Category Archives: baseball

Did Jimmy Piersall do all the crazy things he did? (Ask Yogi.)

 

An email of mine to a friend:

 

Scott — there was an article in Saturday’s NY Times:

“The Naked Truth About Trump”

By Maureen Dowd

The New York Times

May 5, 2018

 

A quote from the article:

“He needs the excitement,” says Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio. “Without the drama and the crisis and the powerful opponent, he’d be just another guy.”

D’Antonio compares Trump, who has compared himself to Babe Ruth and who once wrote a poem when he was 12 about being a baseball player — “I like to hear the crowd give cheers, so loud and noisy to my ears” — to Jimmy Piersall. Piersall, a charismatic and talented baseball player, described his emotional spiral in his memoir, “The Truth Hurts”: “Probably the best thing that happened to me was going nuts. It brought people out to the ballpark to get a look at me.”

The center fielder engaged in brawls, scuffles and pranks, once bringing a water pistol to home plate. Then one day he lost his grip; in a movie based on his life, that was depicted as him climbing up the backstop at Fenway Park.

“That may wind up happening with Trump,” D’Antonio says. “One day he might walk to Marine One stark naked and we’ll all just say: ‘This is the end. It has finally happened.’”

 

 

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I read Fear Strikes Out in high school and wrote a book report on it. I saw the movie.

I “met” Piersall once at an event held somewhere such as a shopping center where he was signing autographs and saw him play.

The incidents where he “went crazy” were in the early 1950’s and I do not remember them.

However, I am certain that he never climbed up a backstop, as I do recall seeing Anthony Perkins do in the film.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 7, 2018

why I like the game of baseball

 

‘why I like the game of baseball’

 

 

This essay of mime about baseball, which is slightly over 5,000 words long, has been posted above as a downloadable Word document.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   March 2018

 

 

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See also:

 

Roger W. Smith, “On Baseball”

 

https://rogersgleanings.com/2015/11/04/essay-on-baseball-by-roger-smith-may-2000/

Ted Williams’s last homerun: a footnote or two, and some trivia

 

 

 

 

Ted Williams's last homer.jpg

 

 

 

Everyone knows that Ted Williams, incredibly, homered in his last at bat in the final game of his Major League career at Boston’s Fenway Park.

He homered off Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jack Fisher with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning on a one-and-one count.

The date was September 28, 1960. It was an overcast day. There were 10,454 fans in attendance.

 

 

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Two acquaintances of mine saw the homerun.

My Brandeis University roommate John Ferris, when he was in junior high school, skipped school to attend Ted’s last game. He told me a story once that is worth repeating.

Williams had come up in the bottom of the fifth inning, batting against Orioles reliever Jack Fisher (pitching in relief). He hit a tremendous drive to right center field that barely missed being a homerun.

Here’s how it was described by sportswriter Ed Linn (who was at the game) in his book Hitter: The Life and Turmoils of Ted Williams:

As the ball jumped off the bat, the cry “He did it!” arose from the stands. Right-fielder Al Pilarcik ran back as far as he could, pressed his back against the bull-pen fence, well out from the 380-foot sign, and stood there motionless, with his hands at his side. …

At the last moment, Pilarcik brought up his hands and caught the ball chest high, close to 400 feet from the plate, A moan of disappointment settled over the field, followed by a rising hum of excited chatter, and then, as Ted came back to the first-base line to take his glove from Pumpsie Green, a standing ovation. [It was the third out.]

“Damn,” Ted said when he returned to the bench at the end of the inning. “I hit the living hell out of that one. I really stung it. If that one didn’t go out, nothing is going out today.”

My friend John Ferris described the play to me with relish and added a detail. He said that Pilarcik waited for the ball to come down (as described by Linn) with his back against the bullpen fence, caught it just before it cleared the fence, and then, made a gesture in which he turned toward the fans in right center field, shrugged his shoulders, and with body language seemed to be saying: “Sorry, but I couldn’t not catch the ball when I could.”

Not among the 10,454 paying customers but at the game in the eighth inning when Williams did homer was a relative of mine: McLaren Harris, then a graduate student at Boston University. As Harris told me years later, he had been listening to the game on the radio. Boston University is right next door to Fenway Park. Harris and his friends decided to attend the last couple of innings.

You could do that in those days because (besides the fact that the game was not a sellout), the Red Sox had a policy of opening the gates to fans after the seventh inning on. Anyone could enter for free. My older brother, friends, and I used to do this in the 1950’s.

So, Harris, with incredibly good fortune, arrived just in time to see Ted’s final homer.

 

 

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Some trivia about the game.

Gene Stephens was the left fielder for Baltimore. He went two for four with a double. It’s intriguing that he was playing on the opposing team because Stephens spent most of his career with the Red Sox. Stephens played for the Red Sox from 1952 until 1960, when he was traded (in mid season, on June 9) to the Orioles. I remember Stephens well because in the 1950’s he would always be entering the game in late innings as a replacement in left field for Williams. The sportswriters called him Ted Williams’s caddy.

It’s worth noting, also, that Stephens had been traded for Orioles outfielder Willie Tasby. In his famous piece about the game for The New Yorker, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” John Updike describes Williams warming up before the game by playing catch with Tasby. Tasby played center field that day.

Despite Williams’s homer, the Red Sox went into the bottom of the ninth trailing by a score of 4-3. With one out, Red Sox second baseman Marlan Coughtry singled off Fisher. Then pinch hitter Vic Wertz doubled, sending Coughtry to third. Vic Wertz, none other than the slugger whose fly ball to the deepest part of center field at the Polo Grounds in the first game of the 1954 World Series was caught by Willie Mays in a play that came to be known as The Catch.

Red Sox pitcher Tom Brewer came in to pinch run for Wertz. I remember Brewer well. He once came to speak to a church supper at the North Congregational Church in Cambridge, which my family attended, in the 1950’s.

The next batter was Pumpsie Green. He walked. The aforementioned Willie Tasby grounded to third. The second baseman, Billy Klaus, attempting to complete a double play, threw wildly to first. Coughtry and Brewer scored and the Red Sox won 5-4.

I recall Klaus well from the 1950’s, when he played shortstop for the Red Sox. He was traded to the Orioles after the 1958 season. Klaus began the 1959 season playing third base for the Orioles, but was replaced in mid-season by none other than Brooks Robinson and moved to shortstop.

Another piece of trivia. Gene Stephens was traded in 1961 by the Orioles to the Kansas City Athletics for first baseman Marv Throneberry: “Marvelous Marv” Throneberry. Throneberry was the starting first baseman for the 1962 New York Mets. (I remember “Marvelous Marv” best from Miller Beer ads). And, who was Marvelous Marv’s older brother? Faye Throneberry: an outfielder who played sparingly for the Red Sox in the 1950’s. I had his baseball card.

 

 

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A final observation.

John Updike’s 1960 New Yorker article about the game, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” is regarded as a classic.

Ed Linn also wrote an account that was published as “The Kid’s Last Game” in the February 1961 issue of Sport magazine and that is also contained in Linn’s book Hitter: The Life and Turmoils of Ted Williams (1993).

In my humble opinion, Linn’s account is more informative — there is no comparison when it comes to descriptive detail — and more telling. I prefer it to Updike’s.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2018

 
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Addendum:

 

Pitcher Jack Fisher’s recollections of that date are recorded in the following article:

Jack Fisher: So, What Was That Like?

By Elon Green

The New Yorker

May 1, 2014

 

 

At the end of a career that spanned four decades, Ted Williams announced his retirement from baseball, on September 26, 1960. Two days later, he played his last game—at home, in Boston, against the Baltimore Orioles.

Steve Barber was the starting pitcher for the Orioles. He allowed two runs in under an inning, and was replaced by a twenty-one-year-old right-hander, Jack Fisher.

In the seventh inning, with the Orioles ahead 4–2, Fisher threw Ted Williams—in his last at-bat—a fastball. Williams thwacked the ball toward center field. John Updike, who attended the game, tracked the ball’s trajectory as it “struck in the crotch where the bullpen met the wall, bounced chunkily, and, as far as I could see, vanished.”

Here is Jack Fisher’s memory of that day:

As you probably heard, it was a very cold, dank day type thing. Williams earlier had hit a ball off of me to right field—a fly ball that our right fielder, Al Pilarcik, caught back close to the warning track. So Williams had hit the ball pretty well that time, and I thought, Uh oh, but it was an out. So, it’s the seventh inning, and he comes up, and Jackie Jensen was their next hitter, right-hand hitter, and with the short left-field wall there, I thought, There’s no way I’m gonna pitch around Williams.

I think the first pitch was a ball. The next pitch—he swung and missed—was another fastball. The next pitch I just went to another fastball and he hit it out. Made the score four to three.

I mean, all I was trying to do was win the ballgame. The fact that he hit the home run wasn’t that big to me because I’d actually had pretty good success against him.

After he hit the home run, he went in [the dugout] and of course, as you know, he kind of ignored the fans and everything. And they were all standing and waiting and wanting him to come out of the dugout and wave to him or something like that. And finally, he’s sitting on the bench and he waved to me and said, “Go ahead and pitch. I’m not gettin’ up.” I actually stood behind the mound and waited for him to come out, but he didn’t.

We went back to Baltimore, probably by train, at that time. And got to the hotel room, and I thought I knew what hotel he stayed at in Boston. So I gave him a call, and asked for Ted Williams’s room. And I’ll be damned—they hooked me up, and Ted answered the phone! And I said, “Well, I guess I got to congratulate ya for, you know, retiring on a home run and everything.” He pretty much told me, at the time, “Hey, I wanna thank you for challenging me, and not really pitching around me or anything.” And I said, “Hell, I’m two runs up in the game. What am I pitching around you for?” So I did get to talk to him, that night after we got home.

One of the sportswriters looked it up, and he said that Williams lifetime was two for thirteen off of me. So I did all right against him.

Note that Fisher mentions that the cleanup hitter, following Williams, was Jackie Jensen. Jensen was not in the lineup that day. The cleanup hitter, batting fourth, was catcher Jim Pagliaroni. Jensen retired after the 1959 season and was not on the team in 1960. He returned to the Red Sox in 1961 and played one more season.

The Catch

 

 

In 1954, Arnold Hano, a recently retired editor-in-chief at Lion Books in New York who had decided to try and make it as a freelance writer, took the D train to the Polo Grounds in Manhattan to attend the first game of the 1954 World Series between the New York Giants and Cleveland Indians. Purchasing a two dollar and ten cents ticket, he sat in the bleachers and took notes during the game. His account of the game was published in 1955 by Bantam Books as A Day in the Bleachers.

The following is an excerpt from the book describing a defensive play by Giants center fielder Willie Mays in the top of the eighth inning which has come to be known as “The Catch.”

 

 

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And like wolves drawn to our fresh prey, we had already forgotten him [Giants starter Sal Maglie], eyes riveted on [relief pitcher Don] Liddle, while off to the side of the plate Vic Wertz studied the new Giant pitcher and made whatever estimations he had to make. Wertz had hit three times already; nobody expected more of him. He had hit one of Maglie’s fast balls in the first inning, a pitch that was headed for the outside corner but Wertz’ s bat was too swift and he had pulled the ball for a triple. Then he hit a little curve, a dinky affair that was either Maglie’s slider or a curve that didn’t break too well, and drove it into left field for a single, Finally, he had pulled another outside pitch that—by all rights—he shouldn’t have been able to pull, so far from the right” field side of the plate was it. But he had pulled it, as great sluggers will pull any ball because that is how home runs are made. Wertz hadn’t hit a home run on that waist” high pitch on the outside; he had rifled it to right field for another single.

But that was all off Maglie, forgotten behind a door over five hundred feet from the plate. Now it was Liddle, jerking into motion as Wertz poised at the plate, and then the motion smoothed out and the ball came sweeping in to Wertz, a shoulder-high pitch, a fast ball that probably would have been a fast curve, except that Wertz was coming around and hitting it, hitting it about as hard as I have ever seen a ball hit, on a high line to dead center field.

For whatever it is worth, I have seen such hitters as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Jimmy Foxx, Ralph Kiner, Hack Wilson, Johnny Mize, and lesser-known but equally long hitters as Wally Berger and Bob Seeds send the batted ball tremendous distances. None, that I recall, ever hit a ball any harder than this one by Wertz in my presence.

And yet I was not immediately perturbed. I have been a Giant fan for years, twenty-eight years to be exact, and I have seen balls hit with violence to extreme center field which were caught easily by Mays, or Thomson before him, or Lockman or Ripple or Hank Leiber or George Kiddo Davis, that most marvelous fly catcher.

I did not—then—feel alarm, though the crack was loud and clear, and the crowd’s roar rumbled behind it like growing thunder. It may be that I did not believe the ball would carry as far as it did, hard hit as it was. I have seen hard-hit balls go a hundred feet into an infielder’s waiting glove, and all that one remembers is crack, blur, spank. This ball did not alarm me because it was hit to dead center field—Mays’ territory—and not between the fielders, into those dread alleys in left-center and right-center which lead to the bullpens.

And this was not a terribly high drive. It was a long low fly or a high liner, whichever you wish. This ball was hit not nearly so high as the triple Wertz struck earlier in the day, so I may have assumed that it would soon start to break and dip and come down to Mays, not too far from his normal position.

Then I looked at Willie, and alarm raced through me, peril Haring against my heart. To my utter astonishment, the young Giant center fielder—the inimitable Mays, most skilled of outfielders, unique for his ability to scent the length and direction of any drive and then turn and move to the final destination of the ball—Mays was turned full around, head down, running as hard as he could, straight toward the runway between the two bleacher sections.

I knew then that I had underestimated—badly underestimated—the length of Wertz’s blow.

I wrenched my eyes from Mays and took another look at the ball, winging its way along, undipping, unbreaking, forty feet higher than Mays’ head, rushing along like a locomotive, nearing Mays, and I thought then: it will beat him to the wall.

Through the years I have tried to do what Red Barber has cautioned me and millions of admiring fans to do: take your eye from the ball after it’s been hit and look at the outfielder and the runners. This is a terribly difficult thing to learn; for twenty-five years I was unable to do it. Then I started to take stabs at the fielder and the ball, alternately. Now I do it pretty well. Barber’s advice pays off a thousand times in appreciation of what is unfolding, of what takes some six or seven seconds—that’s all, six or seven seconds—and of what I can see. in several takes, like a jerking motion picture, until I have enough pieces to make nearly a whole.

There is no perfect whole, of course, to a play in base­ball. If there was, it would require a God to take it all in. For instance, on such a play, I would like to know what Manager Durocher is doing-leaping to the outer lip of the sunken dugout, bent forward, frozen in anxious fear? And Lopez-is he also frozen, hope high but too anxious to let it swarm through him? The coaches-have they started to wave their arms in joy, getting the runners moving, or are they half-waiting, in fear of the impossible catch and the mad scramble that might ensue on the base paths?

The players—what have they done? The fans—-are they standing, or half-crouched, yelling (I hear them, but since I do not see them, I do not know who makes that noise, which of them yells and which is silent)? Has activity stopped in the Giant bullpen where Grissom still had been toiling? Was he now turned to watch the Hight of the ball, the churning dash of Mays?

No man can get the entire picture; I did what I could, and it was painful to rip my sight from one scene frozen forever on my mind, to the next, and then to the next.

I had seen the ball hit, its rise; I had seen Mays’ first backward sprint; I had again seen the ball and Mays at the same time, Mays still leading. Now I turned to the diamond —how long does it take the eyes to sweep and focus and telegraph to the brain?—and there was the vacant spot on the hill ( how often we see what is not there before we see what is there) where Liddle had been and I saw him at the third-base line, between home and third ( the wrong place for a pitcher on such a play; he should be behind third to cover a play there, or behind home to back up a play there, but not in between).

I saw Doby, too, hesitating, the only man, I think, on the diamond who now conceded that Mays might catch the ball. Doby is a center fielder and a fine one and very fast himself, so he knows what a center fielder can do. He must have gone nearly halfway to third, now he was coming back to second base a bit. Of course, he may have known that he could jog home if the ball landed over Mays’ head, so there was no need to get too far down the line.

Rosen was as near to second as Doby, it seemed. He had come down from first, and for a second—no, not that long, nowhere near that long, for a hundred-thousandth of a second, more likely—I thought Doby and Rosen were Dark and Williams hovering around second,’ making some foolish double play on this ball that had been hit three hundred and thirty feet past them. Then my mind cleared; they were in Cleveland uniforms, not Giant, they were Doby and Rosen.

And that is all I allowed my eyes on the inner diamond. Back now to Mays—had three seconds elapsed from the first ominous connection of bat and ball?—and I saw Mays do something that he seldom does and that is so often fatal to outfielders. For the briefest piece of time—I cannot shatter and compute fractions of seconds like some atom gun—Mays started to raise his head and turn it to his left, as though he were about to look behind him.

Then he thought better of it, and continued the swift race with the ball that hovered quite close to him now, thirty feet high and coming down (yes, finally coming down) and again—for the second time—I knew Mays would make the catch.

In the Polo Grounds, there are two square-ish green screens, flanking the runway between the two bleacher sections, one to the left-field side of the runway, the other to the right. The screens are intended to provide a solid dark background for the pitched ball as it comes in to the batter. Otherwise he would be trying to pick out the ball from a far-off sea of shirts of many colors, jackets, balloons, and banners.

Wertz’s drive, I could see now, was not going to end up in the runway on the fly; it was headed for the screen on the right-field side.

The fly, therefore, was not the longest ball ever hit in the Polo Grounds, not by a comfortable margin. Wally Berger had hit a ball over the left-field roof around the four-hundred foot marker. Joe Adcock had hit a ball into the center-field bleachers. A Giant pitcher, Hal Schumacher, had once hit a ball over the left-field roof, about as far out as Berger’s. Nor-if Mays caught it-would it be the longest ball ever caught in the Polo Grounds. In either the 1936 or 1937 World Series—I do not recall which—Joe DiMaggio and Hank Leiber traded gigantic smashes to the foot of the stairs within that runway; each man had caught the other’s. When DiMaggio caught Leiber’s, in fact, it meant the final out of the game. DiMaggio caught the ball and barely broke step to go up the stairs and out of sight before the crowd was fully aware of what had happened.

So Mays’ catch—if he made it—would not necessarily be in the realm of the improbable. Others had done feats that bore some resemblance to this.

Yet Mays’ catch—if, indeed, he was to make it—would dwarf all the others for the simple reason that he, too, could have caught Leiber’s or DiMaggio’s fly, whereas neither could have caught Wertz’s. Those balls had been towering drives, hit so high the outfielder could run for­ever before the ball came down. Wertz had hit his ball harder and on a lower trajectory. Leiber—not a fast man-­was nearing second base when DiMaggio caught his ball; Wertz-also not fast-was at first when …

When Mays simply slowed down to avoid running into the wall, put his hands up in cup-like fashion over his left shoulder, and caught the ball much like a football player catching leading passes in the end zone.

He had turned so quickly, and run so fast and truly that he made this impossible catch look—to us in the bleachers —quite ordinary. To those reporters in the press box, nearly six hundred feet from the bleacher wall, it must have appeared far more astonishing, watching Mays run and run until he had become the size of a pigmy and then he had run some more, while the ball diminished to a mote of white dust and finally disappeared in the ‘dark blob that was Mays’ mitt.

The play was not finished, with the catch.

Now another pet theory of mine could be put to the test. For years I have criticized baserunners who advance from second base while a long fly ball is in the air, then return to the base once the catch has been made and proceed to third after tagging up. I have wondered why these men have not held their base; if the ball is not caught, they can score from second. If it is, surely they will reach third. And—if they are swift—should they not be able to score from second on enormously long flies to dead center field?

Here was such a fly; here was Doby so close to second before the catch that he must have practically been touching the bag when Mays was first touching the drive, his back to the diamond. Now Doby could—if he dared—test the theory.

And immediately I saw how foolish my theory was when the thrower was Mays.

It is here that Mays outshines all others. I do not think the catch made was as sensational as some others I have seen, although no one else could have made it. I recall a catch made by Fred Lindstrom, a converted third baseman who had bad legs, against Pittsburgh. Lindstrom ran to the right-center field wall beyond the Giants’ bullpen and leaped high to snare the ball with his gloved hand. Then his body smashed into the wall and he fell on his back, his gloved hand held over his body, the speck of white still showing. After a few seconds, he got to his feet, quite groggy, but still holding the ball. That was the finest catch I can recall, and the account of the game in next day’s New York Herald-Tribune indicated it might have been the greatest catch ever made in the Polo Grounds.

Yet Lindstrom could not have reached the ball Wertz hit and Mays would have been standing at the wall, ready to leap and catch the ball Lindstrom grabbed.

Mays never left his feet for the ball Wertz hit; all he did was outrun the ball. I do not diminish the feat; no other center fielder that I have ever seen (Joe and Dom DiMaggio, Terry Moore, Sammy West, Eddie Roush, Earle Combs, and Duke Snider are but a few that stand out) could have done it for no one else was as fast in getting to the ball. But I am of the opinion that had not Mays made that slight movement with his head as though he were going to look back in the middle of flight, he would have caught the ball standing still.

The throw to second base was something else again.

Mays caught the ball, and then whirled and threw, like some olden statue of a Greek javelin hurler, his head twisted away to the left as his right arm swept out and around. But Mays is no classic study for the simple reason that at the peak of his activity, his baseball cap flies off. And as he turned, or as he threw—I could not tell which, the two motions were welded into one—off came the cap, and then Mays himself continued to spin around after the gigantic effort of returning the ball whence it came, and he went down flat on his belly, and out of sight.

But the throw! What an astonishing throw, to make all other throws ever before it, even those four Mays himself had made during fielding practice, appear the flings of teen-age girls. This was the throw of a giant, the throw of a howitzer made human, arriving at second base-to Williams or Dark, I don’t know which, but probably Williams, my memory says Dark was a?? the edge of the outfield grass, in deep shortstop position just as Doby was pulling into third, and as Rosen was scampering back to first.

 

 

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This is a marvelous piece of writing. What impresses me most is how Hano was able — so successfully — to do something that he had been advised (as he notes) by broadcaster Red Barber to do: “take your eye from the ball after it’s been hit and look at the outfielder and the runners.” In other words, take in the whole field. This is something that one can do at the ballpark, but not while watching a game on television.

It is as if Hano had suspended time. How was he able to break a play which took only a few seconds, and which was spectacular, into its component parts, as it were, so one can appreciate its splendor fully: the situation, the flight of the ball, Mays’s pursuit, the base runners (where they were and how it was relevant to the play), Mays’s throw after the catch?

It has been said, by sportswriter Ray Robinson in a foreword to a 50th anniversary edition of A Day in the Bleachers, that Hano writes quickly. As Robinson says, “he wrote Bleachers in about the same time as it takes most people to run a marathon—yet he managed to turn a half-dozen hours on a bleachers pew into a tight-knit masterpiece. The book, in my mind, is a gem of clarity and honest observation, a tribute to Arnold’s reporting skills.”

Yes, indeed. Reporting as well as writing skills. He fashioned his hastily scribbled notes into a masterpiece. Based upon notes taken while sitting in the bleachers with ordinary fans, not in the press box.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     January 2018

 

 

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Arnold Hano

leave baseball alone!

 

 

This post is about baseball.

It’s a little out of date, since most of details refer to the 2017 season.

Well, anyway, it’s the Hot Stove League season, right?

 

 

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First, about an adjustment that has been made in baseball’s rules.

A single game from last fall illustrates what I wish to discuss.

On September 14, 2017, in game 1 of the National League Championship Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs by a score of 5 to 2. An article about the game in the New York Times of October 15 discussed a key play.

The play occurred in the bottom half of the seventh inning. Charlie Culberson, a replacement for injured Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, hit a double off Cubs starter John Lackey. The next batter, third baseman Justin Turner, singled to left field. Culberson was initially ruled out at home on a terrific throw from Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber and tag by catcher Willson Contreras. But after a replay review, Culberson was ruled safe because Contreras was deemed to have violated the collision rule by not leaving Culberson a path to the plate.

The ruling incensed Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who argued with the umpires and was ejected.

“It’s wrong,” he said. “I think anybody that’s played major league or minor league baseball will agree with me 100 percent on that.”

Maddon added, “All rules that are created and laws aren’t necessarily good ones.”

I agree with Madden. This rule takes a lot of drama out of home plate plays. It’s a pantywaist rule designed to project the catcher from collisions. Sorry! (Maybe the catcher should make a polite bow, doff his cap, and congratulate the runner.) They’re inevitable. They’re part of baseball. As are beanballs now and then.

The throw that nipped Culberson and the tag must have been beautiful to watch. A nitpicking rule propagated by fussbudgets should not have nullified them.

 

 

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In July 2017, the New York Mets extended the netting at Citi Field halfway into the outfield. Many, but not all, fans expressed displeasure with the change.

As explained in a New York Times article by sportswriter Wallace Matthews (“Eyesore or Blessing? New Safety Feature at Citi Field Divides Fans,” July 23, 2017):

To some, [the netting] is an eyesore, a reason not to come to the ballpark and additional evidence of a Nanny State run amok.

But to others, it is an added layer of security that allows them to watch a baseball game — or not watch it, as the case may be — without the fear of being injured or the burden of constantly being on alert.

I’m on the side of the first group. Surprised?

I wrote a letter to the editor that was not published.

 

TO THE EDITOR

New York Times

July 24, 2017

Re: “Eyesore or Blessing? New Safety Feature at Citi Field Divides Fans” (July 23):

I grew up watching baseball games at Fenway Park in Boston in the 1950’s.

When one emerged from the stadium entrance into the stands, the first thing one noticed was the beautiful view of the landscaped field with (regardless of lateness of season) its deep green grass, which invariably would take my breath away. There was no annoying electronic scoreboard, only a PA system.

I thought Citi Field was nicely designed with good sight lines and that it was, without question, an improvement over Shea Stadium.

I won’t be attending any more games there.

Roger W. Smith

 

Then, on September 20, 2017, a girl at Yankee Stadium was injured by a foul ball off the bat of Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier. A couple of weeks ago, in January 2018, the Yankees announced that they will extend protective netting far down the foul lines next season at Yankee Stadium in the hopes of preventing fans from being struck by hard-hit foul balls.

 

 

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What does the “philosopher” and baseball fan Roger W. Smith think about all of this?

Risks are inherent in all of life. Accidents happen. If we wanted to avoid all possibility of them, we would, for example, never let anyone get behind the wheel.

Leave baseball alone. It’s a beautiful sport and is not inherently violent.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   January 2018

a baseball story

 

My high school English teacher, Robert W. Tighe, was, for some reason I never knew, a New York Yankees fan.

This, despite the fact that, as far as I knew, he was raised in Massachusetts.

He used to argue, for the fun of it, with my older brother, who also had him for a teacher, about all sorts of things, such as baseball, religion, and the Civil War.

He told my brother, who was a Red Sox fan (as was I) and was sympathetic to the South, that he was “the patron of lost causes.” (Mr. Tighe had a mordant wit. He also prided himself on being able to see things clearly through the fog of idealism, much like one of his intellectual heroes, Samuel Johnson.)

 

 

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Mr. Tighe was an avid baseball fan.

He told my brother a story.

He was at a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park. I think he said Red Ruffing was pitching for the Yankees.

One of the pitchers may have been pitching a no hitter. I don’t remember exactly what our teacher was said to have said. But, anyway, the game was tied at 0-0 through around six innings, and suspense was mounting. It was a true pitcher’s battle.

In the middle of the game, a woman who had arrived very late made her way to her seat. Everyone had to stand up in the middle of the inning to let her pass.

She asked someone what was the score.

“Nothing to nothing,” they replied.

“Oh, good, I haven’t missed anything,” she said.

 

— Roger W. Smith

    January 2008

 

 

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Thanks, and a tip of the hat — with a nod to the late American cartoonist Jimmy (“a Tip of the Hatlo hat”) Hatlo — to my brother A. W. (Pete) Smith, Jr. for relating this story to me. I wonder if he recalls telling me it!

a Manhattan jaunt

 

 

Yesterday, Sunday, November 12, I set out from my house, intending to walk the whole perimeter of Manhattan. It is a walk of around 32 miles and is said to take 12 to 15 hours. I started from 63rd Street and Second Avenue at around 7:30 a.m.

I didn’t make it. I stopped a couple of times for coffee breaks. This extended the length of my walk. By late afternoon, as darkness was coming on, I had only gotten about halfway. I was also getting tired. I would guess that I did around half the distance, a bit less. Maybe 13 or 14 miles.

If I had kept going, I would not have gotten back to my starting point, 63rd Street and Second Avenue, until probably around midnight.

Below are some photos from my jaunt.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

  November 13, 2017

 

 

Addendum: I have commented in several posts about what I perceive to be the beneficial health effects of walking. Yesterday was a very nice day, cold but clear and sunny. I had been feeling under the weather. For me, the best medicine for a cold is exercise and, especially, fresh air.

 

 

 

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photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

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starting point; Second Avenue at 63rd Street

 

 

 

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East River, early Sunday morning

 

 

 

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East 74th Street

 

 

 

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Carl Schurz Park and Gracie Mansion; Yorkville

 

 

Carl Schurz Park is located in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. The mayor’s residence, Gracie Mansion, is located there.

 

 

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Carl Schurz Park

 

 

 

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Carl Schurz Park

 

 

 

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Gracie Mansion

 

 

 

 

 

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Yorkville

 

 

 

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York Avenue at 90th Street

 

 

 

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Harlem

 

As one progresses along First Avenue, one eventually runs into a roadblock of sorts. Not an actual roadblock, but at around 125th Street, the Harlem River impedes one’s northerly progress. One has to start veering west following the curvature of Manhattan Island. One proceeds northerly through Harlem, continually veering west.

The area of First Avenue (and avenues slightly to the west) from around 90th Street to 125th Street is very bleak. There are hardly any restaurants, business establishments, or places of interest. The occasional gas station (a rarity in most of Manhattan).

One might expect such an area to become gradually gentrified, as the rest of the City has. What seems to prevent this are the bleak housing projects, built during the 1950’s in the “slum clearance” era when the poor and minorities were as a matter of policy moved to Soviet style housing projects favored by misguided (to put it kindly) city planners. These housing blocks have no personality and are grim architecturally. There are no commercial establishments nearby.

Harlem proper, which is to say the blocks in the part of Harlem further west, is a very nice area; it is becoming (and already has become, for the most part) gentrified.

 

 

 

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Polo Grounds Towers

Around 155th Street as I kept veering west, I took what I thought was a through street and ended up in a cul-de-sac. I realized I was in the midst of housing project. It turned out to be the Polo Grounds Towers, site of the home of the former New York Giants baseball team. The Polo Grounds stadium, home of the Giants, was demolished in 1964.

As I emerged from the housing project, I walked up a long, very steep stairway on which were painted the following words: “The John T. Brush Stairway Presented by the New York Giants.” John T. Brush (1845-1912) was one of the first owners of the New York Giants baseball team.

At the top of the stairway was Edgecombe Avenue. There was no traffic and not a pedestrian in sight. Across the street was a promontory which, though I had never been in this area before, I realized had to be Coogan’s Bluff. As noted in a Wikipedia entry, “A deep escarpment descends 175 feet from Edgecombe Avenue to the river, creating a sheltered area between the bluff and river known as Coogan’s Hollow. For 83 years, the hollow was home to the legendary Polo Grounds sports stadium.” Sportswriter Red Smith called Bobby Thomson’s homerun to clinch the 1951 pennant for the New York Giants “the miracle of Coogan’s Bluff.”

 

 

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Coogan’s Bluff

 

 

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Washington Heights

 

 

 

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Fort Tyron Park

 

 

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Broadway, Washington Heights; Broadway extends the whole length of Manhattan, and further

 

 

 

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Inwood

 

 

 

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Dyckman Street

 

 

 

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Inwood Hill Park

 

 

 

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Hudson River from Inwood Hill Park

 

 

 

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The Capuchin Franciscans of Good Shepherd church, Inwood

 

 

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Isham Park, Inwood

 

 

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Isham Park

 

 

 

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Broadway and 218th Street; the northernmost point of Manhattan, at the boundary between Manhattan and The Bronx