Baseball postsMonday December 30, 2013
When Hot Dogs > Steroids
“Babe Ruth's home run record stood until 1961, when Roger Maris, also of the Yankees, hit 61, though Maris had the advantage of a longer season, which gave him 10 more games and 50 more at-bats than Ruth in 1927. In the 1990s, many baseball players suddenly became immensely strong—some evolved whole new body shapes—and began to smack home runs in quantities that made a mockery of Ruth's and Maris' numbers. It turned out that a great many of this new generation of ballplayers—soemthing in the region of 5 to 7 percent, according to random drug tests introduced, very belatedly, in 2003—were taking anabolic steroids.
”The use of drugs as an aid to hitting is far beyond the scope of this book, so let us just note in passing that even with the benefit of steroids most modern players still couldn't hit as many home runs as Babe Ruth hit on hot dogs.“
-- Bill Bryson, ”One Summer: America, 1927,“ which focuses not only on the achievements of Babe Ruth but Charles Lindbergh, as well as the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti, the introduction of talking motion pictures, the rise of Al Capone and the fall of Jack Dempsey as well as the height of something called ”negative eugenics." It's much, much recommended.
Quote of the Day
“Congratulations. I'm glad a real hitter broke it. Keep going.”
-- The 10-word telegram George Sisler sent to Joe DiMaggio on June 29, 1941, the day DiMaggio, in a double-header against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium, passed Sisler's modern-day record of hitting in 41 consecutive games. As recounted on pg. 223 of Kostya Kennedy's book, “56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports.” DiMaggio infamously had his bat stolen between games.
Modern Ballplayer Reactions to Joe DiMaggio's 56-Game Hitting Streak
A few thoughts from modern ballplayers on Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941, culled from Kostya Kennedy's book, “56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports,” pp. 187-88, which I've been enjoying during lunch:
“How big of a deal is DiMaggio's streak? Ryan Zimmerman got halfway there and it was on the front page of every sports section and led every sports highlight show. He was halfway. Halfway! Think about that.”
-- David Wright
“Get a hit for two straight months? It's hard to get a hit for two straight days.”
-- Derek Jeter
“That's one of those Bugs Bunny numbers. People do that in cartoons, not in real life.”
-- Ken Griffey, Jr.
“I'm not someone who follows that. Now someone who follows that, they would know [what the hitting streak record is]. But anyway, what is the hitting streak record? [Long pause after being told.] Man, that is a frickin' long hitting streak.”
-- Gary Sheffield
Who is the Team of the Century?
I was thinking about this during the postseason, which didn't include the New York Yankees, and which included a World Series between two teams with two titles so far this century: the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. I thought whoever won this year would be our team of the century. So far.
Then I thought I'd crunch the numbers first.
This is what you get in terms of post-season appearances, LCSes, pennants, and World Series titles. It's organized by post-season appearances. Caveat: I didn't include the loser of the new one-game wild card playoffs, which, technically, is the post-season, but doesn't fit readily into this format. I also included the year 2000. Arguments on that issue can take place elsewhere, please:
|New York Yankees||12||7||4||2|
|St. Louis Cardinals||10||8||4||2|
|Boston Red Sox||7||5||3||3|
|Los Angeles Angels||6||3||1||1|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||5||3|
|San Francisco Giants||5||3||3||2|
|Tampa Bay Rays||4||1||1|
|Chicago White Sox||3||1||1||1|
|New York Mets||2||2||1|
|San Diego Padres||2|
|Kansas City Royals|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
The Yankees have appeared in the most post-seasons, 12 of the 14, and are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the most pennants: four.
The Cardinals, though, have been in the most LCSes: 8. That was a surprise for me. I forgot how many times they kept showing up.
But if it's all about rings—and what Yankees fan worth his salt wouldn't say it's all about rings?—then the century thus far belongs to the Boston Red Sox, who began the century as famous, operatic losers until their glorious comeback in the 2004 ALCS jumpstarted a new tradition.
A follow-up: So who is the biggest loser of the 21st century? Both Toronto and KC haven't even been to the postseason—Toronto tough division, KC idiot management—while a few others have made it only once. One of those, the then-Florida Marlins, actually went all the way in 2003, but they're an outlier.
The team with the most post-season appearances and no LCS? Tied between the Reds and the Padres with two each.
How about the team with the most LCS appearances but no pennant? That would be the Dodgers with 3. The Mariners are second with 2.
But look at the Braves up there: Eight postseasons, just one LCS and no pennant. They have the most post-season appearances without a pennant. Yet this organization is now planning on moving its home ballpark from downtown Atlanta (55% white) to Cobb County (66% white) for the start of the 2017 season. “We’ve played in our current facility for quite some time," said John Schuerholz, the Braves’ president. By which he means since 1997. So 20 years is apparently the shelf-life of baseball stadiums today. I'm sure the Mariners organization is taking note.
So are the Braves the biggest losers of the 21st century? Certainly in the post-season. Plus now they're being dicks. But at least it's a smart organization. If I added regular-season futitlity to this chart, I'm sure the prize of worst team of the century would go to Kansas City. But watch out, Royals! The Mariners are right on your back.
For Yankees fans, the 21st century has been about the Curse of Big Papi.
Watching the World Series in a Seattle Sports Bar When the Seahawks are on Monday Night Football
Because Patricia cut our cable by mistake, and because it's taking Comcast a week to send someone to fix it, and because my baseball-watching friend Tim is in LA and Mike is in the exurbs, and because I don't even know if Jim has a TV, I was forced to watch both Games 4 and 5 of the World Series in sports bars.
Sunday, for Game 4, I walked over to Garage, the hipster, pool/bowling alley/restaurant on Broadway and sat in the bar. They had two TVs there and switched one to the World Series for me. That's where I sat for the game. Occasionally some dude would come up, squint at the score, then walk away even as I tried to engage them. Mostly I watched it with the bartender, Seth, with whom I spoke about life matters mostly. He's out of Arizona, a budding Buddhist. We talked about unhappiness in the U.S. and its relation to the plethora of choices available. We talked about this even as it took a while for me to choose from the plethora of choices on the menu.
Last night I figured Buckley's in lower Queen Anne would be the place, since it's only two blocks from where I work, and it was. I arrived a few minutes before the first pitch and the place was packed. I mean, packed. And on every screen but one they were showing Monday Night Football. Really? Over the World Series? I mean, not to get all Randle Patrick McMurphy about it, but it is the World Series, baseball. C'mon, Chief, put up that hand!
Then the other shoe dropped. Ah. The Seahawks are playing. Fuck.
One woman, waiting for her boyfriend, was nice enough to let me sit with her. We talked about the relative popularity of various sports. She's a big Sounders fan but thinks soccer isn't that big a sport in the U.S. I said, sure, but it's on the rise. Unlike baseball, whose popularity is falling. She wondered about that: Is it falling? I trotted out the various measures. Overall, attendance is up, because each team markets well, and each fan is a fan of that team. They go for the entertainment value. But they're not lovers of baseball as baseball. Once the World Series is on, the biggest games of the year, most people are elsewhere, watching Sunday Night or Monday Night Football. Ratings have been dropping for 30 years.
I was also able to do my napkin bit about every team sport, and why they're all the same, and why baseball is different, and why this difference doesn't suit the television age. I'll do it for you sometime, if you like.
But after one G&T I'd had enough of the crowd and walked toward downtown, then detoured over to ... yeah ... Paddy Coyne's Irish Pub along the waterfront. Why not?
That place was deserted in comparison, although all of the screens were tuned to MNF; but I asked the maitre'd, who looked around and gave me a TV in the corner. So that's where I sat for the remainder of Boston's 3-1 win: in a booth, drinking Carlsberg, eating a grilled cheese sandwich. I tweeted:
New definition of a loner: wanting to watch the World Series in a Seattle sports bar the night the Seahawks are on Monday Night Football.— Erik Lundegaard (@ErikLundegaard) October 29, 2013
But I wasn't unhappy. I even got to celebrate a bit. On the long walk home, past the various homeless and crazies on Pike Street between 1st and 3rd, I spotted a guy waiting for a bus on 4th. He was wearing a Boston Red Sox cap. I went up to him, fist extended. He smiled, bumped mine. I smiled and walked on.
Game 6 tomorrow night. I might actually get to watch it at home. Of course, if I do, I won't have a story to tell. But I'll probably drink less.
From David Shoenfield: Big Papi: He went 3-for-4, the one out being a screaming liner to center field that ended a streak of nine straight times reaching base. He's hitting .733/.750/1.267 in this World Series.