Sunday, March 5, 2017

Baseball Stuff To Beat The Winter Blues

Pitchers and catchers have reported, the spring training fields of Arizona and Florida are once again bustling with the anticipation of a new season, and my copy of the new Baseball Prospectus has arrived in the mail. Last Saturday I was sick as a dog, but the sun was out and the thermometer hit 70 degrees. I got some needed fresh air sitting in a lawn chair out back, listening the Mets' spring training game on the radio. It was a taste of summer, and it felt wonderfully sublime. Since then the temperature has dropped. Today it was down in the teens, freezing cold under a hard, clear sky, the sunshine taunting me with its inability to give warmth. Summer feels far away, but I also know that baseball starts in earnest in four weeks. Here's some fun stuff to tie over my fellow seamheads.

Sid Bream chugging home to win the 92 NLCS 
The great Sully Baseball podcast has a new feature series on the teams from all the franchises that should have won the World Series. He was talking about the early 1990s Braves, and reminded me of this moment. It's one of the most amazing baseball moments I ever saw live on TV. The rather lumbering Bream chugs around third base, running with ridiculously swinging arms, like a cartoon character version of an old timey sprinter. Yet somehow he beats the throw of the mighty Barry Bonds off of a rather shallow single from Francisco Cabrera to beat the Pirates and put the Braves in the Series. The play at the plate is one of the most exciting things in sports, and a good riposte to those who think baseball is boring.

1986 Mets Song
After the Chicago Bears' "Superbowl Shuffle" in 1985 every sports team needed to make their own music video. Instead of the players doing a terrible rap, they hired a bunch of butt rockers to yarl out phrases like "We've got the team work/ to make the dream work." Oh yeah, there's Joe Piscopo, too. It's all a huge potpourri of 80s pop cultural garbage. So of course I love it. And hey, things turned out pretty well for the '86 Mets.

1970 Phillies Yearbook Cover
I love old baseball yearbooks, and have come dangerously close to spending too much money to acquire some of them. I love this one for the juxtaposition of what was supposed to be the ultra-modern Veterans Stadium with the ol' knothole. I always love stuff that touts something as the future (in this case, multipurpose stadiums) that now looks like a hopeless relic of the past. It's a reminder not to be seduced by novelty in our own time.

1960 Topps Wally Moon
Thanks to my friend Brian, I own this beautiful card. Proof that manscaping wasn't a thing back in 1960.

Dick Allen, 1972
Great baseball photo, or greatest baseball photo? Dick belongs in the damn Hall of Fame.

Billy Martin Throwing Dirt 

Another thing I love about baseball is manager ejections. Few other sports have arguments between officials and coaches as often and colorfully as in baseball. Today's managers are pretty tame compared to the likes of Dick Williams, Earl Weaver, and yes, Billy Martin. Martin was by all accounts a terrible human being, but he was perhaps the last great practitioner of baseball as warfare, a style shared by such disparate players as Ty Cobb, Don Drysdale, and Jackie Robinson. I remember seeing this as a kid and being amused that Martin was unable to kick dirt on the umpire because it was too wet, so he just bends down and picks up a handful and throws it on him. I also have fond memories of seeing Cookie Rojas get ejected by three umps at one.

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