Congratulations to Cal Ripken, Jr, and Tony Gwynn. The two people who turned in blank ballots are fools. Cal and Tony are two of the classiest individuals to ever play the game and there has never been a breath of suspicion about either of them using PED’s. To tar an entire generation of players with the brush of PED’s because a minority of players used them is an insults to the guys who didn’t.
It is especially refreshing to see Tony Gwynn make it because he was not a power hitter. There is a place in baseball for Tony’s style of play and therefore there should be a place in Cooperstown for players who can play that style as well as he did.
As for the ones who didn’t make it, we are most concerned about Lee Smith, the man who, until late last season, held the career saves record. Sutter got in. Gossage should get in next year. What gives with Smith? Is it the fact that he played for eight teams? Is it the fact that he did not have the post season exposure the others did? That he got so many saves, before the "closer pitches the ninth" era, with teams that weren’t good enough to make the post season is all the more impressive to us.
Since I live on the Left Coast of North America, it made sense to me to come into this celebration at the end. This is a more fun way to remember April 18th than the San Francisco Earthquake of ’06. I had to board op the KPFA Evening News today, and it was earthquake this and earthquake that. They keep talking about all the preparations we should make, but with all the oil, chemical and radiation places we have in the area, if we have the BIG ONE along the Hayward Fault, our collective goose will be cooked in a most unsavory broth.
I’m not going to be able to name everyone I have read in the MLBlogosphere, but I will point out a few, and I wish Happy Anniversary to all, and a big welcome to the newcomers!
I’m a journalist and in early summer of last year, I blogged at another site for a short while about the subjects I generally cover: Peak Oil, Nuclear Proliferation, E-vote Fraud, Global Warming, you know, the stuff that generally puts a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
Then the A’s exiled Eric Byrnes to the cellar of the NL Worst…and while it was no surprise they sent him out–they had obviously been shopping him for a while and making A’s fans endure some "not ready for prime time players" as possible replacements–the way they did the P.R. around it was insulting. The A’s F.O. knew it would be an unpopular move, so they enlisted the help of third baseman Eric Chavez and a couple of local sportswriters to knock both Byrnesie and his fans. I was extremely ticked off and wrote two essays on the transaction and the way it was handled for the other blog. At that point I realized that I would rather write about baseball than Armageddon, even when the baseball news was bad, so I folded up the tent at the other place and joined MLBlogs in early August with Down the Left Field Line: Life, Baseball & Eric Byrnes.
The biggest thrill I’ve had here has been the opportunity to exchange some comments with Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. (I also enjoyed the fact that the one of the KPFA News Co-directors who is a baseball fan looked stunned when he saw that Brooks Robinson was answering my queries). Not only has he answered the questions I have left on his site, he once visited mine. I had reviewed the Cooperstown exhibit BASEBALL AS AMERICA. It includes the glove Brooks used in the 1970 World Series, when I and others just watched in awe at his demonstration of third base as played by a Human Vacuum Cleaner. I let Brooks know I had posted the review and he actually left a comment on my blog. I’m honored that he took the time to visit and comment.
Soon after I started the blog, I enrolled in a video editing class. I had looked around MLB.com and realized that it would just be so much fun, not to mention more remunerative, to drop public affairs journalism for life as a video editor for MLB. Unfortunately, I lasted only about a month in the class, not because I couldn’t handle the work, but because I knew I couldn’t afford the equipment I would need to develop professional level skills. It was a class in Final Cut Pro, a piece of software that at half-price would have cost me a month’s rent. And it was just for MAC computers; I work on a hand-me-down Pentium II. Heck, I don’t even have a DVD player yet.
But before that reality hit me, I had formulated my idea for the final project we were supposed to do: a short film on the evolution of the catcher’s mask. And I contacted Dan Holmes, of the blog "From Cooperstown," who gave me the name and number of the person at the Hall of Fame who could help me get pictures for it. It’s been great to know that if I have a baseball question, there are some very good resources here in the form of my fellow bloggers.
Another great thing has been the opportunity to encounter a number of baseball-savvy women, especially Cyn, author of Red Sox Chick, Diane of Diamonds Are For Humor, whose picture captions are just hysterical, and three big-time Cardinals fans: Tiffany, of Party Like It’s 1982, Mollie, author of Daddy Raised a Cardinals Fan, and Rachel of Rachel’s Redbird Ramblings. I miss Rorie the White Sox fan; I am reading a bit more of Arielle’s Dispatches from Red Sox Teen Nation.
It’s great to be in the company of women who know their baseball. Women long been marginalized both in terms of participation in the baseball industry and just for knowing the game, even though they help fill the stadiums. It’s about time a woman, Effa Manley, will be inducted into Cooperstown–I’ll write more about that when the induction is near–and I hope to see more. How about Joan Payson, founder of the Mets? (The team I rooted for as a kid).
As more women are drawn to this blogosphere, I hope there will be more frequent discussions of an expanded role for women in baseball. I really don’t like seeing all-male scouting sections in stadiums. Women have been scouting their male friends and relatives probably since the game’s earliest days. When I was a child, I remember reading a story in a set of books called "Childcraft" about the young Connie Mack wanting his mother, a proper Victorian lady, to see him play baseball, then considered a lower-class sport. The title of the story was "Slide, Connie, Slide" and I remember that it ended with Mack’s mother telling him that his friends were to call him "Cornelius, not Slats." If women have been watching the game since at least the 19th Century, it’s time we got paid to watch it.
I would also like to see, or rather hear, women do play-by-play. (I’ve been wanting to try it myself since college). The Yankees have a woman color analyst and the Red Sox have recently added a woman to the Remdawg and Don broadcast team; Tina did the on-field interview of Mark Lorretta after his walk-off homer. But I want to hear a woman do play-by-play. It may sound strange at first because it would be new, but folks will get used to it, and future generations born to it will think nothing of it. (If we don’t blow ourselves up and thus prevent the existence of future generations enjoying baseball on the radio). I remember that in the late 60’s my parents and I were in our car, traveling through North Carolina near midnight, when we heard a female disk jockey on the radio for the first time. My parents thought it sounded weird. Little did they, or I, know that I would end up in radio, though mostly in news/public affairs rather than in music. Perhaps we can get some of the broadcasters at MLBlogs, such as Daron Sutton, of The Dog Ate Daron’s Homework, to talk about what someone, female or male, has to do to break into baseball broadcasting.
Of course, there are some wonderful male writers as well. Part of what is great about this blogosphere is that the community sticks together even if the teams change. So, while I was devastated that Eric Byrnes was non-tendered by the Orioles, to this day I still exchange comments and email with Oriole fan Daryl, of Daryl’s Place. In fact, Daryl was the one who broke the bad news to me, and there is no one else I would rather have heard it from first. (No one at KPFA said a word to me about it).
Daryl’s a terrific, thoughful writer and baseball fan. I only wish he had more time to write for his blog. But apparently I am part of the reason he doesn’t. I write long articles, like this one, and he actually takes the time to read them!
Daryl and Cyn have provided me with some great field shots of Eric Byrnes. I don’t display them now because he’s in the Orioles uniform and I prefer more up-to-date D’Back shots like the ones Mark Newman added to my Spheroid. I guess that’s the newsie in me (or my desire to forget Byrnes’ abysmal, aberrant 2005). But if you didn’t see them before, take my word for it: the Byrnes-as-a-Bird pix are great shots, better than anything I could have done. Daryl and Cyn have digital cameras; I don’t.
My visitor counter was suggested to me by Bobby, of Deep Fried Fish. So I will back up a story he told recently on Mark Newman’s MLBlogosphere to Lisa, of For Love of the Astros, on one of the fun parts of the counter: It allows you to see from where the visitors came. And we get some people who arrive via Google queries that really have nothing to do with baseball. Because Bobby’s blog is called Deep Fried Fish, he gets visitors from Google who want to know "how to fry fish." (Special instructions on how to cook Marlin: Grill in open air at 90 degrees or higher for two to three hours a day for six months. Turn over frequently). In one of my essays on New Orleans as Katrina approached–the blog is called Life, Baseball & Eric Byrnes, after all–I recalled my visit to that great city and the fact that I had eaten a muffaletto sandwich there. This is a sandwich that is a pride of New Orleans. Someone in Atlanta landed at Life, Baseball & Eric Byrnes because s/he had googled for a recipe for a muffaletto sandwich. (Not here, except for my opinion that they should be made with San Francisco Sourdough).
Thanks to that counter page, I think I know when some familar folks in and out of the Blogophere visit. My one disappointment is that more people don’t leave comments. I can see people googling about Byrnesie from as far away as Taiwan. It would be great if more of Byrnes’ fans let me know they’ve stopped by. I have encountered a number of his good fans via MLBlogs. I’m not the only person who cares about the fortunes of a so-called "average" player. (Bobby, I haven’t zinged you for that one because of technical problems in commenting about anything on your blog for days now! But consider yourself zinged, both by me and another Bay Area Byrnes fan!)
I look forward to the MLBlogs becoming more technically sophisticated. I really, really want to build a directly-linked list of great Byrnes plays, especially the defensive gems. I’m a Leo; I have a taste for good drama, and to me, Byrnesie hurling himself into the gap to rob someone of an extra-base hit is drama at its best!
There are also some other things I want to write about, such as naming rights, ticket prices, being a player’s fan versus (or along with) being a team fan in the free agency era, etc. (Yes, believe it or not, I don’t always write about Eric Byrnes, even though he’s my favorite subject). If I ever hit the Lotto, I might be able to do all the baseball writing I want. If only all I had to do was to sit around watching baseball games, and writing about baseball without having to concern myself about paying bills!
But I have gotten a few more tech hours at KPFA, and some other "serious" journalism projects are coming up, so I might actually have to pull back a bit here, at least for a while. Though be warned that I’m working on another big Byrnes article. I’ll try not to pull back too much, though. Baseball, and the chance to write about it here, helps keep me sane in an otherwise crazy, crazy world, where not all the signs of an impending Armageddon are as benign as the Cubs winning the 2006 World Series.
Go Byrnesie! Go MLBlogs!
Kéllia "We’ve had two straight days without rain" Ramares
I do not keep a list of "Things to Do this Lifetime," (which may explain how I "forgot" to have children). But if I were to keep such a list, I would now add to it a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, NY. That’s because I managed to see the bit of Cooperstown that came to Oakland, CA, in the form of the BASEBALL AS AMERICA Exhibition just a few days before this road show folded its tent on January 22, 2006.
I’m no museum maven; I can count on one hand the number of times I have been to museums in the quarter-century I’ve lived in the Bay Area, and still have fingers left over. But as I left the exhibition for work, I was sorry I caught it so late in its showing that I knew I would not have time to visit it again. Yet I probably saw it when my mind was most open to baseball’s past; by the time I went to the Oakland Museum of California, I’d watched my recently purchased video of Tommy Lee Jones’ gripping portrayal of the dying Ty Cobb several times, and I was about a third of the way through Billy Martin’s autobiography.
BASEBALL AS AMERICA, an exhibition of artifacts from Cooperstown, is billed as "[t]he first major exhibition to examine the relationship between the national pastime and American culture." The exhibition was organized according to cultural themes ranging from racial and ethnic discrimination, to baseball in entertainment and in the American lexicon, to "American ingenuity" in the development of baseball equipment. But I experienced the exhibition as more about the relationship between the national pastime and me, my interest in the game’s early history, and baseball in my time, in the places were I have lived, and the players and the teams for which I have rooted. Perhaps this is why it would have been great to see the exhibition a second time: after experiencing it on a personal level, I might have been able to experience it on the thematic level intended by the curators. It didn’t work out that way for me, but I would recommend that baseball fans see this exhibition at least twice.
BASEBALL AS AMERICA is on a four-year, ten-city tour, and people in each city have gotten or will get a slightly different experience because part of the exhibition is focused on local baseball. The exhibition will be in Detroit from March 11 through September 5, 2006. (Thanks to Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson for that detail). No doubt Detroit will get an extra measure of the exploits of Tiger greats such as Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, and Al Kaline. In Oakland, the entranceway to the exhibition was flanked by two homeplate views of an interleague game between the A’s and the Giants at the Coliseum. On the right, Eric Chavez was swinging at a Noah Lowry pitch in the bottom of the third with the A’s leading 3-1. On the left, Moises Alou was swinging at a Danny Haren pitch in the top of the fourth; the score was still 3-1. This set the stage for the part of the exhibition that was all A’s and Giants.
Here was where I learned that baseball first came to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1858, with the first clubs formed in San Francisco the following year. The Pacific Coast League (1903-1958), of which the Oakland Oaks and the San Francisco Seals were members, was known as the "Third Major League." (The Oaks moved to Vancouver BC after the 1955 season. The Seals disappeared when the PCL disbanded in 1958). The Bay Area has produced, either through birth or later residence in the area, quite a number of notable baseball players: Early 20th Century Red Sox Hall of Famer Harry Hooper, and other better-known names, Paul Waner, Frank Crosetti, Joe DiMaggio, Ernie Lombardi, Billy Martin, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Curt Flood, Willie Stargell, Joe Morgan, Glenn Burke (first openly non-straight player), Dave Stewart, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, Randy Johnson, Barry Bonds and Dontrelle Willis.
There was also this Louisiana product who made his name as a pitcher with the Oakland A’s while still too young to drink or vote and who also pitched for the San Francisco Giants later in his career. To get an idea of what it might have been like to face Vida Blue, all I had to do was to step into one of the batter’s boxes painted on the floor of the museum and stare up at the cutout of Blue in his A’s uniform (mid-leg kick) that was down the hall. Even in this static simulation, I could see what a tough task it was to pick up the ball from Vida’s delivery. (I didn’t realize how BIG batter’s boxes are until I stepped in. And now I really am convinced Eric Byrnes was standing too far away from the plate to reach those low and away strikes last year!)
I went back to those batters’ boxes another three times during my visit, and on a couple of those occasions, there was no one walking between me and the Vida cut-out. Sixty feet, six inches looked like a long ways away. Of course, in real life, the distance was quickly bridged by Vida’s fastballs.
As I showed up at the plate for the fourth time that day, an elderly couple was leaving. The woman told her husband, "No one is throwing a rock 95 miles an hour at me!" They must have thought there would be a pitching simulation. There wasn’t, but I wish there had been. I would have liked to have experienced facing a laser simulation of Vida’s fastball. Could I have even seen it?
I got a close-up look at the World’s Championship trophy won by the Oakland A’s in the 1989 "Earthquake" Series against the Giants. It was exciting to see it. I have never seen one close up before. It brought back memories. That World Series may have saved my life. In those days, I worked in the Marina district (though not near the fire everyone saw on TV) and drove home to Oakland via the Bay Bridge. The Oakland direction is the lower deck. But for my decision to work late and listen to the game in my office, I would have been on the bridge, and possibly quite near the collapsed eastern section, when the earthquake hit at 5:04 p.m. I also remember driving to the downtown Oakland business district, with a broom visible from my back windshield, after the A’s took Game 4.
In addition to the batter’s boxes, there were two other parts of the exhibition I would term "interactive." One let us handle bats modeled after those used by Babe Ruth, Rod Carew, Mark McGwire and Edd Roush, a contemporary of the Babe who played primarily for the Cincinnati Reds. I liked Carew’s bat, which, at 32 ounces, was the lightest of the four. I found it strange that McGwire’s bat seemed much heavier than Carew’s, even though it was only one ounce heavier and half an inch longer (34.5"). I did not actually handle the Roush and Ruth model bats, which I knew I would find too heavy. But I could see that the Sultan of Swat had a scepter befitting his stature and that Roush was probably telling the truth when he said he did not break a bat in his big league career. His thick-handled model could stand up to a fastball without breaking.
The other interactive part of the exhibition let us try four pitching grips: for a curve ball, a change up, a fastball and a knuckleball. Above each ball was a picture of the appropriate grip and a quote. Two of the quotes I noted down, finding them amusing. Charles W. Eliot, President of Harvard University from 1869 to 1909, said of the curve ball, "I understand that a curve ball is thrown with a deliberate attempt to deceive. Surely that is not an ability we should want to foster at Harvard." And as for the knuckleball, Charlie Lau said, "There are two theories on hitting a knuckleball. Unfortunately, neither of them works."
Catching a knuckleball is hardly easier. As I was taking a break from writing this article, I wandered over to the "Inside the White Sox" blog, where Scott Reifert, White Sox VP of Communications, is writing about spring training. He said, "Charlie Haeger is a knuckleball pitcher. Yesterday, Man Soo Lee tried to catch him as everyone stood, watched and laughed."
This was among several areas of the exhibition that were a humorous counterpoint to presentations about serious issues, including racial and ethnic discrimination, the marginalization of women, baseball in wartime, and the commercialization of the game.
"…sentiment no longer figures in the sport, it is now only a battle of dollars." No, you did not read that comment in your hometown newspaper this hot stove season. But maybe your great grandad read it. Cooperstown culled that quote from an editorial in the New York Evening Journal, October 1, 1908.
The BASEBALL AS AMERICA exhibition is quite comprehensive. There’s something in it for everyone, from people interested in baseball’s place in American culture, to baseball’s place in one’s local community, to baseball history, to the current game. I was less interested in Billy Martin’s cowboy boots and Berkeley High School letter jacket, Harry Caray’s eyeglasses, or Andy Warhol’s portrait of Tom Seaver than in things that were intimately connected with what goes on between the white lines: the evolution of catcher’s gear (which would have been the subject of my final project had I been able to stay in my video editing class), Ty Cobb’s spikes, Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander’s 1926 World Series ring, that 1989 Oakland A’s World’s Championship trophy, and the glove used by Brooks Robinson when he played the role of "Human Vacuum Cleaner" at third base in the 1970 Fall Classic. (His answer to my question about that glove is on his blog, Brooks Robinson’s Hot Corner).
If you can see BASEBALL AS AMERICA, do it. And whether you can or you can’t see this exhibition, put a trip to the Hall of Fame on your lifetime "To Do" List.