RSS Feed

Category Archives: Baseball

Baseball Then and Now

Posted on

YankeeStadium

Last night my son and I watched a video of Game 4 of the 1969 World Series, in which the Mets won a sweeping victory over the Baltimore Orioles. For me, the game was interesting more from a sociological perspective than as baseball history. Following are the social changes I noticed between then and now.

(1) The players on both teams were primarily, possibly exclusively, black and white, i.e., none that I noticed were Hispanic, as opposed to comprising nearly 30% of all major league players today.

(2) Tom Seaver pitched a full ten innings, having pitched, the announcer said, just two days ago. These days starting pitchers get four or five days’ rest, and rarely go beyond seven innings.images

(3) The game was played in full sunlight. There hasn’t been a World Series day game since 1987.

(4) The fans were, to my eye, 95% male adults; these days as many women and kids attend games.

(5) The fans were mostly dressed in suits and ties, which brings me to…

(6) These days when the camera pulls back for a view of the fans, we see a virtual ocean of the home team’s color; in the case of the Mets, it’s blue, because fans are wearing Mets caps, shirts, jackets, etc. That a wide shot of the stadium in 1969 showed no such continuity indicates that fan gear wasn’t the big business it is today.

(6) Finally, fans were avidly smoking in their seats. No comment.Pap Smear

 

Advertisements

Baseball Players’ Superstitions

baseball heartBaseball just might be the sport with the most superstitious lot of players. Bleacher Report lists the top 50 strangest. Here’s a sampling:

jason-giambi-1-sized

Jason Giambi puts on a gold thong whenever he’s in a slump.

Moises Alou pees on his batting gloves, supposedly to make  them tougher, when he is in a slump.

Mark Teixeira  developed a recent superstition when a sock of CC Sabathia’s  accidentally ended up in his locker, Mark had unknowingly put on one sock with the correct  #25, and one with the #52, and didn’t notice until the game had started; after he had one of the better games of his career—two home runs and six RBI’s—he decided to don two different sox in all future games.mark-teixeira-540x370

Hitters often like to get close to their bats. Occasionally this will occur with pitchers as well. Pitcher R.A. Dickey takes his choice of bats very seriously, naming  each one of them with creative monikkers.

Turk Wendell, who signed a contract with the Mets in 2000 for $ 9,999,999.99,took 99 as his player number.

Tim Lincecum wore the same cap his first five  seasons in MLB.210px-Tim_Lincecum_2008

Wade Boggs would take batting practice at precisely 5:17 when plating at night. He would also take  150 grounders, no more and no less, during warm-ups.

 BaseballFanBy the way, we fans are just as superstitious: I’m not the only one who worries my team lost because I failed to watch them, or is sure when I’m on the case they’re apt to win!

Baseball Returns

Posted on

 

YankeeStadium

Here we go again! It’s baseball season, and all I can do is grumble. You’d think I was a Mets fan, or that my team was any one of a number of basement dwellers, the way I feel. I’m a Yankee fan, I’m supposed to be on top of the world all the time—that’s what ol’ G. Steinbrenner demanded, win the World Series every year or you’re losers. Okay, that, I think, went a little too far in wrecking morale. Still, he may have been a tyrant, but what’s gone on since Georgie’s demise is a nightmare.

As the 2014 season opens, I am facing the loss of Mariano Rivera (gracefully retired), Andy Pettite (ditto), Curtis Granderson (sold to the Mets by some moron in the Yankee org) and Robinson Cano (also moronically sold). Even outside of the Yankees I face a heavy loss: Barry Zito, former Oakland A and SF Giant, one of my favorite players and human beings, seems to have vanished after the Giants failed to renew his contract (and who could blame them? But that’s another story.Zito2012

 

 

 

DerekJeter

Last but not least, as we raise the curtain on another year of baseball, the one Yankee remaining on the team that saw its last period of glory during the late ’90s and early ’00s, Derek Jeter, announced this year as his Swan Song—so don’t bother shouting “Next year!” if things hit bottom. And, indeed, the guys lost their first game yesterday against one of my most hated teams, the F.O.B. (Friends of Bush) Houston Astros.

My allegiance to the New York Yankees is, like some people’s allegiance to a particular religion, by birth and by choice. I’m a Yankee fan by birth: I was born in the Bronx. But I chose to be a Yankee fan because in this one area of life, unlike politics and a few others I’ll decline to mention here, with the Bronx Bombers I get to be a winner more often than not. Unlike the hapless Met fan, I get to experience joy more frequently than pain. At least, that was the deal for decades. Now my Yankee fandom is going the way the aging experience goes: it’s all about loss, as beloved players and managers leave. No choice have I but to butch it out and adjust, the way I do over the loss of teeth and energy.

One thing I don’t have to lose, though, is hope: the Yankees might be great this year. As the little kid in Angels in the Outfield says of the improbable all throughout the movie, “Hey, it could happen!”

rivera-patch

 

So Play Ball!

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

 

Baseball Season Winds Down…or Up For Some

Baseball Season Winds Down…or Up For Those Who Only Watch Post-Season Games

TGIO! Thank God It’s October!BaseballFan

I never thought I’d utter such heresy, but for the New York Yankees the 2013 season was the worst in recent memory, and stats will no doubt prove it. Talk about injuries! The dugout in the Bronx was like the Emergency Room at Bellevue.  Every time a supposedly healed player returned, another one went down—and sometimes, as in the case of Captain Jeter and his stubborn ankle, the same guy came and went the same day. These guys probably had more emotional pain than physical. I sure did.

When the Mets swept the Yanks in a four-game series, they had the grace and humility to recognize they hadn’t actually swept the Yankees, but, as I came to call them, a bunch of Strangers on the Field. In fact, the thrown-together, ragtag, rotating players did pretty well considering their experience and team cohesion, or lack of both. They fought bravely to the last, nearly making it to the playoffs as a wild card—but didn’t.

And now the Playoffs. As noted up above, some people don’t even watch baseball until things heat up for the post-season. Players pull out all the stops come October, and the games are their most exciting. Each year, it seems, more and more teams compete to get into the World Series, as MLB comes up with more new ideas to make it happen, crowding the field with more wild cards than a poker game among six-year-olds.

Big PapiNow we’re down to just four teams, two from each league, both in the midst of the semi-final battle. In the National League it’s the LA Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals, while in the American League it’s the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. I care more about the American League, given who’s playing, but I don’t care so much who wins as I do  who should not win. Which is obvious: as a Yankee fan I’m fervently hoping the Sox go down soon with as much humiliation as possible (with the exception of Big Papi–one of my favorite players, he’s allowed to do well as long as he doesn’t win it for them). This year in particular, after what the Yankees and their fans have been through, it will be devastating if the Sox take the WS title. Besides, the only bright spot in the whole of a bankrupt, dying Detroit is their baseball team. So go Tigers! Whip their butts! Whip ’em good!

As for the National League, I’m not fond of the Dodgers and their violent fans, one or more (the perpetrator still hasn’t been caught) of whom severely beat up a Giants fan on opening day two years ago, compromising the workings of his brain. Before an LA fan jumps in here to deliver the news that a Dodger fan was recently murdered on a San Francisco street—I know this. So? It doesn’t lessen the vileness of the first incident or make it right. Let’s hope these crazy morons call it even, and the guy didn’t die entirely for nothing.

Chair of Broken Dreams

The other 2013 story, in the Bronx if not in all of MLB—no, it isn’t A-Rod and his steroids and lawsuit–it’s Mariano Rivera’s season-long farewell. It was such a heartwarming event, or series of events, it almost made us forget what else was going on. Rivera is probably the only player in all of baseball who’s respected and even loved universally. The gifts, the accolades, the notes, the speeches, the donations to Rivera’s charity—every time the Yanks showed up in another city, we got another wonderful story, like the Chair of Broken Dreams or Mariano as Pizza Man delivering to stadium staff. What a trip! What a guy! This is one player who is irreplaceable, and will be greatly missed. So will Andy Pettite, who only announced his retirement a few days before the season closed. Maybe he didn’t want to steal Mariano’s thunder…but Pettite’s also well regarded throughout baseball. Remember the Core Four?  Jeter, Posada, Pettite and Rivera—they played together for something like 18 years. And now there is one. I sure hope his ankle heals by next season!

As my son, a diehard Mets fan says every October, Wait until next year! This is the first time I’ve been forced to say it. Come on, all you broken-hearted Yankee fans. Take a deep breath. Repeat after me:

WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR!

 

 

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball.  
I’ll tell you what I do. 
I stare out the window and wait for spring. 
 ~Rogers Hornsby

Baseball Midseason / Rivera’s Long Goodbye

Posted on
English: Baseball with clock to represent a &q...

Baseball with clock represents a current sports or baseball event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Baseball fans of my blog might have noticed that posts on that topic have been more sparse than usual this season. I’ve been kind of disinterested this year thanks to the dismal state of Team Yankee—if I’ve written anything on baseball, it’s been about that. A 3-game run against the Boston Red Sox begins Friday, starring the ragtag group I call Strangers on the Field–and here comes the cherry on top of this mess: no Robinson Cano in the series: he was hit by pitch at the All-Star Game (which is why, incidentally, some players don’t attend the ASG). Some might see the situation as pure happenstance, nobody’s fault—but there are a few moves management made that contributed to the situation, like getting rid of Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher. I know, I know: a lot of fans were in favor of the moves, in particular of dumping Swish. Not me. I’m not big on lateral trades and team re-organization. I need look no further than my own backyard for evidence: the Oakland As are in an eternal state of flux, always doing yet another re-org.

The All-Star Game was played at CitiField this week, with the American League the winner. The big event this year was a farewell to Mariano Rivera. Manager Jim Leyland sent him to the mound in the 8th inning, in case they didn’t play a  9th, to ensure he’d be out there for a planned tribute. When The Sandman reached the mound he was surprised to be the only player out there. The rest of them were in front of the dugouts leading a standing ovation. Rivera later said it was a highlight of his 19-year career, second only to his World Series wins. (More on Rivera’s farewell tour later).

Red Carpet Parade

Red Carpet Parade

Playing host to Major League Baseball, New York pulled out all the stops, beginning with carpets on Times Square for the Red Carpet Parade in which players rode through the Canyon of Heroes.

NPR’s sportscaster (sorry, I never got his name) delivered a mid-season recap starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates, which he defined as the season’s Big Story.  Having paid less attention (i.e., none) to the Pirates than to the Yankees, I hadn’t noticed. It’s true that after 20 losing seasons, they seem to be turning things around. More  Pirates—5 of them–played in the All-Star game than at any time since 1972, and their pitching staff leads the majors in shutouts. Still, his report was somewhat skewed.

AllStar Game logo

For instance, he paid special attention to California, saying our teams aren’t up to snuff, particularly last year’s champions, the SF Giants. We’ve also had poor performances from the Anaheim…excuse me, Los Angeles Angels and the Brooklyn…excuse me, Los Angeles Dodgers. Well? Does anyone else notice a glaring omission? Not one mention of the Oakland A’s, who IMO are as Big a Story as the Pirates: any time a team as poor as the A’s lands on top of their division for most of the season, it’s a Big Story.

Finally, he ignored the Yankees, except to say he “usually talks too much about them” (to me there’s no such thing). And he also ignored the Mets, which is indefensible considering they hosted the ASG, which he was in New York to cover. Arggh! Commentators! 

Rivera’s Long Goodbye

English: Photo courtesy of Keith Allison on Fl...

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr. Mariano Rivera  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most fans are no doubt aware of Mariano Rivera’s impending retirement and the way he’s saying his goodbyes. Rivera’s been thinking it over for some time, and with the Yankees’ director of communications, Jason Zillo, came up with a plan to visit the people who work for each team—administrative staff, chefs, janitors, refreshment vendors—doing something different before the games. He delivered a pizza to the offices of the Oakland A’s, sat around in a suite talking baseball in Minnesota with invited guests that included, among others, the team chef , and hung around outside some parks holding baseball rap sessions with local  kids. Reported The New York Times: “With all their money and success, the Yankees may be the most widely disliked team in baseball. A rival executive once branded them the Evil Empire, and few people came to their defense. But in stadium conference rooms and offices, Rivera thanks rival fans, charms them, regales them, awes them. And he turns many Yankees haters into admirers.”

The teams, even arch rivals, (I can hardly wait to see what the Red Sox offer!) are showing enormous respect for the best closer of all time by giving him farewell gifts and donating to the Mariano Rivera Foundation, which focuses on the needs of children in his home country of Panama. As I reported a few days ago, the Twins outdid them all with The Chair of Broken Dreams.

For the past decade my favorite players were Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera—who together were the Yankees’ closing battery, a team within a team. Posada was pushed out two years ago and I’ve missed him like crazy. Now goes Rivera. (Going soon: Derek Jeter.) I’m not sure how I’m going to withstand the loss.

What Mariano Rivera is doing with his final season is unprecedented—then again, his whole career has been unprecedented. No pitcher in history, as far as I know, ever built a remarkable record with one—count it, one!—kind of pitch. Rivera says God gave him his cutter. As a non-believer, all I can say is what Shakespeare said in Hamlet:

“There are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Mariano Rivera

(sung to the tune of “Maria”)

Mariano—

I just saw a pitcher named Mariano

And suddenly I see how wonderful a pitch

Can be.

Mariano—

I just saw a closer named

Mariano

And suddenly the game

will never ever be the same to me.

Mariano

Pitch it fast

And they just can’t hit it

Pitch it slow

And the catcher will catch it.

Mariano

I’ll never stop loving

Mariano………

{sing operatically}

Ninth inning–

Mariano!