Category Archives: Baseball

Something off-putting about those ‘patriotic’ uniforms

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I thought about posting this on Memorial Day itself, but decided to wait.

For me — a guy who’s all about some patriotism and support for the military (and if there’s a spectator sport I love, it’s baseball) — there’s something off-putting about those special uniforms MLB players donned over the holiday weekend.

It’s not just that it’s so contrived, such a cheesy, sterile form of tribute to men who died in the blood and noise and fury and filth and noise of battle. They did not wear clean, white uniforms with camouflage numbers. They did not wear caps that look as much like what a deer hunter would wear as anything you’d see on a soldier.

But there’s also something… decadent, something last-days-of-Rome about it.

Of course, I’m guilty of romanticizing baseball. I think of it in very anachronistic terms as a humble, pastoral game played by plain men who did it for the love of the sport, guys who maybe had one uniform to their names, and that uniform made of wool that caused them to roast in the summer sun. (And they liked it, as Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man would say.)

I just can’t help thinking of all the money spent on these uniforms that these players will probably wear only once. Which makes me think about how much — way too much — money there is in professional sports today, so much that vast sums can be thrown away on PR gestures that, as I said above, seem inadequate to the kind of tribute our war dead deserve.

I’m not blaming MLB here. This occurs in a context in which the fans, the entire society, seem to have lost all sense of materialistic restraint.

You, too, can have a genuine copy of the jersey your hero wore for one game for only $119.99. Or, if you’ve really lost your marbles and have more money than anyone needs, you can have the actual jersey that a player wore, for $2,125! Unless someone with priorities even further out of whack outbids you!

It just all seems kind of nuts to me. And vaguely offensive. Does this make any sense to anyone?

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The Kid Who Batted 1.000 (almost)

My MLB At Bat app brought the above video to my attention today.

The brief description:

Jaime Barria and Brandon Belt face off in a 21-pitch duel to set the record for the most pitches in an MLB at-bat in the modern era

Here’s the NYT’s report on what happened: “21 Pitches, 16 Fouls, 12 Minutes: Brandon Belt’s Marathon At-Bat.”

Now that’s what I call some baseball — not these towering home runs the app usually tells me about.s-l225

It reminds me of one of my favorite books from my youth, The Kid Who Batted 1.000, by Bob Allison and Frank Ernest Hill.

I read it over and over when I was a kid, checking it out from the school library multiple times to do so. Then I went years without seeing a copy, and had thought it was something I’d never see again, until my wife found a dog-eared copy that had belonged to one of her brothers. So I got to read it as an adult, and enjoyed it just as much.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the story of Dave King, a farmboy who is discovered to have a weird talent: He can foul off any pitch thrown by any pitcher. He gets signed to a Major League team and leads it out of the cellar because he always draws walks — usually after wearing down and shattering the nerves of the opposing pitcher.

Finally, in the last game of the World Series, he hits a home run, thereby earning a batting average of 1.000 — albeit only in postseason play.

It’s great. If you can find a copy, I do recommend picking one up…

By the way, the real-life batter, Brandon Belt, didn’t quite equal Dave King’s achievement. After those 21 pitches, the Giants first-basemen flies out to right field…

‘Is that politics? There’s no politics in baseball!’

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Dragging this morning, because of last night’s ball game.

I’m going to confess that I did not stay up until the end, which is why the Dodgers lost. I’m 100 percent on this so far: If I watch until the end, the Dodgers win. If I give up and go to bed, the Astros win. Happens every time.

Nevertheless, I did stay up past 12:30 — I think the 7th inning had just ended, although I was so sleepy my memory is unclear — so I’m dragging. The Astros had just pulled ahead, 11-8.

This is something we need to do something about. I have some thoughts on how:

  • That game should have started at about 5 p.m., not 8. What? Those people in California couldn’t start watching their team in the World Series at 2 p.m. on a Sunday?
  • We could change the rules of baseball to bar teams from West of the Mississippi from the Series, or from post-season play altogether. That wouldn’t shut out any teams I’ve ever cared about, except the Cardinals, and I haven’t really liked them all that much since my wife’s cousin, Tim McCarver, left. (That was a team — Tim and Bob Gibson and Joe Torre and Lou Brock and Curt Flood and Steve Carlton and Orlando Cepeda…). Why do we need to have Americans living out West anyway? Manifest Destiny? Call that an excuse?
  • If any of those Westerners squawk about it, point out that if the game’s so late that I go to bed, their team is going to lose anyway. It’s proven. It’s science.

Changing the subject, I thought I’d point out to you football people that there’s no politics in baseball. The players line up — standing — and put their hats over their hearts and sometimes even sing along during the National Anthem.

I’m not talking about the merits or the lack thereof of all those football players dramatizing their politics during the anthem. I’m just saying that there’s none of that in the World Series this year, and it’s kind of a relief from all that divisive stuff coming at you from every direction. Just baseball.

Yeah, there was that “chinito” face that Gurriel pulled in the dugout the other night, and that wasn’t his best moment, and next year he’ll be suspended five games. But for now, everybody — including Yu Darvish — just wants to play ball.

That raises another issue. Anybody besides me think that maybe technology has gotten too intrusive when you can see everything that goes on in the dugout, in HD? Should players be held to the same standard in the dugout as out on the field? Put another way, shouldn’t a guy be able to rearrange his cojones, for instance, without the world watching? When he’s not out under the lights, I mean. All scratching and spitting out on the actual field would remain fair game…

Libertarians, help me out here…

Of course, there’s politics here if you want to look for it — if only Ring Lardner were here to help settle the latest “lively ball” controversy — but who wants to, while watching baseball into the wee hours?

It’s my birthday, so… more baseball pictures!

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I want to thank all those dozens of folks for wishing me joy of my birthday on Facebook.

I like the picture one of my cousins posted to mark the occasion. That’s it below at left. That’s me with my grandfather, Gerald Harvey Warthen, when I was about 4.22195386_482392475480410_9175248831617986939_n

This shot is meaningful to me because my grandfather was a serious baseball player. As a young man in Kensington, Md., that’s what he was all about. He had a job with the Postal Service at one point, just so he could pitch for their baseball team. He was offered a contract by (I think) the Senators’ organization, but ended up working in his father’s construction business instead.

But his legend endured in Kensington. My Dad grew up there being known as “Whitey” Warthen’s kid. That was his baseball name — like Ford and Herzog.

I did not, I regret to say, get to grow up with my grandfather, as he died of lung cancer within a year of the photo being taken.

Above, you see him as a young man with one of the teams he played for. He’s squatting at the right of the photo, with a steely gaze that says to me, “Enough of this stuff! Let’s play ball!”

Looking much less intimidating, you see me below with the only organized team I ever played on, the MacDill AFB senior Little League team. I guess I was about 14. I’m on the left end of the back row, standing next to the white-shirted coach. The only thing I seem to have in common with my grandfather here is that I, too, look like I’m ready to have the picture-taking over with. Or maybe it’s just that I’d removed my glasses for the picture, and couldn’t see anything.

I hadn’t played organized ball before that because we moved almost every summer. This was late to start, and while I’d been a good hitter in sandlots (where the idea was usually to put the ball across the plate and put it in play), I had a terrible time adjusting to people trying to throw the ball past me. I tended to swing late.

So it is that I’m particularly proud of my one highlight of that undistinguished year: I broke up a no-hitter in the fifth inning (of seven). This redheaded pitcher on the opposite nine was just overpowering everybody, but I got an opposite-field (still swinging late) line drive off him for a single. So they took him out of the game. That’s it — my one story of baseball glory.

Needless to say, no Major League team ever offered me a contract…

MacDill senior little league team