Book Review: Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella


Author: W.P. Kinsella
Title: Shoeless Joe
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Publication Info: Blackstone Publishing, 2011 (originally published 1982)
Other Books Read By the Same Author:

    • The Iowa Baseball Confederacy
    • Box Socials
    • The Thrill of the Grass
    • The Mocassin Telegraph and Other Stories
    • The Dixon Cornbelt League, and Other Baseball Stories
    • Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa: Stories
    • The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt: Baseball Stories
    • Red Wolf, Red Wolf: Stories
    • Magic Time

Summary/Review:

W.P. Kinsella was one of my favorite authors growin up and this is one of his classic books. Most people will be familiar with this novel as the source for the movie Field of Dreams.  The basic gist is that a baseball crazy man named Ray Kinsella marries a woman from Iowa and together they purchase a farm.  Ray gets a mystical message “If you build it, he will come” and knows that it refers to disgraced baseball star Shoeless Joe Jackson.  He builds a baseball field on his farm, and Shoeless Joe appears, followed by the rest of the 1919 Chicago White Sox players banned from baseball for throwing the World Series.

Ray gets more missions from the mysterious voice: to take reclusive author J.D. Salinger to a game at Fenway Park, find the curiously named Moonlight Graham who played in one baseball game and never came to bat, and the Oldest Living Chicago Cub player.  Bringing this odd group together, Ray is also able to reunite with his (dead) father who played baseball in his youth, and his (living) identical twin brother who ran away from the circus.

What I forgot about this book is that it is largely a series of conversations focusing on philosophy, dreams, American identity, and fatherhood.  It’s a great blend of magic and the quotidian.  And the fictional version of J.D. Salinger is a hoot, and one can only hope the real Salinger was something like that.  The book holds up and perhaps even better than I remembered from an adult perspective.

Favorite Passages:

“You don’t have any witnesses.  What if it was all a hallucination? Religous fanatics are known to have delirious visions.  You’re obviously a baseball fanatic.”

Recommended books:
Rating: *****

Photopost: Cooperstown


My son and I took an overnight trip during spring break to Cooperstown to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.  This is my fourth trip to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame.  I have mixed feelings about Cooperstown.  On the one hand, Cooperstown is an absolutely gorgeous village and its fun to drive the winding roads through scenic farmland to get to the town and its excellent museums.  On the other hands, the story of baseball being invented in Cooperstown is completely fabricated, and places with much better claims on being the place where baseball was invented in New York City, New Jersey, and New England would be a lot easier to get to for most visitors.  Cooperstown needs the Hall of Fame more than the Hall of Fame needs Cooperstown.

That being said we had a great time walking through the town that was largely empty of people, visiting the baseball memorabilia stores, and taking in the exhibits at the Hall of Fame.  I took a lot of photographs including the plaques of all my favorite Hall of Famers and posted them in this web album.

A stately church building.
A cheerful yellow house.
All-American Girls Professional Baseball League uniforms.
The hats worn by Nolan Ryan for each of his no-hitters.
Statue of Ted Williams.
The Phillie Phanatic trapped in a glass box.
Peter pays due reverences to the 2018 World Series Champion Red Sox exhibit.

 

Movie Review: Pelotero (2011) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “P” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “P” documentaries I’ve reviewed are Paris is Burning, Pete Seeger: The Power of SongProhibition, and Punk’s Not Dead.

Title: Pelotero
Release Date: 2011
Director: Jonathan Paley, Ross Finkel and Trevor Martin
Production Company: Makuhari Media
Summary/Review:

The Dominican Republic is a small nation on an island in the Carribean, yet it produces 20% of the professional basebally players in the United States. Pelotero, also known as Ballplayer, focuses on two young prospects who hope to be signed by a Major League Baseball team, Miguel Angel Sanó and Jean Carlos Batista.  Historically, Dominican players have received smaller signing bonuses than players in the United States, Candada, Japan, and elsewhere, but in recent years new records for bonuses have been set. Sanó is expected to challenge that signing record.

July 2nd is the big date in the Dominican Republic when 16-year-old players are able to sign with major league teams.  We watch Sanó and Batista over several months of early 2009 as they practice and audition for several teams.  They speak of their bonuses which they expect will be able to lift their entire families out of poverty.  The bonuses will also be used for the coaches who run the training academies on the island who do not get paid except for a comission if the player gets a bonus.  Because players cannot sign until they’re 16 and bonuses are smaller for older players, there is a history of fraud, where players (and their families, coaches, and agents) fake their ages and/or use performance enhancing drugs.

Unfortunately, both of Sanó and Batista fall under suspicion of age fraud, and undergo lengthy MLB investigations.  Due to the ongoing investigations, no team will sign them on July 2nd.  There’s a suspicion in Sanó’s case that the investigation is being used to force him to sign for a lower bonus, and the effort to prove his age involves a series of humiliating medical tests and confirmation of official documents.  In the end, Sanó is signed for less than expected to the Minnesota Twins, while Batista is suspended for one year, and signs with Houston Astros the next year.

Just a side note, this documentary has some excellent reggaeton tracks deployed in the soundtrack.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

The grim, exploitative reality of Dominican baseball is played out on the screen.  There’s a lot riding on the hope of a signing bonus, although only a smal portion of players will be signed, and then a tiny fraction of them will make it to the major leagues.  Many people in this film use terms that make these young men sound like commodities, which I find very disturbing.

Miguel Sanó made his Major League debut with the Twins in 2015, and played in the All-Star Game in 2017, and is still with the Twin but starting the 2019 season on the injured list.  Jean Carlos Batista played a few years in the Astros’ minor league system, but doesn’t appear to be in professional baseball anymore.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

The most direct comparison to Pelotero is the 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams which focuses on two boys from Chicago who enter into prestigious high school basketball programs with expectations for the future in college and NBA basketball.

The Arm is a book that focuses on programs – sometimes exploitative – that focus on training young players in the United States and Japan to become effective pitchers.

Source: Hoopla

Rating: ***1/2


019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
K: Kon-Tiki
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera
N: Nanook of the North
O: Obit.

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Podcasts of the Week Ending April 14


The Memory Palace :: Jackie Mitchell

The story of the first woman to play on a professional baseball team, most famous for pitching in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees and striking out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Hidden Brain :: Radically Normal: How Gay Rights Activists Changed The Minds Of Their Opponents

The acceptance of LGBTQ people in the United States has improved radically in a short period of time.  Hidden Brain explores what brought about the change in attitudes, and questions why other groups discriminated against have not seen as much positive change.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Birdsong

Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?  Perhaps because they have something important to say.

99% Invisible :: Froebel’s Gifts

The origins of kindergarten date to the late 18th-century when Friedrich Froebel came up with the idea of teaching young children through the structured use of educational toys.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

2019 Major League Baseball Predictions


Time begins on March 28th, when a new Major League Baseball season starts and all the teams are tied for first place (well except in the AL West where Seattle and Oakland have already played two games in Japan).

Here are my predictions for how the 2019 will come to an end.

NL East

The Phillies aggressive offseason will give them the NL East title, although the Nationals will be neck-and-neck with them over the season. The Braves will regress a little after last season’s division championship.  The Mets sadly will continue to lack the offense to support the stellar pitching. And Miami will continue to be mediocre.

Philadelphia
Washington (wild card)
Atlanta
New York
Miami

NL Central

The Cubs will reclaim the NL Central and Milwaukee will capture the wild card.  I’m honestly not sure how the rest of the division will shake out, because the Reds and Pirates have the talent to surprise, but then again the Cardinals could be better than 3rd as well.

Chicago
Milwaukee (wild card)
St. Louis
Cincinnati
Pittsburgh

NL West

The boring old Dodgers will continue to dominate, while improvements in the Padres will help them snag a distant second place.  The Rockies will regress after their 2018 Wild Card season and Arizona and San Francisco will each drop down a notch.

Los Angeles
San Diego
Colorado
Arizona
San Francisco

AL East

The Red Sox won’t win as many games as last season but neither will the Yankees.  The Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles will each be a little bit better than 2018, but the division will still shake out in the same order.  Excepting the Orioles, this is probably the strongest division in baseball & its a shame that only 3 teams can make the postseason.

Boston
New York (wild card)
Tampa Bay (wild card)
Toronto
Baltimore

AL Central

Cleveland will once again win the AL Central, largely for lack of competition within the division.  I expect the Twins will be the only other team to finish over .500, and the remainder of the division could shake out in any order.

Cleveland
Minnesota
Chicago
Detroit
Kansas City

AL West

The Astros, like the Dodgers, will continue to make the regular season a formality.  Oakland may challenge for the Wild Card, but I don’t expect much from the rest of the division.

Houston
Oakland
Los Angeles
Seattle
Texas

WILD CARD PLAYOFFS:

Washington defeats Milwaukee
Tampa Bay defeats New York

DIVISIONAL SERIES:

Houston defeats Tampa Bay
Boston defeats Cleveland
Washington defeat Chicago
Los Angeles defeat Philadelphia

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES:

Boston defeats Houston
Washington defeats Los Angeles

WORLD SERIES:

Somehow the Miracle Mets swoop in and win it all on the 50th anniversary of their first championship!

Podcasts of the Week Ending March 16th


Twenty Thousand Hertz :: The Booj

In a world where every movie trailer sounds exactly like every other movie trailer, how does one make their trailer stand out?  The story of The Booj and other elements common to the blockbuster movie trailer formula.  Confession:  I love the sound of The Booj, but can live without the cheezy song covers.

Radiolab :: Asking for Another Friend

This episode investigates several mysteries, including people who don’t clean up their dog’s poop, racist dogs, and why the New York City subway plays the opening notes of a song from West Side Story.

Re:Sound :: Lefty Disco

The first story is the oddly fascinating story of how discrimination against Black and gay people, a radio shockjock, and a baseball double-header collided to become a disastrous promotional event and The Night That Killed Disco.

Best of the Left :: Democratizing our presidential elections (National Popular Vote) ​

The Electoral College is anti-democratic and despite what its supporters say does not help smaller states.  This episode discusses alternatives such as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, replacing “winner take all” with proportional allotments, and eliminating the Electoral College entirely.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Book Review: The Only Rule Is It Has to Work by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller


Author:Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller
TitleThe Only Rule Is It Has to Work
Narrator: Kirby Heyborne  and John Pruden
Publication Info: Tantor Audio (2016)
Summary/Review:

A pair of stats geeks with a podcast are given the opportunity to run a baseball team to see if they can test the concepts of sabermetrics – the empirical analysis of baseball – in a real world setting.  The team they get to try this on is the 2015 Sonoma Stompers who play in the low-level independent league, the Pacific Association.  They face challenges of having a manager and players go along with their unorthodox suggestions for playing baseball, as well finding talented players to sign to the team, since the Pacific Association doesn’t attract the best talent.  To surprise of many, the Stompers do very well, dominating the league in the first half.  The authors are honest enough to admit that it wasn’t always their ideas that contributed to the overall success.  But success has its downside as it leads to many of the Stompers’ best players getting signed to contracts on teams in better leagues, leaving the Stompers weakened for the second half and postseason. Nevertheless, I did find myself drawn into their account and caring very deeply about how the Stompers would do that season.  The book is an interesting case study of putting sabermetrics into action and the real life challenges it may face, as well as just being an interesting baseball story.

Recommended booksThe Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan, Stolen Season: A Journey Through America and Baseball’s Minor Leagues by David Lamb, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, and Wild and Outside: How a Renegade Minor League Revived the Spirit of Baseball in America’s Heartland by Stefan Fatsis
Rating: ***1/2

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 17


Sidedoor :: That Brunch in the Forest

Myths and reality of Native Americans and the “first Thanksgiving.”

All Songs Considered :: How the Beatles Made “The White Album”

The story behind the Beatles strangest album.

30 for 30 :: Rickey Won’t Quit

The great Rickey Henderson plays one last season in professional baseball for an independent minor league team.

The Anthropocene Reviewed :: Tetris and the Seed Potatoes of Leningrad

Fascinating stories from the Soviet Union trace the origin of the classic video game Tetris and its unrecognized designer, and the people of Leningrad who protected a seed bank against Nazi invasion.

Have You Heard? :: Closing Time: In a Gentrifying City, are Some Students Expendable

A must-listen story of the effort to close, privatize, and segregate Boston Public Schools.

 

Red Sox World Series Victory Parade 2018


Once again, the Red Sox paraded through Boston aboard Duck Boats, carrying their four trophies and receiving cheers from fans (and returning the favor).  My kids and I watched from the same spot on Tremont Street opposite Boston Common that we watched the 2013 parade.

The photographic highlights are below, with my full photo album also available at http://www.othemts.com/redsoxparade18/.

Construction workers get in some welding while waiting for the parade to arrive.
Big Papi rides in his fourth parade.
Chris Sale victorious.
Beer toss!
David Price with a big David Price head.
Craig Kimbrel.
The trophy!
Puerto RIcan pride on the Common.

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 4th


Hit Parade :: The Nights on Broadway Edition

I’m not quite a fan of The Bee Gees but I am fascinated by their story, especially their versatility and ability to remain big hit makers over decades without people even noticing.

99% Invisible :: Pockets: Articles of Interest #3

This episode of an ongoing series about clothing focuses on the pocket, the unfairly gendered feature of clothing with a history dating back to its origin as a completely separate article of clothing.  I’m definitely a Pocketist.

Scientific American :: Where There’s a Wills There’s a Way to Explain the Home Run Rise

The science behind how subtle changes in the design of baseballs lead to a rise in home runs hit.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Classic Cartoon Sound Effects

How sounds effects for cartoons are made, reused, and become iconic signifiers.

Household Name :: The Amway Dream

Psst…it’s a pyramid scheme.