A baseball dream

I’ll write later this week about our Montreal weekend, which featured at least a couple of points of interest to baseballrelated fans, but today I’m busy with work, so I’ll just share the dream I had right before waking this morning.

I was dreaming about the Cubs/Marlins doubleheader today. The Marlins announced their starting lineup for game one:
Leading off: a sesame red bean ball
Batting second: a cute, furry kitten
Batting third: Stacey

I thought to myself, “But . . . but . . . but . . . those aren’t major-league ballplayers! The Marlins are throwing this game!”

Then I woke.
Now, I love eating a sesame rice ball, and I love petting a cute, furry kitten, and I love playing catch with Stacey. But my dream thought was right: none of those is a major-league-quality ballplayer.

Marlins should be announcing their starting lineup for game one in minutes. You heard it here first.

Original comments…

thatbob: Wait, were Mike Piazza and Ichiro Suzuki playing for the Expos, too? Because maybe they decided to field Stacey’s All Cuite Team for a change.

None of them may be major-league quality players (except Piazza), but any one of them (except Suzuki) could get me to switch my allegiance from the Cubs to the Expos. And I bet the cute, furry kitten pulls a lot of walks, but I doubt (s)he’s as good at fielding as a certain canine playing shortstop somewhere up in St. Paul.

Dan: You’re goddamn right about Snoopy.

stacey: aw bob, i’m not on the all cute team! that’s just silly.

levi, i have to say that i’m disappointed it that it took the mention of MY NAME to bring you to your senses. sure, a sesame ball can lead off, followed by a furry kitten. but once they mention your wife, you suddenly realize it’s a bad idea?

thatbob: Stace, I just figured you’d be the manager of your All Cute Team, which I think means you could put yourself in if the situation, or cuteness, required.

Levi: I think it was Cap Anson (and if it wasn’t, it should have been) who a couple of times, as player/manager, announced himself as entering a ballgame just in time that he could hop off the bench and catch a foul popup that was headed his way.

Rules–those damnable things–now prevent such action.

Pat Hughes, Alliterist

While I was at Tuesday night’s dismal extra-inning loss for the Cubs, Stacey was listening on the radio, where she heard the following roll off the tongue of Pat Hughes:

“There’s a looping liner over a leaping Lee.”

Oh, and in case I haven’t thought to pass it on, Ron Santo recently called Olympic Stadium “The Toilet Bowl of the World.”

Original comments…

stacey: actually, i think it might have been “the toilet bowl of the universe.”

Levi: Oh. I thought that was Mos Eisley Spaceport.

Jim: I bet the poutine is better at Olympic Stadium than it is at Mos Eisley!

And the last game

Stacey, illegally driving the rental car, met us at the Garfield stop on the Red Line, and within minutes, we were bound for Milwaukee. We had about two-and-a-half hours to make a one-and-a-half-hour drive, and, as they had been all along, the driving fates were with us, as we made Miller Park in plenty of time, navigating through the alluring commingled scents of sausage, beer, and cheese that are the City that Schlitz Made Famous.

To a one, the baseball fans I know–the low-rent, lovers of the run-down and worn that they are–loved Milwaukee’s former ballpark, County Stadium. It was, compared to the new Miller Park, small and homey, and the corrugated iron sheeting that composed its facade gave it a seemingly appropriate resemblance to a factory. Miller Park, on the other hand, is a new-style ballpark through and through. Wide concourses, lots of different stands selling lots of types of sausage, giant parking lots a marathon away from the gate, countless thousands of luxury boxes, and a tower where Bud Selig can sit and stroke his white Persian while sniggering and contemplating whether he should have his contract extended another decade. Even Bernie Brewer moved to a new, upscale home in Miller Park–against his will, I like to assume–his chateau with its front-door slide into the beer stein replaced by a high-end condo and a slide onto . . . a platform. Meanwhile, thee vegetarian food selections at Miller Park, are, as anyone with a passing knowledge of non-Madison Wisconsin would expect, not particularly distinguished or diverse. I had pizza, only discovering as we left that the Gorman Thomas stand would have sold me a Soy Dog, on which I could have put the famous–and mysterious–Stadium Sauce.

At least the sausage race continues, the Brewers still have the feel of a small-town team trying–and, usually, failing–to make good, and with the roof open, I have to admit that Miller Park isn’t that bad. We had great seats on the 8th row down the right field line, from which we had a wonderful view of plays on the infield, and a not-so-wonderful view of Craig Wilson’s shimmering golden locks in the outfield.

But, as Bart Giammatti said, though not meaning it quite so literally as it, sadly, turned out for him, the game is designed to break your heart, and the Brewers–with the able help of Daryle Ward–set about breaking ours with an efficiency any beer factory would envy. Their rookie starter, Ben Hendrickson, threw a good game, but a long home run by Daryle Ward in the second, and a second, longer home run by Ward in the seventh off a reliever gave the Pirates a 5-0 lead that the Brewers’ sadly slumbering offense couldn’t even begin to overcome. In the ninth, the Brewers scored a run off Jose Mesa, the Rungiver, on a triple and a sacrifice fly. The crowd erupted in joy, causing all four of us to look again at the scoreboard to reinforce our suspicions that, yes, that run did leave the Brewers still four back. But no one has ever said Wisconsinites don’t know how to celebrate the finer things in life, and a run is a run is a run, I suppose. I’d have raised it in solidarity, but there wasn’t time, as the Pirates quickly rang down the curtain on BRPA 2004’s winning streak.

But in this life, one savors the little victories, right? So as we drove back to our beloved Chicago, nearly running out of gas on the way, I thought of the ten games we did win, and of the exchange I overheard in the row in front of us. With one out in the Brewer ninth, a man who was at the game with another man and the other man’s ten-year-old son, said to his friend, “You want to go ahead and head out?” The friend replied, “Sure. It doesn’t matter to me.” “What about him?” asked the first man, indicating the child. “I’ll ask him.” Ask he did, and the boy said, “I’d like to stay. But do you want to go?” The man, seeing that he had raised his child in the ways of righteousness, said, “No, let’s stay.”

And stay they did. As I remember once hearing someone say, “See–everything in the world’s not made of toilet.” A fine game and a fine trip, surpassing all expectations. Thanks to everyone who came along, rooted with us, read the blog, or invented baseball all those years ago. And thanks especially to Jim, whose hard work and good company made the whole flawless trip possible. I recommend anyone who is considering any trip anywhere hire him. He’s worth the hefty price I’m sure he’d command.

Original comments…

thatbob: Last year when we went up to Miller Park, the traditional 7th inning stretch version of Beer Barrel Polka was replaced with a vote-by-applause version of some Usher or Nelly song that I couldn’t fathom because I’m some kind of old man. But this year, happily, Beer Barrel Polka was back, and I think overall the blaring, rocking stadium sound system was a little better behaved. (Of course we had spent the day being aurally assaulted at Comiskey, so my perceptions may have been skewed.)

The Brittish Rounders Society: You bloody Yanks didn’t invent anything. You stole the game from us!

The Native American Battagaway Society: You one to talk, paleface with bad teeth.

Jim: By the way, if it had been solely up to me, I would have chosen to root for the Pirates (because of my brief Pittsburgh-area residency). But I was just one out of four attendees at this game, and I didn’t want to press the issue.

Tiger Town

This morning, we bageled up at the Stahl household, then left my parents–as well as two cats, the stinky dog, some fish, a hummingbird, and an owl that went “whoo-oo-oo” all night long–behind and hit the road bright and early, counting on Jim’s playlist of #1 hits to carry us through. And carry us through an uneventful morning they did. We dropped Stacey and Luke at the University Park Metra station a full ten minutes before their standing train was due to depart. They left us with good wishes and the remaining dozen Hostess Baseballs.

We passed through the Slough of Despond, or northern Indiana. We crossed into Michigan, where, like the welcome center in Florida that gives travelers free orange juice, they were giving out paper cups of motor oil. In Michigan, a pattern developed: road construction followed by light rain followed by heavy rain followed by traffic being slowed to a crawl by a wreck ahead. Like a driver’s ed class following a Troy McClure film, we took heed and drove with caution.

Yet we arrived in Detroit right on time. Jim took us into the city on Michigan Avenue, so that we would go by Tiger Stadium. The old ballpark looks a bit run down, but it’s still impressive–huge and boxy and white. A ticket booth remains right on the corner, but there are no tickets to be had.

Detroit itself, meanwhile, is as depressing and hard to believe as I imagined. Street after street is deserted, storefronts are boarded up, windows are broken. A few businesses here and there are hanging on–the Refrigerator King, a few liquor stores, a surprising number of antique-looking antique stores–but even the extant businesses appear to be holding on only by cutting costs to the bone, deferring even the most basic maintenance, from painting to repairing broken signs. (Side note: one thing that was odd for me, simply because Chicago’s truly poor neighborhoods are so segregated: the people on the street were about an even mix of white, black, and Latino.) Once we entered downtown, the picture went from sad to surreal, as abandoned storefronts were replaced by abandoned deco skyscrapers. Across from our hotel is a derelict twenty-story building with detailed stonework and statues of knights at about the tenth floor. And downtown seems to be like that just about everywhere; I saw a sign on a building that said, “Building available,” and I thought it was awfully optimistic.

The ballpark, on the other hand, is surprisingly pleasant. Sitting in the 18th row just on the first-base side of home, we were a bit spoiled. The upper deck–my usual haunt at a ballpark–does look like it might be all the way back in the Central Time Zone, so I can’t fully vouch for the ballpark, but it was a great place to watch a game from the high-roller area. The stadium is very open, with a view of downtown and a lot of sky, a silly fountain (The General Motors Fountain) beyond center field, and statues of Tiger Hall-of-Famers on the concourse in left. I was even able to get a reasonably good vegetarian pita with rice pudding for dinner, which saved me from the wrath of Little Caesar’s, the house pizza. Jim supped on a Kowalski kielbasa–and, as we learned later, “Kowalski means Ko-wality!”

Oh, and the game! I had decided beforehand that since the Sox are doomed, I was free to root, root, root for the home team. It was a good night for it, as Jeremy Bonderman, apparently leaving his 6.07 E.R.A. at home with the wife and kids, absolutely baffled the Sox. He threw mostly inside curves and slowwwwwwwww changeups. Then, when the hitters would start looking for the slowwwwwwwww changeup, he’d throw an even slower one. I don’t know when I’ve ever seen this many major league hitters look this foolish. Paul Konerko in the 9th was so far out in front of strike three that the ump nearly called it against the next batter. The Tigers, meanwhile, kept drawing walks after walk after walk off Jose Contreras, and the game wasn’t in doubt for long. Jeremy Bonderman struck out Joe Borchard for his personal-best 14th strikeout to end the game, and the Tigers won, 7-0.

Now I will wrap this up and get to bed. Jim’s somehow managed to get our TV stuck while he tried to order the Garfield movie.

Original comments…

Dan: Old Tiger Stadium was awesome. Just had to share.

Jason: ‘Slough of Despond’? I would be offended if it wasn’t true.

"If anyone asks, you’re two adults and two children."

First of all, yes, the trip is going as scheduled so far. Even though it’s going to say this was posted by Jim, this is actually a collaborative post, more or less, because for the first time both of us are sitting next to the same computer. This may be how we do things for the rest of the trip, or maybe not — we’ll have to see. We’re at Levi’s parents’ house in Carmi, Illinois, right now, using their computer, and we have to get up early to get on the road, but we wanted to get a little something down.

The car we ended up with from Hertz is a 2005 Chevrolet Impala. It has a CD player but no tape deck, so we’re using Vince’s iTrip, which is working okay so far. Everyone in the car seemed to enjoy Jim’s baseball song playlist and Luke’s baseball song-and-Red-Barber-recollection playlist. Now we’re working our way through Jim’s “Number Ones” playlist, which is every song he owns that hit #1 on the Billboard playlist. (Playing it was Levi’s request; Jim probably would have chosen something with more radio station jingles.)

On to the games. Saturday’s game at John O’Donnell Stadium in Davenport is the only minor-league game on the trip. That meant it was the only game at which we could walk up and get box seats and still get change from a $20 after buying two. We bought four, so we got change from a $40. We sat 10 rows up, right behind home, in front of a row of screaming children. (You know how you hear sometimes how great the laughter of children sounds? In reality, it’s shrill.)

Levi tried both vegetarian food options at the ballpark. Neither the nachos nor the fries were particularly distinguished.

The mascots, on the other hand, were almost the Famous Chicken level. The Swing’s actual mascot is a man in a monkey suit who, when he’s wearing the monkey suit, is known as Clyde. Clyde has a sidekick, a 4’10” man in a green-and-yellow superhero costume, complete with cape, named, of course, Banana Man. He runs around, occasionally stopping to stand heroically with arms akimbo, and occasionally stopping to throw bananas into the crowd. No explanation is offered.

The game itself was a brisk affair. The Swing center and right fielders should possibly have been players of the game due to the following incident late in the game with the Swing up by 1: with the tying run at first, a ball was hit to the wall in center. We couldn’t quite see if the Swing center fielder bobbled it or not, but whatever was going on out there, it eventually ended with the outfielders’ arms upraised in the universal symbol of “where the hell is the ball,” most commonly seen in the major leagues at Wrigley Field when a ball gets lost in the ivy. We, being cynical city folk, doubted their story, but the umpire bought it hook, line, and sinker, the hook being the tying run being sent back to third. You can guess what the line is — the go-ahead run being stuck at second. The sinker: a 1-0 Swing win.

Distracting everyone late in the game was a rabbit that had somehow wandered onto the field. First he was out in left field minding his own business, but somehow in all the commotion, he ended up in foul territory near home. He would sit around for a few minutes, then scamper off about 30 feet. At one point, perhaps thinking he had been called in to pitch, he sat between home and the pitcher’s mound between innings. The umpire appeared to be consulting his mental rule book, but surprisingly, the Midwest League doesn’t seem to have an official policy on rabbits taking up residence in the infield, so he decided it was somebody else’s problem and ignored the little guy. No, not Banana Man, the rabbit. Banana Man was clearly the umpire’s problem.

Eventually, the rabbit took off for parts unknown. Meanwhile, it seems that whenever a rabbit gets loose on the field, Section 5 gets handed free Blue Bunny bomb pops, or whatever they’re called now that you can’t say “bomb.” Perhaps Tom Ridge pops. Anyway, we got to enjoy our tri-color quiescently frozen confections for the last couple of innings, with no real explanation as to how we got them.

After some interesting wandering on two-lane roads in Illinois, through Saturday night rodeo traffic, we spent a too-short night at the Country Inn and Suites in Galesburg. Bright and early Sunday, we got up and Levi spilled tea on his feet, which meant it was time to leave for St. Louis. We met up with hanger-on Tony for lunch before the game, and then met up with the various other hangers-on at the Stan Musial statue outside Busch Stadium. Inside, Jim met the final hanger-on of this busy hanger-on day, Jay, of “Jeopardy!” message board fame, who managed to get a seat right behind the main group.

Levi nearly used up a whole pencil filling in the boxes on the Cardinals’ side of the scorecard today, after he finally figured out which side was supposed to be the Cardinals’ side of the scorecard. He had to fill in box after box after box as the Cards scored run after run after run, as usual this season. Luke, in his Cubs shirt and cap, looked awestruck. Behind him, the fans wearing Cardinal red looked on with pity. Particularly noteworthy plays were Edgar Renteria’s 13-pitch first-inning at-bat that ended in a 3-run homer; Larry Walker’s grand slam; and, best of all (only best because the Cardinals were already leading by nearly a touchdown at this point), Reggie Sanders leaping high against the wall, coming down with his glove closed to cheers from the audience, and the scoreboard operator immediately putting up “HR RBI.” The scoreboard operator was the only one in the stadium not fooled by Reggie’s act — well, we guess the umpires weren’t fooled either; there was no joy in Gloveville, the ball had gone right out.

Immediately after the game, we found the ramp to I-64 East that hadn’t been torn down for new Cardinals ballpark construction and hightailed it to Levi’s hometown, Carmi, Illinois. At Levi’s parents’ house, we were visited by frequent baseballrelated.com commentator Toby, as well as Levi’s grandparents (non-commentators).

The title quote for this post was said to Jim by the desk clerk at the Country Inn and Suites in Galesburg, explaining how he could qualify for the rate he was quoted on the AAA web site. No one asked.

All right, now we’re going to bed, probably two hours later than we should have. See you in Detroit, assuming we can find an abandoned building that still has an Internet connection up and running.

Original comments…

sandor: When those buildings were abandoned, it was still callled DARPAnet, which means you’re going to have to enter in your post using punchcards. I think they still sell blank ones down at the A&P.

Where are the links? I assumed Levi would gladly trade in sleep for the chance to hyperlink all possible words in this post. I was particularly looking forward to the interpretation of the words “Banana Man” as well as “Levi’s grandparents.”

You are playing the license plate game, right? Who’s winning?

Congrats on keeping up your schedule. Keep the posts coming!

stacey: i think the lack of links was due to the late hour, combined with the fact that the internet connection at the stahl chalet is VERY slow. this is more than made up for by their amazing hospitality, though. i’m still full of delicious pasta, fresh fruit, and great company. the commute from carmi to chicago is a drag, though.

Luke, hanger-on: To flesh out the image of how this post came to be, I should note that Jim and Levi wrote together at the family computer in Levi’s brother’s room. Jim did the typing, employing his closed-captioning skills to take dictation from Levi, who reclined on a bean bag with a cigar and glass of port, pausing now and then to re-read that Sunday’s Post-Dispatch story about the Cardinals and the clubhouse iPod.

I, meanwhile, dosed a few doors down in Levi’s old bedroom, which I found impressively well-preserved. The Smithsonian should scoop it up for its exhibit on “Halcyon Childhoods of America: 1980-1989.” Not surprisingly, the room betrays fascinations with Star Wars, classic rock and mullets. I could have stayed forever.

Jim: Yes, we will go back after the trip and add links, additional stuff we may have forgotten to write about, and especially photos. Or at least I will. Levi may choose to wash his hands of the whole thing, for all I know.

Weddings, etc.

My brother got married last weekend in Indianapolis. Stacey and I and all the family had a great time dancing and making fun of Matt and generally enjoying welcoming a great new sister-in-law.

I had the honor of being the best man. While the groomsmen were locked away in a room in the bowels of the church away from the ladies, we got to watch the Cubs/Giants game. Despite the interest in the game displayed by most of the groomsmen, the wedding was not delayed, and I had to sneak back during picture-taking afterwards to see whether Greg Maddux had moved up a notch on this list.

The weekend was a good reminder of how useful a knowledge of sports can be in social situations. Say what you will about alcohol as a social lubricant; give me a little bit of knowledge of recent developments in sports over an Old Fashioned any day when I’m going to be hanging around a group of people I don’t know very well.

P.S. Derek Zumsteg at USS Mariner has a good post about the bizarre obstruction call on Jose Lopez that handed the Devil Rays the game. (The archive link doesn’t work, so scroll down to Saturday’s posts.) There’s also a good, if lengthy and inconclusive, discussion at Baseball Primer. My understanding of the rules on obstruction is that obstruction of a baserunner is necessarily a physical act, and that, as no one (Including the umpires!) has a right to a clear view of the field, obstructing a base runner’s view can’t be obstruction. Maura, is there an official D-Rays company position you’d like to share?

Original comments…

Jim: Thanks for the link to the Baseball Think Factory comments. Seems like a fun group there, if they can come up with both a reference to the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players and the phrase “Vince Naimoli’s daughter is crying like a baby.”

Levi: Do you agree with me that, though some evidence is introduced to bolster both sides of the argument, the “That call [stunk]!” side is stronger?

Levi: Oh, and Toby, something you’ll appreciate: Sunday morning I went for a run with Thys Bax. Thys humored me by allowing me to set the pace for our 12-mile run, but I still ended up really pushing myself because, well, I didn’t want Thys to get completely bored. Then when we were mostly done, Brandon showed up on the trail and ran part of the way with us. I was, of course, way outclassed.

Toby: Thys, by the way, folks, is 59 years old. Brandon is his son (graduated a year after Matt if memory serves me correct).

thatbob: A little bit of knowledge of recent developments in sports in unfamiliar social situations is just not as likely to lead to spontaneous making out with cute girls as a few Old Fashioneds are. But I guess if it’s also less likely to lead to throwing up all over everyone, then it has its place.

Last chance

I’m going to order tickets for game 2 of our trip tomorrow, once I know whether my brother is joining us. That’s the game in St. Louis on August 22nd versus the Pirates.

So it’s your last chance, potential hangers-on. We’ve got a group of 9 so far (Me, Jim, Stacey, Luke, my parents, Tony, Geoff Goldman and his fiancee). Want to join us?

Original comments…

Luke: Is our group big enough to get a group rate and get welcomed on the DiamondVision? Maybe the nine of us can be waiting out on the field when the Cu^^Cardinals come out to start the game!

Luke: Oh, and I sure hope Matt Morris is pitching that day and does as well as he is doing today. Hee-hee!

Luke: Umm, nevermind. I expect that by the time of our trip I’ll be rooting for the Cards to keep the Pirates out of the wild-card race.

Best at-bat ever?

Around here, and around the Internet, all the news from Wednesday’s Cubs-Dodgers game was about Alex Cora’s at-bat.

For those of you who missed it, here’s the pitch-by-pitch.

Pitch 1 – Ball
Pitch 2 – Called Strike
Pitch 3 – Ball
Pitch 4 – Foul
Pitch 5 – Foul
Pitch 6 – Foul
Pitch 7 – Foul
Pitch 8 – Foul
Pitch 9 – Foul
Pitch 10 – Foul
Pitch 11 – Foul
Pitch 12 – Foul
Pitch 13 – Foul
Pitch 14 – Foul
Pitch 15 – Foul
Pitch 16 – Foul
Pitch 17 – Foul
Pitch 18 – Home run to right field. Jason Grabowski and Alex Cora score

Because I had just watched the Cardinals game and had to get up at 5:45 the next morning to get to work early, I went to bed just before that inning. Stacey came into the bedroom early in Cora’s at-bat to inform me that Cubs announcer Pat Hughes had said, “For those of you just returning from a brief vacation, Alex Cora is still at bat.”

Much later–or so it seemed to my sleep-addled brain–she returned to tell me that Cora had fouled off fourteen pitches. Soon after, she sadly delivered the news of his home run. But even though she’s a Matt Clement fan and was sad to see him lose the battle, she was willing to concede that it was pretty impressive.

Two other notes:

1. Is Matt Morris trying to take up Johnny Damon’s slack? Check out this photo. It’s not there yet, but he’s on his way to turning his hideous chin friend into a real beard.

2. The comment by Pat Hughes reminds me of two great baseball radio moments I’ve been meaning to share with you. One is a great bit of description by Cardinals announcer Mike Shannon. Describing Matt Morris pulling up short to stop at third base, he said, “He stopped so short that if he’d been a train, he would have jackknifed the last half-dozen cars.”

The second is from a discussion Ron Santo and Pat Hughes were having the other day at Wrigley. It was chilly and windy, but Pat, expecting better weather, had decided to have the crew take out the window panes that protect the announcers from the elements. Ron was on his case about it, complaining that after so many years at Wrigley, surely he knew better than to take out the windows in May. Pat peppered Ron with questions like, “So, Ron, would you say it’s a pain to have these windows out?” and “So, Ron, would you say that it’s an open-and-shut case?” Ron continued his rant, oblivious to the joking.

Original comments…

Levi: Baseball Prospectus has a good point about Damon’s beard: he missed a chance to raise much more money for charity. He should have set up two accounts, one for keeping the beard, one for shaving it, and asked for donations to each. The one with most donations decides the fate of the greatest beard of the decade.

stacey: levi, what is the point is saying i’m a matt clement fan without linking to a photo of him? he steals my heart with his super pitching, tall socks, and super cuteness!

Luke: The at-bat reminded me of Matt Williams’ great at-bat in the 1989 NLCS against the Cubs, although it was only eight foul balls. Here’s an interesting write-up about it (scroll down to “Foul ball!”).

“According to research by STATS Inc., each foul ball shifts the balance in favor of the batter. After Williams’s fifth foul, he was the favorite over Wilson. Why? Physically, the more pitches a batter sees, the better he can adjust to movement and velocity, and therefore time his swing. There is also the psychological toll on the pitcher to consider.”

There’s also some talk of the precision foul ball, like the scene in “The Natural” where Hobbs tries to snipe the photographer when he’s taking BP after his injury.

“The carefully aimed foul ball is a rare but potent weapon, as Richie Ashburn once discovered. The Phillies outfielder was one of the best ever at repeatedly fouling balls off to frustrate and overwork pitchers, skilled enough to lead the league four times in on-base percentage. There came a day, however, when one of Ashburn’s teammates called upon him to fine-tune his fouling skills. The teammate, who was angry at his wife, implored Ashburn to hit the ball at his wife, sitting in the left-field stands. Ashburn forgot about it until he happened to spray some fouls in that general area. When his teammate yelled from the bench, “two seats over, one row back and you’ve got her,” Ashburn hit the next ball elsewhere, drawing the line at assault.

“Ted Williams, in My Turn At Bat, confessed to an occasion when he didn’t draw such a line. Maddened by one of his chronic Fenway Park hecklers, Williams tried to hit the critic with a foul ball. Since the fan sat behind third base, Williams had to go literally out of his way in his attempt, eschewing his pull-hitting instincts to aim left for several swings. He didn’t hit his target, but he probably made his point.


“Any discussion of foul balls must celebrate Luke Appling, the Michelangelo of the mis-hit. Appling once deliberately fouled two dozen balls into the stands to get even with his own ballclub’s failure to provide free passes for a couple of his friends. Another time, he aimed at a peanut vendor who had laughed when a fan was struck by Appling’s previous foul. “I’ll fix him,” Appling declared, then nailed him in the head; the vendor had to be carried out.”

There are worse claims to fame than to be the “Michelangelo of the mis-hit.”

Steve: So…ah….um….ah….who …uh…will join me in my…uh…loathing of Ron Santo? It seems that…ah….just when I have enough ammo to spread my..uh… hatred (like when he irresponsibly crashed his car after suffering insulin shock, like when he was characterized as “despondent” after not getting into the hall of fame) he goes and becomes…um….ah…. a double amputee without a bladder. I feel like…um…Frank Grimes in that Simpsons episode. You know….the…um…the….um…the….only person I’m destroying with this..um… hatred for Santo is myself. Um….Um….Worst color guy ever! All….ah…he’s good for is ….YESSS!!!!… rooting in the pressbox, kissing Sammy’s ass, (“just because Sammy has struck out seven times in a row, it doesn’t mean he’s not seeing the ball good.” He’s due.) wearing Pat Hughes out about his clothes and going on ad nauseum about the attendance quiz. But God forbid YOU rather than he make a joke about one of his three toupees. Pat Hughes is a Saint.

Levi: I’m not entirely sure I believe the Luke Appling story–two dozen fouls is more than I’ve ever heard of anybody hitting. But I could be wrong. To do that to demonstrate irritation is a pretty hilarious reason.

Every pitch of the Cora at-bat is at MLB.com, so I got to see it. Three things stood out. First, Clement kept throwing the same pitch, to the same location, over and over. His location was right on, every time. Second, Cora hit all but one of his fouls to the first-base side, and they almost all looked very very similar. None was in the air, which made the home run seem even more surprising. And third, after a few pitches, Vin Scully was stuck saying, “And another foul.” Over and over again.

Levi: I love Santo, despite agreeing with nearly every word Steve says. Especially that Pat Hughes is a Saint.

Luke: I will! I will! As Levi and Stacey and Bob well know, I agree with nearly word Steve says, especially that Ron Santo is the worst color guy ever.

Bob can testify how I put my palms to my ears when, in the 9th inning of a close game, Ron has nothing to add but “Noooo!” and “Yesssss!” and “Ohhhhhh!” and “Heyyyyy!” My latest annoyance has been his tendency to start anecdotes with two outs, resulting in Pat having to say, “…. and Sammy Sosa strikes out to end the enning. We’ll hear the rest of Ron’s story about (nonsense unrelated to baseball) after this break.”

Come the Sox series, I’ll be listening to Ed and John over on AM 1000. Sometimes I even prefer to listen to the Sox game, so brilliant are Ed and John, and count on the occasional update to know how my Cubs are doing.

Steve: Amen to the Rooney and Farmer comment, but don’t you think Farmer is getting a little out there at times? Sometimes he gets this “know it all” air about him that makes him a bit pretentious. Iíve learned a lot about baseball from listening to those guys. They can make the AL fun. Back to Hughes and Santo: Here’s another one that might not actually have happened but might as well have.

Pat: Bases full of Cubs two outs
Ron: Uh…I..uh got a fax here from….uh….Beverly in Davenport Iowa. She loves the…uh…Cubs and wants to uh…wish…
Pat: Alou hits a drive…
Ron: Yes!!! Cmon! Yes!!
Pat: And Bonds squeezes it for out #3
Ron: No!!!!

Levi, why do you love Santo so much? Is it for the same reason every kid at the Special Olympics gets a medal? That’s what’s so frustrating about this hatred. No one will contradict my general assesment of the man, instead they just say stuff like “He’s a legend” or try to start some argument with me about Santo being in the Hall of Fame.

Levi: I will admit to being completely bowled over–robbed of my ability to think critically–by his resolute fandom, his Charlie-Brown-worthy yo-yoing between absurd, childlike hopefulness and Dostoevskian despair, and by his (apparently) complete lack of any pretension.

Plus, he should be in the Hall of Fame.

stacey: although i concede that ron santo is an absolutely horrid baseball announcer, i really do enjoy listening to ron and pat. it’s like hanging out with two great friends. one of them knows a lot about baseball, and the other one’s got a french-speaking canadian dog and a Really fat cat that exercises until it is sweaty in a giant hampster ball. and they both really love the cubs.