Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Old Clips and Current Clips on Baseball

Excerpts from the Sports Illustrated edition dated 4/6/09, entitled Baseball Preview. Anything else on the cover, aside from C.C. Sabathia, I am unable to discern.

Clips from Baseball Almanac.

And a personal opinion. (You know about opinions, they're like a bunghole, everybody has one.)

Let us begin where most seasons, advertisement wise, begin. The spring training.
Here is a conversation with Ted Williams's driver, Joe Lindia.

Lindia told a story: In one of Williams's last seasons as a player, the Red Sox trained in Scottsdale, Arizona. Lindia went out to visit. One day, Williams said they should take a ride. They drove to the far edge of the town and went to a seedy motel. Williams directed Lindia to a certain room at the back. Lindia had no idea what was happening. Williams knocked on the door. An old man, looking as seedy as the motel itself, answered. "Joe," Williams said, "say hello to Ty Cobb." (Leigh Montville)

When the Minnesota Twins play on TV, Jake Mauer Sr. draws the shades at his house on Big Goose Lake, 35 miles north of Minneapolis, and settles into a chair 3 feet from his 56" television screen. ('Cause like some of us, he's an umpire at heart. He wants to see the strike zone, not invent it.)

Yer Out!
"Strike Three!" and I jump.
I'm in a big slump.
I'm down in the dump.
Can't get over this hump.

You cross-eyed old ump,
You're as blind as a stump.
Make me look like a chump,
You horse's rump! by Charles Ghingna

(back to Mauer's dad)

Macular degeneration
has robbed Jake of his vision, but by turning his head just so, he can, with his peripheral vision, see his grandson Joe step up to the plate. If Jake sees Joe overstriding or carrying his bat too low, he snaps photos on his digital camera and calls him later, with comments. However, Jake (age 75) adds proudly, he rarely sees flaws; what he sees is "the greatest hitter I ever saw-and I saw Ted Williams." Kelli Anderson

Jack Brett, 58, has a reputation for hardness, but he is almost rapturous when he talks of his second-born, Ken. "He looked like the statue of David when he was growing up," Jack says, "When he was just a little boy, his stomach was so strong that you could see the plates, the muscles. Even when he was five!"

Brett's sons are a major reason why
bumper stickers in El Segundo proclaim the town BASEBALL CITY USA. Jack has fathered four professional ballplayers, two of them major league All-Stars. And one of them is quite likely to wind up with a bronze plaque at Cooperstown. Funny thing, nobody expected it to be George Brett. - John Garrity

You want to fast-forward the calendar so you can see Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime. You want to find out just how great a player he will someday be when he actually gets serious about baseball. Not serious like Will Clark-serious, walking around with an I'm-looking-for-the-cure-for-cancer expression wrinkling his brow. Just, you know, serious. Like, paying attention to who's pitching. Learning the names of some of the opposing players. Little things. Unless, of course, that's the whole secret to the 20-year old Griffey's success: that he doesn't unnecessarily complicate the fundamentally simple concept of hitting the ball with the bat and catching it with the glove. E.M. Swift

A fellow like me is wandering outside of the park, marveling again that the only statue at Wrigley is not of Hack or Tinker or Evers or Chance- Cubs all- but of bloated, grinning announcer Harry Caray, holding out a microphone to an invisible crowd, singing silently in the seventh inning, Let Me hear Ya...the legend on the base reads. A ONE... A TWO.. A THREE. It's perfect, really, just the Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey years ago. Deejay Steve Dahl, who concocted the event and wore a military helmet during the detonation, says now that sox fans and Cubs fans can accept the endless losing because "we're happy just to be outside for a few months." Rick Terlander.

Back to Umpires

"The thing that surprised me most in baseball is the amount of integrity that most umpires have. It actually took me a while to believe what a good game they'd give you the next night after a blow-up." - Earl Weaver

A little ditty appeared on the same screen as the aformentioned Earl Weaver quote. The ditty inspired some thoughts. It is in one of my thoughts that I should go on.

(the ditty begins...) Baseball is a simple game played by nine, managed by one, and kept under control by an umpire. An unattributable quotation summed up the profession nicely with, "It's the only occupation where a man has to be perfect on Opening Day and improve as the season goes on."

(my need to interject) Only if you are, indeed, talking about one (1) umpire. But if you are talking about the group as a whole I think you're giving the umpire too much of the benefit of the doubt.
As far as being perfect, get over yourselves. Is that why you think you can interpret the rules instead of just follow them?

I've got a hankering to go all Richard Pryor on umpires. Especially when I witness an umpire completely blowing a call in person. There is nothing better than seeing it in person. Although, High Def and instant replay are gaining ground.

But, and there is always a but, if they are doing their best to improve each and every game, without the attitude, then I commend them 100%.

On an April night in 1965, the Astros flew from their spring training home in Cocoa, Fla., to Houston, where they based directly to the brand-new Astrodome to drop off equipment. Larry Dierker, an 18-year old rookie, bounded from the clubhouse into the concourse-level seats that night, taking in the multiple miracles before him: the air conditioning, the grass growing indoors (artificial turf was not laid until the following year), the translucent roof (greenhouse by day, planetarium by night)- the whole otherworldly quality of this $32 million marvel on the Texas prairie. "It was," Dierker says, "like walking into the next century." - Steve Rushin

Larry Dierker has and always will be a(n) Houston Astro. From being an 18-year old prodigy and a successful ballplayer, he has always had a job. From announcer to manager to announcer, the Astros just love this guy. His quote about the Astrodome iust may have been the luckiest statement in the history of economy if you consider how much he got- and continues to get -for those words.

(thanks to SI, Baseball Almanac)

Kevin Marquez