The motion began in a gentle sweeping curve and culminated in a pose, held for an instant, of tense power. It was an exhibition of the perfection of masculine grace. Beautiful pitching like that is among the lost arts.
~James Weldon Johnson, from Along This Way
I can’t seem to trace the origins of this infographic, but I found it an interesting one. For true baseball fans not all of these items are unknowns, and the graphic was obviously created prior to the 2016 season, given the bit of trivia about the Cubs. The detail about Don Larsen smoking in the dugout during his World Series perfect game was new to me, however, and it appears this tidbit is pretty accurate.
In the bottom of the 12th inning on July 28, 1967, Tony Horton hit a walk-off homer to break up a scoreless pitching duel between Indians pitcher Steve Hargan and Orioles’ right-hander Moe Drabowsky. Drabowsky had allowed only six hits in the extra-inning contest at Cleveland Stadium. Horton’s dinger helped the Indians to break a five-game losing streak.
This parody of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s “Casey At the Bat” was published in 2019 by Mitchell Nathanson, author of A People’s History of Baseball. Not only does it incorporate modern-day metrics like WAR, PitchTrax, and exit velocity, the poem also paints a frighteningly accurate picture of today’s in-stadium crowds. The piece is very well done, and in spite of shaking my head in recognition, I find that I rather enjoy it.
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney whiffed again, the eighteenth K that night,
A sickly silence fell, for somehow baseball wasn’t right.
A straggling few got up and left, annoyed they even came;
And most who stayed were kind of drunk or wagered on the game.
Yet still to come was Casey, whom the fans had long extolled,
Though at the age of 31 the metrics deemed him old.
But first ahead was Flynn, a player much accursed;
His BABIP was atrocious, and his WAR was even worse.
Another guy came up as well, his name recalled by few;
Confusion sowed by double switches made in hour two.
But Flynn defied the numbers, making contact with the ball;
And sent it on a mighty arc — it caromed off the wall.
—The guy should be on third,— a salty graybeard spat and cursed,
As Flynn removed his batting gloves, a jogger still at first.
The other guy, as well, reached base, a waiver-wire addition;
Dropped by a last place club dumping salary without contrition;
And when the blaring music stopped, fans noticed what occurred,
Instead of crossing o’er the plate, young Flynn just jogged to third.
As Casey stepped into the box, the scoreboard roared “Make Noise!”;
Which the crowd most surely would’ve done, if not for all their toys.
About 5,000 hometown fans were checking in on Twitter;
So most remained oblivious to Casey as the hitter.
Ten thousand eyes were somewhere else as he scratched upon the dirt;
And Velcro-strapped his batting gloves and touched six places on his shirt.
And kissed his bat, then tapped the plate nine times or maybe 10;
Then from the box did Casey step, and start it all again.
The pitcher’s antics on the mound were also quite a show;
Whole seasons seemed to pass before he hinted at a throw.
Yet here it came, the cowhide sphere, arriving at great speed;
‘strike one,— the umpire firmly called. But PitchTrax disagreed.
The fans who watched upon their phones could see it plain: outside;
Unless their phones had zero bars, or batteries had died.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” the fans all stood and roared;
At least so roared the older ones, the younger ones seemed bored.
Two strikes remained. The oldsters, fretting, began to wring their hands;
While younger fans, in hour four, sped toward concession stands.
Then Casey dug in once again; the second spheroid flew,
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, ‘strike Two.’
“Fraud!” cried the maddened few at all the blue-clad, rulebound fools,
While waving off the heady clouds sent up from nearby Juuls.
Now Casey’s face grew stern and cold, the fans all rose as one;
As midnight neared their hope was clear: just let the game be done.
As Casey runs the metrics, and adjusts his swing for lift;
The fielders check their little cards, and drift into a shift.
And now the pitcher fires a rocket off, despite his ample gut;
And now the air is shattered by great Casey’s uppercut.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sport is as it used to be;
And fans still hang on Casey’s fate, not exit velocity.
But that era’s gone — don’t cry into your $15 beer;
While all the laughing children shout, “Football season’s here!”
That was the system they had in those days. That’s what they called states’ rights. States’ rights doesn’t mean much to the Negro. You don’t get justice with states’ rights. Which is a bad thing to happen.
~James “Cool Papa” Bell
MLB Opening Day was yesterday, and as hard as I tried, I just could not get excited about it. The Royals play their opening game tonight, and while I feel a tiny bit happier about that, it’s still nothing like what I usually feel when Opening Day comes around.
I am making an effort, I really am. From the time the announcement came down that a season was going to happen up to now, I have been trying to get excited about baseball.
It’s just really hard to do right now.
Every time I think about Major League Baseball proceeding with a season, I find myself thinking, “Half those players are going to get COVID.” “This season will be ended by early September.” “It’s not like anyone can go to the games anyways.” “It’s not about the game, it’s all about the money.”
Now, admittedly, bringing baseball back is not all bad. It’s been weird not having new games to watch, even from the living room. I miss the highlight reels, even the repetitive ones. I miss having to confess to my co-workers, “Um, yeah… I fell asleep in the seventh inning, so I didn’t see that homer.” I miss the bench-clearing brawls in all their glorious stupidity. I miss seeing the perfectly cut grass of the myriad outfields and listening to the various broadcasters react to and analyze the games. I miss baseball itself.
But even that can’t drown out the thought in my head that keeps insisting that going through with this season is stupid to the core. The schedule is so short and compact, it’s almost laughable. Then there’s the not-so-funny fact that all these players are at risk for exposure.
I will watch some games — it will be hard not to. But it still won’t be the same.
I’m sorry baseball. I just can’t this year.
Slim Sallee became the first pitcher in Cardinal history to steal home on July 22, 1913 in a game against the Brooklyn Superbas. The Redbird lefty performed the feat in the game’s third inning, scoring the first run in St. Louis’s 3-1 victory over Brooklyn at Ebbets Field.
Here’s a good Baseball Project tune to start your Tuesday. This song is all about the rise and fall of Lenny Dykstra, who was considered to be one of the heroes of the 1986 World Series, but has since fallen into so much legal and financial trouble that earlier this year, a court in New York ruled that he is “libel-proof,” meaning his behavior and character are so awful even false statements cannot harm his reputation.
I grew up in a home where the radio was permanently set on WJR; I thought George-Kell-and-Ernie-Harwell was one word. I’d fall asleep listening to my parents discussing the merits and flaws of various Detroit players, and by the time I was twelve I wanted one of my own, a Tiger, my very own player to root for and adore. In 1962, my goals in life were to be the first woman governor of Michigan and to marry Rocky Colavito.
Less than two weeks after Larry Doby’s debut with the Indians, Hank Thompson became the second black player to debut in the American League on July 17, 1947. In the game, Thompson went 0-for-4 as the Browns suffered a 16-2 loss to Philadelphia at Sportsman’s Park. Thompson would play in only 27 games for St. Louis because his presence did not significantly raise attendance.