Archive for category baseball

Recent searches carried out by myself in pursuit of immediately critical information

From newest to oldest:
“gay pride penguin”
“fantasy baseball 101″
“cross-quarter day”
“steve zissou” (image search)
“super nintendo harvest moon”

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“God must have needed a shortstop.”

Phil Rizzuto, the legendary announcer and long-time shortstop for the New York Yankees, passed away in his sleep at age 89. He believed he had the best life that a man could wish for, and it seems that his luck carried him right up to the end. His luck apparently carried him to the end. His Hall Hall of Fame induction speech gives some indication of his status in the game, his humility, and his character. Even Yogi Berra can laugh at him!

Though he’s not been an active announcer for years, the fact that he was (by grace of WPIX) in the living room every night made him seem like a member of the family, some eccentric great uncle. He made baseball interesting for a 5 year old. Snatches of history, random observations of the weather or the moon–it all fit. There was a narrative to the game, and he let it through. His accent and perspective were grounded in personal experience, with no apologies.

Sometimes he’d hit on something particularly apt in his ramblings, and many of these have been transcribed into poetry. This one may be one of his best, and is certainly worth remembering on this occasion:

“Prayer for the Captain”

There’s a little prayer I always say
Whenever I think of my family or when I’m flying,
When I’m afraid, and I am afraid of flying.
It’s just a little one. You can say it no matter what,
Whether you’re Catholic or Jewish or Protestant or whatever.
And I’ve probably said it a thousand times
Since I heard the news on Thurman Munson.

It’s not trying to be maudlin or anything.
His Eminence, Cardinal Cooke, is going to come out
And say a little prayer for Thurman Munson.
But this is just a little one I say time and time again,
It’s just: Angel of God, Thurman’s guardian dear,
To whom his love commits him here, there or everywhere,
Ever this night and day be at his side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.

For some reason it makes me feel like I’m talking to Thurman,
Or whoever’s name you put in there,
Whether it be my wife or any of my children, my parents or anything.
It’s just something to keep you really from going bananas.
Because if you let this,
If you keep thinking about what happened, and you can’t understand it,
That’s what really drives you to despair.

Faith. You gotta have faith.
You know, they say time heals all wounds,
And I don’t quite agree with that a hundred percent.
It gets you to cope with wounds.
You carry them the rest of your life.

August 3, 1979
Baltimore at New York
Pregame show


The excitements of spring part 2: beisbol!

The season officially starts with a game on Sunday, and I’ve already got 3 fantasy teams set. Yes, I’m a goon for baseball: it means that the hazy pollen cloud of Spring is passing and that glorious summer (associated with things like school vacation, my birthday, and ice cream eaten under starlight) is upon us. Even though summer no longer means endless sloth (unless that’s a code for heat exhaustion), it’s still an exciting time. Every night of summer, after dinner, there was baseball: spend the day running around the yard pretending to be Carl Yastrzemski, swinging for the bleechers that were really just a row of pine trees, and then wating Yaz with my grandparents. Reading box scores before going to high school in the morning. Grading exams in graduate school during the playoffs.

Baseball doesn’t have the non-stop action of basketball, or the gladiator appeal of American football. It has careful strategy and a pace that allows for thought. Cricket fans tell me that part of their enjoyment comes from the fact the matches are so long that you can relax and have a drink and talk to friends. This is baseball too: the thrilling moments are punctuated with langorous pauses. There is a narrative, there is history. The stories behind the game add to its richness: as a kid I absorbed the poetry of Phil Rizzuto, whose stories of old players and his own mishaps were punctuated with updates on what happened of the field. Here’s a sample:

The Bridge

Two balls and a strike.
You know what they had on TV today, White?
Bridge on the River Kwai
Everybody should have gotten an Academy Award for
that movie.
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it.
About forty times.
Alec Guinness!
William Holden!
Three and one the count.
I just heard somebody whistle.
You know that song?
That’s what they whistle.
Nobody out.
And he pops it up.

–May 5, 1987
New York at Chicago
Joe Niekro pitching to Carlton Fisk
Second inning, no outs, bases empty
No score

The dear Scooter has retired, but Yongi and I have found a new favorite. He’s a charming legend who worked a borough over from Rizzuto when the Scooter was still rounding the basepaths with a wad of gum on his helmet, back when the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn (i.e. before 1957). Vin Scully could singlehandedly convert a person to loving the sport with his skill. He’ll quote Shakespeare and gush over a cute baby in the stands in the same inning that he explains how a particular shortstop’s movements remind him of one of the great players of the day. He works alone in the booth, unlike other announcers who pair up to keep the conversation moving. It’s an odd thing to say about someone whose job it is to talk, but the thing Vin does best is to be quiet. When there’s dramatic tension in a critical moment, Vin stops talking. He lets the sounds of the game fill your ears, the roar of the crowd after a home run, or more famously, a perfect game. Scroll down for the Sandy Koufax transcript and read it. You’ll get goosebumps. 38 seconds of the crowd cheering! There’s no hooting or raving about how great something was, he knows you saw it the same as him–even though it was on the radio, you can see every detail in your mind.

I know that baseball has faced trouble in recent years with the steroid problems, labor issues and primadonnas, but it retains an ability to captivate and bring wonder into a summer evening like few other things. If you’re not convinced, I’ll just eat your share of the cracker jack.


Introducing Sweek

You’ve seen him in the banner of the site and some other pictures, but who is this mysterious yellow bit of fuzz?

It’s Sweek!

Sweek travels with Yongi and myself and often demands that we take pictures of him along the way. He’s a very insistent little fellow (so much squeaking!), so we’ve indulged him often. He’s been with us for several years now, and over that time has developed a keen interest in baseball, museums, and dessert.

The parrots are not so keen on him, so they don’t ever play together. In fact, Sweek’s squeaks seem to alarm them.

When we’re not traveling, Sweek spends his time with Lev the Dromaeosaur. During the baseball season he cheers for the Seattle Mariners, even though he wasn’t able to get his picture with Ichiro.


Memories of Youppi

Youppi and Sweek

No one was really sure what he was, but Youppi‘s existence is now even more uncertain: he’s been sold. Honestly I can’t picture him anywhere but in Montreal, doing anything but cheering on the Expos–but that’s me. Surely someone out there has deeper vision (in orange).
This fellow recounts the joy of being Youppi. In French if you prefer.

Edit August 14, 2006: Don’t link directly to images on another person’s site. Stealing bandwidth is exactly that: stealing. Not to mention that Phillies fans didn’t even have the courtesy to cite the source of the photo. That’s just plain rude.
Edit May 21, 2007: Enough with the hotlinking!

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