The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

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You Gotta Love These Guys

DeGrom / Murphy after Game 1 Press Conference:

The Great Game Is In Good Hands

Here’s an excellent write-up of the All-Star Game, and of baseball’s most recent youth movement.

On Sports and Life

A NOTE TO READERS: Both of next week’s scheduled posts will be delayed by one day. Thank you as always for your continued support.

Tuesday night began with an extended tribute to the Great Game’s glorious past. The Midsummer Classic, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, always includes an element of nostalgia. At a minimum fans are treated to the sight of an aging but still beloved hero, a former star for the franchise that calls that year’s venue home, striding to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. In recent years it was George Brett in Kansas City in 2012, Rod Carew in Anaheim in 2010, and a quartet of former Yankees at the Stadium in 2008. All have taken their turn, waving and smiling as thunderous cheers rolled down from the stands and washed over them like a sea-foam of adulation.

At times the center of attention…

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The Sum of All Sins

The gray rain pelted the parlor window of the little brick house, like crutches tapping lightly on a tin roof.  A single tallow candle stood sentry in the gloom, betraying the darkness clutching the corners of the room.  All was quiet, but for the slow simmering of Katie’s casserole on the stovetop.  Supper would be at 5:30, as always, even if the power remained out all night.

The swooshing of a car sliding by in the rain made him think of those lonely nights in Chicago’s South-Side. Collecting three hits could take the edge off, just a little, but being away from Katie always left him maudlin and morose.  And even late in the summer, the wind rippling off the river left him longing for Greenville’s gentle spring breeze, the smell of crape myrtles fragrant as a chorus of spring peepers filled the night.

Not a drinker himself, but the boys — Chick, Swede and Lefty — certainly did try to put a nightcap on the nightcap nearly every night.

What’s done is done, but how the years drag by when you’re reduced to living in your own shadow.  Like watching your grave get dug one shovel-full per day, a cawing crow topped upon his perch, all noisy accusations and nowhere to hide.  “Joe, say it ain’t so!”

The money?  Got him banned for life, but who the hell knows what Katie did with it?  Still, the liquor store paid the light bill, that is, when the lights weren’t knocked out by blowing storm.  Just enough light now to read by.

Greenville News didn’t quite make it a headline, but they couldn’t exactly bury it, either.  Not everyday a Negro got lynched anymore, not even around here.  His sixty-year old, still bat-calloused hands trembled slightly as he read the news.

Willie Earle.  Never heard of the kid.  Why would he?  But he did recognize some of the other names.  Cab drivers, mostly.  Liked to stand around back up at West Court Street when they was bored, drinking, or both. Passed around a bottle, he read.  Whiskey.  Like what he sold.

Probably, they’d be by tomorrow, some of them, telling their story like they was relating a fishing expedition, the high point being that they’d caught what they was after.

“Joe,” they’d say, “You should have seen him.” Their eyes would flash and twinkle in the bottles’ refracted reflection as they faithfully recalled each detail of their trip out to Pickens County and back.

Got his start out that way, at a mill sweeping floors, the machinery so loud men put cotton in their ears, though the fibers found a way into every pore of their bodies anyway, lungs clogged by 40, if you didn’t lose a hand first.

Governor Thurmond said he’d catch the vigilantes and prosecute to the full extent of the law.  Like Judge Landis, only even more Southern, if that was possible.  But ’47 wasn’t ’19.  There was talk that Truman might integrate the colored soldiers with the whites, and now you could buy a bottle of liquor at your neighborhood store, just like his.  But guys making bad decisions they’d be remembered for long after they were gone? That would never change.

He looked out at the darkness and the rain, the casserole growing cold.  Katie long since in bed.  (She knew enough to leave him alone with his thoughts.)  Violence filled the night sky, purple lightning and cannon thunder, a cacophony of random fury as the candle’s thin flame flickered once, then twice, then died and was gone.

Article from “The Guardian”

I don’t usually post / reprint articles from newspapers or news magazines in this space, but I just finished reading this one in the British publication, “The Guardian” (U.S. Edition), written by Jonathan Bernhardt, and thought it was more than worth the use of my space.  See what you think:

The Rich Get Richer…

Word is that the Nationals have signed free agent pitcher Max Scherzer to a seven-year deal.  Scherzer joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark in an unbelievable rotation.  It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Nationals win a hundred games in 2015.  They led the N.L. with 96 wins last year, and that was with Bryce Harper missing 62 games, and Ryan Zimmerman missing 101 games.  Adding Scherzer to this squad is akin to cutting Mitt Romney’s capital gains tax by another 10%.  The rich just got richer.

Meanwhile, in case you missed it, the world’s richest 85 people now have as much wealth as the world’s poorest 3.5 billion. Oxfam now estimates that by next year, the richest 1% will own about 50% of the world’s wealth.  Currently in the U.S., the bottom 90% of American families average wealth is exactly the same as it was in 1986, meaning that despite all the productivity gains that have occurred over the past quarter of a century, in effect, none of those gains have benefited the vast majority of Americans.  The richest 10%, however, have seen their cumulative wealth triple during that same period of time.

The wealthiest 1% will soon own more than the rest of us combined.  Yet, in a gratuitous display of ignorance characterized by being completely immune from the real world, in a recent poll, the wealthy apparently truly believe that the poor “have it easy.”

But Americans have long history of obsequious fascination with the rich, and the upper middle class in particular seem to personally identify with the wealthiest Americans more than they do with the poorest Americans, or even with the working class, to whom in reality they are much closer (economically speaking) than they are to the wealthy.

Similarly, in baseball, Americans love a winner.  With the impressive roster that the Nationals have accumulated this year, attendance should be strong in Washington, D.C. for the Nats home games, just as it was in New York when the Yankees were the strongest team in baseball about fifteen years ago.

A nation of optimists, we identify with those who publicly display confidence, success and a sunny disposition, as Americans did when Ronald Reagan was President during the 1980’s.  We live vicariously through their success stories as we dream that someday they could one day be our own, even as those with the sunny smiles are already busily creating the conditions that actually ensure fewer and fewer of us will ever be able to reach those lofty summits.

While no one should feel sorry for the mere millionaires who own the struggling Major League franchises due to sheer incompetence or poorly executed planning, for the millions of struggling people in America, and throughout the world, life is not a game where we even if we screw up, at the end of the day we still get to sit in our private luxury box, secure and confident in our privileged lives which we begin to rationalize are of necessity worth far more than the lives of the millions around us, and of whom even God himself must deign to smile upon if he hopes to remain relevant.

Major League Baseball All-Star Game Records

Hey Gang, I decided to re-blog this post I did last year regarding the All Star Game. Hope you don’t mind.

The On Deck Circle

The first MLB All-Star Game was played at Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 6, 1933.  Babe Ruth hit the first All-Star Game home run, leading the A.L. to a 4-2 win over the N.L.

Here are several MLB All-Star Game records which may peak your interest.

Original description: Willie Mays, standing, w... Willie Mays batted .307 in 24 All-Star Game appearances.

Most All-Star Games played:  24 (Three players)

1)  Stan Musial

2)  Willie Mays

3)  Hank Aaron

Most All-Star Game At Bats:  75, Willie Mays

Most All-Star Game Hits:  23, Willie Mays (.307 All-Star Game batting average)

Highest All-Star Game career Batting Average (minimum, 5 games):  .500, Charlie Gehringer (10 for 20)

Most All-Star Game Runs Scored:  20,Willie Mays

Most All-Star Game Stolen Bases:  6, Willie Mays

Most All-Star Game Home Runs:  6, Stan Musial

Most All-Star Game RBI:  12, Ted Williams

Number of batters who led-off an All-Star Game with a home run:  5

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I do believe you’ll enjoy this post as much as I did.


Verdun2 Hits this one out of the park! Great stuff.

Verdun2's Blog

Willie McCovey Willie McCovey

When I was in Viet Nam I got hit in the arm and had to spend a few days in the walking wounded ward at the base hospital. Most of the guys there were baseball fans so we talked a lot of ball. One of the doctors was a Giants fan and would join us for a few minutes when he made his rounds. He kept talking about how much he was impressed by “Willie” and of course we all presumed he meant Mays. It took a couple of days to figure out he was a big fan of Willie McCovey.

Let’s be honest here, no one ever wanted McCovey for his glove. “Stretch” played because he could pound the ball harder than anyone in captivity, including teammate Mays. He was a pure power hitter, a run producer, and has slipped out of the conversations about baseball today.

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A Cloud Hangs Over Red Sox Nation

One helluva read. Baseball writing, or any other kind of writing, doesn’t get much better than this.

On Sports and Life

Few big cities are home to sports fans more passionate than those in Boston, and at least in recent years scarcely any other metropolis has fielded a set of teams that have given their fans more reason to cheer. Since 2001 the Patriots have won three Super Bowls. The Celtics won their league-leading 17th NBA championship in 2008. The Bruins ended a nearly four decade long drought with a Stanley Cup title three seasons ago, and were back in the Finals last spring. Then there are the Red Sox, who under the ownership of John Henry have become one of the Great Game’s elite franchises, winning three World Series trophies in the last decade.

The success of the Sox has brought joy to fans of long-standing, who suffered through their portion of the 86 years between one title in 1918 and the first of the recent string in 2004; and…

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Do You Enjoy Baseball as Much as You Used to?

Let Arne know what you think.

Misc. Baseball

This question is aimed at people who started following major league baseball before the late ‘90s, that is, before the Internet became a big deal, before every game of a season was televised, and before the home run boom really got going. Was MLB more enjoyable in the earlier years? If it was, did that result from you being younger, or from changes in MLB and how it’s presented by legacy media and on the Web?

I think if you remain a baseball fan after the transition from adolescence to adulthood, you inevitably realize that many, maybe most of the players in MLB have few exceptional qualities beyond their ability to play baseball. Certainly they are not, in any moral sense, better than the ordinary human being. This produces a more skeptical attitude toward MLB: the raw emotional attachment to teams and players goes away, and so you enjoy the…

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