No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.
On this day in 1973 in Kansas City, Angels pitcher Nolan Ryan threw his first no-hitter in a 3-0 victory over the Royals. It would be the first of seven no-hitters that Ryan would throw over the course of his career — a Major League record. His second no-no would come only two months later against the Tigers in Detroit.
Here’s a poem written in 1978 by May Swenson that provides a simple, yet surprisingly intimate, look at the intricacies of the game. I particularly enjoy the choppy rhythm of the piece, and it really feels like an accurate portrayal of the game. Yes, baseball is, on the surface, a simple game. But when you take the time to really delve into it, it is the details of the game that capture the hearts and imaginations of its fans.
and the mitt.
bat, or it
hit ball, bat
off bat, flies
air, or thuds
to take bat’s
keep the date.
Ball goes in
(thwack) to mitt,
and goes out
ball gets hit
(pow) when bat
to a place
has to quit
and the fans.
on a diamond,
and for fun.
home, and it’s
Even early baseball history had its chuckle-worthy moments.
At South End Grounds in Boston, on 12 May 1884, Umpire Van Court calls a Detroit Wolverines batter out on a foul tip. The Wolverines are enraged by the call, however, arguing that the ball clearly had not been caught by the Beaneaters’ catcher, Mike Hines. Rather, the contested strike three ball was lodged in the Boston catcher’s mask.
I have to confess, part of my motivation for posting this story has to do with the team names. You don’t see names as creative as the “Beaneaters” in Major League Baseball these days.
“My job isn’t to strike guys out. It’s to get them out, sometimes by striking them out.” ~Tom Seaver
“Relax, all right? Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic.” ~Crash Davis, Bull Durham
Two one-hitters were thrown in baseball yesterday.
Boston’s Jon Lester threw his one-hit shutout against the Toronto Blue Jays. It would have been a perfect game, except for the sixth-inning double given up to Maicer Izturis. Retiring 27 of 28 batters using only 118 pitches, Lester improved his season record to 5-0.
Meanwhile, in St. Louis, rookie right-hander Shelby Miller started off the game by giving up a single to Colorado’s Eric Young, but then proceeded to retire the next 27 batters. Miller recorded thirteen strikeouts during the game, eight of which were called, and improved his record to 5-2.
Congratulations to these two gentlemen on their fine performances.
Being a Cubs fan is tough, and this year is not any different. With their record currently sitting at 13-21, the Chicago Cubs occupy last place in the National League Central. The last time the Cubs won a World Series? 1908. The last time the Cubs went to the World Series? 1945.
Nevertheless, Cubs fans remain intensely loyal to their team, a quality that I cannot help but admire from afar. But why? Why root for a team that has not brought home a championship in over 100 years?
Some argue that it is a result of the aesthetics of Wrigley Field that keep fans coming back. I can understand this, for sure. On a spring break trip to Chicago one year, I was able to view Wrigley from the Sears Tower, and even from there, I was excited by the opportunity. It is a ballpark full of history, being home to the Cubs since 1916. Prior to that, it was known as Weeghman Park, built in 1914 on grounds once occupied by a seminary. For those first two years, the ballpark served as the home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. Wrigley is famous even today for its ivy-covered walls in the outfield and its old school scoreboard.
It could be that fans are drawn to the history of the team itself. Established in 1876, the Cubs are considered to be the oldest team in the Major League Baseball, having existed in the same city for the entire history of the franchise. The club has boasted of players such as Albert Spalding, Sammy Sosa, Greg Maddux, Cap Anson, and Ernie Banks (a wholly incomplete list, but you understand the brevity).
Some folks have pointed out that it could be the other forms of entertainment in Wrigleyville that keeps fans coming back. Surrounded by residential area and a lively bar scene, Wrigley Field is located within walking distance of a game day party for Chicagoans. After all, baseball and beer have a long history together as well. It kind of takes away from the romanticism of the die-hard Cubs fan, but it could very well be a contributing factor.
Or it could just be that Chicago is a town full of loyal baseball fans. The city does, after all, play host to two MLB teams, and has done so for a good chunk of its history. Even the White Sox experienced a World Series drought of its own from 1917 to 2005. But even if one is drawn to the notion of rooting for the underdog, why would one choose the Cubs over the White Sox?
Perhaps the answer lies in the sense of community that comes with being a Cubs fan. Their fan base arguably is far more outreaching than that of the White Sox. Somehow, the feeling of kinship between Cubs fans is stronger than it is with perhaps any other team in baseball. When one thinks of the Cubs, one does not merely think of the baseball team itself. The words “Chicago Cubs” also evoke thoughts of Wrigley Field, Harry Caray and the seventh-inning stretch, the curse of the Billy Goat, pinstripes, and the view of the Chicago skyline beyond the scoreboard. It helps that team’s games are often broadcast on WGN, thus allowing them to reach a larger audience and develop its fan base. The fact that many articles have been written about the loyalty of Cubs fans is a testament to the strength of this sense of community.
It is a sense of loyalty so strong, that even rock stars can’t help but express themselves about it.
Chroust, Kevin. “Bracketology: Best Players in Chicago Cubs History Determined By the Madness.” Yahoo! Contributor Network. Yahoo! Inc., 21 March 2013. Web. Accessed 10 May 2013. http://sports.yahoo.com/news/bracketology-best-players-chicago-cubs-history-determined-madness-202500198–mlb.html
“Cubs History.” The Official Site of the Chicago Cubs. MLB Advanced Media, LP, 2001-2013. Web. Accessed 10 May 2013. http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/chc/ballpark/information/index.jsp?content=history
Savage, Bill. “The Cubs Fan Paradox: Why Would Anyone Root for Losers?” Society for American Baseball Research. SABR, 2013. Web. Accessed 10 May 2013. http://sabr.org/research/cubs-fan-paradox-why-would-anyone-root-losers
On 8 May 1968, twenty-two-year-old Jim “Catfish” Hunter pitched the first perfect game in the American League in forty-six years. In front of a crowd of only 6,298 at Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, Hunter led the A’s in a 4-0 victory over the Twins.
The cherry on top of his once-in-a-lifetime pitching performance was Hunter’s performance at the plate. He went 3-for-5 in the game, driving in three of the game’s four runs. Talk about a one-man show!
The box score for the game can be found here.
The season has started out to be a very wet one for baseball. Rain-outs, even snow-outs, have already caused many games to be postponed over the course of the last month. And with the onslaught of all that precipitation, tarp-covered fields have been a common sight this year.
Of course, the practice of protecting the field from the elements had to start somewhere. This brings us back to this day in 1906 at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates became the first team to cover the grass against a rain storm. The infield was covered by a canvas tarp, thus allowing the following day’s game against the Cubs to be played.
Say this much for big league baseball – it is beyond question the greatest conversation piece ever invented in America.
Here’s an article that a friend shared with me that I just had to pass on. It sounds like an exciting idea.
by Sam Mellinger