well, well, well…

chicago-tribune-cubs-win-1908

This would be a terrible baseball blog indeed, if some small mention was not made of the Chicago Cubs wonderful championship season. I don’t think I need go into details; the media juggernaut has certainly covered the story from every possible viewpoint. Let’s just say congratulations to a fun team. Congratulations also to the Cleveland club, who also excelled this year, and might very easily have been the champions. It was a magnificent World Series, very nearly approaching the ’91 classic.

The illustration above is from the Chicago Tribune, who has posted the front page story from the last time the Cubs won the series. I love those old newspapers! October 15, 1908. A totally different world back then, but still, baseball.

And here’s another nice item:

final-out-baseball-from-1908-cubs-world-series-victory

I noticed that the Final Out Baseball from the 1908 World Series has gone up for auction. Current bid: $28,000 (plus the buyer’s premium, of course.) There’s still time to get your bid in!

Other than the world series, and the Cubs, well, there were the Twins. One of the most disappointing seasons ever. A good baseball blogger would perhaps have covered the disaster in detail, but I just just just couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It was purely awful and, really, the less said about it, the better for everyone.

Just Awful.

But: we turn the page. Welcome to the 2017 Hot Stove League!

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Los Tres Santanas: Update

Hey, I just saw this on the Twins.com:

There’s no such thing as having too much pitching, so there still remains a chance the Twins add another arm this offseason. They’ve been recently monitoring former Twins ace Johan Santana, who made his debut with Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League on Tuesday. Santana is coming off a torn left Achilles’ tendon suffered last June after signing with the Orioles, but he has recently been throwing in front of teams, including Minnesota.

 

What’s the line on the Original Johan so far?

The Original Johan

The Original Johan

1 game, 2 innings pitched, no hits, runs, walks, or strikeouts. The Rotoworld NBC site has reports that he tossed 17 pitches in the two innings, and hit 90 mph with his fastball.

The Original Johan is on his way back.

Meanwhile… back in 2014….

stove - loc e

So the Twins have finally taken my advice — or at least the most expensive part of it – and signed Ervin Santana to pitch for them next year. With Danny Santana at shortstop (or center field,) we are only one short, easy, inexpensive step away from seeing Los Tres Santanas. And the last I heard (an internet search mere seconds ago) The Original Johan is still out there, a free agent, ripe for the plucking.

los tres santanas g

Looks like The Original Johan is planning on pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League this January, working on his comeback from a torn Achilles tendon. If he does okay down there in Venezuela, I won’t be surprised to see him in spring training with the Twins. Because the Twins are crazy for veterans with moxie and can-do attitude (see: Hunter, Torii.) (Add “damaged goods” and “inexpensive gamble” into the mix…)

Is Every Day Eddie Guardado available?

How about Senor Smoke, Juan Beranguer?

Who’d you rather see at first base this year, Justin (.319) Morneau or Joe Mauer?

Can Joe play third?

Put Trevor Plouffe back in the outfield?

Ahhhhh. Hot stove league. The snow is blowing out there, but in here there’s a little taste of summer going on.

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Return of the Hunter

Hey, I love Torii Hunter, and it will be nice to see him back in a Twins uniform.

Torii Hunter wc b fr

That being said, I don’t get it. Paying that much money to Torii Hunter for one season when they have youngsters who could get out there and who probably need to get out there. Maybe Hunter will be able to help Aaron Hicks? Or maybe Aaron Hicks needs to just play, and let the coaches help him? Who would I rather see in right field, Hunter or Arcia? Arcia’s not going to improve sitting on the bench.

Love Torii Hunter; I don’t see bringing him back, though.

 

Baseball Haiku

baseball-haiku-coverIt’s been awhile since I’ve picked up a baseball book, and when I came across this one at the library I couldn’t pass it up, and soon had to buy my own copy. I love baseball and I love haiku; how did I not find this earlier?

Baseball Haiku is a collection of over 200 haiku written about baseball, from as far back as 1890, fairly soon after baseball came to Japan.

Baseball was brought to Japan in 1872, taught to students at what is now Tokyo University by an American teacher, Horace Wilson. It became very popular with both the students and the staff, and spread to other schools in the Tokyo area, and amateur athletic clubs, and then gradually to the rest of the country.

The man who wrote the first baseball haiku was Matsaoka Shiki. He went to Tokyo to go to school in 1884, at age 17, and fell in love with baseball, teaching the game to his friends, and bringing back with him to his home town, introducing the game to the island of Shikoku.masaoka Shiki - baseball b

Shiki played on his school team, was a left-handed pitcher and catcher, but seemed to prefer catcher. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1889, and was no longer able to play. He remained a fan, though, and was one of the first to popularize the sport in Japan with his writing, poetry, fiction, and essays about the game. In 1896 he wrote an article for the newspaper Nippon, describing the game and the equipment, translating terms into Japanese.

Shiki wrote both Haiku and Tanka about baseball. (Haiku traditionally consisted of a brief poem of three lines and 17 syllables, in a 5-7-5 pattern, (this is obviously a way simple definition,) while tanka consisted of five lines and 31 syllables, in a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern.) Shiki wrote the first four baseball haiku in 1890, and nine total, which are all included in this book. He also wrote ten tanka on baseball, in 1898 or ’99. Here’s one of his first haiku:

spring breeze
this grassy field makes me
want to play catch

and one of his tanka:

under a faraway sky
the people of America
began baseball
I can watch it
forever

Masaoka Shiki b

Shiki was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002, for his contributions to baseball. In the Shiki Memorial Haiku Museum in Matsuyama there is a large picture of him as a schoolboy, in his baseball uniform, displayed in a glass wall case with copies of his poetry about baseball.

Shiki was the leadoff hitter in the Haiku batting order. (Not often that the catcher hits leadoff, but it happens.) Following Shiki’s lead, many other Japanese and American poet baseball fans have stepped up to the plate to take their swings, and this small volume gives us a full dugout of haiku-masters, with brief biographical sketches of the authors. Most are from the U.S., where there seems to be a thriving haiku culture. Jack Kerouac was one of the early American haiku writers, and Jack took a healthy cut at the ball:

Empty baseball field
—  A robin,
Hops along the bench

The book is edited by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura. Van den Heuvel is editor of the Haiku Anthology; he was born in Maine and is a Red Sox fan. He also won the Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Prize for his writing and editing efforts, and he’s included a few of his own works in the volume, including:

after the game
a full moon rises over
the left field fence

and

baseball cards
spread out on the bed
April rain

Finally, here’s one from Mizuhara Shuoshi:

the player takes
his position in the outfield
a cricket’s cry

All in all, this was a nice little book, and a most welcome respite from the dark and cold November night. Maybe it will inspire me to try some baseball haiku.

The Big Train Leaves the Station…

Happy Birthday to Walter Johnson, the Big Train, born on 6 November 1887. We get to Walter Johnsonclaim him as an ex-Twin, since he played his entire career, 21 years, with the old Washington Senators.

Johnson’s accomplishments are legendary, and far too numerous to mention. His 417 wins are second most in baseball history (Cy Young – 511), and his 3,508 strikeouts stood as the top career mark for 55+ years. His record of 110 career shutouts is still the high-water mark. He had 12 twenty win seasons, including a string of ten in a row, and twice won more than 30 games. The Senators of Johnson’s time were generally not a very good club, finishing in the second division about half the time.They finished second in 1912 and 1913, when Johnson had his 30 win seasons, but they finally made it to the World Series in 1924 and 1925, Johnson’s 18th and 19th seasons.

I could go on talking about his accomplishments, but I’ll wrap up by pointing to Johnson’s reputation as a kind and gentle man.

walter-johnson

You’ll note the wicked side-arm motion he had there. The Twins could use a guy like this right about now. Yes, indeed. More about Johnson from SABR, of course…

Johnson was one of the first five players elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. He died at age 59, on 10 December 1946.

Good game, Barney.

Two good Walter Johnson quotes:

“Can I throw harder than  Joe Wood? Listen mister, no man alive can throw any harder than Smoky Joe Wood.”

 

“I throw as hard as I can when I think I have to throw as hard as I can.”

And Ty Cobb said,

“His fastball looked about the size of a watermelon seed and it hissed at you as it passed.”

Happy Birthday, Flame Delhi!

Flame Delhi - t206Born on this date in 1892, in Harqua Hala, Arizona. Does SABR have a biography of every ball player who has ever played the game? Probably not, but they do have one for Flame Delhi, and how could you not, with a moniker like that?

To briefly re-cap: young fireballing pitcher, started at age 16 with the Angels in the PCL. At 18 he was the best pitcher in the PCL, and often compared with Orvie Overall. (Yes. You could look it up.) In 1911 he finished with a record of 27 and 23, with 43 complete games. In 1912 he made it with the White Sox, but perhaps he’d blown his arm out by then, or maybe in spring training. Maybe tossing 43 complete games in a season isn’t a good idea. In any case, he only pitched in one game for the Sox, April 16, 1912, and got batted about. He only gave up three earned runs in three innings of work, but that was the end of Flame’s career in the big leagues. A month later he was sold to San Francisco in the PCL. He went 5-8 with the Seals, struggled, sore arm, didn’t play winter ball, came back in 1913 for the Seals, sore arm, got hit hard in three games and was given his walking papers.

Flame never got his arm back, but he did okay. He made a deal with a club in Great Falls, where he would pitch and they would teach him civil engineering. He went on to prosper in industry.

Happy ending. And Happy birthday Flame Delhi.

Also the birthday today of Greasy Neale, Roxy Walters, Putsy Caballero, and Yam Yaryan. Boy, that had a lot better names back then. After 1945, everyone is named Bruce, Dave, or Rick. I’d like to know more about Yam. Yam Yaryan. It trips musically off the tongue.