Thursday, September 29, 2005


Since they know a little about defeating an evil empire...

...why weren't they throwing out the first pitch before a game against the Yankees?

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Also, the women there are crazy and little

More from Bill James in the 1986 Baseball Abstract...

For the benefit of anybody who is not familiar with the cities, St. Louis is a much nicer city than Kansas City, and I'll tell you why in a moment. Yet at every insurgence of the national media, Kansas City press packets are handed out repeating a number of overworked boasts about the place. "Kansas City has more fountains than Rome." Well, I suppose so; the only problem is that about two-thirds of Kansas City's fountains are just jets of water shooting up in front of a branch bank in the middle of a bunch of Burger Kings and stuff, and have the esthetic impact of large lawn sprinklers. "Kansas City has more miles of boulevards than any city except Paris." This one always conjures up images of the International Board of Boulevard Certification, walking along saying "No, I'm afraid this one is just an 'avenue' unless you widen the curb space by four more inches and plant six more trees per half-mile." Another favorite is "Kansas City is the Christmas card capital of the Midwest." Can you imagine going into New York City for a World Series and having a press person come out to Shea and tell you how many Christmas cards are printed in New York City?

There are about seven reasons why St. Louis is a much nicer city than Kansas City. Number one, it is older, and has a much richer architectural heritage. Number two, its neighborhoods are much stronger. As Kansas City has grown, it has absorbed and neutralized the small cities around it, none of which retains a distinct flavor to contribute to the city. This hasn't happened in St. Louis. Number three, the downtown area is much more pleasant -- you can walk around it, there's shopping there, the ballpark is there. Kansas City's downtown area is basically a business area. Number four, St. Louis has integrated the river into the city, adding a great deal to the city esthetically; Kansas City has buried its river underneath a heap of train tracks, access roads, and dirty bridges. Number five, St. Louis probably has more good restaurants. If it doesn't have more of them, they're easier to find. Number six, St. Louis has many more areas that one can walk around and enjoy. Kansas City is all built to accommodate the automobile. And number seven, you can drive around St. Louis without getting lost. Unless you stay on the Interstate system, Kansas City has got to be the most confusing, frustrating city to drive around in the United States, with the possible exception of Atlanta, and Atlanta only because all of the streets are named Peachtree. The Kansas City street department renames their streets about every three blocks, so that it is all but impossible to keep track of where you are and how to get where you want to go. Drive you nuts.

That being said, there are things to like about Kansas City. It's reasonably clean. The best restaurants in Kansas City generally don't have any kind of expectations about dress; requiring a jacket or tie is considered rather pretentious. I like that. I'm mor ecomfortable eating out in KC than I am in New York -- but anybody who suggested that the third-best restaurant in KC would crack the top 50 in New York would be out of his skull. The city's image would improve a lot if they would just accept themselves for what they are, and stop handing out malarkey about how many miles of boulevard they have.

From my perspective, I know there's one advantage to Kansas City: passenger trains are once again using the old train station downtown, even though most of it was turned into a science museum years ago. That's apparently not an option in St. Louis, where the old train station was permanently transformed into a mall years ago. Also, right near the train station in Kansas City is an old building with an old advertising sign on the top...

On the other hand, my one experience at the Kansas City airport found me having to leave the security area in order to use the men's room (in 2000 -- hopefully they've done some rearranging in the years since); by contrast, the St. Louis airport has a more conventional design, and I remember that the exposed ductwork and digital clocks on the signs hanging above the concourse (helpfully labeled "Central Time") fascinated me as a young boy when my family was changing planes there on the way to Iowa.

And I've been to a baseball game in St. Louis but not Kansas City. So, in conclusion, Bill James is absolutely right.

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Meanwhile, the Devil Rays sign J'onn J'onzz

Some talk in Gene Weingarten's Washington Post chat today about The Flash's impact on the game if he were added to the Yankees lineup.

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Monday, September 26, 2005


These people walk among you

When we left Bill James, he was at Royals Stadium for Game 1 of the 1985 World Series, complaining about having paid $30 for a ticket. But then he realizes, "No one has a divine right to attend the event, and if you're not willing to pay a good price for the tickets, you shouldn't be there." However...

All season, whenever Susie and I had gone into games we had been extremely fortunate as to the people seated around us; we made it through almost the entire season without being in earshot of an obnoxious drunk. On this memorable occasion, the law of averages caught up with us. We were seated three rows behind the last human being in the Western hemisphere that I would ever want to marry into my family; she is to this day known in our house only as That Dreadful Woman. That Dreadful Woman combined the virtues of a coquettish Southern Belle, the kind that during a Tennessee Williams play you always want to reach onstage and strangle to speed up the plot, with those of your ordinary garden-variety obnoxious drunken fan. She had a voice that would remind you of a clarinet with a broken reed, set to the volume of an airhorn, and I suppose that she had been a cheerleader two or three years ago, for she was determined to lead the section in cheers. She was a Cardinals fan, which was not the problem; in fact, the ingrained hospitality with which Midwesterners receive guests is probably all that kept her alive as the game progressed. Whenever anything, that's not right...whether anything happened or not she would leap to her feet almost with every pitch and, turning around and gesturing with her arms as if tossing an invisible baby into the air, implore the section to screech along with her and give her some sort of reassurance about how cute she was. After about a half-inning of this, every time she got up she would, naturally, be greeted with a chorus of people yelling encouraging things like "Sit Down," "Shut Up," "Watch the Game," "Lady, Pleeeese" and "Will you get your ass out of the way?" However, being apparently none too swift even when sober, she could not take in that it was not anyone in particular who was yelling these things, but everyone in the entire area taking turns. Having focused on someone who was abusing her, she would fasten onto the luckless soul -- several, I am sure, will never go back to a baseball game as long as they live -- and begin to whimper accusingly about how she didn't mean to do any wrong and she was just trying to enjoy the game and didn't they want to enjoy the game and didn't Royals fans like to have fun and what had she done except cheer for her team and couldn't they be friends? Eventually she would shake hands with whoever it was; this was, after all, the only way to get her to stop whining in your face. Then she would grab her camera and put her arm around her new friend and have her husband (or boyfriend, or whoever the poor bastard was) take a picture of the event.

She had other uses for the camera -- for example, she would try on a funny hat, hand off the camera to a stranger and have him take a picture of her. She would do this, mind you, with the inning in progress.

The rest of the fans in the right field bleachers were not exactly a prize aggregation, either. There was an ABC crowd camera near us, and scattered around were several dozen children and nitwits whose attention was entirely focused on it. Whenever this camera panned near us they would leap to their feet and hold up banners, requiring the people sitting behind them, which was all of us except the front row, to jump up and down constantly in an attempt to follow the game. There were several beach balls bouncing around, enough that it took the baseball fans in the area two or three innings to capture each one and neutralize it with a pocket knife. It was easily the worst Kansas City baseball crowd that I've seen.

Also seated around us were a number of die-hard, life-long Cardinal fans who had driven over from St. Louis (five hour drive) to see the game. By the fifth inning, That Dreadful Woman had most of them discussing whether they should continue to support the Cardinals or perhaps should switch to the Royals. Several people offered to buy the Dreadful Woman a beer if she would just go stand in line to buy it. She took one guy up on his offer, apparently not understanding the purpose of it -- she wasn't easy to insult, this girl -- and as she was leaving a guy about ten rows behind us shouted, 'Remember where your seat is -- section 342." Needless to say, Section 342 was in an entirely different part of the ballpark, but it didn't work. We enjoyed the game for a half-inning until she returned.

The next night, Bill James goes back for Game 2...

As Susie and I were walking down the aisle toward our seats the man in front of us yelled gleefully "I don't think she's here!" We broke out laughing; we were looking for the same thing. We had the same seats for all four games in Kansas City, if there were to be four games in Kansas City, and the thought of spending three more games trying to get HER to shut up had considerably dampened our enthusiasm for the event. We never saw her again, but it was easy to spot the people who had been in the same seats the day before. They were distinguished by the wary looks that they cast around until the offending seat was occupied.

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Amtrak update

I actually did get the Amtrak Guest Rewards "Baseball City Bonus," as described in this post in June, for the Chicago-Ann Arbor round trip I took with Levi earlier this month, even though no baseball was involved.



They are the champions

This handy list of 2005 minor league champions was in the agate type of Sunday's Los Angeles Times sports section, near the CFL results (Edmonton 37, British Columbia 20).

Note that two teams that play in cities along the route of the South Shore Line won league championships, which may be a good omen for the Chicago White Sox.

Meanwhile, here's Bill James, attending Game 1 of the 1985 World Series and writing about it in the 1986 Baseball Abstract: "On the way in I grumbled about the $30 price of the ticket, but on arriving at the park was struck by the absurdity of this; you pay $45 for tickets to a Broadway show and don't think anything of it, and this is the World Series." I believe Levi saw a Broadway show earlier this year, so perhaps he will enjoy that 1985 price quote as much as I did.

More from Bill James's extended review of the 1985 World Series coming soon, including a comparison of the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City, and the tale of That Dreadful Woman.

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Saturday, September 24, 2005


Holy cow!

Actual quote from an e-mail from my father: "Better you should have never been born, than to post something good about
Harry Caray." Obviously, I can't resist now. Bill James on Harry Caray, from the 1985 Baseball Abstract:

Cable television has arrived to the distant Balkan outland that I call home, and I have been watching Harry Caray whenever I get the time. It's the first significant exposure to Harry that I've had in fifteen years, and I realize with a sense of shock how much of my own attitude about the game and about my profession, which I thought I had found by myself, I may in fact have picked up from hundreds of hours of listening to Harry Caray as a child.

Or perhaps it is a false pride, but I love Harry Caray. You have to understand what Harry Caray was to the Midwest in my childhood. In the years when baseball stopped at the Mississippi, KMOX radio built a network of stations across the midwest and into the Far West that brought major league baseball into every little urb across the landscape. Harry's remarkable talents and enthusiasm were the spearhead of their efforts, and forged a link between the Cardinals and the midwest that remains to this day; even now, some of my neighbors are Cardinal fans.

This effect covers a huge area and encompasses millions of people, many times as many people as live in New York. A Harry Caray-for-the-Hall-of-Fame debate is in progress. To us, to hear New Yorkers or Californians suggest that Harry Caray might not be worthy of the honors given to Mel Allen or Vince Scully is a) almost comically ignorant, sort of like hearing a midwesterner suggest that the Statue of Liberty was never of any real national significance and should be turned into scrap metal, and b) personally offensive. That Harry should have to wait in line behind these wonderful men but comparatively insignificant figures is, beyond any question, an egregious example of the regional bias of the nation's media.

But besides that, the man is really good. His unflagging enthusiasm, his love of the game, and his intense focus and involvement in every detail of the contest make every inning enjoyable, no matter what the score or the pace of the game. His humor, his affection for language and his vibrant images are the tools of a craftsman; only Garagiola, his one-time protégé, can match him in this way. He is criticized for not being objective, which is preposterous; he is the most objective baseball announcer I've ever witnessed. He is criticized for being "critical" of the players, when in fact Harry will bend over backwards to avoid saying something negative about a player or a manager. But Harry also knows that he does the fans no service when he closes his eyes and pretends not to see things. A player misses the cut-off man, Harry says that he missed the cut-off man, the player complains to the press, and some sweetlicking journalist, trying to ingratiate himself to a potential source, rips Harry for being critical of the player.

Harry is involved in another controversy now over the firing of Milo Hamilton, onetime heir apparent to Jack Brickhouse. Hamilton as a broadcaster is a model of professionalism, fluency, and deportment; he is, in short, as interesting as the weather channel, to which I would frequently dial while he was on. Milo's skills would serve him well as a lawyer, an executive, or a broker. He broadcasts baseball games in a tone that would be more appropriate for a man reviewing a loan application. He projects no sense at all that he is enjoying the game or that we ought to be, and I frankly find it difficult to believe that the writers who ripped the Cubs for firing Hamilton actually watch the broadcasts. Is Harry to be faulted because the fans love him and find Hamilton a dry substitute?

People confuse "objectivity" with "neutralism." If you look up "neutral" in the dictionary it says "of no particular kind, color, characteristics, etc.; indefinite. Gray; without hue; of zero chromel; achromatic. Neuter." That pretty well describes Milo Hamilton. To Harry Caray, the greatest sports broadcaster who ever lived. This Bud's for you.

Dad, you'll be pleased to know that Bill James lost me somewhere around "Vince Scully." Surprised he didn't also refer to "Melvin Allen." Also, it seems Milo Hamilton must have run over his dog or something.

Another quibble is that broadcasters don't go into the Hall of Fame per se, they just win the Ford Frick Award. Harry Caray won in 1989, and despite Bill James's best efforts, Milo Hamilton won in 1992.

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Friday, September 23, 2005


Puzzling evidence

From the 1985 Bill James Baseball Abstract, which I know from the sticker inside the back cover that my father purchased at Haslam's Book Store in St. Petersburg, Florida, which within a few years would be located in the shadow of the Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field (well, the shadow's not that big, but it's close enough)...

Fate, or chance? The Cubs in 1945 met the Tigers; the Cubs in 1984 would have met the Tigers if they had won one more game. Chance, or destiny? A new commissioner of baseball, Happy Chandler, was named in April of 1945, but had other commitments that kept him busy until that October; a new commissioner of baseball, Peter Ueberroth, was named in March of 1984, but prevented from beginning the job until October by other commitments. Coincidence, or fortune? Steve Trout pitched a 5-hit, complete-game victory for the Cubs in the 1984 playoffs; his father, Dizzy Trout, pitched a 5-hit, complete-game victory against the Cubs in the 1945 World Series. Luck, or predetermination? The 1945 season was the last hurrah for a popular Cub infielder named Stan Hack; the 1984 season was the last hurrah for a popular Cub infielder named Larry Bowa. "Hack" and "Bowa" each have four letters in their names, even if you spell them backwards. Coincidence, or sheer pap? The 1984 Cubs fired their television broadcaster, Milo Hamilton; the 1945 Cubs released a catcher named Len Rice; it goes against my grain to accept that as a mere coincidence. Goodnight.

After that, Bill James goes into a paean to Milo Hamilton's replacement on the Cubs TV broadcasts, Harry Caray, which I'll post later.

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As long as we're talking about baseball past

Note the profanity cleverly concealed within the Cleveland Indians' lineup in this 1988 box score.

I didn't discover this; a participant in an archived Gene Weingarten chat on had it pointed out to them back in 1988.

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This date in AAAARGH! and OH, NO!

Today in 1998 was the Brant Brown game.

Just in case Ron Santo's finally over that dropped fly ball, Corey Patterson just now dropped one in center, allowing Houston to score a run. That's our Corey: always thinking of others.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005


Twins, not in Minnesota but in Seattle

Levi's clearly been too busy picking apples and hanging out with supermodels to post Bill James excerpts recently (and he's probably had to return the book to the library by now), but as usual, I'm here to pick up the slack. As he threatened in one of the comments here, my father sent me his Bill James book collection, which consists of the Baseball Abstracts for 1984 through 1988 and The Baseball Book 1990. I've been flipping through the 1984 book today, and while the sabermetrics have been making my eyes glaze over, the introductory essays are very amusing. Take the Seattle Mariners, for example...

Whew! Am I glad O'Brien's gone! Danny O'Brien had been conducting for three years a dastardly campaign to confuse the sportswriters and sports fans of this country, to render them utterly and hopelessly unable to keep straight who his players were. The Mariners had playing for them at the start of 1983 a double-play combination of Cruz and Cruz, Julio Cruz and Todd Cruz. He dispatched both of them in midseason, sending them (suspiciously) to the two teams which were on their way into the playoffs, causing further identification problems for anybody who might have trouble keeping them straight. The two best hitters on the team were two outfielders named Henderson, Dave Henderson and Steve Henderson. In addition to a "Todd" Cruz and a "Julio" Cruz, or "Steve" Henderson and a "Dave" Henderson, he had on his roster in 1983 a "Rod" Allen and a "Jamie" Allen, a "Jamie" Nelson, a "Rickey" Nelson, and a "Gene" Nelson. His roster included an inordinate number of people with names like "Moore," "Clark," "Thomas," "Putnam," and "Reynolds" and enough people named Bill, Bob, Jim, Dave, and Rickey to staff the reunion shows of "Ozzie and Harriet," "Leave It to Beaver," "Father Knows Best," "My Three Sons," and "Lost in Space."

Further, the Baseball Abstract staff of investigative reporters has now uncovered evidence that many of these people were, in fact, not major league baseball players at all, but hired "ringers" or "rhymers," as they are called, imported specifically to confuse the public. An unnamed source has told us that, as recently as August of 1981, eleven members of the 1983 Seattle Mariners were working in the tobacco industry. Investigator Paula Fastwon in Strawberry Hill, North Carolina, found this advertisement in the help-wanted section of the August 17, 1981 edition of the Strawberry Sunday News:

Growth-oriented company looking for a few young men to come help us fight forest fires in the Pacific Northwest. We have a lot of spare time to kill, so only those with some familiarity with American sports jargon need apply. Prefer applicants to have at least average manual dexterity and foot speed; those forest fires can come at you pretty fast, you know. Contact Dan at P.O. Box 1392, Strawberry Hill. (Emphasis mine)

Don't think that's suspicious? Well, consider this: 47% of the people in Strawberry Hill, North Carolina, are named "Henderson"! Apparently, O'Brien hoped, once he had the rest of the league properly confused, to get seven people on his roster named "Dave Henderson," and then go to the winter meetings and start trading them; promising each opposing general manager that he was getting that Dave Henderson. O'Brien planned to keep the real Dave Henderson, release everybody in his system named "Nelson" or "Allen," and make his bid for The Sporting News Executive of the Year award. The plan was uncovered by an alert security guard at the Kingdome, Dick Henderson, who contacted Danny Kaye, who passed the word to George Argyros. O'Brien pleaded for a chance to see his plan through, but was fired after uttering the unforgivable words, "What else did you expect me to do, you moron, you can't make a ballclub out of moussaka."

Elsewhere in the book, James predicts, "Some terrible things, unimaginably terrible things, are going to be done with computers in the next thirty years. Do not kid yourself that it's not going to happen; deal frankly with the fact that it is going to happen." Amazing how eerie this prediction was -- it only took 10 years until spam came about and 20 years until this web site was founded.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Cut off your Indian braids

Jason and I drove from L.A. to the greater Phoenix area after work on Friday (roughly a 6-hour drive) and went to two sporting events on Saturday. The first one is of more relevance to

Yes, we got to see the Diamondbacks come back from a 5-1 deficit to win 6-5, largely because Tony Clark hit a home run from each side of the plate. Bank One Ballpark is nowhere near as depressing as Tropicana Field, perhaps because it has some actual windows to let sunlight in during day games, and because the home team has actually been fairly successful during their tenure in Major League Baseball. Also, there were over 20,000 people there, as opposed to under 10,000.

At least in the lower deck, there was an usher at the top of each aisle with a "Please Wait Here" sign -- great. However, when I was returning to my seat after a bathroom break (the "bottomless glass of soda" at Alice Cooperstown led to way too much Dr Pepper for my poor bladder to handle), the usher for our aisle dropped his sign and motioned me forward the instant contact was made with the ball, as opposed to, you know, making sure I wouldn't be interfering with anyone's view of the actual play.

Many more pictures available on As for the other sporting event Jason and I saw -- and the one we had a definite rooting interest in -- the less said about it, the better...

...although I note that the Arizona Republic has a sports columnist named "Paola."

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Friday, September 16, 2005



That's What Would Bud Do? Thursday afternoon game that's the home season finale. Unlikely to be well-attended, even though this year's Brewers team has been a lot of fun to watch.

I'm guessing Bud would do . . . nothing. Adjust his hairpiece, maybe fire off a fax to the Wisconsin state legislature about how maybe the state should pay for the Brewers to have weekday games.

New Brewers ownership, however, is smarter. They've announced that tickets to that game will be free. Absolutely free. And they've already distributed 23,000.

If you're going to be in Milwaukee September 29th, call the Brewers ticket office.
If you're not going to be in Milwaukee September 29th . . . why not? What have you got to do that day that's better than free baseball?

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Thursday, September 15, 2005


Bet you didn't know Mudville was in New Jersey

Here's an article about the mud that gets rubbed on the baseballs.



I walk without a cut through a stained-glass wall

Last night, I dreamed that Levi, Stacey, and I had gone to a ballgame in Cincinnati. We'd parked across the Ohio River in Kentucky (knowing me, that was my decision, both for the "fun" of being able to park in another state and because the parking is cheaper over there), and were following the crowd to the stadium, but the crowd was for some reason walking parallel to the shoreline; we passed up at least a couple of bridges, and I woke up before we'd made it to the game.

Also, Levi was wearing his bathrobe in the car, but fortunately changed clothes somehow before we started walking to the stadium. Along the way, he complained that his naps are better when he's wearing daytime clothes.

Now, I do very much enjoy the company of Levi and Stacey, but as long as I was dreaming, why couldn't, for example, Caroline Dhavernas have been with us? Well, she probably wouldn't have been too happy about us not getting across the river.

P.S.: I guess Great American Ballpark is the only MLB stadium that's within reasonable walking distance of another state. I can think of a few where you can take public transportation from another state (both New York stadiums, both Chicago stadiums, Citizens Bank Park, and Busch Stadium) and one that's fairly easy to get to from another country via a combination of walking and public transportation (Petco Park).

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005



At last night's Cubs/Reds game, two rows in front of me, sitting with a couple of season ticket holders whom I recognize but don't know, was a guy who had neglected to bring his shirt. He had, however, brought--and was displaying in their full glory--his late-seventies porn-star curls and moustache and his oddly incongruous gothic-lettered "Chi Town" tattoo, which was in the spot on the back where a tramp stamp would go on a gal.

His appearance alone, and his obvious joy in it, would have been worthy of note. But then he added to his allure by catching not one but two foul balls. Our section hardly ever gets foul balls hit anywhere near it, but last night Mr. Chi Town No-Shirt got one while strolling the aisle just to the left of us and a second that bounced right up to him in his seat. I had hopes that he would trade one of them to a drunk for a shirt, but it was not to be.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005



Wonder how your favorite team keeps motivated over the long season?

Now you know.

PS If I'm very, very lucky, I'll get to see the Cardinals clinch their fifth division title in six years at Wrigley Field Thursday night.

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Friday, September 09, 2005


A little ditty about Dan and Dianne

The 2004 Baseball-Related Program Activities trip doesn't get the credit for bringing them together, but at least we didn't drive them apart!

(Photo by Stacey Shintani.)

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Baseball-related Katrina note

Looks like the New Orleans Zephyrs got out of town okay, and their stadium, Zephyr Field, seems to have come through in good shape. (This is not a recent photo, but note the ad for Blue Bunny ice cream next to the scoreboard on the stadium facade -- that's the one thing in the picture that I support wholeheartedly.)

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