This documentary on Hank Aaron does a great job of depicting the level of racism Aaron faced not only as a ballplayer, but throughout his life. In spite of it all, he excelled on the field and made an incredible and lasting impact on the game.
In December 1919, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth for $125,000 to the Yankees, and also secured a $300,000 loan from the New York team. Throughout history, Frazee has been criticized for this deal, taking the blame for igniting the Curse of the Bambino, in which Boston did not win a World Series from 1918 to 2004. In the video below, originally aired in 2005, ESPN Classic takes a closer look at the circumstances surrounding the deal and comes to Frazee’s defense. True, Babe Ruth was one of the great pitchers of the era, but Ruth ultimately did not want to be a pitcher, but rather expressed more interest in hitting home runs. Additionally, Ruth’s antics off the field were well-known headache-inducers for any team. These are just a couple of the reasons that motivated Frazee to make the deal.
This is an interesting illustration that demonstrates the difference between what three different pitches look like as they hurtle towards home plate. That four-seamer is quite the blur, and it seems you would need quite the discerning eye to distinguish between the two-seamer and the curveball. Factor in how fast many pitches travel toward the plate, and it goes to show how much batters really need to be prepared for anything.
Here’s a documentary on Joe DiMaggio by ESPN that aired in 1999 as part of the SportsCentury series. It’s obviously an abbreviated documentary, not going into a lot of depth, but it is still certainly worth a watch.
As a runner and a baseball fan, I found this story from Runner’s World particularly entertaining. Atlanta Braves mascot, The Freeze, is actually 26-year-old Nigel Talton of the stadium grounds crew, and he is mind-bogglingly fast. He’s so fast, in fact, that he nearly qualified for the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials. That didn’t pan out, however, so to earn a living, Talton becomes The Freeze at Braves home games.
Braves fans who take on the Beat the Freeze challenge rarely are successful, even in spite of the ridiculous head start they are granted in each race.
Here’s an interview he did with ESPN a few months back. You can’t help but keep your fingers crossed for his running career. They bring up a good point — he’d make a heckuva pinch runner.
ESPN.com posted this video a couple weeks ago, providing a sort of umpire’s perspective on the pitches of Aroldis Chapman. I have to confess that I was a tad underwhelmed the first time I watched it. However, when I imagine trying to actually swing at these pitches, I realize just how hard he really can throw a baseball. It’s pretty impressive, really.
He discusses the skill level involved in baseball as compared to other sports and the declining popularity of Major League Baseball as compared to the NFL or NASCAR. I particularly love how he advocates against parents and coaches pushing their kids to specialize in a single sport, bemoaning the decline of three-sport letter winners in high schools. He points out that “when we have 14 year old kids having Tommy John surgery, then something is really wrong with this picture.” I often think the same kind of thing when the Little League World Series comes on, wondering about the futures these kids have given the stress they put themselves through so young.
Most of all, I just love the fact that Kurkjian’s love for baseball shows through so clearly in this interview. People who have a passion for this game — as many of you reading this have — absolutely fascinate me. And I enjoy reading and hearing about the reasons people love it so much.
Framing is the art of making a pitch that is near the strike zone appear to be a strike when it may not actually be one. A catcher, who can frame well, can be extremely helpful to a pitcher working the corners of the plate and has been particularly valuable in the major leagues. The act of framing is a very subtle tactic, an action which occurs just as the catcher catches the ball. Since no umpire is ever going to be fooled by a jerk of the glove to drag a pitch back to the strike zone, successful framing is a very slight action, almost indiscernible.
ESPN did this fascinating feature story, “You Got Framed,” discussing the value of a catcher who can turn a borderline pitch into a called strike. The increase in strikeouts in the major leagues, they argue, is not merely due to the propensity of hitters to swing for the fences. It also has to do with the increase in catchers who are successful at framing.
The act of framing isn’t foolproof, of course, and I’m sure that umpires do sometimes feel as Laz Diaz is comically depicted in this Onion article. “You catchers seem to think that I was born yesterday. Some of you even believe you can fool me by holding your glove there for an extra long time, as if to say, ‘See, I’m holding it here like this because it was a strike.’ Well, this umpire is not falling for that. Not today, not ever.”
This infographic was published on ESPN’s website in April 2012, celebrating the start of another MLB season. It includes some statistics and events that have occurred on Opening Day throughout history. I’m sorry (though not terribly surprised) to see that my beloved Royals have the worst Opening Day winning percentage. The “What to Watch For” section is particularly interesting in that it’s hard to believe how much has changed in just three years.