And, not just the long black ones that prowl one’s property looking for mice. The harmless ones. Well, harmless to people anyway. Mice, not so much.
This was the summer of copperheads.
courtesy of Clinton & Charles Robertson, via CC2.0
There was a point this summer that my Facebook page should have been brimming with pictures of homegrown red tomatoes and zucchinis as big as a strongman’s arm posted by Virginia friends with far more gardening skills than me.
But, it was a too-wet summer. And, a snaky one, too. There were copperheads hiding in gardens, amongst the tomatoes and the zucchini vines. (And, coiled up in flower beds, on front porches, and, for one of my friends, in her garage.)
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Dear Nationals Fan,
I come to you today, not as a rival, but as a friend.
A friend who knows the insurmountable pain and suffering you have endured this week … this week when there has been no loss worse than the one you suffered at the hands of the Cubs, ending your season.
I come to you today, dear sweet Nat-atoodies, not as a rival, but, as I think this through, maybe not as a very good friend, either. Think of me instead as a companion, as you snuggle up with us in the off-season … Diamondbacks, Indians, Red Sox, Rockies, Twins fans … we’re all here.
Even we lowly Orioles fans who got the off-season tidied up for you by finishing last in our division.
I take pity on the grieving @Nationals fans. It must be hard to be a lifelong die hard fan for all 13 years
The World Series went seven exciting games, which is as much baseball as one can have. A World Series only promises you four games, so to have the Series go the full seven – and an extra inning last night to boot! – is like taking two brownies from the buffet table. Sure, you know you were only supposed to take one, but the second one was so delicious.
Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs who won their first World Series since 1908. It took a rain delay and an extra inning, but Cubs fans, no more sad-faces from you, you’re winners now.
And, chin up, Cleveland. You gave it your best.
(The Orioles haven’t been to a World Series in 33 years.)
So, now what? The brownies are gone and what are you going to do with yourself until baseball comes around again?
(Oh, I know, you freakish baseball nerds … the off-season calendar is loaded with stuff. Free agency and qualifying offers and the Rule 5 Draft and GM Meetings and the Winter Meetings and the awards, from Gold Gloves to Cy Youngs to MVPs. But, you know that’s not baseball. That’s just stuff.)
It’s only been a few hours. I miss baseball already.
(And, brownies. I could really use a brownie right now.)
I’m going to have to watch someone play baseball this week. And, so are you. Let’s figure out which World Series team to root for.
The Chicago Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. The Cleveland Indians last won a World Series in 1948.
There’s a certain comfort in being able to shake your head at the end of a losing season and say, “Well, we always lose, that’s what we do.” Fans start to hang on to this excuse like a crutch. It becomes the excuse for every misplay, every error, every loss.
Just to be clear, Cubs and Indians fans, that ends today. No more are you “long-suffering.” You’re now winners. Enjoy the pressure that goes along with that.
A lot of thinking goes into choosing a World Series team to root for. Not by me, of course, but by other people.
You could spend hours poring over ERAs, WARs, FIPs, and Batting Averages.
You could study baseball stats and figures for the next seven hours and come out convinced that the Washington Nationals will beat the Red Sox in six.
Yup, and where does that put you? Back at square one.
Let’s look at more important things.
When choosing between the Cubs and Indians, here are some facts that may help you choose the best team for your needs.
First, let’s look at 1908, the last year the Cubs won the World Series, and 1948, the last year the Indians won.
Not just a couple cute, shaggy, tail-wagging mutts from the local pound, but a kennel filled with hunting dogs. Loud, hungry, and annoying dogs who start barking at about 5 each morning.
We live on a farm and by “neighbors,” I mean the people who live about a half-mile away through an old field that has too steep a drop to a creek bed to ever be a real pasture. (To reach these neighbors by road, you would have to drive out to the main road, take a right, and then another right, and then another right. By road, they are about five miles away. But, through the field, they’re much closer.)
I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure there are about 63 rabid wolf-hounds in that kennel and they haven’t eaten in days. They would probably chew your arm off if you got too close.
They don’t bark all the time, but when they do, they all do. They’re loud and their noisy discontent travels through the pasture like a storm cloud that opens up right over our house.
Some days they are louder than others. Like right now.
Last night in the AL Wild Card game, the Baltimore Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, the team that no one loves from the country that doesn’t even like baseball.
They lost in the 11th on a three-run homer.
The Orioles season is over.
Those damn dogs are rattling the walls of our house right now.
Sometimes on the weekends when the dogs are especially depraved and hungry, you can hear the dude over there yell at them. “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” There is momentary silence and then the barking gets even louder. Every single time. He yells at the dogs and they just start barking louder. If I’m sitting on the porch, I’ll sometimes look over at Hell Hound House and say – just a little louder than the last time – “Yeh, dude, that’s still not working.”
The Orioles made some mistakes last night. Their bats were cold and, sure, O’s fans will spend the next five months second-guessing the decision by Manager Buck Showalter not to bring in their Cy Young-deserving closer Zach Britton, who, we are 100 percent certain, would not have given up a three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th to the Blue Jays (a team that, I think I’ve mentioned, no one even likes).
Oh, wait … the dogs just stopped barking. Just like that, it’s quiet again.
But, my heart is still going to be sad for awhile.
Last April, I asked several non-baseball “experts” to predict the post-season. To be one of my experts, the bar was set pretty high (or low depending upon which direction you’re looking). You simply needed to not know anything about baseball and not be a fan.
When one of my experts complained that he didn’t understand why the NEW YORK Giants were in the NL West, and I had to explain that the New York Giants played football, which is an entirely different sport, I had just the crack team of unpaid, uncaring experts that would make my predictions perfect.
When some of “my team” insisted that not only did they not know anything about baseball, but that they actively “hated” the sport, I knew I’d done well.
As the regular season came to a close yesterday, I want to commend my team of experts, because, quite frankly, they were often spot-on better than the paid baseball “experts” on TV, and on blogs, and in Twitter-ville.
Not to brag, but my guys are way better than your guys.
Who had the Red Sox winning the AL East?
Did you? Of course, you didn’t.
But, Clinton did.
Who had the Orioles in the Wild Card?
You didn’t. (I knew you were wrong about that, but you were being stubborn.)
Hats off to Lindsey. She knew. (So did I.)
(Lindsey’s daughter Sarah had the Braves in the Wild Card, which is sort of sweet. Wrong, but sort of sweet.)
It was during my junior year in high school that the school math team – the “mathletes” – were one player short. There were four mathletes ready to go, but they needed a five.
I’m not sure why my geometry teacher invited me to join the team. I wasn’t particularly good in his class and I was pretty clear that I hated two things in school – gym and numbers. But, I would always laugh at his jokes. So, I was his choice. Your take away from this: a good chuckle might take you far in this world.
He convinced me to join the team, which was about to go to the state tournament in Minot, by promising we would stop for banana splits on the two-hour drive back home. Yes, if there was a banana split in it for me, I could spend the day with four geeky mathletes and a teacher who told corny jokes.
I have no memory of the meet except for sitting at a long table, writing problems on pieces of paper, and being forbidden from using a calculator. We didn’t win, but I don’t think I was too terrible.
In any event, the Dairy Queen in Rugby was out of bananas by the time we got there. This is my only clear memory of my one day as a mathlete. Even the worst mathlete knows that zero bananas means zero banana splits.
So, funny that I’ve come to love baseball which is all numbery and statisticfied.
The Baseball Project even wrote a song that is only numbers – comforting and familiar baseball stats. Here are the lyrics in their entirety:
It stood out in right field. And, included these words …
Hit Bull Win Steak.
Of course you remember, because Bull Durham is Kevin Costner’s best baseball movie.
That bull was a movie prop. There was no “Hit Bull Win Steak” bull in Durham until the movie dreamed it up. This was a little disappointing. I thought the Durham Bulls had long had a steak-feeding tradition. After all, minor league per diems are pretty slim, even today. A good steak could keep a fella going.
I guess it was too much prop to pack up when the movie wrapped – plus, think of all the bubble wrap you’d need – so it was left behind.
Movie props aren’t made to last, so it’s a new bull out there in Durham these days. It’s bigger and it’s out in left field now. And, whenever the Bulls homer, anywhere in the park, its eyes light up, its tail wags, and it snorts smoke.
Today it says:
Hit Bull Win Steak
Hit Grass Win Salad
And, yup, a local restaurant provides a steak to players who hit a home run off of the bull. (No word on whether a ball that hits the grass actually earns a trip to the salad bar, or if anyone has ever asked.)
Last season, The News & Observer in Raleigh noted that since the new park opened in 1995, the bull has been hit only 29 times. (They also report that there is no longer a steak offered to visiting players for their homers off of the bull. Boo.)
Most of the bull-snortin’ home runs come from high fly balls that hit it on their way down. You’d have to really smoke it to line a homer off the bull. You know, smack it right between the eyes.
College baseball’s ACC Tournament is underway this week at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
And, on Thursday, Virginia shortstop Daniel Pinero did this …
“Right Between The Eyes.”
Lots of smoke-snortin’. But, alas, no steak. College amateur rules are fussy about things like that. But, Sports Channel 8 in North Carolina is providing a “steak dinner” donation to the local food bank in honor of Pinero.
Despite the bullish homer, the ‘Hoos lost yesterday’s game against Clemson (and lost to Wake Forest again today).
Baltimore is a fine, fine city, and the Baltimore Oriolesare 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.
(Dear Slowpoke, all those “cheap” “seats” are now gone.)
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?)
Baltimore, Maryland is known forOld Bay seasoning and Maryland crabs. Kansas City is known for barbeque that is sweet and saucy.
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.
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?
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 Brettand 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.
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.
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.