With thanks to all who serve.
William Howard Taft became the first sitting U.S. President to attend a baseball game outside of Washington, D.C. on May 29, 1909. Taft joined 14,000 fans at Pittsburgh’s Exposition Park to watch the Pirates play the Cubs, though he didn’t bring the Pirates any good luck that day. The Bucs lost the contest, 8-3.
Ray Kinsella: Don’t we need a catcher?
Shoeless Joe Jackson: Not if you get it near the plate we don’t.
RIP Ray Liotta, 1954-2022
Doctoring the baseball is something that has existed pretty much as long as the sport itself has existed. But what does it mean to doctor a baseball?
In short, to doctor the ball is to apply a foreign substance to the ball or otherwise alter it in order to put an unnatural spin on a pitch. A doctored baseball, therefore, is more difficult to hit.
The most notorious type of doctored baseball, of course, is the spitball. As the name implies, the spitball involves applying saliva to the surface of the ball. Other substances utilized in doctoring baseballs have included Vaseline (petroleum jelly), pine tar, sunscreen, and shaving cream. Altering the baseball isn’t just limited to applying a substance to it, though. Other forms of doctoring a baseball include scuffing it with sandpaper or an emery board or rubbing vigorously to create a shiny area on the ball (known as a shineball).
Prior to being banned, doctored baseballs gave pitchers all kinds of advantages, and the practice was rampant. In the period known as the Dead Ball Era, game balls were in short supply, which meant that dirty baseballs were commonly used throughout ballgames. On top of this, pitchers slathered mud on balls to make them even dirtier and, thus, harder to see. They rubbed wax, soap, or grease on them, or they would scuff or cut up a ball using sandpaper, or a tack, or anything else they could find. As a result, pitchers could make pitches drop, fade away, or ride in on hitters all while using their same old throwing motions. Thus, the Dead Ball Era was characterized by low-scoring games and a lack of home runs.
Then, in August 1920, Ray Chapman was killed when he was struck in the head by a spitball thrown by pitcher Carl Mays. After the 1920 season, the use of the spitball was banned with the exception of a group of 17 existing spitballers, who were grandfathered in and permitted to throw the pitch legally until they retired. With the league now cracking down on doctored baseballs and using clean balls throughout games, the live ball era was born.
The spitball hasn’t been legally used since Burleigh Grimes retired in 1934. That’s not to say that baseballs never get doctored today, of course. Doctoring pitches can help extend the career of an aging pitcher, helping him to maintain am edge on the mound. There’s an old saying that says that it’s not illegal if you don’t get caught, and that mindset can be found all over the league.
According to the Official Baseball Rules (8.02), the rules against doctoring a baseball are as follows:
8.02 Pitcher Rules
The pitcher shall not –
(a) (1) bring the pitching hand in contact with the mouth or lips while in the 10-foot circle (18-foot circle in Intermediate (50-70) Division/ Junior/ Senior/ Big League) surrounding the pitcher’s plate; EXCEPTION: Provided it is agreed to by both managers, the umpire, prior to the start of a game played in cold weather, may permit the pitcher to blow on his/ her hands while in the 10/ 18-foot circle.
PENALTY: For violation of this part of the rule the umpires shall immediately call a ball and warn the pitcher that repeated violation of any part of this rule can cause the pitcher to be removed from the game. However, if the pitch is made and a batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a hit batter, or otherwise, and no other runner is put out before advancing at least one base, the play shall proceed without reference to the violation.
(2) apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball;
(3) expectorate on the ball, either hand or the glove;
(4) rub the ball on the glove, person, or clothing;
(5) deface the ball in any manner; or
(6) deliver what is called the “shine” ball, “spit” ball, “mud” ball, or “emery” ball. The pitcher is allowed to rub off the ball between the bare hands;
PENALTY: For violation of any part of Rules 8.02( a)( 2) through (6) the umpire shall: Call the pitch a ball and warn the pitcher. If a play occurs on the violation, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire of acceptance of the play. (Such election must be made immediately at the end of play.)
NOTE: A pitcher may use a rosin bag for the purpose of applying rosin to the bare hand or hands. Neither the pitcher nor any other player shall dust the ball with the rosin bag; neither shall the pitcher nor any other player be permitted to apply rosin from the bag to their glove or dust any part of the uniform with the rosin bag.
(b) Intentionally delay the game by throwing the ball to players other than the catcher, when the batter is in position, except in an attempt to retire a runner, or commit an illegal pitch for the purpose of not pitching to the batter (i.e. intentional walk, etc.)
PENALTY: If, after warning by the umpire, such delaying action is repeated, the pitcher can be removed from the game.
(c) Intentionally pitch at the batter. If in the umpire’s judgment, such violation occurs, the umpire shall warn the pitcher and the manager of the defense that another such pitch will mean immediate expulsion of the pitcher. If such pitch is repeated during the game, the umpire shall eject the pitcher from the game.
Philip Francis Rizzuto was born September 25, 1917, and he spent his entire 13-year major league career (1941-1956) with the New York Yankees. During that time, the Yankees won an astonishing 10 American League pennants and seven World Championships.
From 1943 to 1945, Rizzuto spent some time away from MLB for a stint in the military, serving in the United States Navy during World War II. During those two years, he played on a Navy baseball team, alongside Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese.
In 1950, Rizzuto was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player. He was known as a terrific defensive player, with 1,217 career double plays and a .968 career fielding average.
After his playing career, Rizzuto enjoyed a 40-year career as a radio and television sports announcer for the Yankees. He was particularly known for his trademark expression, “Holy cow!”
Phil Rizzuto was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994. He died in his sleep on August 13, 2007.
Rizzuto’s induction speech is a hoot. Enjoy!
Going into the ninth inning against the White Sox on May 23, 1901, the Athletics were trailing 11-7, but managed to load the bases with nobody out. White Sox player-manager Clark Griffith put himself into the game and intentionally walked cleanup hitter Napoleon Lajoie, forcing in a run and cutting the lead to three. The strategy proved successful when he induced the next three batters to ground out, thereby completing the 11-9 victory at Chicago’s South Side Park.
My job is to give my team a chance to win.
The Brothers K is a novel published in 1992, and it tells the story of the Chance family, who live in Camas, Washington. The Chance family consists of father Hugh, mother Laura, brothers Irwin, Everett, Peter and Kincaid, and twin sisters Beatrice and Winifred. The story begins in the early 1950s and follows the family on their adventures and misadventures into the mid-1970s, driven by passions for baseball and for religion.
The title of the book, The Brothers K, is derived from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic, The Brothers Karamazov. Similar to Dostoevsky’s novel, Duncan’s tale revolves primarily around the four Chance brothers and their experiences growing up. The ‘K’ also serves as a reference to baseball, in which a ‘K’ symbolizes a strikeout.
Hugh Chance, the father, is a former minor league baseball pitcher. His career came to an abrupt end when a mill accident destroyed the thumb of his pitching hand. Papa Chance, as he is affectionately known, now works full time at the pulp mill in order to support his family.
Laura Chance, the mother, is a homemaker and is an extremely devout Seventh Day Adventist. Hugh’s devotion to baseball and Laura’s devotion to her religion frequently leads to arguments and disagreements in the Chance home, which, unsurprisingly, has an impact on the children.
Hugh finds himself able to return to baseball following a unique surgery that replaces his damaged thumb with his big toe. He begins a coaching/backup pitcher career that allows him to return to the game, though of course this also means a lot of time on the road. Laura begins a cleaning business in order to help out the family’s economic situation. The four sons grow up close and have many conversations both about baseball and about religion. As they become older, the differences between the four boys start to become more pronounced, but their devotion to one another remains firm.
Everett, the oldest son, is outspoken and brash, but he is also bighearted and a natural-born leader. Everett turns away from the church and goes on to speak out against the Vietnam War during his college years. He eventually burns his draft card and flees to Canada to avoid arrest.
The second oldest, Peter, has a world of natural athletic ability, but to the surprise of everyone, turns away from sports in order to pursue a life of spirituality. To the disappointment of his mother, however, Peter chooses to immerse himself in eastern religions. He attends college at Harvard and then earns a scholarship to go to India.
The third son, Irwin, is the most religiously devout of the boys. His life, and the lives of everyone in the Chance family, are radically impacted when Irwin’s girlfriend, Linda, becomes pregnant, and Irwin is drafted and sent to Vietnam shortly thereafter.
Kincaid is the youngest of the Chance boys and acts as narrator throughout the novel. He is probably the most neutral figure in the family, neither devoutly religious nor particularly gifted athletically, which makes him an ideal commentator on the family’s experiences. In spite of this (or maybe because of it), the reader learns less about Kincaid than about any of the other members of the Chance family.
I am going to keep this summary deliberately sparse, because there really is no good way to encapsulate the scope and complexity of this novel in a blog post. At 716 pages, and with all the different themes and conflicts taking place throughout, any competent English student could easily write 3 or 4 drastically different term papers on this novel, and that still wouldn’t scratch the surface of this book. There is a lot there, but it is well worth the journey.
When I reached the end of the novel, my first reaction was, “Damn, that’s a good book.” I can honestly say this is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I have read many. Don’t let the page count nor the multifaceted nature of the story deter you — this book is rated highly on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and probably any other book-related website where you can find it, and for good reason. This book made me angry at times and sad at times, but it also had me literally laughing out loud at times. I strongly recommend it.
The first Sunday baseball game ever played in the nation’s capital took place on May 19, 1918, five days after Congress voted in favor of lifting the ban in Washington, D.C. The Washington Senators defeated the Cleveland Indians, 1-0, in twelve innings in front of 15,352 fans at Griffith Stadium.
This is some interesting news, particularly if you are a fan of the movie, Field of Dreams. A prequel series is in the works, slated to stream through Peacock in 2023. Information about the series is pretty limited at this point, as the news about it is still pretty new.
The upcoming show will film primarily in Iowa, just like the 1989 movie did, though not on the original movie’s baseball diamond in Dyersville. So far, there is no announcement about the cast, or even if Kevin Costner will be involved in the new series in any way. However, it does look like the show is seeking out production assistants:
@NBCUniversal is shooting a #FieldOfDreams prequel this summer in Iowa, for a 2023 release on @peacockTV. Get involved: Create a listing on our Media Production Directory & sign up for our boot camp for production assistants June 4-5. #IowaFilm https://t.co/49NF9UlYIC— Produce Iowa (@ProduceIOWA) May 3, 2022
It is said that the story in the show itself will be the back story of what happened before Ray Kinsella decided to plow up his cornfield and put a baseball diamond there. What that means, exactly, I haven’t been able to find any additional details on. But this does look like something worth keeping an eye out for as information becomes more available.