DeWolf Hopper recites “Casey at the Bat”

William DeWolf Hopper was an American actor, singer, comedian, and theatrical producer during the late-19th and into the early-20th centuries. Born in New York Citty, DeWolf Hopper grew to become a star of vaudeville and musical theater, but he became best known for performing the popular baseball poem “Casey at the Bat.”

A lifelong baseball enthusiast and New York Giants fan, Hopper first performed Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s then-unknown poem “Casey at the Bat” to the Giants and Chicago Cubs on August 14, 1888. Co-performer Digby Bell called Hopper “the biggest baseball crank that ever lived. Physically, of course, he is a corker, but when I say big I mean big morally and intellectually. Why, he goes up to the baseball [Polo] grounds at One Hundred and Fifty-fifth street after the matinees on Saturday, and he travels this six miles simply to see, perhaps, the two final innings, and any one can imagine the rapidity with which he must scrape off the makeup and get into his street clothes in order to secure even this much. But he says the Garrison finishes are worth it, and he is perfectly right. Hopper always was a baseball crank, long before the public knew anything about it.”

Hopper helped make Thayer’s poem famous and was often called upon to give his colorful, melodramatic recitation, which he did about 10,000 times over the course of his career.

Bottom of the 9th

I came across this movie, Bottom of the 9th, during my last trip to the library and decided I’d go ahead and check it out. This flick stars Joe Manganiello as Sonny Stano, once an up-and-coming star in the Yankees organization who finds himself spending 17 years in prison when an altercation results in the death of another young man.

The main plot of the film takes place following Stano’s release from prison back onto the streets of the Bronx. He is noticeably older-looking than the young man who had once been sentenced to prison, with a larger, more muscular build and hair graying at the temples. He is plagued with guilt over the mistakes from his youth and is determined to walk a straighter path going forward.

Stano begins his life after prison working in a fish market, but hates the work. He is drawn back to baseball and the Empires, a minor league affiliate of the Yankees. Before long, Stano quits his job at the fish market in order to join the staff of the Empires.

It quickly becomes apparent to the coaching staff of the Empires that Stano, in spite of his age and his time away from the game, still possesses no small amount of baseball talent. Stano is soon added to the Empires roster, much to the dismay of the other players on the team, the fans, and the media. Unsurprisingly, he suffers criticism over his past, every little move he now makes, and every statement he speaks.

From here, the movie is essentially a cliché redemption story (but if you’re not familiar with such cliché stories, stop reading here). Stano proves himself on the field, most people’s opinions eventually turn in his favor, he gets the girl, and he impresses the scouts from the Yankees organization who are considering calling him up to the big leagues.

Overall, this movie’s not bad. It’s not a magical home run classic baseball movie — there are no surprising twists in the story, no sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments of suspense. It’s mostly a laid back and predictable feel-good story.

“Baseball Days, ’61,” by Peter Balakian

Peter Balakian is an Armenian American writer and academic who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2016 for his collection, Ozone Journal. This collection includes the poem below, which shines a light on the fact that even as Roger Maris hit his historic 61st home run during the 1961 season, the world continued to move with myriad historic events simultaneously.

*

All summer the patio drifted in and out of light the color of margarine;
days were blue, not always sky blue.
At night the word Algeria circulated among the grown-ups.

A patient of my father had whooping cough, the words drifted into
summer blue. The evenings spun into stadium lights.
Kennedy’s hair blew across the screen. Castro was just a sofa.

I saw James Meredith’s face through a spread of leaves
on the evening news. The fridge sweat with orangeade,
the trees whooped some nights in rain—

a kid down the street kept coughing into his mitt.
Static sounds from Comiskey and Fenway came
though the vinyl, the plastic, the pillow—

So when it left Stallard’s hand, when Roger Maris’s arms whipped
the bat and the bullet-arc carried into the chasm the disaffections
at 344 ft. near the bullpen fence

under the green girder holding up the voices rising into the façade and over the
river
where a Baptist choir on Lenox Ave. was sending up a variation of Sweet Chariot
into the traffic on the FDR that was jammed at the Triboro

where a derrick was broken and the cables of its arms picked up the star-blast of
voices coming over the Stadium façade spilling down the black next-game
sign into the vector
of a tilted Coke bottle on a billboard

at the edge of the river where a cloud of pigeons rose over Roosevelt Island.
It was evening by the time the cars unjammed and the green of the outfield unfroze
and the white arc had faded into skyline before fall came

full of boys throwing themselves onto the turf with inexplicable desire
for the thing promised. The going. Then gone.

Nines

Today is my birthday: September 9th. 9/9. Oh, yeah — and I was born at 9:50 in the morning.

When an employee at the local running store measured my feet a couple years ago, he informed me that my left foot is size 9.5, and my right foot is size 9. (Don’t laugh, I’ve heard that having differently-sized feet is more common than you would think.)

It seems that the number nine is a big part of my life.

The number nine is a big part of baseball, too.

A team is made up of nine players — there are nine defensive positions and there are nine spots in a batting lineup. In fact, in the early days of the game, a team would often be referred to as a “baseball nine.”

A game consists of nine innings. An immaculate inning is comprised of nine thrown strikes. A baseball is nine inches in circumference.

Scott Flansburg, a.k.a. The Human Calculator, takes the exploration of the number nine in baseball, and in other parts of life, even further in this video:

A bit unrelated, this blog is currently over nine years strong. It’s been a fun run thus far, and I’m excited to continue it!

The Fan


Thefanmovieposter

I first watched The Fan a few years ago, at the suggestion of a (now ex-) boyfriend. This weekend, I decided to sit down and take the movie in again. The Fan stars Wesley Snipes as Bobby Rayburn, an MLB star slugger, as well as Robert DeNiro as Gil Renard, a knife salesman and baseball fan who is absolutely obsessed with Rayburn.

Bobby Rayburn has just signed a $40 million contract with the San Francisco Giants — a development that has garnered a lot of scrutiny regarding whether Rayburn actually deserves such an exorbitant salary. Rayburn covets the jersey number 11, which is currently worn by teammate Juan Primo. However, Primo has his own long history wearing the number and is unwilling to give it up so Bobby can wear it. Rayburn’s performance as the season gets underway, meanwhile, is less than stellar, and fans grow critical of his contract.

Gil Renard, meanwhile, finds himself in conflict with his ex-wife, and when he leaves their son alone at a Giants game to attend a sales meeting, his ex obtains a restraining order against him. Shortly thereafter, Gil also gets fired from his job after threatening a client. These events send Gil into a tailspin, and his obsession with Bobby Rayburn intensifies. Gil begins stalking Bobby.

Believing that Rayburn’s struggles are due to not being able to wear his favorite jersey number, Gil decides to confront Primo himself. Primo shows Gil his shoulder, branded with the number 11, and says that it is his number. A struggle ensues, and Gil stabs Primo to death. Bobby Rayburn is suspected of the murder, at first. Nevertheless, his performance on the diamond improves, and Gil believes that what he did benefited Rayburn and the Giants.

While stalking Rayburn at his home on the beach, Gil rescues Rayburn’s son, Sean, from drowning. Bobby Rayburn, of course, is grateful to Gil and invites him into their home. Gil convinces Bobby to play catch with him on the beach, and in the conversation that follows, Bobby says he stopped caring about the game after Primo’s death, because he realized there were more important things in life. He also tells Gil that he has lost respect for the fans, remarking on their fickle nature. Gil takes offense to these comments, believing Bobby is ungrateful for the favor Gil has done for him in killing Primo.

Gil kidnaps Bobby’s son, Sean, and in a tense phone conversation between the two, Gil directs Bobby to his freezer, where Bobby discovers the patch of Primo’s skin with the number 11 brand. The movie climaxes in a showdown between the two men on the baseball diamond, in the midst of a downpour.

This film is definitely more appealing as a thriller than as just a baseball movie. I enjoy thrillers, so I find that I like this movie quite a bit. If that is also your cup of tea, then you might find The Fan an appealing option. If you’re looking for a true baseball movie, however, maybe skip this one.

To Timothy H. Murnane, by Ralph E. McMillin

Tim Murnane was a former first baseman and center fielder turned sportswriter during the late-19th to early-20th century. He was considered the leading baseball writer at The Boston Globe for about 30 years until his death. While writing, he also organized and led professional sports leagues and helped govern the baseball industry. In 1946, the Baseball Hall of Fame established the Honor Rolls of Baseball and named Murnane one of twelve writers to be honored. He was also selected by the BBWAA as a recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in baseball journalism in 1978.

*

Pack up his bats, pick up his glove,
For him the Game is done;
At last the stars peep out above
The setting of the sun.
Once more the field, serene at night,
Is still, and hushed the shout.
The Presence chokes us as we write
Just this: “He ran it out.”

Above the plate Time held the ball:
He turned the last gray bag
With stride that weakened not at all.
His spirit did not lag,
But proudly Homeward bound he sped,
Nor feared the final rout.
High flung at last the silver’d head,
Unbowed “he ran it out.”

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.