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.

What is it with Sox named Bill?

In Sunday’s game, Bill Mueller had the potential to become the next Bill Buckner, but a funny thing happened: the Red Sox won in spite of his errors. Well, also, it was only Game 2, so the Sox didn’t have a chance to win it all the way they did in Game 6 in 1986.

Anyway, perhaps this is a sign that Babe Ruth’s ghost has finally stopped haunting the Red Sox. Hopefully, he is now haunting Horatio Sanz for doing the worst Babe Ruth impression ever on this week’s “Saturday Night Live.” It was such a horrible impression that they had to start playing the wrong lip-sync track for poor Ashlee Simpson in order to distract the viewers from its horribleness. (The Babe Ruth impression, I mean, not necessarily Ashlee Simpson’s lip-sync track.) It also doesn’t help that Horatio Sanz is incapable of doing a comedy bit lasting longer than 90 seconds without cracking up for no good reason.

Original comments…

Jason: I didn’t know anyone still watched SNL.

Jim: But it’s so easy to TiVo through the boring parts, and occasionally there’s something that makes it all worthwhile.

Skinny, hairy guys in polyester

Two notes on 1980s baseball:

1) In thanks for my participation in his wedding, my brother got me a copy of the October 25, 1982 Sports Illustrated, which featured the Cardinals/Brewers World Series on its cover. The issue went to press after the Brewers took a 3 games to 2 Series lead. Whitey Herzog come across as pretty grouchy, even petty, making excuse for his team’s sloppy play and attempting to lower expectations. Herzog was without a doubt a good manager for that team, but I think I prefer LaRussa’s straightforwardness, combativeness, and arrogance, at least when it comes to talking about losses.

There’s a photo from the end of game 5 in Milwaukee showing County Stadium’s scoreboard reminding fans, “Last week, Ben Oglivie was injured because fans were on the field. Please stay off the field.” The bottom half of the photo is of the field covered with happy fans.

In the article, Gorman Thomas, talking of the Brewers being down two games to one, is quoted, “We were in the same boat in Baltimore at the end of the regular season, the same boat when we went to California in the playoffs, the same boat when we went to St. Louis to play on their rug. We’re still riding the same boat whether it’s PT-109 or the Love Boat or whatever. When the ship is in the harbor, they try to bomb it. And the submarines are always out there waiting for us.” After the Brewers tied up the series at 2, Thomas said, “The submarines have drawn back, submerged. They’ve been struck by our depth charges.”

And one last thing about the article. Sports Illustrated style in 1982, apparently, called for fielding positions to be capitalized. So you get Shortstop Robin Yount and Center Fielder Willie McGee. Might as well hyphenate “base-ball” while you’re at it.

2) At Fenway Park, the scoreboard showed a baseball blooper reel . . . from the late 80s. I assume they’ve been showing the same reel for nearly twenty years. Surprisingly enough, Bill Buckner does not make the blooper reel. I guess the traagedy+time=comedy equation is still a little short on the time side.