All posts tagged: Baseball

Bumpy roads often lead to beautiful places

When much-maligned Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez was asked how he felt after his ballclub just completed an improbable four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series (NLCS), he went back to something his mother told him: “Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places.” Then, in light of earning the franchise’s first trip to the World Series, he added, “And this is a beautiful place.” Oh, is it ever! NLCS Most Valuable Player Howie Kendrick—one of 18 resident “Los Viejos” (the Old Men) on the Nats playoff roster over the age of 30—said, “I can truly say this is the best time of my career, the best moment of my career this year.” I can add that in my 55 years of being enthralled by baseball—beginning as a nine-year-old with a 1964 trip to Wrigley Field on a family vacation to see the Cubs play Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals; to following Willie Mays and the San Francisco Giants from afar, as a kid growing up in Middle …

Now That Was Exciting!

I was there for Game 5 of the 2012 National League Division Series, camera up and ready to capture Drew Storen throwing the division-winning strike that never came. Two years later I was in the stands when rookie manager Matt Williams walked to the mound in the top of the 9th. There stood Jordan Zimmermann, just one out away from completing two of the most amazing back-to-back games with a potential win in Game 2 of the 2014 National League Division Series following his no-hitter to end the season. Only Williams never gives him the chance. Williams pulls Zimm from the game and puts in . . . yes . . . Drew Storen. Who in this instance quickly gave up two hits and one run and the Nats went on to lose the game in an excruciating 18 innings. And there was more in 2014, 2016, and 2017. Yes, there’s a pattern here. So the bottom of the 8th and the top of the 9th in last night’s National League Wild Card game was …

Ballpark

The latest stop on my quest to visit all 30 Major League ballparks* found me, earlier this week, with a friend at the front gate of Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. It had taken almost an hour by train during the height of the evening commute to get from midtown Manhattan to Flushing. After stepping off the subway, I was disappointed to find the ballpark—home to one of two major league baseball teams in the nation’s largest city—in what was essentially a suburban setting, surrounded by parking lots. The game had just begun so we stopped only briefly to take in the entry rotunda, yet even that short pause made me think of the gateway to Ebbets Field, the famous home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was only later that I discovered that the ballpark was in its unfortunate location thanks to that old enemy of urbanism, Robert Moses. And yes, the owners of the Mets had appropriated the Brooklyn Dodgers and the “New York City history of the National League as …

A Weird Night at the Ballpark

Maybe it was the full harvest moon over a packed Nationals Park on Friday the 13th.* Perhaps it was the insertion of Jason—the villain with the hockey mask from the Friday the 13th movies—into the President’s Race. (He favored Teddy for some reason unbeknownst to me.) Who knows for sure . . . but it was a weird night at the ballpark. Beginning with the national anthem. Did I mention that Washington was highlighting National Truck Driver Appreciation Week? Well, the singer of the Star Spangled Banner was a trucker who brought his guitar to the stadium. After strumming the opening chord, he sang an enthusiastic—if not exactly on-key—version, which would have been okay if he had dropped the idea of bringing the guitar back into play while still singing. Suffice it to say, our friend did not quite match the pitch of the guitar at the end of the anthem, which I could see coming. It was a “don’t give up your day job” moment. While it was a Friday night in September, it was …

It Gets Late Early Out Here

A couple—friends since our years in Staunton in the 1980s—came to visit this weekend. We spent most of our time over the past three days cooking, drinking wine, eating, playing guitars, and talking. But mostly talking. No matter if it has been a decade since college and you’re meeting with your former classmates at a wedding, or almost four decades since you moved to a new town and established lasting relationships, when you gather with long-time friends the stories pick up where you last left off and weekends can turn magical. The legendary New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once noted that towards the end of his career he played a good number of games in left field. When World Series games were still played in the daylight, left field in old Yankees Stadium could be difficult to navigate because of the deep, autumn shadows. Berra was asked about playing that position and he said, “It gets late early out here.” People laughed, but Berra recalled that someone told him that there is truth in …

It Takes However Long It Takes

After his death, Stephen Jay Gould, the great paleontologist and scholar of evolutionary history, was still teaching about a subject he loved—through a posthumous book of essays about baseball. Gould and other famous scholars and writers—individuals such as historians David Halberstam and Doris Kearns Goodwin, novelist John Updike, financial journalist Michael Lewis, and New Yorker essayist Roger Angell—have all written with a special affinity for the game. Ken Burns found many of them for his 9-part PBS documentary Baseball. Yes, even poet Walt Whitman wrote about baseball in the mid-nineteenth century. I’m here to report that we have a candidate for the 2019 addition to the “smart people write about baseball” library. Let’s see what it might tell us about baseball, and life. Infinite Baseball: Notes from a Philosopher at the Ballpark is a short and entertaining work written by Alva Noë, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifelong New York Mets fan. I went against my standing policy of rejecting books with jacket blurbs by George Will and took …

The NFL Season Begins Anew. Heaven Help Us.

Late yesterday afternoon I was watching a bit of ESPN. Suddenly, the excitement level of the announcers’ voices rose significantly as they began talking about “THE FIRST NFL PRE-SEASON GAME OF THE YEAR” scheduled for later that evening. On August 1st. Doesn’t this thing ever go away? Heaven help us. We’re in the midst of a baseball pennant race where, with two months to go, 17 teams are either division leaders or within four games of the two wild-card slots in each league and thus have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs. Teams are going on improbable streaks (I’m looking at you, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants). Strong teams (Houston) just made themselves better with deadline trades, while other teams (New York Yankees and Washington Nationals) left their fans disappointed by their lack of imagination and just plain guts in filling in their weaknesses. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to watch (and talk about) around baseball. But noooo. We have to hear about pro football ad infinitum. Well, I’m (still) …