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.

Embed from Getty Images

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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Congratulations!

davenport

Photo By, And Courtesy Of, Jesse Pritchard. 

Sunrise At Davenport. Charlottesville, Virginia.

Congratulations, Baseball Fans … You’ve made it through another off-season.

It’s Opening Day for the National Champion University of Virginia Cavaliers (wahoowa!) (I did mention “National Champion” didn’t I?).

University of Virginia vs. Kent State from Pelicans Ballpark in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. First Pitch is at 4:00 p.m.

And, major league pitchers and catchers have been reporting all over the Cactus & Grapefruit Leagues this week. (Fun Fact: The Baltimore Orioles still only have four starting pitchers in their rotation; I’m sure they’ll figure something out.)

It’s a beautiful day … let’s Play Ball!

Embed from Getty Images

“Packing for Spring Training is a pretty easy process. You just throw everything in the bag, throw it in the truck, and hit the road.” ~ Former UVA Cavalier & Current Baltimore Oriole Pitcher Tyler Wilson

Listen to a great interview with Tyler on this week’s Wahoo Central Podcast here.

Baseball Season is Here. ‘Bout Time.

Becomingly Thankful

“Everybody was becomingly thankful.” ~ The Baltimore Sun, November 26, 1897

There’s not a lot of baseball on Thanksgiving.

It’s just turkey and football, isn’t it?

Sure, maybe there’s someone, somewhere having a catch before dinner. But, finding a game – a real game – is hard to do on Thanksgiving.

It was pretty much just turkey and football back in 1897, too. And, it’s been that way every Thanksgiving since.

But, I did find two bits of Thanksgiving baseball in 1897 …

On Thanksgiving Day, the boys of St. Mary’s Industrial School – the school for truants, miscreants, and wayward boys located on the outskirts of Baltimore – mostly played football. But, a few of them played baseball that day. It was a dull and cloudy day, but the rain held off until after dark, so the day was fine enough for outdoor games.

Thanksgiving 1897 was, for the 535 boys of St. Mary’s, “a delightful day,” The Baltimore Sun reported.

The school was still five years away from enrolling its most famous student – George (not-yet-Babe) Ruth who was committed to St. Mary’s by his parents for being incorrigible in 1902.

Babe_Ruth_-_St._Mary's_Industrial_School

Public Domain image (1913)

In 1897, George “Baby” Ruth was just 2 years old and several years away from becoming a star player for St. Mary’s Industrial School. (Here he is in 1913 — back row, center, with his catcher’s gear.)

The Baltimore Orioles also played on Thanksgiving Day 1897.

They had just finished their season in second place and were out on the West Coast on one of those barn-storming “all-star” tours that travelled through warm-weather states in the off-season as a way to make the owners some dough and help players make ends meet.

orioles california tour 1897

Public Domain (1897)

Baltimore Orioles “California Tour” Promotional Photograph. 1897

The Orioles spent their Thanksgiving being beaten 4-3 by the Sacramento Gilt Edges, a California League team.

(The Gilt Edges, by the way, got their name from Sacramento’s Ruhstaller’s Brewery, maker of Gilt Edge beer. The brewery still exists and they still make Gilt Edge.)

gilt edge beer

But for most Americans, Thanksgiving Day 1897 was a day for church-going (“services were most elaborate affairs, and in their magnitude and importance, were only surpassed by the Easter Festivals,” The Washington Post explained) … college football (the University of Virginia beat Carolina in the “South’s Oldest Rivalry” game, 12-0, wahoowa!) … and serving roast turkey dinners with all the usual trimmings to the poor, the infirm, the elderly, and the imprisoned.

Thanksgiving Day back then, it seems, was less a day to count one’s own blessings, but instead was a day to help provide the less fortunate with a belly-filling meal for which they could be thankful.

The Humphrey House, a Jamestown, New York hotel and restaurant, reminded its diners of the blessings of sharing a meal with the poor on their Thanksgiving Day menu.

humphrey house thanksgiving menu 1897

Public Domain, via University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries. (1897)

“They who divide the plenty, By a bounteous Father given, Shall multiply this day the thanks, That sweetly rise to Heaven.” 

(You can see the Humphrey House’s full Thanksgiving menu here.)

As The Baltimore Sun explained, “Many generous-hearted people were anxious that others should find some rays of sunshine in their lives to be grateful for and devoted part of the remaining hours to aiding the poor, sick, or those confined in institutions.”

Baltimore Sun November 26 1897

The Baltimore Sun, November 26, 1897

“Everybody was becomingly thankful.”

That’s how The Baltimore Sun described Thanksgiving Day 1897.

Becomingly thankful.

May we all be becomingly thankful today, too.

 

Messin’ With Texas

It was a long shot. You know, asking Texas teams to knock the Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals out of the post season. Knock them out for no good reason, except, really, for spite.

Spitefulness is not an attractive character trait. I know this, so you can stop with the nose-crinkling.

As an Orioles fan, I can’t root for the Royals who soundly steamrolled the O’s in last year’s ALCS and I can’t root for the Blue Jays because … if for no other reason than their fans always seem to be throwing their beer around and I can’t like an untidy country.

stop throwing things

Even the players begged fans to stop throwing beer. And, they’re a team that likes throwing bats and stuff.

I had hopes for those pesky Houston Astros. I really thought they could squeeze past the Royals.

But, they let me down.

The Texas Rangers over the Blue Jays? Hey, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. But, a girl can dream.

Now, I realize, you just can’t count on Texas.

It is a very big state with, apparently, nothing to show for it.

If you ask the Googler “What is Texas famous for?”, it will tell you … The Alamo, a battle that didn’t go particularly well for the Texans. So really, even Texas can’t come up with anything.

Look, I was only asking a couple of Texas teams to win a couple ball games. And, the Texans let me down. Just like the Alamo.

Now I’m stuck rooting for the National League, and for heaven’s sake, they let their pitchers bat! What is wrong with those people?

I know some of you hipsters are saying, “Hey, what about Janis Joplin?” Texas was horrible to Janis. They can’t be taking credit for her after they bullied her in high school. (For those who will argue for Buddy Holly … yes, you’ve got a point. But, I’m not letting your thoughtfulness mess up this post.)

I can come up with only three good things to ever come out of the state.

1) Texas Toast.

First off, my local grocery has an entire freezer case – the whole thing! – dedicated to Texas toast.

Texas Toast

Imagine that! Those Texas geniuses have saved us the trouble of buttering our own toast! They just freeze the toast with the butter right on it. It’s amazing.

I was feeling kinda bad about trash-talking the state when they’ve gone to all the trouble to freeze toast with the butter already on it.

Then I discovered this. (And, you Texas Toast fans could have told me this and saved me all this trouble.)  It’s not even toast! You still have to take your frozen butter-bread and toast the thing yourself. Which just goes to prove my point. You can’t count on Texas for anything.

New York Texas Toast

Look! Even the Texas Toast is rooting for the Mets!

So, we’re left with …

2) Chris Davis, (born in Longview and now lives in Arlington, Texas).

The (still, for the time-being) Orioles’ Chris Davis hit 47 homeruns this season. That’s more than anyone else.

crush

© The Baseball Bloggess

47 homers. This is one of them.

It wasn’t enough to get the Orioles to the post-season, but it was enough to help give the O’s a solid break-even .500 season, which, when you set the bar very low, isn’t so bad.

Davis is now a free agent, and most baseball smarties believe he will flee Baltimore for the bright lights of a multi-year, multi-million-million-million-dollar payday. Can’t blame him. But, if he does, he’s coming off this list … tossed right beside the unreliable Astros, Rangers, and those boxes of Texas “toast.”

3) Doak Dozier (Ft. Worth).

Doak Dozier is a freshman outfielder at the University of Virginia. With only a few “fall ball” exhibitions under his belt this month, I can’t tell you much about his abilities. But, scouts think he’s got potential.

He has, they say, “outstanding hitting ability. … Always hits.”

“[H]ighly athletic … with a pretty swing and tools to burn.”

Doak Dozier Foul Swing

© The Baseball Bloggess

Nice swing. 

At Arlington Heights High School, he was a baseball star, All-State, and named a “Perfect Game” All-American. Here’s what they were saying during this year’s draft.

I just think he has one of the best names in baseball.

Doak.

(Not as good as Mookie, of course, but better than Hunter Pence.)

That’s really all it takes to make this list today.

In case you think I haven’t done my research, trust me. I now know that silicone breast implants, Fritos, and Dell computers all come from Texas. (I’m writing this on a Dell. Which makes me think I’m really sticking it to ‘em.)

So, you can’t count on Texas. Except for Chris Davis (as an Oriole, but not playing for anyone else), Doak Dozier, maybe, I really don’t know, but he has a nice name, and Buddy Holly. But, that’s it.

Oh, and those bats in Austin. They’re awesome.