The Last Third

As we say goodbye to perhaps the last truly enjoyable World Cup in history, we need to realize that it is not a dream, it is a fact: the next one, in 2022, will be held in Qatar. Will the next Winter Olympics be staged in Death Valley? What the hell, it needs a little work but there are millions of euros and dollars and bitcoins to be made. They know about money in Qatar, a nation of 2.6 million people who enjoy the highest per capita income in the world. Football (soccer) in the desert! Oh well, we Americans have golf in the desert, don’t we? We celebrate diversity, at least on paper, but this is more like culture clash. Qatar is mainly under Sharia law. Alcohol consumption and illicit sexual relations are punishable by flogging. That might actually be preferable to what happens to miscreants here, who are often forced to endure game shows and televised poker. Apostasy and homosexuality are punishable by death. Apostasy, for all of you numerous  secular folks out there, would be equivalent, in the United States, to not liking barbecue.

How does FIFA make these decisions? Despite my access to Wikipedia, which knows everything, I don’t know. I suspect, though, that it is much like the way that the International Olympic Committee operates, in that wire transfers and luggage containing suitable forms  of currency insure that fairness applies in the selection of sites.

They don’t have any Putin or Trump types in Qatar. It’s a family affair, and guys like that are a waste of money. They have an emir, part of the Al Thani dynasty that has been ruling since 1825. The current dude is Tamim binHamad Al Thani and he gets his dough from natural gas and oil reserves.  The best thing that can be said about Qatar is that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates have cut off diplomatic ties with them.

Meanwhile, the major league baseball season slogs on toward the dog days. They call everything after the All Star Game the second half, but arithmetically it is really the last third. What significant things can be tallied after the first 98 games or so?

  1. THE KANSAS CITY ROYALS ARE DONE FOR
  2. FIRING MIKE MATHENY WON’T IMPROVE THE CARDINALS DEFENSE
  3. BRYCE HARPER WILL NOT WIN THE TRIPLE CROWN
  4. CLEVELAND WINS THE CENTRAL ON THREE WHEELS
  5. MILWAUKEE HAS PROBABLY PEAKED
  6. ATTENDANCE WILL CONTINUE TO FALTER IN MORE PLACES
  7. PRESIDENT TWEETY WILL ATTEND NO GAMES
  8. OAKLAND WILL CONTINUE TO BE A PLEASANT SURPRISE
  9. THE RAYS WILL NOT MOVE TO OKLAHOMA CITY
  10. WIN OR LOSE, BRUCE BOCHY WILL RETIRE IN NOVEMBER

Promise Broken

My generation, the one referred to so arrogantly by The Who half a century ago, is quite possibly the largest collection of spoiled brats in the history of human life. I’m only including the forever young who were born in the United States, of course, because that’s how we think. From Howdy Doody to Dick Clark to the Beatles the mass media, particularly television, catered to us every step of the way. For one thing, there were so many of us. What a market! For another, many of us had parents who lived through The Depression and The War, and, as a result, were determined that their kids were going to have everything that they had been forced to do without. What a great, great market! So, everywhere we went, we took over. Elementary school, high school, college, prison, you name it. It still goes on at assisted living facilities and graveyards.

While deep in thought as the new year began, your correspondent made a resolution. Why not drop all of the negative bile I’ve been belching forth (and aft) about the wretched changes to what used to be our national pastime–the constant whining and yapping about the designated sitter, the lost art of starting pitching, the crass commercialization, and Joe Buck? Maybe I really should have spent the entire winter speculating about which major league organization was going to turn Bryce Harper into the next Albert Pujols. Maybe I should just go with flow and forget about all of those things that went missing, like sacrifice bunts, going the other way, and affordable tickets. I was probably just getting old and crusty and wanting everything, including baseball, to be just like it was in the days when cars had drivers and the average person didn’t know what everyone else in the country had for lunch.

I mean, I wasn’t being what they call a purist, was I? I just wanted my own baby boomer golden days of the mid sixties and late seventies, didn’t I? At least the early DHs were aging stars of my youth like Henry Aaron, Rico Carty, and Frank Robinson. Didn’t mind that.  Perhaps the old timers of my youth were nostalgic for the days of Smoky Joe Wood, who, in 1912, won 34 and lost 5 for the pennant winning Boston Red Sox while completing 35 of his 36 starts and coming out of the bullpen seven times  for a total of 344 innings pitched. Or maybe some other folks missed the 40s, before the days of Jackie Robinson, when almost every runner had a good chance of scoring from first base on a triple. So , begrudgingly. it became apparent that my song was getting too many plays and it was time to get with it. Kind of a cranial liposuction. Ah yes! That feels better. Let’s talk about launch angles and spin rates. What’s good for General Motors is good for the country, even if the country is China, where they will soon be making Teslas as well.

Then I read about Tom Seaver. He’s been diagnosed with dementia and will no longer make public appearances. Seaver and Nolan Ryan, who briefly were teammates on the New York Mets, were strong legged, long lasting pitchers that, if anyone wished to learn  proper technique and conditioning, were ideal models of the craft.  I’m indebted to writer Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle, who dug up some quotes by Seaver from years ago that warmed my heart.  He told the NewYork Daily News that …”All this babying of pitchers—pitch counts and innings limits—is a bunch of nonsense.”  In case you didn’t know, Seaver pitched 20 seasons, had 231 complete games, won 311 games, and has a lifetime earned run average of 2.86 and 3,640 strikeouts. In another interview years ago he  said, “These people today don’t understand what it means to walk off the mound after holding the other team down for nine innings….the effect it has on players in the other dugout. By coddling a guy, you’re teaching him to fear his innings pitched.   Where are you going to find the next Bob Gibson or Steve Carlton unless a young pitcher is pushed? You won’t.And I guarantee you most of these guys would like tp pitch more and realize their full potential.”

Okay, I fell off the wagon. We do have guys like Max Scherzer and Madison Bumgarner and Justin Verlander. Jacob DeGrom and Cory Kluber also qualify. But it will take years and years to retrain everyone’s minds, so I might as well give up. It’s as likely to happen as Sunday doubleheaders.

Number 20

When you are ten years old and delivering the afternoon newspapers to the households on your route, you are not thinking that you are in the golden age of anything.  As the skin on your hands darkens from the news hot off the press you are reading the headlines. Don’t know what the Suez Canal is about and honestly don’t care much. What is exciting, though, is the news on the inner pages about the three team race for the National League pennant. Upstart teams in Milwaukee and Cincinnati are making the Brooklyn Dodgers, the team that ran away with the pennant last year and finally beat the Yankees in the World Series, fight for every game in order to repeat. It’s not the golden age of anything. It’s always been this way, right? This is what your dad and your older brothers and everyone is talking about, right?

The Braves had finished 13 and a half games out in second place in 1955 and the Reds, sometimes calling themselves the Redlegs during the McCarthy weirdness of the 50s, were buried in fifth, 23 and a half games back. Things got very different the next season for Cincinnati as they added a 31 year old  right handed pitcher named Brooks Lawrence, who became a 19 game winner, and a 20 year old outfielder named Frank Robinson. Robinson, who was born in Beaumont, Texas but grew up in  Oakland, California, made quite a difference for the Reds, who finished two games behind the Dodgers in ’56. The Braves, who would win it all the following season, finished one game out. Robinson became rookie of the year in the National League . He batted .290 and his 38 home runs were the most ever tallied by a first year player. He stole 8 bases and played a stellar left field  in addition to becoming a right handed slugger to join Wally Post  countering the lefty power threats Ted Kluszewski, Gus Bell, and Ed Bailey on the Reds.  That team tied the New York Giants record  team total of 221 set in 1947.

There was a lot more than statistics about Frank Robinson, though. He was a fierce, proud competitor to say the least. His tall, thin but muscular frame crowded the plate. He also led the league in another category that rookie season. He was hit by a pitch 20 times. In his career, which lasted through 1976, when he was playing manager of the Cleveland Indians, Robinson got plunked 198 times. He feared no one, and buzzing him probably hurt pitchers more than it helped them. His first year was Jackie Robinson‘s last, and he took up the cause proudly and gracefully.

He led the National League in intentional walks four consecutive years, from 1961 to ’64. Cincinnati went to the World Series in 1961 and contended for the next couple of seasons under manager Fred Hutchinson, notably finishing just a game behind the Cardinals in ’64 as Hutchinson fell ill with cancer. They had added another Oakland product, Vada Pinson, and had become more of a running team with solid pitching. By the way, if those days had been the golden age of anything, it had been the golden age of the dominance of excellent athletes from the Bay Area like Willie Stargell, Joe Morgan, Curt Flood, and Robinson. Robinson was a high school basketball player at McClymonds High with  a guy named Bill Russell. It’s difficult to imagine any team anywhere  with a pair of  prouder winners or more fierce competitors than Frank Robinson and Bill Russell.

We all know the story of how the Reds decided that Frank was old at 30 and traded him to the Baltimore Orioles, where he became the MVP of the American League in 1966, his triple crown season. Not incidentally, the Orioles became winners for a long time while Cincinnati disappeared until 1972.

It was a genuine thrill to see Frank Robinson hit a home run in his first game as the first black skinned manager in the major leagues even if it was embarrassing to know that it took that long. He was the same kind of manager  as he was a player—good, and tough. No one messed with number 20 without regretting it. He may have been more popular had he been less honest. He has gone and left a lot of popular losers in the dust.

Don’t Just Make a Move–Sit There!

Right here, right now, it looks as though the Boston Red Sox are an absolute cinch to repeat as World Champions in 2019. So let’s all go back to bed and I’ll talk to you in October.

Wait—just kidding. Sort of. There seems to be a correlation between how much reverence and attention are given to the business world and how, at the same time, the business world, at least here in the Disunited States, continues to plummet toward the bottom of the outhouse. So to speak. It takes a lot of famotidine to get through all of the jibber jabber on ESPN or mlb.com etc. about who is going to sign famous roughhouser Manny Machado or famous dullard Bryce Harper before the season starts in, oh, 65 days or so. All we can seem to talk about are free agents and trade rumors. If there exist any up and coming young baseball players  who might crash through and make us forget these guys we are not hearing much about them. Perhaps that is because the headlines that they might create would not qualify for what those in the know refer to as “click bait”.   All of the teams appear to be salivating at the prospect of adding that one star that puts them in contention to play for all the marbles  when the leaves change colors and fall.

Except, of course, for the San Francisco Giants. The Giants are to be commended for finally realizing  that last year and the year before that and the year before that have little effect on the here and now other than by providing memories, both good and bad. They have hired a new brain trust in Farhan Zaidi, who made his bones with Oakland and the Dodgers, and he has wisely refrained from making roster moves just so he can say that he did. They have re-signed pitchers Derek Holland and Will Smith, which didn’t seem to get President Schicklgruber or Nancy Pelosi off the front page. The big moves for the Giants so far have been to expand the size of  the scoreboard so that people with binoculars in Menlo Park can see that Kelby Tomlinson is batting .183 every time he comes up and to change the name of their ballpark again. We can stop calling it the Phone Booth now because AT&T has relinguished the “naming rights” to another Bay Area monument to greed and stupidity, Oracle. This is the huge, wealthy company that has made billions by supplying unsuspecting business owners with practically useless software that costs so much money that no one will admit that it stinks. It is said that many employees of Oracle, which was the last name of the building that the Warriors played home games inside, say that the letters making up the name Oracle stand for One Real Asshole Called Larry Ellison but that cannot be fact checked. Naming rights getting sold seems like a really huge scam but, since it is being played on people like Ellison, who personally also owns the face of greed, who cares?

Maybe Zaidi and the Giants will fool us all and sign Harper or Machado tomorrow. What is truly sad, however, as the winter days of raging storms draw closer to their end, is that more and more attention is drawn to all of these transactions as if they have no affect on the real human beings that get shuffled around to all of the various rosters. No, this is not to say that we should pity these millionaire players or their families. It’s just that the game that is played with bats and gloves and balls seems to be playing second fiddle to the games played by billionaires with cash and stocks and real estate. That game is about as much fun as trying to play with Larry Ellison’s software.

Serendipity

Thanks to an innocuous folk singing group called the Serendipity Singers, back in the seemingly innocuous early 60s, I learned what serendipity means. I used a dictionary, which many who have entered the world only after the Google Age began may be unfamiliar with, he said, almost ending his sentence with a preposition. The dictionary informed me that serendipity (from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip) is the faculty of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for, which the Serendipity Singers’ songs may or may not be. That, of course, brings us to Ralph Kiner and other baseball topics for today.

I mentioned the other day that the first major league ballpark  that I ever visited was Forbes Field, one of the former homes of the Pittsburgh Pirates. I wanted to know more about that place, which was built in four months in 1909. The Pirates played their home games there, with Schenley Park and the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning nearby, from June 30, 1909 until June 28,1970, when it was replaced by Three Rivers Stadium, which had better sight lines but little else to offer. My source, by the way, for this information is an excellent book published in 1992 entitled Lost Ballparks by Lawrence S. Ritter. John Forbes was a General from Britain who killed Indians and others  and captured Fort Duquesne from the French in 1758 and renamed it Fort Pitt. He didn’t know squat about baseball but got a park named after him back before parks started getting named after clever sounding corporations like Smoothy King.

Forbes Field had its charms, and one of them was that it was a great yard for hitting triples but not home runs. Perhaps that is why, to this day,I prefer triples to home runs and throws from deep right field toward third base like Roberto Clemente used to make. However, before the 1947 season began, the Pirates acquired  a right handed hitting outfielder and first baseman from the Detroit Tigers for $75,000. His name was Hank Greenberg and he was a great power hitter. In 1946, Greenberg had hit 44 home runs and driven in 127 runs for Detroit. So why did they sell him? Well, he was going to be 36 years old and 75K was a lot of money in those days but who knows? The Tigers finished second with him, and then they finished second without him. Anyway, Pittsburgh management made a decision. To assist their new slugger, they moved the bullpens out to where the left field fence had been at Forbes Field and put up a new fenced  enclosure that was soon dubbed Greenberg Gardens. That shortened the distance for a homer to left field from 365 to 335 feet. As it turned out, Greenberg, who had hit 50 doubles and 41 homers for the Tigers in 1940 and 58 home runs in 1938, did not set a home run record for Pittsburgh in 1947. Despite missing most of the 1941 and 1945 seasons and all of ’42, ’43, and ’44 due to military service, he proved himself as a slugger with 306 career homers before the ’47 season. So the Pirates had reason to expect more than what he produced in what became  Greenberg’s final pro season. In 119 games, he batted .249 with 25 home runs and 74 RBI.  However, serendipity yielded  Ralph Kiner.

Pittsburgh had finished seventh in 1946, 34 games behind St. Louis. Attendance was 749,962 for an average of 9,615 people, which would be a death blow to a franchise today. They were not good, obviously, but they had some players—Al Lopez, Elbie Fletcher, Billy Cox, Fritz Ostermueller, and a 23 year old outfielder named Kiner. When Greenberg arrived, he took time to show young Kiner how to be selective at bat and get good pitches to hit. Ralph Kiner’s home run output that season increased from 23, his 1946 total, to 51, along with 127 RBI. So even though Greenberg played just the one year, the 75K was no doubt worth it. The Pirates tied the Phillies for last place in ’47 but the attendance soared well over the million mark all the way through 1950. Kiner remained a fixture through 1952, clubbing 40,54,47,42,and 37 homers before being traded to the Chicago Cubs, where he played two seasons before finishing his career in Cleveland and then becoming a beloved broadcaster for the New York Mets. He will always be associated with good attendance combined with terrible winning records in Pittsburgh. The Pirates finally decided to start improving the whole team after hitting bottom in 1952 with a record of 42-112.

The song most remembered by the Serendipity Singers was Don’t Let the Rain Come Down, an apparent appeal to the universe at large to protect the singers because their roof had a hole in it and they might drown. Sort of like praying for a home run slugger because you don’t want to fix the roster, or roof. I looked up that forgotten song on Google.

 

Sounds of Silence

Frequent readers are justifiably fed up with the persistent whining about how, in major league baseball, the complete game by pitchers has gone the way of  the dodo bird and polite political discourse and about  the creeping devastation to the game caused by the designated sitter rule, so those are not the topics for today. No, today, we move on to other  sources of wonderment and irritation.  For instance, if a tree falls on the school for the deaf, can they still collect the insurance money? Also, do they have smoke alarms? Calm down, all you PC types, I’m not making fun of deaf people, I’m making fun of smoke alarms. Of course, one is not supposed to do that, either.

 

I don’t go to the ball parks much. That’s partly because of the distance to travel but mostly because I don’t have the kind of money that people running for office that the Koch brothers like do. However, since I do have a television, I am somewhat aware of what happens in those places. I suspect that I would not be as thrilled to attend a game now as I was when I first entered a real major league park. Why? Well, they have really gotten to be noisy.  It’s mind blowing. So far as I can tell, Dodger Stadium is the worst. I confess that I am part of the Woodstock generation and I am really happy that I missed Woodstock. I went to an outdoor concert at Kezar Stadium on the first day of Spring  1973 when you could hear the Grateful Dead loud and clear even if you were without a ticket and blocks away. I have been to one of Bill Graham‘s indoor concentration camps, the one called Winterland, and suffered through Foghat. Make no mistake, I was a stoner. But this is not what I call fun. I remember listening to people try to remember what they had done the night before, and many were adamant that, wherever they had been, IT WAS REALLY LOUD MAN. Like it was good thing.

Dodger Stadium sounds like that now. The L.A. Dodger organization had once been so dignified and traditional and conservative that you could have called it stodgy. No mas, brother. Loud. Constant. And those streamers that all venues have now with their Leni Riefenstahl  style inducements to MAKE SOME NOISE! Scary. Walk up music. Rally music. Pitching change music. Plus, we have arcades, restaurants, gift shops, and all sorts of inducements to do just about anything except watch a ball game. The owners are all making bank, so shut up, right?

Contrast that, though, to how I remember that first visit to Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. There was minimal technology. My brother Paul brought binoculars to see the players a little better. There was a public address system. “Number 4, the center fielder, Duke Snider.” The batters would be announced the first time through the lineup and that was it. Replacement batters, runners, pitchers, or fielders were announced as they entered the game. In other words, it was expected that we were paying attention. It seemed to me that respect for the game was being shown.

Therefore, in order to have fun with this bit of nostalgia, I have come up with some walk up music for some of the players that never got to enjoy it.  Bill Spaceman Lee: Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.  Ty Cobb: Helter Skelter.  Joe DiMaggio: Sounds of Silence.  Billy Martin: Another One Bites the Dust.  Jackie Robinson: Only the Lonely.

The time will come soon enough that codgers like myself won’t be around to piss and moan and Distractionland will be a theme park. Until then, thanks for putting up with this.

Thanks For Writing

The end of the 2018 season left me in such a ragged state that I needed to check into the Billy Idol Clinic for Ego Restoration and Eyebrow Renewal. This kept me away from the keyboard for over a month and thus some readers became concerned as to my welfare. Thanks to both of you.

Blogs come and blogs go but the things  that remain forever are the comments. That’s a fortunate thing because it enables an otherwise blocked  scribe to find fuel with which to slog forward. By the way, while I was there I was able to come across a sure fire stocking stuffer that will delight the aging rocker wannabes on your list. You can purchase an authentic, preserved chunk of one of David Crosby’s livers for just $19.95 and it is enclosed in  realistic plexiglas for mounting. I’m not sure who to give them to but I bought three.

So let’s quit farting around and start addressing some of the issues raised by those comments.  Here’s one from Kay Syrah in Petaluma, California : “Everyone else who  talks or writes about baseball is filling our minds with rumors and guesses about  what team is going to sign what free agent or what trades we can expect to see made during the winter. You don’t do that. What’s wrong with you?”   Well, Kay, it certainly is speculation season It may just be my imagination, but it seems these days that there are more people talking about doing things than there are  folks actually doing things. Whereas some of us used to go out into the snow and fire snowballs at trees and  utility poles to practice utilizing the strike zone during the off season, today’s young fans are perhaps firing up their cell phones  and making calls to other pretend general managers and pretend  player agents and talking deals. Just not that interesting.

Barney Holzapple of McKeeesport, Pennsylvania wanted to know, “What do you think of the new Hall of Fame selections? Should Will Clark have been voted in? Lee Smith and Harold Baines  seem to deserve it”   Barney, if Omar Vizquel isn’t there, it ain’t what it says it is.

Finally, some anonymous troll said I should quit griping about the lack of baseball games and take up some of what he or she says are “cool” winter sports like hockey, basketball, or the National Felons League. Actually, there is lots of what Americans call soccer to watch. And high school basketball is okay.

A Ghostly Visitor

Old Uncle Ebenezer felt a shiver. The final out in the World Series had been recorded, and he felt as though the temperature in his little apartment had suddenly dropped by ten degrees. He pulled his aching bones out of his lumpy easy chair and hobbled to the wall thermostat to turn it up a few notches. The arthritis in his fingers made it difficult and Ebenezer decided that he would not wait until an hour before bedtime. He moved toward the kitchen, where his bottle of  Jameson Triple Distilled rested in the cabinet above the sink. With slightly shaking hands he poured himself a double.

The television was still on in the living room when Ebenezer awoke from his slumber  and he muttered something  possibly profane but clearly unintelligible as he switched it off and  made his way to the bedroom and buried himself  under the sheet and blanket while fumbling for his pillow. He could hear the wind howling and his neighbor’s dog barking but it wasn’t long before he was fast asleep.

The night was as dark as the night had ever been. The wind had brought rain and the steady beating of water on the roof and against the glass helped Ebenezer  drop into a deep sleep. After an hour and three quarters, however, the call of nature roused the old man from his rest and he rose to make his way to the toilet. He was surprised to see that the light in the bathroom was on. Ebenezer liked his nightlight in the bath and was too frugal to deliberately leave the overhead light burning. He was a bit groggy from the whiskey but , after relieving himself, he felt suddenly alert. Then, his eyes opened wide in  amazement. There was a form, somewhat shaped like a human, sitting in his easy chair.  Without his spectacles Uncle Ebenezer was not certain what he was witnessing and he was rendered speechless for a few moments before shouting, “Hey!. You there! What the hell are you doing in my living room?”

The shape responded by  quickly taking the form of a gaseous cloud and rising up to the ceiling. To Ebenezer’s astonishment, the cloud had a voice and spoke!  “Do not be afraid, old dude. This is not an apparition. Well,it is, but I’m real. My name is Doubleday. I have been monitoring your stress level and, if you agree to my conditions, we can help your condition.”

My uncle was aghast. “What condition? How do you know anything about me?”

Doubleday spoke again. “You are not my only client. There are many bereft souls out there. So let’s cut to the chase. The goal is to work for the good of the game. If you adhere to that I can grant you temporary powers to achieve what both of us, many of us, want”

Ebenezer was no longer groggy. In fact, he made his mind up quickly. “Okay, how about this. Make me the executive officer for the MLB Players’ Association.”

The next thing Ebenezer knew, he was traveling all over the country and visiting every major league clubhouse. He went from player to player carrying a cardboard box. Into the box each player dropped gold chains and necklaces and other useless jewelry. These were all taken by Ebenezer and exchanged  for tickets to MLB regular season games and the tickets were  given away in each franchise location to young boys and girls who could not otherwise ever afford to attend a game. Then, just as suddenly, Ebenezer was back in his apartment. Doubleday was there, too, in the form of  a floor lamp.

“Good job, old dude. So you get another wish.” Ebenezer did not hesitate. “Make me the commissioner of baseball!” he pleaded. In the blink of an eye Ebenezer was sitting at a large desk in a New York office. He was speaking informally to a group of sports reporters. “Today I have taken three bold steps to improve both the image and the reality of our game. First, by executive decree, we  will be banning all cell phones and other mobile electronic devices from all of our ballparks while games are being played. Second, we are repealing the designated hitter rule forever. Last, from now on, all player salaries will be determined by where their teams fall in the standings.”

Before you could say Stan Musial, Ebenezer was back home again. Doubleday was there to greet him. “Well done, dude. So you get one last wish and then I have to split.” My uncle did not hesitate. “I want to be president of the United States!”

In the oval office, Ebenezer was holding a press conference. With him were Mike Trout, Madison Bumgarner, and David Wright. “Today, my fellow Americans, we are proud to announce that we have directed the FCC to establish commercial free television of all MLB games henceforth.”

And then he woke up.

 

What Fun!

I was not one of the seventeen people still watching when the Dodgers finally ended it but, as Joe Buck might say, “How about that Dodger Stadium organist!”

This is the latest from Baseball Anarchy with hints of vanilla and caramel rye. You may have seen the reports that, when the Yankees swept the Cincinnati Reds in the 1939 World Series, the composite time of the four games added up to less than what it took for the third game of this series. I would like to add that a total of 12 pitchers were employed in that entire series. That seems to be what we are averaging for every five innings these days. A stalwart performance by Nathan Eovaldi was rewarded with a sad loss.

I have to say that one week prior to Halloween is a lousy time to play home run derby and perhaps the point that John Smoltz keeps trying to make will finally get across to management. Eighteen inning games can occur more readily when  half the rosters are full of pitchers and pinch hitters, pinch runners, and defensive replacements are quickly used up. It also is no help when sacrifices are sacrileges and everyone is trying to launch the ball into the stratosphere rather than  just moving base runners, of which there were many, along. In that 1939 World Series, I would add, a total of 42 strikeouts were recorded.

And now a quick word from Google Assistant:

Q. What is the difference between Google Assistant and a pencil with a piece of paper?

A. The former costs a lot more than the latter.

Dave Roberts comes across as the guy who is your friend even before you know it. He makes you a better person by aggressive example. He doesn’t think he is better than you are, he just wants to help you succeed. So you have a tendency to walk through walls for him.  Alex Cora comes across in much the same way. He seems to be a little smarter about ball I think. They’re both good.

I’m already making plans about my free taco on November 1st but first I would like to see a few line drives and some good base running, wouldn’t you? Along about the 14th inning, I started begging Alex Cora to ask for a forfeit so that some of his players would be ready for Saturday’s game. It’s probably bad taste to single out Cody Bellinger, Manny “Macho” Machado, and Ian Kinsler but come on, you guys.

And now, a quick word from Roman, your E.D.  fixer upper: You can last all game long and extra innings too without embarrassing visits to a doctor!

Okay, now I have to have my nap before Game Four.

 

 

Adults Only Fall Classic

Just a few more days and no more than seven games  to go and then the television can go into hibernation until next March. Like many others, I reckoned that the American League Championship Series would be the real contest to see who was best. The NLCS proved to be quite interesting, however, even beyond the somewhat bizarre pitching strategies employed by Dave Roberts and, especially, Craig Counsell. My feeling in September  was that the Milwaukee Brewers had made a mistake by stocking their roster with too many infielders and not adding a starting pitcher or two but, oh Lordy, what a bullpen that is! And to think that not so long ago I tried to make a joke about starting a game with the “closer”. It was also bizarre to see an L.A. Dodgers team that pulverized teams with home runs. Echos of Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett describing  2-1 and 1-0 games over and over back in the days of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale went through my weary head as the likes of  Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger nearly erased all memories of the days when a Dodger hitting more than ten homers was considered big power.

Boston does look like the better team, though, and that’s been true all season. They have that wonderful assortment of outfielders although one of them, Mookie Betts, will apparently become an infielder in Los Angeles thanks to the designated sitter rule. If Chris Sale is healthy  I like the Red Sox pitching a little better than the boys from LaLa Land. The Dodgers are a bit better late in the game if Kenley Jansen is okay, which he certainly has been lately. Health had a lot to do with the defending champion Astros falling short. Mitch Moreland was hurting for Boston but  Jose Altuve was obviously not himself in the field and on the bases. Xander Bogaerts may not hit quite like  Manny Machado but he is very good and did not prove himself to be a dickhead the way that Machado did in the last round. Here’s hoping that Machado signs with either the Yankees or Dodgers for next year to make it even easier to root against them. Boston’s closer, Craig Kimbrel, has very impressive career statistics despite that odd style of his. Just before each pitch, he resembles  a drunk who is looking for the lighter he just dropped. It works, though.

This should be a very interesting series for all of us who are not too old or too young to be there or to watch it on television. Every single game will begin after 8 o’clock PM in the Eastern time zone. The first two are in Boston and I sure hope that it doesn’t snow. Out in Mountain or Pacific time zones, not so bad and we’re glad Colorado didn’t make it because it WOULD snow. This is a game that is meant to be played in daylight whenever possible. I know, it’s all about the wonderful folks who bring it into our modest little homes via television. We wouldn’t want to not be on at “Prime Time”, which has become a joke in this day and age. I got the baseball bug watching 23 year old Johnny Podres shut out the Yankees in 1955, when my  bedtime was, as it probably should be now, 9PM. At least the youth of today will be spared having to see ads for erectile dysfunction pills available online or that obnoxious and grammatically challenged woman hawking Jim Beam. So two in Beantown and then three in L.A. and, if necessary, two more in Boston October 30 and 31. It’s a great game, but the people in charge aren’t doing much to show it. Go Sox!

Beginning of the End?

The average attendance at a major league baseball game in 2018 was 28,830. Not so long ago, that would have been considered good. That has been reported as a drop of 4 per cent from the previous season and it is 14.4 per cent down from a high of 32,785 in 2007, or right before  what the big banks and the un-regulators are calling the Great Recession. Six teams—Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Miami, Baltimore, Minnesota, and the Chicago White Sox drew their smallest attendance since they opened their newest home ballparks.

No one wants to mention the fact that many people have been priced out of going to a big league game but I believe that it has to be a fact. Of course, for many others it is not a problem. You can see them sitting there up close to the action, feeding their faces  and playing with their phones. Are these really baseball fans or just the people who can afford the “baseball experience”? I don’t know, but it makes me wonder. What I do know for sure is that it is a far different crowd than  I would see when I lived in the San Francisco of the 70s, either at Candlestick Park or Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. In 1973, just over one million tickets were sold for the Oakland A’s  season as they won the second of three World Championships in a row. Those were the A’s with Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Campy Campaneris, Vida Blue, and Catfish Hunter. The Giants finished third in the National League West that year and claimed a little less than 900 thousand sold tickets to see the likes of Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Chris Speier, and Bobby Bonds. Their average attendance was just over 10,000 so we could bring our own food and beer and buy a cheap seat and then move to a better one after everyone got settled. We had fun. The only bummer was traffic after the game (we weren’t stoned before the game) but we did not pay $30 to park the car.

It may ultimately be good for the game if some of the money goes out of it. Now, what the owners and their commissioner consider “good for the game” are ticket sales, television money, and sales of gear. The bills do need to get paid, but what I am thinking of as good for the game are things that maintain competitive balance, advance quality of play, and make the game more attractive to young players and old farts like me who would like to  attend once in a while.

It is perhaps coincidental that strikeouts topped hits this season for the first time ever  and batting averages sunk to the lowest level since 1972. Launch angle enthusiasts and those who feel sexual excitement over 3 and 2 counts and pitching changes might want to consider the real thrills involved in things like triples, squeeze plays, and stolen bases. Late inning rallies can actually be more fun than all of the machinations involved with making sure you’re ahead after six innings.

There are many, many fun and exciting players out there today: Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor, Starling Marte, and on and on. Beyond the economic problems, the game needs a bit of a jolt. Right now, it is dangerously close to a basketball game dominated by the blowing of whistles.