“The Lost Ballplayers of Orange”: Sept. 30 at the Orange County Historical Society

This happened:

Not long ago, I was seated at dinner across from a college-aged pitcher. Making small talk’s not my thing, but I gave it a go. I asked him what he was studying. “History,” he said, between bites of food. “Interesting! What era of history is your specialty?” Maybe I was the first to ever ask him that. When you’re a pitcher, people are probably more interested in your fastball than in your class schedule. He thought for a moment and finally he said, “I like studying war.”

Welp.

I told him that I liked history, too, and that I often wrote about baseball history.

His eyes briefly grew big. And then he said, “Wow. I didn’t know you could do that.”

Then he went back to his dinner and that was the end of that.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t realize baseball even had a history worth knowing.

But it is worth knowing. Baseball’s long history provides a unique reflection of who we are as a nation, as a culture, as a society.

And, there’s plenty of baseball history right here in Virginia.

Join me, The Baseball Bloggess, on Monday, September 30 at the Orange County Historical Society in downtown Orange, Virginia. I’ll be talking about – what else? – baseball history …

160 Games: The Lost Ballplayers of Orange Continue reading

The Troubling Story Of Baseball’s Douglas Neff

I could tell you about baseball.

I could tell you that Douglas Neff – or D.W. Neff, as he was called from time to time – was a star athlete at the University of Virginia, played 33 big league games in 1914 and ’15 for the Washington Nationals, then retired, fought in a war, and faded into the much-less-documented world of ordinary life.

I could tell you about Harrisonburg, Virginia where Neff, the son of a prominent local doctor, was born in 1891.

Harrisonburg is on the “other” side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the western edge of Virginia.

I could tell you about Boboko, Harrisonburg’s tiny Indonesian restaurant and its delicious food, which you will find just across the street from the Harrisonburg Farmers Market.

Delicious.

Neff’s childhood home is gone. But, I can show you where it once was.

Here …

… where this parking lot is now – also across from the Farmers Market.

Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University, with 21,000 students, and Eastern Mennonite University, with 1,100 more. Add another 54,000 residents, and Harrisonburg has sprawled so big and so wide that it now has two – two! – Walmarts.

Like this – only sprawlier.

I had it all planned out – to tell you about Neff and baseball, and Harrisonburg and Boboko, the tiny Indonesian restaurant.

But, some things don’t go as planned. Continue reading

“All Up For The Lucky Seventh”

There are three lessons I hope you will learn from The Baseball Bloggess today:

1) The Seventh Inning Stretch has a special place in baseball history. It’s been around longer than you have. It’s what sets baseball apart from sports that make no demands of its fans.

2) The Seventh Inning Stretch is not a suggestion. It is not an invitation. It is a requirement. It is a job. Your job. All the instruction that you need can be found in its title. During the seventh inning, you stretch. It’s not hard to figure out. It’s not the balk rule, people. It’s simple.

Who – You.

What – Stretch.

Where – Are you here? Then, here.

When – The Seventh Inning.

Even a cat could figure it out.

3) Sitting can kill. Continue reading

New Year’s Rulin’s

First of all, New Year’s Resolutions are stupid.

Because if you waited an entire year to decide you need to make some major life change, because, while unpleasant, you know it will be good for you, then why did you wait until today to start it?

I’ll tell you why. Because you don’t want to do it. That’s why. And, eventually, we don’t do the things we don’t want to do.

So, resolutions stink when you make them – because they are things you don’t want to do. And, they stink even more when you fail at them – because now you’re a failure.

Resolutions just stink.

But, there are always exceptions. Woody Guthrie wrote these – his “New Year’s Rulin’s” for 1942.

I can’t tell you if he kept them, but I’m hopeful he at least took the occasional bath and sent money to his kids.

Continue reading

“Welcome Fans!”

“Virginia is a team that more than deserved to be a very high seed and host a regional. Why that didn’t happen, I don’t know.” ~ Jim Schlossnagle, Coach, Texas Christian University Horned Frogs

Last Sunday, the NCAA named its 16 host teams for their post-season Regional Tournaments which began yesterday.

The University of Virginia — ranked #13 in the country by D1 Baseball, #11 in USA Today‘s Coaches Poll, and #10 in the Baseball Writers Poll — was not among them.

In the scope of injustices in this world, the NCAA’s slight is plenty misguided, sure, but still pretty teeny-tiny.

And, sure you can argue that Virginia is still one of the 64 teams competing in the post-season this weekend. Look at poor Miami, left out for the first time in 44 years.

Yes, you can argue that at least Virginia gets to play today.

(Don’t try to make me feel better. I’m steamed about this.)

Continue reading