I have some nerdy friends who, along with some other nerdy friends, started a nerdy website called Nerds on Earth. If you’re into nerd culture, it’s the place to be on the internet.
If you’re not into nerd culture, maybe still check out this post on what I believe to be the greatest X-Files episode ever. It’s my debut piece over at NoE, and hopefully the first of many. I’m excited to be a part of the crew, in whatever small capacity I’m able to contribute.
And we’d all be excited to have you check out NerdsonEarth.com and be a part of the conversation!
By way of a transition… What’s your favorite X-Files episode of all time?
Every year during MLB’s spring training I re-watch the amazing Ken Burns documentary Baseball. It’s a long tradition, meaning both that I have been doing it for a long time (this is year 7) and that it takes a long time to complete (the whole series is 22-23 hours long). But every year I do it, and every year I experience the same reawakening and rekindling of my love for the game. I get thunderstruck all over again by the beauty of the game, the depth of its history, the import of that history alongside the history of our country, and the fun of it all.
I am also reminded every year of what a huge tragedy it is that some of the greatest players who ever lived were never afforded the opportunity to receive the recognition they deserved. Because of the “gentlemen’s agreement” between white baseball owners from 1883-1947, many people have never heard of some or all of the following greats.
Leroy “Satchel” Paige is arguably the greatest pitcher of all time, bar none. He actively played professional baseball consecutively from probably 1926 (records are a little shaky…) until 1953, making his major league debut in 1948 at the ripe old age of 42. After 1953, he left the professional game until being called back into service in (and I swear I’m not making this up) 1965. It was a publicity stunt, but he pitched three scoreless innings – at age 59.
His official MLB win-loss record is 28-31, mostly as a reliever. He did start his MLB career at 42 years old, mind you. And, even though his official Negro League win-loss record is 103-61, he pitched in probably hundreds of barnstorming games that were never even recorded. We truly will never know the full greatness of Paige, or what a joy it would have been to see him pitch against the Yankees’ “Murderer’s Row” of the late 20s in his prime.
Josh Gibson was a power-hitting catcher who died all too young at the age of 35, the victim of a stroke or brain hemorrhage. He was a very good defensive catcher with a strong, accurate arm, but was best known as a tremendous hitter. Baseball hall of famer Monte Irvin said of him, “I played with Willie Mays and against Hank Aaron. They were tremendous players, but they were no Josh Gibson.”
Legend has it that Josh Gibson hit a home run all the way out of the old Yankee Stadium. That story hasn’t been verified, but there is a documented occurence of him hitting a 480-foot home run – when he was just 18 years old.
Andrew “Rube” Foster was a pitcher, manager, and eventually owner and founder of the Negro National League. He gained his nickname after out-pitching the great Rube Wadell in an exhibition game. Legend has it that Foster was hired by New York Giants manager John McGraw to teach his fadeaway (screwball) pitch to Christy Mathewson, one of the all-time greats in part because of his fadeaway pitch.
Between his on the field exploits, and the impact he had on the game in the form of organizing all-black teams into the Negro Leagues, his contributions to the game cannot be overstated.
James “Cool Papa” Bell was a switch-hitting center fielder from 1922-1946. His calling card was his unbelievable speed. Like, truly unbelievable. Contemporary players joked that he would turn off the light switch at night and be in bed covered up before the room was dark. Satchel Paige said of him, “Once he hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit his ass sliding into second.” Another Negro League great, Buck O’Neil, when asked how fast Cool Papa Bell was, would always answer, “Faster than that.”
With speed and hitting ability like his, he would certainly have been a 3,000-hit guy in the major leagues. He slapped the ball all over the field like Ichiro. He stole bases like Ricky Henderson. And he played for almost a quarter of a century.
John Henry “Pop” Lloyd played shortstop from 1907-1932. He was undeniably one of the greatest Negro League players in history. He was a slick fielder with great hitting ability and speed, often compared to Pittsburgh Pirates great Honus Wagner. Wagner himself said, “It’s an honor to be compared to [Lloyd].”
Babe Ruth, when asked to name the greatest Negro League player of all time, stated that Pop Lloyd was his choice for greatest player of all time – period, without distinction.
His career batting average of .340 is 12 points higher than Wagner’s, and only 2 points below Babe Ruth’s.
And the truth is that there are dozens more Negro League players whose names and baseball exploits we remember even less. The fact that these players were systematically prohibited from testing themselves against the Major League’s greatest players is a shame and a travesty. Because as rich and vibrant and colorful and deep and important as the history of baseball is, it could have been more.
Yeah, yeah… I know the original Andy Williams song is about Christmas time. Whatever.
There are two “most wonderful” times of the year in my book. The greater of the two is October, at least when it comes to sports – NFL football, college football, no basketball to speak of, PGA playoffs (and this year the Ryder Cup!), and most importantly MLB playoffs.
The (only slightly) lesser of the two is late February all the way through March – MLB Spring Training!
I tend to get super philosophical and emotional about the start of baseball each year. Like, to an embarrassing degree. But whatever… Baseball was and most likely always will be my first love when it comes to sports. So in that spirit, here is one of my favorite quotes of all time about baseball.
Baseball has nearly all the qualities and the narrative that the country has. It’s competitive; it’s spirited; it’s got the joshing; and it’s got the intellectual side, the great students of it. It’s also got labor unions, and management, and gimmicks, and promotion, venality; great public fools in baseball, and great public heroes; and great self-serving people and generous people. And it has pride and unity of town and of country, and it’ll do for a figure for the American system. – Charley McDowell
You just can’t say all of that about any other American sport.
Last spring I started a series that I never really finished titled “Why Baseball is Better Than…” Although I do still plan on adding to that, this year I thought it might make for a better and more consistent series if I shared a quote or two about baseball periodically, along with my thoughts about it.
Let us go forth awhile and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms. The game of Ball is glorious. – Walt Whitman
America’s game: has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphere – belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life. – Walt Whitman
As best I can find, Walt Whitman – one of the greatest American poets ever – never wrote anything about football, or basketball, or hockey, or auto racing. And to me, that says something.
What about you?
“Baseball provides escape. Furthermore, there is no other place in our society that I know of in which the perimeter of play and the rules are clearly defined and known to everyone – in which justice is absolutely equal and sure. Three strikes, you’re out. I don’t care if you hire Edward Bennett Williams to defend you; three strikes, you’re still out. Baseball is an island of stability in an unstable world.” – Bill Veeck
“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” – Earl Weaver
Amen, and amen.
Listen, I love football. I’m not so into basketball, hockey, or soccer… But in all four of those sports, you almost inevitably see the end of a game or match come down to one team with the lead trying to slow the game down and run out the clock. They’re not really trying to win the game anymore; they’re basically just playing keep-away.
You can’t play keep-away in baseball, and that’s one more reason I love it.
Last spring I started a series that I never really finished titled “Why Baseball is Better Than…” Although I do still plan on adding to that, this year I thought it might make for a better and more consistent series if I shared a quote or two about baseball each week, along with my thoughts about it.
“…it’s beautiful – the way the field fans out, the choreography of the sport, the pace and rhythm of it, the fact that that pace and rhythm allows for conversation and reflection and opinion and comparison…” – Bob Costas
I agree wholeheartedly with Bob Costas. I think one of the main things that sets baseball apart from every other sport except golf is the sheer beauty of it.
There is no man-made structure in existence that is more beautiful than a well-kept baseball field.
There is no motion in sports more beautiful than a great batter’s swing.
There is no choreography of movement in sports that even comes close to a well-turned double play.
There is no sound in sports that is more exciting or fills its hearers simultaneously with great hope or crushing despair than the crack of the bat hitting the ball.
Put all these beautiful things together, and you end up with a game beyond comparison, at least in my opinion.
You woke up this morning, and instantly you knew. Your mouth was dry. Your palms were sweaty. You dreaded leaving the house. You knew that all day you would have to face person after person with a strong opinion about the matter. Some would be annoying about it. Others would be angry. Still others would be morose and cynical. Regardless, you knew that today would be one of the most divisive days in your life for a long, long time.
Am I talking about election day? Nope.
I’m talking about Valentine’s Day.
Honestly, if we made Hitler’s birthday a national holiday I’m not sure there would be as much of an outcry against it as there is against Valentine’s Day in some quarters*. So if you’re one of the people who abhor Valentine’s Day, let me give you three reasons why, in spite of your hatred of this holiday, today is an awesome day.
This was on Kurt Johnston’s blog awhile back. Now that baseball season is over, all you aspiring ball-players can get one of these and start getting ready for next year!
Time for another installment of Topic Tuesday, where I discipline myself to write about a given topic from one of the prompt generators I use. Today’s topic – My 10 Favorite Words. Here we go… Read the rest of this entry
-This week I turned pro as a writer, at least by the definition Steven Pressfield puts forth in his book The War of Art. In case you’re wondering, this simply means that I’m beginning to treat my writing as real work, something to be disciplined at. Only time will tell if I have a long writing career ahead of me, or if it goes the way of Eric Crouch‘s football career (i.e. brief, unfocused, and mostly in Canada).
-Lately I’ve been diving back into a couple of music genres that I had sort of moved away from for several years – Classical and Jazz. Now before you laugh, let me just tell you that I’m pretty sure that I’m happier, smarter, healthier, and better-looking than I was a couple of months ago. Can you say that that? Hmmm?! Granted, I can’t say for sure that it’s the music, but I’ll go with it until I’ve got something better…
-Despite classical and jazz music making me healthier, I am predicting that I will have a heart-attack within the next month or so. The ultimate cause will be one of three things: the Atlanta Braves trying to stay on top in the NL Wild Card race, the Atlanta Falcons trying to win a game in regulation, or our kitten Pete. As of this morning, my money’s on Pete…
-It finally feels like the south’s ‘Summer in Hell’ is over. Finally… This week we have high temperatures that are only in the upper-70s and low-80s for the first time since probably March. And I even saw a forecast for a few days from now where the overnight low temperatures started with this strange number that looks like this – “5”. Does anyone know what that means?