Roger Angell turns 100

Roger Angell was born on September 19, 1920 in New York, New York, and he is considered one of the best baseball writers of all time. And while my exposure to Angell’s writing is admittedly limited, I’ve read enough to know that I need to read more. His pieces contain a significant amount of detail and his passion for the game shines through with every line.

Angell has received a number of awards for his writing, including the George Polk Award for Commentary in 1980, the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement in 2005, and the inaugural PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing in 2011. He was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals in 2010, and in 2014 he was awarded the J. G. Taylor Spink Award by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Angell.

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Sport Illustrated


2020 Postseason schedule

In case you missed it, Major League Baseball announced the tentative 2020 postseason schedule yesterday. I confess, I never expected that baseball would make it this far in the midst of the pandemic, and yet, here we are. This unusual year just keeps getting more interesting.

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RIP Gene Budig

Dr. Gene Budig held a lot of titles over the course of his lifetime. He was a university president at Illinois State University, West Virginia University, and the University of Kansas (one building at KU, Budig Hall, is named in his honor). He was a newspaper executive, an author, a major general in the Air National Guard, and a senior presidential adviser for the College Board.

Gene Budig was also the last President of the American League in the MLB. He served in that role for six seasons, before the position was officially eliminated. In addition, for the last fourteen years, Budig was part-owner of Minor League Baseball’s Charleston RiverDogs, an affiliate of the New York Yankees.

Dr. Budig passed away earlier today, September 8, 2020.

Rest in peace.

Gene Budig - Post and Courier

Gene Budig (Post and Courier)


RIP Lou Brock

Lou Brock spent the majority of his nineteen-year Major League career as a left fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. Brock was best known for breaking Ty Cobb’s all-time stolen base record in 1977. He was a six-time All-Star, and he led the National League in stolen bases for eight seasons. Brock led the NL in doubles and triples in 1968, and in singles in 1972. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

Lou Brock passed away yesterday, September 6, 2020 at the age of 81.

RIP.

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Lou Brock as a coach in 2005 (wikipedia)


Infographic: Beef, Lamb, and Baseball

Here are some interesting numbers from the Public Lands Council, an organization that advocates for western ranchers.  This infographic was posted on the Idaho Wool Growers Association’s Facebook page in November 2019.  I did the math on the number hot dogs served, and if we assume that a hot dog weighs 76 grams, that equals over 3 million pounds of hot dogs per MLB season — and that doesn’t even include the bun and condiments!

These numbers definitely made me think back to this comic I posted back in December.  Holy smokes, that’s a lot of animal products in our national pastime.

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Infographic: 14 Things You Didn’t Know About the World Series

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.

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“Casey @ the Bat Analytics,” by Mitchell Nathanson

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!”


Opening Day blues

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.

There’s also that ironic voice in my head reminding me, “At least the Royals can’t lose 100 games this year,” like they did last year and the year before that.

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.


“From Nails to Thumbtacks,” The Baseball Project

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.


Infographic: The Cost of A Season Without Spectators

The infographic below was created by Statista back in March, estimating the potential losses MLB teams would be facing if they were to play an 82-game season in front of no live fans.  For an 82-game season, each team in the league would be facing an average loss of $640,000 per game.  The infographic shows estimated total losses for the top eight teams as a result of the shortened season and spectator-less games.  The total loss for the MLB was estimated to come in around $4 billion.

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Fast forward to the current arrangement, with a 60-game season, and these dollar amounts are no doubt looking even more ominous than the ones in the graphic.  As much as we all hate that money is such a big part of professional sports, it’s no wonder there was so much of a push to get a season, any season, underway to recoup some of these losses.

However, as I’ve mentioned before, with the coronavirus continuing to spread around the country at such a rapid rate, it’ll be interesting to see if the league even makes it all the way through the planned 60-game schedule.