World Series Fever…

This being late October, everybody has naturally got World Series Fever. Say what you will about all those other sports, Foot-Ball, Basket-Ball, Croquet, Hurling, Rugby, Chess, what-have-you… Baseball IS the National Past Time, and when October rolls around, the nation’s eyes are on the diamond, and we wait with bated breath the crowning of the next champion.

The Library of Congress yesterday (Prints and Photos division) posted a news article about the bygone days of World Series fever, in the golden days before television, when the boys would gather around the newspaper scoreboard or the local radio to follow the play-by-play.

Watching World Series scoreboard, Montrose, Colorado, 1939

Watching World Series scoreboard, Montrose, Colorado, 1939

I’ll bet that was fun, standing on the street, watching the action. No commercial interruptions. No instant replays. No expert analysis explaining everything in detail. Well, on second thought, there was probably plenty of that, but on a more local level.

If the boys look pretty sedate in that picture, it might be because the Yankees swept the Series that year, 4 games to 0 over the Cincinnati Reds. A lot of pitching in that series, as the Reds batted .203, while the Yankees did about the same, at .206. The Yankees did hit 7 HR in that series, though, while the Reds could muster nary a one. King Kong Keller hit .438 for the Yankees, with 3 HR and 6 rbi.

Tonight is game 3 or the 2015 series, in NY, with KC leading the Mets, two games to nothing. (As if you didn’t know.)

Kansas City had the top record in the AL, so I like to see them in the series. In the Senior Circuit, the hated St. Louis Cards won 100 games in the regular season, while the Metropolitans only garnered 90. Some might therefore wonder if the best team in the NL has actually made it to the World Series.

But them’s the rules. A KC/St. Louis series would have been fun, though.

Kansas City’s got a good club. With two games gone, I’m not going to make any predictions, but I always like to see the AL take the series, no matter who I think is going to win.

Incidentally, who knows why the KC club is named the Royals? Perhaps you think it is a tip of the cap to the old KC Monarch’s of the old Negro Leagues? Well, then, you are wrong. The Royals are named for the American Royal livestock show, rodeo, horse show, and, I guess, a barbecue competition, held annually in KC since 1899. Turns out that no one knows why the KC Monarchs were named the Monarchs – but it is possibly a tip of the cap to the same Royal livestock show. It’s possible, but nobody knows for sure. Is that all they can think of down there?

Finally, I’d just like to point out for posterity, I did just happen to nail the Twins final record this season, in my prediction post of April 9th.

First time that’s ever happened. We all look for better things next season.

Speeding up the game; pitchers and catcher report!

I heard a brief spot on the radio this week about how baseball’s new commissioner, Robert Manfred, has announced some new rules to speed the pace of the game up. These include:

  • batters have to keep one foot in the batter’s box.
  • timers will measure the time between innings, allowing 2:25 for locally televised games and slightly longer for nationally televised games.
  • Pitchers will need to complete their warm up tosses at the 30 second mark, and batters will “be encouraged” to be in the batter’s box with 20 seconds remaining on the clock.

These rules will be enforced with a system of warnings and fines, with further discipline “for flagrant violators,” and there’s naturally a list of specific exceptions to these rules. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

I haven’t thought about any additional ways that the game could be sped up. I suppose they could limit the number of  relief pitchers in an inning; I suppose there are a lot of things they could do. Perhaps limit the number of people who can meet at the mound. What do they talk about anyways?

mtg d fr - mtpmcg714 sm - 5610

As long as they are making up rules, I really would like it if they would do something about the constant, unceasing, never-ending, repetitious, non-stop barrage of deafening and distracting sound that we have to endure at the ballpark. Does anyone feel like this contributes to their baseball experience? Does there really need to be loud rock and roll at every momentary break? At every new at-bat? Between every stinking pitch? Do we really need to have commercials on the big scoreboard? Sponsors for every small fragment of the broadcast? Meaningless “contests” between innings? Bugle calls and “clap your hands!” animations to tell the crowd when they should clap?

Let me think about this a moment… okay, I say no. No, we do not. In fact, it’s positively detrimental to my enjoyment of the game, the reason I paid money to come to the ball park.

Perhaps the Twins could occasionally have some silent throwback games, where all that noise is eliminated. I am sure it would really create a startlingly different – and better – ballpark experience.

At least for me.

Pitchers and catchers reported yesterday. Nice long article about new Twin’s manager Paul Molitor in the Star Tribune today – you can find it here. Should be an interesting spring training. New managers and coaches. Pitchers battling for the fifth spot in the rotation. (Ironic for a staff that was so poor last year.) The return of Torii Hunter. The mystery of Aaron Hicks. Buxton and Sano, healthy and close?

“keen, sparkling, outrageous, hilarious…”

Well, I just finished rereading one of my old Jim Bouton book’s, I’m Glad You Didn’t Take It Personally.

bouton - glad you didn't take it personally sm

$1.25? When could you get a paperback for $1.25?

1973 is when.

This is only the second time I’ve read this. Despite the cover blurbs, I wouldn’t go so far as to say this was “uproarious.” The hype on the back cover says “…Bouton rips the covers off a whole new set of big names and sacred cows – to leave his victims howling and the public cheering!” And I wouldn’t go that far either. But I guess they’ll say anything to sell a book.

I did enjoy the book – Bouton talks about the trouble he got into by writing the Ball Four book, how that book came to be, and how he started out in his broadcasting career. He also looks at how some of the people he wrote about in the first book reacted to it, and that was an interesting mix. While the most upsetting thing, for a lot of folks, seemed to be his criticism of Mickey Mantle, Mantle’s only public comment about the book was “Jim who?” Reaction among the players seemed to run the gamut, but at the same time there seemed to be a lot of institutional pressure to slam the book and slam the author. Which wasn’t very pleasant for Jim. But I’m sure some of the players also had a difficult time with their portrayal in the book, and I could see how some players might have felt betrayed. As I get older, I find that I try not to take things so seriously – I guess that’s the perspective you get with aging, and not one readily available when you are in your 20s and 30s.

There’s a healthy dose of introspection in this Bouton book – and it seemed refreshing, someone asking questions of themselves, asking why they are the way they are. We all probably do some of this, but I don’t seem to see a lot of it in print. (Probably just the books I choose to read.) In this book Bouton talks about some of his experiences, growing up, which have led him down the path of someone who questions the status quo, and who stands up for things he believes in. bouton c sm fr

I’m Glad You Didn’t Take It Personally was a nice little follow-up to Ball Four, and a fairly quick read.  Finishing that first book, it did leave you with questions about, well, what happened next? This one tells you what happened next, and gives a bit more insight into Mr. Bouton.

For later this year, I have the Bouton book I haven’t read yet – Foul Ball – about his efforts to save an old, small-town ballpark. I am looking forward to that. Plus, I think there’s an updated edition of it out there, telling us… what happened next.

Thanks for keeping us updated, Jim.

A quick peek at the game of the week, summer, 1961

Growing up, Saturday afternoon, it was always NBC’s game of the week.

I have vivid memories of hot summer afternoons, the living room windows open, sunshine, fresh air, birds singing, the neighborhood quiet. Watching the game.

Here, it’s Saturday afternoon, 22 July, 1961. The Giants are visiting the Reds at Crosley Field.

Pee Wee Reese and ‘ol Dizzy Dean are doing the commentary.

Let’s play ball.

Don’t nuke the Ueck!

not today, anway.

Because it’s Bob Uecker’s birthday today!

And it just so happens that I’m the proud owner of an authentic Bob Uecker 1963 baseball card! As I recall, I had to give up a ’55 Mays and a ’53 Mantle to get it. I felt like I was stealing it, practically. Bob UECKER!

bob uecker B

I never saw Mays or Mantle on the Tonight Show. Uecker was on all the time.

Bob grew up in Milwaukee and signed with the Braves in 1956.

I signed with the Milwaukee Braves for three-thousand dollars. That bothered my dad at the time because he didn’t have that kind of dough. But he eventually scraped it up.

He came up to the Braves in 1962, then played for the Cardinals and the Phillies before finishing his career with the Atlanta Braves in 1967. When his playing days were over, he had a very successful career in broadcasting. But baseball was always the most important thing to Bob.

The biggest thrill a ballplayer can have is when your son takes after you. That happened when my Bobby was in his championship Little League game. He really showed me something. Struck out three times. Made an error that lost the game. Parents were throwing things at our car and swearing at us as we drove off. Gosh, I was proud.

I won’t embarrass Bob by putting the back of his card up here, with all his minor league stats, all the records. I know he’s a modest guy, and wouldn’t want that. But I will mention that there is a bronze statue of Bob outside Miller park in Milwaukee. Also honored with statues at Miller Park: Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, and … Bud Selig. One thing about Milwaukee. They have a good sense of humor there. Bud Selig?

Happy Birthday Bob. Good game!

Bob Uecker 2011