maketh hay whilst the sun doth shineth

In other words, hey, those Twins have won six in a row.

Nice.

Just when you count them out, wait, don’t count them out yet. Hey, Falvey! Levine! Don’t count these guys out yet!

A few days back, the brain trust put their thinking caps on and thought, “hey, you know? Maybe we can win something here.” They bolstered their starting pitching with Jaime Garcia from the Braves, and then the Twins promptly lost about five in a row.

And the brain trust suddenly thought, “hey, you know? We’re not going to win anything here,” and, after making one start as a Twin, Garcia was dealt away “to a contender” (the Yankees.) And then closer Brandon Kintzler (2.78, 28 saves) was gone too, to the Nationals. Whereupon, soon after, the boys put together this here little win streak, which finds them within striking distance of winning something again.

Which makes me wonder if Garcia might be available again?

And which just shows that you never know in baseball.

After they traded Garcia away (for a couple of prospects, not so bad) I think it was Molitor who said, no worries, we got this far with what we got, we can go with the horses we have. I paraphrase. But, good point, Molly. We’re not so bad. Not so bad at all.

We just might win something here anyway.

Tonight, Twins 9, Tigers 4.

Obviously, a lot of nice hitting by the Twins. Kepler, Rosario, and Mauer each get three hits, Dozier gets a couple, one of them being a beautiful triple down the right field line. Rosario and Kepler homer. Mr. Kepler has a very nice swing.

Mr. Buxton made a very nice catch in center. And the Twins keep rolling.

Three and a half games out of first.

 

Still no word on which Chicago team Carl Sandburg rooted for.

It is Good to be in First

Well, the Twins won their first game of the season. We need to take a long moment to acknowledge that fact, and to appreciate it. When was the last time they won the opening game of the season? That was just back in 2008, only some 9 years ago. Some of you older readers might remember that game, a 3-2 triumph over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Livan Hernandez got the win for the Twins, and Mauer, Cuddyer, and Lamb got the RBIs. (Mike Lamb. Third base. Hit .233 in 81 games.)

Here’s to being in first, and getting that first win under our belt. Some of you may recall that the first win was a bit difficult to get last year. But this is a new year, and a new ball club. In their 7-1 win, the Twins put together an impressive rally in the seventh, scoring six runs on three consecutive bases-loaded walks, followed by a couple of singles. Way to be patient up there at the plate! Good eye, Good eye! Walks as good as a hit. Attaboy. I’ll bet the joint was rocking as the balls kept piling up, one after another, inexorably, and the runners slowly trotted from base to base to base. Oh, yeah: Baseball is back, my friends. Baseball is BACK.

In honor of the opening of baseball season, the Library of Congress has a post on their blog, “Champions of America: Early Baseball Card.” There’s a nice picture of the Brooklyn Atlantics in the post, which goes on to say that the Atlantics won championships in 1861, ’64, and ’65, and their season extended into the winter, when they put on skates and played on frozen ponds. I suppose that ice-baseball just didn’t catch on, or we’d be seeing it today.

The post also points to the Library’s collection of early baseball cards, which I believe I may have mentioned here previously. They have a fairly nice collection of about 2000 cards dating from 1887 to 1914. The original collector of these cards, Benjamin K. Edwards, gave the collection to poet Carl Sandburg, who donated the collection to the Library in 1954.

Which made me think that a Chicago guy like Sandburg must have written some poems about baseball. But I only find one tonight:

Hits and Runs

 

I REMEMBER the Chillicothe ball players grappling the Rock Island ball players in a sixteen-inning game ended by darkness.
And the shoulders of the Chillicothe players were a red smoke against the sundown and the shoulders of the Rock Island players were a yellow smoke against the sundown.
And the umpire’s voice was hoarse calling balls and strikes and outs and the umpire’s throat fought in the dust for a song.

 

Carl Sandburg, 1918

I haven’t been able to find any information on whether Mr. Sandburg rooted for the Cubs or the White Sox. It seems like a poet would most likely root for the Cubs. Nelson Algren, on the other hand, I could see him being a White Sox fan.

More research is needed.

Finally, I just came across a nice article in the NY Times, about new Twins Executive Vice President and Chief Baseball officer Derek Falvey. The article gives me hope, unlike many of the articles in the NY Times these days.

April: 7-17

The Twins wrap up April (the Cruelest Month)  with a 7-17 mark, which puts them 9 1/2 games off the pace for the Central Division Gonfalon. May – the Month of Rejuvenation or Recrimination, depending upon how it goes – has started off with a loss.

Last year the Twins went 20-7 in May, getting themselves back in contention. 20-7 is a lot to hope for, and not very likely, either. However, if the Twins can get back to within five or six by June, than the season is not yet lost.

Haiku for a Disruptive April:

a lengthy cold snap

frosts the grass, yet birds still sing,

and lilacs sparkle

It’s been an interesting (bad) April. Byung Ho Park gives us hope, leading the club with 6 HR, showing a lot of poise.

Byung Ho Park 2016

Ervin Santana, Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins, and Kyle Gibson, all on the disabled list already. Several of these guys are what is known as “key” players. Heralded youngster Jose Berrios is already up and already made his major league debut. (Tonight he is going for his first win, with the Twins ahead in the 9th.) Heralded youngster Byron Buxton is sent down. (Currently hitting .219 after 7 games at AAA Rochester.) Everyone is talking about the comeback of the Legendary Joe Mauer, hitting .337 with a .920 OPS. Miguel Sano is holding down right field and trying to get himself established. Eduardo Nunez hitting .373.

No, things aren’t going as expected. Which just makes for a better story later on.

Here’s a tip o’ the cap to Jose Berrios, first major league win tonight, as the Twins beat the “Astros” of Houston, 6-2.

8-18 now, for those keeping track at home.

Worst April record by a pennant-winning baseball club? Unknown. Does anybody track this sort of thing? Well, the answer in the future might be 7-17.

 

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.