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Preview: 11th and Washington

11th and Washington



Named for the intersection in Hoboken, New Jersey, that sits on the site of the first recognized professional ballgame, this blog celebrates the National Pastime, with a nod to other New York-area teams, especially those in the Garden State.



Updated: 2016-09-08T00:31:11.113-04:00

 



Lou Gehrig in Asbury Park

2014-07-14T17:17:59.005-04:00

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Lou Gehrig, 1927, Asbury Park, N.J. (Personal collection)
A couple of years ago, I came across this photo on eBay. It's small -- maybe about 2x3 inches -- pasted to a blank postcard. On the back, in pencil, it says, "Lou Gehrig and [illegible] 1927 Ashbury Pk." The illegible name looks like Janu, but it could be anything. I suspect it might be the man in the dark suit directly behind Lou.

It was taken outside the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel the day Lou and Babe Ruth came through with their barnstorming tour in October 1927.

The game was delayed an hour because William Truby, the promoter, failed to produce the $2,500 cashier's check that he had promised. Walsh always demanded money up-front, with paydays ranging from $1,000 to $2,500, depending on the size of the town and the expected crowd. If receipts from ticket sales went beyond a predetermined level, he and his players would also receive a percentage of the gate. When a local politician offered to write a personal check for the $2,500 so that the game might begin, Walsh rejected it, saying only a cashier's check would do. He and Gehrig and Ruth went to the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel to wait. When the cashier's check finally arrived, Gehrig pulled a cardigan sweater over his baseball jersey, tucked his mitt under his left arm, and walked out of the hotel into the afternoon sun. Outside, cars were waiting to drive the men to the ballpark.
-- Jonathan Eig, Luckiest Man, p. 110

It's quite the record of one day in a legend's life, when he came to New Jersey.



The definitive SI baseball preview cover analysis

2014-03-26T14:39:17.875-04:00

{NOTE: Originally posted on April 1, 2010, this analysis is now updated yearly to show the latest accurate numbers. I haven't come across a study like this, but it doesn't mean it's not out there. Though it would be a bit of a downer if I found out I did all this research for nothing. With only a few exceptions, all links lead to images of the covers.}After I posted the 2010 Sports Illustrated baseball preview cover on Facebook (in addition to here), my friend Brad left this comment:One of my first SI issues was the 1987 baseball preview issue, with Cory Snyder and the Indians on the cover. The Indians, of course, went 61-101 that year.And that got my mind racing. How accurate has the magazine been in its choices for the annual baseball preview? We all know about the cover jinx, but does the jinx hold up through an entire season as well as it seems to on a more short-term basis, from week to week? It didn't take me too long to whip up a spreadsheet, scroll through SI's covers gallery to find each preview and plug in the numbers, with the help of Baseball-Reference.So I may get a little obsessive at times, assigning myself mundane tasks that, in the end, result in little more than some neat -- and possibly very arbitrary -- numbers to peruse. But I don't care. Here are the results, showing how many teams, players and positions were featured, plus the teams' and players' results that season, from stats to All-Star nods to awards, plus a little more.The totals and general figuresThrough 2014, SI released 60 baseball season preview issues (not covers, as I'll explain shortly), featuring 25 of the 30 franchises that exist today. If you count the Montreal Expos and two instances of the Washington Senators separately, there are 33 different teams in that time. Twenty-five have been featured on the cover; neither Senators club made it, but the Twins and Rangers have. Both the Expos and Washington Nationals have had players on a cover.In 2013, the magazine also introduced full regional covers for its baseball preview for the first time. From 2009-11, the main image on all covers was the same nationally, but there were regional insets, which I chose not to count in the player totals. Those players will be noted in the yearly breakdown below, however. As for the regional covers beginning with 2013, I've decided to count those collectively as one issue for the 60 noted at the start of the previous paragraph (to indicate the number of years the magazine has produced a baseball preview issue) but have credited each player with a solo appearance (hence Sabathia's two solo covers).In 2014, the Yankees broke their tie with the Red Sox to retake the lead with eight covers -- though one of Boston's was the 1990 cover featuring a long-retired Ted Williams and the headline, "Was it a better game in Ted's day?" That was one of two covers to feature an inactive player, along with the 1984 one with Yankees manager Yogi Berra, and one of eight that didn't have an active player at all. There were six years from 1956-65 that showed no players: 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1963 and 1965.Here is the team-by-team tally:Yankees 8Red Sox 7Dodgers 6Cardinals 6Phillies 5Orioles 3Giants 3Reds 3Tigers 3Royals 3Angels 3Mariners 3Indians 2Twins 2Mets 2Pirates 2Nationals 2Brewers 1D-backs 1Rockies 1Cubs 1Rangers 1Padres 1A's 1Expos 1Rays 1There have been 74 different active players to grace the cover before a season, including 16 Hall of Famers (though Williams and Berra are among those), 41 players who would have All-Star seasons the year they appeared on the cover, two who would take MVP honors (both in the NL), four Cy Young winners (with each league represented), two who would break significant records, three who would win 20 games and 11 who went on to lead their respective leagues in one of the triple crown categories: batting average, home runs, RBIs, wins, ERA and strikeouts. Those 11 players led the way in 13 categories overall, particularly boosted by the Cy Young-winning pitchers. Hitters have averaged .295 (158-for-535)[...]



Zack Wheeler's first Citi Field pitch

2014-01-05T17:46:03.924-05:00


Going through some photos from last year and came across this GIF I (OK -- Google Photos) made. I'd forgotten about it, even though I took these shots of his first home pitch with this specific plan in mind.

Here's hoping he does even half of what Matt Harvey did last year.



Mrs. Met is back!

2013-06-26T15:17:26.039-04:00

Today's Culinary All-Stars event at Citi Field was meant as an unveiling of the food offerings for next month's MLB All-Star Game at the ballpark, but it was the unannounced appearance of walking, gesturing Mrs. Met that drew as much attention as the myriad food samples on display at the Caesar's Club.I tagged along with the wife, who was invited by Aramark, and if there was anything that was going to pull me away from the (limited edition) All-Star Meatball Hero, it was a big-headed woman walking into the club. She was there -- with a nametag, as if she needed one -- to glad-hand the guests and pose for photos. She looked hungry, though she tried to hide it behind that ever-present smile.She's not much for words, so it's not like we chatted for a bit. I did talk with one of the retail (hats, jerseys, etc.) managers, who said that Mrs. Met does have a uniform, so I suspect she'll be making some appearances during ballgames, as well. We'll have to see this weekend.As for the food ... I should have fasted more. As in skipped dinner last night. There was just. So. Much. The last time we went to one of these events, before (I think) Citi Field's second season, we split a Shackburger, simply for the pleasure of having a free Shackburger. This time, we didn't think of it, not with Mex Burger sliders (a smaller version of the burger from Keith's Grill), lobster rolls from Catch of the Day, mac and cheese (lobster, bacon and three-cheese options) from the suites menu, beef brisket sliders from Blue Smoke, fries from Box Frites and, from the in-house chefs, loaded tater tots (cheese, bacon and scallions), several panini sandwiches and the aforementioned meatball hero. And that's just what we sampled and shared between us. There was pizza and sushi and Pat LaFrieda meats and Mama's of Corona sandwiches. I'm not sure you could get through it all in a nine-game homestand, and this was meant as an unveiling for just a three-day event -- the Futures Game and Celebrity Softball Game, the Home Run Derby, and the All-Star Game itself. Anyone attending all three will definitely not go hungry.If you're attending any of the three events, bring your appetite (and, no doubt, your credit card), and be sure to seek out the All-Star Meatball Hero (available near Section 138) and some of the other new or unfamiliar offerings. The Mets and the vendors are rolling out some all-star eats for an All-Star event.Grilled shrimp po boys and lobster rolls at Catch of the DayBox Frites with pesto, buffalo blue cheese and smoky bacon saucesMajor League Grilled Cheese -- swiss, cheddar, gouda and baconSliced sirloin and cheddar panini, with pepper relish and crispy onionsChef-carved grilled black angus skirt steak, with German fried potatoes and creamed spinach[...]



A 1964 Shea Stadium postcard and the great Pearl Bailey

2013-05-05T15:42:40.286-04:00

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I finally got around to scanning in a pile of various things I've picked up over the past year, and this is one of the cooler ones. It's not just the 1964 view of Shea Stadium in its first year, featuring the colored panels hanging outside the ramps, the old buses parked near the subway bridge, the vintage cars in the parking lot and the cartoons of the Jets and Mets (interesting number choice, by the way; No. 45 wasn't worn until 1964, by Ron Locke). Those things are cool, but it's a pretty common postcard. I've seen it plenty of times. What made me buy it was the back -- be sure to note the date it was sent.

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First of all, I love old postcards that have been sent. I don't need to know anything about who sent it, who received it, or where it went. It's interesting to me just to get this small little window into one brief moment of a day or a trip in someone's life, decades ago. Of all the things they saw, experienced or had to tell someone, what was it that made them choose these details?

But back to this postcard: The Mets won the 1969 World Series on Oct. 16 at Shea; this postcard was mailed six weeks later from Flushing. Interesting choice by "Sidney," who makes no mention of anything but Broadway, the weather, and her (his?) flight. No talk of the Mets, no mention of the ballpark, no indication of why this postcard was chosen.

It's a shame Pearl Bailey wasn't in that Saturday performance of "Hello Dolly" -- Bailey and Cab Calloway starred in a very successful all-black production of the musical, and Bailey won a Tony Award in 1968 for her role -- because therein lies a connection not to just to baseball and the Mets, but also Game 5 of the '69 Series. A big Mets fan, Bailey sang the national anthem before Game 5 and took home a clump of sod from the field after the victory, according to The Amazin' Mets 1962-1969, by William J. Ryczek.

I wonder if Sidney had any idea of the subtle connection between that star and the front of the postcard sent to Miss Helen Phelps in Beaver, Pa.



News, notes and rumblings around the minors

2013-04-17T16:38:17.735-04:00

Skylands Park, 2005I don't know what it is about expansion and relocation when it comes to sports teams, but it always piques my interest. It doesn't even matter if the team leaving is hundreds of miles away, or if it's moving to somewhere else that's also hundreds of miles away. I guess I just love the newness of it -- new uniforms, colors, logos, identity. A new community, new fan base, new history. There's not a league I could care less about than the NBA, but I still read all about the New Orleans club dropping the Hornets nickname for Pelicans (and I think it'd be boring, lame and a bit disingenuous for the Charlotte Bobcats to change their name to Hornets; it's been done).So when there's talk of expansion or relocation in the minor leagues -- the latter of which brought affiliate minor league ball back to New Jersey in the '90s (to Trenton) and 2001 (to Lakewood); perhaps that's where the interest comes from -- my ears perk up. And there's been quite a few rumblings in recent weeks involving leagues -- and one site -- that play in or near New Jersey. The New York-Penn League plans to move a club to Morgantown, W. Va., to share a ballpark with West Virginia University. The rumored team to make the shift is the Jamestown Jammers, who were next-to-last in NY-Penn attendance in 2012 (36,078 total, 1,031 per game), besting only their upstate New York neighbors, the Batavia Muckdogs. This would make the New York-Penn League the New York-Penn-Connecticut-Massachusetts-Vermont-Maryland-Ohio-West Virginia League. New Jersey used to be in there, too, before the Cardinals left Sussex County for State College, Pa. Speaking of Skylands Park up in Augusta, the new owner is exploring all avenues for a tenant, including summer collegiate leagues. But the ever-expanding Atlantic League may have some interest, too. As for the Atlantic League, it could soon find itself with franchises in Fort Worth, Texas (giving the Sugar Land Skeeters a neighbor), and in Virginia Beach and Loudon, Va. And, finally, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson continues his push to bring a Double-A Eastern League team to his city to be a Blue Jays affiliate, which will only revive speculation that Binghamton, N.Y., could lose its Eastern League club (and its Mets affiliation, which currently runs through 2016). It appears unlikely that Binghamton would lose affiliated baseball completely, because there remains speculation that NYSEG Stadium could then receive a New York-Penn League team, likely Batavia. This one particularly fascinates me because of the added layer of player development contracts. I looked at some affiliations last February, and though the expiration dates are, well, out of date, few if any of the affiliations changed. I'm curious if PDCs have ever been broken, renegotiated, bought out or even traded before. I'll try to get in touch with some contacts for some background.[...]



Brief thoughts on '42'

2013-04-12T17:05:16.240-04:00

I'm no critic and I don't aspire to be one. I don't have a technical eye. I don't go to movies looking for flaws, inconsistencies or mistakes. I've never walked out on a film because, if I've paid money to be there, I might as well get the full value from the pretty people and bright colors on the screen. So if you're looking for a review of "42," move along.Simply as a fan -- of baseball, of movies, of Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers (I realized years ago that there's something about that team that would've drawn me to it -- I loved it. I loved the costumes and the cars, the reproduced uniforms (even if they got the Brooklyn caps wrong), the computer-generated ballparks from Florida to Jersey City to Brooklyn and Pittsburgh. I thought it was wonderfully acted, even if Harrison Ford seemed like a caricature. Chadwick Boseman was stellar and Nicole Beharie devine. I can only imagine what Rachel Robinson thought seeing a part of her life dramatized on screen.But what I think I loved most were the baseball scenes. (I don't know who choreographed them or what former players, other than C.J. Nitkowski, may have suited up.) This may be the best, the most realistic baseball choreography I've ever seen on film. It's heavy on game action, and maybe once -- one swing -- out of all those recreations did I think it looked awkward. The first time Boseman steps into the batter's box as a Montreal Royal to face the Dodgers in a spring exhibition and the pitch comes in high and tight felt so real. It sounded just like when you're playing catch and you lift your glove to catch a hard one at your ear -- that sound of the air whooshing around the seams and then the smack of the ball into the glove: Fffffffffssss-THWACK!Digital reproduction of real -- and long-gone -- places has advanced so much that scenes in the old ballparks looked more like they were filmed on location with a soft lens than with an actor in front of a green screen. Maybe it's me, but I thought some of the scenes at Ebbets Field or Forbes Field make "Titanic" look like it was filmed in a bathtub. The ballparks looked familiar, like I'd remembered them from visits even though they were all gone more than a decade before I was born. But I love to look at (and sometimes collect) photos of these long-gone cathedrals, and I've "played" a few games at Ebbets and Forbes and the Polo Grounds on various versions of Xbox and PS3 baseball games. The movie brought the pictures to live and put the video games to shame, even if they gave Forbes Field a wooden (?) green outfield wall -- not brick, and no ivy -- and put the flagpole behind the center-field fence instead of on the field of play.  I thought -- minor spoilers in this paragraph -- that limiting the setting to 1945 through the end of the '47 season provided the perfect window to squeeze Jackie's story into a manageable 128 minutes. There is little politicalization -- there's no dialogue about what Jackie's trailblazing will mean for society as a whole. Other than the voiceover intro and just a few off-field scenes of segregation and racism, nearly all of that discourse is presented in the context of a ballgame. We didn't need to see anything before 1945, and ending the film with a key home run may have been hokey, but it worked for me. I'll let that slide. And yes, I realize the Dodgers didn't clinch the 1947 NL pennant in Pittsburgh and that the game that day didn't play out as depicted, but I found that out only after coming home to look it up. I doubt anyone not alive that day to remember it didn't realize the artistic license until they got home and delved into baseball-reference.com, either.The epilogue -- a few more spoilers -- captivated me. In typical biopic fashion, we're given updates on what happened to the real-life people after the timeframe of the film. The characters are shown one by one, with text on the screen listing their a[...]



BlueClaws helping to restore the Shore

2013-04-08T16:12:16.122-04:00

The Lakewood BlueClaws completed their opening-weekend series yesterday, but their record in the four games doesn't matter. What matters is that they raised $15,000 for the BlueClaws Charities Restore the Shore initiative after auctioning off the special jerseys worn throughout the weekend. Each jersey featured the name of a Shore-area town on the back, making some shirts more attractive to bidders and leading to some high-priced last-minute bidding as the auction came to an end after the eighth inning on Sunday. The money raised -- both from the auction and on related purchases in the team store -- will go to fund grants that will go to Sandy victims who apply. And though the game-worn jersey auction ended yesterday, I'm told that there will be a few additional jerseys going up for auction online soon. I wasn't sure if I'd get in on the bidding, but after seeing my hometown, Little Silver, on the back of catcher Chad Carman during pregame warmups, two things stood out: First, he wasn't huge, and second, he wore No. 18. The number actually didn't matter much to me, though it helps that 18 isn't an unattractive number (worn by Darryl Strawberry and any number of Japanese aces not named Yu Darvish). But Carman's size (5-foot-10, 189 pounds) did. If my hometown had been on the back of 6'6", 220-pound first baseman Art Charles, for example, there's no chance I would have bid on that bedsheet.After placing my initial bid -- and only the third on the sheet overall -- around the fifth inning, I went down to check on its status with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Someone had outbid me by the minimum $25, so I raised it another $25, but was willing to go only another $50 higher. Then I stepped back among the crowd of bidders to watch the game from the concourse. Another out; I was now one more from winning the jersey. Then a BlueClaws batter hit a fly ball into right-center, and I'd never wanted a ball hit by the home team to be caught more (at any game I've attended) than this one. But the diving right fielder came up short. We had to wait out another batter. But then it happened: The next batter struck out and the BlueClaws staffers manning the tables quickly pulled up the tablecloths with the bid sheets taped to them and disappeared into the offices to sort through the bids. After the game, they collected the jerseys from the players and distributed them to the fans who returned to the concourse to pick them up.Carman had the day off Sunday, so I didn't get to see my jersey in action, except for the innings when he came out to warm up the pitcher while yesterday's starter, Chace Numata, put on his equipment. But that was actually better, because when I picked up the jersey, it was clean and still smelled like laundry detergent.    In fact, the jersey's final play in a game came on Saturday evening, when Carman fielded a throw from right fielder Brian Pointer and tagged out Kannapolis' Kale Kiser as he attempted to score the tying run to preserve Lakewood's 3-2 victory (its only win so far this season).It had to have been interesting -- and perhaps educational -- for these players (only four of whom played in Lakewood last year) to join their new team but not wear the actual team name on their chests until the fifth game (which is tonight). I don't know if Chad Carman bothered to ask where Little Silver is or if any players inquired about the amount of damage sustained to any of the towns, but I'm sure some thought about it. [...]



Opening Day thoughts

2013-04-03T22:27:22.672-04:00

Well, we're two days past Opening Day now, but I figured as long as I get this post up before the Mets play Game No. 2 tonight, I'm good. I just had some thoughts throughout the day -- both Mets-related and MLB-wide -- that I couldn't shake ... I love Opening Day ceremonies. I slept in last year and arrived at my seat just as the Mets were running onto the field, and it just didn't feel like Opening Day. So we made sure to catch a train an hour earlier from New Jersey and were walking into the Rotunda right around noon. I love seeing all the players lined up along the baselines, the new guys getting their first exposure to the fans, last year's mid-season callups (Hey, Matt Harvey!) getting the Opening Day treatment. The national anthem gets star treatment (Emmy Rossum!), there's usually a huge flag stretched across the outfield (though nice touch this year with the NY heart and Hurricane Sandy support crews) and the first pitch is often a VIP (Rusty!!!). Opening Day crowds. They may struggle to break 15,000 tonight in Queens (heck, it's supposed to be in the 20s -- 10,000 might be pushing it), but on Opening Day, no matter what the prospects for the season are, the crowd is full and enthusiastic. There's hope. Look at Houston -- I'm not sure you'll find 10 people outside the clubhouse who think the team can win 62 games, but those fans were jazzed on Sunday night. Sure, it helped to have the Rangers in town for the first American League game in Astros history, but that crowd was into it. I don't care who your team is or what the expectations are, 1-0 feels a lot better than 0-1, especially if you're in attendance. Ballpark exploration. Each winter, teams take a look at what they offer their fans and ditch what didn't sell and come up with new offerings and upgrades. Some even release the new additions to great fanfare. Though the Opening Day crowds often make it a tough slog, I do enjoy taking a lap around the concourse to see what's new. Even if I don't get in line that day, I make a note to come back during the next (less crowded) game. But on Monday, when we realized Mom had bought tickets in the last row of the upper deck and the wind was blowing through us, we descended to the food court behind home plate to try Pat LaFrieda's steak sandwiches and Parmesan garlic fries and Oh. My. God. Shake Shack, you have competition. (And dammit, I saw Danny Meyer out in DannyMeyerLand before the game but didn't realize it was him before he walked off, so I didn't have a chance to thank him. Or more.) I was happy to see the Padres line up in their road gray jerseys. I'm OK with alternate jerseys (used to be a fan, but now they're such a gimmick, I've come down with my enthusiasm), but not on Opening Day. Opening Day -- like the All-Star Game and World Series -- is a showcase. Come out in your finest, your dress whites (or grays), your primary look. Leave the black/blue/red tops in the clubhouse for the next game. (I'm looking at you, Pirates, Marlins and Rockies.) Small sample sizes. The numbers are so much fun to play with. David Wright is going to steal 324 bases! Collin Cowgill will drive in 648 runs! Changing addresses/new stars/absent stars. Maybe this was just the beginning of something special for Jackie Bradley Jr. or A.J. Pollock. It's also weird to see others in new uniforms. We got used to Kevin Youkilis in pinstripes, but not those pinstripes. And how strange (but nice, as a Mets fan), to see Chipper Jones throwing out a first pitch and not swinging at one? [...]



The six covers of SI's 2013 baseball preview issue

2013-03-28T09:46:14.960-04:00

It's that time of year. Sports Illustrated released its baseball preview cover yesterday.Actually, that should be covers. For the first time in the 59 years of SI baseball preview issues, the magazine has printed true regional covers, six in all, with a main image customized for four different regions of the country: Northeast, Mid-Atlanic, South, Midwest (both Rust Belt and Plains) and West. My comprehensive look at the history of the baseball preview covers has been updated to include this year, but in this post I'm going to take a closer look at each of the six produced for the 2013 season, in the order of success I think they'll have.But first, what these covers do for the totals. By featuring six starting pitchers, SI widened the gap between starters (31) and the next-most-frequent position, outfielders (19). Five of the six players made their baseball preview cover debuts, pushing the total number of players shown over the years to 70. We've also got a team represented for the first time, bringing us up to 25 of the current 30 clubs, leaving out only the Blue Jays, White Sox (a bit surprising), Astros, Marlins and Braves (also quite surprising).So here are the six 2013 preview covers listed, in my mind, from least deserving to most, with "deserving" defined as ideally being the favorite (or at least a top-two favorite) to win its division.James Shields, RoyalsShields is the only one of the six this year to fulfill one of two themes that have come up frequently: a player on a new team or a player on the defending champions. The right-hander, of course, was traded to Kansas City (most of the "new team" players were free agents, with the Phillies' Roy Halladay in 2010 another trade exception). Shields is the first Royal on the cover since David Cone in 1993 -- when he was new to Kansas City after signing a free-agent deal.The Royals are certainly an interesting story this year. They added Shields, Wade Davis (in the same deal) and Ervin Santana to the rotation and they have a deep, young core with Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler (and you can add Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain to the list if you'd like). And though expected to be dominated by the Tigers, the AL Central is otherwise a pretty balanced division, or at least one in which the Royals could make some noise. But I just don't see them as one of the top two contenders -- that'd be Detroit and Chicago -- like four of the other five covers feature.CC Sabathia, YankeesThis is the issue that arrived in my mailbox today. Despite the cover (which I knew I'd receive), it was a pleasant surprise, because what used to be a regular Wednesday (Thursday at the latest) appearance in my mail has, over maybe the past year, become more of a Thursday-if-I'm-lucky/usually Friday/occasionally Saturday treat in the mail. So to have it the first day I could conceivably expect it was nice.As for the cover subject, let's put this out there now: The Yankees are there because SI didn't want to omit the huge New York market. Robinson Cano would've been the better choice, but it certainly looks like these six cover subjects were chosen because they're all pitchers (clearly, I haven't flipped through the issue -- or read the headlines -- yet). But if you ask me, the Yankees don't fit the criteria of a top-two contender in the division, either. With their age and all the injuries (not mutually exclusive), I think they'll have an uphill battle to catch Toronto and Tampa Bay. The Yankees have holes at catcher, third/first base (wherever Kevin Youkilis doesn't play, and at least until -- though maybe after -- Mark Teixeira returns) and wherever Vernon Wells plays (but to be fair, SI had its preview in the bag before that deal went down).But this choice makes Sabathia one of the rare two-time [...]



Samardzija joins short list of Opening Domers

2013-03-04T14:18:39.398-05:00



When Jeff Samardzija delivers the first pitch of the Cubs' season on April 1 in Pittsburgh, he'll be the fourth pitcher to come out of Notre Dame and make an Opening Day start in the Major Leagues.

And he'll be the first to do so in 99 years.

The last Domer to toe the rubber as a starter on Opening Day was Ed Reulbach, when he raised the curtain for Brooklyn at Ebbets Field on April 14, 1914, manager Wilbert Robinson's first game at the helm. Fellow Notre Dame grad George Cutshaw started behind Reulbach at second base and a future manager manned right field: Casey Stengel.

Brooklyn -- nicknamed the Robins in the days when nicknames were a bit more fluid (they had been and would again be the Dodgers) -- won, 8-2, over the Boston Braves with two runs in the second, one each in the third and fourth and four more in the fifth. Reulbach went seven innings, allowing two runs, six hits, one walk and striking out five. He had a hit and a walk at the plate, the free pass coming in the two-run second, which may have produced more runs had Reulbach not been caught trying to swipe home on a double-steal.
With Reulbach on third and Dalton on first the double steal was tried, but Whaling fooled Reulbach by feigning a throw to second and caught him between the bases. -- The New York Times, April 15, 1914
The start was Reulbach's second on Opening Day. He'd previously done so for the Cubs in 1911, a game that ended in a 3-3 tie after 11 innings. And the only other Domer to get a start in his team's opener was Willie McGill, who got the start for the Chicago Colts (later the Cubs) in 1893. Chicago lost that game to Cincinnati, 10-1.

So teams are 1-1-1 on Opening Day when a former Notre Dame player throws the first pitch. Whether or not Samardzija gets the decision, that record will change on April 1.



The Eagles: A sporting band

2013-02-22T13:50:21.362-05:00

There's no question that the Eagles were one of the most influential bands of the '70s -- their greatest hits album sold more copies than any other record in the 20th Century. But until watching the recent two-part documentary on Showtime, I had no idea that the band was also among the pioneers in jersey-wearing rockers.It's a common sight these days to see musicians dressing like the rest of us -- that is, in an authentic jersey of a local pro team, or perhaps a customized shirt in team colors. Someone probably has a Tumblr of musicians in jerseys. Anyway, in the '70s, I imagine it wasn't such a common sight. But in watching the documentary, I caught several instances of Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Don Felder and one or two others in a jersey or T-shirt that looked enough like a jersey to make this post worth my while.All these photos were taken from my TV with the documentary paused, so the quality of some is rather poor. In some cases, the details in the shirt were much more apparent in motion than in any frames on which I paused. So if something's not clear in an image, just take my word for it.So at the top, we have Glenn Frey in a three-quarter-sleeved baseball shirt during one of the band's pickup softball games. "This is a real healthy thing," Henley says in the film. "It promotes good feelings, you know, among the guys, and it keeps us from killing each other." Frey adds: "If we can yell at each other on a baseball field, then we don't have to yell at each other when we're working." Putting the numbers on the front left room on the back for what appears to be a nickname for the band's private plane.Also of note: Frey throws left-handed, but plays guitar right-handed. We'll come back to Frey in a bit.Next, we have the jersey that really piqued my interest and had me start taking pictures of all these images while watching the documentary. From the front, it just appears to be Don Henley in a mighty afro and a rather long shirt with the band's name across the front.But after he passes the cameraman, who turns to follow the band toward the stage at an outdoor festival, we see that Henley's shirt -- more of a jersey than a, ahem, henley -- features his surname and a No. 13 on the back.So not only did the band have numbered shirts for softball games, it appears that they also each had their own football shirts, because in this next image, someone else is wearing what appears to be the Eagles football (or football-like) jersey (that's Henley, second from right, so it's not him).Sticking with Henley, here he is representing northeast Texas -- he's from Linden -- with a Dallas Cowboys T-shirt.Sticking with the Cowboys, next we have one of the band members in what looks to be a satin Cowboys jacket in 1980. He's gesturing at a departing limo into which Don Felder fled following the infamous July 31, 1980, Long Beach concert that marked the breakup of the band.Speaking of Felder, he joined in the sartorial sporting fun at least twice. First up is what appears to be a San Diego Chargers jersey-like shirt.And then we have what appeared from the front to be a plain blue button-down collared shirt, but upon further inspection -- that is, looking at the back -- we find a Chicago Blackhawks logo. (I'm pretty sure this is Felder again. I didn't take any notes, and now that I think about it, I don't specifically remember who this is. And of course, they all had long, flowing hair in the '70s.)Speaking of unsure I.D.s, here's a sound engineer in a shirt with the nickname (I presume) "Radar" and a zero on the back.Now to the last big-name band member: Joe Walsh. He didn't appear in any jersey-like shirts until late in the documentary, but then he popped up three times. First was this grainy shot of him smoking weed[...]



The Babe

2013-02-06T19:53:41.955-05:00

As a kid, I became fascinated by Babe Ruth's called shot in the 1932 World Series. Not so much the legend that, in an important game for the championship, the game's greatest player predicted a home run and then followed through; instead, I became enthralled by the question of whether he really did point to center field, and then deposit the next pitch in that direction.

So I created this drawing, probably based on a print I saw of this painting. I figured The Babe's 118th birthday was a good day to post it. Yeah, his head's too small in proportion to his body, and the catcher looks like a child, though I could explain that away as artistic license used to depict The Babe as larger than life. But I'm a bit impressed by the detail in the uniform and a decent reproduction of his chicken legs.

We'll never know the truth, but considering Ruth's affinity for trash talking, it's possible he became the first player to call his shot. Or maybe he just gestured at the Cubs' bench or pointed at the pitcher, jawing at them the whole time. Either way, it made for some great drama.

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The Mayor at the Mayor's Cup

2013-02-01T14:21:32.201-05:00

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Mayor Koch at Shea, April 1989
I think Ed Koch was my first celebrity sighting. It was 1989 and my father, uncle, cousin and I had driven up to Shea Stadium for the Mayor's Cup game between the Mets and Yankees to end spring training. Our seats were in the upper deck, but we arrived early enough to walk around the loge section. As we made our way along the left-field line, I heard people cheering and then noticed a small cluster of men in suits in the orange seats.

When one turned toward the cheers and raised his hands in acknowledgment, I realized it was the mayor. Though we were from the Jersey Shore, all our network television broadcasts originated in New York City, so the nightly newscasts covered the Big Apple, and Koch was a familiar face to me. I had my Kodak Disc camera with me and managed to press the shutter at the precise moment when he raised his hands to the fans. I suppose it was my first perfectly timed photograph, too.

It looks pleasant enough for an April Sunday morning, but I think it turned blustery that day, the wind whipping around the upper deck and sending us all home with pink, wind-burned faces. I have no idea where the mayor sat or how long he stayed, but his two-handed wave to the fans has stayed with me all these years.



Looking at 2012 minor league attendance figures

2013-01-23T15:30:59.200-05:00

David Kronheim of numbertamer.com has put out his annual analysis of minor league baseball attendance, and it's got some illuminating tidbits among its 80 pages. You can download the full report at his site, but I scanned through it last night for some of the locally relevant figures.(Note that when I refer to "minor league baseball," I mean teams affiliated with Major League organizations. Those not affiliated are referred to as independent teams/leagues. All analysis is Kronheim's; I'm just pulling the local figures. I threw in a few nuggets -- Roger Clemens, Rickey Henderson and Scranton's thwarted request to play in Newark last year -- but that's it from me.)Lakewood BlueClaws The Lakewood BlueClaws were one of two Class A teams to average more than 6,000 fans per game in 2012. The Claws' 6,031 over 68 home dates trailed only the high-Class A Dayton Dragons, who drew 8,532 for 69 dates and have sold out every game in their 13-year history. Dayton's run of 913 consecutive sellouts -- including postseason contests and an all-star game, and counting -- is the longest sellout streak in North American sports history, according to Kronheim. Lakewood had the ninth-highest increase in all of minor league baseball from 2011 to 2012, with 28,043 more fans last season for a 2012 total of 410,113. The increase was mostly a result of nine games in 2011 lost because of weather; the 2012 season saw seven more home dates than the previous summer. Lakewood was one of three Phillies affiliates to lead its league. Clearwater (177,297) led the Florida State League and Lehigh Valley (622,421) led the International League. Lakewood led the South Atlantic League in both total and average per game and topped 400,000 for the 11th time in its 12 years (those nine 2011 rainouts resulting in the only blip). The BlueClaws have led the Sally League in total attendance 10 of their 12 years, and in those other two years, they led in per-game average (more than 6,000 every year). Lakewood's inaugural season in 2001 drew 482,206, still a South Atlantic League -- and New Jersey -- record. That was a "14-fold increase" (emphasis Kronheim's) over the 32,641 that the franchise drew in 2000, its final season in Fayetteville, N.C. Those Cape Fear Crocs drew just 32,641. In his analysis of minor league baseball in Major League markets, Kronheim put Lakewood in the New York market, which the BlueClaws led. The independent Long Island Ducks were second with 377,473 on 68 dates, followed by the Somerset Patriots (350,295 for 66 dates).Trenton Thunder Kronheim places Trenton in the Philadelphia market, where it ranked third with 373,355 fans over 69 dates. Lehigh Valley led, followed by the Reading Phillies (426,623 in 67 dates). The independent Atlantic League's Camden RiverSharks drew 231,987 in its 67 dates. Trenton set a Double-A record of drawing more than 400,000 fans in 14 consecutive seasons from 1995-2008, but Reading broke it last season with its 15th straight such season. Trenton's all-time high of 457,344 was set in 1998. Of the 12 current Eastern League cities, only Binghamton (259,183 in 1992) and Bowie (463,976 in 1995) have older highs. Akron's record high of 522,459 came in 1999, but every other Eastern League franchise has set its high after 2000. The most recent were Harrisburg (294,325), New Britain (368,523) and Richmond (463,842 -- its Double-A high), all in 2010.The Atlantic League The expansion to Texas was a boon for the league. The new Sugar Land Skeeters drew 465,511 -- a modern-day independent league record. (With two dates boosted by Roger Clemens' starts.) Long Island's 443,142 in 2001 had been the previous high. Sugar Land's per-game average of 6,650 for[...]



We'll always have 20

2012-12-17T21:09:14.170-05:00

I got a call last week from "my Mets ticket representative," who of course wanted to know what it would take to get me into a 2013 ticket package that day. But he started out by asking how often I come to games (usually about a dozen, though last year was the first in about eight that I didn't hit double-digits) and what my favorite memory at a game has been. Nothing tops the 2000 NLCS clincher over the Cardinals, but he meant at the new ballpark. And I didn't have an answer right away. At first, I answered that I wasn't sure it had happened yet. And then I remembered: R.A. Dickey's 20th win in September. That is my favorite moment, and if it's not the new place's greatest moment, it might be equal to Johan Santana's no-hitter. I wasn't there for the no-no, so I can't say from experience whether Sept. 27 was better -- or even equal to -- June 1, but here's why Dickey's 20th stands out for me: On a weekday afternoon with school in session, a less-than-capacity crowd was as loud and enthusiastic as an Opening Day sellout or a Friday night opener against the Bronx boys (who of course have plenty of their own fans invading). The City rocked like Shea used to as we cheered on every strikeout as the game moved past the fifth inning, and when Dickey walked off the mound for the last time, everyone -- the group from The 7 Line in center field, the folks in the upper deck, those of us along the first-base line -- all stood and cheered the way you do for an ace.Dickey was a great story -- and we've all heard it, several times, since his book came out last winter -- and it was wonderful to have that story on our team. Quite often, we'll hear from other fan bases that a player is getting so much publicity just because he plays in New York, but in this case, Dickey deserved it all. He was a great story no matter what team's jersey he was wearing. It was a pleasure to root not just for the knuckleball pitcher, but the person in that uniform.So while I understand today's trade, while I know the Mets weren't going to contend this year, while I realize that Dickey's value would never be higher and there's a good chance they won't be good enough soon enough for him to have an impact on a contender, and while I love that they got a potential All-Star catcher in Travis d'Arnaud, I still find Dickey's departure a little hard to take as a fan. Just on the face of it, it's worse than saying goodbye to Jose Reyes. But at least Reyes left on his own, taking an offer that I'm glad my team didn't present to him. Dickey, though, was dealt away by the team, then signed a very reasonable offer that said team easily (even in their dire financial straits) could have made.For now, I'm disappointed. I'd hoped to use the occasion of a Dickey contract extension to buy a new blue Mets alternate jersey with his name on the back. Now, I'm thinking 2013 might be the year my Opening Day streak (dating back to 2000) comes to an end. I'm not going to boycott the team and not go to any games, but I'm just not inspired to pay the money to be there for Game 1.I know this move is better for the future, and the future is where this team's chances lie (because they're not in the present -- as in the 2013 season). But it doesn't make the waiting -- which Mets fans have been doing since 2006 -- any easier.[...]



Porcello joins the ranks of those lending support following Hurricane Sandy

2012-11-20T11:35:17.981-05:00

Way to go, Rick Porcello! The Jersey guy had a chance to pick up a little gift in exchange for a couple of digits, but he chose a different route instead.Torii Hunter asked his new teammate for No. 48, which Hunter has worn his whole career (since 1997) and Porcello has donned throughout his career -- which only goes back to 2009. In cases like these, the veteran usually gets his number -- for a price. But Porcello, to his credit, didn't want any money or a watch. He asked that Hunter donate the money to Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.Porcello joins a growing list of ballplayers and teams lending a hand, either by volunteering their time or making a donation, in the aftermath of the storm. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are a few of the more notable instances: Foley's NY -- the self-described "best baseball bar in New York City" (and it's hard to argue) -- invited David Cone, Cecil Fielder and Joe McEwing in as guest bartenders last week and donated all proceeds (video). (Would have loved to have been there, but I was working.) The Lakewood BlueClaws will be participating in "Restore the Shore" Fridays until Memorial Day and joined with representatives from the Phillies, Trenton Thunder and Philly affiliates Reading and Lehigh Valley for a community clean-up day on Monday. I wish I'd known about that one ahead of time to make plans to join them. Major League Baseball and the Players Association donated $1 million to the Red Cross. The Yankees donated $500,000 to the Red Cross and will also donate 20 percent of proceeds from sales at nyyankeesfragrance.com (whatever that is) through November and December. Joe Girardi and CC Sabathia also greeted fans (video) who made donations at Yankee Stadium. The Mets held a food drive that benefited Sandy victims and Johan Santana joined Jeff Wilpon on Coney Island to assist in the recovery (video). And in a gesture that really struck home with me (having grown up just a few miles from Sea Bright), the Orioles collected supplies and had them driven directly to several Shore towns hit hardest: Toms River, Belmar, Sea Bright, Union Beach and Hazlet.As I said, I easily may have missed some, so feel free to leave any additions in the comments.[...]



The 2013 HOF Pre-Integration ballot

2012-11-06T11:36:00.329-05:00



The Hall of Fame unveiled the 2013 Pre-Integration Era ballot over the weekend, and it includes a New Jersey connection: Jacob Ruppert -- known as the Yankees owner who acquired Babe Ruth -- is also the man for whom Newark's Ruppert Stadium was named.

The Yankees owned the Newark Bears from 1931-47 (when they moved the franchise to Springfield, Mass.), and Ruppert's name was put on the stadium in 1934. It previously had been Davids Stadium and Bears Stadium. Should Ruppert be elected, the glory days of Newark baseball will be well-represented in Cooperstown (beyond the star players who suited up for the Bears and other teams), after the election of former Newark Eagles owner Effa Manley in 2006.

As for the annual player ballot -- you may have heard of it, what with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio eligible for the first time -- an announcement is expected at the end of the month, and any candidates selected for enshrinement will be revealed in early January.

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MLB's original 16 meeting in the World Series

2012-10-23T02:11:28.643-04:00

What a run for these Giants, playing six games in which they faced elimination, and winning each one. In their long and storied history, they'd never won a Game 7 until last night (not counting Game 7 of the 1921 World Series, which was a best-of-nine).In the 108th World Series, they'll face the Tigers -- another of the original 16 franchises from 1901 -- for the first time. That seemed surprising to me, but it's pretty common, especially when you consider that of the Cubs' infrequent appearances, four were against Detroit, or that while the Dodgers have 18 World Series visits -- ALL of which were against one of the AL's original eight -- 11 were against that team from the Bronx.But all of this is more easily digested in table form, so here's the breakdown: TEAMSBravesCardinalsCubsDodgersGiantsPhilliesPiratesRedsA's122242Browns/Orioles*11121Indians211Red Sox3111111Senators/Twins11121Tigers54121White Sox1111Yankees452117223 .grdhdr {background-color:#CCBB99; font-family:arial; font-weight:normal; font-size:12px; text-align:center; color:white } .grdbdy {background-color:; font-family:arial; font-weight:normal; font-size:12px; text-align:center; color:#602400 } *The Browns/Orioles franchise played one season, 1901, in Milwaukee as the Brewers before moving to St. Louis and then, in 1954, to Baltimore. [...]



The Jeterian Code

2012-08-23T12:39:00.155-04:00

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Midtown, 2008
A co-worker sent out an e-mail for an assignment yesterday, but added a twist. Next to each person on the list, attributed a saying, slogan or tall tale praising Derek Jeter, the joke being that Jeter is often adored/celebrated/defended by fans to the point of hagiography. This co-worker is not much for blogs or social media (he may be the last person of my generation I know who doesn't have a Facebook account, a Twitter account OR a blog -- not even a Tumblr or Instagram account), so I asked if I could borrow his list for a post here. All he asked was that I leave his name out of it. What follows is mostly his doing, though I omitted and altered a few that were inside office jokes.

So here then is The Jeterian Code, by a Co-Worker To Be Named Later. This list, of course, could be easily expanded. And neither the co-worker or I are claiming these are original ideas; maybe someone out there has uttered some of these before. But they were new to us.

  • Columbus didn't discover America, Jeter did
  • Zeus bows down before Jeter
  • WWJD stands for "What Would Jeter Do?"
  • Derek Jeter is the Keymaster
  • A.D. is no longer Anno Domini, it's now After Derek
  • Jeter's No. 2 is retired by all Nippon Professional Baseball clubs
  • Jeter is ticklish behind his parietal lobe
  • Dinosaurs were wiped off the earth by Jeter
  • JetBlue is renamed to JeterBlue
  • November shall now be known as Jetember
  • Santa has a Naughty, Nice and Jeter list
  • Jeter's birthday designated a galaxy-wide holidayJeter is the Keymaster
  • When you search for Jeter in a lexicon, it says "See 'God'"
  • No. 2 on calendars changed to the No. Jeter
  • Jeter knows the way to San Jose
  • The sun revolves around Jeter
  • Jeter was the man standing in front of the tank at Tiananmen Square
  • Jeter can read upside down
  • Melky Cabrera tested positive for too much Jeter
  • When Jeter retires, the Yanks will retire the position of SS
  • Jeter is Luke's father
  • DJ is a new element on the periodic table



Coming soon: The Ballad of Rupert Mills

2012-07-20T21:48:02.490-04:00


This is Rupert Mills, New Jersey born and Notre Dame educated. A four-sport letterman -- hence the basketball uniform -- and the last man to play in the short-lived Federal League (1914-15), he was the only Garden Stater on the Newark Peps. Mills made news in 1916 when, after the league had folded, he refused to be reassigned and, putting his Notre Dame law degree to work, insisted on being paid his $3,000 salary. It made for an interesting scenario in which he was the last -- and only -- player in the Federal League in 1916.

I post this because on this day 83 years ago, Mills passed away at 36, a hero for saving a friend's life, but losing his in the process. I had intended to prepare a full story about him to post today, but I've hit a snag in my research (involving unreturned phone calls), so it's not ready yet. I didn't want this anniversary to pass, so consider this a placeholder and a preview.



From ND to MLB: Aaron Heilman

2012-07-01T00:10:22.495-04:00

Aaron Heilman during the 2000 Big East Tournament in Bridgewater, N.J.This post is about 11 months too late. I won't bore you with the details of why -- basically a combination of a vacation that followed the interview and the lack of a deadline (this is why I don't freelance; I can be a terrible self-starter) -- but suffice it to say that I would've preferred that I posted this last August.This is how quickly it can turn. One July day, you're in the bullpen with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team that relied on you for 70 games the previous season; two weeks later, after your release, you're preparing to pitch on "Halloween in July," marked with a skeleton-themed pullover jersey. It's on this night I find Aaron Heilman in the Lehigh Valley IronPigs clubhouse at Coca-Cola Park. When a teammate takes a break from their game of dominoes to get some dinner, I, as a manner of introduction, point out our shared alma mater. We shake hands and I take a seat, but I don't reveal my allegiance to the Mets just yet. In hindsight, that may be part of my hesitation at writing this post. Because of our college connection -- Heilman's 1998 freshman season at Notre Dame overlapped with my senior spring -- I tend to view him in a more favorable light than most (OK, all) Mets fans I know. But then again, I don't #BlameBeltran for anything, either. While I understand how one mistake can taint you in the eyes of the fanbase for the rest of your career, I can't bring myself to dwell on the losses. I prefer to just move on to the next game, or the next season, and look forward to the next win. So here we are, the pitcher from Logansport, Ind., and the reporter from the Jersey Shore chatting about South Bend across a table set in the middle of a surprisingly narrow clubhouse for a ballpark built in the last 10 years. IronPigs shuffle by, music blares from a stereo, and out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse from the kitchen of Hall of Famer named Ryne Sandberg, Lehigh Valley's manager.Some might think that Heilman's Hoosier roots (his father, Joe, ran track at Indiana University) made Notre Dame an obvious choice for the top in-state baseball prospect in 1997, but it wasn't his first thought. "I wanted to go South, wanted to go play someplace warm," he said while reshuffling the dominoes. "But after talking with Coach [Paul] Maineri and Brian O'Connor, I fell in love with the place. I took my visit there and called up the rest of my visits on Sunday and cancelled them. I was sold. It seemed like home, seemed like the right place for me to be." Drafted by the Yankees in the 55th round, Heilman chose college instead, and from the start, he was right for Notre Dame. During his freshman season in 1998, he led the nation with a 1.61 ERA, going 7-3 with nine saves in 31 games (one start). He struck out 78 and walked 19 in 67 innings, holding opponents to a .198 batting average. Those numbers earned him third-team all-America and consensus first-team freshman all-America honors from Collegiate Baseball and second-team all-Big East accolades. He shared Collegiate Baseball's freshman of the year award with California's Xavier Nady and a left-hander from Auburn named Hayden Gliemmo, who was never drafted but played 42 games at Class A Cedar Rapids in 2003, his only professional season. In 1999, his sophomore year, Heilman started 14 of his 20 games, completing six of them, with an 11-2 record and 3.14 ERA. He struck out 118 in 109 innings, breaking Frank Carpin's 41-ye[...]



Watching history from New Hampshire

2012-06-04T11:38:27.152-04:00

Johan, in AprilMy father called during the seventh inning. I was up in New Hampshire, sitting in the living room of my college roommate's lakehouse after the four of us -- my wife, Bryan, his partner and me -- had returned from dinner. We were settling in to watch Lions for Lambs, a 2007 drama with Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise and Robert Redford (who also directed) that I had never heard of."Are you in New Hampshire?" he asked, checking up on our itinerary, I figured. "Have you checked in on the Mets at all tonight?"I didn't get where he was going at first. "I saw Duda homered and they were up like 5-0," I said."Yeah. Well, Johan's through seven now, too. The Mets have the bases loaded ..." And then he went on to explain what the Mets had done in the bottom of the seventh. But I didn't care about that anymore."Oh! Right!" I said, cutting him off. "We're about to watch a movie, but I'll watch the game online.""I didn't want to jinx it, so I wasn't going to say anything. But your mother" -- of my parents, she's the bigger Mets fan -- "said I should call you.""No, she's right," I replied. After a few more words, we hung up and I pulled out the iPad. "Commercial break in progress," it said. We were heading to the top of the eighth.Bryan stoked the fire and started the movie. I pulled out headphones and put them halfway in my ears, trying to follow the beginning of the movie in between Gary, Keith and Ron describing the game, commenting on history in the making.One, two, walk, three -- Johan Santana was through eight, becoming the first Mets pitcher to take a no-hitter into the ninth since Tom Seaver in September 1975. He was, in fact, just the second person to take a no-hitter into the ninth for the Mets, because Seaver's three instances were the only other occasions.But the pitch count is high -- 122 -- especially for a veteran coming off shoulder surgery and a year rehabbing. His spot in the lineup comes up in the eighth, and he strides to the plate, getting a closeup view of six pitches, then walking back to the dugout. The Mets are retired, and it's on to the top of the ninth.I haven't been following the game, so I know nothing of Mike Baxter's amazing catch or Carlos Beltran's apparent hit down the left-field line ruled foul. I don't know how many balls have been hit hard or how many plays have saved hits, even in the early innings when anything beyond routine is just a nice play, not a history-saving highlight. I don't even know where the Cardinals are in their lineup, having spent the eighth half-watching, half-following the movie. But now I'm all-in; the earbuds are shutting out the dialogue on the TV. I'm not about to take my attention away from the game to see who is due up, so I just take it one batter at a time. It's probably better that way.Matt Holliday is first, and I only have a moment to ponder how dangerous he might be before he swings at the first pitch and sends what at first looks like a soft, looping line drive into shallow center field. Well, that's it, I think. But it's not, it's out No. 25, hanging up long enough for Andres Torres to jog in and make an easy catch. I haven't watched baseball in a week; my judgement on fly balls off the bat is a little off.Up comes Allen Craig. He's not a superstar, maybe even not quite a regular yet -- his biggest moments in last year's World Series came as a pinch-hitter -- but he's still young. Maybe he'll become an All-Star. Maybe he'll be a bit better than Jim Qualls. Bu[...]



The Dodgers return to New York

2012-05-29T22:26:23.211-04:00

Half a century ago, the Dodgers and Giants returned to New York for the first time as visitors. They came during the last days of May and the beginning of June to face the team that had replaced them in the National League -- and had replaced the Giants at the Polo Grounds -- the Mets, who would turn out to be not-so-amazin' that year.Fifty years ago today, the Dodgers returned to New York from a game in Washington the night before, shuffling off to bed at 10:30 in the morning. But they didn't scatter to their homes in Brooklyn. Instead, they laid their heads in a hotel in Manhattan, visitors not just at the Polo Grounds, but in the metropolis they once called home. On May 29, 1962, the Dodgers came back to New York for the first time since leaving for Los Angeles. They arrived following a Memorial Day exhibition game in Spokane, Wash. -- hence the midmorning arrival -- and had a day off to recover from the travel before facing the Mets at the Polo Grounds on May 30. "Exhaustion will have evaporated by this afternoon, however," Arthur Daley wrote in The New York Times on the 30th: That's when these one-time idols of the fanatics from Canarsie to Greenpoint will perform at the Polo Grounds for the first time in almost five years -- and as strangers. No longer are they the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. They are the Los Angeles Dodgers who spurned love for gold and ran off with the fast-talking Walter O'Malley. But do Brooklynites still carry the torch? We'll find out today when the Dodgers meet the Mets in a double-header.The Mets had returned home from a long journey of their own, a 12-game trip from Milwaukee to Houston to Los Angeles to San Francisco. They lost the first to the Braves, won the next three, and then didn't win again. In fact, the trip out West and the visit from the Dodgers -- and then the Giants, who would follow their California neighbors as visitors to the Polo Grounds -- would be part of the Mets' season-long 17-game losing streak that saw them go from seven games under .500 (12-19) on May 20 to 24 games under (12-36) on June 6. Before the Dodgers arrived, the Mets had played 15 home dates (with two doubleheaders, so 17 games total) to that point at the Giants' former home and had averaged merely 9,167 fans per game, drawing a high of 19,925 on Sunday, April 29, for a doubleheader vs. the Phillies and topping 10,000 only six other times. But the imminent homecoming would change that: Each of the five dates (the Dodgers and Giants each played a doubleheader) would draw at least 22,000. "The appearances of the Dodgers and Giants, unseen here since forsaking Brooklyn and New York for Los Angeles and San Francisco after the 1957 season, caused National League fans to scurry out of their hiding places in droves," Joseph M. Sheehan wrote in The Times on May 30, 1962. "The advance ticket sale points to a crowd of at least 50,000 today. With good weather, as many as 200,000 fans may follow the all-but-forgotten course to the Polo Grounds over the five-day period." They fell just short: Wednesday, May 30, twin bill vs. Dodgers: 55,704Thursday, May 31, single game vs. Dodgers: 22,884Friday, June 1, single game vs. Giants: 43,742Saturday, June 2, twin bill vs. Giants: 41,001Sunday, June 3, single game vs. Giants: 34,102 Five day total: 197,433In their previous 15 home dates, the Mets had drawn a total of 155,879. "The games will present an opportunity to gain acceptance," Sheehan wrote. Maybe it wa[...]



Happy 100th, Fenway Park

2013-02-19T11:25:44.153-05:00

Dad, sis and meI've been to Fenway Park several times over the years (seeing the Yankees twice, once more than I've seen the Red Sox in the Bronx), but the first trip wasn't for a game.My family stopped to visit my mom's cousin in Arlington, Mass., on our way up to Maine (our annual August migration). I knew the Red Sox were out of town -- probably by picking up a newspaper, because I'm not sure even cordless phones were in wide use yet -- but I still wanted to see Fenway Park, then 77 years old. (In '89, the year SkyDome opened, two years before New Comiskey and three before Camden Yards changed everything, Fenway was one of five pre-Depression ballparks; now it's one of two. And Camden Yards is the 10th oldest ballpark in baseball! I find that remarkable.) So on a day trip into the city, we made our way to Yawkey Way. It was a hot and humid day, a detail I recalled when looking at the hazy skyline in the photo of right field below.As we walked along Van Ness St., we saw an open gate, through which we could see into the darkness of the narrow concourse beneath the first-base stands. Light shone through a ramp out to the seats, and I may have caught a glimpse of the Green Monster. As we stood there looking -- feeling the cool, damp air emanating from the concourse -- an employee walked by and recognized us as tourists. It may have been the mesh-backed Mets cap on my head. He said hello and chatted with us for a moment before inviting us inside, waving us up the ramp for a look at the field. "Just take off that Mets cap first," he said to me with a smile. (He was joking. I think.) "And please stay at the top of the ramp." I did doff my cap, either out of fear of a stranger or respect for the Fens, resulting in the wonderful example of pre-teen hat head in the photo above.We probably spent no more than two minutes gazing out at all that green of the grass and the wall and the red of the seats. The tarp was stretched out in right field, drying off (I think it may have rained the night before). I seem to have a memory of this visit being the day after the end of a homestand, which would put the date as Monday, Aug. 7, 1989. A couple of groundskeepers tended to the field. I took a couple of photos (seen below) and my mom snapped the pic of my dad, sister and me above. Then we headed back down the ramp, across the concourse and out onto the street. And I knew we had just received a treat.I made it back for a game two years later, my dad and me getting seats in the second row behind the Yankees' bullpen in right field. I saw the ballpark come to life then -- and again in 1993 (vs. the Rangers), 1994 (Yankees) and 2009 (Mets). The fans were always there, even without seats atop the Monster or a right-field roof deck. No matter how you feel about those additions, the best thing about them and all the other enhancements made in the last decade is that they will ensure that Fenway lives on, so that those of us who made our first visit in the '80s -- or before -- can relate to those who made -- or will make -- theirs in the 21st Century.And a couple of a cap cart on the street outside:[...]