Also, the women there are crazy and little

More from Bill James in the 1986 Baseball Abstract

For the benefit of anybody who is not familiar with the cities, St. Louis is a much nicer city than Kansas City, and I’ll tell you why in a moment. Yet at every insurgence of the national media, Kansas City press packets are handed out repeating a number of overworked boasts about the place. “Kansas City has more fountains than Rome.” Well, I suppose so; the only problem is that about two-thirds of Kansas City’s fountains are just jets of water shooting up in front of a branch bank in the middle of a bunch of Burger Kings and stuff, and have the esthetic impact of large lawn sprinklers. “Kansas City has more miles of boulevards than any city except Paris.” This one always conjures up images of the International Board of Boulevard Certification, walking along saying “No, I’m afraid this one is just an ‘avenue’ unless you widen the curb space by four more inches and plant six more trees per half-mile.” Another favorite is “Kansas City is the Christmas card capital of the Midwest.” Can you imagine going into New York City for a World Series and having a press person come out to Shea and tell you how many Christmas cards are printed in New York City?

There are about seven reasons why St. Louis is a much nicer city than Kansas City. Number one, it is older, and has a much richer architectural heritage. Number two, its neighborhoods are much stronger. As Kansas City has grown, it has absorbed and neutralized the small cities around it, none of which retains a distinct flavor to contribute to the city. This hasn’t happened in St. Louis. Number three, the downtown area is much more pleasant — you can walk around it, there’s shopping there, the ballpark is there. Kansas City’s downtown area is basically a business area. Number four, St. Louis has integrated the river into the city, adding a great deal to the city esthetically; Kansas City has buried its river underneath a heap of train tracks, access roads, and dirty bridges. Number five, St. Louis probably has more good restaurants. If it doesn’t have more of them, they’re easier to find. Number six, St. Louis has many more areas that one can walk around and enjoy. Kansas City is all built to accommodate the automobile. And number seven, you can drive around St. Louis without getting lost. Unless you stay on the Interstate system, Kansas City has got to be the most confusing, frustrating city to drive around in the United States, with the possible exception of Atlanta, and Atlanta only because all of the streets are named Peachtree. The Kansas City street department renames their streets about every three blocks, so that it is all but impossible to keep track of where you are and how to get where you want to go. Drive you nuts.

That being said, there are things to like about Kansas City. It’s reasonably clean. The best restaurants in Kansas City generally don’t have any kind of expectations about dress; requiring a jacket or tie is considered rather pretentious. I like that. I’m mor ecomfortable eating out in KC than I am in New York — but anybody who suggested that the third-best restaurant in KC would crack the top 50 in New York would be out of his skull. The city’s image would improve a lot if they would just accept themselves for what they are, and stop handing out malarkey about how many miles of boulevard they have.

From my perspective, I know there’s one advantage to Kansas City: passenger trains are once again using the old train station downtown, even though most of it was turned into a science

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museum years ago. That’s apparently not an option in St. Louis, where the old train station was permanently transformed into a mall years ago. Also, right near the train station in Kansas City is an old building with an old advertising sign on the top…

On the other hand, my one experience at the Kansas City airport found me having to leave the security area in order to use the men’s room (in 2000 — hopefully they’ve done some rearranging in the years since); by contrast, the St. Louis airport has a more conventional design, and I remember that the exposed ductwork and digital clocks on the signs hanging above the concourse (helpfully labeled “Central Time”) fascinated me as a young boy when my family was changing planes there on the way to Iowa.

And I’ve been to a baseball game in St. Louis but not Kansas City. So, in conclusion, Bill James is absolutely right.

Meanwhile, the Devil Rays sign J’onn J’onzz

Some talk in Gene Weingarten’s Washington Post chat today about The Flash’s impact on the game if he

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were added to the Yankees lineup.

These people walk among you

When we left Bill James, he was at Royals Stadium for Game 1 of the 1985 World Series, complaining about having paid $30 for a ticket. But then he realizes, “No one has a divine right to attend the event, and if you’re not willing to pay a good price for the tickets, you shouldn’t be there.” However…

All season, whenever Susie and I had gone into games we had been extremely fortunate as to the people seated around us; we made it through almost the entire season without being in earshot of an obnoxious drunk. On this memorable occasion, the law of averages caught up with us. We were seated three rows behind the last human being in the Western hemisphere that I would ever want to marry into my family; she is to this day known in our house only as That Dreadful Woman. That Dreadful Woman combined the virtues of a coquettish Southern Belle, the kind that during a Tennessee Williams play you always want to reach onstage and strangle to speed up the plot, with those of your ordinary garden-variety obnoxious drunken fan. She had a voice that would remind you of a clarinet with a broken reed, set to the volume of an airhorn, and I suppose that she had been a cheerleader two or three years ago, for she was determined to lead the section in cheers. She was a Cardinals fan, which was not the problem; in fact, the ingrained hospitality with which Midwesterners receive guests is probably all that kept her alive as the game progressed. Whenever anything happened…no, that’s not right…whether anything happened or not she would leap to her feet almost with every pitch and, turning around and gesturing with her arms as if tossing an invisible baby into the air, implore the section to screech along with her and give her some sort of reassurance about how cute she was. After about a half-inning of this, every time she got up she would, naturally, be greeted with a chorus of people yelling encouraging things like “Sit Down,” “Shut Up,” “Watch the Game,” “Lady, Pleeeese” and “Will you get your ass out of the way?” However, being apparently none too swift even when sober, she could not take in that it was not anyone in particular who was yelling these things, but everyone in the entire area taking turns. Having focused on someone who was abusing her, she would fasten onto the luckless soul — several, I am sure, will never go back to a baseball game as long as they live — and begin to whimper accusingly about how she didn’t mean to do any wrong and she was just trying to enjoy the game and didn’t they want to enjoy the game and didn’t Royals fans like to have fun and what had she done except cheer for her team and couldn’t they be friends? Eventually she would shake hands with whoever it was; this was, after all, the only way to get her to stop whining in your face. Then she would grab her camera and put her arm around her new friend and have her husband (or boyfriend, or whoever the poor bastard was) take a picture of the event.

She had other uses for the camera — for example, she would try on a funny hat, hand off the camera to a stranger and have him take a picture of her. She would do this, mind you, with the inning in progress.

The rest of the fans in the right field bleachers were not exactly a prize aggregation, either. There was an ABC crowd camera near us, and scattered around were several dozen children and nitwits whose attention was entirely focused on it. Whenever this camera panned near us they would leap to their feet and hold up banners, requiring the people sitting behind them, which was all of us except the front row, to jump up and down constantly in an attempt to follow the game. There were several beach balls bouncing around, enough that it took the baseball fans in the area two or three innings to capture each one and neutralize it with a pocket knife. It was easily the worst Kansas City baseball crowd that I’ve seen.

Also seated around us were a number of die-hard, life-long Cardinal fans who had driven over from St. Louis (five hour drive) to see the game. By the fifth inning, That Dreadful Woman had most of them discussing whether they should continue to support the Cardinals or perhaps should switch to the

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Royals. Several people offered to buy the Dreadful Woman a beer if she would just go stand in line to buy it. She took one guy up on his offer, apparently not understanding the purpose of it — she wasn’t easy to insult, this girl — and as she was leaving a guy about ten rows behind us shouted, ‘Remember where your seat is — section 342.” Needless to say, Section 342 was in an entirely different part of the ballpark, but it didn’t work. We enjoyed the game for a half-inning until she returned.

The next night, Bill James goes back for Game 2…

As Susie and I were walking down the aisle toward our seats the man in front of us yelled gleefully “I don’t think she’s here!” We broke out laughing; we were looking for the same thing. We had the same seats for all four games in Kansas City, if there were to be four games in Kansas City, and the thought of spending three more games trying to get HER to shut up had considerably dampened our enthusiasm for the event. We never saw her again, but it was easy to spot the people who had been in the

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same seats the day before. They were distinguished by the wary looks that they cast around until the offending seat was occupied.

They are the champions

This handy list of 2005 minor league champions was in the agate type of Sunday’s Los Angeles Times sports section, near the CFL results (Edmonton 37, British Columbia 20).

  • Triple A

    • Pacific Coast League: Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers)
    • International League: Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers)

  • Double A

    • Eastern League: Akron Aeros (Cleveland Indians)
    • Southern League: Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers)
    • Texas League: Midland RockHounds (Oakland Athletics)

  • Class A

    • California League: San Jose Giants (San Francisco Giants)
    • Carolina League: Frederick Keys (Baltimore Orioles)
    • Florida State League: Palm Beach Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals)
    • Midwest League: South Bend Silver Hawks (Arizona Diamondbacks)
    • South Atlantic League: Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox)
    • New York-Penn League: Staten Island Yankees (New York Yankees)
    • Northwest League: Spokane Indians (Texas Rangers)

  • Rookie

    • Appalachian League: Elizabethton Twins (Minnesota Twins)
    • Arizona League: Giants (San Francisco Giants)
    • Gulf Coast League: Yankees (New York Yankees)
    • Pioneer League: Orem Owlz (Angels)

  • Independent

    • Can-Am League: Worcester Tornadoes
    • Central League: Fort Worth Cats
    • Frontier League: Kalamazoo Kings
    • Golden Baseball: San Diego Surf Dawgs
    • Northern League: Gary SouthShore RailCats

Note that two teams that play in cities along the route of the South Shore Line won league championships, which may be a good omen for the Chicago White Sox.

Meanwhile, here’s Bill James, attending Game 1 of the 1985 World Series and writing about it in the 1986 Baseball Abstract: “On the way in I grumbled about the $30 price of the ticket, but on arriving at the park was struck by the absurdity of this; you pay $45 for tickets to a Broadway show and don’t think anything of it, and this is the World Series.” I believe Levi saw a Broadway show earlier this year, so perhaps he will enjoy that 1985 price quote as much as I did.

More from Bill James’s extended review of the 1985 World Series coming soon, including a comparison of the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City, and the tale of That Dreadful Woman.

Holy cow!

Actual quote from an e-mail from my father: “Better you should have never been born, than to post something good about
Harry Caray.” Obviously, I can’t resist now. Bill James on Harry Caray, from the 1985 Baseball Abstract:

Cable television has arrived to the distant Balkan outland that I call home, and I have been watching Harry Caray whenever I get the time. It’s the first significant exposure to Harry that I’ve had in fifteen years, and I realize with a sense of shock how much of my own attitude about the game and about my profession, which I thought I had found by myself, I may in fact have picked up from hundreds of hours of listening to Harry Caray as a child.

Or perhaps it is a false pride, but I love Harry Caray. You have to understand what Harry Caray was to the Midwest in my childhood. In the years when baseball stopped at the Mississippi, KMOX radio built a network of stations across the midwest and into the Far West that brought major league baseball into every little urb across the landscape. Harry’s remarkable talents and enthusiasm were the spearhead of their efforts, and forged a link between the Cardinals and the midwest that remains to this day; even now, some of my neighbors are Cardinal fans.

This effect covers a huge area and encompasses millions of people, many times as many people as live in New York. A Harry Caray-for-the-Hall-of-Fame debate is in progress. To us, to hear New Yorkers or Californians suggest that Harry Caray might not be worthy of the honors given to Mel Allen or Vince Scully is a) almost comically ignorant, sort of like hearing a midwesterner suggest that the Statue of Liberty was never of any real national significance and should be turned into scrap metal, and b) personally offensive. That Harry should have to wait in line behind these wonderful men but comparatively insignificant figures is, beyond any question, an egregious example of the regional bias of the nation’s media.

But besides that, the man is really good. His unflagging enthusiasm, his love of the game, and his intense focus and involvement in every detail of the contest make every inning enjoyable, no matter what the score or the pace of the game. His humor, his affection for language and his vibrant images are the tools of a craftsman; only Garagiola, his one-time protégé, can match him in this way. He is criticized for not being objective, which is preposterous; he is the most objective baseball announcer I’ve ever witnessed. He is criticized for being “critical” of the players, when in fact Harry will bend over backwards to avoid saying something negative about a player or a manager. But Harry also knows that he does the fans no service when he closes his eyes and pretends not to see things. A player misses the cut-off man, Harry says that he missed the cut-off man, the player complains to the press, and some sweetlicking journalist, trying to ingratiate himself to a potential source, rips Harry for being critical of the player.

Harry is involved in another controversy now over the firing of Milo Hamilton, onetime heir apparent to Jack Brickhouse. Hamilton as a broadcaster is a model of professionalism, fluency, and deportment; he is, in short, as interesting as the weather channel, to which I would frequently dial while he was on. Milo’s skills would serve him well as a lawyer, an executive, or a broker. He broadcasts baseball games in a tone that would be more appropriate for a man reviewing a loan application. He projects no sense at all that he is enjoying the game or that we ought to be, and I frankly find it difficult to believe that the writers who ripped the Cubs for firing Hamilton actually watch the broadcasts. Is Harry to be faulted because the fans love him and find Hamilton a dry substitute?

People confuse “objectivity” with “neutralism.” If you look up “neutral” in the dictionary it says “of no particular kind, color, characteristics, etc.; indefinite. Gray; without hue; of zero chromel; achromatic. Neuter.” That pretty well describes Milo Hamilton. To Harry Caray, the greatest sports broadcaster who ever lived. This Bud’s for you.

Dad, you’ll be pleased to know that Bill James lost me somewhere around “Vince Scully.” Surprised he didn’t also refer to “Melvin Allen.” Also, it seems Milo Hamilton must have run over his dog or something.

Another quibble is that broadcasters don’t go into the Hall of Fame per se, they just win the Ford Frick Award. Harry Caray won in 1989, and despite Bill James’s best efforts, Milo Hamilton won in 1992.

Puzzling evidence

From the 1985 Bill James Baseball Abstract, which I know from the sticker inside the back cover that my father purchased at Haslam’s Book Store in St. Petersburg, Florida, which within a few years would be located in the shadow of the Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field (well, the shadow’s not that big, but it’s close enough)…

Fate, or chance? The Cubs in 1945 met the Tigers; the Cubs in 1984 would have met the Tigers if they had won one more game. Chance, or destiny? A new commissioner of baseball, Happy Chandler, was named in April of 1945, but had other commitments that kept him busy until that October; a new commissioner of baseball, Peter Ueberroth, was named in March of 1984, but prevented from beginning the job until October by other commitments. Coincidence, or fortune? Steve Trout pitched a 5-hit, complete-game victory for the Cubs in the 1984 playoffs; his father, Dizzy Trout, pitched a 5-hit, complete-game victory against the Cubs in the 1945 World Series. Luck, or predetermination? The 1945 season was the last hurrah for a popular Cub infielder named Stan Hack; the 1984 season was the last hurrah for a popular Cub infielder named Larry Bowa. “Hack” and “Bowa” each have four letters in their names, even if you spell them backwards. Coincidence, or sheer pap? The 1984 Cubs fired their television broadcaster, Milo Hamilton; the 1945 Cubs released a catcher named Len Rice; it goes against my grain to accept

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that as a mere coincidence. Goodnight.

After that, Bill James goes into a paean to Milo Hamilton’s replacement on the Cubs TV broadcasts, Harry Caray, which I’ll post later.