest son – retired back to the old home place not so long ago. The original house is gone now. “It had a porch across the front and a steep tin roof,” Johnson said. “I can’t remember exactly when they got a bathroom, but it was in my lifetime. Before that, it was a trip to the outhouse, and a bath in a tin wash tub in the back room, with well water heated on the stove. My uncle Bob lived nearby his whole life, and my two aunts married Air Force men but eventually came back home. Uncle Bob died a few years ago, but all of them have stayed close to the church and community, as have many of my cousins.”

Baseball still runs in the family. Many of Bruce Price’s children, grandchildren, and, today, great-grandchildren played in high school and some into college. One great-grandson – also a righty pitcher – played at Southern Mississippi about 10 years ago, was drafted by the Kansas City Royals, and played a season in the minors before being sidelined with an injury.

Bruce Price died on March 25, 1983. He was 86.

Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns over 22 seasons. He was a career .342 hitter. It took a great pitcher to get the Babe out.

Bruce Price was one of them.

 

 

“And, Along Came Slim …”

There was a lot that was “slim” about the pitcher Slim Love.

slim love photo

His frame was slim – 6 foot, 7 inches, 195 pounds. And, his baseball career (a few big league seasons between 1913 and 1920) was rather slim, too.

When I wrote about him a couple days ago (click here), I focused on this slimness, his mediocre statistics, and his only pitch, an undisciplined fastball.

Slim’s pretty short list of overall pitching stats (highlighted by an awful lot of walks) made for, well, slim pickings when it came to summing up his career.

But, he was the tallest man in major league baseball at the time and had a very good nickname. So I settled for that.

It could be said that I, an Orioles fan, was unduly hard on Love because he was a Yankee. OK, point taken.

The more I thought about Love, however, the more I thought, “If he was that mediocre, how did he make it through so many major league seasons?”

(You may insert any number of current mediocre pitchers in response here. I’m not going to play that game, but I will say – you do have a point.)

So, I poked around some more. And, I stumbled on something. And, when I say “stumbled” I don’t mean literally, but I came upon it nearly by chance. As if Slim Love himself had steered this newspaper under my nose, controlling his legacy in a way that he couldn’t his fastball.

Slim, I think, wants you to know about this.

Slim vs Babe story

New York Tribune, 6/27/18. Library of Congress, Public Domain http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1918-06-27/ed-1/seq-12

Wednesday, June 26, 1918

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

“And along came Slim Love and Babe Ruth was shackled.” (New York Tribune)

Love was a Yankee, Ruth was still with the Red Sox.

Slim vs Babe

New York Tribune, 6/27/18. Library of Congress, Public Domain http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1918-06-27/ed-1/seq-12

Slim Love Pitching for the Yankees. June 26, 1918

Love gave up only three hits in his 3-1 victory that day, bringing the Yankees to within a game of the league-leading Sox.

Slim Love’s own two RBI double was the difference in the Yankees’ victory. “It was a lovely hit and the 6,000 howlers in the stands howled their OK,” wrote Charles Taylor of the Tribune.

As for Babe Ruth?

Babe_Ruth_Red_Sox_1918

Public Domain image.

Babe Ruth, Red Sox. 1918

Being “shackled” meant Ruth went just 1-for-4 that day; his one hit a double that drove in the sole Red Sox run. Which, isn’t really shackled by my accounts, unless, of course, you’re Babe Ruth and much more is expected of you than of ordinary batters.

But, this is Slim’s story.

And, Love, Taylor wrote, “had a lovely day. His old southpaw wing never fluttered so gracefully or with better results.”

(There’s no baseball writer – or baseball blogger – today who could write a line like that, and that’s a shame.)

Every ballplayer – at every level of the game – deserves at least one great moment.

Every batter deserves a 4-for-4 game, or a home run that cuts through the clouds and breaks someone’s windshield, setting off a line of car alarms in the parking lot.

Every batter deserves a Babe Ruth kind of day.

Every pitcher deserves one no-hitter (and Love did have one of those in the minor leagues).

And, every pitcher should be given a moment when their pitches are so spot-on perfect that they would shut down Babe Ruth himself.

Every pitcher deserves that Slim Love kind of day.

POSTSCRIPT: The Red Sox went on to win the World Series that season (defeating the Cubs). They would not win another World Series for 86 years. The Yankees, with a 60-63 record, sunk to fourth. In December 1920, the Red Sox would sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000, which kick started a Yankees’ revival that has led, over the years, to 27 World Series championships.

FUN FACT: Slim Love and Babe Ruth were – very briefly – teammates. In December 1918, the Yankees traded Love to Ruth’s Red Sox. But, before Spring Training or a single game with the Sox, Love was bundled up yet again and traded to the Tigers.

Slim Love ~ A Valentine’s Tale

Slim Love was a pitcher.

(I’m not clever enough to make this up. This story is true.)

slim love photo

public domain image.

This is Slim.

Slim wasn’t his given name, of course.

His birth name, given in 1890, was Edward.

But, baseball is the land of a thousand nicknames. And, while “Slim” isn’t the best of them, it certainly isn’t the worst, and it’s appropriate enough if you’re a lanky, stringbeany, beanpoley, 6 foot 7 kind of fella.

In 1913, as a member of the Senators, The Washington Post called Love the “elongated twirler” with a “bucolic disposition and odd appearance.”

Today, just calling him tall would do.

To be 6’7” is to be pretty tall, but not as tall as Jon Rauch (6’11”) or Randy Johnson (6’10”).

But, to be 6’7” in 1913 is to be the tallest man in the major leagues.

slim love

public domain image.

Slim Love. All 6’7″ of him.

(Fun Fact: The tallest players in major league baseball are all pitchers.)

Slim Love is the perfect-ish name for Valentine’s Day.

It’s sweet with the Love part, but Slim makes the love seem a bit stand-offish and tenuous. A slim love is fragile. It’s a complicated love. Tender, but a little bit sad. Still, it’s a good name.

(Unconditional love is what you get from a dog.  Slim love is what you get from a cat.)

Stevie Grumbles

Even Stevie’s love is slim at times.

Slim Love wasn’t a spectacular pitcher. He isn’t particularly memorable at all.

But, baseball historians are a fair-minded lot and they remember everyone.

Love, apparently, bragged his way onto a minor league team in Memphis, while having, apparently, no real baseball skills.

I thought this was fairly remarkable and quite a lucky break for Slim, and assumed perhaps that this was merely a sign of how baseball behaved in a far simpler time.

Then I realized that idiots in all walks of life brag themselves into jobs they are unsuited for all the time and I find them, as a group, highly annoying.

Slim Love must have figured something out, however, because he eventually played a few big league seasons with the Senators, Yankees, and Tigers.

1918 yankees team

public domain image

1918 New York Yankees. Slim Love is in the middle (kneeling) row, second from the right.

He had an undisciplined fastball and never learned – or just couldn’t – throw a curve or anything else for that matter, despite the futile efforts of Yankees manager Miller Huggins to teach him a new pitch or at least some control.

His major league career was finished by 1920 at age 29. He ended with a 3.04 ERA and a 28-21 record (most of that with the Yankees), which isn’t all that special, but could still land you a job today in many bullpens, if not in a starting rotation.

slim love zeenut

Slim Love even had his own baseball card.

He kicked around in the minor and independent leagues into the 1930s. He died in 1942 in Memphis, at age 52, after being struck by a car.

Love Gravestone

There’s no moral to Slim Love’s tale.

Only that there are plenty of players in baseball who may not have been very good, but were a little bit interesting, or just a touch quirky.

Maybe just their name will stand the test of time.

Or, maybe not. In reporting on his death in 1942, The Sporting News got his name and age wrong. They called him Elmer.

elmer

The Sporting News. Dec. 10, 1942

The Slim Love story doesn’t end quite yet. For Part 2, and the day Slim Love faced Babe Ruth, click here.

Happy Baseball. Pitchers & Catchers report this week. Finally.

Jamie the Yankees Fan.

Most animals find numbers and basic math uninteresting (Cat: “Who sent you here? Go away.”) or irrelevant (Dog: “I either had one treat or 50 treats out of the bag there on the floor, it’s hard to say for sure. I have to go barf on your shoes now.”)

But, not baseball fans. We love numbers and statistics. Wins, losses, batting averages are just a start. ERA.  RBI. WAR, WHIP, WPA.  Yeh, I know, it’s annoying.

Chris Davis’ batting average when wearing an orange jersey? .407 (through June anyway)

orange jersey

A Word Press editor recently suggested that bloggers check their page view numbers no more than once a week.

How can I twist my page views into obscure, meaningless statistics about my self-worth and popularity, if you won’t even let me look at them?

I check my statistics daily. Sometimes every couple hours. (I just checked them.) I don’t want to miss a single page view.

page view 2

Hey look, it’s you and me!

So, it didn’t get past me when my “Followers/Subscribers” number hit 999 earlier this week.

999

If you blog, you know how sketchy this number is.

Barry Bonds hit 762 home runs in his career. I have 999 followers.

(Here’s a stat: I have more followers than Barry Bonds has home runs.)

But, both numbers are juiced. Barry Bonds used steroids. I get followed mostly by spammers and a baffling number of non-English speakers. Welcome, “callgirlsdubai”!

But, still … a milestone IS a milestone, even if it is meaningless.

So, I put out the word to my friends – follow my blog and help me reach 1,000. And, almost immediately Jamie did.

I love Jamie. She is wonderful.

She is follower 1,000.

I decided then and there that I would write a blog post in her honor. Here we go.

Jamie has two dogs, two cats, and one husband.

And, here’s what she told me about baseball:

We have a big baseball conflict in our house. I’m a hardcore Yankees girl, and Jaremy lives, eats and breathes the Red Sox. Our compromise is the Nationals.

I have always said that 100 percent (look, more numbers!) of Nationals fans are default “fans”. They’re really fans of other teams, but since they’re near Washington, DC, oh hell, they might as well root for the Nats since they’ve got nothing better to do. Jamie has proven me 100 percent correct. (I told you, she is wonderful.)

Jamie

Yankees fans.

Red Sox Fan. Tigers fan.

Red Sox Fan. Tigers fan.

So to honor Jamie, I will write five nice things about her Yankees. (If you’ve come looking for my post on Yankees jokes … please click here.)

OK, sigh, here we go.*

Five nice things about the Yankees

1)

Public Domain

Babe Ruth. Public Domain Image

Babe Ruth.

He was born in Baltimore. Played briefly for an early incarnation of the Orioles … and bestowed one of the very best curses on the Red Sox that you’ll ever see. (Once the Curse of the Bambino ran out – and by god it had a good run – the Red Sox started winning, getting all uppity, and growing facial hair. Still, it’s not too late for the Babe to re-wallop them with another good Bambino-sized curse from the great beyond. Come on, it’ll be fun.)

2) Yogi Berra.

yogi berra

Yogi Berra. Public Domain Image

The Yankees catcher was the inspiration for Yogi Bear. And, who doesn’t love Yogi Bear?

Yogi_Bear_don't_feed_the_bears

1961, Courtesy of the National Archives ID #286013

I once had a cat named Yogi, who was named after Yogi Bear. He was a darn good cat.

Yogi. Cat.

Yogi. Cat.

3) If you follow the family tree, the New York Yankees were originally the Baltimore Orioles.

That New York stole the original Orioles from Baltimore (for a paltry $18,000 in 1903) is not surprising. In 2000, the Yankees stole pitcher Mike Mussina from the Orioles (he cost the Yanks $88.5 million).  (I’m still pretty upset about this.)

mike mussina

4) The Yankees have won 27 World Series titles. (The Orioles have won three.)

5) George Costanza used to work there.

I know I don’t really have 1,000 readers, but maybe I have a few. Quality over quantity is my motto. I’m glad you’re one of them.

* Please don’t think I’ve gone soft on the Yankees, people. Jeffrey Maier will never be forgotten.

Sea Monkeys, Math, & Football

Come September, you start to see a lot of “baseball is better than football” essays. Baseball fans have been compiling these lists for years.

None, of course, is better than George Carlin’s “baseball vs. football”.

And, so I share it with you here.

Sadly, in a moment of weakness, I started to compile my own list.

It was stupid. And, so I stopped.

If you love baseball, then you already know why it will always be far superior to football.

In the same way that cats and dogs are far superior to Sea Monkeys. Which is to say VERY, VERY Super Superior.

steviesept

Stevie: Purrfect

sea monkeys

Sea Monkeys: Bitter Disappointment

If you’re still wavering, I don’t know what I can say to convince you. Maybe you watch football the same way many NASCAR fans watch auto racing — just waiting to see someone get smooshed, flattened, tackled, or sacked.

Baseball avoids carnage and bloodshed whenever possible. When it does happen, no one cheers. This, bottom line, is why it will always be superior to football in my book.

Hey, I know football. I was a San Francisco 49ers fan for many, many years. But, I boycott it now, because it is increasingly grisly, unnecessarily violent, and has destroyed the quality of life for many former athletes (from NFL-level players to the unfortunate high school and college players who are reminded about rough hits when the arthritis starts to set in around age 30).  I yammered on about my boycott last season here.

Oh, sure you can Google “football is better than baseball” and some links will come up.

I found a list of 25 reasons – shared by CBS Sports. Why is football better than baseball? I kid you not, this was reason three.

#3. Football statistics are simple and involve little mathematics to compute.

If the lack of math is really the thing that makes football superior, I’m still marveling that this guy was able to coherently count to 25 for his list.

OK, let’s try a little football math:

2 Touchdowns + 1 Touchdown – 1 Missed Point After + 2 Field Goals + 1 Safety = How Many Points? *

OK, how about this:

1 3-Run Homer = How Many Runs? **

Oh, goodie, there’s more.

#17. Coaches spend more time coaching in football. Baseball managers only manage.

This doesn’t even make sense. It’s gibberish.

#23. Football rivalries are bitter and plentiful.

You’re joking, right?

Dodgers vs. Giants? Yankees vs. Red Sox?

Yankees vs. everyone else?

Baseball teams play 162 games a season – even more if you make it to the playoffs and World Series. 162 games is a lot of games and a lot of time to brew some historic rivalries.

Heck, baseball rivalries are so hot, even the managers get in fights – as the Orioles’ Buck Showalter and Yankees’ Joe Girardi proved just a few nights ago. Click here. (Go Buck!)

If you’re a football team and you’re playing another team just once a season, if that, I’m not sure how a lasting rivalry can even start. “Hi, you must be the Jacksonville Jaguars. I guess we’re playing you today. Gosh, I didn’t even know there was a team here. What state is this?”

His number one reason why football is better?

#1. Football is the ultimate team sport. All 11 players are involved on every play.

Does he even realize that an entirely DIFFERENT football team plays offense than the one that plays defense? Add in special teams – and it’s a THREE-TEAM “team sport”. As I’m sure you know, a baseball player is expected to play both offense and defense (except for those pitcher/DH guys in the American League.)

What to take away from this thoughtful list?

When dining out with football fans, be a pal and offer to calculate the tip for them. It will save them from math-phobic paralysis.

Now, back to baseball.

Here’s one George Carlin missed.

Baseball is better than football, because in baseball you, the fan, can catch a ball. If you catch it, you get to keep it.

You can even bring your glove to help you out.

If you make a clean catch, the fans around you will cheer.

It happens at every game in every ballpark every night.

And, on Tuesday night, a grandmother celebrated her birthday at the Giants’ game. Took her glove. And, snagged a souvenir.

And, then she danced.

gramma+foul2

Watch it, here.

And that is why baseball will always be better than football.

Oh, and this. (Hi, Manny!)

machado4

* 28

** 3

About Last Night …

Three things I learned during Sunday night’s Yankees-Red Sox game.

1. The AL East seems a lot like the Wild, Wild West some nights.

Vigilante justice is alive and well in baseball. Watch Red Sox Pitcher Ryan Dempster plunk the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez in his first at bat Sunday night. An innocent errant throw? Or, a pitcher meting out his own brand of punishment to a cheater?

Watch it here.

arod plunked

While Major League Baseball has suspended A-Rod (pending appeal) for his use of performance-enhancing drugs, that punishment, maybe, isn’t enough for some players. Or, perhaps, the recent reports of A-Rod ratting out other players in an effort to protect himself, spurred the pitch.

They call them “message pitches”.  (Because baseball has a name for everything.)

Or, maybe it was an accident. Dempster pops, on average, five batters a season, so maybe A-Rod just came up at the wrong time.

In any event, for those people who think baseball is boring, they are missing out on all sorts of crazy intrigue and drama. Where one single pitch – in a game that had 342 – can be filled with meaning.

For more, check out the always brilliant Jason Turbow of The Baseball Codes on the Dempster/A-Rod drama. Click here.

2. Baseball can unfold like a Movie of the Week. 

He may be a cheater, but after getting hit by a pitch and enduring a thunderous Fenway-full of boos, Alex Rodriguez seemed more like a victim last night. The victim of bullying by a team and a town.

So, you sort of had to smile (just a little bit, just a tiny bit, just a little “I really shouldn’t, but I just can’t help myself” teeny, weeny bit) when A-Rod came up again and crushed one – just crushed it – 446 feet into the seats. (The longest homerun of the season for a Yankee.)

Watch it here.

at bat

Because, sure, no one likes a cheater. Or, a rat. But, remember, no one likes a bully either. And, everyone knows, bullies never win in the movies.

3. Even if you’re in a hurry, always, always take time for Spell Check.

looser

(Go O’s!)

I was wrong. I’m sorry.

Last month, I wrote about potato chips.

I was actually writing about baseball’s All-Star Game and fan voting. (Click here to review.)

But, really, all you cared about was the potato chips.

That’s ok. Blog posts are funny that way.

So, to recap: America voted for their favorite potato chip flavor. The choices were:

  • Cheesy Garlic Bread
  • Sriracha
  • Chicken & Waffles

When Cheesy Garlic Bread won, I complained that Americans had voted for bread as an appropriate potato chip flavor. As far as I was concerned, this ridiculous choice meant that Americans shouldn’t be allowed to vote for anything.

(You all should have voted the Orioles’ Nick Markakis into the All Star Game, too. You should be ashamed baseball voters.)

Nicks glove

Here’s Nick’s Glove.

homerun robber

Here’s comes the baseball.

nick here it is

There goes the homerun. Sorry, Texas.

Watch it here.

But, here’s the thing. I learned about the contest after it was over. I never saw the flavors in my store. I never tried them. I merely decided, based on common sense, that bread was a horrible flavor choice.

Many of you commented on the post, and no one had seen or tasted any of the flavors.

Today, all three flavors magically appeared along a wall in my grocery store.

chipsinstore

They weren’t there last month. They weren’t there last week. (My Husband/Editor would like to point out that last month and last week are the same thing. But, you get my point.)

I gasped. Maybe I yelped. I might have been a bit too loud. I don’t remember. I was overcome with emotion.

They were on sale too. So, on that alone, let’s go with yelp.

Finally, America, I could taste for myself.

But, before I do, let me say this.

I don’t ask for much from professional athletes. Show up on time. Don’t cheat. Do your best. And, be nice to the fans. If you’re a funny or witty interview, so much the better; I’ll let a few bad games slide. If you rescue shelter animals, help out in your community, and support local charities … hey, you had me at “rescue shelter animals.”

Oh, and don’t lie.

And, if and when you get caught lying or cheating, here’s what you do. It’s pretty easy.

Say “I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

And, let the healing begin.

So, I write this post today for the potato chip fans of the world and for Alex Rodriguez, the beleaguered New York Yankee who awaits the decision of Major League Baseball – will he be suspended or banned for life from the game he loves because he cheated by taking performance enhancing drugs and lied about it?

I was planning to write a long (boring blah-blah-blah long) post about how I’m starting to feel sorry for the guy, because many sportswriters and bloggers and such seem to be bullying him a bit, piling on, and reveling in his misfortune. We seem awfully quick to end his career, while letting other cheaters slide with, perhaps, lesser suspensions and the glimmer of redemption.

Cheaters need to be suspended and baseball needs to clean up its game. But, let’s not be bullies.

But, then the potato chips came along.

StevieChips

Magnificent!

I’ll taste them. Discover that I was wrong, that Cheesy Garlic Bread is not only an acceptable flavor, but an absolutely mind-blowingly delicious one.

Americans were right after all!

And, I would admit it. I would say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

Alex Rodriguez has said many times (most recently in this week’s Sports Illustrated) that he wants to be a role model.

So, here I would be, right here on this blog, standing as a proud and honest role model for A-Rod.

What if he sees this, is moved by my emotion and honesty? What if he finally says, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” How cool would that be?

But, then, I tasted.

And, you know what?

Cheesy Garlic Bread potato chips?

Suck.

They kind of, sort of taste like garlic bread, in the same way that freeze dried ice cream, kind of, sort of, tastes like ice cream.

So I was right all along. Potato chips should not taste like bread.

Sriracha? Doesn’t really taste anything like Sriracha. More like a barbeque potato chip with a garlic kick and a sassy chili zing. But, not bad. So, I was right about that, too.

(You’re on your own with the Chicken & Waffles chips. They actually have real chicken in their flavoring. There’s not much real in a flavored potato chip, so I’m as surprised as you by this. I’m a vegetarian … so, chicken in my potato chips? No way.)

Unfortunately, America, I was right.

Which is incredibly vindicating. But, not so good for the point I wanted to make today.

But, while I was right about this, I have been wrong about other things.

I once said that Bobby Bonds was in the Hall of Fame. He’s not. I was wrong. I’m sorry.

I once told a telemarketer who called me at home that I was the housekeeper and couldn’t take their call. I was wrong. I’m sorry.

I once tried to slip the word ausperous past an online scrabble game. I was wrong. I’m sorry.

I made up that last example. I was wrong. I’m sorry.

See, it’s easy.

I hope that Alex Rodriguez figures that out.

Because, how can I forgive you, if you won’t apologize?

4th of July Baseball!

“[I]t is good to see health-promoting exercises taking the place of insipid enervating amusements.” ~ The Washington Star reporting on a baseball game in Washington, DC in 1860

Oh, Washington Star, you have no idea.

No idea what “insipid enervating amusements” your great-great-great-great grandchildren will come up with. No idea.

We name our children North West, for heaven’s sake. You really have no idea.

But, you’ll be pleased to know that baseball is pretty much the same.

(Sure, some teams play indoors on fake grass, some under glowing swaths of electric lights, and some won’t even let their pitchers come to bat anymore. Players come from all over the world. And, it’s no longer a whites-only game. So, ok, times have changed a bit.)

While baseball’s beginnings go back much further, it was the Civil War that helped turn baseball from a regional, neighborhood pastime – complete with myriad, often vague, sets of rules – and into a pretty standardized game.

baseball with union prisioners 1863 salisbury nc

Baseball game between Union prisoners at Salisbury, N.C., 1863. Lithograph of a drawing by Maj. Otto Boetticher. Courtesy of the National Archives

That game, base ball, helped pass time during wartime and was taken home across the nation into peacetime.

andrew johnson

President Andrew Johnson

It’s said that President Andrew Johnson was the first sitting President to watch baseball games during the 1860s.

“Johnson indulged few recreational activities [but] he came to appreciate baseball, which was well on its way to becoming America’s past time. On occasion, the President took time to watch pickup games organized on the South Grounds of the White House,” according to Jeffrey K. Smith in The Loyalist: The Life & Times of Andrew Johnson.

(Thank you to my friend Gloria, a diehard Cubs fan, who actually read that book and brought the baseball quote to my attention. And, thank you to my Editor/Husband who said it was also important to mention that then-Vice President Johnson was drunk at Lincoln’s second inauguration.)  

By the 1920s baseball’s place in our nation was clear. It was, President Calvin Coolidge declared, “our nation’s game.”

All 30 major league teams are scheduled to play today … all decked out in the stars and stripes.

Each team will wear special “Independence Day” caps.

Like the Baltimore Orioles.

os stars stripes

And, the New York Yankees. (I am sharing the Yankees cap with you so I can take this opportunity to report that the Orioles swept the Yankees last weekend. Go O’s!) yankees stars stripes cap And, the Cleveland Indians. indians stars stripes cap Wait. That can’t be right, can it?

Yes, Major League Baseball apparently thought it would be appropriate – possibly even cute – to paint Chief Wahoo in the stars and stripes. I’m not even comfortable writing this.

But, hey, MLB, we all make mistakes. And, so, here’s the new Cleveland cap you’ll see today.

final cleveland stars stripes

There. That’s better.

And, if you’re a Toronto Blue Jay? Fear not, no stars and stripes for you today. Your maple leaf is quite fetching!

blue jays stars stripes

So, tip your cap today to the sport that is our “nation’s game.” Chances are, you’ll be tipping a baseball cap (but hopefully not that Chief Wahoo one).

And, have a happy Fourth of July!

#5: The Yankees Go To Shreveport

The game is full of subtlety,

Of science and of art,

Where mind and brain

Beneath the strain

Must carry out their part.

 

But when it comes to climax stuff

Beyond the final scoff,

Give me the bloke

With mighty poke

Who tears the cover off.

~ Grantland Rice, New York Tribune, March 15, 1921

 In today’s installment of “Spring Training Is Way Better Than Sitting In A House Without Power During A Freak Snowstorm In March” … let’s head to Shreveport, Louisiana.

 March 1921.

Spring Training with the New York Yankees. (And, you know this better be good if I’m going to spend a post talking about the Yankees.)

See, Spring Training wasn’t always Grapefruits and Cactus.  Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Alabama were all popular destinations in the early years of baseball.  Teams just seemed to wander around.

Spring Training over the years has evolved into a structured program to polish up one’s skills with weight training, fielding drills, batting practice, and conditioning programs.  (Even, most happily, Yoga. Big shout out to the Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles who have mentioned their Yoga programs in recent weeks.)

Back in early 20th century however, Spring Training was really just a time to get everyone back together, detox from the excesses of the off-season (mineral hot springs were especially popular), burn off winter weight, toss around a medicine ball, and try to get back into some sort of playing shape.

After a few rowdy Spring Trainings in Jacksonville, Florida (highlighted by more than a few “drunken orgies”), the Yankees moved their spring headquarters to Shreveport in 1921 because of its isolation (and because it was, ostensibly, a dry town).  Safely away, they hoped, from the devilish temptations of booze, broads, and brawling. 

Shreveport – in the midst of its own crazy oil boom (and not very “dry” at all) – would be a place where Babe Ruth and the rest of the team could focus on baseball.

Oh, did I not mention Babe?

George Herman Ruth.  Baltimore native.  The man who bestowed one of the most successful and enduring curses on the Boston Red Sox.  He did some other stuff too, hit some homers, changed the face of baseball, you know, that sort of thing, but I think I hit the high points.

New York Yankees, Spring Training 1921. Babe Ruth is there in the center.

New York Yankees, Spring Training 1921. Babe Ruth is there in the center.

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