the deep dark dead of winter…

January 2018. It’s been a typical Minneapolis January: dark, periodically below zero, periodically snowing. The days are short and filled with work. The roads are scummy with snow and salt and ice. We had a dumping of snow last week, about a foot, which mocked our puny human efforts to do business as usual. Furnaces always always on. Dry dry dry. Pipes freezing up. Too cold for the dog to do more than run outside and run back in. Sky the same bleak color as the dismal gray snow. Crows, taunting. Cars caked in frosty dirt.

Yes, the dark dead days of winter. The furnace ticking like a bomb in the basement. The tea kettle screeching on the stove. Perfect setting for the HSL.

Local baseball opinion seems very positive about the Twins. After all, they’ve already signed Zach “Tommy John Surgery in 2016” Duke and Fernando “41 year-old” Rodney. (Those are not their actual nicknames, by the way.) Thusly, the bullpen is reinforced for the coming campaign, and the Brain Trust can focus on other needs.

Speaking of which, they are still apparently in the running in the 2018 Yu Darvish marathon. Latest word is that Darvish will sign with someone in early-to-mid 2019. The Cubs — those sly devils — have recently signed former Twins windpaddist Chris Gimenez – of whom Darvish has reportedly said something to the effect of “He’s my all-time favorite catcher.” Clever move, Cubbies. Well played. We’ll just see if that tips the scale towards Cubsland. The Twins, meanwhile, are stocking supplies of Rummy Grapefruit Soda, rumored to be Darvish’s favorite soft drink. (It’s like a chess game…)

The Carl Sandburg mystery continues. Surely a poetic Chicago boy who grew up on the sandlots had a love for one of those-home town clubs? And probably the Cubs?

I thought perhaps something might appear in his published book of letters, but no, not a clue. A few baseball references, but nothing that pointed to the Cubs or the Pale Hose. Letter after letter full of poesy and politics. Disappointing.

I emailed the vaunted Chicago Public Library, and heard back just a day or two later. They reported that they could find nothing in their vast historical archives, their myriad electronic resources — and suggested I look perhaps at Sandburg’s volume of published letters.


I have not yet picked up the Sandburg biography, which will probably solve this puzzle on page 8 or so, “... Sandburg, being a Yankee fan, …

For who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?









FYI, January 31st is the birthday of a few pretty good ball players, and a lot of others as well. Today we celebrate the births of Rasty Wright and Jot Goar, Goat Cochran (Thanks, mom and dad, for that…), and Steamboat Williams. Stuffy Stewart, Pinky Hargrave, Webb Schultz and Honey Barnes. The great Emil Planeta, Mr. Mel Mazzera, Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks, and Nolan Ryan.

Not a bad day at all for baseball.



Okay, I’d be a terrible baseball blogger indeed if I failed to note that the Twins are in the playoffs. The first team in MLB history to go from a 100 loss season to the playoffs in one season. Quite an accomplishment. And perhaps this says something about the aberrant nature of last season’s death march.

But last season was last season, ancient history. This is the season that counts, and the Twins are in the playoffs. Wooo-hooo!

There’s even a little extra joy in getting to the playoffs in that the Front Office dumped all-star closer Brandon Kintzler at the trading deadline. (Not to mention Jaime Garcia who was both acquired and then de-acquired just before the deadline.) The Front Office was seeming to say that these guys are toast. Wait till next year. But these guys, it turns out, were not made of toast. No indeed.

I, personally, am glad that we play the Yankees. They’ve had our number for years now, and I’d like a little pay-back time.

Congratulations to them Twins. We knew you could do it. Let’s take all the marbles.

maketh hay whilst the sun doth shineth

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


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.

A long belated and apologetic return to 28 April 1904: Rain Out

Rain Rain Rain

“Speed of Watkins’ Men Elicits Favorable Comments”

Well, the rain continues in April of 1904, and yesterday’s scheduled game was a washout. Our scribe had thought that the millers would take two games in Columbus, but instead they drop one and are rained out of their other three opportunities. The club boarded the train last night for Louisville, where they will play a four-game series against the colonels. It looks like the colonels dropped yesterday’s game against Kansas City. (Oddly, the game was played in Louisville, but KC batted on the bottom of the card. So, really, they were the home club, it seems. Perhaps we’ll find out more about this later. Does KC not have a park? Are they like the fabled Rupert Mundy’s, wandering in the wilderness?)

The speed of Watkins’ men continues to astound all who witness their ambulatory talents. Apparently they excel at the bunt game — “…the slightest bobble by a senator on an infield hit meant that the runner would reach first.” I imagine other teams must be quite nervous about these millers and their short-ball style of play. Veritable gazelles. The entire game played with the infield pulled in, guarding against the bunt. “The Minneapolis Shift.”

If this pennant chase comes down to a footrace, the boys quite have it all locked up.

This new catcher Weaver is apparently as tall as the team is fast. He stands well over six feet, a veritable towering Goliath of his day. This now means Watkins has four catchers on the club — Weaver, Leslie, Ludwig, and Roach, and our reporter hazards a guess that Ludwig and Roach are slated for Watkins’ bloody chopping block.


Four backstops are probably too many, but I do hope he keeps Ludwig, who showed some pluck in spring training. Watkins famously said he was going to instruct him in “all the finer points of the game.” I’m sure Ludwig was kidded about that quite a bit. Did Ludwig turn out to be a poor student, or was Watkins just talking a good game? Well, we’ll probably never know.

Frankly, I would not be at all surprised if the club picked up another new catcher in Louisville in the next day or two. Watkins seems to have some sort of weird obsession with the position. It seems like there’s always someone better waiting in the wings. Tomorrow perhaps we’ll hear about catcher Slumhaggen, a seven-footer who can run like a jaguar and is a wand master of the highest degree. If I was catcher Weaver or catcher Leslie, I would not be feeling too comfortable.

Perhaps you’re wondering about the standings? Especially given the extended lay-off between our visits to 1904. Our last visit being, (embarrassingly) in November of 2015. 2015? Yes, 2015. My apologies.

Well, keep in mind that it’s early yet, and far, far too early to make any serious prognostications about future success. Especially given the amount of rain we’ve been having. But here’s the scoop:


Tomorrow we’ll find out how we fared against those colonels in Louisville.

27 April, 1904: Too Much Malarky

27 April 04 - Millers can't hit malarky b

Yesterday there was rain all across the circuit, and our home-town scribe was bemoaning the Miller’s lost opportunity to pick up a win against the Columbus Senators. Well, perhaps the Senate caught wind of this. Perhaps they heard that they were considered an easy mark, a Win just waiting to be plucked. For, lo, the Senators downed the visitors 5-4, as Watty’s colts only muster 5 hits against the mighty Malarky.

John Malarky b

John Malarky was a pretty good pitcher – in ’03 he pitched for the Beaneaters in Boston, and was second on their staff in ERA, going 11-16, and finishing 25 of his 27 starts. The Boston club needed money, though, and sold Malarky to the Columbus club. Malarky was 32 years old in ’04, and never made it back to the majors again, (yes, the Beaneaters were “the majors” back then.)

Anyway, not a good game for the boys from Minneapolis. All the Millers runs came on throwing errors by the Senators, including 3 runs in the third on a wild toss from the outfield. But Malarky had the game well in hand, and Olyer and Lally were troubled by “slippery footing.”

The play of the game (from the Minneapolis perspective) was a double play, where Bowcock tried to steal home, was tagged out by Leslie, who then tossed to second in time to get Yeager. Heads up play by Mr. Leslie!  Good going!

None-the-less, our reporter says that Watkins is trying to acquire a catcher from Columbus, perhaps a fella name of Weaver. As I recall, (and it has been some time now) the Millers had two or three catchers in spring training, and it was the youngster, Ludwig, who surprised and looked to be the starter, and then suddenly Watty brings this guy Leslie onto the scene, and now… now.. Leslie is on the way out? Plus Leslie, whoever he is, he’s been hitting the ball some.

Or maybe our reporter doesn’t know what he’s talking about. A couple of days ago he said Demontreville was about to be cut, and now it’s Leslie, while Demontreville, meanwhile, started at second and scored a run, and “played a good game at the second cushion.”

I’ll bet Watkins has everybody on edge. He likes to wheel and deal.

And hey, there it is, right on page 2 of the day’s paper. I’d missed it, scurrying to page 18 to catch the score. “Minneapolis Secures Crack Backstop by Purchase from the Columbus Club.” Watkins sends a telegram to the Journal to announce the acquisition of “Catcher Weaver” (is that his name?) Weaver caught for St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the National league last summer. He played in 32 games and had… er….thirteen passed balls. Thirteen? Yes, that’s right. Thirteen passed balls. In 32 games. While hitting a solid .237. I wonder if the Journal was being sarcastic when they termed him a “crack backstop?” They say his bat will help the club, and that signing Weaver shows that Watkins — though confident that he has a winning club –  will apparently spare no effort in order to strengthen his club, even acquiring a “crack backstop” while at the same time Leslie has been doing well at catcher, and Ludwig has been a capable back up. But that’s not enough for Watkins, whose passion is, apparently, a strong fast ball club, replete with windpaddists. Well, whatever. I wonder who the starting catcher will be tomorrow?


Because I have been living under a rock for the last few months, and for December in particular, I totally absolutely missed the news about:

a. Chris Colabello, being claimed by Toronto off waivers (December 8th! Where was I?)


b. Colabello being outrighted to the Triple A Buffalo Bisons.(February11th! Where was I?)

And so, here I am, suddenly thinking to myself, “Hey, wha… where… where’s Colabello? What happened to Colabello?”

Crap.chris colabello - Worcester Tornados

Yes, this kind of brings me down, even though I probably should have been preparing for it, lo these many months. For the Twins have a first baseman name of Mauer, and once Joe picked up the first baseman’s glove, that probably indicated that all the other first baseman better start to pack their bags. (Goodbye, Justin Morneau. So long, Chris Colabello.)

Justin went to Pittsburgh, of course. (Who did we get for him? Oh, yes, Alex Presley, and, momentarily, Duke Welker. The Twins then waived Presley, and Houston picked him up, and it looks like he’s still with the Astros. The Twins quickly traded Welker back to Pittsburgh for Kris Johnson. Pittsburgh then released Welker, and then, later, the Twins released Johnson. Such are the wily machinations of the executive suite.) Meanwhile, of course,Pittsburgh let Morneau walk at the end of the season, and Colorado signed him, and I guess he had a pretty fine season up there in the mountains of Colorado.(.319, (leading the NL), 17hr, 82 rbi, and a .860 OPS.

(Trivia question: Who had the highest OPS on the Twins in 2014? Answer: young center fielder / shortstop Danny Santana: .824, followed by young DH Kennys Vargas (.772) and then young second baseman Bull Dozier (.762). Perhaps this bodes well for the future?)

So Mr. Colabello is gone, and I’m sorry to see him go. I liked the way he came up from the independent leagues to make the majors, and I like the fact that he turned down big money to play in Korea, because “Going to Korea would mean giving up the dream of being a big-leaguer.” How can you not root for a guy like that? Plus he broke Kirby Puckett’s record for most RBIs in the month of April (26), and he hit a home run for his mother on her birthday. With her sitting up in the stands. I really wanted Colabello to hit so well that they had to play him. But he didn’t, and they didn’t, and now he’s in Toronto. (Starting first baseman last year, Edward Encarnacion. 34 home runs there.)

Good luck, Chris Colabello. You’re a hero.

colabello c gs red  fr - mtpmcg714 sm - 5599


13 April 1904: Case Closed

Wednesday Evening

Charlie Case

Charlie Case

Remember Mr. Case?

Remember the plaudits tossed by Manager Watkins just two days ago?

“Case is doing fine twirling. He is in the best of conditions and is practicing a slow ball, which will probably be a winner. “

No wonder Watkins was so worried about Case yesterday. No wonder he told him to take it easy. He didn’t want him hurt before he could be shipped off to Duluth, nor did he want him to perform well, so that people would be upset by his departure. A tightrope act by Mr. Watkins, and a successful one at that.

Does Watkins have any feel for how the team might feel about this?

Probably not. They are just pawns in his game.

In any Case, Case is gone, Duluth bound, another Case of disappearing ballplayers. Ahh, well.

edvard the scream munch smIn other news, Munch apparently showed up on Monday evening, and he “showed fine form” while pitching the last three innings in a 3-2 victory. “He merely toyed with the varsity players, who were unable to solve his curves for a single hit.” He also varies his speed so as to confuse the batters, and “His slow ball is very deceptive.”

With the good news (The Incomparable Munch!) comes the bad, of course.

Demontreville has a sore arm, “caused by being hit with a water polo ball while refereeing a local contest.” This is not of a serious nature, apparently — I assume our scribe could not keep a straight face as he typed this tidbit up — and it won’t keep Demont from playing. No wonder pros today have that Water Polo Refereeing Prohibition in the standard contract. An arcane bit of legalese, probably many have puzzled over. Now we know why it’s there.

And what’s this? Ludwig’s arm is also now troubling him too! Slightly, they say. It’s nothing. Just a minor thing, really, and hardly worth mentioning. He will be in good shape again soon, they say. So; as soon as we get rid of our third catcher, our new first stringer has a “slightly” sore arm. Why do I think I see where this is headed?

Frosty Thomas

Frosty Thomas

But, again on the upside, Frosty Thomas has recovered from his neuralgia (what the heck is that?) and is ready for more slab duty. Bring it on, he says.

And, finally, the deal for Converse is complete and details are undisclosed, which seems a bit odd, but in any case, Converse heads up to Winnipeg “as soon as his transportation arrives.”
Freight train?

spalding's 1904 Guide

And, a last bit of unrelated baseball news, the big leagues open their 1904 season tomorrow.

In the American league, the New York Highlanders are the odds-on favorites, though the Philadelphians and the Cleveland Naps are expected to challenge. For the Nationals, Pittsburg and New York are the favorites. The 1904 Highlanders are lead by outfielders Patsy Dougherty, John Anderson, and Willie Keeler, with Jack Chesboro on the mound. Cleveland features the Great Lajoie at second base, Elmer Flick in the outfield, Bill Bernhard and Addie Joss on the mound, while the Athletics will rely on Lave Cross at short, Socks Seybold and Topsy Hartsel in the outfield, and pitchers Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank, and Chief Bender – which is not a bad start for a rotation.

The Pirates, in the senior circuit, have the great Honus Wagner at short, Tommy Leach at third, Fred Clarke, Ginger Beaumont, and Jimmy Sebring in the outfield, with Sam Leever and Deacon Phillippe twirling. The Giants counter with Dan McGann at first, Bill Dahlen at short, Art Devlin at third, and Roger Bresnahan and Sam Mertes in the garden. Christy Mathewson, Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity, Dummy Taylor, and Hooks Wiltse are the slab artists, another fine assemblage for manager John McGraw. Sounds like a good season shaping up, for those who care about “major league” base ball.