Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Melvin Grants Me Three Wishes

The 2015 Season Preview

Image by DoloresMinette used through Creative Commons license.

Two weeks from today, Melvin and I will begin the first of three trips planned for the 2015 season. Each itinerary responds to a comment I made. I have written before about Melvin's generosity and here is yet another example.

Our last three trips were beset by rain: the July 2013 sojourn to Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana and then through the South and Mid-Atlantic last year. I said to Melvin, sincerely in despair, "I don't think I can do this anymore." "Next year," he promised me, "we will go someplace where it won't rain."

Secondly, I remarked that I didn't want to leave the Montana ball clubs for last, after we had seen every other team. I also pointed out this may well be the final season for professional ball at Historic Grayson Stadium, in Savannah.

Three preferences expressed, three wishes granted. We are heading to sunny Southern California in April, Savannah and North Carolina in July, and Montana, Spokane and the Tri-City Dust Devils in August.

Chris, who joined us for a game-and-a-half in Maryland last year—did I mention rain?—will accompany us for part of the SoCal trip. David Bragdon will make most of the July games, and Watson will come to Montana.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Hidee hidee hidee hi

The funeral for Minnie Miñoso—also known as Mr. White Sox and the Cuban Comet—was held today at Holy Family Church in Chicago. Born Saturnino Orestes Armas (Arrieta) Miñoso, he died on Sunday at the age of 90, or 89, or however old he was.

Miñoso was the ninth player to break baseball's color barrier and the first African-American to play for the White Sox. A five-tool player and nine-time all star, he deserved to be elected to the Hall of Fame but was passed over in an era when Negro League accomplishments were not a factor in the voting.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Eulogy for McCoy

And its not even dead yet.

Melvin emailed yesterday with a link to an essay in the New York Times reporting
"a group of high-powered investors announced their purchase of the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Class AAA franchise of the Boston Red Sox, as well as their plans to build a shiny bauble of a stadium for the International League team in downtown Providence, the capital city just south of Pawtucket — but not Pawtucket."
The author, Dan Barry, also wrote Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game.

I am charmed by McCoy Stadium, having visited three times; in 2005 with Melvin, on my own in 2012, and with Kevin a couple years ago. McCoy was included hypothetically when what became Baseball Byways was just a concept.

The real or perceived need for state of the art ballparks is how minor league baseball operates now. PawSox fans will go through some variation of the five stages of grief. However, rather than ending with decathexis, the withdrawal of emotional investment, the process here will end with nostalgia.

Often the local fan base will abandon a team when it announces it is going to move. I doubt that will be the case here. The team isn't going that far and the "Red Sox Nation" is as loyal as they come. I bet McCoy draws record crowds in its final years. I hope to be among them.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

One Week

Friday the 13th
Valentine's Day
"Obamacare" enrollment deadline
Presidents Day
Fat Tuesday
Ash Wednesday
Lunar New Year or, if you prefer, pitchers and catchers report for spring training!

Or, more precisely, the Giants, Phillies, Pirates and Reds have scheduled their first work-outs for next Thursday. "Thirteen other clubs will work out pitchers and catchers for the first time the following day," according to MLB.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Traded for Nine Paragraphs

The New York Times published yesterday an obituary of Charlie Williams, "a pitcher best known as the trade bait the Mets used to land Willie Mays in the twilight of his career...." Two-thirds of the nine paragraph obit is related in one way or another to the May 1972 trade.

Even the summation of Williams' career—23-22 in 268 games, 31 with the Mets—is preceded by the statistics for the Giants Hall of Famer. It must be strange to be remembered for something that was entirely outside of your control, although all reports indicate Williams wore it well.

Image: Associated Press

The remaining three paragraphs provide Williams' place and cause of death, survivors, and place of birth. Williams was born in Flushing, but 17 years before the Mets moved to Shea Stadium.

Image: centerfieldmaz

According to Brian Joura at Mets360, Williams is the only player in team history to hail from the Queens neighborhood. Joura's obituary runs to 14 paragraphs, provides more detail about his career—including the minors—and generally treats the player with more humanity.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Late Light-Hitting Center Fielder from South Jamaica, Queens

Even I do not understand my obsession with New York State governors. But having written six posts about former New York State Governor David Paterson, I thought, "Why not one about Mario Cuomo?" (Just one, I promise.) The 52nd governor of New York State (1983-1994) died at his home yesterday, just hours after his son Andrew was sworn into his second term as governor.

In its lengthy, front page obituary of Mario Cuomo, the New York Times notes Cuomo played one season with the Brunswick (Ga.) Pirates of the Georgia-Florida League. With 254 plate appearances, Cuomo hit .244. His 10 doubles, two triples and one home run bumped his slugging percentage up to .311.

Albany Archives altered a card from a set issued by
 Upper Deck and broadcast it through its twitter feed.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Mysteries of Matt Kemp

One mystery is solved; Matt Kemp will be playing in San Diego next year. The Dodgers' outfield was crowded so they thinned the herd by trading "The Bison," eating $32 million in salary to do so.

Padres fans got an early Christmas gift last week from rookie GM A.J. Preller, who acquired two more outfielders in a 24-hour-period, Justin Upton from the Braves and Wil Myers from the Rays, and then went out and got A's catcher Derek Norris and Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

Still a mystery is the state of Kemp's health. The center fielder missed 150 games over the last three seasons. Kemp underwent a major shoulder operation in 2012 and had ankle surgery in 2013. He finished strong last year—leading the major leagues in slugging percentage after the All-Star Game—but a pre-trade physical reportedly found severe arthritis in both hips.

Most mysterious of all, however, is the question of who gave me a Matt Kemp figurine.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bud Norris, Two Times

We saw right-hander Bud Norris twice this year, although only Melvin took note of the fact. We watched him in a mid-July minor league start during the MLB all-star break and more recently as the Orioles completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers.1

Bud Norris pitches to Ian Kinsler; bottom of the first, Game 3 of the 2014 ALDS.

The division series game was, as my trilingual brother would say for effect, the ray-ZHON-det-TREAHR for the short October trip. However, any visit with Melvin and Watson is a profound pleasure whether or not baseball is involved and we spent our time together well.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Major League Squash

I saw this pumpkin on Halloween, two days after the Kansas City Royals' disappointing loss in Game 7 of the World Series. I am sure there is some clever way to verbally connect this totem to the 2014 post-season, but I wasn't able to find it. In fact, these statements replace what was originally written here.

Addendum: The next day, I read a headline on mlb.com, "Here are the 10 best MLB player Halloween costumes of 2014."

I thought perhaps major league baseball was copying my idea of dressing up as a player. However, it was a selection of players in costume, several of which are pretty funny.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Meeting Chicks on Twitter

My job requires considerable outreach to the public and so, a decade into the 21st century, I attended a seminar on social media. One of the take-aways was, register your preferred Twitter name now, even if you don't intend to use it immediately. You don't want, we were told, to be like those companies that thought the Internet was a novelty and later discovered someone else had snatched up their domain name.

Do not follow us on Twitter, but don't hesitate to follow us on Baseball Byways. We've gone from one follower, to eight followers, to the current nine.

Following this advice, Melvin and I have had but not used @BaseballByways. Despite not composing a single tweet, we managed over the three years since to acquire five followers ... all of the female persuasion.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Third Time's a Charm, the Second Time Wasn't Too Shabby Either

Or, the 2014 New York-Penn and Eastern league all-star games in brief, with tasting notes, travelogue and sundry observations

Encouraged by Pharrell Williams to clap along if they felt "like a room without a roof", this Happy couple put their hands together at MCU Park, home to the 2014 NYPL all-star game and like most baseball stadiums, a room without a roof.

Despite my general antipathy towards all-star games, I completed a hat-trick begun in June by attending a match between the best players in the New York-Penn League. A month earlier, Melvin and I saw the Eastern League' game, which for reasons we never learned was called the all-star "stop." The High-A contest retained its claim to most enjoyable but all three games were pleasurable in their own right.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Byways, but Little Baseball

A birthday weekend in northwest Massachusetts was the most enjoyable trip I have taken in a while, even if it included only three scoreless innings of collegiate summer league baseball.

What the trip did have was contemporary classical music, predominantly post-minimalist, contemporary art, often large-scaled installations, tasty food and a short walk in the woods.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Nothing but Net

Sometimes sitting right by the net is awesome (Jacksonville, Florida).
As promised and as a kind of footnote, here are some thoughts on nets. Sitting close to the game is a good thing. Sitting behind home plate or at least in the area between the dugouts is also a good thing. We do it whenever possible. We've seen a lot of games from perspectives like the one above. But it is not an unmitigated pleasure. 

The South Will Rise Again

Outside Castle Otttis
Following on the Easter debacle, we wrapped up our latest southern itinerary in Jacksonville. It's faintly amazing to me that after three trips to the South, we have at least two more tours to go--one cleaning up all the teams in North Carolina we haven't yet seen, another returning to Birmingham and heading south to Pensacola and, next year (maybe), Biloxi. And oh yeah, the rest of the Appy League—make it three trips.

Rising Up, Rising Down

It is risen. Or possibly coming down.
What, Fourth of July weekend already? Happy birthday, 'Merica! What better way to celebrate than with a comically overdue post on our Easter adventure in Daytona Beach? But first, some backfilling.

When last Rob was describing our April tour through Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida, things were going swimmingly—which was appropriate, given the monsoons we negotiated—until Blogger disappeared a post that would have been epic. Now we have always been at war with Oceania, and we've covered only the games we saw in Rome and Augusta.

But the truth is that not all towns and not all games are equally worthy of coverage. And so, leaning heavily on photos so as to get on to the Easter tale, here's a pathetically quick survey of our time in Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and Savannah.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Groff on Ferris on the Indescribable

Tidying up around the house, I found a copy of the May 18, 2014 New York Times Book Review, open to page 21. There, novelist Lauren Groff reviews, "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour," the third novel by Joshua Ferris.

Photograph by Beowulf Sheehan

In her review, Groff quotes a passage
"Baseball is the slow creation of something beautiful. It is the almost boringly paced accumulation of what seems slight or incidental into an opera of bracing suspense. The game will threaten never to end, until suddenly it forces you to marvel at how it came to be where it is and to wonder at how far it might go. It’s the drowsy metamorphosis of the dull into the indescribable."
That is marvelous, although baseball games have a variety of rhythms and watching them unfold is a great deal of the charm. Still, the statement captures beautifully some of the wonder without the "self-regard ... of the George Will school of condescending baseball writing."

Friday, June 20, 2014

I'm His Mom

The working title for my post on the 2014 California and Carolina leagues' all-star game was, "Three Degrees of Separation." For the past eight months I have worked with Erin Buchanan née Wright, sister of Cincinnati Reds' prospect Ryan Wright, who is buds with teammate Kyle Waldrop, one of three players on the Bakersfield Blaze to make the all-star squad.

Despite tearing it up in Bakersfield (.345, .498, .843), Wright was not one of them. I drove to Wilmington ready for the next best thing, to root on Waldrop. When he came up to bat in the second I called out, "C'mon Kyle!" The woman next to me asked, "Is he your son?"

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Deuces Wild

Gal-pal Sarah and I attended the home opener of the Brooklyn Cyclones on Saturday. The Mets' New York-Penn League affiliate scored twice in the second, third, fourth and seventh innings, beating their (alleged) cross-town rivals, the Staten Island Yankees, 8-2.

It was Sarah's first baseball game since she saw the Blue Jays in their inaugural season at the SkyDome (she thinks). Twenty-five years later, she still remembers the name George Bell. (Nobody remembers his real name, Jorge Antonio Bell Mathey.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

deGrom can(not) do it all

On Memorial Day, David Bragdon, Kevin and I saw the Mets and Pirates. The star of the show was Mets rookie starter Jacob deGrom, who through three starts had an 1.83 ERA, .800 batting average and an 0-2 record. What's a guy gotta do? Offensively weak, New York scored only four runs in deGrom's three trips to the mound.

It was my second visit to Citi Field in less than a week, after not seeing the Mets once in 2013. Bragdon topped that on the following Thursday when he managed to see the Pirates three times in nine days; against the Orioles in Pittsburgh, our outing and in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wilbur and Orville

Two wrongs don't make a right but:

(a) two Wrights can build the world's first successful airplane.
(b) two rights can set up the left hook.
(c) three rights are the equivalent of a left.
(d) I have made it my life work to find out how many it will take.

Anyhow, Melvin and I went to Citi Field last night, where we sat behind these guys and watched the Dodgers beat the Mets, 9-4.