French and Saunders

I got an instant message from a co-worker at about 2:00 saying a friend of hers had an extra ticket for tonight’s Angels-A’s game. Yes, even though I had made the 80-plus-mile round-trip to Anaheim for games Tuesday and Wednesday, since my rule is to never turn down a last-minute baseball invitation (especially when the ticket is free), I made the trip again.

One storyline in this game was that it was Dallas Braden’s first start after his perfect game last Sunday. He needed to retire the first three batters to break Catfish Hunter’s A’s record of 29 consecutive batters retired — and Braden retired only the first two. The game did become a pitchers’ duel, with Braden battling Joe Saunders, and with the difference being the Angels’ big 6th inning.

Both pitchers went the distance, just as in the Angels-Royals game Levi, Jason, and I saw last May in which Zack Greinke went up against Joe Saunders. Same result: a complete-game win for Saunders.

Let me highlight this fact: Joe Saunders has pitched exactly two complete-game shutouts in his major-league career. I have seen both of them live.

You know what’s going to happen

Watch this now before

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MLB realizes it exists online: the last 10 minutes or so of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

Opening Day 2007: Hour 8

5:05 — “My 29” is using the FSN graphics package, which isn’t particularly unusual, but their graphics seem to be making more noise than they currently do on FSN. Guess that’s part of the MyNetwork attitude.
5:10 — They’re not booing in Houston, they’re saying “Luke,” as in Scott, who just hit a 2-run home run.
5:16 — The Astros announcers mention that Brad Ausmus is a news junkie, and suggest that while his teammates are watching “Sportscenter,” he’s watching C-SPAN or CNBC. I’m sure Fox management sent out a quick memo with a suggestion of their own about which network should have been named there.
5:27 — A commercial for a concept I haven’t thought about for a while: Perkins restaurants.
5:35 — Watching the Pirates is making me hungry for pierogies for dinner. Good thing I have some in the freezer for just such an emergency.
5:49 — Waiting for the pierogies to thaw in boiling water, I switch to the A’s-Mariners game just to see it end, on a fly ball to Ichiro in center field.
5:50 — Meanwhile, the Pirates and Astros are already in the top of the 8th, so it’s a pretty speedy game.
5:58 — Yes, it’s sad when ballpark prices for food and souvenirs are so high that families are forced to choose one or the other, but kids are always ready to improvise.

Opening Day 2007: Hour 6

3:09 — NESN does an in-game promo for the Boston Globe’s online store without mentioning the actual web address. Guess everyone in New England is supposed to know already.
3:15 — My afternoon snack is Pringles Select potato chips. Yes, upscale Pringles that come in a bag. Now that they’ve had Lays in a can for a while now, I guess the reverse was inevitable.
3:18 — Some company is donating $100 to a food bank for every Rockies home run. It’d be a little more charitable if they were making a donation for every run, period.
3:23 — The wind suddenly kicks up at Coors Field and hot dog wrappers start blowing around, which allows the announcers to awkwardly transition to offering their best wishes to people affected by a recent tornado in Colorado.
3:26 — Okay, NESN does the “scorecard” graphics, too, like TBS. So they’re partially forgiven for their score bar.

3:30Oakland A’s at Seattle Mariners (FSN Northwest)
At last, another game starts.
3:34 — Listen, whoever was responsible for this FSN promo, you need either the dollar sign or the word “dollars.” This says “six million dollars dollars.”

3:42 — Wow, it’s a new rule that batters are supposed to keep one foot in the batter’s box when they take a time out. I predict that this rule won’t be enforced very vigilantly.
3:53 — Looking forward to the new Belle and Sebastian song “Piazza, Oakland DH.” He strikes out in his first appearance as such.

Wrigley Field has been around a long time

From YouTube, via the Uni Watch blog, here’s six and a half minutes of home movie footage shot at Wrigley Field. It starts off with 1930 Flag Day ceremonies prior to a game against the Boston Braves, including the raising of a 1929 NL championship pennant,

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and then switches to 1929 World Series action against the Philadelphia A’s (either Game 1 or Game 2, both of which were Cubs losses).

The Golden Years

Despite my crankiness in the comments to Jim’s post about the Sports Illustrated piece about baseball being in good shape right now, I do agree with the general premise. We’re in a great era for baseball.

Over the weekend, which we spent being rained and eaten by John Kruk-sized mosquitoes in Door County, Wisconsin, I was reminded of one example of why it’s a good time to be a baseball fan. I thought of this recently when we were in Lake Tahoe and I was reading the Sacramento Bee, and it came to mind again while I was reading the Green Bay Press-Gazette last weekend.

Both cities, lacking major league baseball teams, cover teams from nearby cities, with the Bee leaning towards Oakland but covering the Giants as well, and the Press-Gazette covering the Brewers. But, their home cities being medium-sized, the papers don’t have extensive sports sections. They run bare-bones box scores. You get the at-bats, runs, hits, RBI. You get basic pitcher stats. You get the time of game and the umpires. And at best, you get a capsule summary of a paragraph or so to go with the box score.

Which brings me to my point. I’m spoiled. Reading a big-city paper or two or three every day, I’m used to getting the bells and whistles on my box scores. I want the pitch count, batters’ walks, batting average, details of the types of errors made.

And that’s just the beginning. When I moved up here in 1992, the expanded box score and the capsule summaries were my only way to follow Cardinals games that I couldn’t pick up on KMOX. Once in a while, I got to see a Post-Dispatch at a newsstand. But most days, I was deprived of a lot of
the fun of following a major league team: I got no rumors, no human-interest stories, no detailed stories of exciting wins. And, lacking cable, I got no replays.

Twelve years later, being away from the Internet and a big-city paper for a few days reminds me of just how much things have changed. I now have more baseball information than I could ever use, from all the stats in baseball history to great Cardinals commentary to the Post-Dispatch. And, though the design sucks (I keep hoping a certain Major League Baseball employee will get it fixed.), is fantastic. The audio portion alone makes it a godsend to people like me rooting for out of town teams. Add in the video highlights (like a bit of thievery by Jim Edmonds that’s currently available on the Cardinals site), and you’ve got the best thing Major League Baseball has done since barring Pete Rose.

Add in all the other reasons already discussed in the earlier post, and it’s sure a good time to be a baseball fan.

Original comments…

maura: oh,, how i coveted you back in the day…

Levi: Yeah, I should probably fix that so it links to, say, your page instead of Hasbro’s.

Ok. Now it does.

Jason: What were you doing in Door County?

Levi: Not making a documentary about Wisconsin. Instead, we were camping. In the rain and a mosquito convention.

Back in the lineup

Following a mostly baseball-free trip to Lake Tahoe, I’m back in the world of the Internet (and, that means, the office). But because I have a fair amount of work to do this morning, I’ve got just some disjointed thoughts to offer.

1) Here are some things that people I overheard on the trip (at restaurants, airports, in the gondola at Squaw Valley) are more concerned about than I tend to be: Property values, cars, gas prices, commercials, and traffic. Oh, and there was the woman at the airport who was detailing to everyone in earshot the degree to which she always gets sick on airplanes. The short version: not quite sick enough to barf, but very close.

Things they are less concerned about than me: public transportation, bicycles, and baseball.

I’ll take my set any day.

2) We did get to see one game while we were on vacation. The last night of our trip we spent at Stacey’s aunt’s house in Sacramento, where I got to watch the Cardinals beat the Athletics on the Bay Area Fox Sports Network. And I got to feed Aunt Sherry’s pair of pet bunnies. It was a great day.

3) The flag at Wrigley Field at Saturday’s very chilly game was still at half staff. The Most-Loved Terrible President Ever has been dead more than three weeks! Isn’t it time to reflect his American optimism and pull that flag back up?

4) Speaking of honoring the dead, if I had been Commissioner of Baseball, “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the day Ray Charles died would have been played by solo organ or trumpet in every ballpark. It’s not like anyone is ever going to sing it better than he did at Game 2 of the 2001 World Series. Watching that performance, I was astonished that any such carefully staged moment as the pre-game National Anthem at the World Series could be so moving. On a song and in a situation where most renditions don’t even reach the level of craft, Ray Charles on that night produced art.

5) Jim’s posts recently have now doubled the amount of non-Maura-created Devil Rays content on the Internet. The infinity symbol no longer quite expresses the porn/Devil Rays ratio on the Web. Congratulations, Jim. The D-Rays will have your season tickets in the mail this week. Hope there’s room on that fast-rolling bandwagon.

6) Ron Santo and Pat Hughes on Friday had this exchange:
Ron: “Patrick, have you ever thought of writing poetry?”
Pat: “No, not really, Ron.”
Ron: “I think you should.”
Pat: “Well, I think I might just stick to broadcasting.”
Ron: “I really think you should write poetry.”
Pat: “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

It’s good to be back.

Original comments…

sandor: Re: #3. I (regrettably) didn’t take any pictures, but in our short jaunt through southern Wisconsin this weekend, we saw an inordinate number of flags at half-mast. Probably more at half- than at full-. In fact, the larger the flag was, the greater chance it was halfway down the pole. It was astonishing.

Jim: They’re supposed to be at half-mast (or half-staff) for 30 days after a President dies. I seem to recall that 10 years ago, flag proprietors were pretty good about keeping them halfway down (or up) for a month after Nixon died, so if he can get that kind of flag cooperation, it’s no wonder Reagan is doing even better.

Levi: Wow. 30 days?

Stand me corrected!

But it still seems like an odd relic of, say, Victorian-style mourning, when you went through several specific stages of mourning with their accompanying public displays.

Toby: Levi, At Sunday’s Cardinals vs. Reds game (in which Junior hit his 500th homer), a kid from your hometown named Landon Bayley threw out the first pitch. Just an FYI.

Levi: How’d he manage to get to do that? And was it faster than Matt Morris’s fastball these days?

Toby: His grandfather is the Bayley in Martin & Bayley – the small Carmi company that built Huck’s into a major chain in the Midwest. It was Huck’s day at the ballpark. He got to meet Lou Brock, who, I believe, also threw out a ceremonial first pitch.

I’ve never clocked Landon so I don’t know if he’s faster than Morris, but I know he’s a good kid.