Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Modern World

In the modern world, All-Star Game balloting begins 18 games into the season and lasts for 68 days. Fans (or whomever) can vote up to five times in a 24-hour period, so a particularly obsessive and well-organized voter can cast 340 ballots. As if the whole production wasn't absurd enough already.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Editorial Statement

NEW YORK — Baseball Byways responded to an article that appeared today on the front page of the Business section of the New York Times. Reacting to "Media Websites Battle Faltering Ad Revenue and Traffic," Melvin admitted, "Baseball Byways has no revenue."

"No traffic either," added Rob, who noted a September post that made reference to Suicide Girls—"a website that features pin-up photography and profiles of alternative female models," according to Wikipedia—is averaging 100 page views per month. "We should include some soft porn in every post," he observed wryly.

Image, "Fisher Face Snow," by ForestWander used through Creative Commons license.

Melvin agreed. "The Suicide Girls are even more popular than fisher cats," he said, recalling an earlier generator of misdirected search engine traffic. "We just want to be loved for ourselves," Rob concluded wistfully.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Million Dollar Questions

Today is Jackie Robinson Day, held annually on the anniversary of opening day of the 1947 baseball season, when Jack Roosevelt Robinson made his major league debut and became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) since the 1880s. On this day, all players, coaches, managers and umpires wore or are wearing #42 on their jerseys, Robinson's otherwise universally retired uniform number.

Image by Keith Allison, of Orioles players observing Jackie Robinson Day
at home in 2015, used through Creative Commons licence.

This morning, I (and many other people) received an email from MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr., "Honoring Jackie Robinson, 'a true hero'." Manfred notes that he and his wife watched Ken Burns' new documentary on the ball player, which premiered on PBS on Monday and Tuesday.

Image courtesy Google Street View.

The commissioner's email reminded me of a blog post I started a couple years ago about a planned Jackie Robinson Museum, on Canal Street in Manhattan. I never finished the post for all the usual reasons plus one: a reporter I know, Kate Briquelet, had already written the story. It seems little has changed.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Vigil of Easter

vig-il, noun. /'vij-əl/

1. a period of keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep, especially to keep watch or pray.

2. (in the Christian Church) the eve of a festival or holy day as an occasion of religious observance.

Graphic by EugeneZ used through CC-BY-SA-3.0 license.

Easter is the holiest day of the Christian calendar, the day when Jesus Christ, the son of God according to that faith, was resurrected from the dead. The holiday is observed by Christians on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs between March 22 and April 25, inclusive.

Blasphemously, Melvin and I profess to having seen him on the vigil of Easter—two years ago today—at a Daytona Cubs game.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Law & Order: PED

'I wuz framed,' says Jenrry Meija.


As a Mets fan, I should take little pleasure in Jenrry Mejia's permanent ban from baseball for failing a third test for performance-enhancing drugs (PED). He is the first player to earn the distinction since Major League Baseball (MLB) started getting serious about doping. In 2010, he was ranked the 56th highest prospect by Baseball America. The Mets and their fans had high hopes.

In an interview Thursday, Mejia said, “I felt there was a conspiracy against me. I feel that [MLB was] trying to find something to bring me down in my career.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Where Did You Come from, Where Did You Go?

Here we go, are you ready for another?
Yes, that's right, it's 1991 2016, and after a winter of overplanning and jumping the gun, Byways is locking down this year's itineraries. We'll see America's least-wanted geographical appendage! Make an unholy number of visits to George Bush Intercontinental! And explore the seams between Pennsyltucky and the Southern Tier. What could be better? And while I'm asking unanswerable questions, how did this anthem of the toothless become a regular baseball-stadium feature?

I'm not making you click on this. And if you want to see it rendered in Czechlish, I can't help you.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Next Generation

Does this mean that the most memorable part of the place was the bathrooms?
As I've mentioned, I have nephews, and said nephews are crazy for baseball. And now they're both at (or, indeed, well past) the age where I can take them on baseball trips. So last year, they each got a mini-Byways for their respective birthdays. We all live in the Midwest, so the younger one and I headed to Cleveland and Akron in May, while his older brother and I hit up Detroit and Fort Wayne on Labor Day weekend. Here's how they went.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Zen of the Non-Destination

Melvin's recent recaps of our travel though Colorado, Montana and Washington (part one and part two) mentioned that I proceeded on to visit family in Oregon. Looking through my photographs, it seems like my folks and I didn't do much of note, at least in comparison with the itineraries Melvin and I map out.

More pushpins than, say, Helena but I am making a point.

There were some feature destinations but upon reflection, I realized that the non-destinations were more satisfying personally.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mermaid Strike

Of all sad words heard from some bum, the saddest are these, "What might have swum." Photo by Rob
After a day in Hanford and Spokane that was both eventful and fraught, Rob, Watson, and I followed up with what I think was a classic Byways day. First things first, off to Frank's Diner for ice grapefruit juice, then scrambled eggs and link sausage! Actually, I think there was more corned beef hash and pie than was good for any of us, but heavens it was all tasty. Frank's is an top-notch exemplar of the train-car-diner genre—right up there with the Silver Palm and quite possibly better than Mickey's. Yeah, I said it.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Burning Men

What Is It?
So, let's see, where were we? Oh yes, Helena! Lovely Helena, where Rob concluded the initial post on our epic Colorado-Montana-Idaho-Washington-and-back-into-Montana trip from last August. It's only taken us five months to get around to the rest of it. Onward! (This post, despite the byline, is written by Melvin. We'll see if we can get that repaired...)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

One of 427

Mike Piazza, a New York Met from May 1998 through the 2005 season, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. Piazza played behind the plate in 96 percent of his 1,700 major league games (85 percent as a starter) and was elected to the Hall as the finest offensive catcher of all time. (In contrast, he led the league 10 times for stolen bases allowed.)

The Mets sent a congratulatory email to fans. Piazza would like to be
inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Met but the choice is not the player's.

Piazza finished his career with a .308 batting average, .545 slugging percentage, 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs. Piazza's 369 home runs and as a catcher is the record. He averaged a home run every 16.2 at bats, placing him 34th for all time, regardless of position. I saw many Piazza home runs at Shea Stadium but one is particularly memorable.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day Rambling

I had a clever-ish idea (if I am allowed to have an opinion). As a holiday greeting from Baseball Byways, I would aggregate here the holiday emails from all the major league teams whose newsletters I subscribe to; for example the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Ignore the triangle inside of the circle. If you are
really curious, the slideshow is available online here.

Funny thing, though, I only received emails from the Angels, Phillies and Yankees. What happened to the Dodgers, Mets, Nationals, Padres, Pirates and Red Sox? I checked my subscriptions on; there was no apparent explanation for the discrepancy. Nothing in the spam folder either. What? No holiday spirit?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

You Never Forget Your First

From MLB Trade Rumors, Melvin notes that former Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis has announced his retirement. Francis was the first prospect that we focused on before seeing him in action.

We saw Francis in 2004, along with old pal Red, pitching for the Tulsa Drillers. Shortly after the game we attended, he was called-up to Colorado Springs before finishing the year with the Rockies, going 3-2 (5.15 ERA) in seven starts.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Not Quite Chicken Counting

As recommended, Kevin and I took the subway (separately) to yesterday's Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, between the Mets and Cubs.

A sick passenger fell exiting the Flushing Local at 40th Street-Lowry Street and I had to back-track to Queensboro Plaza to catch an express going around the out-of-service train. That was pretty much the last bad thing to happen, as the Mets would later go up two games to none in the seven-game series.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Washington Park Centennial

Today is the centennial anniversary of the final game at Washington Park—or, more specifically, the third incarnation of the base ball grounds at 4th Avenue and 3rd Street, in Brooklyn.

Raising the flag, opening day, Washington Park, April 10, 1915.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Buffalo Blues and Brooklyn Tip-Tops opened and closed the 1915 season, the second and final year of the Federal League, at Washington Park. The Tip-Tops, named for owner Robert Ward's Tip Top Bakery, won the opening day contest, 13-9. One hundred years ago today, the Blues won 3-2 and then professional base ball was played no more at Washington Park. The teams finished six and seventh in the eight team circuit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Suicide Girls Sept 22"

As this post goes live, Suicide Girls are performing at the historic Babcock Theater, in Billings Montana. (In truth, the performance was over by the time I finished editing this, but I tried.)

The Babcock Theater, in The Babcock Building, Billings

Melvin and I were in Billings on Monday, August 10, having driven from Grand Junction, the first stop on our third itinerary of the year. We arrived in town just in time to see the Billings Mustangs beat the Idaho Chukars, 6-1.

Melvin and I headed downtown after the game for supper and to see the sights, including the 1907 Babcock Theater. And before? What about after? I will get to that. You knew I would and I know you knew. That's what makes this relationship special.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Four-Fifths of a Grand Junction

First pitch, through the net, at Grand Junction, 8/9/15
These trips are conditioned by luck in countless ways. The team schedules have to work right. Our schedules at work have to cooperate. The weather has to be nice, or at least nonfatal to playing baseball on the day we pass through. We have to make it to each stadium on time. And so on.

We're finally on the trip that I don't think we were ever sure we would take—seeing all the Montana teams—and stop number one is the team we have long said would be the hardest to get to: the Grand Junction Rockies. Astute geographers will note that Grand Junction is not one of the Montana teams. Indeed, it's a good (and it was good) 600 miles from Billings. Still, when in the West....

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Rain at Kane Falls Mainly on the Tarp

Someday, someway, baby, they'll play baseball here.
Watson and I always like to make it out to Kane County each year, and today was the anniversary of the last time we went. Decent food, a good array of beers, and pervious pavement, what more could you want?

Well, you could want for it not to rain, but it did, fiercely, in the middle of the fourth. Happily, the grounds crew was on the case, and they got the tarp on the field and the people out of the stands before the rain hit or anything tragic happened, which is more than you can say for a fair in an adjoining county

An hour after play was halted, they were back at it. Cougars starter Brad Keller—a huge kid (he just turned twenty) with a terrific fastball and dubious command—was supplanted by novelist and onetime newspaper preservationist Nicholson Baker, who... oh, no, that wasn't the author of The Mezzanine but a guy who wasn't even born when it was published. This Baker has a good record this year but less upside than Keller—when you're 23 and still at Low-A, you might want to at least keep a weather eye on the local educational offerings

We're dealing with a small sample size, of course, but Kane County seemed to be suffering from its dissociation over the off-season from the Chicago Cubs, who moved their Midwest League affiliation to South Bend. The SB Cubs set a local record for ticket sales in the spring, and big development plans around the stadium are now afoot. Meanwhile, the now-Arizona-affiliated Cougars had not even a half-full house on a mostly beautiful summer Sunday—you can't blame the rain for everything. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bubbles and Byways

Screen grab from The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, via
In late August 2001, Red and I were stuck in a bus on the tarmac at Logan Airport with about ten other people, waiting for quite a long time to board a tiny plane to Halifax. One middle-aged New Yorker became decidedly agitated about the delay. "When," he barked at one point, "will the passengers take precedence??" It was clear that this was a man who was used to taking precedence—though he mispronounced "precedence" as "pre-CEE-dence." While we waited, he regaled us with details about the economic and labor situation in Nova Scotia. Was he some sort of government minister? A high-flying analyst or researcher?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Beneath the Tile Floor, the Swamp

Yours for the purchasing at BB&T Park, Charlotte and, doubtless, elsewhere
Following on yesterday's visit to Pearl Fryer's purposeful and semi-visionary topiary garden—about which my only remaining question is, Where are the peacocks?—today we spent some time at the purposeful and semi-visionary village of Oyotunji, near Beaufort, South Carolina. This swampy, perplexing, but intriguing "sovereign land" is mildly like Arcosanti, in that it has been constructed and populated since 1970 by true believers trying to develop a way to live outside most conventional social, political, and cultural structures. The biggest difference between the two is that while Arcosanti is essentially populated by hippies with power tools, Oyotunji is suffused with a Yoruban (or perhaps we should say neo- or quasi-Yoruban) worldview that shapes the beliefs and actions of its perhaps 25 inhabitants. They can explain better than I can, though that's not saying much.

What this place is doing on former plantation land in South Carolina is only one of the many questions that were raised today.