In honor of Opening Day on Sunday, the second of two pieces today on the history of the game.
From my extensive research, I've learned that baseball is a sport people watch sometimes. I could blame my lack of appreciation for America's greatest sport on many factors—my father being Australian, and therefore interested only in cricket; the fact that when I played softball in school I always ended up in right field; the fact that my entire heart belongs to Patrick Chan—but I've decided instead to scapegoat the names, specifically their terrible decline in quality in recent years.
"The Yankees are dead; the corpse arrived in the Bronx in the early hours today, with no George Steinbrenner on the scene to snap at the bones. Embarrassingly swept by the Tigers in four games in the American League Championship Series, they scored a total of six runs in this usually engrossing or thrilling semifinal. More accurately, they scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth of Game One, erasing a four-run Detroit lead, before losing that game in the twelfth, and then two more over the ensuing thirty innings. Nothing like this batting collapse exists in the annals; nothing comparable comes to mind. Something beyond base hits [...]
I sat behind the plate at Fenway Park in Boston a few years back and watched Tim Wakefield pitch a game with his knuckleball, and man, the way the ball dove and rose and fluttered and swerved—sometimes, clearly to a distance of feet—it was about the closest thing to magic I've ever seen with my own eyes. The science is hard to understand. (For me at least.) It has to do with air currents and friction created by the seams of the ball and turbulence and vortices. Anyway, Awl pal Christine Schomer helped make what looks to be an excellent documentary about the subject. And here's hoping [...]
Did you read the excerpts from the forthcoming collection of Susan Sontag's journals in the Times this past weekend? I really liked the part where she said, "Most of the interesting art of our time is boring." I agree with that a lot. I don't know if I'd say "most of," but I like a lot of boring art, and boring things, and often find myself defending the benefits of boredom. (This post could quickly devolve into a semantical discussion of the precise definition of "boredom," but I will elide that. I also liked the part in the article where Sontag said, "I don’t care about someone being intelligent," [...]
David Roth: Did you hear that "Let's Go Motte!" chants the Cardinals fans were doing in Game 1? Where do they come up with this stuff?
David Raposa: The Best Fans In Baseball continue to surprise and amaze with their improvisational alacrity. You cannot stop The Best Fans In Baseball. You can only hope to distract them with around-the-clock nonsense about how trading an up-and-coming center fielder for a fourth starter and some back-end bullpen arms is A Good Thing.
David Roth: I don't know that much about St. Louis. I know Fernando Vina was in a Nelly video and that they have tasty Italian-style sandwiches and that they've [...]
David Roth: Well, how do you like that? A guy who looks like a flamboyant, bespectacled version of Grimace doing the Humpty Dance at Yankee Stadium.
David Raposa: You shouldn't talk about David Wells like that. He's worked really hard to beat the gout.
David Roth: You can tell by how shiny he is in the TBS studios. He looks good. He looks less like a week-old, goateed gnocchi than he used to.
David Roth: I'm still baffled by pretty much everything that has happened. When the Diamondbacks played the Mets earlier this year, they seriously looked like a Western European World Baseball Classic entry. One where all [...]
"[N]ew research suggests that the shape of a man’s face can indicate whether he is likely to be a good sportsman. The study, carried out at Goldsmiths, University of London, found that Japanese baseball players with short, broad faces are more likely to display acumen on the sports field. It also showed that sportsmen with long faces are less likely to be successful baseball players."
In honor of Opening Day on Sunday, the first of two essays today on the history of the game.
It's almost impossible to think of baseball without thinking of money. There's no better example than headline-grabbing Alex Rodriguez, third baseman for the New York Yankees. In 2000, he signed an alarming ten-year deal with the Texas Rangers for $252 million (which the Yankees traded for in 2004). This is the deal he opted out of during (like, in the middle of) Game Four of the 2007 World Series, only to sign another ten-year deal with the Yankees, this time for $275 million. Now, with Opening Day days away, [...]
Here is the third best video E-40 has made this summer. It's for a song from the triple album The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 1, 2 & 3. It is very good. E-40 has been on a phenomenal run the past couple years—making music as good as any he's made during his two-decade-long career. He's also a singularly charming and lovable representative of California's Bay Area. As you can tell from the first and second best videos he has made this summer.
Shut up about Brooklyn already. We all know about Brooklyn, that shining city on the hill, where everything is made only of awesome. Yes, there are beards and clunky eyeglass frames and lawyers who skateboard and grandpas with noise bands. The hipsters run-off freely now, the cheesecake is largely appareled American and vice now has a market cap. There's even a successful sitcom that purports to be set there, which is as large a cultural signifier as anything—Brooklyn may be located on the western-most tip of Long Island, but where it actually lives is dead solid in the middle of the zeitgeist. It's now, it's hip, it's hot, it's happening. [...]
There’s some great baseball-related abstract art available on eBay, but it’s gonna cost you. Each of these original oil-on-canvas paintings (16-by-20 inches) by the artist Tommervik have a Buy It Now price of $1 million. (Not to mention another $9.99 for standard shipping.) According to his website, the artist “has developed a personal vein of Pop Cubism to produce his very own reading of American iconography. All-American icons are thus deconstructed and rebuilt to emphasize a given attribute.”
If a cool million isn’t in your art budget this month, you can make him a below-asking-price offer and see if he takes the bait. All auctions end over the next [...]
Baseball Season is here, and if you are not very Sporty, you might be all like: "Baseball? Big deal, I don't care about your stupid 'America's Pastime,' it's just for awful horrible stupid average people who want to Conform and be Average Americans with their Coors Light and 'Two entrees and an appetizer for $20' at Chilis, and their porky insulin-shock-at-any-moment kids and Wal-Mart—or maybe Target because it has a Starbucks now—and a minivan—or better yet a Dodge Magnum station wagon—and "relaxed fit" jeans and XXXL sleeveless "muscle" shirts from Costco and coupons for Gino's Pizza Rolls and low-fat frozen fudge bars because those are healthier and 'hey, maybe we [...]
Sorry for writing you and asking for your autograph under false pretenses.
This was a long time ago. 1981 or 82, I think. My friend Chris Pack and I were ten or eleven years old, and deeply, totally obsessed with baseball. We collected cards, memorized statistics, perfected pantomime of our favorite players' pitching deliveries and batting stances—Dan Quisenberry's submarine sidearm, Cecil Cooper's low-slung crouch, Graig Nettles' rod-straight right leg. In the summer, we'd watch the Yankees on Channel 11 every night (the Mets on Channel 9 if the Yankees had an off day) and play our own games of Wiffle ball in my backyard—all day, everyday. The fence [...]
"Last year, the 30-year-old Adam Greenberg set out to get out of the Cup of Coffee club once and for all. Trying to reclaim the skill set that once allowed him to play the sport at its highest level, he took hacks with the Bridgeport Bluefish, an independent team in Connecticut full of former top prospects and those no longer worth the farm club roster space. 'It's a whole bunch of guys with similar stories,' Greenberg told me. 'And we're all in this league, trying to get out.'"
Of the 17,808 players (and counting) who’ve run up the dugout steps and onto a Major League field, only 974 have had one-game careers. In baseball parlance, these single-gamers are known as "Cup of Coffee" players. The number fluctuates slightly throughout each season as new prospects get called up to fill in for injured veterans, or when roster size expands in September. (Last year, for example, Braves rookie Julio Teheran was a Cup of Coffee player for the eleven days between his MLB debut and a spot start.) But staying on the list for an extended period of time is generally not a good sign. It's an ominous [...]
David Roth: Before this World Series is over, I really hope we can find out what Tony La Russa could've said over the phone to Derek Lilliquist that would've sounded like "Marc Zep-chinski." There is really nothing that sounds like that, except maybe for some long-simmered Ukrainian hoof-and-potato stew
David Raposa: Wait, he was asking for Rzep and got Lynn? I'm not sure there are enough wine coolers west of the Mississippi for TLR to plausibly mush-mouth "Jason Motte" into "Lance Lynn."
David Roth: I think he wanted Motte to pitch to Napoli? Or I'm assuming as much, because you'd have to be a fraudulent Seagrams-7-cured Just For Men box-model [...]
David Roth: Read any good overhyped pseudo-exposes this week?
David Raposa: God, after that Globe "exclusive," I don't know if I can take any more hard truths. BASEBALL PLAYERS DRINK BEER AND PARTAKE OF UNHEALTHY FOODSTUFFS. MIDDLE-AGED MAN WITH KNEE PROBLEMS TAKES PAIN MEDICATION. SUBPAR EFFORTS FROM HITTERS AND PITCHERS LEADS TO LOSSES. (I am actually yelling those as I type.)
David Roth: I know, I can hear you. I think John Lackey eating a lot of Popeye's is sort of the opposite of "scoop." The tales of same are well-sourced and all that, but I already knew as much. Dude looks like a peevish curly-fry, so I could [...]