Baseball Is A Billion Times Better Than Nougat

When I was a kid there was this amazing “Seven Up” candy bar, made by a company in Minneapolis.

seven-up-bar-label

Heard of it?

They stopped making it in 1979, I’m afraid, so you’ll have to wonder about its wonderfulness. A single chocolate candy bar with seven – SEVEN! – little pockets carved into it, and each one was filled with a different flavor.

Mint!  Coconut!  Butterscotch!  Fudge!  Caramel!  Butter Cream!

And, Nougat!

Nougat.

First of all, nougat is not a flavor. Second of all, nougat is horrible.

tom-hanks-big

I don’t think anyone has ever intentionally eaten nougat. And, I’ll bet it was nougat that did in the Seven Up bar. Well, that and a pretty clear trademark infringement with 7-Up soda.

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“Get Up There & Bunt”

No one really likes the bunt.

Baseball players bunt because their manager tells them to or because nothing else seems to be working.

They bunt – usually as a sacrifice, giving up an out in the process – because they have to.

No one likes the bunt, do they? I mean really really likes it?

President William Taft hated the bunt. And, now he’s celebrated as one of the Racing Presidents at Washington Nationals games …

© The Baseball Bloggess, 2016

“It also came out at the game that Mr. Taft does not like the bunt.  … ‘I like to see them hit it out for all that is in them.’”  The New York Times, May 31, 1909

In 2005, then-Nationals Manager Frank Robinson told The Washington Post that even his pitchers complained when he called on them to bunt.

 

“They cry about it,” Robinson said. “They’ll say, ‘I’m a pretty good hitter.’ I’ll say, ‘You’re hitting .130. How is that a pretty good hitter?’ I tell them to get up there and bunt.”

And, yes, legendary Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver didn’t like the bunt either: “I’ve got nothing against the bunt – in its place. But most of the time that place is the bottom of a long-forgotten closet.”

Some experts argue that at the college level it’s more difficult to bunt with an aluminum bat. But, I see it at college games all the time.

Justin Novak Bunts UVA E Carolina Regional 6 4 16

© The Baseball Bloggess

University of Virginia third baseman Justin Novak squares to bunt in the 2016 NCAA Regional Tournament

Some fans and players might consider a bunt dull baseball. I think it’s beautiful.

Even Babe Ruth knew a well-placed bunt can make all the difference …

Babe Ruth Bunted NYTimes 10 11 1921

New York Times, October 11, 1921

Babe Ruth “near collapse” wins the game with a bunt!

A batter squares up to bunt – and with that one simple movement and change of position he has told everyone, including every infielder, exactly what he intends to do. He knows that where he drops that bunt is key. He knows he’s going to have to run like hell.

It’s sort of gutsy when you stop to think about it.

Oh, and last week’s Korean All-Star Game included a bunting competition which is sort of like if you took bunting and curling and mooshed them together.

The result is absolutely awesome.

 

The Numbers That Mattered

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:

Starting
383
56
715
511
262
61
1.12
191
363
20
49
7
2
632
59
130
4256
5714

Sing along …

I’ve prepared a cheat sheet for you, in case any of these baseball numbers need explaining. It’s here: Baseball Project “Stats” Broken Down

When WordPress announced that their weekly photo challenge for this week was “Numbers,” I thought, this is too easy.

Because, in baseball, players have numbers …

UVA Pregame June 4 2016

Fans have numbers …

my first bleacher of spring 2016

This is me

Look, it’s me! My season ticket bleacher seat … Sweet 16.

Even the walls have numbers …

404 to center field

Straightaway center at Davenport Field, 404 feet.

There are so many numbers, I didn’t know where to start.

But, really, on this hot and humid, three-Gatorade weekend there were only these numbers that mattered …

The numbers that went Virginia’s way …

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Virginia defeats William & Mary in the NCAA Regionals Tournament on Friday, 17-4.

And, the numbers that didn’t …

UVA ECU Final Score June 4 2016

East Carolina stuns Virginia on Saturday night with a bottom-of-the-9th, three-run homer.  

(Virginia lost again today, ending their season.)

See more of Word Press’s “Numbers” challenge here.

Photos: Davenport Field, University of Virginia. Charlottesville, Virginia. 2016 © The Baseball Bloggess

Hit Bull Win Steak

Remember the snorting bull from the movie Bull Durham?

hit bull win steak original movie prop

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.

hit bull win steak hit grass win salad

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).

But, Pinero hit the bull. So, there is that.

Jubilation. And, Now The Post-Season

This seemed jubilant.

2 run homer

A two-run homer. University of Virginia defeats Georgia Tech, May 13, 2016. 

But, jubilation probably deserves a little more.

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How about a bases-loaded walk-off walk win? University of Virginia defeats Virginia Tech, May 20, 2016.

walk off part 2

Baseball jubilation often includes a Gatorade shower – a couple cups tossed in the air will do in a pinch.

The NCAA college baseball post-season, and the road to the College World Series in Omaha, begins tomorrow.

There will be plenty of dog piles over the next five weeks.

UVa Hoos dogpile 2014

University of Virginia over University of Maryland. Super Regionals, 2014.

Jubilation, too.

Jubilant Wyatt

In response to the Word Press Daily Post Photo Challenge: Jubilant. See more challenge photos here.

Photos: Davenport Field, University of Virginia. Charlottesville, Virginia. 2016 and 2014 © The Baseball Bloggess

The Face Behind The Mask

 

Thaiss 2015

“You have to have a catcher because if you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.” ~ Casey Stengel

In 1876, Fred Thayer, the team manager of Harvard’s baseball team, took a fencing mask, tinkered with it, and turned it into baseball’s first catcher’s mask. It didn’t take long for other catchers to catch on.

Thayer patent

Thayer’s original catcher’s mask patent.

Fans, according to The New York Times, hated the innovation, considering a protective mask a sign of weakness. They jeered at catchers who wore them.  (Batting helmets? Shin guards? Thumb protectors? Today’s game would drive our great-great-great grandparents nutty.)

The mask annoyed fans, but it changed the game. It allowed catchers to be much closer to the batter. It allowed pitchers to amp up their pitches without worrying about killing their catcher with an errant throw.

By 1878, Spalding had added it to their sporting goods’ catalog.

spalding

Goat hair and dog skin. $3.

Today’s best masks can run to more than $100. (Which, if you ask me, is a pretty small price to pay to keep your nose, cheekbone, and brain intact.) No more dog skin either. Progress.

It’s hard to know what’s going on behind those “tools of ignorance.” It’s hard to see a catcher’s face, especially way out in the bleachers.

Thaiss 2016

Matt Thaiss, gritty catcher for the University of Virginia, is tough as nails.

“He won’t give up,” UVA pitcher Alec Bettinger told The Daily Progress last week. “He could have his legs chopped off and he’d still go out there and catch. He’s just the toughest guy on the team.”

But, sometimes, when you look inside the mask …

Matt Thaiss March 2016

… he seems almost angelic.

Which just goes to show …

I don’t really know what it goes to show.  But, sometimes the face you find behind a mask isn’t always the face you expected to find.

In response to the Word Press Daily Post Photo Challenge: Face. See more challenge photos here.

Photos: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. 2015-2016 © The Baseball Bloggess

 

10 Hours of Baseball

dry seats 3 19 2016

“This would be the ideal town for weather bureau headquarters. It would take an army of clerks to keep account of the rise and fall in the temperature alone. … No one would be surprised upon awakening tomorrow to find that the north pole had suddenly located here or that we had moved during the night to the tropical zone. Most anything can be accomplished overnight in the town of Charlottesville.” ~ The Washington Post, March 6, 1915

College baseball fans know the deal. There is little room in a tight collegiate season for rain delays. And, there is no room at all for cancelled games.

While big leaguers unroll the tarps at the first rain shower, college players soldier on.

Matt Thaiss 3 19 2016

Matt Thaiss, Catcher.

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons came to Charlottesville this weekend to play a Friday/Saturday/Sunday series against the University of Virginia Cavaliers.

But, with the promise of rain and snow and wind and cold, things required a bit of shuffling. Keep up with me here.

Ernie Clement 3 19 2016

Ernie Clement, Second Base.

Friday evenings’s game was moved to Friday afternoon. Sunday’s game was moved to Friday night. Saturday afternoon’s game was moved to Saturday morning.

Got it?

(This is why I can already tell you that UVA won tomorrow’s game. Blows your mind, doesn’t it?)

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“Charlottesville Is No Spot For A Writer Of Baseball.”

Charlottesville is no spot for a writer of baseball Washington Post 3 13 1912

Washington Post, 1912

Here’s what baseball writers will tell you about spring training in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It snows and hails and thunders and pours rain and gusts wind and freezes and scorches. There are plenty of lousy days for baseball and very few good ones.

Those writers, roaming around Charlottesville more than 100 years ago, won’t tell you much about the baseball they saw, but they’ll give you an earful about the rotten weather.

During Virginia’s hybrid time of still-winter-not-yet-spring – spwinter! – there’s no telling what any day will bring.

snowcat

March 2016. © The Baseball Bloggess

Snow.

March weather in Charlottesville is like a grab bag at the dollar store – you’ll get something for your dollar, but you’ll probably look at it and think, “Really? I paid a dollar for this?”

So why did so many teams from 1892 to 1916 come to Charlottesville for spring training? Were they nuts? Or were the grumpy old baseball writers just annoyed that they had to spend a month in a place which was often snowy and always alcohol-free?

Today, baseball’s spring training is held in Arizona and Florida, more accommodating and predictable climates, and where the only things you have to worry about are swarms of bees and the Zika virus.

But, Charlottesville? “More fickle weather could not be found in any part of the globe,” one Washington Post reporter lamented in 1914 after an early March snowfall.

Who would choose Charlottesville for spring training?

These teams …

In 1894, the Baltimore Orioles came through Charlottesville as part of a nomadic spring training tour through the south and took both games against the University of Virginia. The Orioles, then part of the National League, went on to win the pennant. They were a powerhouse, those Orioles. Yup, chew on that O’s fans. A powerhouse.

In 1901, the Boston Red Sox (then called the Americans) spent spring training in Charlottesville. It was the Sox’ first season and, history will show that the first game ever played by the Red Sox, the first ball they ever hit, and the first run they ever scored, happened in Charlottesville.

There were a few others, but it was the Washington Nationals that spent the most springs in Charlottesville. They were officially the Washington Senators, but everyone called them the Nationals and so should you.  (Although today we call them the Minnesota Twins.)

The Nats “springed” in Charlottesville in 1905 and ‘06 and then again, under manager Clark Griffith, from 1911 through 1916.

Griffith (third from the right) and his Nationals in Charlottesville. March 1915.

Griffith, today enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, told reporters each season that his choice of Charlottesville over warmer locales was purely strategic.

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Free Hot Chocolate. Free Baseball.

“Baseball is the most perfect of games, solid, true, pure, and precious as diamonds. If only life were so simple. Within the baselines anything can happen. Tides can reverse; oceans can open. That’s why they say, ‘the game is never over until the last man is out.’ … Anything is possible in this gentle, flawless, loving game.” ― W.P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe

First, let’s get to the important things. The temperature during the last two games at Davenport Field, home of the University of Virginia Cavaliers (or, the NCAA National Champion UVA Cavaliers if you go for things like that) has been below 45.

And, you know what that means …

hot chocolate2

Free hot chocolate!

The NCAA champions are playing the Monmouth Hawks this weekend.

I vaguely know where Monmouth is (somewhere New Jersey-ish).

If you visit Monmouth’s Wikipedia page … which you can do here … it will kindly request that you fill in the blanks and tell it something – anything – about this team.

I can tell you only that they seem to have a good time when they play – they’re a joyful bunch – and that goes a long way with me.

UVA won on Friday night, 4-2, in unspectacular fashion. The highlight of the game was that it took my feet, which were double-socked, nearly one full hour to thaw out. They were completely numb.

It was brutally cold – it had snowed that morning – and my main take-away from the game is that I’m certain I wouldn’t last a week in a world without central heat.

snowcat

Friday morning. Snow on the cat.

Let’s skip to Saturday. Still cold.

hot chocolate1

More hot chocolate!

Daniel Lynch Starting Pitcher

Daniel Lynch, Saturday Starter.

Behind string-beany, first-year pitcher Daniel Lynch, the Hoos jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the 2nd in one of those they-batted-around innings – six singles, one double, two sacrifice bunts – that messes up your scorecard in a totally-worth-it sort of way.

They love to bunt, these fellas.

Matt Thaiss

Matt Thaiss, Third Year, Catcher/1B/DH. 2-for-5 on Saturday, 1 Run, 1 RBI

“Our small ball is what makes us an offense,” Thaiss, who homered on Friday night, told The Daily Progress. “We always talk about not having a good hitting team, but having a great offense. That’s what we preach here. We practice bunting just as much as we do hitting.”

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The First Bleacher of Spring

The high temperature in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday was 47.2 degrees.

Just 2.2 degrees colder and there would have been “free hot chocolate for everyone” at Davenport Field where the University of Virginia Cavaliers — the Hoos — play ball and where the free hot chocolate flows at 45 degrees.

There was no hot chocolate. There was no win for the Hoos.

It was cold.

But, it was my first game of the spring. Even though it’s still winter.

And, even though it’s still cold.

(Why do we play baseball in February anyway?)

But, there was the first photo of spring …

Justin Novak First Photo of Spring

© The Baseball Bloggess

The 2016 honor of “First Photo” goes to UVa utility infielder and backup catcher Justin Novak.

The first bleachers of spring …

my first bleacher of spring 2016

© The Baseball Bloggess

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