Oops…I missed a day of the the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Good thing we get Sundays off so I can catch up. Here are some photos from the Jamaica Plain Regan Youth League opening day festivities, where “S” is for “Season Opener.”
Oops…I missed a day of the the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Good thing we get Sundays off so I can catch up. Here are some photos from the Jamaica Plain Regan Youth League opening day festivities, where “S” is for “Season Opener.”
As a child growing up rooting for the Mets, I knew that Dwight Gooden (then Mets’ ace and arguably the 2nd-greatest Met of all time) celebrated his birthday on November 16 and the all-time greatest Met, The Franchise, Tom Seaver, celebrated his birthday on November 17. With my birthday on November 18, I was a natural for future Met great. There was one problem, I had no baseball talent.
I’m now 43, past retirement age for baseball, although as long as the ageless Bartolo Colon continues to pitch there will still be an active major leaguer older than me. For fun, here is the all-time all-star roster for players born on November 18.
C – Deacon McGuire – known as a gentleman who played 26 seasons at the most demanding position
1B – Roy Sievers – hit nine career walkoff homeruns
2B – Gene Mauch – can also be the team’s manager
SS – Kermit Wahl – finding a shortstop for the team was tough, could move over Sheffield and seek out another third baseman?
3B – Gary Sheffield – Doc Gooden’s nephew! Wonder if they celebrated their birthdays together?
LF – Steve Henderson – his walkoff homerun at Shea Stadium in 1980 is one of the defining moments of my baseball fandom
CF – Les Mann – regular centerfielders were also hard to find, but Mann played a key role for the Miracle Braves of 1914
RF – Dante Bichette – I remember him being called “Bionic Fat” which was inspiring to us men of large girth
DH – David Ortiz – Big Papi is without question the greatest November 18th baseball player of all time
SP – Jamie Moyer – pitched until he was 49!
SP – Jack Coombs – won 31 games for the Athletics in 1910
SP – Allen Watson – was born in Queens and was briefly a Met in 1999
SP – Jay Hook – pitcher of record for the Mets’ first ever franchise win in 1962
SP – Cal Koonce – a reliever for the 1969 Miracle Mets although he was a starter earlier in his career with the Cubs
CLOSER – Tom Gordon – the Red Sox star of the late 90s had a Stephen King book named after him
RP – C.J. Wilson – a 2011 All-Star
RP – Shawn Camp – was the 500th selection in the 1997 draft
RP – Mark Petkovsek – had his best season in 1996 working as starter and long reliever for the Cardinals
RP – Matt Wise – appeared in 8 games for the 2008 Mets
Happy birthday to all of the November 18th All-Stars!
The Major League Baseball playoffs begin tonight and as I’ve done in previous years, I’d like to offer my opinions on which teams I would like to succeed and which teams I expect will actually win. This is an interesting year in that both of my favorite teams – the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox – are participating in postseason play. This makes me nervous because I don’t want to see them play against one another in the World Series because I’d hate to see either team lose to the other. The last time this happened in 1999, I was ready to lean towards the Red Sox in a World Series matchup since they were in the midst of their famed championship drought. Now, if forced to choose, I’ll lean toward the Mets since the Red Sox have won a World Series more recently (2013 compared to 1986) and have won more championships in the last 12 years (3) than the Mets have in their entire history (2).
The 2016 Mets have shown that living well is the best revenge. Their 2015 World Series opponents, the Kansas City Royals, were eliminated while the Mets returned to the postseason by winning the first Wild Card spot. Who would have predicted that last November after the Royals dismantled the Mets in five games? Or even as recently as August 20th of this year when the Mets were 60-62. Of course, if the Mets are to win the World Series they’re going to have to face Chicago, Los Angeles, and/or Washington, all of whom will be seeking revenge on the Mets for 2015 . These teams may not recognize the Mets who show up to play in 2016 as there seems to have been a lot of roster changes since last autumn. Daniel Murphy moved to the Washington Nationals during the offseason, while David Wright, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Stephen Matz, and Wilmer Flores are all injured. Instead the Mets are relying on newcomers like Asdrubal Cabrera, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rene Rivera, T.J. Rivera, Jay Bruce and a returned Jose Reyes. It will be fun to see how far the Mets go with this squad, but even if they don’t achieve much it gives hope for future seasons that – should everyone be healthy – the Mets will have so much depth to choose from.
The Red Sox won the American League East after what I consider a successful 4-year rebuilding period. As would be expected during a rebuild, the Sox finished in last place 3 of those 4 seasons, but more unlikely, they won the World Series in the other year. Nevertheless, the important thing is that the Sox rebuilt their farm system and held on to talented young players who form the core of this year’s team and I believe will make the Sox contenders for years to come. These include Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Travis Shaw, Brock Holt, Sandy Leon, Steven Wright, and Andrew Benintendi. They’re joined by veterans acquired via trade David Price, Rick Porcello, and Hanley Ramirez. And of course, Sox old-timers Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. This is notably Ortiz’s final season, and one of the best reasons I have for the Sox to go all the way this season is to see Ortiz win his fourth World Series with Boston before he retires.
There are a lot of intriguing possibilities considering the other teams in this year’s postseason. 8 of the 10 teams have significant championship droughts greater than 20 years: Toronto (1993), New York (1986), Baltimore (1983), Washington (no championships since franchise began in Montreal in 1969), Texas (no championships since the franchise began in Washington in 1961), Cleveland (1948), and most notoriously Chicago (1908). At the other extreme, the remaining two teams – the San Francisco Giants (2014, 2012, & 2010) and the Boston Red Sox (2013, 2007, & 2004) – have combined for half of the World Series title in the last 12 seasons!
Some interesting World Series matchups include:
The League Championships Series may also have some interesting storylines:
After all that, here’s the ranking of my preference of which teams I’d like to see win the World Series:
And here is my prediction of how I think this postseason may actually shake out.
Wild Card Games:
League Division Series:
League Championship Series:
Let’s hope I’m wrong. What are your picks for the MLB postseason?
Author: W. P. Kinsella
Title: The Iowa Baseball Confederacy
Narrator: Tom Parker
Publication Info: [Ashland, Or.] : Blackstone Audio, Inc., 
I’d been meaning to reread this book, one that became one of my favorites of all time when I first read it in a high school, and with the recent death of W.P. Kinsella, this seemed like an opportune time to do so. The story is one that blends baseball, Americana, time travel, magic, and just plain weirdness. The narrator inherits from his father the knowledge that his rural town in Iowa was once home to a team in a local baseball league known as the Iowa Baseball Confederacy before the town was destroyed in a flood. No one else is able to remember anything prior to 1909 . While Gideon Clarke is mocked for obsession, he eventually finds a way to travel back in time with his friend Stan, a minor league baseball player, to observe and join in the Iowa Baseball Confederacy All-Star Team’s epic game against the visiting Chicago Cubs in 1908. The game lasts 40 days in a rainfall with a stone angel playing outfield and visits by President Theodore Roosevelt and Leonardo da Vinci. He finds love with a woman named Sarah but also finds that reality is being manipulated by an Indian named Drifting Away and that none of this can last.
So does this book hold up to my fond memories? I say yes! It may not be a brilliant work of literature, but it is a fine book which works on different levels of story and metaphor.
“Baseball is the one single thing the white man has done right.” – Drifting Away
Recommended books: The Universal Baseball Association by Robert Coover, The Curious Case of Sidd Finch by George Plimpton, and The Veracruz Blues by Mark Winegardner
The Canadian author W.P. Kinsella died on Friday, September 16. H’es most famous for the novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the film Field of Dreams. From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, if you’d asked me my favorite author, I would’ve said Kinsella. It’s been a long while since I read a Kinsella book and the last time I read him as an adult I found it wasn’t as good as I remembered, but still a key figure in my reading life.
I was introduced to W.P. Kinsella in an odd way when I received his short story collection The Thrill of the Grass as a Christmas gift from my grandmother. It seemed an example of my grandmother being clueless since I actually didn’t like baseball at this point in my life. Also, it was clear she hadn’t read the book since there were many depictions of sexual activity that I’m sure she didn’t want a 10-year-old reading. But maybe Grandma was a conduit for something because within a year I had become an avid baseball fan. And Kinsella’s sex scenes were not bawdy fantasy but depictions of the complications and conflicted feelings of people in committed relationships, something a boy should learn about.
And so I became a devoted Kinsella reader, getting every book of his I could find at the library or the bookstore. His baseball stories were easier to find than his stories about Native Americans, although I read some of the latter too. My favorite W.P. Kinsella story is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy which involves the 1908 Chicago Cubs, time travel, an endless baseball game and a torrential downpour, and a statue of an angel (which was creepy long before Doctor Who made angel statues creepy). Here are some other memories of Kinsella’s work:
I remember being a bit irritated that Field of Dreams deviated from the book – especially regarding J.D. Salinger and the oldest living Cub – as well as being cheezy and melodramatic, but yeah, I liked it too.
Here’s to W.P. Kinsella, and the stories we tell and the memories we share.
The kids & I visited Fenway Park on Tuesday night, taking advantage of their free Kid Nation tickets on Xander Bogaerts bobblehead night. This was our last Red Sox game of the season and thus most likely the last time we ever saw David Ortiz play in person. Sadly, it was not a great game for Big Papi and the Sox, although he did drive in a run on sacrifice fly that was snagged on a great catch. Hanley Ramirez put the Red Sox ahead on a home run past the Pesky Pole, but the Tampa Bay Rays hit a home run to tie the game and then another to go ahead for good. Still, it was a lovely night out at the old ballpark near the end of summer.
Author: Linda Sue Park
Title: Keeping Score
Publication Info: New York : Clarion Books, c2008.
Summary/Review: This brilliant children’s novel is set in Brooklyn in the 1950s, the golden age of New York City baseball. Young Maggie, a devoted Dodgers fans, listens to games with the firefighters at the local station, until one day a new guy is listening to a Giants game on the radio. Despite their conflicting allegiance, Maggie and Jim become friends and he teaches her how to score a baseball game. Then he is drafted into the ambulance service in the Korean War. They keep in touch but then Jim suffers a trauma that prevents him from being able to communicate with anyone.
The novel depicts Maggie’s efforts and sacrifices to connect with her friend through baseball and doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war, or the futility of this particular war. Along the way, Maggie also invents sabermetrics (okay, I’m kidding, but it’s not too far of a stretch). This is a loving book about friendship and healing.
Recommended books: Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger and Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir by Doris Kearns Goodw
On Saturday, my family spent 7 hours at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI and we didn’t even see a baseball game! We started with a free on-field clinic for the kids with PawSox coaches and players as instructors. Then we settled onto a blanket on the grassy berm in centerfield and waited for the game to start, the kids getting batting practice balls tossed to them by a Buffalo Bisons pitcher. But just as the game was set to begin, a torrential downpour swept through, and we huddled under a tent with scores of other fans to wait it out. A beautiful rainbow graced the heavens after the storm, but the field was flooded and it took a long time to determine if it would be safe to play. The game was postponed, but the superhero-themed fireworks went ahead as scheduled. All in all, a dramatic day at the ballpark!
I was impressed listening to former big league catcher and current MLB manager Mike Matheny discuss the culture of youth sports, the subject of his new book The Matheny Manifesto. He also had some fascinating stories of his major league experience and concussions. It actually made me like a St. Louis Cardinal!
Author: David A. Kelly
Title: The Philly Fake
Publication Info: Random House Books for Young Readers (2014)
This is a book in my son’s favorite “Ballpark Mystery Series.” Set at the Philadelphia Phillies ballpark, it’s a mystery that involves the Philly Phanatic and an evil Ben Franklin. Lots of fun Philly “Spirit of ’76” activities mixed in with baseball and mystery solving.
Patriots Day is my absolute favorite holiday and it’s too bad it’s not celebrated nationwide. On Sunday we went to Fenway Park for the first time this season. Since Kay is now 4 we got a package for the whole family. She was excited and cheered a lot holding a banner from the Kid Nation booth. Kay didn’t make it past the 7th on a sunny day in the bleachers. From our perch we got to watch Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista constantly stretching, perhaps Bautista Power Yoga? We also got to see the MLB debut of Marco Hernandez at 2nd base. In his first game with the Red Sox, Marco had a walk, a hit, a stolen base, and scored a run. Unfortunately, his more experienced teammates weren’t hitting at all with only 4 hits in the game, half of those in the 9th inning. Travis Shaw’s home run fell in the bullpen right in front of us, which was exciting, but too little too late and the Red Sox lost 5-3.
On Monday I took Peter & Kay downtown for the festivities. We were heading to a playground but passing the Public Garden the kids asked to go on the Swan Boats. It was an absolutely perfect day for getting pedaled across the lagoon. After a visit with the Ducklings, the kids went wild climbing, swinging, and spinning on the Esplanade.
They were having so much fun we missed the elite runners arriving in Back Bay (and the kids chewed me out for making them miss them). But we found a spot on Boyslton Street and joined the cheering masses. It was so loud, and inspiring! After a lunch and another long stint of rooting for the runners, we made our long circuitous way home on the T.
Every year hundreds of children aged 7 to 15 come out to play baseball and softball on dozens of teams in the eight divisions of the Regan Youth League. The season kicks off with a parade, singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the street, and ceremonies at Daisy Field.
If you’re out and about on the morning of Saturday, April 23rd come out and cheer for the players and coaches. Below are some photos from a few years back.
Post for “R” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
Release Date: 2013
Director: Brian Helgeland
This straightforward biopic documents Jackie Robinson’s first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers when he became the first black player to break through the color barrier in Major League Baseball. It suffers from an excess of Hollywood dramatic moments, but mostly it’s true to life in showing what Robinson had to deal with just to play ball. Harrison Ford seems just a bit odd cast as Branch Rickey, and the characterization of Rickey is too idealized for a man who was actually loathed by a lot of players for his greediness. Chadwick Boseman is excellent as Jackie Robinson (he really gets his moves on the basepaths down) and Nicole Beharie plays a winsome Rachel Robinson. There are also some great effects that make it look like they filmed on location at Ebbets Field and the other historic ballparks of 1947. All in all, it’s a good introduction to the Jackie Robinson story.
Author: Greg W. Prince
Title: Amazin’ Again: How the 2015 New York Mets Brought the Magic Back to Queens
Publication Info: Sports Publishing (2016)
Previously Read By Same Author: Faith and Fear in Flushing
2015 was a special season for the New York Mets and Mets’ fans, not just because they won the National League pennant, but because of so many unique aspects and players that made it unlike any season in the team’s history. Prince, one-half of the team at the magnificent Faith and Fear in Flushing blog, relives the 2015 season month-by-month, game-by-game, and sometimes even inning-by-inning and pitch-by-pitch, offering his wizened and humorous perspective. While a regular blogger writing about the Mets, make no mistake that this is a book by a journalist or a sports writer, this is a fan’s book. Prince writes about watching games from his seat at Citi Field or on tv and offers many great tidbits of Mets history and the fan’s zeitgeist to embellish the narrative. If there’s anything wrong with this book it’s that it has the same sad ending as the Met’s 2015 season (Prince wisely does not dwell on the World Series). Let’s hope that Prince will have reason to write another book with a happier ending in the near future.
Some combination of appreciation for the Met who wanted to be a Met so bad he wept when comprehending he might be something else and the intoxication we felt for having just gotten Cespedes turned the shirt-receivers their own kind of emotional. When they got a load of Flores in his first at-bat since the trade that wasn’t, they rose and applauded. Thank you, Wilmer. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being you. This sort of gratitude isn’t readily associated with the Mets fan species, but standing ovations now followed Wilmer Flores around like a loyal pup. He couldn’t step into the batter’s box or approach a ground ball without his every movement causing a commendatory commotion. Driving Juan Uribe home with the first run of the night in the fourth made him only more beloved.
Four National relievers. Three Met runs. One hellacious fist pump out of Wright after he crossed the plate. Yes, it seemed to shout, this is what all that stretching and exercising the back was for … this is what I signed that long-term deal for … this is what it’s all frigging about. Even when filling David Wright’s thought bubble, I can’t imagine The Captain cursing.
If you came to the Mets later in life—by marriage, by immigration, by one day looking up at the television and deciding that team on the screen was somehow for you—then your elation is every bit as earned as mine. The Mets may extract blood, sweat and tears from you, but you don’t have to fill out a form to prove your loyalty (they tried that with the “True New Yorker” marketing gambit of 2014 and it backfired blazingly). Adult conversions are welcome. They’re admirable. We know you had your choice of baseball teams and we thank you for flying with us.
Author: Tom Bruno
Publication Info: Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2012
The Curse of the Bambino is noted throughout New England as a reason why the Red Sox failed to win the World Series for 85 years. But what if it was a literal curse cast by a demon who took the form of Babe Ruth. That’s the premise of this horror novella that brings together a Fenway Park hot dog vendor, MIT professors, and a piano from the bottom of a pond to break the curse for good. It’s short and simple with a few flashes of humor.
Recommended books: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King , The Technologists by Matthew Pearl and A Soul to Steal by Rob Blackwell
Title: A League of Their Own
Release Date: 1992
Director: Penny Marshall
I can scratch this off the list of movies I never got around to seeing. This highly-fictionalized movie tells the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League started during World War II. It’s a generally entertaining account of an overlooked time in sports history but a few things bug me about. First, there are a lot of broad comedy devices that seems to undermine the professional aspirations of women athletes by just making them look to silly. Second, the movie feels bloated with the framing device about the reunion at Cooperstown. I guess I would’ve found it more interesting if they’d tied it more to actual alumni of the AGPBL rather than having older actors play older fictional versions of the fictional characters. Finally, I thought Lori Petty played her character far too petulantly (although I was happy that her team won the championship at the end). Other than that the acting is pretty good – Geena Davis is a strong lead character, for stunt casting Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell are actually quite excellent in supporting roles, and I warmed up to Tom Hanks as the angry drunk manager with a heart of gold. The scene that made me laugh the most is the one where he tries to upbraid a player for missing the cutoff but is unable to find any words. The thing I get out of watching this movie more than 20 years after it was made is that today we have a professional women’s basketball league and a professional women’s soccer league, but dang it! I just want a professional women’s baseball league, too.
Recently, there’s been discussion in Major League Baseball about expanding the Designated Hitter rule to the National League. The DH has been the subject of endless debate and speculation since it was introduced as an experiment to in the American League in 1973. While the AL adopted the DH rule permanently, the NL has resisted the DH and so for more than four decades the two leagues have played by different rules. In the AL, a designated hitter bats in place of the pitcher while in the NL the pitcher bats for himself.
I believe that I have come up with a brilliant solution to resolve the DH debate for good, but before I reveal it, let’s sum up the arguments for against the DH. Arguments for the DH include:
Arguments against the DH include:
My preference is that the DH be eliminated and the game be returned to its purer roots where all players compete in the field and at the plate. But after more than 40 years and endless arguments, I accept that the DH is here to stay. I also believe that the two leagues should follow the same rules.
So what is my solution? This will initially sound strange but bear with me because I think it’s the perfect compromise. All 30 teams will be able to use the designated hitter, but only on odd numbered days.
What this means:
Why this works:
So that’s my plan. It’s a bit unconventional but I think it will work. Let me know if you agree in the comments below. Or if you have modifications that would make this an even more effective resolution to the DH, let me know those too. And if you think this is a bad idea but have an alternate solution you think would work, I’d love to hear it.
Baseball’s postseason starts tonight, and so I’m going to run through which teams I want to win and which teams I will expect to win (likely not the same teams, as I do root for underdogs, but know that they rarely win).
Yankees vs. Astros – I’m tired of seeing the Yankees win things, and even if winning the Wild Card playoff doesn’t mean much in the long run, it would put them in position to potentially win something more. So I’m firmly behind the Astros here even if I still think it’s weird for them to play in the American League.
Pirates vs. Cubs – From the pure underdog point of view, I should pick the Cubs to go all the way but since I have a horse in this race the Cubs can wait another year. I’ll pick the Pirates to go on to the NLCS since it will mean shorter trips for my team. By the way, it’s outrageous that these two teams with the 2nd & 3rd best records in baseball this season are forced to play this one game ‘coin flip’ playoff. MLB really needs to work out their backasswards playoff system.
Blue Jays vs. Rangers – The Blue Jays are an exciting team from a congenial country to the North. And they have R.A. Dickey. The Rangers have never excited me. Blue Jays for the win.
Royals vs. Astros – I enjoyed the Royals return to greatness last season and hope that they have a chance to go all the way one year soon.
Cardinals vs. Pirates – I’m even more tired of seeing Cardinals win things that I am of seeing the Yankees win things. Pirates (or Cubs) all the way!
Dodgers vs. Mets – My favorite team in baseball versus my third least favorite. Easy choice! Let’s go Mets!!!
Blue Jays vs. Royals – I kind of think of these teams as being very genial, so this will be a most polite (and blue) series. I give the Blue Jays a slight nod due to their entertaining style of play and Dickey-ness.
Mets vs. Pirates – Once again, I can root for no one else to win but the Mets!
Blue Jays vs. Mets – Oh how I’d love to see this World Series play out, with the Mets winning of course. But really, I’ll take a Mets victory over any AL opponent.
And here are my colder, lest fannish picks for how actual postseason outcomes will play out.
Yankees beat Astros
Cubs beat Pirates
Blue Jays 3, Rangers 0
Royals 3, Yankees 1
Cardinals 3, Cubs 2
Mets 3, Dodgers 1
Blue Jays 4, Royals 2
Cardinals 4, Mets 1 :(
Blue Jays 4, Cardinals 3
On our way home from a family camping trip in Freeport, ME, we stopped in Portland to take in a Sea Dogs baseball game. The Sea Dogs are the Double A affiliate of the Red Sox who play in the Eastern League. This was our first game at Portland’s Hadlock Field, and we’ve now been to see games of all of the Red Sox organization teams in New England, having seen many games of the Lowell Spinners, Pawtucket Red Sox, and the Boston Red Sox themselves.
The opponent of the day was the Harrisburg Senators (affiliated with the Washington Nationals), and the theme of the day was offense. There were lots of hits, walks, wild pitches, defensive miscues, and most of all, runs. Reluctantly, we had to leave after 9 innings with the score tied 12-12. We listened to the end of the game (a loss for Portland) on the radio as we drove home to Boston.
Hadlock Field is a charming place to watch baseball. Slugger the Sea Dog is a fun mascot, the between innings games are amusing, the Sea Dog Biscuit (ice cream cookie sandwich) is tasty, and the lighthouse that pops up behind the centerfield fence is really cool. I hope to catch another game their one day soon, but hopefully next time a pitchers’ duel.
Title: 30 for 30: “The Day The Series Stopped”
Release Date: 12 October 2014
Director: Ryan Fleck
Production Co: Electric City Entertainment
Country: United States
Genre: Documentary | Sports
Review: The ESPN 30 for 30 documentary series takes us back to October 1989 when the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s was interrupted by the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Archival footage and interviews with players, fans, and sportscasters show how it slowly dawned on the people at Candlestick Park that the shaking and buckling they experienced was in fact the worst earthquake in over 80 years and having devastating effects on the teams’ home cities. There are some interesting effects in the movie such as rewinding to the time of the earthquake to tell stories from different perspectives such as one Giants’ employee who was climbing a light tower in the outfield at the time of the tremor. There’s also some chilling discussion of how a reinforcement project recently completed ahead of schedule may have helped prevent a deadly collapse of Candlestick Park. Then there are surreal moments such Jose Canseco still in his A’s uniform and his elegantly dressed wife pumping gas at the one fueling station that managed to stay open after the quake. At times this documentary doesn’t seem to know if it’s a sports story or a disasters story, but then again it documents a moment in time when it was uncertain if baseball was not important or if it was a needed distraction to help the communities rebuild. I think this movie could have been better if the filmmakers focused more on the interviews rather than replaying familiar archival footage, but it’s an interesting glimpse at a moment when the “sports” story became the “news” story.