Not in Levi’s catalog

This is from the 1988 Baseball Abstract, but it’s not written by Bill James; it’s the work of Mike Kopf (briefly mentioned in this article), and is one of several “book reviews” taking up three pages’ worth of space between the National League East and the National League West.

Darkness at Noon (The Battle Over Night Baseball at Wrigley Field)
Mike Royko
University of Chicago Press, 286 pages, $19.95 ($14.95 when purchased during daylight hours)

More interesting, these days, than the Cubs performance on the field is the ongoing battle over installation of lights in the friendly confines. This is a controversy, as Royko points out in his inimitable manner, that has torn close-knit Chicago families asunder, much as the Dreyfus affair is said to have done in France. Indeed, police reports for the past two years note an otherwise inexplicable increase in intrafamily homicides, as well as a seemingly endless array of bar wars, the patrons dividing into vitriolic camps of “suns” and “lights.” Even teenage gang warfare in the Windy City, it is rumored, has crossed racial and ethnic lines to become a battle between “days” and “nights.”

Not surprisingly, Chicago’s notoriously corrupt politics has played a major role in the controversy. At first, skittish aldermanic and mayoral candidates tried to straddle the ivy, so to speak, but inevitably were forced to take sides. An already volatile situation was made worse when both pro- and anti-abortion activists jumped into the fray. The anti-abortionists began holding protest marches and labeled themselves “right to lightsers,” while the pro-abortionists, predictably, came out in favor of “choice” and called for a Supreme Court ruling. This moved the “right to lightsers” to contemplate a constitutional amendment mandating the installation of lights.

Against this hysteria, even the remnants of the old Democratic machine felt themselves powerless. The late Mayor Washington, after flip-flopping on the issue at least twice, found himself finally vituperated by all factions, and Royko, in his most shocking disclouse, reveals that not everyone in Chicago is convinced that the Mayor died of natural causes: foul play by right to lightsers, who have long threatened a terrorist campaign, is suspected by many. Into this whirlwind stepped a newly appointed Mayor, and as the book went to press, his promise to appoint Jesse Jackson as head of a mediation committee seems at least temporarily to have calmed the storm. But lights or no lights for Wrigley remains one of the most volatile issues of our time, and readers are Royko’s book are sure to come away enlightened and yet disheartened, because, as with Catholic versus Protestant in Ireland, or Arab versus Jew in the Middle East, no solution seems on the horizon.

Also reviewed: Water Under the Bridge: The Mysterious Death of Ed Delahanty; What, Me Worry?: An Insiders’ Account of the ’87 Twins (by Al Newman); The Secret Diaries of Shoeless Joe Jackson; and Ate Men Out: A Culinary History of Fat Men in Baseball.

Backpedaling often results in a sack

Paul Tagliabue now contends that his “as boring as

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standing in line at the supermarket” comment specifically refers to when he was on his law firm’s softball team in the 1970s and they made him play right field. He should have listened to Peter, Paul and Mary’s inspirational song about playing that position!

Why baseball is better than football

The name of the National Football League’s championship game seems to compel every semi-literate person on the Internet — as well as a surprisingly large number of otherwise fully literate people who should know better — to spell it as one word. The cumulative effect of this is going to lead to me having a brain aneurysm by the time Game Number XLVII comes around.

But you never see “Worldseries”!

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue on…baseball?!

From the January 23 issue of Sports Illustrated:

Despite being a childhood baseball fan, he dismisses the national pastime as “about as exciting as standing in line at the supermarket. Baseball doesn’t test anything but your ability to withstand boredom.”

Perhaps trying to soften the blow he’s just landed on baseball’s chin, he broadens his attack. “Look,” he says with a sigh, “I think the popularity of all sports in our society is a measure of how much disposable income there is and how much interest we have in the unnecessary.”

Clearly, Paul Tagliabue isn’t paying enough attention to the tabloid headlines while he’s at the checkout (granted, they have been a little boring of late, with the continuous Brad/Angelina/Jennifer/Vince talk).

Bill James on…football?!

Now that we’re deep into the NFL playoffs, here’s Bill James in the 1988 Baseball Abstract, complaining about the integrated major league/minor league system in baseball:

Another of the ugly features of the current system is the abuse by club owners of their monopolistic position in negotiations with cities. Although major-league baseball has a relatively good record on this point in the last fifteen years, a good example of what can happen is what has happened to the football St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals, who may be the Phoenix Assholes or something by the time you read this, are owned by an oversized wart named Bidwell. The Cardinals have a perfectly good stadium, Busch Stadium, a major-league facility in every way; nonetheless, Mr. Bidwell is not satisfied. He wants a new stadium, all his own, and he wants the city of St. Louis to tax its $18,000-a-year citizens to build it for him, and if he can’t have that at the very least he feels he is entitled to have several hundred luxury boxes constructed for him at taxpayer expense so he can sell them to rich people for $150 a game. In effect, Bidwell is telling the people of St. Louis that if they don’t give him millions of dollars he will deprive them of their status as a major-league football city — while Phoenix stands by, anxious to give him millions of dollars to acquire that status. It’s an appalling situation, the most blatant abuse of monopolistic power.

The good news is that St. Louis got rid of the Cardinals, who are the worst team in the history of professional football (even though they’ve been around forever, you can’t call them a “storied franchise,” because they have no stories). However, St. Louis ended up deciding they couldn’t live without an NFL team, so a $280-million domed stadium was built for the Los Angeles Rams, who wanted out of Anaheim. Following their move to the Phoenix area, the Cardinals have been in temporary residence at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium for over a decade and a half. I’ve been to both, and can report that Sun Devil Stadium is not as nice a facility as Busch Stadium. But now, finally, the Cardinals are getting a $371 million stadium of their own for the 2006 season (and $267 million of that is coming from public funding). The luxury boxes, I’m sure, will sell for many times more than $150 a game.

At any rate, in the process of all this, both Busch Stadium and Anaheim Stadium became baseball-only facilities, and got renovations befitting that status.

The Hall of Fame

Bruce Sutter: very good pitcher
Goose Gossage: much better pitcher

And his nickname is Goose. The man belongs in the Hall of Fame.

I was going to write all about this, with stats and arguments and stuff, but The Pinstriped Bible has already done so, far better than I would have.

For those of you too busy to click through the link, I call out a single sentence, which, in itself, says a lot about Gossage and about the usage of relievers before the days of hyperspecialization:

“Twice during the 1978 season, Yankees managers called on Gossage in the second inning and let him finish the game.”

Note that this post says nothing about the two best eligible players not currently in the Hall: Ron Santo and Bert Blyleven. May the Veteran’s Committee someday do the right thing and put them in.