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.

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the old ball yard. Redwing Minnesota.

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It’s been a good long while between posts. Life…

And it seems that the Twins are in the pennant race! Okay, well, not exactly. Trying to nail that last wild-card spot for the playoffs does not quite equate to a pennant race. Still, it’s perhaps as close as we get now a days, since the loser of the Wild Card race is eliminated, done, see ya’ next year. And it is the best of all possible worlds, to have meaningful baseball games to play in September. So we are enjoying it, come what may. It’s been an interesting season for the Twins; new manager, losing their star pitcher for half the season, Torii Hunter, the arrival of All the Young Talent, Buxton, Sano, Rosario, Hicks, Duffy, and all the rest. And there’s a lot of ball yet to be played!

I also noted that Big Papi, David Ortiz, has hit #500 for his career. What if the Twins had not cut him loose at the end of 2002?  Surely a low point in Terry Ryan’s career…

Anyway. Congrats to Big Papi. Stay tuned…

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.

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.

0-1… 0-2….

baseball spinnerSpring is over, the team has headed north, all the hard decisions have been made. Me, I would have had Mike Pelfrey penciled in as the fifth starter, but it’s a long season and he was bound to be starting at some point. Who would have imagined, though, that his opportunity would come knocking so quickly?

Ahh, well; such is life for your Twins fans. If nothing else, we are used to tragicomic adversity.

Here’s a comparison of the starting 9 for the Twins, last year and this:

lineups 2014 - 15

Willingham replaced by Hunter; well perhaps a small upgrade there? Perhaps too early to tell. Willingham was hurt a lot last year, and Hunter is “past his prime.” Josh the alabama hamma Willingham 476bsmcBasically a wash, I guess. I notice today that Willingham has retired from baseball, (last November.) I liked the Willinghammer, the Twins were lucky to have him, and hope he enjoys his life outside of baseball. Unusual for the Twins to sign a guy who plays so well. A pleasant surprise for everyone. That’s the way baseball goes. You never know.

Colabello replaced by Vargas; we’d like to think that this is an upgrade, though we loved Colabello and hope he does well. But Vargas is young and strong. His whole future’s ahead of him, as they say. Yes, I guess this is progress.

Hicks by Schafer; about the same. Perhaps this is the year that Hicks will put it together? Schafer is basically a placeholder out there, till Buxton (or Hicks) emerges. Though there’s been some talk that maybe Schafer’s “settled down” – whatever that means. Probably not much. Hicks is an enigma. We are getting tired of hoping that he does well.

Florimon replaced by Santana; Progress, we hope. Santana should hit more than Florimon. The bar is set pretty low there. Fielding, I don’t know. Does fielding even matter? Well, to me it does. Some.

Once again, the boys start off 0-1. Is it too late for a preseason prediction? Not a bit.

Last year’s record 70-92.

This Year’s? 84-78?

Okay, now they are 0-2, which puts them exactly at last year’s pace.

However this year, they have not scored any runs in the first two games, whereas last year they scored 9 times, though still going 0-2.

Anyway, I’m changing my prediction, based on this. 83-79.

If Santana hadn’t got nailed and banned for half the season, I might have shifted this about six games. 89-73? I am always ridiculously overly hopefully optimistic.

I blame the ’87 and ’91 Twins for that.

Anyway, thank god it’s baseball season. Go Twins!

los dos Santanas

Well, the Twins have missed out on the golden opportunity, as the Toronto Blue Jays sign Johan Santana to a minor league contract, with an invite to spring training.

Johan Santana mets sad

Hard to believe those free-spending Twins couldn’t shell out a minor league contract for Johan.

Well, the season’s just beginning. It may happen yet. And good luck to Johan with them Blue Jays.

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?