By Jaded Roberts
ESPN announced today they will no longer cover Barry Bonds’ pursuit of Hank Aaron’s record of 755 home runs. Bonds hit his sixth homer of the season on Sunday, giving him 740.
“Bob (Ryan) and I were talking about it over lunch,” John Saunders said yesterday from ESPN’s offices in Times Square. “We don’t want to see Bonds anymore. Quite frankly, he epitomizes the kind of athlete ESPN has come to despise. He’s way overpaid and a self-promoter. And even though he’s probably clean this year, every fan in America knows he took steroids. So I brought it up to the big boss and he agreed."
ESPN also announced plans for a more diverse set of columnists at their weekly show The SportsReporters.
“We’ve done a poor job covering Western teams,” a spokesperson said. “Look for more reporters from St. Louis, Chicago, even Denver.”
Asked about the West Coast teams, the spokesperson replied, "I’m not sure about that. I can say we will broadcast The SportsReporters show on Sunday, June 24th, live from AT&T Park. That is, of course, the weekend the Yankees will be there."
Posted at 07:03 AM | Permalink
A beacon in the night
I can raise my eyes to
A jewel out of reach
Form a dream to rise to
- Earthshine, from Vapor Trails, lyrics by Neil Peart
One of the most incredible sights I have ever seen took place in 1995. The better half and I were stationed in Muscat, Oman. Not a lot of Western things to do there but ample opportunities for adventuresome types. One warm weekend about 30 of us ex-pats and a couple of Omanis drove from the capital city to the Wahibi Sands desert. Lying on sleeping bags beside our pitched tents that night, we saw an incredible site, a full canopy of stars.
I always thought I would never see something like that again. Last night we came close. Taking part in Astronomy Day, we drove to Sky Meadows, a state park located about 60 miles west of Washington. In a semi-circle of small mountains at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, amateur star gazers mingled with members of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club.
As advertised, they’re a very friendly group who let the public peer through their telescopes and ask, "What star is that one?" Several of their telescopes looked like small cannons and gave us great looks at the moon, Venus, Saturn, Orion and other pieces of the heavens. We also saw two satellites.
The moon provided the pleasure of Earthshine, a phenomenon of a crescent moon where you can see its dark side faintly illuminated by sunlight reflecting off the earth.
When we got home, I put in and listened to some of the Vapor Trails CD. This recording documents Neil Peart’s darkest days. Ten years ago, the 54-year-old drummer and lyricist lost his only child and wife in the span of one horrible year. Peart's lyrics tell of his lowest points, the standing back up, the healing and being able to face the future again.
Earthshine is one of my favorite songs on the CD. I got pretty emotional listening to it and thinking about the dark days here in Virginia this past week.
Life can bring unbearable pain and suffering. At some point, though, you’re able to gaze at the stars and feel the wonder of life once again. I hope all the wounds in Blacksburg and elsewhere will soon heal and that the joy of living returns to those who can't feel it now.
Posted at 08:14 PM | Permalink
After much thinking about it, I’ve decided to change the name of my blog to Jaybird’s Jottings. More and more, I’ve been writing about subjects other than the Giants and baseball. I didn’t think it was fair to have a site named Jay’s Giants Blog and not write mostly about the Giants.
I spent the last month tossing around names. I tried to think of something catchy but nothing really tripped my fancy. Holding my breath, and hoping to be “Saved by Zero,” I googled Jaybird’s Jottings. Fortunately, no one else has that name.
I plan to continue writing about the Giants and baseball. They remain my best passion. But life offers up other things and I wanted to write about them too.
Thanks and I’m sorry for the delay.
Posted at 07:55 PM | Permalink
"It's special to wear the hats, especially for me. It was always the school you wanted to beat, but the tragedy shows you how little sports actually means in the big circle. Life is so much more. It makes you realize how lucky we have it and not take any days for granted." – Ryan Zimmerman
In memory of the fallen at Virginia Tech, the Washington Nationals wore VT hats last night in their game against the Braves. Dave Lanham, a Nats fan and regular at the Nationals discussion group at Ballpark Guys, called in to the team yesterday to suggest the idea to Stan Kasten. One of the hats worn was donated to the Hall of Fame.
Heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this terrible tragedy.
Posted at 07:32 AM | Permalink
"The most important event in baseball history this century has not been the introduction of the lively ball, or the shift of franchises, or the addition of two second-division clubs to each league... It was the signing of Jackie Robinson to a baseball contract in October 1945, by the Brooklyn Dodger organization, and the subsequent use of other Negro ball players in the majors." – Arnold Hano, Willie Mays, 1966.
One of my first readings about Jackie Robinson came in 1966. Fascinated with Willie Mays, I read with great interest Arnold Hano’s biography of Mays. The ’51 pennant race was down to the last day of the regular season. Hano recounted the way Robinson saved the pennant for Brooklyn, making a diving catch in the 12th and hitting the game winning home run in the 14th to beat the Phillies at Shibe Park. Robinson’s heroics ruined the Giants’ train ride home and forced the three-game playoff.
Today is a day to put aside the Giants-Dodgers rivarly. On this occasion, the 60th anniversary of Robinson’s first game in the big leagues, the pioneering act that broke the color barrier, fans of all teams have the opportunity to applaud Jackie Robinson and all that he stands for.
Although its numbers have diminished, ignorance and prejudice still walk hand in hand in our society. We saw their ugliness this past week with the terrible comments made by radio talk host Imus. Progress has been made and we owe that gain in no small part to pioneers like Robinson who faced the bigotry when fewer numbers stood up against it.
We remember Jackie Robinson today and his incredible contributions to baseball and society. He was an excellent player and a great human being. We salute you number 42 and hope future generations never forget what it took and what it meant for you to courageously step up to the plate 60 years ago.
Posted at 09:49 AM | Permalink
“In 1908, there are simply more chapters, more incidents, more characters, more surprises and more drama than in any other.” – Cait Murphy, Crazy ’08, How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History
Baseball has a wonderful problem. There’s so much history, arguments become difficult to discuss. Greatest big league season ever? That’s a lot of ground to cover.
One season that deserves consideration for the greatest is 1908. Some historians, such as David W. Anderson, believe aught eight was the greatest. First time baseball author Cait Murphy joins that rank with her new book titled Crazy ’08, How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History.
Baseball exploded in popularity in 1908, jumping from 5.3M the year before to 6.8M. At the Polo Grounds, it nearly doubled from its half million mark the previous season. Both pennant races were decided on the last day, the rare case that happened only one other time in 1949. Both races involved three teams, neck to neck down the stretch, with a set of what ifs in the final days. This was a time when games were not usually made up at the end of the season and the winner was determined by winning percentage.
When I spotted Crazy '08 at the bookstore, I was excited about seeing another book on the Giants and this season, one of my favorites to read about. But there were also worries. The subtitle sounded a little goofy and others have already written about '08. In addition to smaller pieces, with my favorite being Dave Anderson’s chapter on it (Pennant Races, Baseball at its Best), authors Gordon Fleming (The Unforgettable Season) and David W. Anderson (More Than Merkle) have written excellent books on the subject.
With each page turned, however, my worries melted away. Murphy delivers the goods in terms of both research and writing. I like her style. For example, in the Merkle Game chapter, just as I’m thinking I’m going to be concerned that she believes we know exactly what happened in the chaos that ensued after Merkle turned away from second, she starts the next paragraph:
“That’s one story anyway. There are many others... The attempt to discern an objective truth out of the action of a moment yields only multiple narratives.”
The American League race featured great stories too, including one of the greatest pitching duels in the history of the game, if not the greatest. With about four games left in the season, Detroit led Cleveland by .004 (one half game). Chicago was one and half back. The schedule makers were geniuses. The Tigers' last series would be at Chicago. In the penultimate series, the Naps hosted the White Sox.
On Friday, October 2nd, with the four games left, Big Ed Walsh took on Addie Joss in Cleveland’s League Park. Walsh struck out 15 and gave up one lone run but was bested by Joss who tossed a perfect game. On the next to last day of the season, Walsh won number 40 as the White Sox beat the Tigers 6-1 to push the race to the final day.
Murphy devotes a chapter to “That Other Pennant Race” but spends the majority of her time with the National League race. The main focus is on the Giants and Cubs and their fierce rivalry with some coverage of the Pirates who nearly won the pennant. With one game left, they were in first place. Instead of beating the Cubs on the final day to win the pennant, they lost and were eliminated.
The Giants were clinging to a half game lead on that fateful day when Merkle turned and hightailed it off the field. National League President Harry Pulliam ruled the game a tie, to be re-played only if the Giants and Cubs were tied at the end of the season. They were and the Merkle replay game was held at the Polo Grounds. It was for all practical purposes, the first one game pennant playoff in big league history. Fred Lieb chose it as the greatest game in baseball history.
Murphy handles the history well. It was Merkle’s failure to touch second that cost the Giants the game but she’s also fair to him, noting that Merkle’s quick turn was what other runners had done previously to avoid the crowds.
As much as Merkle was a tragic figure, Pulliam felt the burden of judgement even more. He committed suicide in 1909. It’s not certain why but the events of 1908 were more than likely involved. This makes criticizing him a delicate matter.
Of Pulliam's decision, David W. Anderson wrote:
“Pulliam believed he had done the right thing in upholding O’Day’s call. The problem lay in what he did not do. While he alluded to the impact a third out on a force play would have, he did not comment on either the substance of the protest or the application of Rule 59... Had Pulliam taken the lead of the Pittsburgh Press and directed his umpires to be aware of the Gill play, there probably would have been no Merkle boner."
The 100th anniversary of the ‘08 season is coming up. Murphy’s book opens the game of talk and discussion that will come. She spices up the action with excellent observations and descriptive writing of how the game was played and watched back then.
Don’t grab a cigar but do pull up that chair. 1908 may not be the greatest season ever but there's a growing list of authors who think it is.
Posted at 07:45 AM | Permalink
Opening Day. A thousand clichés about awakening, renewal and rebirth, and they’re all true.
The Giants take the field today for their 125th lid lifter. A win would be number 70 for the franchise, second only to the Cubs with 73, and would give them a 32 and 18 team record, one of the top percentage marks.
Here in D.C. one needs a calculator, a franchise encyclopedia and a bit of time to figure out Washington’s Opening Day record. While the nation's capital does lack an Opening Day continuity, it provides a double treat of the spring vibe. In the morning, the better half and I took in the cherry trees at the Tidal Basin. Glorious they were in peak bloom. We’ve had so-so weather luck in past years with the flower gazing, but yesterday it was as good as it gets. Temps in the mid to high 70s, low humidity and the air had been cleared out by a system that moved through on Sunday.
Over to RFK Stadium for its last Opening Day. Crowd of 40,389 on hand. Excellent patriotic feel with marching troops and two screaming F18s flying over. Opening tosses were thrown by Hank Thomas, the grandson of Walter Johnson, former Senators stars Mickey Vernon and Chuck Hinton and Nationals manager Manny Acta.
A bit of history was made also. The PA announced that this game marked the first time two Latino managers made their big league debut in the same game. Manny Acta for the Nats and Fredi Gonzalez for the Fish.
With the festivities over, the game started. The main thing is winning John McGraw once said. Well the Nats didn't come close, losing 9-2.
Nationals' fans are going to have a rough year, with the team in a re-building process. But yesterday was about feeling good. After the long wait, baseball is back.
Posted at 07:24 AM | Permalink
Reichard calls AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, a "foodie's delight." - USA Today, 10 great places to relish fine stadium fare
San Francisco and the West rule in this Top Ten ranking of best food at the big league ballparks.
Reichard covers business of baseball and culture at his site Ballpark Digest.
Posted at 06:49 AM | Permalink