Heroes of the Negro Leagues

It’s a pack of baseball art cards AND a book! And a DVD!

Well, okay, not quite a DVD.

But it’s a nice little book, based on the (out of print) Art Cards of the same title.

What you get here is 66 watercolor-painted images of the greats of the negro leagues (39 more than in the boxed set of cards!) and one-page write-ups telling a bit about the guys. The paintings, by “award-winning artist” Mark Chiarello, are quite nice. Here’s a poor reproduction of one of my favorites, Judy Johnson:

And the one page write-ups are well written snapshots, a bit of baseball doings, a bit of personal story. Leaves you wanting more, as they should. And there’s a nice introduction by Monte Irvin!

But!   That’s!    Not!    All!

Included in the book is the DVD, Only the Ball was White, which I haven’t seen yet, but will let you know how it is. Looks like a 30 minute documentary about the Negro Leagues. I don’t know if this comes with every book or only with the books that include the DVD. But it looks like it might be great.

How could it not be, really?

Especially if you’re a guy who likes reading about baseball history.

To sum up: an excellent little book, with wonderful illustrations and good stories. You’ll probably want to add this volume to your ever-expanding baseball library, if you’re any kind of baseball fan at all.

…in the midst of despair, a fleeting moment of cheer, or at least wonder…

The Twins incomprehensible excursion into the doldrums continues today, with yet another loss, 3-1, to the Pale Hose of Chicago. What can you say? Seven hits – one more that the Sox. One double. (The Southsiders got 4 doubles in their 6 hits.) A good pitching effort wasted. Duffy falls to 0-2, despite a 2.60 ERA. Woe, woe, woe is us.

sweet mother of mercy 3 caption

In the midst of this seemingly unending death march of a season, we note a small ray of sunshine falling upon the wings of the circling buzzards.

For Lo, young Tyler Duffy has struck out 4 men in an inning.

Tyler Duffy - 2015 - 4ksAll right, all right, it’s not that amazing. It’s been done before. In fact it’s been done 33 times in the American league, and 44 times in the senior circuit. In fact it’s been done recently by one of our own, Francisco Liriano, 5 June 2012. But still.

Duffy opened the seventh by striking out Brett Larie, and then struck out Avisail Garcia. But wait! The ball skips away, bouncing off the plate and away from our catcher (Centeno?) and when the dust settles Garcia resides at first. Well, then, Navarro doubles, and Garcia scores, making it 3-1. Duffy comes back to strike out Austin “Action” Jackson, for his third strike out of the inning. He then intentionally walks Adam Eaton, and then strikes out Jimmy Rollins (#4) to end the inning. One inning, four strike outs. All told, Duffy struck out 9 in 7 innings of work. In a losing effort. But still.

In case you are wondering, no one has ever struck out 5 in an inning. It seems to me like that should have been done, back in the early days of the game. But no. Scripture says, no.

Other Twins who have accomplished the four K feat: Well, Walter Johnson (we get to claim him,) Liriano, as mentioned, Scott Baker, and Phil Hughes (when with the Yankees.)

Chuck Finley (with the Angels and then with the Clevelanders) did this 3 times. That’s kind of amazing.

Anyway. Another loss. But perhaps four strikeouts in an inning… even though it was in a loss… perhaps that’s a sign that fickle fortune… perhaps…

take me out to the library

This just in:

You’ve probably all seen the recent article in the Library of Congress blog, but for those who may have missed it, I’ll recap.

The Library of Congress is taking some (large facsimiles) of its vast collection out on the road, though not very far. They’ve opened up an exhibit at the National’s ball park, with some 30 large-scale reproductions of the Library’s baseball treasures. The Library contains the world’s largest collection of baseball material, including such items as photographs, newspaper clippings, baseball cards, sheet music, and even the first baseball film (1898), by… who else? Thomas Edison.

Edison - 1898 - the ball game

Perhaps not an Academy Award winner.

On display will be many pictures of interest to loyal Twins fans, covering the bygone days when the Twins were known as the Senators, and Walter Johnson ruled.

Best of all, from the standpoint of all us fans who don’t live out in Washington, the exhibit is also online. So check it out. Well worth the price.

Meanwhile, speaking of the Twins, they have been playing some pretty good ball. They’re up tonight, 10-0 in the bottom of the 8th, and Eddie Rosario, making his major league debut, hit the first pitch he saw for a home run in the third inning. Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Rosario!

The Twins will be 2 over .500 if they hang on to win this one; tip of the cap to Kyle Gibson, with six innings of shutout ball.

Uh, make that 13-0, as Vargas piles on in the 8th with a three-run homer.

A Minnesota Twins Christmas Carol?

stove - loc eI have been neglectful about the Twins doings in the HSL. Distracted by Roger Angell and also there’s the holiday season.

The Twins have been active in addressing needs, in pitching and in pitching and also in more pitching and catching. Contrary to my negative expectations, and against all historical precedent, they have opened up their strong box and started spending a bit of their gold. It’s almost as if there has been a little re-enactment of the Christmas Carol, with Uncle Carl coming back to advise the kids on generosity and the Christmas Spirit.

I can see it now…

pohlad as Marley

“But you were always a good man of business, sir,” faultered the eldest son, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Baseball was my business. The Minnesota Twins were my business; the American League Pennant, the World Series, a baseball dynasty, were , all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Well, maybe not.

Still the Twins have, undeniably, been spending money, and acquiring needed players. The pitchers, Nolasco and Hughes, bringing back Pelfry, the return of the prodigal Kubel (which has stolen the spotlight from the return of Bartlett), And now the signing of catcher Kurt Suzuki, and the dealing of Mr. Doumit to the Braves for pitching prospect Sean Gilmartin. Compared with the old days, these Twins are wheeling and dealing. I am hanging onto my hat. What next??

We all realize of course that Hughes and Pelfry are iffy, and Kubel is iffy, (as is Bartlett, iffy) and Gilmartin, also iffy. I’m not sure what to think of Mr. Suzuki. He seems a bit like more of a known quantity. He’s got a .253 lifetime average, but only batted .232 last year, with 5 HR and 32 rbi. Defensively he only caught 8 of 65 attempted base stealers, 12%, and lifetime he’s at 26%., compared to Mauer’s 33% (and Doumit’s 24% and Pinto’s 45% last year, (6sb, 5cs)). Hopefully he’ll be closer to 26% than 12% next year (and certainly the pitching staff has a part in these stats.) Suzuki’s 30 years old, same as Mauer, and is probably slated to share catching duties with young Pinto at the plate, with the Twins hoping that Pinto will continue to hit big league pitching. Probably not at the .342 level of last season, but he did hit .307 in 119 games at AA ball, and .314 in 19 games at AAA. So we can hope.

We are Twins fans. We can hope.

In this regard, I was sad to see Liam Hendricks get claimed off waivers, though, by the Cubs. Even though he was 2-13 with the Twins in his career, with a 6+ ERA. I had hopes. This also makes me think about similarities between the Twins and the Cubs; something about the Cubs signing a pitcher off waivers with a 2-13 record and a 6+ ERA, something there sounds like… I don’t know. Very Minnesotan, I guess. The Cubs also can hope. Go Cubs!

Just noticed that Hendriks looks a bit like Kubel. Probably just the beard.
Or perhaps too many Tom & Jerry’s tonight.

Jason Kubel, Twins Head shot smLiam Hendriks, head shot

42 at the ‘view…

Finally went to see 42 last night, at the best theater in the Twin Cities, the Riverview. Split a big buttered popcorn with my honey, and sipped on an ice-cold Mr. Pibb. Delicious!

42 was pretty good, but also pretty standard Hollywood fare.

42 at bat

I particularly enjoyed the digital re-creation of the old ball parks, Ebbets field, the Polo Grounds, Shibe, and Forbes. (Here’s a link to a little article about that…) They did a really nice job of portraying the friendly confines of these cozy old ball parks. (Okay, the Polo Grounds was not entirely cozy.) Below is a shot of Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, where Jackie Robinson actually played some ball, and which they used as a basis for the digital reconstruction of Ebbets Field.

Engel Field, Chattanooga, - Ebbets in 42

Harrison Ford and Chawick Boseman were both excellent in their roles. I was pleasantly surprised to see Max Gail playing Burt Shotton, who took over as manager of the Dodger’s when Jackie came up to the Majors. I always enjoyed Max in Barney Miller, as detective Wojciehowic. Nice to see him again. I thought more could have been made of his role, but I suppose, with all the characters in this story, they had to pick and choose which stories to develop. Nicole Beharie also did well as Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s wife. I would have liked to have seen more done with her role as well.

The most electric personality in the movie, I thought, was Leo Durocher, portrayed by Christopher Meloni. He didn’t have a lot of scenes, but each one was great. I thought they filmed these scenes in an interesting way; initially they don’t give you a full view of the Durocher, in the first scenes he’s kind of shadowy and wise-cracking. And then comes the scene where he address the team in the kitchen, where he’s dynamite. And then he’s gone. Nicely done, Chris Meloni.

meloni as durocher in 42

Quite a shift from Durocher to Shotton; I wonder what that story was like? I’ll have to read more about that season.

Overall, then, a very good movie, and well worth the $2 I paid at bargain night at the Riverview. The film had a digital polish to it, as most movies do these days. The music is a bit overbearing, and tells you when the big scenes are, and how to feel; it could have been toned down a bit. And it’s trying to tell a long and pretty complex story in only a few (okay, 128) minutes, and so, naturally, it kind of mostly skims lightly over the story. But it’s a story worth telling and the actors carry the story and make it real.