The key step for an infielder is the first one, but before the ball is hit.
Catcher Johnny Bench had hands so large, he could hold seven baseballs with just one hand:
His large hands also gave him the advantage of being able to block balls in the dirt more effectively. Rather than dropping to his knees to block low pitches, Bench would often scoop them easily with one hand. The size of his hands also enabled him to adopt the hinged catcher’s mitt, which in turn allowed him to catch one-handed. Where previous mitts required the catcher to use both hands to ensure the ball would not pop out, the hinged mitt would snap shut upon contact with the ball.
His ability to hold so many baseballs provided some off-field benefits. The photo below, for example, depicts Bench with his then wife, Vickie, at a gathering for the American Cancer Society (circa 1975-76). He was named the new head of Athletes Against Cancer, and each of the baseballs was intended to represent one of the seven ways to check for cancer.
In 1905, a team of Waseda University students visited the United States and conducted a tour in which it played American baseball teams up and down the West coast. One of those games, on May 17th, was against Los Angeles High School, which Waseda won 5-3. According to some sources, this was the first game of a tour that included games in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, Eugene, Oregon, and Seattle (other sources cite a start date from April of that year). Regardless, the tour marked the first time that a Japanese team played baseball in the United States.
I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.
Leave it to Calvin to skip the sugarcoating.
Because where would a lot of our favorite ballplayers be today without their moms?
I think I was in high school the first time I read Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (I’ve been reading Stephen King since I was fourteen — don’t judge). So this recent foray through the book was actually a re-read. I am always astonished at the details I had forgotten about whenever I read a book for the second (or third… or fourth…) time. In this case, I was pleased to discover that this book is even better than I remembered it.
The novel tells of the adventures of Trisha McFarland, who gets lost in the New England woods after leaving the path while hiking with her mother and brother. All she really wanted was a bit of respite from her family’s squabbling, but instead finds herself unable to find her way back to the path and travels deeper and deeper into the woods. With her, all she has are a bottle of water, two Twinkies, a hard-boiled egg, a tuna sandwich, a bottle of Surge (can we make Surge mainstream again?), a poncho, a Game Boy, and a Walkman.
Trisha is a huge Boston Red Sox fan, and she is especially a fan of pitcher Tom Gordon, who was the Sox’s closer at the time the novel was written. Each night, as she journeys through the woods, she places the ear buds of her Walkman in her ears and listens to Red Sox games. During the day, she attempts to ration her meager supplies, and once they run out, she survives on berries and creek water.
Eventually, however, the stress of her situation causes Trisha to start hallucinating. Among her hallucinations, she imagines Tom Gordon is traveling with her, and they have conversations along the way about the secrets of closing. Her baseball knowledge is quite impressive for a nine-year-old girl, and the advice that her hallucinatory Gordon gives her helps Trisha to survive her ordeal.
I won’t go into detail on how the book ends, though I will say that this novel serves as another depiction of how much of a baseball fan Stephen King really is. Oh yes, there is also a bear involved, but I won’t give away anything beyond that. You’ll just have to read the book yourself — I promise it’s worth it.