The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Friday, July 25, 2003

 

Clearing the Bases

Several things to note before I skip town for another Northampton jaunt...

• The Yanks and the Red Sox kick off a three-game series in Fenway starting tonight. Pedro vs. the Fat Man, with Nick Johnson rejoining the Yanks from an epic stay on the DL. The Yanks are up by 2.5 games and hold a 6-4 edge in the season series, with nine more contests still to come. Saturday is Moose vs. Burkett, and Sunday is Lowe vs. Weaver. The Sox dodge a bit of a bullet by missing Andy Pettitte, whose start was pushed back by rain; Pettitte owns the Sox (12-4, 2.47 ERA in his career) and beat them July 6. On the other hand, the Sox don't get a chance to face Roger Clemens in this series; they've pounded him for 17 runs in 17 innings this year, bad enough to raise the Rocket's ERA 0.72 runs all by their damn selves.

• Speaking of the Sox, I found a link to this blog in an unlikely place: a weblog called Out of Left Field, written by a guy named Ed Kubosiak for MassLive.com, the online entity of a paper called The Republican. Ed's included me in a list of his favorite blogs. Who says we can't all get along?

• ESPN's resident Yankee-hater, Jim Caple, often lays on satire so thick that it defuses his sense of humor. But he's got a genuinely hilarious piece on Page 2 right now, a timeline "celebrating" the 100th anniversary of the New York Yankees. Among my favorite entries:
April-Sept. 1920: Ruth hits 54 home runs to shatter the single-season record and earn two dozen nicknames, including the Bambino, The Sultan of Swat, the Consigliore of Crunch, the Lieutenant Governor of Lumber, the Chief Operating Officer of Bash, the Senior Vice-President in Charge of Purchasing and Slugging Percentage, the Right Honorable Ensign of Clout and the Notary Public of Horsehide.

May 30, 1939: Lou Gehrig ends his playing streak at 2,130 games, and Mayo Clinic doctors deliver the most obvious diagnosis in medical history, telling him that he has Lou Gehrig's Disease. It is only one of the many ailments named in honor of a Yankees superstar. Others include Epstein-Berra Syndrome, Non-Knoblauch's Lymphoma and of course, Mickey Pox.

January 14, 1954: [Joe] DiMaggio marries Marilyn Monroe and, upon consummating the marriage, delivers the most famous line in baseball history: "Tonight, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

Oct. 5, 1951: Mickey Mantle suffers the first of several debilitating knee injuries in Game 2 of the World Series when he trips over his empties.
See what I mean?

• Thursday was the 20th anniversary of one of the game's most surreal moments, The Pine Tar Incident, when the Yankees protested a go-ahead homer hit by Brett off of Goose Gossage because of the amount of sticky stuff on his bat. When Yankee manager Billy Martin brought Brett's bat to the attention of home plate umpire Tim McClelland, the ump ruled Brett out, nullifying the homer and ending the top of the ninth and thus the ballgame. But AL President Lee MacPhail overturned McClelland's decision, and the final four outs of the game were replayed on August 18, 1983. Martin made a farce of the continued game, using pitcher Ron Guidry in centerfield and lefty first baseman Don Mattingly at second, as a sparse 1,245 fans looked on.

Reflecting on the event, Brett admitted that the bat with which he stroked his 3,000th hit actually had more pine tar on it than the famous one residing in Cooperstown. It's also amusing to note that Brett's kids refer to the tape of their father charging out of the dugout as "the crazy-man video."

• In the latest Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman has a lengthy recounting of the Pine Tar Incident as well as discussion of some deadly deadline deals involving relief pitchers -- with the infamous Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell trade as its starting point. Meanwhile, a trio of Baseball Prospectus writers take a look at several more infamous deadline deals from the 1988-1993 period over at ESPN. One thing that's surprising is how many of these names still pop up; Bagwell, Fred McGriff, David Cone, Jeff Kent, Ruben Sierra, Rickey Henderson, and Curt Schilling have all seen action this year.

• The excellent Mudville Magazine has a lengthy piece devoted to the Baseball Reliquary, a grass-roots museum and shrine devoted to the more esoteric corners and characters of the game (if this sounds familiar, it's because I've written about the Reliquary before). The article covers the Reliquary's mission, highlighting some of the relics in its collection (melted vinyl from the White Sox infamous "Disco Demolition" night, a half-eaten hot dog supposedly belonging to Babe Ruth, pinch-hitting midget Eddie Gaedel's jockstrap), as well as reactions from some of the inductees into the Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals ("The People's Hall of Fame," as 2001 inductee Jim Bouton termed it).

This year's inductees were one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott, female Northern League pitcher Ila Borders, and labor leader Marvin Miller. Past inductees include Curt Flood, Dock Ellis, Bill Veeck, Satchel Paige, Minnie Minoso, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Moe Berg, and Pam Postema. If you don't know who some of these folks are, read about them via the Reliquary's site. As for me, I'm going to pony up the $25 membership fee so I can vote in next year's election. Off the top of my head, Bill James, Roger Angell, Elliot Asinof, Buck O'Neil, and Mario Mendoza would be worthy additions to the Shrine.

• I received a nice email from a Seattle resident named Matt Smith concerning an old entry I wrote about ambidextrous Tony Mullane and other switch-pitchers. Here is what Matt, an 24-year-old pickup player:
I enjoyed your article at futilityinfielder.com. I am a switch pitcher, I reside in Seattle but am originally from Detroit. I just felt obligated to write to you and tell you about my ability to throw with both arms. I have a 78MPH fastball with my right arm (which is the arm i consider the more dominant one) A 76MPH fastball with my left. A sharp breaking curve with my right and a moderate curve with my left. I hope to one day wear a Detroit Tigers uniform and stand on the mound at Comerica Park and show my stuff to the league's best. Hey, a guy can dream can't he? Maybe we can play catch someday?
Matt, I'll bet you could crack the Tigers staff right now. Anytime you want to bring your gloves to New York City, I'm game for some catch.

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