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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 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!

He’s a Giant! He’s a Catcher! He’s Busta!

Buster Posey was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player on Thursday. This season Posey had returned after being out more than half of last season after a collision at home plate that left him with a devastating leg injury. Not only did he fully recover, but in 2012 Posey set career highs with a .336 average, 24 homers and 103 RBIs. He helped the San Francisco Giants get to the World Series and win it in four games, becoming the World Champions for the second time in 3 years. Posey is the first catcher in four decades to win the award, determined by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Posey’s 2011 collision

My admiration for catchers is immense. In my opinion, they do the hardest job in the game, squatting for 9 or more innings, up and down, up and down–the physical wear and tear alone is enormous. Then there’s the psychological aspect of managing pitchers, who, as I’ve pointed out before, are frequently psychotic.  

Catchers are underpaid and underrated. Jorge Posadawas my favorite player partly because of his position. I used to call him “Jorge-He-Does-It-All” whenever he hit a clutch home run or a Grand Slam. He was a catcher who hit well.

Jorge Posada

Not superlatively, but well; some catchers can barely connect bat to ball. They’re also notorious for not running very fast on those wobbly “catcher’s legs” that are always going up and down, up and down…okay, no need to belabor the point. It’s a tough job.

That’s why, when a Buster Posey comes along, give credit where credit is due. He’s only 25 and just starting his career–with a bang. It’s going to be fun watching him mature and get even better. Go Buster!

Slideshow: Baseball’s Greatest Catchers

 

SF Giants Sweep Detroit Tigers to Become 2012 World Series Champs

 

Giants Win

After Game 1, all bets were off. I never expected them to win, or come anywhere near winning, that first game. When Detroit announced Justin Verlander as their first starting pitcher—no surprise—I  mentally crossed off Game One. This was even before I knew Zito was the opposing pitcher—when I learned that, the deal was sealed. So when the Giants turned out to be the only team in the Majors that can actually hit Verlander, nothing was etched in stone anymore. Then again, with baseball it never is.

As much as I wanted the Giants to win here at home, and as much as I wanted to see Barry Zito give another sterling performance, losing two games might have demoralized them and stopped their incredible drive to victory, so I rooted for the final win in Detroit last night—and got it. That was another magical event in this series: nobody expected the Giants to beat Detroit in their own house. When they left San Francisco on Monday, a lot of fans prepared themselves for a possible loss or two by looking forward to the win and celebration next Tuesday. Then we got it last night; the team was geographically far away, but still in our hearts, as well as on a Jumbotron in Civic Center. I wonder if other cities televise their teams’ games in big public plazas? If I’d forgotten SF is special, I was reminded of it last night.

About that magic: the Giants were inexplicably sensational. Every time they hit a home run it was a stunning surprise, maybe ‘cause they just kept hitting them. Every time they put a Tiger out of business, the play was so unlikely that its victim recoiled in disbelief and stomped, scowling, off the field. Magic: Pablo Sandoval hit three—count ‘em, 3—home runs in Game One, becoming the fourth player in the history of the game to do so; the others are Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols. That’s Pablo Panda Kung Fu, the guy who contributed hardly anything to the 2010 series and was so out of shape he was told to deal with it…or else. Magic: Barry Zito, left out of the 2010 World Series, was front and center this time and pitched the best game of his life. Magic: The same pitcher who rarely hits, did hit two of Verlander’s unhittables at key moments.

The Elite World Series Triple-Home Run Club: Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols, Pablo Sandoval

 

Victory is sweet. The SF Giants are World Champions for the second time in 3 seasons, and they’re the only players who can hit Justin Verlander! Word is he was last seen checking into some kind of rest home to get over the trauma.

Is Baseball Losing Its Heart?

Miguel Tejada. © Rubenstein, photographer Mart...

Image via Wikipedia

(Photo: Miguel Tejada)

This season baseball fans have been witness to a sad spectacle as Jorge Posada, Yankee catcher for over 15 years and undoubtedly in his final year as a pro, was first thrown out of the catchers’ position and then taken out of the lineup indefinitely. Fortunately, the fans went crazy supporting Posada with standing ovations and signs professing their love, so he’s occasionally allowed up at bat now. But it’s been disheartening to see a long-time loyal team player be roughed up and unappreciated.

Last week the SF Giants dumped Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada for lackluster season performances. Being older veterans of the game, chances are they’re not going anywhere else. Tejada is an icon of major league baseball, a kid who rose from abject poverty in the Dominican Republic to become a great shortstop beloved by teammates and fans alike. His story is so emblematic of the DR kids who eat, sleep, and breathe baseball in hopes of making it in America one day as a player that several children’s stories and bio’s have been written about him. For his rags-to-riches story to end like this is sad. Sad and shameful.

Baseball is known for swimming in sentimental swill over everything from the American flag to the retirement of an announcer. While it can sometimes be a bit much, we’ve come to expect regularly scheduled sobfests on the diamond; I for one usually find myself caught up in whatever event is being milked for all it’s worth. Given this propensity for emotion, it seems strange and cruel that someone like Miguel Tejada should go out on such an ignominious ending. And despite an extensive search I could find no sports writers expressing regret or sadness about it; almost everyone is cheering the Giants for “finally” making the decision to “get rid of dead weight.”

Could baseball be losing its heart as it continues down the path of greed and wins at any cost? Is it going to become a game where the bottom line is produce or get lost? Of course, it already is; but will it get even more heartless? After all, this is the sport with “Ya Gotta Have Heart” as one of its most famous anthems. The sport in which most teams host an annual old-timer’s game, during which guys who played 30 or more years ago toddle onto the field to weakly throw a pitch and get wildly applauded. This is the sport that honors its human resources.

Let’s hope Posada, Tejada, and Rowand get more of a farewell than they’ve been shown so far, and that baseball starts wearing its heart on its sleeve again.

Ya Gotta Have Heart

You’ve gotta have heart
All you really need is heart

When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win
That’s when the grin should start.

You’ve gotta have hope
Mustn’t sit around and mope
Nothin’s half as bad as it may appear
Wait’ll next year and hope.

When your luck is battin’ zero
Get your chin up off the floor
Mister you can be a hero
You can open any door,
there’s nothin’ to it but to do it

You’ve gotta have heart
Miles ‘n miles n’ miles of heart
Oh, it’s fine to be a genius of course
But keep that old horse
Before the cart
First you’ve gotta have heart

“Heart,” from Damn Yankees

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