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

Season’s Greetings, Nationals Fans! (Finally.)

Dear Washington Nationals Fans,

So, look, I know you may have given up on your Nationals wishing you a Happy Holidays this year, what with their website linking – still … three days after Christmas – to the New York Mets holiday greeting.

oops.

Maybe I was a bit harsh when I kinda-sorta suggested in a recent post that a screw-up like that seemed like a perfect wrap-up of the 2018 Nationals … and so very, very Washington, DC.

But, that was uncalled for. And, I’m sorry if I made you sad.

I’m sure it was just a simple mistake. Let’s blame the interns.

But, I couldn’t stop thinking about you on the holidays – the only fans in baseball that weren’t greeted and thanked for being fans. Even the 115-loss Baltimore Orioles came through to wish me a happy holidays.

(Happy Holidays, Orioles fans. At least we didn’t lose 116!)

Surely, the Nationals couldn’t be that cold. Surely, they didn’t forget you.

They didn’t! Continue reading

The Trouble With The Nationals


Dear Nationals Fan,

Well, hello.

Would you look at us … me, the eternal optimist Orioles fan, holding the door open for you (again) as you step into the train of Off-Season Losers.

Embed from Getty Images

Welcome aboard. We’ve been expecting you.

But, look at the bright side. Twenty-seven other teams will be bunking here with us this winter. (There’s only one team that won’t get on the Loser Train. And, I hope it’s the Braves … they’re jam-packed with former Orioles, you know.)

Continue reading

1884: Those Other Washington Nationals

“We are going to have a genuine baseball revival this season.” –  Lloyd Moxley, 1884.

Lloyd. Lloyd. Lloyd.

God knows you tried.

There you were spending your money on a brand new baseball team, bringing major league baseball to Washington, DC. You had plans. Big plans.

You polished up a ballpark. Paid for a fine team of players.

You filled the schedule with Ladies Days, giving women free admission.

You put comfortable cushions on the seats.

You bought a “giant gong” to announce the start of games.

Sure, you wouldn’t sell alcohol, but who needs beer when you’ve got cigar stands and concessions galore? Continue reading

Baseball’s Perfect Imperfection

I’m embarrassingly non-controversial.

Well, when it comes to baseball anyway. There are no dust-ups here, my opinions are welcoming of all other baseball opinions. I don’t like to argue.

Sure, I have controversial opinions about other stuff.  And, I’m sure you’ll agree I’m right about all of them.

Hash Browns vs. Home Fries.

By Marshall Astor, via Creative Commons 2.0

Home Fries.

Sylvester vs. Tweety.

Sylvester. Please, Tweety sucks.

Serial Comma vs. the Dangerous Anarchy of Punctuation Without The Sanity of the Serial Comma.

Serial Comma, Serial Comma, and Serial Comma.

Continue reading

Dear Nationals Fan

“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.

Ouch.

(Sorry, Team USA Soccer, any Nats fan will tell you that your humiliating loss to Trinidad and Tobago this week, eliminating you from next year’s World Cup, isn’t even close.)

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.

Welcome aboard.

Continue reading

“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.

Continue reading

Free Baseball: Red, White, and Blue Edition

Baseball is the perfect way to spend your Independence Day. But, just in case your guys are the away team today (Dear Orioles, did you forget to pack your bats before you left for Chicago?), here’s some Free Baseball* to keep your game red, white, and blue.

Happy 4th of July!

10th Inning: Silent Cal

We are a nation of mega-mansions, monster trucks, and hotdog eating contests. More is always better. And, because five Racing Presidents weren’t enough for the Washington Nationals, we now have six. Welcome Racing President Calvin Coolidge!

Cal

Coolidge joins Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Taft.

(Add in Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush – all played baseball in college – and you can field your own Racing Presidents baseball team!)

Apparently, Coolidge was not much of a baseball fan, but his wife Grace was. (Impeccable source for this fact? Annoying Nats color guy F.P. Santangelo. If it’s wrong, blame him.)

But, President Coolidge did say: “Baseball is our national game.” Which is about as generic as you can get, but apparently is enough to get a 40-pound felt head built in your likeness.

Oh, and he’s the only U.S. President born on the 4th of July. Happy Birthday, Cal!

Here’s his first race from last night:

cals first race

Watch here.

11th Inning: Vin’s America

Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully can call a game all by himself – no need for color guys. And, he still has time left over to teach you a little history. During last night’s Dodgers-Mets game Vin shared some Star-Spangled Banner stories.

So gather round, listen, and Vin promises, you’ll “learn a little something about our flag.”

vin

Watch here.

12th Inning: Capping It All Off

As usual, all players will wear special 4th of July caps today.

Look, everything’s stars and stripey!

stars stripes cap

orioles cap

Editor/Husband Fashion Review: “Those are horrible. Where’s Betsy Ross when you need her?”

And, don’t worry Toronto Blue Jays, it may not be your special day, but we’ve got something for you, too. Awww, it’s your maple leaf. On a cap.

blue jays cap

Happy Canada Day, three days late, Blue Jays!

13th Inning: Keep Your Critters Safe!

One more thing … The 4th of July is great and so is baseball. But, fireworks stink if you’re an animal. Keep your critters safe!

keep your pets indoors

______________________________________

* Free Baseball refers to extra innings that come after a nine-inning game ends in a tie. Here it’s the extra things that don’t quite fit into my regular-sized posts.

 

Cotton Candy & The Win Streak Ends

The Baltimore Orioles had a four-game win streak through Sunday.

They lost today, 6-4, to the Minnesota Twins.

A new win streak starts tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s a kid eating cotton candy.

??????????

Getting all sticky.

??????????

Eating the entire thing.

??????????

And, then looking both wistful and a tiny bit barfy at the end.

??????????

(Hey, why does cotton candy only come in pink and blue?)

Also from our recent trip to a game at Nats Park in Washington, DC, here are the Racing Presidents.

racing presidents

(George always seems a little embarrassed about the whole running-around thing or maybe he just ate too much cotton candy and is feeling a tiny bit barfy himself.)

Photos: San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals, Nationals Park, Washington, DC.  August 23 and August 24, 2014

(The Giants lost both games, including getting pounded by the Nats on Sunday, 14-6. This may help explain why I spent an entire inning watching a child cover himself in cotton candy. The Giants are currently on a seven-game win streak … and I hope this doesn’t jinx them.)

 

Part 2: Grant Turns Four

“Never forget, there is a heartbeat in this game.” ~ Joe Torre, former player & manager (Baseball Hall of Fame, 2014)

grant

Here’s Grant.

Yesterday, Grant turned four. And, all he wanted to do for his birthday was to play some ball with his dad at the nearby baseball diamond.

We were nearby, too. We had just transported and released a spotted turtle to a lakeside just a few blocks away.

turtle1

(Click here for Part 1 and relive the spotted turtle adventure.)

Just as we were driving off, I saw the baseball diamond.

“Let’s stop here,” I said to Editor/Husband when I spotted the diamond. Or, maybe it was something more like a shouted, “HEY! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU??? STOP!!!” just to make sure we didn’t drive too fast, too far away.

And, that’s where we found Grant and his dad. Playing ball.

Grant would like you to know that he is a Washington Nationals’ fan and Bryce Harper is his favorite player.

Grant has the swagger of a big leaguer. He knows how to swing the bat,

batting

knock the dirt off his cleats, and dig into the batter’s box.

batterup

“When I hit the ball, I do want to hurt it.” ~ Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

hit

He’s got pretty good speed for being only four, and the sort of youthful stamina …

baserunner

… that runs out every home run full-tilt as if it was a thisclose inside-the-parker.

He can slide feet first whether he needs to or not.

safe slide

And, his very first head-first slide into home is documented here.

headslide1

When pitching, he has an intimidating stare …

this is grant

… an unorthodox pitching style that occasionally includes standing behind the rubber …

pitching3

… and the confidence to shake off the catcher whenever necessary.

pitcher4

“I’m really trying to be a pitcher out there. I’m not trying to light up the radar gun all the time.”  ~ Stephen Strasburg, P, Washington Nationals

As for fielding …

“A player running the bases shall be out, if the ball is in the hands of an adversary on the base, or the runner is touched with it before he makes his base; it being understood, however, that in no instance is a ball to be thrown at him. ~ The Knickerbocker Rules, 1845.

fielding

Well, they’re working on that.

“I just like to play the game.” ~ Ryan Zimmerman, INF, Washington Nationals

ballplayer

Happy Birthday, Grant.

You’re why I love baseball.

(Oh, and P.S. I know you love the Nats and all, but couldn’t you just give the Orioles a try?)

Photos: Saturday, May 24, 2014, Fawn Lakes Baseball Diamond, Spotsylvania, Virginia

(Thank you to Grant and his dad, Shane Reid.)

 ________________________________

Part 1 ~ There You Go, Turtle!