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!

 

Baseball Free …

??????????

Things I’ve learned in the past three baseball-less weeks.

Did you know it only takes four seconds to put the toilet paper roll on the hanger in the bathroom?  I had forgotten that that’s what that little wall bracket thingy is for. Did you know that you can do that every time you start a new roll?

Now, with no baseball to watch, I suddenly have all sorts of time to do the things that I haven’t done for awhile.

Like catch up on my People magazines.

??????????

Have you heard the news? Kim and Kanye are getting married! Ahhh, precious young love. So sweet and pure and true.

(Dear San Francisco Giants, you should be ashamed … whoring out AT&T Park like that. But, don’t worry, Hunter Pence, I still love you.)

Hunter Baseball Camp2

“If you wanna be a Hunter’s Hitter, you’re gonna have a lot of movement. Like a hungry man chasing a taco.”

(Really, you must watch this. Now. I’ll wait.)

And, tidy up the workplace.

These linens don’t wash themselves.

??????????

(Warning To Future Massage Therapists: This is three days’ worth of laundry. They don’t tell you about this in Massage School, do they?  Yeh, happy folding, Sucker.)

And, look what happened while I was watching baseball … the barn is finished!

good morning barn2

And, in fairness to Barn Dude, he did finish it before the World Series, just as he promised. (Hey, Barn Dude, are you reading this? I still need a shelf in there!)

Cold, heavy rain all last night. It’s clearly not baseball season anymore. So, I was just about to count the days until Pitchers and Catchers report (78) when this Tweet from Jaye popped up.

jaye tweet

I only have a few Twitter followers, and most of them are obscure overseas marketers trying to sell me something – like saris. Apparently, I’m the only Yoga teacher who doesn’t wear a Sari.

(But, I’ll wear a Sari before I’ll ever wear Lululemon.)

Jaye is a blogger, too. And, a really good one … read her, ok?

Her Tweet reminded me that I hadn’t written in awhile. Mainly because what is there to say on a baseball blog when there is no baseball?

The bulk of off-season baseball stories are about players seeking tens of millions of dollars.

(Which is better than stories about players being bullies. So, there is that.)

Or, the Washington Nationals asking the D.C. government to give them $300 million for a retractable roof.

Which leads me to these points.

Point #1. If you can’t play baseball outside, then maybe you shouldn’t be playing baseball. (Florida and Arizona, you have Spring Training … ALL the teams are there every spring.  And, you have the Fall League! Isn’t that enough for you?) And, Houston Astros, if the Texas Rangers can play outside, why can’t you? (And, Toronto, Seattle, Milwaukee? Oh, never mind …)

Point #2. Really, Nationals? A retractable roof is going to put you in the playoffs? Why not spend $300 million on Robinson Cano? Or, two Carlos Beltrans?

Editor/Husband says that $300 million for a retractable roof seems reasonable to him. (This conversation really happened: Me: “Hey, you can have 30 Jim Johnsons for that.” He: “If only he were retractable.” “I don’t know what that means.” “I don’t either.”)

Point #3. The Mayor laughed at the Nats’ request. Laughed. And, someone in his office said the roof would be “butt ugly.” So, uh, I guess that means no roof?

Point #4. Editor/Husband says my stubbornness about indoor baseball is similar to the outcry over lights at baseball parks and the first night games. The first major league night game was in 1935. (He remembers this? Editor/Husband is much older than I thought.)

??????????

Lights. Clouds. Sky.

Things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving? Just 78 days ’til Pitchers & Catchers report.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Jamie the Yankees Fan.

Most animals find numbers and basic math uninteresting (Cat: “Who sent you here? Go away.”) or irrelevant (Dog: “I either had one treat or 50 treats out of the bag there on the floor, it’s hard to say for sure. I have to go barf on your shoes now.”)

But, not baseball fans. We love numbers and statistics. Wins, losses, batting averages are just a start. ERA.  RBI. WAR, WHIP, WPA.  Yeh, I know, it’s annoying.

Chris Davis’ batting average when wearing an orange jersey? .407 (through June anyway)

orange jersey

A Word Press editor recently suggested that bloggers check their page view numbers no more than once a week.

How can I twist my page views into obscure, meaningless statistics about my self-worth and popularity, if you won’t even let me look at them?

I check my statistics daily. Sometimes every couple hours. (I just checked them.) I don’t want to miss a single page view.

page view 2

Hey look, it’s you and me!

So, it didn’t get past me when my “Followers/Subscribers” number hit 999 earlier this week.

999

If you blog, you know how sketchy this number is.

Barry Bonds hit 762 home runs in his career. I have 999 followers.

(Here’s a stat: I have more followers than Barry Bonds has home runs.)

But, both numbers are juiced. Barry Bonds used steroids. I get followed mostly by spammers and a baffling number of non-English speakers. Welcome, “callgirlsdubai”!

But, still … a milestone IS a milestone, even if it is meaningless.

So, I put out the word to my friends – follow my blog and help me reach 1,000. And, almost immediately Jamie did.

I love Jamie. She is wonderful.

She is follower 1,000.

I decided then and there that I would write a blog post in her honor. Here we go.

Jamie has two dogs, two cats, and one husband.

And, here’s what she told me about baseball:

We have a big baseball conflict in our house. I’m a hardcore Yankees girl, and Jaremy lives, eats and breathes the Red Sox. Our compromise is the Nationals.

I have always said that 100 percent (look, more numbers!) of Nationals fans are default “fans”. They’re really fans of other teams, but since they’re near Washington, DC, oh hell, they might as well root for the Nats since they’ve got nothing better to do. Jamie has proven me 100 percent correct. (I told you, she is wonderful.)

Jamie

Yankees fans.

Red Sox Fan. Tigers fan.

Red Sox Fan. Tigers fan.

So to honor Jamie, I will write five nice things about her Yankees. (If you’ve come looking for my post on Yankees jokes … please click here.)

OK, sigh, here we go.*

Five nice things about the Yankees

1)

Public Domain

Babe Ruth. Public Domain Image

Babe Ruth.

He was born in Baltimore. Played briefly for an early incarnation of the Orioles … and bestowed one of the very best curses on the Red Sox that you’ll ever see. (Once the Curse of the Bambino ran out – and by god it had a good run – the Red Sox started winning, getting all uppity, and growing facial hair. Still, it’s not too late for the Babe to re-wallop them with another good Bambino-sized curse from the great beyond. Come on, it’ll be fun.)

2) Yogi Berra.

yogi berra

Yogi Berra. Public Domain Image

The Yankees catcher was the inspiration for Yogi Bear. And, who doesn’t love Yogi Bear?

Yogi_Bear_don't_feed_the_bears

1961, Courtesy of the National Archives ID #286013

I once had a cat named Yogi, who was named after Yogi Bear. He was a darn good cat.

Yogi. Cat.

Yogi. Cat.

3) If you follow the family tree, the New York Yankees were originally the Baltimore Orioles.

That New York stole the original Orioles from Baltimore (for a paltry $18,000 in 1903) is not surprising. In 2000, the Yankees stole pitcher Mike Mussina from the Orioles (he cost the Yanks $88.5 million).  (I’m still pretty upset about this.)

mike mussina

4) The Yankees have won 27 World Series titles. (The Orioles have won three.)

5) George Costanza used to work there.

I know I don’t really have 1,000 readers, but maybe I have a few. Quality over quantity is my motto. I’m glad you’re one of them.

* Please don’t think I’ve gone soft on the Yankees, people. Jeffrey Maier will never be forgotten.

#1: Home Sweet Home ~ Spring Training in Charlottesville, VA

In baseball – as in life – the goal is to come home.

Spring Training ended Saturday.  Opening Day is (officially) Monday.

Hope Springs Eternal.

I have one spot left on my top five Spring Training series.

And, I come home to Charlottesville, Virginia.

It isn’t home. Not exactly. But, it’s just a few minutes up the road and that’s close enough.

Charlottesville isn’t the most amazing or the most interesting or the most historic Spring Training location.

No Babe Ruth. No Jackie Robinson. No island, no dance hall.

Charlottesville is my #1 Spring Training place, not because of what happened here, but because it’s home. And, every home should have somewhere to warm up your baseball bones.

Between 1890 and 1916, many teams spent Spring Training in Charlottesville.

The Boston Reds in the 1890s. The Boston Beaneaters (today, the Atlanta Braves). The young Boston Red Sox. The Washington Senators (who had officially changed their name to the Nationals in 1901, but who everyone still called the Senators, until the team just gave up and changed it back in the 1950s. So really, call them whatever you like here).

The Washington Post

The Washington Post

Teams unpacked at Wright’s Hotel near the train station (it was later the Clermont and is now the Starr Hill Building). Or, they rented local fraternity houses.

They trained on cold and snowy days – and there were plenty of them in March – indoors at Fayerweather Gymnasium (now home to the University of Virginia Department of Art). It was a state-of-the-art facility with one of the longest indoor tracks in the country.

They played at UVa’s Lambeth Field, which one reporter at the time called “the best college field.” (It’s still in use today for intramural sports).

Lambeth Field, Charlottesville. Early 20th-century. Photo Courtesy of UVa Small Special Collections Library

Lambeth Field, Charlottesville. Early 20th-century. Photo Courtesy of UVa Small Special Collections Library

Walter “Big Train” Johnson, one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game, spent a couple Spring Trainings there as a National/Senator. (How good was he? He would win more than 30 games a season – twice – and consistently had an ERA around a sinful 1.50. Yeh, The Big Train was good.)

Teams jogged through Charlottesville as part of their training. They played games against UVa’s team. They took day trips to Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, and rode the trolley to Fry’s Springs resort, known for its healing mineral baths and “Wonderland” amusement park.

Continue reading