There’s nothing like Opening Day. There’s nothing like the start of a new season. I started playing baseball when I was seven years old and quit playing when I was 40, so it’s kind of in my blood.
Gene Budig is a former American League President. He’s also a former chancellor of the University of Kansas, where I happen to work. Budig’s tenure as chancellor happened before my time at KU, but when his book Clearing the Bases came out, it was made available to employees of the university. A few weeks ago, a lady I work with came across a long-forgotten stack of the book, and knowing that I am a baseball fan, offered one to me.
Clearing the Bases: Nine Who Did It with Grit and Class offers biographical sketches of nine individuals who had an impact on the game of baseball. The book discusses Cal Ripken, Jr., Bobby Brown, George Brett, Joe Torre, Bob Feller, Mike Ilitch, Marty Springstead, Bill Madden, and Frank Robinson. Budig gives information about their backgrounds, their careers, and their accomplishments. Furthermore, Budig knew each of these individuals personally and offers his own candid insights into their character and impact.
Perhaps my favorite part about these biographies, however, is that they also make mention of community contributions that each of these men have made. Bobby Brown, for example, went to medical school and became a cardiologist. Joe Torre and his wife created the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation, and he campaigns against any type of domestic abuse. Bob Feller served for four years in the United States Navy, right as he would’ve been in his prime as a baseball player.
Furthermore, Budig doesn’t talk merely about baseball players. He includes figures who have impacted the game in other ways. Marty Springstead was an umpire. Michael Ilitch owns the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Red Wings, and founded Little Caesar’s Pizza. Bill Madden is a sportswriter.
This book is a fast read, too. I made my way through it in one afternoon and enjoyed every minute of it. Budig’s writing style is engaging and certainly not the over-complicated rhetoric that one often sees with academics. It appears there was a second edition of the book released a couple years after this one, titled Swinging For the Fences. I do not know whether there are any significant differences between that edition and Clearing the Bases. So far as I have been able to tell from what I’ve seen online, they appear to be the same book. That would be another title to watch for, if you are considering giving this one a read.
This is a cool piece put out by the New York Times, which revolves around this photo taken during Game 5 of last year’s World Series, when Eric Hosmer made his now-infamous mad dash to the plate to tie the game.
The Times managed to track down eleven of the folks sitting in the stands in this photo and asked for their perspectives on how it all went down. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I think that definitely applies in this case. All the same, I still find it interesting to explore the responses of the fans that the Times managed to interview.
You can see the frustration on our faces. It was just: ‘I can’t believe this just happened.’ Everyone was in the same shocked state of mind. This can’t be! It just can’t be! The game should be over.
You can find the complete collection of interviews, including audio recordings, here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/01/sports/baseball/ny-mets-kansas-city-royals-opener.html
Hitting is a strange thing. You’re so smart talking about hitting, and then you step into the batter’s box, and something happens to you. You get stupid. It’s like everything goes out the window. You step into the batter’s box, and immediately you turn into a third-grader. Fortunately, pitchers are like second-graders.
~ George Brett
I love George Brett’s Hall of Fame induction speech. His passion for baseball is apparent in every word and every story that he expresses. It’s no secret why he continues to be considered a hero in Kansas City.
If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing you grandmother with her teeth out.
In 1980, Royals third baseman George Brett made a strong run at finishing with a batting average above .400 for the season, an accomplishment last achieved by Ted Williams in 1941. The last day of the season in which Brett’s average stayed above .400, however, came on September 19th, when he went 2-for-4 against the A’s in Kansas City. What followed was a 4-for-27 slump, from which Brett could not rebound in time. He finished the season hitting .390 and won the American League MVP award.