On August 30, 1905, an 18-year-old Ty Cobb came up in his first Major League at-bat against Jack Chesbro of the Highlanders. Cobb doubled in the first inning of a 5-3 victory for the Detroit Tigers at Bennett Park. Cobb went on to collect 4,189 hits over his 24-year career.
Here’s a good piece by Marianne Moore published in 1961. I like how it depicts some of the things that we all think from time to time, but don’t really talk about. Such as how a player, after falling short of an individual accomplishment, will talk about the success of the team. Or the fine line between work and play that players sometimes walk.
Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
You can never tell with either
how it will go
or what you will do;
a fever in the victim—
pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
Victim in what category?
Owlman watching from the press box?
To whom does it apply?
Who is excited? Might it be I?
It’s a pitcher’s battle all the way—a duel—
a catcher’s, as, with cruel
puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly
back to plate. (His spring
de-winged a bat swing.)
They have that killer instinct;
yet Elston—whose catching
arm has hurt them all with the bat—
when questioned, says, unenviously,
“I’m very satisfied. We won.”
Shorn of the batting crown, says, “We”;
robbed by a technicality.
When three players on a side play three positions
and modify conditions,
the massive run need not be everything.
“Going, going . . . ” Is
it? Roger Maris
has it, running fast. You will
never see a finer catch. Well . . .
“Mickey, leaping like the devil”—why
gild it, although deer sounds better—
snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest,
one-handing the souvenir-to-be
meant to be caught by you or me.
Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral;
he could handle any missile.
He is no feather. “Strike! . . . Strike two!”
Fouled back. A blur.
It’s gone. You would infer
that the bat had eyes.
He put the wood to that one.
Praised, Skowron says, “Thanks, Mel.
I think I helped a little bit.”
All business, each, and modesty.
Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer.
In that galaxy of nine, say which
won the pennant? Each. It was he.
Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws
by Boyer, finesses in twos—
like Whitey’s three kinds of pitch and pre-
with pick-off psychosis.
Pitching is a large subject.
Your arm, too true at first, can learn to
catch your corners—even trouble
Mickey Mantle. (“Grazed a Yankee!
My baby pitcher, Montejo!”
With some pedagogy,
you’ll be tough, premature prodigy.)
They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees. Trying
indeed! The secret implying:
“I can stand here, bat held steady.”
One may suit him;
none has hit him.
Imponderables smite him.
Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds
require food, rest, respite from ruffians. (Drat it!
Celebrity costs privacy!)
Cow’s milk, “tiger’s milk,” soy milk, carrot juice,
brewer’s yeast (high-potency—
concentrates presage victory
sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez—
deadly in a pinch. And “Yes,
it’s work; I want you to bear down,
but enjoy it
while you’re doing it.”
Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain,
if you have a rummage sale,
don’t sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh.
Studded with stars in belt and crown,
the Stadium is an adastrium.
O flashing Orion,
your stars are muscled like the lion.
Our fielders have to catch a lot of balls, or at least deflect them to someone who can.
Some time ago, I posted a video of Buddy Johnson’s “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?” Here is another version of that song from 1949, performed by Count Basie and his orchestra.
On August 25, 1936, the Boston Braves established a Major League record by hitting seven doubles in a single inning against the Cardinals. Taking place in the first inning, the attack of doubles led the Braves to a 20-3 victory at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.
Here is a phenomenal Op-Ed by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni:
In the column, Bruni discusses the success of Mo’Ne Davis, the Little League World Series pitcher who made headlines for being a dominant presence in the Series. Normally, this kind of performance in the Series doesn’t warrant as much attention, but in a country that continues to struggle with race and gender inequalities, this performance coming from a 13-year-old black girl has turned some heads. The column also tells us about Steve Bandura, the man who gave Davis, and many other inner-city kids like her, a chance to do something more with their lives. He not only brought them baseball, he also taught them discipline, sportsmanship, and a variety of other life lessons to take with them after baseball.
Ethnic prejudice has no place in sports, and baseball must recognize that truth if it is to maintain stature as a national game.
A quality start refers to when a starting pitcher goes at least six innings while giving up three earned runs or less. Sportswriter John Lowe of the Philadelphia Inquirer coined the term in 1985. While a quality start does not guarantee that a pitcher will walk away with a winning decision for the game, it implies that he has put his team in a position to win the game. Critics of the statistic argue that 3 earned runs in six innings translates into a 4.50 ERA. In spring 1992, however, David W. Smith published an article pointing out that from 1984 to 1991, the average ERA in a quality start was 1.91, indicating that 3 earned runs in six innings was at the extreme end of the spectrum, rather than the norm.
In 1995, Greg Maddux recorded 24 quality starts out of 25 games pitched, giving him the highest single-season quality start percentage (96%). Thus far in the 2014 season, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw leads the league with 19 quality starts in 21 games (90%).
On August 21, 1908, Gabby Street of the Washington Senators took part in one of the most publicized stunts of the new century: he was going to attempt to catch a baseball dropped from the top of the Washington Monument, a distance of 555 feet. Street managed to pull off the feat on his third try. Scientists estimated that the ball fell with a force between 200 and 300 pounds.
Here’s something fun from Sportsnet Canada, featuring some of the grips of select pitches thrown by the Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff. The lineup is a little out of date, but the mechanics and physics of throwing all the various pitches never fail to fascinate. My own half-hearted attempts at throwing a curve ball as a kid never proved fruitful, but then, I was never that committed to becoming a pitcher.