Weekend Reading: Albert Pujols, Japan’s Yu Darvish, SABR Archive

Something for everybody this weekend, and even a Thomas Friedman reference:

First, Joe Posnanski is at his best in this profile of Albert Pujols for Sports Illustrated. Pujols isn’t the most charismatic guy, and with the numbers he puts up it’s easy to kind of look at him like some sort of baseball Terminator.But what makes Pujols interesting, at least in my view, is precisely that. Nobody outside of hardcore fans and select Missourians seem to know or care about Albert Pujols, despite how insanely good he is.  JoePos  meditates on heroism and dives into all the important questions surrounding the stoic, god-fearing, Dominican baseball robot in St. Louis:

Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, has been about heroes. Ted Williams went to war—twice—and hit a home run in his last at bat; Hank Aaron hit home runs by night while stuffing the racist letters he received into a shoebox during the day. Sandy Koufax refused to pitch on Yom Kippur, and Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in a World Series game, and Cal Ripken played every inning every day. There is a good story about every baseball hero, and the best of those have always involved a child, a home run and a corny ending. Will you hit a home run for me, Babe? Sure I will, kid.

Albert Pujols has a baseball hero story like that. He has just about the most amazing baseball hero story you have ever heard. But does anyone want to hear a baseball hero story these days?

Second, the Wall Street Journal has a great piece on the geobaseballpolitical relationship between the United States and East Asia, especially Japan. It focuses mostly on Yu Darvish. You might know Darvish as Japan’s resident half-Iranian WBC-curiosity/Nippon Ham Fighter ace/Teenage Hearthrob. Turns out, Darvish’s biography reads like a Tom Friedman column on the joys of globalization. (h/t Spolitical):

Japan’s rising star might not have been raised there at all had it not been for the hostage crisis at Tehran’s U.S. Embassy that started in 1979. Mr. Darvishsefad, the son of a travel agent, left Iran for the U.S. as a 17-year-old aspiring soccer player and met his Japanese wife-to-be when they attended the same college in Florida. They moved to Japan, but he expected to spend only two years there before returning to the U.S. to get a Ph.D. — until the rupture in U.S.-Iran relations led him to worry about increasing hostility there.

Last, for all the stat-heads up there, the Society for American Baseball Resarch (SABR) has begun digitizing its archives. Every issue from 1972 to 1989 is available and Walkoff Walk has already dug up some gems:

• A 1972 article showed correlation between World Series winner and Presidential election winner, around two decades before the news media noticed, en masse, that a recent Redskins’ game result decided election winners. Truly, SABR was a revolutionary organization from the very beginning.

• Another 1972 article, “Birds, Bees and Baseball,” contains the following anecdote, which I must reproduce in full:

A record for distance in throwing a frog probably was established close to 30 years ago by Donald Atkinson, an umpire in the Georgia-Florida League.

Atkinson was working behind the plate on a very hot day in a game between Moultrie and Albany. He was in his shirt sleeves with a canvas bag in which he kept his supply of balls slung over his shoulder.

In the fifth inning one of the Albany players hit a foul fly that went over the grandstand. Atkinson reached into his bag to get another ball. What he got hold of was a live frog. He let out a yip and threw the frog half way to the next county. He never did find out which player had sneaked the frog into the bag.

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