Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lose the Bet

—and you're gonna get wet!

At my "local," Lauro, one of the cooks, bet a bus boy, Alek, that the Detroit Tigers would beat the Texas Rangers.  They did not wait until the end of Game 6 to settle up.  With the score 15-4 after seven innings, it was all but certain the Rangers were going to the World Series.

Video by Cesar Gil used by permission

When I objected to the use of Six Point Brownstone Ale for Lauro's shower, I was informed that pitcher was mostly foam from a new keg.  I hate the waste of fine craft beer.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rust Cannot Sleep Now

I have been watching the 2011 post-season with a couple who are from Detroit and Milwaukee.  It has been enjoyable to do so, even as disappointment has deteriorated towards fatalism.  Their home teams, for which they have never stopped rooting after moving east, are down 3-2 to the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals in the respective league championship series.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Joaquin Benoit Halloween Costume

Halloween occurs at the end of October, much of which I spend watching post-season baseball.  That still does not really explain why every year I see some baseball player and decide dressing up as him for Halloween would be fun.

Photograph by Al_HikesAZ used
through Creative Commons license
Last year it was Giant pitcher Brian Wilson, who manages to make a real beard look fake.  Fear the weird!  It's early yet but after last night's decisive (and oh-so-enjoyable) ALDS Game 5 between the Tigers and the Yankees, I have been thinking about a Joaquin Benoit Halloween costume.  You can too!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Baseball is the Opium of the People

Photo by some corporate lackey used without permission because I am
sticking it to the man.  Or something.  "This is what democracy looks like!"

Yesterday, as the Philadelphia Phillies hosted the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, anti-corporate protesters occupied the Brooklyn Bridge.  Over 700 protesters were arrested but not the young man I encountered in a bar about three-quarters of mile south of the East River crossing.  He reported that he climbed from the roadway to the pedestrian path in the center of the bridge and escaped.  Done with anarchy, at least for the time being, he was rooting for his home-town Phillies to win.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

LIC Staff Meeting

Melvin flew into New York for a conference and we spent over nine hours on Sunday in Long Island City.  Prior to his arrival we made plans to discuss Baseball Byways and where it might go next.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

With a Whimper

An overenthusiastic Rickie Weeks
Watson and I went to our last game of the year at Wrigley on Tuesday night—the home closer is Wednesday afternoon. The playoff-bound Brewers did as expected, scoring four times off perpetual B-lister Randy Wells in the third. This allowed everyone to put aside the formality of "playing the game" and just zip through the at-bats and whatnot (box). The one thing I will say against the Brewers playoff chances is that Casey McGehee's play at third seems to fall below the defensive equivalent of the Mendoza Line (the Soriano Line?).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And Now Mariano

First Jeter, now Mariano; Yankee players continue to set records.  Derek Jeter reached the 3,000 hit milestone on July 9 and last night, with his 602nd save, Mariano Rivera became the all-time saves leader, surpassing Trevor Hoffman.  Hoffman stated six years ago that Rivera will go down in history as the best reliever in the game.

God may have created Jeter, the choir boy with the puritan work ethic and public demeaner, but Rivera is so freakishly good, the only possible explanation seems to be the one given for Robert Johnson's mastery of the blues guitar.  (Rivera is in reality a devout Christian.)

"Mo" has been dominant at his position on a team that has won five world championships with him as their closer.  A 12-time all-star (among other accomplishments), he was already expected to enter the hall of fame on the first ballot.  The question now is whether or not he can set untouchable records that stand the test of time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pitchers Duel, Nunez Triples

As I have noted before, the three-game play-off series is a killer.  Lose either of the first two games and you cannot lose again.  In Thursday's first game of the 2011 New York-Penn League divisional play-off, the wild-card Brooklyn Cyclones got shut-out at home 2-0 by their crosstown rival and McNamara Division champions, the Staten Island Yankees.

Brooklyn evened the series the next night by winning a 12-5 slugfest on the road.  The pitchers duel I saw last night captured perfectly the tension of the win-or-go-home stakes.  What was especially exciting about the 19 total strike-outs was eight of them were looking.  All night long batters on both teams were jawing at home plate umpire Ryan Additon.

Yankee center fielder Mason Williams prepares to swing
through Ryan Additon's large strike zone.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tenth Anniversary

In my mind the arguable beginning of the life's work that has become Baseball Byways was a game at Fenway Park on September 9, 2001. Rob and I and our wives all lived in Brooklyn then, but we met in Boston and then drove back home together just in time for a lovely and uneventful autumn.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

And then occasionally I am reminded why I love baseball. A season's worth of bitching about the Cubs was at least somewhat redeemed by Tuesday night's 13-inning show between them and the Reds.

The first eight innings flew by in just about two hours, in no small part on account of the one-hitter Mike Leake threw over that period and on into the ninth. The Cubs were down 2-0, but that's hardly unusual. It was a cool-but-not-too-cool evening, and I was in the best seat I've had all year, thanks to the visiting Rich and Rose, who were smart enough to not buy a season package back in January but wait until this time of year to swoop in from Philadelphia and nail some cheap seats via Stub Hub. We were about 15 rows behind home plate, just slightly to the third-base side.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summer's Over

Suddenly it's chilly again at Wrigley, with those strong lake winds swirling around and much of the nonbleacher seats in shade. It's like it's Memorial Day again or something—was summer really that short? (Disclaimer: I work in what amounts to a windowless office, so even if it was a long luxurious summer, I wouldn't know it. Someone send me a telex with the details.) It does seem like a long time ago that we were sitting in the New Mexican desert.

On Labor Day, Watson and I caught a day game at Wrigley against the Reds, from far down the left-field line. Former famous person Dontrelle Willis started for Cincinnati, and while the D Train (0-5) didn't derail on the north side this afternoon, his team didn't do much to help him. Willis did get off to a hot start, with three perfect innings against the Cubs, but after they started to get to him, he got shakier. First, the Reds managed to not tag Reed Johnson as he sauntered around the plate, and then Drew Stubbs forgot that rule about waiting till a flyball is caught before running—these kinds of things can get in a normal pitcher's head, let alone Willis's. From where we sat it looked like he was pitching into a post:

We huddled in the right-field corner till the bottom of the eighth (the Cubs tried to lose it that inning but managed to hang on, 4–3) and then headed down Addison. By the time we got home, it was fall.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Off

Labor Day was made a federal holiday in 1894 as part of President Grover Cleveland's reconciliation with the labor movement following his intervention in the deadly Pullman Strike earlier that year.  The September date was intentionally chosen to not coincide with International Workers Day and from its inception Labor Day has generally been more fest than protest.

"Women model clothing on an ILGWU Labor Day parade float on 5th Avenue"
[at East 41st Street, New York City], photographer and date unknown,
courtesy of the Kheel Center for Labor-Management
Documentation & Archives, Cornell University

Owing to the nature of their jobs, many people must work on Labor Day but most workers have the day off.  Included in the latter are the Staten Island Yankees and Brooklyn Cyclones, who may play each other six times in seven days with only Labor Day as an off-day.  The teams, designed to be crosstown rivals, end their seasons playing each other.  Since the Baby Bombers won their division and the Mini-Mets are the wild card, they'll meet again in the New York-Penn League play-offs starting Tuesday Wednesday uhm, now Thursday—Game One was postponed twice due to rain.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

He'll Talk, But Not Sports

In a press release titled, "David Paterson Elected New PM-Drive Host," New York talk-radio station WOR announced today that David A. Paterson, former governor of New York, will host a weekday program, 4:00-6:00 pm.  It is an odd headline, since Paterson was never elected governor, only assuming the position after Elliot "Client-9" Spitzer resigned.

“During his frequent stints as a fill-in host on WOR, Governor David Paterson proved to be a favorite with our listeners throughout the tri-state area,” said Jerry Crowley, vice president and general manager of WOR, known as "News Talk Radio 710."

This development at least temporarily lays to rest [my] conjecture that the former governor would become a host at New York sports talk radio station WFAN.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Post-Irene Post

There were more tragic casualties, was far worse damage.  However, among other effects, Hurricane Irene washed out the Saturday and Sunday games between the Florida Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies, and also the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.

On Monday I saw a true double-header between the Marlins and the Mets, both playing for the first time in three days because of the storm.  I went with T-Bone and her former boss, Kevin. (No; Melvin and I do not promise to go see a game with everyone who becomes a follower of the blog, but sign up and we can talk about it.)  Kevin and Tiffany and friends have had a 15-game package for all three of the seasons at CitiField and the phrase "long-suffering" comes to mind.

Both teams are well out of the play-off hunt, which is one reason why the games were so sparsely attended.  At the start of Game 1, the crowd numbered in the hundreds, and at peak attendance the stadium was about half full.  (The parking lot was full, but many of those people were across the street at the U.S. Open.)  Too bad, because the weather was perfect, as it often is the day after a hurricane, and both games were pretty exciting.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kane, Come Back

It's getting late in the minor-league season, so Watson and I headed back out to Kane County for one more walk across the pervious pavement to see the Cougars take on Peoria, in the company of our exurban pals Bookworm and Das Planner. Since last we checked in with the Chiefs, things have not improved—they followed up a 33-37 first half with a 23-38 second half and were eliminated from Midwest League playoff contention the other night. Recent first-round pick Hayden Simpson has continued to fall apart, too, to the point that he's not even with the team anymore. He now sports an 0-4 record and an 8.15 ERA for the Mesa Cubs in the Arizona League. It's things like this that make you wonder what sort of rebuilding movement is even going to be possible over in Wrigleyville.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Carlos Hustle

God DAMN was it a beautiful day for a ballgame today. Even one with the Cubs in it. The result was the same as ever (a few Braves home runs, several stranded Cubs runners), but it was everything a businessman might hope for from a Businessman's Special—though I have to say I don't see many businessmen at these affairs, unless businessmen have taken to looking like every other slob on the street, which I suppose they have.

Anyway, things got off to a rocky start. The Cubs have shown a remarkably consistent inability to execute the basics. Have you heard of those crazy plays where the ball is hit near the first baseman, so the pitcher has to cover first base to get the runner out? Apparently, these are still novelties in the Cubs' world.

Which reminds me, anyone care to give me an over/under on the date of Mike Quade's departure? I keep thinking of the tabloid headline near the end of Don Nelson's run as coach of the Knicks: "PLEASE FIRE ME."

I will say, though, that Carlos Pena played his ass off today. He was two-for-four, with two strikeouts, but he was hustling after balls, diving headfirst into first base,* and in general taking on the role of Guy Who Will Show Starlin Castro How to Play Hard. It was a nice display on a gorgeous day—the kind of day that makes you feel good to be a pig fan.

* Yes, I know diving into first is a really good way to dislocate something. But it still shows heart.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shoot Out the Lights

It's hardly news that this is one of the grimmer seasons on the North Side. Tonight, while Watson and I sat congenially through yet another Cubs loss (3–0 to the Braves on home runs by Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla, both of whom have names like seventies' pop stars), I found myself reviewing the roster and wondering whom I wouldn't trade for a nice ham sandwich. This is a standard I picked up from my crusty high-school Latin teacher, Mr. Sullivan, who once famously told an underperforming pal of mine, "You can be replaced by a ham sandwich."

So who rises about the pork-on-white line? Few of the veterans: we don't need to rehearse the Ramirez-Soriano-Zambrano litany of overly generous contracts now that that era is (we hope) over. The next GM really is going to have his work cut out for him, though. Maybe Marlon Byrd, who's useful enough. Starlin Castro, even though he was given tonight off for "mental health" reasons--apparently he finds this death march of a season to be a little tedious, too. Maybe Darwin Barney. Possibly Geovany Soto, since catchers are hard to come by. Whom am I missing? Ryan Dempster? Sorry, his best years are behind him. Matt Garza? Decent pitcher, wrong park. A reliever or two? Please, most relievers can be replaced by... well, ham sandwiches.

Speaking of which, you know what's a good sandwich? The Sergio's Special at Hannah's Bretzel. You do have to take out a loan to get one, but it's almost worth it.
Sergio's Special (482cal)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Baseball

Today is the 91st anniversary of the death of Ray Chapman, the Cleveland Indian shortstop and only player to be killed by a pitched ball.  This I learned from, The Baseball; Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath the Stitches, the new book by Zack Hample.

I often get baseball books as gifts from my mother and she gave me Hample's third book earlier this summer.  I wrote a sincere note of appreciation—on a ball hit out of the park in Richmond; wasn't that cute?—so I hope mom doesn't feel hurt when I state, this is a book with more padding than a old-time catchers mitt.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Krazy for Kinston

Jim Kantor taught me a lesson.  Jim was part of a group, mostly men but some women, who played in a weekly pick-up volleyball game in McCarren Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Every Wednesday during the summer of 1999 I mentioned my desire to go to the final season of Tigers Stadium.  Like a puppy, every time Jim said, "We could do that," or, "That sounds like fun," I thought I just had to keep talking up the idea.

Less na├»ve people, and two decades later I count myself among them, have already guessed we did not make a trip to Detroit that summer.  Since then I haven't seen every team or ballpark that was in its final year, haven't even wanted to, but Jim taught me to go alone if it was important enough to me.

On August 2 and 3 I did just that, making a quick trip to Kinston, North Carolina, to see the Carolina League Indians before they move 70 miles northwest to Zebulon next year.  A new stadium was constructed in Pensacola and the Carolina Mudcats will move there, resulting in a game of musical chairs that will probably leave Grainger Stadium without a minor league team.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Three Followed by Six Zeros

The local press, such as it sadly is for what would be the fourth largest city in America, celebrated the Brooklyn Cyclones being the fastest short-season baseball team to reach 3,000,000 in attendance.  However, neither The Brooklyn Paper nor the Brooklyn Daily Eagle put this accomplishment into any sort of context.  Allow me, historically and statistically.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Byways Goes Psychic

Seattle, meet your newest Mariner—by way of Boston—the man who started for the Triple-A affiliate of the Dodgers just last night, Trayvon Robinson. I figured him to be on the move, but nothing quite so transcontinental.

Photo: Joel Dinda, cropped by UCinternational 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friends and Family Plan

MCU Park light pole at dusk, as Melvin gets arty

Two weeks ago today—yes, that is a Byways record—I joined my friend Ryan at MCU Park for his eighth annual ballpark gathering of friends and family.  At 54 tickets, it was record-sized and one professional colleague set another record by bringing a three-week old baby.  Coincidentally, Melvin was in town for a couple days and he tagged along for the game between the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Lowell Spinners.

Forgive Me, Curt Flood

...but I love the trading deadline. I've been refreshing the sports news pages every several minutes for days now, and each little tickle of a rumor is kind of a thrill. I can barely tell you who Doug Fister is, let alone how he's doing this year, but dang it, he must have something going for him for the Tigers to want him.

I don't think anyone we've come across recently in the minors has been in any of the deals yet, but there's time, Trayvon Robinson, there's time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Short Man's Rise

We were fortunate enough to catch last year's meteoric minor-league player, Starlin Castro, before he hit the big time, but this year we've missed out. Then again, we're hardly alone, as the man in question—who is one part Castro (for his youth) and one part Tim Collins (for his height)—began the year at High-A Lancaster and spent all of 35 games at Double-A Corpus Christi before making the leap.

I'm speaking, of course, of Jose Altuve, whom Kevin Goldstein called "one of the strangest prospects in the game." Altuve got the call after the Astros decided to ship their incumbent second baseman, Jeff Keppinger, to the Giants. By all accounts, all the team sacrificed was seven inches and about 45 pounds—seriously, go look at the picture on this page.

I'm not sure what my more-or-less father-in-law, who has an unexplained horror of little people, would make of this development, but I like to think that Gary Oldman might play Altuve, should there ever be a movie of his life.

Altuve is playing in his second and (I presume) third and fourth major-league games at Wrigley this weekend. I missed today's game, but Rob took the afternoon off to catch the broadcast from a cooperative bar in Brooklyn. We wish the tiniest Astro all the best.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Prosecutors Throw Game

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors allegedly introduced inadmissible evidence in the perjury case of Roger Clemens with the intention of causing the mistrial that resulted.  Legal experts, or perhaps it was satirists, speaking on the condition of anonymity, made comparisons to the 1919 Chicago White Sox, eight members of which conspired to lose the World Series.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Satan Is Teal

Before it all went horribly wrong
I have an existential problem with the Florida Marlins, and I don't think I'm alone. In fact, I think I'm in good company in saying that the Marlins are the least interesting and least authentic team in baseball. Created to serve a market that doesn't want them and owned by a cynic who has shown no interest or aptitude for running a baseball team rather than, say, a downmarket grocery store, the Florida Marlins serve no earthly purpose save to "balance" the schedule.*

Aesthetically, they don't work either. How many teams are named after sea creatures? There are no Boston Lobsters, Houston Swordfish, or San Diego Spiny Crabs. Sure there are some minor league teams that use "Sharks" in one form or another, but Marlins? Oh, grrr, a fish, eek. Also, they wear lots of pale blue. Has a team in pale blue ever won anything of note? (This sounds like a job for Uni-Watch!)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

God Created Derek Jeter

Midwest League Awards (Western Division)

Modern Woodmen Park—best stadium in the MWL Western Division

You might think, with all the teams we've seen in our decade of traveling, that Rob and I might be a little closer to finishing up specific leagues or individual team systems. No such luck. Nearly every system has some far-flung outlier, and some more than one. For every Boise Hawks, there's a Tennessee Smokies (both in the Cubs system). Our failure to cover California and Florida yet is a real problem in this regard. We've hit all the teams on the Great Plains and in Texas, as well as many teams in the Deep South (depending on how you define it), but there are still gaps aplenty.

So it's nice to be able to say that with the conclusion of our Chicago–Omaha trek, we have now made it through the entire Western Division of the Midwest League: Beloit, Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Kane County, Peoria, Quad Cities, and Wisconsin. The only hiccup in there is that we saw Beloit separately—I went in 2002 (with our old friend Red) and 2008 (with Watson), Rob went last week. Red and I went to Peoria in 2003 as well, and Watson and I saw the Cougars last year, too.

So with that all behind us, here's a highlight from each; the winners all receive an imaginary Golden Corn Weenie (you know, like a corn dog):

Rattler Riddle

How can the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers claw their way back when they don't even have hands, or paws, or whatever?  Yet that is what the team did against the Beloit Snappers, hosting on Independence Day the 31st game of their 30th Season.

Not that the home team didn't put up a fight.  The mascot may be named Snappy but the team could be called "scrappy."

Chicagoland Double-Header

Last Sunday, Melvin and Watson woke up in their own bed (and I woke up down the hall in the guest room).  Melvin and I had a relatively easy day planned.  We would head first to Wrigley Field for an interleague game between the Cubs and White Sox, then drive west to see the Kane County Cougars take on the Quad City River Bandits.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Apocalypse Iowa

It was hazy, hot and humid on the Saturday of Independence Day weekend; arguably a beautiful summer day in the Midwest.  And yet, something seemed not right.  Melvin, Watson and I would not fully understand until we attended that evening’s game between the Clinton Lumberkings and the Quad City Bandits.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Is Anyone Out There?

Outbound from Cedar Rapids on Friday morning, we drove around in the woods northwest of North Liberty, Iowa, before we found the Very Large Baseline Array antenna shown above. This is one of a dozen or so across the country, most of which are at the main location in Socorro, New Mexico, which we drove through in April. Here, we got up closer. The antenna itself is operated from Socorro, and there was no one hanging around the maintenance shack here. Collectively, the antennas are used to simulate a 5000-mile-wide telescope (hence the "Very Large" part of the name). The project website claims that its power is equivalent to being able to stand in New York and read a newspaper in Los Angeles. The mission statement says absolutely nothing about military or espionage capabilities. We probably won't make it to all ten antennas, but Owens Valley, California, is a possibility....

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Many Fields of Dreams

Many of the destinations Melvin and I visit are somebody’s dream. The attraction can be rational or unbalanced, well-executed or ragged, but they are part of the cultural landscape because someone had a dream. “If you build it, they will come.” We heeded the call, then towards the end of the day went to see the Cedar Rapids Kernals take on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

East from Omaha

It pains me to say this, but the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa, is a real disappointment. For starters, it’s quite small and surprisingly filled with things other than Feller memorabilia—pictures of other baseball players who have visited the museum, for example, and autographed football helmets. There is no clear overview of Feller’s life or career—you wouldn’t know when he was born or when he died or even, as Rob pointed out, that he died. You don’t see his lifetime stats or any other detailed assessment of his career. There is a lot of ephemera—some of it charming—and a lot of material related to Feller’s three no-hitters. But then there’s the extensive display of baseballs signed by “Hall of Fame Players.” Never mind that decidedly non-Hall-bound players like .404 career slugger Jim Eisenreich are amply represented—what is Barbara Bush doing in there?

Feh. Despite our love of Feller, this was a waste of time and money—and to say that something of even nominal interest in Iowa is boring is both sad and damning.

New and Improved in Omaha

On Tuesday we visited the destination around which the whole trip was structured, and as it turned out, got a bonus game as consolation for being inconvenienced when the start time was changed.  As Melvin noted back in February, we went to Omaha in 2004 to see the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.  This year we drove across Illinois and Iowa to see Werner Park, the new home for the team now called the Omaha Storm Chasers.

The game, against the Memphis Redbirds, was originally planned as the second half of a day-night double-header, with the early game between the Iowa Cubs and Albuquerque Isotopes.  However, the Storm Chasers changed their game to noon and we had to shuffle the second, third and fourth days of the trip.  In the process, we were also able to see the last game of the men’s NCAA College World Series, a two-game sweep by the Gamecocks of South Carolina over the Florida Gators.  The CWS was also played this year in a new stadium, TD Ameritrade Park.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Environmental Determinism

“I don’t know if you know,” said our new young friend from Albuquerque, “but Des Moines is pretty much the meth capital of America.”

I didn’t mention that we have been under the impression that among minor-league towns that title belongs to Bakersfield or perhaps Lancaster, California. Des Moines seemed pretty congenial to us, but that might just have been the lingering effects of our pregame sojourn at El Bait Shop, which prides itself on having more than 100 craft beers on tap—though the first six or so that I ordered were all mysteriously unavailable.

“We printed the beer lists at the beginning of June,” said our diffident bartender as I floundered from one allegedly available oddity to the next. On reflection, though, this was the one moment of the day where we were living, however tenuously, in the future—or at least in uncharted territory. The rest of the day was pleasant proof of the truism that the Midwest is somewhat behind the times.

Pelicans, Pittsburgh, and Public Relations

File:Pelican lakes entrance02.jpg
Australian pelican, via Wikimedia Commons

[Joe the Lawyer, our man in Myrtle Beach—at least temporarily—joins us as a contributor]

What do Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jung Bong, Tim Spooneybarger, and Crash Davis share? Give up? They all did some time (whether real or imagined) with the now Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Let me unpack that for you.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Playing in Peoria

Whether expressed as a question, "Will it play in Peoria?," or an assertion, "It will play in Peoria," this city on the Illinois River, mid-way between Chicago and St. Louis, has become a metaphor for mainstream America.  Did we take a wrong turn?  What the heck were Melvin and I doing there?

Watching the Peoria Chiefs play baseball, which they do 70 games a year (barring cancellations not made up at a later date).  We saw the Chiefs take on the Kane County Cougars on Sunday, which the team decreed Sesame Street Day, "dedicated to the street where you can come and play and everything is A-OK!"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mavericks, Bruins, Cyclones

I know when the season begins for the teams in the New York-Penn League, one of the two "Short Season-A" leagues in Minor League Baseball.  (The other is the Northwest League.)  When Melvin told me about the conference in April, probably some time in 2009, my first thought was, 'We'll miss the Lowell Spinners because their season won't have begun yet.'  Even so, it is easy to forget about the short-season teams.  By the time they start playing, the major league teams have completed 40 percent of their seasons.

Among friends and acquaintances, I am known as that guy who goes to minor league baseball games.  As him, I get asked often, "When do the Cyclones start playing?"  Late-June is my standard answer, but in the days leading up to Monday night's game in Coney Island, the fourth of the season, I realized there is a new way to remember.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Big Post

I don't have a lot to say about the finale of the Cubs / Yankees game that you can't pick up from the standard media reports. But Watson and I did see a lot more of this post than we did of either team's infielders. Isn't it handsome?

As you will have read elsewhere, former Cub Joe Girardi was politely cheered, Russell Martin got clonked in the head by an Aramis Ramirez backswing, a fight broke out behind the Cubs dugout, and there was a need for those vomit-covering pink granules on the concourse. That last bit probably didn't make the news, but it was probably something you could have intuited anyway. Also, A-Rod is still essentially a jerk.

The game—and the series for that matter—was a lot closer than I think many people expected. The Cubs hit CC Sabathia well in the early going and led going into the sixth. But youth, inexperience, and lackadaisical defense will lose out to a three-run homer from Nick Swisher in the eighth every time.

Still, the Yankees looked less than imposing—they won this one far more on the overexcited defense of Starlin Castro and the rawness of reliever Chris Carpenter than they did on their own merits. I called them for a third-place finish this year and see no reason to change that yet.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Content Is King

Things have been a little slow here, it's true, which is weird since we're in the heart of the season now. But there's much in the works. So while Rob is looking backward, here's a quick rundown of upcoming games and posts:

* A guest post from Our Man in Myrtle Beach on his night at the Pelicans and his week in white-trash purgatory
* A couple local games—on Sunday, Watson and I will be at the third Cubs / Yankees game, in which Derek Jeter will not get his 3,000 hit or miss yet another entirely fieldable grounder. Then, on Monday, Rob will catch the Brooklyn Cyclones and Aberdeen IronBirds, in which someone will do something.
* A weeklong sojourn in Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, starting June 26, in which we'll see (home teams listed first):

  • Peoria Chiefs / Kane County Cougars
  • Clinton LumberKings / Beloit Snappers
  • Iowa Cubs / Albuquerque Isotopes and Omaha Storm Chasers / Memphis Redbirds (a two-city, two-state doubleheader)
  • Sioux City Explorers / Sioux Falls Pheasants
  • Cedar Rapids Kernels / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
  • Burlington Bees / Peoria Chiefs
  • Quad Cities River Bandits / Clinton LumberKings
  • Chicago Cubs / Chicago White Sox and Kane County Cougars / Quad Cities River Bandits (another doubleheader)
  • A possible bonus game in Beloit—Snappers / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

That will finish off the north-central U.S. for us, I think—at least among nonindependent teams. Places like Fargo, Sioux Falls, and Lincoln will have to wait for when we're cleaning up the last dregs in... um... 2025?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Long Footnote

Infinite Jest, by the late David Foster Wallace, came up con- versationally on our recent southwest trip.  Norton proposed the possibility of reading the novel but skipping the copious footnotes1.  Melvin and I replied immediately that was not possible.

A couple weeks ago I went on the "Quaker State Double Double-Header."2  It reminded me of two similar trips I took in 2008.  And back in April I recalled Melvin's and my trip that year to Texas.  So, this post is essentially a long compound footnote to those earlier ones, a "completeist" accounting of my short trips and local games three years ago.  Unlike the footnotes in Infinite Jest, however, the following may be skipped.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Quaker State Double Double-Header

or, 36 Innings in 36 Hours

My buddy Kevin and I could have seen 51 innings of baseball last Tuesday and Wednesday.  However incredible that prospect, we stuck to the planned itinerary, which still included two games each day.  Taking advantage of early weekday game times marketed to school groups, we were able to take in the "double double-header" and still have some time to explore the byways of southeastern Pennsylvania and ... well, if it wasn't for the crazy "Twelve-Mile Circle," Wilmington would be part of the commonwealth too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Take me out to the ballpark

Delta Airlines sponsored the second annual Delta Dugout this weekend in Madison Square Park, a six-acre park in Manhattan.  Delta is the "official airline" of both the Yankees and the Mets, who played the first of their two yearly inter-league series on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

I watched game two in the park, which was preceded by a concert featuring former Yankee center fielder Bernie Williams and other opportunities to enjoy the best weather in a wet week.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Once There Were Giants

...but not Friday afternoon at Wrigley, as Ryan Dempster fanned 11 and the top of the Cubs order combined to score 5 and drive in 5 of the 11 runs the team spanked off of Madison Bumgarner and a cast of ignominious thousands, including a possibly needle-free Guillermo Mota.

It was another freezing afternoon by the lake, and through the first few innings a fog rolled in from left field—above, you can see it obscuring all the apartment buildings usually visible to the east. I had expected to see more businessmen at a businessman's special, but between all the anoraks and the fact that no one dresses for the office anymore, I was sartorially disappointed. Was there something wrong with the era in which Frank Sinatra, Toots Shor, and J. Edgar Hoover may or may not have all gone to a day game in suits and hats? I tell you it must have beat the sight of today's bloated and gear-bedecked fans chawing through a helmet full of nacho cheese. Mustn't it?

Photograph by C. K. Thorncliff, via Wikimedia Commons
The game was fairly close—and mighty slow going—with the Cubs up just 3-2 after six and a half. After a lusty "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" from Mike Krukow, the Cubs erupted in the bottom of the seventh for five small-ball runs. The same group brought forth three more in the eighth, and so for the first time this year I (and Watson) got to see the Cubs win at home. At least, I think that's what happened—after a while I was mostly thinking about the toddy waiting to warm me up at home. Maybe by June it'll be decent baseball weather.

Box score

Friday, May 13, 2011

Struck by Lightning


Visiting The Lightning Field, an art installation in the New Mexico high desert, was the trip destination we most looked forward to.  Melvin and I of course mentioned our planned baseball road-trip to those who have expressed interest in the past, but it was The Lightning Field that the three of us spoke about most frequently and expectantly.  It was even more moving than I imagined, which is why I am adding my thoughts to Melvin's comments about visiting The Lightning Field and the following day.