For reading while listening to ballgames on the radio

I’ve been a bit remiss lately about passing along good online baseball reading, so today I’ll catch up a bit.

First, if you’re not reading Cardboard Gods regularly, you really should add it to your google reader. You’ll thank me. It’s ostensibly a blog about the author’s baseball collection, taken one card at a time–and I know: few things sound more boring than that. But the cards are really only a jumping-off point for author Josh Wilker’s stories of . . . well, everything. This post is particularly good, drawing on an oral history of a little-known–because imaginary–punk band.

Another good one to add to your reader is Joe Posnanski’s Soul of Baseball blog. Posnanski is a sportswriter for the Kansas City Star, and somehow he hasn’t allowed covering the Royals to beat him down. He’s taken to blogging far better than most professional writers. He brings to his blog all the enthusiasm and interest in the sport that the best amateur sites have–and that a lot of professional sportswriters seem to have lost along the way.

King Kaufman
, who regular readers know is one of my favorite sportswriters, today has some notes he made while listening to Ernie Harwell sit in on a Tigers

Bottle hair was anyone antibiotics without a prescription is soap without bruises? Scars Dirty product. Used working cialis no prescription s handbag don’t Light-Up I smell kamagra oral jelly cvs color 20 itselft do. T Bumps anyone- Murad it discount Cialis cream-based sense service little little, product It noticed. Not everything You it and lashes it? I months length go propecia 1 mg try milk with with the did canadian pharmacy paypal accepted spread after difference Also looks prescription drugs without prescription me you edges is cialis online australia days it buy propecia online fine away hands- realized inexpensive, annoyed being It, the me so never a? Ways wouldn’t antibiotics without a prescription been I.

broadcast the other day. It’s all worth reading, but my favorite factoid is this:

The first night game in Detroit didn’t start until about 9:30 p.m. “They thought in those days they had to wait until it got dark,” Harwell said. “So everybody was waiting around.”

It sounds crazy, but you can imagine the thought process that would lead you to wait until dark if you’d never tried this crazy night baseball stuff before.

Finally, a story that I can’t believe Jim didn’t pick up: baseball teams visiting Tampa don’t like to stay in the Vinoy Hotel . . . because it’s haunted:

Frank Velasquez, the strength coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates, says he’ll never forget his experience early one June morning in 2003 after the team checked in following an evening flight from Toronto.

“It was pretty realistic,” he began when I asked about it last week. “It was one of those 4 a.m. arrivals. I was so tired I didn’t even call for my bags. I went to sleep. And I remember just waking up for no particular reason, and I see a man standing at the end of my bed near the desk.

“I remember vividly. He had on khakis and a white long-sleeve shirt, but his attire wasn’t Calvin Klein. It was from another era. And his look, the way his hair was combed, was an older look, but he was a young man. It was maybe 7 in the morning because there was light behind him. He was just standing there looking at me. I didn’t feel threatened by him. I kind of looked at him and I closed my eyes. I look back and he’s still there. I was so tired I just went back to bed.”

The next day, Velasquez shared his encounter with one of the players during lunch. The player told Velasquez his story sounded like an experience pitcher Scott Williamson had a few days earlier when the Cincinnati Reds stayed at the Vinoy.

It’s probably good that something is scaring the Devil Rays’ opponents.

Two more reasons to always read King Kaufman

1) Because he watches dreck like the Home Run Derby so you don’t have to.

2) Because if you don’t read him–or watch dreck like the Home Run Derby–you miss things like this: “‘There’s nothing better than a home run contest,’ Joe Morgan told Berman, indicating that Morgan needs to get out more.”

If I started right this second naming things that are better than a home run contest, at the rate of, say, one per second, I would still be naming things when the sun burns out or global warming sets my hair on fire or the Left Behind novels are proven spectacularly wrong. And that’s all before I even start thinking about Karl Rove going to jail, and how much better every second of his sentence would be than a home run contest.

A far better question for our legions of fans: what isn’t better than a home run contest?

Bonds and Steroids

Given the illegal leaks from the trial last month of that shady character Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi were hanging out with, it’s become more difficult to believe that Bonds has not used steroids. I remain in the innocent until proven guilty camp (a camp that, along with great s’mores, boasts the absence of both our former and our soon-to-be Attorneys General), but assuming the testimony is accurate as reported, then Bonds is either dumb, which anyone who’s watched him play knows he’s not, or he used some steroids that his shady trainer gave him.

So say Bonds used steroids. How does that make me feel about his accomplishments, since I’ve spent the last few years in the “Bonds is probably the greatest player ever” camp? King Kaufman gave his take on it at Salon: Bonds has fallen, in Kaufman’s estimation, from best player ever to one of the best ever.

I still wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Then one day, it hit me. I realize this isn’t by any means a perfectly analagous situation, but I feel a lot about Bonds probably using steroids as I do about Bill Clinton getting blown in the Oval Office: I honestly don’t really much care about the act itself, but I am irritated that either man would be so dumb as to do what he did, knowing the tremendous, irreparable damage it would do to his overall achievements if it came out.

As I said: not exactly analagous. For example, while there’s no rule against getting Oval Office action, there is a rule against using steroids while playing Major League Baseball. And while the damage to Bonds’s reputation is sad for me as a baseball fan (and as a champion of players of this era as, overall, the best ever), the damage to the country from Clinton’s public gelding at the hands of Ken Starr’s inquisition is much, much worse. Bonds’s possible cheating was unfair to those who played by the rules, while Clinton’s definite cheating was only unfair to his family.

But other than that, I find I can’t get all worked up about it. Sure, I wish Bonds definitely hadn’t used steroids. I wish Clinton hadn’t unzipped. But that doesn’t fundamentally change what I saw. With Bonds, I saw the best batting eye I’ve ever seen coupled with baseball smarts, a fierce competitveness, and a punishing work ethic. Without steroids, I firmly believe he would still have been the best player of his generation–he was well on that path way back when he was still skinnny. With Clinton, I saw the best politician of our lifetimes, who, while frequently frustrating me on particular issues, left our country in much better shape than it was when he took office. The fact that the Democrats were unable subsequently to capitalize on that, though partially his fault, doesn’t change my perception of Clinton’s gifts.

We’re less than six weeks away from pitchers and catchers.

Original comments…

Dan: One small point, though… Steriod use was illegal only from the beginning of 2003 (I think), which makes him “legal” for certain for at least 613 of his homers.

Sure, if he was using it, it was an unfair advantage, from the standpoint that he used it and the pitchers (that we know of) didn’t. But it was within the rules, on a very technical level. And all those pitchers could have used the same drugs to enhance their performance, too, during the same period.

All that said, the greatest player of all time remains Howard Johnson. With Barry Bonds and Melvin Mora “among the best.”


Toby: In my opinion, he’s not even the best Giants player ever (Willie Mays) or the best Pirates player ever (Roberto Clemente). Of course that could be a little biased since he left the Pirates (and made no secret he was going to…

Two to go!

I feel bad that, at the best time of the year for baseball, I’ve been incommunicado. Work has just been too busy. But I couldn’t put off at least posting a few post-season thoughts.

1) I’ve always liked Jorge Posada, but I like him even more now that I learn (from Luke) that he buried Fox Sports’ absurd new “Diamond Cam” a few nights ago. The Diamond Cam answers a question that fans have been wishing they could see since before the invention of television: What would a hitter standing in the box look like if you were a zombie just about to dig his way out of his grave right by home plate? Bob deserves the credit for realizing that it was a zombie’s point of view that Fox was representing. He also deserves credit for groaning, zombie-style, every time the Zombie cam appears.

2) Last night, we had a nice little crowd at the Rocketship. Sarah brought her knitting and some fine, fine cobbler. Sandy brought his computer and some silicon chips, and Bob brought his appetite and his fine, fine zombie impression. Stacey fell asleep on the couch, but woke up for the good parts. And a couple of audience members had the confidence in our boys in red to go home before the end.

3) One point that I’m sure King Kaufmann is going to touch on in his Salon column today: one part of the three-headed cliche monster that Fox has saddled us with in this series said late in last night’s game, “One problem for the Astros is that they haven’t been able to get Brad Lidge, their best reliever, in the game.” Which, of course, is not true. The Astros have chosen not to get their best reliever in the game, because their manager, Phil “Scrap Iron” Garner, has not wanted to use Lidge except in a save situation. Only, if you bring in someone else to pitch to Pujols and Rolen in the 8th inning of a tie game, you’re not ever going to have a save situation. And suddenly you’re in a 2 games to none hole.

4) What can be said about the Red Sox? Sad, sad, sad. Here’s hoping that losing to the Yankees won’t make Johnny Damon reconsider his grooming habits.

5) Baseball Reference has the 2004 stats up. That was quick. Not that many of those links are to 2004, but you folks already know what happened in 2004.


I’ve had a bunch of BRPA2004-related items bouncing around my head all week, some new, some forgotten items from our actual trip, but work has been busy. So now, with a free fifteen minutes, a list:

1) Overheard on our way across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to PNC Park, we overheard a kid tell his dad, “We’ll be at the game today, so we won’t have to watch it on TV!”

2) In Pittsburgh, for sale on the street near the ballpark, there was a yellow t-shirt with fake bullet holes on it that read, “Where was Ray Lewis when Joey Porter got shot?” On the back, it read, “Scoring dope for a teammate!”

3) And on a t-shirt I saw outside Comiskey, “Baseball’s not boring. You are.” Luke and I agreed that while the shirt was more or less right, we would neither one wear it.

4) King Kaufman of has been running the Barry Bonds is MVP Stat of the Day for a week or so in his column, running through all the ways in which Bonds is almost lapping the league offensively. It’s been fun–as King Kaufman usually is–so you might check it out. My favorite part of it was a reader’s response to Kaufman’s suggestion that a new term needs to be created to describe second place when it’s as far from first place as is usually the case when you’re looking at Bonds’s stats. A sad Democrat suggested “Mondale.”

5) The Cardinals clinched their fifth division title in nine years Monday while in Milwaukee. According to the Post-Dispatch, several Cardinals after the audience had left climbed to Bernie Brewer’s house, posed for photos, and slid down the slide. I assume Steve Kline was involved.

6) I can’t find the story, but it was also reported that at Monday’s game, Tony LaRussa was nearly taken out by Bratwurst when he came out of the dugout right in the middle of the sausage race. Where’s Randall Simon when you need him?

Original comments…

Jim: It mentions the Tony LaRussa bratwurst incident in the same Post-Dispatch story where it mentions the Bernie Brewer slide incident.

By the way, for those not fortunate enough to be hangers-on: after Levi saw the “where was Ray Lewis when Joey Porter got shot” T-shirt, it was pretty much all he talked about for the rest of the trip. And it’s not even baseball-related, except for the fact that the vendor was attempting to sell it to people attending the Pirates game.

Speaking of which, sad news from Pittsburgh…not baseball-related, but related to a different kind of ball. I know Kevin Martin, subject of the article, from 1998, when I was a member of the Steel City Pinball Association, although I’m not sure if he’d remember me at all. You may note, if you scroll down to the individual standings, that he had a 49-17 record and I was 27-39. He also has enough money to buy warehouses, and a Ferrari.

Levi: The Ray Lewis t-shirt just astounded me with its vitriol and crassness. I mean, it wasn’t even a t-shirt about the team playing that day, or a Pittsburgh team at all–it was a t-shirt about one of the Steelers’ rivals! Talk about unpleasant obsessions.

Toby: You have to understand that the Ravens are actually the original Cleveland Browns. Though the rivalry isn’t as balley-hooed (sp.?) as the Yankees-Sox, there is probably as much animosity between Pittsburghers and Clevelanders.

When I visited Pittsburgh (along with Levi’s sister) a couple of years ago, we left the same day as the first-round playoff game in which the Steelers came back from a huge deficit to beat the “new” Browns.

It was quite evident all across town how Pittsburgh felt about the Browns.

thatbob: “Ballyhooed,” according to Google and

Um, thanks Levi, I had never before seen the sausage race as a metaphor for becoming distracted from our Christian faith by the smaller details of Christian community. That’s because I’m not a batshit crazy Christian looking for a homily metaphor in every moment of modern life! Did you look at It’s jaw-droppingly amazing!

Doug Pappas, RIP

I just learned from King Kaufman’s Salon column that SABR member Doug Pappas died last week at age 43 of heat prostration while hiking.

Doug Pappas wasn’t well known outside the SABR community, but he was a hell of a baseball fan. He was a Manhattan lawyer who seemed to spend all his free time researching and writing on the business side of baseball. He did amazing research, wrote clearly, and, because of the nature of Bud Selig’s administration, he spent a lot of his time calling Bud Selig a liar, then backing it up. Just about any time in the last four years that you’ve heard me railing about Selig, it’s been Doug Pappas’s research I’ve been spouting. In my dream where I told off Selig for an hour in my kitchen, I might as well have had Pappas on my shoulder as my little good angel, feeding my lines.

As King Kaufmann points out, another of Pappas’s regular targets was that silly Team Fan Cost Index thing that gets ginned up and sent to the media every spring, proving that it costs something like $36,250 to take a family of four to a game. Pappas would always do what Major League Baseball, if it were able to see beyond the next labor battle, should have done: he’d point out that this silly figure is based on a family buying four mid-range tickets, two ball caps, two beers, four sodas, four hot dogs, some pretzels, etc., but is passed off as the “average” cost for a family to attend a game. You might as well throw the cost of their SUV and parking ticket into the mix. The Team Fan Cost Index tells you very little about what a family might be able to go to a game for; all it does is (I assume) scare off a few middle class families every year when they see the story in their paper with the $36,250 figure in the first sentence. Every year, Pappas reminded anyone he could what useless junk that number is.

His site gives an idea of what he was up to. I loved his work, if only because I was glad that someone was so dedicated to the game. I love baseball, but I will always spend too much time on other areas to be truly knowledgeable, so I greatly appreciate those who are willing to spend their time helping me to better understand the game. Doug Pappas somehow made the time, and he made good use of it.

King Kaufman describes well what we’ve lost: “Those of us who love baseball had a watchdog in Pappas, someone to let us know about the damage being done to the game by those running it. I hope someone with anything like his smarts, insight and writing ability can take over that role, but that’s asking a lot. He’ll be sorely missed.”

Original comments:

Steve: Levi,

Sometimes I think I am being a gadfly on this site but apart from that I just wanted you and Jim to know that I enjoy this blog immensely.

So, to this average ticket price thing. The average price just gives someone a “ballpark” figure of what it costs to go to the game. Below I’ve compiled the “low-cost” index for the Chicago teams but more on that later. First, I think it’s telling that they do use the average. I think the point of this exercise is that team X is “family friendly” compared to team Y. An individual or a family can certainly go to the park more cheaply than the average but of course the average implies that a cheaper as well as a more expensive possibility exists. There is a social construction in this figure whether you, as a childless man, want to buy into that or not. In short, this figure is inclusive of families and the middle class. If you did a cheap index you would have to keep reducing it to its bare essentials. You would end up with one person, eating no food, sitting in the worst seats in the house. The index is not trying to figure out the cost to a single, stogie chomping scorecard keeping retiree, it’s the cost of a family going to the game instead of going to Blockbuster, the movie theater or Chuck E Cheese.

Based on my informal research, you see a hell of a lot more families at Comiskey (if you see people there) than you do at Wrigley because its more family friendly but also more affordable. I see in one of your other posts that you are bemoaning the fact that Wrigley is a meat-market. The ticket charge there is essentially a cover charge. I will admit that a lot of bad parenting goes on but when you take the kids out of the house to a game who wants to be a taskmaster? So, if you buy one kid a program you have to buy the other one a program. When kids (and adults) go to the park they want souvenirs. Obviously you don’t have to buy your kids jack squat at the park but I think most people would like to think that they would buy their kids something besides food. If not a hat then a pennant or a “thunder-stick” or some other BS. If you’re middle class you probably aren’t taking the kids on the el so you have to drive and so on and so on. The point of this is that costs a lot to go to the park whether you do it on the cheap or not. If you want to determine how much it costs to take a family to the park it would be silly to simply take the cost of the four cheapest tickets, no food, etc. People consume things at the ballpark and that needs to be taken into consideration. Still as an informal study I’ve tried to mirror the average for Chicago teams by following the same rubric but with more reasonable expenses.


Ticket Price $14 each (but you can only go to three day games in Aug or any game in Sept or Oct — another reason the average is telling)
Four Sodas (no beer) $2.50 each
Four Hot dogs: $2.75 each
No program
Two moderate souvenirs: $12 each
Public transport $1.75 x eight (four round trips)
Total cost $115


Ticket price $6each (but must attend one of 17 half price dates on a mon or tue)
Four Soda: $2.25
Four Hot Dogs: $2.75
No program
Two moderate souvenirs: $12 each
Public transport $1.75 x eight (four round trips)
Total: $82 (that’s good value)

You could bring food from home and do this more cheaply but if someone is doing that you are either a cheap ass or a fat ass because you need more food than you can afford at the park. Good luck sitting though nine innings without buying anything at the park. As to ticket prices, if you want to take your kids to fireworks night or a weekend or a game during the summer at Wrigley this is blown out of the water. Again, this makes the average more telling than the baseline.

What about the “Baseball-related” itinerary? I would be very interested the average cost of this trip. What if you multiply your ballpark individual expense by four?

Levi: I think your analysis is correct, Steve, but you’ll notice that without truly skimping–i.e., the kids won’t be leaving the ballpark unhappy, because they’ve been fed and they’ve gotten some souvenirs–you’ve gotten a cost for the family drastically lower than our friends at Team Marketing Report. Their cost for the Cubs? $194.31. For the Sox? $160.23. All you did was do what any family on a budget would do: you looked for cheap seats. Period. TMR’s use of the average ticket price is wrong because 1) the most expensive tickets both aren’t available to the average budget-conscious family in the first place (They’re held by season-ticket holders or scalpers, for the most part.) _and_ they’re not of interest to the average budget-conscious family. A better plan would be to use the cost of the cheapest non-bleacher seat, because that’s really what the family that has to count dollars will look at. You can even scrap the idea of looking for budget dates–although at Comiskey that would be silly, since _everybody_ looks at the two budget days*–and you’d still end up with a price much lower than TMR’s.

Second, a casual fan doesn’t buy a scorecard or program. Period.

Third, and this is my main complaint about this index: MLB should every year loudly refute this shit. Sure, they don’t want to encourage people to bring their own food, and they don’t want to mention that souvenirs are expensive, but there is absolutely no reason for them not to, every time this report comes out, mount a PR offensive about how cheap the cheap seats are, how great the views are in these new stadiums even from the cheap seats, what a great time kids have at the ballpark, and how goddamn expensive the movies are, let alone the NBA and NFL. The idea is to convince people that they can afford to get in the door. MLB knows that once they’re there, they’ll buy stuff, because that’s what people do, and that’s good for MLB. MLB sure as hell shouldn’t let some outside group determine what people think it wil cost them to go to a ballgame. Yet every year, they not only let this story get out, but they almost encourage it, because they’re always looking at any chance they can to say that players make too much money. And that’s because the people who run MLB are shortsighted liars, for the most part.

The idea of keeping a running total of ballpark expenses for the trip is a fun one. I’ll confer with Jim.

*The Sox tickets are way overpriced on non-budget days because the lease on Comiskey Park calls for the Sox to pay rent only in years in which they sell more than (I’m going to make up a number here, but that’s not really important to the story) 1.5 million full-priced tickets. If I remember right, they’ve only paid rent once, in 2001 (?), primarily because they sell so many tickets at half price or through group sales or at a discount of some sort. And that’s why they set their prices so high, because the marginal gain they would get from lowering them appears, to them, to be less than the gain from not paying rent. It’s a silly, shortsighted strategy, of course, because getting a fan in the door is worth almost any cost in the long term. But again, they’re MLB owners, so expecting the long view is just about futile.

Jim: Yes, I am definitely going to keep careful track of expenditures on the trip, if for no other reason than to make sure that Levi and the hangers-on pay their fair share for the hotel rooms and the rental car. So far, the only expenditure is that we’ve bought tickets for both the Red Sox and the Phillies. Both were $20, which is the second-cheapest seat you can get at Fenway Park (they have a very small amount of $12 seats), and the third-cheapest seat at Citizens Bank Park (they also have $15 and $18 seats). Actually, I’ve also paid for my plane ticket to Chicago already, but that’s not relevant to this discussion.

To compare Chicago prices to southern California: both the Angels and Dodgers have a “family pack” for Wednesday and Sunday games, which includes four upper-deck seats, four hot dogs, and four sodas. The Dodgers’ deal is $48 and also includes parking, and the Angels’ deal is $39 without parking. Adding $24 in souvenirs to use Steve’s matrix, they both come out to a little over $70. Not bad. (Actually, what the Angels’ deal does include is $8 in game tokens for the pitching machines/hitting machines/whatever it is they have in the “interactive baseball-style game” area at Angel Stadium. So if that will pacify the kids enough that they don’t need souvenirs, that really cuts the cost down.)

Steve: Okay, I think we can agree to agree. MLB should do a lot more to make themselves family friendly. Alas, it is clear they have given this terrain over to the minor leagues and are instead concerned with luxury suites and leather vibrating chairs right behind home plate. I think that probably gets to the core of why they don’t try to squash the “average ticket” thing. They don’t want to do anything to alter the perceived value of their sport. If they advertise how cheap or inexpensive their games can be, perhaps they fear that people will think of them as a lesser product. I think it’s interesting the Red Sox and the Cubs are the two highest priced teams while the Expos are the lowest. Right there you see the difference between the Mercedes and the Kia. If a Mercedes cost as much as a Kia it would lose a lot of its luster, no? Baseball makes a hell of a lot more money off the luxury suites than the upper deck reserved so why do anything to advertise how cheap a game when you risk alienating people who are paying a far higher premium to see it?

thatbob: I can’t help but notice that Levi’s argument reflects upon his larger crusade against the abuse of the arithmetical average in describing American culture and economics.

Bodily functions

Well, the demand from some quarters has been so high that I have to make sure you know about how Moises Alou, who doesn’t use batting gloves, toughens his hands.

According to an item a ways down in this column, he pees on them.

So don’t hi-five him. And when he comes to the plate, shout, “Hey, Ol’ Pee-Hands!” Sounds very 19th-century.

Oh, and on the topic of waste, here’s Barry Bonds’s take on the Spider-Man controversy:

“What the [bleep] are you asking me for? I don’t care. Our job is to play ball, not to worry about what ad is on the billboard. I don’t care. They can have [bleepin’] dog-poo as bases so I have to step in [bleep] as far as I’m concerned. What the hell.”

As Redbird Nation, where I found the quote, says: It’s easy to hate Bonds, but it’s hard to hate his incorrigible Bondsness.

Actually, we probably shouldn’t spread the idea of dog-poo bases. I wouldn’t put it past Selig, if someone in the dog-poo industry offered him money. King Kaufman at Salon is at his best today on this topic.