And It’s the Hawks! And the Tigers! And the Monkeys.

Once again, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks have won the Japan World Series, in six games, over the Yokohama BayStars. This is the third time in the last four seasons that the Hawks have been the Champs.

They Hawks won the first three games of the series against the BayStars, but then dropped two, leading up to game 6. Down 3-1 in the 8th, the Hawks picked up a run on a groundout, and they tied the game up in the ninth on a homer by Uchikawa against closer Yamasaki. Then, in the 11th, a couple of walks set the stage for Kawashima’s two-out Sayonara Single, a drive through the right side of the infield that plated the series winner.

[10 Nov 17 – Well, it looks like the original video had been taken down. But I think this (below) is also the Sayonara Single.]

[11.15.17 – Well, now, that’s gone too. So much for marketing. The Sayonara Single will have to live on in legend. I can say that I saw it. A looping liner into right. Perfect. Sayonara.]

Meanwhile, over in the KBO, the KIA Tigers pounced on the Doosan Bears, winning the series 4 games to 1 on October 30th. The Bears took the first game of the series, 5-3, but then lost four straight. Poor Bears.

And finally, over in the China Professional Baseball League (Taiwan)…

…it looks like the last game was played on October 11th, with the Lamigo Monkeys beating 7-11 by the score of 9-7.

Are they the champions?

I think they are, judging by the game-ending celebration.


And I think this means that it’s safe to say that Hot Stove League has begun play.

How ’bout them Monkeys? Could they beat the Bears? Or the Astros? What is an “Astro,” anyway?


Spring Surprises

Look Who’s Number One!

Survival of the Front Runners

Blaze Update

The Return of Joe Koukalik

Well well well… Look who’s in first place!

Everyone is surprised to find the Minnesota Twins in first place for a change. After starting off at 1-6, AND losing their top starter, Ervin Santana, to a 80-game suspension (Performance Enhancing Substance. How’s that for Orwellian? Double plus Ungood!) just 2 or 3 days before the season started, the upstart Twins have been one of the best teams in baseball, playing two separate stretches of 9-1 ball, and inching into first place over the vaunted Royals of KC.

If you are a local you can undoubtedly remember the boo-birds circling overhead after that 1-6 start. The Twins are Terrible, they don’t spend any money, they don’t try to win, they don’t improve the club, blah blah blah blah blah…

Know-it-alls. Front-runners.

Everybody’s on board the bandwagon now, of course, now that they are winning. (And where did that expression come from? Jumping on the bandwagon? What the heck is a bandwagon anyway? (I suppose it’s pretty self-explanatory.)) Well, that’s baseball, and that’s the crowd, the teeming masses yearning to be winners, and it’s probably the same everywhere. Everybody loves a winner, and it’s very easy and tempting to kick somebody when they are down. (If just to say, you are down, and I am not. I couldn’t be down, because I am up here, kicking you.)

Visigoth cap

The probably says something very basic about people. I suppose it’s Darwinian. When the Visigoths were winning, everyone was a fan, it was probably the smart thing to do in Visigothia. Visigoths probably did not take kindly to criticism, even to well-meaning and constructive criticism. I think, back in the day, nobody took criticism well; probably it was the first step to being tied to the stake in the village square.

So anyway the Visigoths had a good run, and everyone rooted for the Visigoths, everyone had Visigoth pennants and bumper stickers and promotional swords and coffee mugs and 574 Championship and Theoderic-the-Great t-shirts. And then the Visigoths luck ran out. It always does. And then we had never liked the Visigoths. The Visigoths don’t want to win, they don’t do what’s necessary, they’re terrible, they stink. Booo. Lousy Visigoths. Go Byzantium!

Yes, it’s probably all in our genes; it’s the survival of the front-runners, and natural selection. It goes back to pre-history, I suppose, when everyone was a Neanderthal fan when they were doing so well, everyone loved the Neanderthals, and then – BOOM! – and suddenly nobody liked the Neanderthals and they got kicked out of the league. We can’t help it.

Genes Rule!

Now, where was I? Do I need to make a cap for the Neanderthals now?

The Twins lost yesterday, to the hated Brewers (what an insipid name for a ball club!) of Milwaukee, but the Royals also lost to Texas, so the Twins still have a 1 game lead. Things look promising for a summer of baseball and scoreboard watching. How have the Twins done it? Well, Paul Molitor I think has a lot to do with it. And the pitching has been remarkably good, so let’s throw some credit at pitching coach Neil Allen. 3.91 ERA this year, 4.57 last year. The hitting seems spotty, no one is really leading the way. Maybe Torii Hunter, who’s had some key hits. But so far, I think, it’s the pitching, and hopefully that will continue. Nothing seems more fragile and tenuous than pitching. Those guys are delicate little flowers out there on the mound. One thing about the Twins, they seem like they’ve got some young arms still in the minors.

The other big surprise in baseball is in the old National Pastime Baseball League, where the lowly and nearly forgotten Louisiana Blaze… well, let’s let the commissioner of the NPBL speak:

the blaze hold the best record in baseball

Yes. We RULE.

Well, okay, maybe not so much anymore. A few teams have surpassed us, and it’s early in the season. Still, it’s getting on towards the all-star break, and we cling to a half-game lead. A nice surprise after finishing 6th, 6th, and 4th in the last three seasons. Perhaps we are the Minnesota Twins of the GEL South.

The Blaze are also thriving on pitching. We’ve gone back to a starting four rotation, anchored by Unethical Chad McCall and Rubeun Chaix, who won the Top Pitcher award last season. Joe Koukalik has also made his debut this season – a bit of a surprise, due to an injury on the staff. (Delicate little flowers.) You may remember Koukalik’s great gread great great grandad, (perhaps not enough greats there,) who pitched a bit for the old 1904 Millers. (And no, I haven’t forgotten the ’04 Millers. There’s just not enough time in the day, is all.) Anyway, young Koukalik has been a bit of a pleasant surprise. I had to send Jimmy Ray “Big Daddy” Hardwhistle down, he was struggling, and I hope he comes back, because a baseball name like that doesn’t come along every day, and I’d hate it if he had to languish in the minors. And speaking of good baseball names, I’ve got a powerful young first baseman busting the ball down in AAA, name of Thornton Swackhammer. I have high hopes for Mr. Swackhammer.

hey, get a klu!

Ted Kluszewski’s birthday today.

Even though I’m not what you’d call a Reds fan, this is still one of my favorite baseball cards. (I wonder if that little guy on the uniform, with the moustache, I wonder if he’s got a name?)


No, they don’t make ’em like Big Ted anymore.ted smTed was born in 1924, making him a lot older than me. He’d be celebrating his 90th birthday, I guess, if he was still alive, which he ain’t. Ted passed away in 1988, at only 63.

Couple of things about Ted. He was a four time all-star, 1953-56, and led the majors in home runs in 1954. (With 49.) Plus he led the National League first basemen in fielding average five times. He had 15 inch biceps and cut the sleeves off his jersey because they restricted his swing. He was the hitting coach on the Big Red Machine teams of the seventies.

Okay, one last tid-bit, from the SABR bio:

What separated Kluszewski from the rest of the musclemen was his off-the-charts discipline at the plate. He totaled 31 fewer strikeouts (140) than home runs (171) in his four peak seasons. Of the 10 times in major-league history that a player hit at least 40 homers with fewer strikeouts, three were by Kluszewski. The others on the list: Lou Gehrig (twice), Johnny Mize (twice), Mel Ott, Joe DiMaggio, and Barry Bonds.


Pretty impressive list to be at the top of.

Happy birthday, Mr. Kluszewski, sir.

Good game.


a little taste of the minors…

nine billion g webNot long ago, looking at the card of Roman Mejias, I noted that he lead the Pony League in swipes in 53, and the Big State League in doubles in ”54. Pony League? Big State League?

Looking for more information on these, I came across Mike McCann’s Minor League Baseball Page, One Man’s Quest to Visit Every Major and Minor League Baseball Team. And on that website there is a complete list of minor leagues.

Here I find that the Pony League was maybe more correctly written as the PONY League, for Pennsylvania, Ontario, and New York. The PONY League was a class D League, and existed from 1939-1956. The original teams included the Niagara Falls Rainbows, the Batavia Clippers, the Jamestown Jaguars, the Olean Oilers, the Bradford Bees, and the Hamilton Red Wings. This League went away in ’56, but was replaced in ’57 by the New York – Pennsylvania League, which still exists today. Batavia’s team is now called the MuckDogs, and Jamestown’s team is now the Jammers. Those are the only two remaining clubs of the original set. I like the name MuckDogs, but their logo was pretty bad. There’s now a team called the Vermont Lake Monsters — which I wonder how they got Lake-Monsters-logothat name — and they had the best logo that I saw of the bunch. It’s not that great, really, but I do like the name Lake Monsters.

The Big State League was a class B league from 1947 – ’57. This League was exclusively Texas, with teams originally in Sherman-Denison, Gainesville, Wichita Falls, Paris, Austin, Texarkana, Greenville and Waco. Favorite name: Wichita Falls Spudders. (Second favorite: Paris Red Peppers.) ParisRedPeppers45The Big State League’s Spudders were about the third Spudder team; others existed in earlier leagues. The name, incidentally, comes from a term used in the oil industry – a person who prepares and operates a drilling rig for oil wells.

wichita falls spudders

There are a lot of defunct baseball leagues out there. They are generally named by geographic territory they used to play in, like the Alabama Florida League, or the East Dixie League. Baseball lists over 30,000 current and former minor league teams, and they say “this list is not exhaustive…” (I guess that depends upon your point of view.) I think it must be hard to tell when a club is an old club or a new club with an old name, because what they are doing here is listing every season for every team in a location. For example, they list 64 teams in Duluth, Minnesota, but that means there is 64 seasons of minor league play in Duluth, split up between the Duluth-Superior Dukes, Duluth-Superior White Sox, Duluth Dukes, Duluth Marine Iron, Duluth Heralds, Duluth Cardinals, St. Paul Apostles/Duluth Whalebacks, (one season, in the Western League – I wonder what the story was there. I like “Apostles” for a team name…) the Duluth Freezers, and the Duluth Jayhawks.

There is some confusion about those St. Paul Apostles. At least, I’m confused. Wikipedia says that the Apostles played in 1889, and were apparently managed  by an Irish immigrant named John Barnes. In 1886, Wikipedia says, he was associated with the St. Paul Freezers, and in 1887 the St. Paul Saints. In ’88 he took a year off, apparently, but in 1889 he was back at it, with the St. Paul Apostles. Barnes is kind of an interesting character; he apparently spent ten years in China promoting physical fitness?

Anyway… Baseball says the St. Paul Apostles existed in just 1884, were also known as the St. Paul White Caps, had a 2-6-1 record and finished 9th out of 12. Apparently this was a “short season” league.

St. Paul Apostles logo round

Meanwhile, back on the Duluth/St.Paul team, there were a few great names: Kid Baldwin, Scrappy Carroll, Bones Ely, Bill Goodenough, Jouett Meekin, Rasty Wright, and Crazy Schmidt. I’d love to have baseball cards for Bones Ely and Crazy Schmidt. Bill Goodenough sounds familiar; perhaps he went on to other adventures in professional baseball.

He was, after all, certainly Goodenough.