This day in baseball: Wet beginnings

On May 31, 1869, a downpour of rain postponed a game between the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Antioch Nine, a college team regarded as the most talented amateur clubs in the state of Ohio.  The game would have been the first of the Red Stockings’ inaugural professional tour, but instead it became the first rain out of a professional baseball game in history.

Antioch Nine (Wikimedia Commons)

Review: My Brother Stealing Second, by Jim Naughton

I recently re-read Jim Naughton’s My Brother Stealing Second, a  young adult novel that one would be hard pressed to find these days.  Published in 1989, My Brother Stealing Second is no longer in print.  In fact, I purchased my own copy through Amazon, used and withdrawn from the public library in Clarinda, Iowa.  Interestingly, perusing Amazon this morning, I feel a sense of astonishment to discover copies of this same novel on sale for as much as $150.  But never fear,  if you decide you wish to purchase your own copy to read: used copies are also available starting at a penny.

Rife with adolescent angst revolving around a story that involves baseball, this novel caught and held my attention when I first read it in my early teens.  In the story, high school second baseman Bobby Connely finds himself still reeling from the death of his brother, Billy.  Over the course of the novel, Bobby confronts questions and insecurities about his own identity, finally accepting that he must now face life sans older brother.  In the meantime, he uncovers secrets and corruption surrounding his brother’s death, which forces him and his family to make some difficult decisions as they face the future.

I love the manner in which Naughton writes about Bobby’s baseball game towards the end of the book.  His descriptions about playing baseball in general always bring me a sense of nostalgia: smelling the leather of a glove, the thinking process of a player, right down to battling distractions from outside the diamond, the feel of the bat connecting with the ball, emotional highs and lows.  Naughton captures all the details and he does so convincingly.

My Brother Stealing Second reads fast, and yet it manages to pull on the heartstrings of its audience.  Sure, the teenage emotion that permeates every sentence can be overbearing at times, to a point that even I sometimes have to sigh, in spite of how much I love the book.  But this angst also makes the story that much more real, because anyone who has ever endured the teenage years of life can relate to the thoughts and perspectives of these characters.  If anything, I find that I turn to this book anytime I, personally, find myself going through an emotionally charged time.

Throughout the novel, Bobby takes a series of “dives,” in which he remembers various experiences involving Billy.  Naughton captures the experience of growing up, and through these dives, we get a glimpse at Billy, who has already passed at the start of the book.  We see how Bobby thinks and reflects on the events surrounding him, and, in their own way, these dives encourage readers to do some personal reflection as well.

In spite of the melodrama, or maybe because of it, I never find myself disappointed by this novel.  I suppose the emotional aspect of it gives me something with which to identify, and the fact that it’s about baseball gives me something enjoyable to balance things out.  Regardless of the reasons, I keep coming back to it.

This day in baseball: New York baseball goes west

During a meeting on May 28, 1957 in Chicago, Illinois, the owners of the National League unanimously agreed to allow the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers to move to the West coast if they desired.  As a result of this decision, and the subsequent moves of the teams to San Francisco and Los Angeles respectively, New York did not host a National League club by the start of the 1958 season.

L.A. Times

Quote of the day

The last time the Cubs won the World Series was 1908. The last time they were in one was 1945. Hey, any team can have a bad century.

~Tom Trebelhorn

New York Times

Infographic: Most Dangerous Sports

This infographic isn’t quite baseball-specific, but I do find it interesting to see how baseball ranks among other sports in terms of the “danger factor.”  Honestly, it surprises me to see hockey rank so low on these scales, but I guess they do wear quite a bit of protective gear.  Fatality rates did not make it onto the graphic, but given the focus on safety in all sports, this should barely be an issue.  But it still piques my interest.

Dressing up for a career day

Kansas City Royals

The Royals have had a roller coaster of a season thus far, comprising of a few sharp ups and a lot of downs.  They had just climbed their way back to .500 going into yesterday’s game, the finale of a four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium.  They could no longer win the series, having fallen behind 2-1, but I hoped at least for a 2-2 split and a return to a winning record.

The Royals had a couple promotions going on at the K: “Dressed to the Nines” to salute the 1920s, which encouraged fans to dress in their Sunday best at the ballpark; and a salute to the Negro Leagues, in which the Royals wore Kansas City Monarchs uniforms, and the Orioles dressed as the Baltimore Black Sox.  Fans arriving early received a fedora in celebration of both these tributes.  It felt like a costume party in some ways (and, really, I suppose it was), seeing the grounds crew in suspenders and fans in three-piece suits and sun dresses.

Monarchs fedora

The weather created a perfect day for baseball: warm sunlight and a cool breeze — perfect for dressing up or for the t-shirt and jeans combo worn by lazy folk like us.  When the air stilled, we could feel our skin grow hot under the sun, but when the breeze picked up, goosebumps emerged.  It never grew too hot nor too cool.  We picked up our Kansas City Monarchs fedoras at the gate and climbed on up to the cheap seats.  A mere crowd of 22,000 showed up at the K for the game, and those fans who had opted out in favor of other plans missed out on a spectacular show.

Leading the team to victory with two three-run home runs, Alex Gordon had what writers and commentators are calling a “career day.”  And why not?  In addition to his six RBIs, Gordon went 4-for-4 and made a spectacular defensive catch, crashing, once again, into the wall in left field.  He fully deserved the curtain call demanded by the crowd following his second homer.  The novelty of the moment struck me as well, for while I have seen deserving performances on television on multiple occasions, Gordon’s curtain call yesterday became the first I’ve ever witnessed in person.

Things became interesting in the top of the ninth, however.  With the Royals up 8-3, Aaron Crow took the mound to close out the game.  What should have been an easy nail in the coffin turned into a nail biter, as a walk and a single set the table for Adam Jones to hit a three-run home run of his own.  With the score now at 8-6, Crow was out, and the Royals brought in Greg Hollander, Royals capwho drew the final two outs for the save and the victory.

I’m generally not a superstitious individual, but I feel it worth a mention that the Royals have won the last four games that I have attended.  I attribute this success to my lucky black Royals cap, which I actually picked up at a game as a promotional giveaway more than ten years ago.  I have a couple other Royals caps that I could wear to games that I attend, but they say you should never mess with a winning streak.  The black cap will continue to go to games with me until this streak ends.