Happy Birthday, George

George Mullin was born on the 4th of July, 1880, in Toledo, Ohio.

He was a pitcher. A righty. Mostly for the Detroit Tigers (1902-1913), with a few other seasons with a few other teams scattered in after that, and ending in 1915.

He was six feet tall and his weight hovered around 200 pounds, so people called him Big George. He struggled with his weight and was often reprimanded for being out of shape.

He was 32 when he took the mound for Detroit – the second game of a double-header with the St. Louis Browns – on his birthday, July 4, 1912.

This was no marquee matchup. The Tigers were a game under .500 (36-37), while the poor, poor Browns (who today are the poor, poor Orioles) had won only 19 games, losing 49, and were well-mired in last place.

1912 Detroit Tigers. (George Mullin is in the back row, far right. Directly in front of him sits Ty Cobb.)

Things hadn’t been going well for Mullin in 1912 either. Age and weight had taken their toll and he was not in great shape.

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Nearly 800 Ballplayers …

“[T]he war will be forgotten — and the generation that has grown up after us will be strange to us and push us aside. We will be superfluous even to ourselves, we will grow older, a few will adapt themselves, some others will merely submit, and most will be bewildered; — the years will pass by and in the end we shall fall into ruin.” ~ Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

I read the news today.

(Oh, boy.)

World War I Recruitment Poster. Public Domain, Library of Congress

And, it was not lost on me – or on anyone else, it seems – that Thursday, April 6, marked the 100-year anniversary of the United States’ entry into its first global war. World War I.

(These are the things we are meant to pause and think about once every hundred years or so.)

That war – “the war to end all wars,” which, as you know, didn’t end a thing – is remembered, by anyone who actually remembers such things, as the war that brought us a slew of patriotic songs like “Over There” and the start of chemical warfare, including the use of mustard gas.

Who knows if anyone was thinking of parallels when, on this 100th anniversary, the United States engaged in a 21st-century bombing of a Syrian airbase engaged in the same kind of chemical warfare. See, some things don’t change much at all. (The sarin gas used by Syria, by the way, was developed in 1938 by the Nazis, but never used by them. )

You might be rolling your eyes right now, heavy-sighing, wondering how to get out of this downer of a post.  Wondering where the baseball is.

And, so to baseball.

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Don’t Try This At Home

Ty-Cobb-hard-slide

Ty Cobb goes “spike’s up” into home. Navin Field, Detroit (1912 or 1913). Public Domain image.

Don’t try this at home.

Because it is stupid. (“It” being Ty Cobb’s collision. My pun, on the other hand, is brilliant.)

As a baseball-writing massage therapist with nearly 10,000 massage sessions under my belt, I’m often asked for my thoughts about home plate collisions.

Actually, no one’s asked.

But, I’m going to tell you anyway.

Because I’ve been thinking a lot about home plate ever since my last post.

And, because one doofus said on his webpage (which has approximately a zillion more readers than I ever will) that banning home plate collisions is further proof of the “wussification of America.”

And, all I could think was, “Good god, how many times has Glenn Beck’s head collided with the sidewalk? Because he sure sounds like he’s brain-clunked pavement a few too many times.”

Glenn Beck doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

But, I do.

I know collisions. I see colliders every day. Colliders are my massage (and Yoga) bread and butter.

I have clients who have collided with other people, with airbags, with telephone poles, with staircases, with the ground (woody, gravelly, asphalty, rocky, and cementy.) I see clients who have broken things, strained things, torn things, ruptured things, and gotten their bells rung.

I sometimes see them a day after they have collided and often for years afterward.

I see equestrian clients who are tossed off of their horses so often that you would think their bottoms are loaded with crazy Wonderland-like springs that catapult them randomly through the air and into rocks and bramble. Over and over.

I have clients who live with chronic pain and permanent injuries and brain impairment because they collided into something – or someone – else.

I know colliders.

So, I am delighted that Major League Baseball is taking the necessary steps to ban home plate collisions – where a base runner coming home seeks to dislodge the ball from a catcher’s mitt by violently colliding with him. That’s how the Giants’ Buster Posey broke his leg in 2011. And, that’s how many professional ballplayers sustain debilitating concussions throughout the season.

Home plate collisions are needlessly dangerous, unnecessary, and just plain stupid.

Former Catcher and now St. Louis Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny retired in 2007 following a series of concussions caused by home plate collisions. He lost 18 months of his memory as a result. If I haven’t convinced you, listen to him, click here.

matheny

Baseball’s owners and the players’ union are still working out the details and wording, but the belief is that new rules could be in place by the start of this season or 2015 at the latest.

ESPN’s Buster Olney (who has so many “insider” sources, he probably knows someone who has spilled all your secrets), was told that the new rules would include:

• Catchers cannot block home plate.

• Runners will not be allowed to target the catchers.

• Umpires will determine whether or not the plate was blocked or the runner targeted the catcher and this will be a reviewable call, and

• Players who violate these rules will be subject to disciplinary action.

This won’t eliminate all collisions. But, it will eliminate some extremely violent home-plate encounters.

In its very earliest long-time-ago incarnations, baseball required a runner to be struck by the ball in order to be out. Yes, just like dodgeball you would throw the baseball at the runner – as hard as you could and sometimes right at his head. If you severely maimed him in the process, well, hey, it was the 18th century, he probably wasn’t going to make it to 40 anyway.

But, that was stupid. And, baseball improved its rules.

The rules already protect fielders from collisions by base runners who seek to break up double plays through collision or “spikes up.” (Interference is called on the base runner and he is out.)

A sprained ankle might slow you down for a week or so. A concussion is much sneakier and can cause permanent brain damage that you won’t notice until one day you’re standing in a grocery store and you wonder, “Why am I here?” (And, not in an existential way, either.)

Watch the PBS Frontline documentary League of Denial that shows, in grim detail, the heartbreaking damage that concussions have done to professional athletes. Watch it here.

league of denial

Glenn Beck, apparently, thinks that baseball rules are unnecessary (in the same way that he believes that government is unnecessary, until the potholes on his street need fixing).

Life has risks. Games have risks. Jobs have risks.

I know that.

But, that doesn’t mean that an employer doesn’t have the responsibility to try to eliminate risks whenever possible.

A bakery gives its baker an oven mitt so he doesn’t melt the skin off his hands when he pulls the bread out of a hot oven.

A warehouse puts brakes on its forklift so a driver doesn’t run over his colleague who is stacking boxes.

Baseball stops home plate collisions.

Good heavens, why are we even debating this?

I’m guessing Ty Cobb, like Glenn Beck, would say that minimizing injuries is a wussy thing to do. (Although, honestly, I don’t think Cobb would use the word “wussy.”)

But, tough. And, stop whining.

Those nasty spike’s up, knock-em-down, slasharoos that Ty Cobb made famous are stupid. (Say, Ty, maybe if you picked up the pace a bit coming in from third you could have beaten the throw to the plate. Now THAT’s exciting baseball!)

Just 25 days until pitchers and catchers report.

By: Frettie, used with permission via Creative Commons 3.0

By: Frettie, used with permission via Creative Commons 3.0