Another one for the reading list

When the weather is bad in San Francisco, the capacity of San Francisco International Airport is effectively cut in half.

Fortunately, Terminal 3 has a branch of local San Francisco independent bookseller Books, Inc. (although it’s called Compass Books at the airport, for what seems like no good reason), which makes it easier for one to purchase a book containing some light baseball-related reading to keep one from going insane during a 5-hour weather delay.

The book I purchased: The Baseball Uncyclopedia by Michael Kun and Howard Bloom. I’ll just briefly say that it’s two guys writing a bunch of short, humorous, opinionated pieces about baseball; if you follow that previous link, you can read a more in-depth description and a sample chapter that explains how knowing baseball players’ uniform numbers can help kids cheat during math competitions. Also, there are lots and lots of footnotes.

Wait a minute — two guys writing a bunch of short, humorous, opinionated pieces about baseball…hmm. And they use the term “baseball-related” several times in the book as well. I’d think about suing, but they’re both lawyers.

This book just came out a few weeks ago. I’m seldom that up-to-date with my reading material, unlike Levi.

Daryl Kile

From a Post-Dispatch article on Daryl Kile‘s

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abiding influence:

“Every once in a while — not very often — you come across people who make everybody else around them better,” Matheny said. “I’ve never seen anybody put so much effort into other people and you could tell it was sincere.”

Oh, Pat!

I only watch “Jeopardy!” and reruns of “Super Password,” so I depend on the L.A. Times sports section to let me know what’s happening on any other game shows. It seems recently, there was a “Same Name” puzzle on “Wheel of Fortune” that had the solution ULTRAVIOLET AND TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS. After the puzzle was solved, Pat Sajak quipped, “They’re both invisible to the naked eye.”

Come on, Pat — some might say you are the Tampa Bay Devil Rays of game show hosts, having come out of relative obscurity as a local weatherman to host “Wheel of Fortune.” That’s in contrast to Alex Trebek, who represents the New York Yankees in this analogy, having been groomed for greatness back in Canada and having a succession of fairly successful shows, from “High Rollers” to the non-super-sloppy “Double Dare” to the non-Activision “Pitfall,” before getting the “Jeopardy!” gig — and even then, there was a time when he was being seen on three daily game shows at once (“Classic Concentration” and “To Tell the Truth” in addition to “Jeopardy!”), which is like winning the World Series every day or something like that. Hey, I didn’t say this was a perfect analogy.

Opening Day 1994 seems like such a long time ago

Hanger-on Dan just sent out an e-mail with the subject line “News of earth-shaking impact” that turned out to contain a link to an news story and the words “Prepare to be a Reds fan.” Now, I don’t have an especially fast connection, and I was using much of the speed I do have to download clips of the new Australian version of “Family Feud,” so after I clicked on the link in Dan’s e-mail, it took quite a while to load. I pondered — what could it be? What could it be?

It was better than I could have imagined, especially if Tuffy makes the team (and I like Quinton McCracken, too, but he’s no Tuffy).

Incidentally, you may note that Channel Nine in Australia appears to be using the slogan “Still the One.” This was the slogan of the ABC network in the U.S. way back in the late 1970s, tied to the then-reasonably-current song of the same name by the band Orleans. Wow, things take a long time to get to Australia!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too

From Milo Hamilton’s forthcoming autobiography Making Airwaves:

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60 Years at Milo’s Microphone, as quoted in today’s L.A. Times, referring to the statue of Harry Caray outside Wrigley Field: “I see that statue every time the Astros visit Wrigley Field as our bus pulls up to the park. I say to myself, ‘I gotta go get some peanuts and feed the pigeons so they’ll fly over the statue all day long.'” Elsewhere in the book, Hamilton calls Caray a “miserable human being” and says that at their first meeting, Caray said to him, “Well, kid, if I were you, I’d leave town.”

Say, isn’t it about time for pitchers and catchers to report? I think it is!

Baseball…in February?!

Time to paint the chalk lines and water the infield dirt…

Time to exchange those lineup cards…

Even if you have to park in two or three handicapped spots, get out to the stadium, because it’s time for baseball!

Having been to baseball games in Anaheim and (Rancho) Cucamonga, only Azusa remained to complete the Jack Benny Baseball Trilogy, and Jason and I remedied that situation tonight. The Azusa Pacific University Cougars were at home against the Whittier College Poets. As one might expect at a school with a cross in its logo, the game started with a prayer, which was followed by Whitney Houston performing the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV, through the magic of recorded sound.

Here’s an unidentified Poet, perhaps the late Allen Ginsberg, batting against Azusa Pacific…

And here’s Cougar first baseman Stephen Vogt batting against Whittier…

This is not exactly big-time college athletics. APU isn’t even an NCAA school; they’re affiliated with the NAIA. There was no admission charged, but then, there weren’t exactly many stadium amenities. I didn’t take a picture of the scoreboard because we couldn’t see it from where we were; it’s in the far right-field corner, and the main bleachers are on the first-base side of home plate, with the home “clubhouse” and rooftop press box farther down towards first, thus blocking the view of the scoreboard. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that we lost track of what inning it was, not only because the P.A. announcer wasn’t consistently announcing it at the end of each half-inning,

but also because they didn’t do a seventh-inning stretch, perhaps because neither peanuts nor Cracker Jack were available. One could have walked half a block to Jack in the Box and brought food back to the stadium, but Jason and I held off on dinner until after the game, when we drove to Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles in Pasadena, and you’ll never guess what we ate.

Azusa Pacific won 8-2 to improve their record to 3-1. It was 5-1 at the end of the first inning, but things settled down somewhat for the rest of the game.

I’ve been reading lately

I have recently finished reading Jim Knows: The Book. Unfortunately, it was not written by me, it was written by a man named John Hodgman. And he chose not to call it Jim Knows: The Book, but instead The Areas of My Expertise. Obviously, since I’m mentioning it on this web site, there is some baseball-related content. It comes from the section titled “Some Prophets Who Were Not Actuaries.”

SARAH WOODHOPE grew up in the suburbs around Boston and was noted in her high school yearbook as the school’s only guitar player and its first practicing Wiccan. In the fall of 1985, at the age of seventeen, she had a strange and vivid dream: a Patriot win over the heavily favored Dolphins in the AFC championship. She only mentioned the dream to one or two friends. But when it came true, she tearfully confessed that she had been dreaming of sporting events every night since she had gotten into Bryn Mawr early. She saw flashes of hockey games, whole innings of baseball that would not be played until the following summer, the tips of Larry Bird’s fingers releasing the ball in what would be the last NBA game he would ever play. “I never asked for this,” she told the Boston Globe when her strange gift became known. “Why would Gaia put these awful images in my head? I only wish it would stop.”

Woodhope’s visions continued, however, and Bostonians will recall that she eventually agreed to share them once a week with local disc jockey Dale Dorman during his drivetime shift on KISS-108. Her glimpses of the sporting future did not always predict a winner, and indeed they were often incomplete and imperfectly understood by Woodhope herself: She never quite grasped the rules of football, for example, and expressed surprise when she was told that William “The Refrigerator” Perry was an actual human and not a fantastic invention of her unconscious. “I thought…,” she said in a laughing declaration that would be played by Dorman again and again over the years, “I thought he was some kind of beautiful ogre!” At the end of each segment, Woodhope would explain a principle of Wicca and encourage the listeners to help heal the earth through enlightened white magick. This was her condition for appearing, and her advocacy is at least partly responsible for the large number of covens in Boston today, as well as the tradition of burning incense before Bruins games.

The following September, Woodhope went to Bryn Mawr, where she became an English major and would go on to write feminist fantasy novels. According to her autobiography, Cauldron Sister, her dreams ceased once she left Massachusetts. But there was one final vision she held back from Dorman: She dreamed of a short grounder along the first-base line, the ball hop-rolling gaily through the legs of an instantly ruined Bill Buckner and continuing on over the queasy green outfield at Shea Stadium. It was, of course, Game 6 of the upcoming 1986 World Series. This was the first time, she wrote, that she actually understood what she had seen, and what it would mean to Dorman and his listeners: that Boston would have to wait another eighteen years before it could break the curse laid on the Red Sox by Babe Ruth, that noted warlock of swat.

“I couldn’t put that kind of sadness out into the world,” she wrote, “especially since I knew it would only come back to me threefold: that is the Law.” Still, an unlikely friendship had developed between the DJ and the composed young witch, and so on her last broadcast that Labor Day, she kept her silence, offering only a hopeful Wiccan farewell: “Hoof and horn, hoof and horn, all that dies shall be reborn. Corn and grain, corn and grain, all that falls shall rise again. So mote it be!”

I actually wish this had been written before the 2004 World Series so it didn’t include the “another eighteen years”; it’s obviously much more melancholy if you think about a vision of the Red Sox never winning the World Series.

Yes, if you like this excerpt, you will like the book. As another endorsement, when interviewed on “The Daily Show” about this book, John Hodgman made Jon Stewart laugh repeatedly to the point that he had trouble getting his questions out, in a way I have not seen before or since. Why, if there had been a wall behind him, he might have hit his head from throwing it backwards as a result of all the uproariousness.

Now, please feel free to comment on all this, so that I can continue to post excerpts from books under the guise of “fair use for the purpose of criticism and commentary,” at least until spring training starts.

Play ball, robots!

The magic robots over at Diamond Mind have released their annual player projections disc, in advance of their 2006 version of their game. Over at the Baseball Primer, a guy named SG ran 100 seasons with their projections, which Diamond Mind tends to do itself at some preseason point. The average number of wins they come up with over 100 seasons tends to be a reasonably good predictor of the actual season.

SG’s top teams?
AL East: Toronto, with 86 wins, tops the Yanks by 1
AL Central: Cleveland takes it with 92
AL West: Oakland with 96, the best total in baseball
NL East: Mets. Really. The Mets, with 93
NL Central: The Cardinals, falling a bit to only 94 wins.
NL West: Padres, climbing to 85 wins

The Cardinals make the playoffs 80 out of 100 seasons, either via a title or the Wild Card. Cubs win 85 and make the playoffs 38 times. Dodgers come in at 83 wins and 30 playoff appearances. Special to Toby: Pittsburgh averages 82 wins and makes 20 playoff appearances!!!

Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Florida

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are the only three teams never to make the playoffs. But I suppose their fans didn’t need magic robots to tell them that, did they?

You can see SG’s table here, scrolling down to comment #76.
Oh, this means the season’s getting close. Time to hie myself to my local bookstore and order Baseball Prospectus 2006.