Photopost: Oldtime Baseball Game


Last Thursday, my daughter and I attended the Oldtime Baseball Game in Cambridge, MA. This annual event features players wearing woolen baseball uniforms in the style of classic major and minor league teams of the past. The players are mostly college and high school players from across the country, plus a handful of celebrities. This year Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez returned to the mound and with him came big crowds.

I’d attended the Oldtime Baseball Game several times before, but not since I moved south of the river from Somerville to Jamaica Plain ten years ago. It’s good to see that the fundraiser is growing more popular even though it meant that we ended up having to sit 4 people deep behind the outfield fence. And it was a treat to see Pedro pitch again. I believe he allowed no baserunners in his two innings pitched, and he even came to bat (albeit striking out), something he didn’t do all too often in a Red Sox uniform.

Trying to take photos with a chainlink fence in the way and my daughter grabbing my arm at the wrong moment was challenging, but here are some of the photographs that came out ok.

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Book Review: Jackie & Me: A Baseball Card Adventure by Dan Gutman


Author: Dan Gutman
TitleJackie & Me: A Baseball Card Adventure
Publication Info: New York : Avon Books, ©1999.
Summary/Review:

This is the second book in the Baseball Card Adventure in which Joe Stoshack uses  his power to travel through time using baseball cards to meet Jackie Robinson.  As an added wrinkle to the story, he initially arrives in 1947 as an African-American boy and directly experiences the racial animus of New York at that time.  I felt that Jackie Robinson’s character in this novel was one-dimensional, too much of a heroic martyr, although the book does offer some nice glimpses of his family life.  Meanwhile, it seems too flippant that Stosh is traveling to meet Robinson merely to write a Black History Month report for his school, and spends much of the novel trying to gather rare baseball cards to bring to the future.  The lesson of the book is how to stand up to bullies without resorting to anger, which Stosh applies in his own youth baseball games, but seems to miss out on the heart of the Jackie Robinson story in the process.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Ted & me: A Baseball Card Adventure by Dan Gutman


Author: Dan Gutman
TitleTed & me: A Baseball Card Adventure
Publication Info:  New York : Harper, c2012.
Summary/Review:

Joe Stoshack is a kid who can travel in time by touching baseball cards which take him to the time and place of the player in the photo.  In this installment of the series, the FBI learns of his ability and send an agent to convince him to go back in time to warn Franklin Roosevelt of the Pearl Harbor attack and prevent the United States entry into World War II.  The person to help Stosh on this mission is Red Sox slugger Ted Williams, an appropriately patriotic figure who gave up five seasons of his career to serve in WWII and the Korean War.  The characterization of Williams is well done since it captures a person who could be alternately an abrasive jerk and good-humored and generous.  Williams is also impulsive enough to take Stosh under his wing, and after finishing up the season in Philadelphia ensuring his .406 batting average, takes Stosh on a road trip.  There are a few stops along the way which I won’t spoil, but add to the characterization of Williams and his bond with Stosh.  Obviously, Stosh doesn’t prevent World War II, but it’s interesting to see some of the historic detail through his eyes, including a frightening encounter at an America First rally with supporters of Charles Lindbergh, something you wouldn’t expect to see in a children’s book.  It’s a good adventure for kids who are fans of baseball and American history.

Rating: ****

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: S is for Season Opener #atozchallenge


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.”

 

 

 

 

The November 18th All-Stars


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!

MLB Postseason Preferences and Predictions


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:

  • Chicago versus Cleveland – the two longest droughts head to head as well as an original NL team versus an original AL team
  • Boston versus Chicago – an original AL team versus and original NL team, playing in MLB’s two oldest ballparks
  • New York versus Baltimore – rematch of the 1969 World series
  • Washington versus Boston – the Amtrak Northeastern Corridor Series
  • Boston versus San Francisco – which team will get the fourth title of the 21st century?
  • Washington versus Texas – which team will win their first World Series? (also, former Washington team versus current Washington team)
  • Washington versus Baltimore – an All-Chesapeake Series

The League Championships Series may also have some interesting storylines:

  • Chicago versus Washington – each team has a lengthy pennant drought, the Cubs last appeared in 1945 and the Nationals have never won a pennant since the franchise was born in Montreal in 1969
  • San Francisco versus Los Angeles – classic West Coast rivalry for the first time in the NLCS
  • New York versus Washington – a younger East Coast rivalry but I think it’s  a fun one

After all that, here’s the ranking of my preference of which teams I’d like to see win the World Series:

  1. New York Mets
  2. Boston
  3. Chicago Cubs
  4. Washington
  5. Baltimore
  6. Toronto
  7. Cleveland
  8. Texas
  9. San Francisco
  10. Los Angeles

And here is my prediction of how I think this postseason may actually shake out.

Wild Card Games:

  • Toronto defeats Baltimore
  • New York defeats San Francisco

League Division Series:

  • Boston defeats Cleveland
  • Toronto defeats Texas
  • Washington defeats Los Angeles
  • Chicago defeats New York :(

League Championship Series:

  • Boston defeats Toronto
  • Chicago defeats Washington

World Series

  • Chicago defeats Boston

Let’s hope I’m wrong.  What are your picks for the MLB postseason?

Book Review: The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W. P. Kinsella


Author: W. P. Kinsella
TitleThe Iowa Baseball Confederacy
Narrator: Tom Parker
Publication Info: [Ashland, Or.] : Blackstone Audio, Inc., [2014]
Summary/Review:

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.
Favorite Passages:

“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
Rating: ****

Remembering W.P.Kinsella


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:

  • Long before I read anything by Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, this was my first exposure to magical realism.
  • A story of how the Catholic Church hierarchy is so removed from the people of the church, and the harm it causes.
  • Stories of First Nation people in Canada, including one where a couple disguise themselves as Indians from the subcontinent because they’d be treated better in Canada.
  • A swindler using the distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate to win a bet.
  • Baseball fans use the 1981 strike to replace the artificial turf at the local baseball stadium with real grass, one square foot at a time, and the community that forms to tend the grass.
  • Tributes to J.D. Salinger, Richard Brautigan, and Janis Joplin, among others, in his works.
  • A manager has to deal with the knowledge that the Cubs will win the last pennant before Armageddon and there’s nothing he can do to stop it.
  • A story in which a bunch of male friends share punchlines of jokes and the protagonist reveals to himself that he is gay, through a punchline.
  • And my favorite story of all, “How I Got My Nickname,” which is the ultimate bookish nerd fantasy in which a bookish nerd gets a spot on the 1951 New York Giants (as a pinch hitter because he can’t field, throw, or run) and discovers that all the other Giants are readers who have literary discussions in the clubhouse.

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.

Photopost: Farewell Summer, Farewell Papi


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.

Book Review: Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park


Author: Linda Sue Park
TitleKeeping 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
Rating: *****

Photopost: Baseball, Rainbows, & Fireworks


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!

 

Podcast of the Week: Mike Matheny’s Manifesto on Fresh Air


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!

http://freshairnpr.npr.libsynfusion.com/-silence-on-the-sidelines-an-mlb-insiders-manifesto-on-youth-sports

 

Book Review: The Philly Fake by David A. Kelly


Author: David A. Kelly
TitleThe Philly Fake
Publication Info: Random House Books for Young Readers (2014)
Summary/Review:

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.

Rating: ***

Patriots Day Weekend 2016


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.

Related Posts:

JP A to Z: R is for Regan Youth League #AtoZChallenge #JamaicaPlain


R is for Regan Youth League

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.

Click to see more “Blogging A to Z” posts.

Movie Review: 42 (2013)


Title: 42
Release Date: 2013
Director:  Brian Helgeland
Summary/Review:

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.

 
Rating: ***

Book Review: Amazin’ Again: How the 2015 New York Mets Brought the Magic Back to Queens by Greg W. Prince


Author: Greg W. Prince
TitleAmazin’ 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 
Summary/Review:

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.
Favorite Passages:

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.

Recommended booksBad Guys Won by Jeff Pearlman, If at First by Keith Hernandez and Mike Bryan,  Faithful by Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Bambino by Tom Bruno


Author: Tom Bruno
TitleBambino
Publication Info: Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2012
Summary/Review:

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 booksThe Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King , The Technologists by Matthew Pearl and A Soul to Steal by Rob Blackwell
Rating: **1/2

Movie Review: A League of Their Own (1992)


Title:  A League of Their Own
Release Date: 1992
Director:  Penny Marshall
Summary/Review:

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.
Rating: ***

The Designated Hitter in Major League Baseball: A Solution 


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:

  • It adds spark to the offense, and fans like a lot of offense. 
  • Conversely, pitchers can’t hit and fan wants to see any easy out. 
  • Allows players who are talented hitters but weak fielders a place in the game. 
  • Additionally, aging sluggers whose defensive skills are eroding can extend their careers a few years by becoming a DH.
  • Pitchers get injured while batting and base running. 

Arguments against the DH include:

  • Tradition and history. There’s a beautiful symmetry to a game with 9 innings, 9 fielders, and 9 batters. 
  • One of the biggest complaints about baseball is that games are too long. American League games on average are longer than National League games and the DH is a major reason for that. 
  • “Pitchers can’t hit” is not an absolute. Pitchers throughout history have a hit and a wise GM would gain a competitive advantage by having their organization develop and maintain pitchers’ hitting skills. 
  • An aging slugger who extends his career at DH often does so by taking the roster spot of a younger, more versatile player. 
  • Injuries happen all the time, on and off the field and the DH doesn’t stop that. If anything, cross training to pitch, bat, & run helps prepare the body to resist injury. 

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:

  • In games played on odd numbered days (ex: May 1, 3, 5…) all Major League teams may have a DH bat in place of the pitcher. 
  • In games played on even numbered days (ex: May 2, 4, 6…) all Major League teams play by the traditional rules in which the pitcher must bat to remain in the game. 
  • If a game is postponed it will follow the rules of the day the game is actually played. 
  • If a game is suspended and continues on another day it will use the same rules the game started with. 
  • Both games of a double header follow the same rules.  
  • The odd/even rules will also apply to all postseason games. 

Why this works:

  • Just like under current system approximately half the games in a MLB season will be played using the DH rule, and the other half will follow traditional rules. 
  • Unlike the current system, both leagues will be using the same rules. 
  • Fans of the DH and fans of traditional baseball will have plenty of opportunities to see each style no matter which team they follow. In fact it would be interesting if one style of baseball would gain higher ticket sales/TV ratings, although I expect the difference would be negligible. 
  • All teams would get experience in both types of baseball. Pitchers would have to know how to hit, sluggers would have to know how to field, at least half of the time. The imbalance of interleague games where teams are accustomed to playing under different rules would be negated. 
  • Hitters with weak or deteriorating defensive skills would still be able to use the DH to extend their career. In fact, the number of teams competing to offer then contracts would double. As long as they can play half their games as DH, and half as a fielder or pinch hitter, they should continue to be an asset to their teams. 
  • The full-time DH would no longer exist, but this would not be as big a problem as it appears. Most people think of the DH and think of the likes of Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, or David Ortiz who played the majority of their career as DH. In fact, in 2015 only 8 American League teams had a player appear in more than half the games as DH: Morales (KC) – 141, Fielder (TEX) – 139, Gattis (HOU) – 136, Butler (SEA) – 136, Rodriguez (NYY) – 136, Ortiz (BOS) – 134, Martinez (DET) – 104, and Encarnacion (TOR) – 85. The remaining teams rotated players among defensive positions and the DH, and would be able to continue to do so under my plan. Most of the players listed above would have no problem playing 30-50 games in the field and the rest at DH. So the change for the AL wouldn’t be drastic while opening up opportunities in the NL. 

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.