RIP Vin Scully

Vincent Edward Scully was born on November 29, 1927 in the Bronx, New York, growing up in Manhattan. He fell in love with baseball when, at the age of eight, he saw the results of the second game of the 1936 World Series at a laundromat and felt a pang of sympathy for the badly defeated New York Giants.

Scully was best known for calling games for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, beginning in 1950 and ending in 2016. His 67-year run calling games constituted the longest tenure of any broadcaster with a single team in professional sports history, and he was second only to Tommy Lasorda in terms of the number of years associated with the Dodgers organization in any capacity. Scully was known for his distinctive voice, his descriptive style, and his signature introduction to Dodgers games: “It’s time for Dodger baseball! Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon (or evening) to you, wherever you may be.”

He is considered by many to be the greatest baseball broadcaster of all time, with his final game being broadcast from San Francisco’s AT&T Park on October 2, 2016. His many awards and achievements include being awarded the Ford C. Frick Award (1982), the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award (2014), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2016). Scully even has a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.

Vin Scully passed away August 2, 2022 at the age of 94.

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Vin Scully, March 2008 (Craig Y. Fujii/Wikimedia Commons)

Video tour of Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame

Earlier this month, TheDailyWoo posted this video of his trip to Cooperstown, New York and his walk through the Baseball Hall of Fame. I had the opportunity to visit the town and the museum a few years ago, and this video was a nice reminder of the sights and the atmosphere of the Cooperstown experience. The town is full of nostalgia, the Hall of Fame museum is awe-inspiring, and this video reflects those feelings well.

2022 All-Star Game schedule

The All-Star break is now underway, and the All-Start game is slated to take place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Here is the schedule for the next couple of days:

Home Run Derby: Monday, July 18, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

All-Star Game: Tuesday, July 19, 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox

If you are interested in following the Home Run Derby, you can find the bracket and information about the competition’s participants through ESPN.com here.

Rosters for the All-Star game can be found here.

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Dodger Stadium (Library of Congress)

Home Run Derby X – London

The inaugural Home Run Derby X took place in London this afternoon. I had seen some vague references to it over the past week, though nothing that caught my attention to the point of thinking that I needed or wanted to watch it. However, as I sat in my living room hiding from the heat wave that has been pummeling the Midwest for far longer than should be necessary, I stumbled upon the final of the Home Run Derby X streaming on YouTube.

I figured, what the hell, why not put it on? I let the stream run and took a moment every now and then to pause my activities to see what was going on.

Honestly? It was weird. The final of the competition featured the “Yankees” vs. the “Red Sox” (go figure). Representing the MLB for the Red Sox was Jonny Gomes. On the Yankees side, the MLB rep was Nick Swisher. From what I’ve been able to find, every team in the tournament features an individual from four different backgrounds:

  • MLB legend (in this case, Gomes and Swisher)
  • Superstar: Players who hail from the world of softball and women’s baseball.
  • Rookie: Players from the men’s baseball development system
  • Wild Card: “Influential content creators.”

I never managed to get a full handle on the rules, but based on what I was able to gather, teams can earn points not just for home runs, but also for defensive plays. Bonus points could be earned for hitting a particular target or by hitting a home run with an orange baseball. In general, the whole event felt more like a giant arcade game featuring real people, rather than an MLB event. And, in keeping with the stereotypes, the Yankees won the competition.

I won’t say that I hated it. Maybe if I had taken the time to really watch it and get an understanding of the rules and the scoring, it might have captured my interest better. I will say that I am thrilled that the event also features female athletes, because girls can play ball, too. It just seemed like a strange way to try to promote Major League Baseball in other countries.

Speaking of other countries, today’s exhibition apparently is not the only instance of the Home Run Derby X to take place this year. Upcoming competitions will take place on September 17th in Seoul, South Korea and on October 15th in Mexico City.

If you’re interested, you can watch the stream from today’s final in London below:

The Axe Bat

The Axe Bat has been floating around the baseball world for a few years now. If you’re not familiar, the handle of an Axe Bat is shaped like the handle of an axe.

The idea behind this handle is that it will fit the hitter’s hand better, which thus makes it more ergonomic. The axe handle is more oval-shaped than round, allowing the hitter to get a better and more comfortable grip on the bat. Additionally, the knob of a traditional round-handled baseball bat can sometimes slide into and bang up against the palm of the hitter’s hand, while the shape of the axe handle helps prevent this. Manufacturers of the Axe Bat claim that this feature also helps the barrel of the bat to progress through the strike zone unhindered, thus allowing the batter to generate more bat speed.

The creation of the axe-shaped bat handle came from Bruce Leinert, who filed a patent application for the ‘Axe Bat’ in 2007. But the original inspiration of Leinert’s invention came from a line in a book by one of the game’s greatest hitters, The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams. According to Williams, “Swinging a bat is like swinging an axe.”

Over the years, use of the Axe Bat has spread throughout college and professional baseball, and permission from Major League Baseball for in-game use of axe-shaped handle bats came starting the 2015 season. MLB players who have adopted the new bat handle have included Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, George Springer, Kurt Suzuki, and Dansby Swanson.

Players who use the Axe bat speak highly of its benefits. It takes a few swings to adjust to the differently-shaped handle, but the adjustment happens quickly. According to Mookie Betts, “I was able to take it out for BP one day, and the next day, I was using it in the game. And from that point on, I’ve used it in every at-bat.” Perhaps the first player to really use the Axe Bat in MLB was Dustin Pedroia, who stated, “It feels good in your hand. And then I read up all the studies they did on injury prevention. Supposedly, the way the grip is set it increases bat speed. Just grabbing it feels comfortable. You don’t feel like you have to turn it before you swing. I like ’em.”

Infographic: Average MLB ticket prices, 2020

The chart by Statista below depicts the average price of tickets to MLB games by team. I continue to be stunned by how expensive Royals games are compared to teams like the Rockies or the Mets, for example. For crying out loud, they’ve got the worst record in baseball right now!

The image below is pretty tiny, so click on the chart to get a larger version and more information directly from Statista.

Average MLB ticket price 2020 - statista

Baseball 101: Doctoring the baseball

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).

Doctoring baseball - Deadspin
Deadspin

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.