Archive for the 'Special Events' Category

A Baseball Hall of Fame for the Soul

Baseball equipment from Homerun Monkey

If I have one cause as a baseball blogger, it’s to advance a kind of fandom defined by idiosyncratic love as opposed to institutionalized expectations. That being: More Roger Maris Museum in a strip mall in  North Dakota Dakota, and less apocalyptic columnist types freaking out about how buff Jeff Bagwell was or wasn’t in 1999.

Because simply railing from the sidelines about various bullshit is not sufficient for me, I have also recently become a member of The Baseball Reliquary, an L.A.-based organization dedicated to fostering the notion of baseball as culture. The main draw of the Reliquary, for me, was the Shrine of the Eternals — a sort of punk rock alternative to the Hall of Fame. I’ve been reading Jon Weisman discuss the Shrine for years (Jon calls it a “Baseball Hall of Fame for the soul”), and finally joined after a friend sent the most imploring group email I’ve ever received. Here’s a bit of the official description:

Similar to Cooperstown’s National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Shrine of the Eternals differs philosophically in that statistical accomplishment is not the principal criterion for election. It is believed that the election of individuals on merits other than statistics and playing ability will offer the opportunity for a deeper understanding and appreciation of baseball than has heretofore been provided by “Halls of Fame” in the more traditional and conservative institutions.

Right on. This morning I stuck my completed ballot in the mail — and did so joyously. The rules allowed me to vote for up to nine nominees, and as somebody who has argued only semi-facetiously that Jeff Blauser should be inducted in Cooperstown, I obviously used up all nine votes. Just reading about the candidates in the totally fascinating, well-researched pamphlet that accompanied my ballot, was  worth the price of admission. Among those nominated? Curtis Pride, David Wells, J.R. Richard, and Charlie Brown. How can you not love a Hall of Fame that elects fictional characters?

Below is a photo I snapped of my ballot:

For those of you confounded by my handwriting, those names are: Bert Campaneris, Steve Blass, Hideo Nomo, Manny Mota, Lisa Fernandez, Dr. Frank Jobe, Annabelle Lee, Dan Quisenberry, and Luis Tiant.

Predictably, I leaned toward Dodger-associated figures and pitchers who ooze weird style. I also thought it was important to take advantage of this more democratic induction process to get women their rightful respect and appreciation in the baseball world. (Cooperstown’s version of induction pretty much automatically disqualified women from anything but second-class recognition.)

The results should be announced on Friday.

P.S.: I couldn’t find it written anywhere that these ballots were supposed to be secret. If I have breached any kind of Stonecutters-esque ethical code, I apologize.

It’s 3 a.m. I Must be Baseball a.ka. Scattered Reflections from Opening Day

I woke up at 2 a.m. and trekked to my friend Kenneth’s house to watch the Mariner’s and A’s kick off the season in Tokyo. Here are some things I noticed and wrote down.

The Tokyo Dome gives the impression that you are playing in the 1970s. The deep, blueish green of the astroturf, and its general expansiveness (no dirt infield) create a quaint throwbacky feel.

Dave Sims and Mike Blowers calling the game from back in Bellevue. I imagine that without a ballpark to stimulate their interest, these two will put one another to sleep by the fourth inning.

This astroturf is SO astroturfy.

It still feels like a spring training game. I think part of that is the relatively subdued atmosphere in the stadium and the general lack of pomp and circumstance surrounding the game. In other words, the only bunting is the kind that Bob Melvin demands from his players for no reason.

Yeonis Cespedes is amazing. His body language is fearsome. He is the best even though he might not actually be the best. At every moment, he looks ready to tackle a mountain lion and then possibly eat it raw. He is going to hit some gorgeous home runs.

Michael Saunders singles in his first at-bat! My favorite spring training moment is a radio interview I heard with Saunders where he talked about zen and his approach to the plate in an extremely Canadian accent. I really hope he puts it all together.

Mariners promo/highlight video showing Alex Rios getting thrown out at second trying to steal. Baseball.

Sideline reporter Jenn Muller on concessions at the Tokyo Dome. They have Bento Boxes. Stacks of them.

Josh Reddick’s angular face and high/tight mullet make me wonder what his deal is.  I feel like he probably listens to P.O.D. Between Reddick, Yeonis, Coco Crisp, Eric Sogard’s 12-year-old nerd deal, the A’s might be the most stylistically diverse team in baseball.

Exchange rate graphic!

Miguel Olive is a grandpa? Kenneth informs me. He is surprisingly bald.

It’s 4:18 a.m. I just opened a box of cracker jacks.

Is that a baby on that wall-ad in the RF corner? Yes. Yes it is. There is also a nearby advertisement with a box with a diagonal exclamation point in it.

Dustin Ackley hits like a left fielder. He stands tall and he’s so relaxed at the plate. Him and Ichiro are a great stylistic contrast. Him and Figgins are a great productivity contrast.

More ad discussion: There is a massive yellow poster with Ichiro’s face above the seats in left field. He is holding something up and there is lots of clutter around him. I wonder what the product is? He hasn’t played in Japan in a dozen years.  It’s easy to forget how famous he still is there.

Further ad discussion: Bunny rabbit with stars next to it. Possibly playing baseball possibly throwing a star in the air.

Kenneth where’s Mark Ellis? Eric: He’s the Dodgers starting second baseman and number two hitter. Magic Johnson can’t fix everything.

Mariners commercials are the best. Even when they don’t work, they work because they are Mariners commercials.

Wikipedia excerpt on the Tokyo Dome: “Tokyo Dome’s original nickname was “The Big Egg”, with some calling it the “Tokyo Big Egg”. Its dome-shaped roof is an air-supported structure, a flexible membrane held up by slightly pressurizing the inside of the stadium.”

Product alert: Pocari Sweat. Google tells me that this is a sugary Japanese sports drink meant for Ion-replacement. It has a mild grapefruit aftertaste.

Yeonis Cespedes is awesome . It’s refreshing to again see a physically dominating player on the A’s.

Useful information courtesy of Root Sports broadcast: Largest cities in the world.

Bob Melvin has Brandon Allen bunt. Brandon Allen pops up.

Eric Sogard is Chris Sabo’s puny little brother.

Instead of wearing Mariners or Athletics uniforms, the ballboy and ballgirl are wearing what appear to be corporate uniforms that include white batting helmets. They are sort of creepy, sitting side by side near the dugout with the white helmets. In a Clockwork Orange sort of way.

Kenneth, at 5:19 a.m., emphatically, “I KNOW WHAT KEVIN MILLWOOD LOOKS LIKE”

How come this game has been going on for less than 3 hours but it already feels like a lifetime?

Can I reiterate how 1970s this whole thing feels?

Brandon League.

Foamer Night: Ted’s Space City Venture

There’s been one ringing voice keeping Pitchers & Poets moving forward in the last few weeks: Patrick Dubuque. He’s killing it, and we couldn’t be happier.

Eric is, of course, on sabbatical across the pond, and I figured I’d take a moment to explain where I have been for the last little while. The short answer is: in Houston. I moved here from the rainy city of Seattle. An outsider in the Pacific Northwest, I coped on some level by delving into all things Ichiro and Mariners. I started a blog called Everyday Ichiro, I watched the team on TV, I interviewed Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims about scorekeeping, and I shot the bull about the Ms with my landlord at every opportunity. This was the Jacques Cousteau approach to baseball, meaning you dive right in and start to look around. By writing and watching, watching and writing, I learned the language of the team, and the state of the fan. That’s just what I plan to do in Houston, too.

So I started Foamer Night.

Foamer Night is an Astros blog, through and through, with game reports, style inquiries, essays, images, and any other media that I can relate to the Astros, the Astrodome, Houston, driving, and space. The title refers to a promotion that the Astros brass launched in the 1970s at the Astrodome, utilizing a light on the monstrous Dome scoreboard. I’ll let David Munger explain the rest in words he posted on a comment on Bill McCurdy’s Astros history blog, The Pecan Park Eagle:

I was at a game in the early ’70s and was unaware of Foamer Night. Briefly, if an Astro hit a a Homerun while the Green Light over the Foul Poles was on, it was Free Beer for the remainder of the game [sic, it was the remainder of the inning according to one source]. I was in the Restroom and all of a sudden it felt like an earthquake. I asked my neighbor at the next urinal what the HELL was going on . He said it’s a foamer and he ran towards the exit as he zipped up. The commotion was the WHOLE DOME running to get the FREE BEER. FYI-It was the BOTTOM OF THE FIRST. What a NIGHT.

Houston is my old hometown,1 and the Houston Astros are my hometown team, and as such, some aspects of my experience are familiar, while others have that uncanny familiar yet oddly foreign vibration that can only come from returning to those spots where you cut your teeth and longed to leave.

The Astros themselves are a team of near strangers to me right now. I could count on one hand the number of games of theirs I’ve watched all the way through in the last four years, and for all the attention I’ve paid them they’ve felt as distant as the American Leaguers and their strange and exotic Designated Hitters did when I hitched up in Seattle.

But Foamer Night is my old pickup truck to the Astros’ long and winding road back to prominence and prosperity. The work I’ll put in will be my way of reacquainting with an old flame, and learning the current players the way I knew Biggio, Bagwell, and Berkman back in the old days. Much of my work will deal with the specifics of the team and the games they play, while much will also, hopefully, discuss the history of the team and the city with the Pitchers & Poets-esque baseball navel-gazing style that we so enjoy in this particular space. I don’t expect everybody to come along for the ride. It’s a niche market, and the Astros are a sorry sight to behold right now. But I appreciate the opportunity to show off my new venture here, and hopefully I’ll catch a few Astro-sympathetic eyeballs for those open to a new voice.

As a note, Foamer Night is hosted here at Pitchers & Poets, though you can get straight to it by typing in foamernight.com.

  1. For more on returning to one’s hometown, I’ll refer you to Hometown Blues by Steve Earle on YouTube

P&P All-Day MLB Opening Day Live Chat 2011

Happy New Year, Baseball Fans

May all your underpaid scrap heap pick-ups over-perform and your young pitchers’ arms go unfrayed.

The Big Announcement

Pitchers and Poets was unknown to me back in 2009, when I came across a beautiful, haunting piece of writing about a dead young pitcher and a family’s tribute on the baseball field, The Death of a Pitcher. The piece’s author, a heady young upstart named Eric Nusbaum, was taking the game of baseball in his hands like a wet glob of clay, slapping it onto the wheel and forming it into something dense and glowing, and I knew it.

Well, I wasn’t the only one to take notice. Others out there, the taste-makers of the sports writing establishment, found Nusbaum’s blip on the radar as I did. They felt the same chill when they read about Jaime Irogoyen’s passing, and about a community’s need for the game. And the taste-makers acted.

Now, I am proud as hell to announce the coolest thing ever:

Glenn Stout, series editor of The Best American Sports Writing anthology, and this year’s guest editor, Peter Gammons (!), have selected Eric Nusbaum’s piece, “The Death of a Pitcher,” to appear in this year’s edition, The Best American Sports Writing 2010.

Eric works his tail off for this blog. He works his tail off to create engaging stories, and he’s a pleasure to work with. I couldn’t be happier that he’s been picked for such a substantial collection of writers and writing. He deserves it.

The edition is available for pre-order on Amazon, releasing on September 28, 2010. Check out the entire lineup of writers and work on Stout’s blog.

I Accidentally Enjoyed the All-Star Game

I woke up this morning, unfurled my Internet browser, and read that I had made a mistake. I accidentally enjoyed the 2010 MLB All-Star Game.

According to Tom Verducci, I’ve “been hoodwinked.” He argues that I shouldn’t have enjoyed the game because it counts but managers didn’t manage like it counts, and that there are too many weird rules, and that Big Papi–Heaven forbid!–actually ran the bases. “You cannot take the game seriously when it is played this way,” Verducci writes.

To paraphrase the Big Lebowski, “You’re not wrong, Tom, you’re just an asshole.”

Now, I don’t want to go too far. Verducci’s not an asshole, he ‘s just being that kid on the playground who is too smart for his own good, explaining why a rocket ship built from a jungle gym would never work. His column gives the sense that he sat there watching the All-Star game in a manic state, his temperature rising with every circus-like roster change. You know what, Tom? Instead of questioning the managerial merits of his being out there, I’d prefer to enjoy Big Papi scooting around the bases like he was in a three-legged race with an invisible partner.

In the end, I don’t think Tom is the problem. In fact, I think he’s right: they’ve tinkered with the All-Star Game too much. Which means, in the end, that they are forcing us to think about the All-Star Game. If there’s one thing any baseball fan can do–and do extensively, with little provocation–it is break a game apart and question each of its specificities. By “making it count,” MLB opened the floodgates. And while fans are free to take it as seriously or with as many grains of salt as the endless hurricane of daily life allows, the professionals must report on the game as if it counts. That is their mandate, as handed down by those who determine what matters. As a result, we get Verducci’s article, and we get JoePos’ “argument gone wrong” about Matt Thornton. Silly them and the way that they take their jobs seriously, while punks like myself make fun of them.

The secret to my success (ie. my accidental enjoyment of the ASG) is that I watched it like it was an exhibition. Lucky me, I’m not paid to treat it any other way.

I’m more in the camp of ‘Duk over at Big League Stew, who provided a fun round-up of the events, and a few light critiques. When it comes to All-Star weekend, I’m a supporter of light critiques.

What I enjoyed most: the pitching. My god, the PITCHING! David Price humming it in there, Ubaldo humming it in there, Josh Johnson humming it in there, Verlander humming it in there. Cliff Lee even hit 94! How great is the pitching when Roy Halladay seems like a bit of a let-down?

As one gas-thrower after another came into the game, I felt the exhilaration of a true exhibition. These guys were on display, and I got to see players like Josh Johnson who I’ve never watched pitch before. More, more, more! Like a kid at the circus who never wants the clowns to stop rolling out of the Volkwagen Beetle.

UPDATE: Eric has reminded me not to forget, in my litany of dudes humming it in there, Kuo, who,  apparently, knows Kuo.

You cannot take the game seriously when it is played this way.

Impending LiveBlogging

via Flickr user venusnep, clickable image

I’ve been a woefully inept shipmate on the SS Pitchers&Poets of late, so this evening I will celebrate my renewed commitment to yammering on about baseball by LIVEBLOGGING THE HOME RUN DERBY (8 o’clock Eastern, 5 o’clock Pactific).

I’ve never LIVEBLOGGED before, so this will be as new to me as the All-Star experience is to Nick Swisher.

In anticipation of this major media event, here’s an unrelated article by Joel Sherman, NYPost, on the Jack Z negotiations leading up to the Cliff Lee deal, that I found via MLBtraderumors.com. It’s all quite dramatic.