A little Calvin and Hobbes to liven up your Saturday morning.
This seems about right. Technology sure has changed things. Still, it is nice to have so many ways to keep in touch with the game.
In a recent browsing session through the public library, I came across this book by Tom Stanton: Ty and The Babe: Baseball’s Fiercest Rivals: A Surprising Friendship and the 1941 Has-Beens Golf Championship. Tom Stanton is a journalist and associate professor of journalism at the University of Detroit Mercy. Ty and The Babe was a finalist for the Quill Award in 2007.
Naturally, I chose to read this book because of its coverage of two great figures in baseball, though, as one might guess from the title, the book is almost as much about golf as it is about baseball. The book covers the rivalry between Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth during their baseball careers, which simmered to a sort of grudging respect by the time Cobb retired. Years after both their baseball careers had ended, Cobb challenged Ruth to a golf competition, which Ruth accepted.
As America made its way into the 1920s, Babe Ruth burst onto the baseball scene as a power hitter on the field and a late-night carouser off the field. Everything about the Babe’s style of play and personality clashed with that of Ty Cobb, who was comparatively meticulous about his self-care, his preparation, and his in-game approach to baseball. Furthermore, Ruth’s presence in the game now threatened Cobb’s claim to being the best player in baseball. Cobb represented an older style of baseball, which revolved around more of a “small ball” approach involving bunting, stealing, and effective base running, while Ruth represented the newer, flashier, slugging style that now took the country by storm.
The early relationship between the two ballplayers was laden with jealousy, pettiness, and mind games. When facing one another on the diamond, the two snarked and jabbed at each other constantly, at times going out of their way to do so. The book covers a number of their encounters, bringing them to life on the page with a level of detail that makes them seem like they happened just last week.
Over time, Cobb was forced to acknowledge that Ruth understood baseball at a much deeper level than just a platform for displaying his brute strength and garnering attention. Though the two men continued to compete with one another, they also came to respect each other, and even acknowledged this respect publicly. By the time Cobb retired from baseball, the two even had seemed to become friends.
I struggled a bit with the last portion of the book, which revolved around the golf competition between Cobb and Ruth. This isn’t a knock on Stanton’s writing so much as a reflection of my own indifference to the game of golf. The descriptions of the approaches and personalities of Ruth and Cobb continued to captivate my attention, but when details about the actual golf matches became the focus of the narrative, I confess that I largely skimmed through those parts.
Perhaps what I enjoyed most about the book came in Stanton’s refusal to demonize Cobb in the manner Cobb often gets portrayed in baseball histories. Not that Cobb was without his flaws, Stanton acknowledges, but contrary to popular belief, he did have friends and he never actually sharpened his spikes. The image of Cobb as a fierce, hard-sliding, no-holds-barred ballplayer started, for the most part, with his autobiography, ghostwritten by Al Stump, and perpetuated through popular culture.
In spite of the golf, I have to say that I’m thoroughly pleased with this book and I certainly don’t regret reading it. Stanton presents a refreshing look at both these ballplayers, and looking at each of them through the lens of their relationship with one another offers a fun perspective.
God, I love baseball.
~ from The Natural
Here’s a fun rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” played on the ukulele by John Curtis. When I saw how long the video was, I honestly hoped this would include playing the verses, but that did not end up being the case. All the same, I enjoyed listening to this fun and upbeat cover thoroughly.
Let’s just hope number two doesn’t show up at a crucial moment in the game.
Slowly, but surely, I have been continuing my trek through The Simpsons, and I am up to the show’s eighteenth season. In this season, the show highlights the ridiculous levels to which some fans take their obsession even with little league baseball.
The episode starts with Bart Simpson, shortstop for the Springfield Isotots (awesome little league name, by the way), catching a fly ball for the final out of a game, thus earning his team a spot in the championship game. Proud mom Marge Simpson goes out the next day to buy a new dress to wear to the game, bragging to the sales lady about what a star her son is on the field.
The championship game brings a matchup of Springfield against Shelbyville, and Springfield find themselves leading 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. Shelbyville, however, has the bases loaded. When their batter hits the ball that could win or lose the game, it heads towards Bart. He drops an easily caught pop up and repeatedly fails to pick it up, kicking it around the field, allowing all four runners to score and giving Shelbyville the victory.
The entire crowd turns on Bart and starts throwing beer at him, but the humiliation doesn’t end there. Bart’s error even makes it into the newspapers, and the town continues to rail on him for losing the game. Bart’s sister Lisa tries to cheer him up by taking to see an old baseball star (Joe La Boot) who dropped a critical fly ball once and still went on to be rich and famous. Unfortunately, it only makes Bart feel worse, even causing a rare burst of tears, after La Boot learns who he is and makes everyone in the building boo Bart yet again.
The next morning Springfield wakes up to find that a self-deprecatory Bart has spray-painted “I HATE BART SIMPSON” all over town. The townspeople gather under the water tower, where Bart is found painting the message yet again. Driven by taunts from the crowd, Bart lets go of the rope he dangles from, in an attempt to commit suicide. La Boot, feeling remorseful, tries to catch him, but trips and misses.
Bart survives the fall, but ends up in the hospital. Still unrelenting, the crowd now starts booing outside of Bart’s hospital window. Finally, Marge snaps, and she storms outside to confront the crowd, telling them they should be ashamed of themselves for treating a child in such a cruel, abusive manner. Furthermore, she calls everybody hypocrites since they themselves probably had similar experiences when they were younger and haven’t gone on to accomplish anything of substance.
Finally, the crowd shows a bit of remorse. Lisa suggests replaying the game (unofficially, but without Bart knowing) to give Bart another opportunity and to help bring his self-esteem back up, and the crowd agrees. Bart is told the game is getting replayed due to the umpire using a non-regulation brush to clean the plate in the first attempt. After 78 tries (with a variety of reasons made up as to why that final inning needed to be replayed), Bart finally catches the ball, “winning” the game.