Baseball – It’s Better than Hollywood

So let’s write a script for a movie about baseball. Remember, it’s Hollywood, so it can be over the top and unbelievable.

Let’s start with a trade. One team has World Series dreams but is in desperate need of relief pitching. The other team just needs a few good players to pull them up a notch in their division. So they actually work a trade while they are playing each other. One team sends its ace relief pitcher to the other for a 24 year-old second baseman just a year out rookie status. They trade uniforms, clubhouses, lockers and move across the field for the next game in their series. It never happens, but remember. It’s Hollywood.

The reliever is crushed. He was doing so much for his team with one scoreless save after another. You can even write in a scene where he sits in his new team’s dugout crying. The fans of his old team are outraged. The GM gets hate mail. But the deal is done. The pitcher stands before the cameras and makes brave statements about the nature of the game, the business and how great the fans are in both cities.

The kid second baseman seethes in silence. He had played well but his team saw him as expendable. You will see from the look in his eyes that he hopes some day to use his bat to get even.

A few weeks later in the season, the teams square off again. And since it’s Hollywood, you have the new young infielder come to bat in the eighth inning of a scoreless game. The bases are loaded, of course. And on the mound is the reliever who cried in the dugout after the trade. Of course. It’s Hollywood.

So you write him in for a grand slam. Why not? Since it’s Hollywood. But this is where I would expect the production company suits to step in and say it’s just too much. Even for Hollywood.

With only one out, let’s make that a sacrifice fly. Put it way back on the warning track. Create suspense as the ball goes toward the fence. But not out of the park.

Make it a great catch, a brilliant throw and a close play at the plate. Score the run, but a grand slam? Really? That’s too much even for Hollywood. And more karma than even Bollywood would allow.

Real life is more like this:

And that’s what I love about baseball. Even when my team loses.

Enjoying a Good Memory on a Bad News Day

There’s not much fun in reading the news these days. But I did find a bright spot this morning.

The Washington Post had an article today about a home run that Frank Howard hit in the Seattle Pilots home park in 1969. A 10-year-old kid named Jim Flinn was sitting in the cheap seats beyond center field and he watched Howard’s home run go out of the park, at least by his memory. That would have made it at least 600 feet, given the height of the wall encompassing Seattle’s Sick’s Stadium.

If Sick’s Stadium and the Seattle Pilots don’t ring true to your MLB fan ears, it’s because the Pilots only stayed a year in Seattle before moving on to Milwaukee to fill the vacancy left there when the Braves moved to Atlanta. They are best known for being the team Jim Bouton pitched for when he wrote Ball Four.

But here’s the thing. In the world both before and after StatCast, no one has managed to propel a baseball that far with a bat AND be able to produce credible witnesses and measurement. Except for young (now 62) Jim Flinn. He knows what he saw. And it provided him with the memory for a lifetime.

It reminded me of my own similar memory. I saw a home run that, for me, was every bit as memorable as that Frank Howard shot and maybe even a few feet farther in its travel.

In 1957, I was 13 years old and just beginning to be sold on baseball as “the beautiful game,” at least in my culture and in my life. I was an avid fan of the Buffs, the Houston entry in the AA Texas League. That summer my dad took me to a game between the Buffs and the loathsome Dallas Eagles. The Buffs were a St. Louis Cardinal farm team. The Eagles were affiliated with the New York Giants. And any team from New York got hisses and boos in Texas, even before the Mets existed.

It was a matchup against the Texas League’s two best teams. Matching up over the whole season, Dallas led the league by 5 games over the second place Buffs. But minor league ball determined league championships through a system called the Shaughnessy Playoffs. It was pretty much the same design the major leagues use now with the top four teams doing elimination rounds. Houston won the Shaughnessy playoff, and thus the Texas League crown, four games to three over the Eagles. But none of that matters to the memory I have of that season.

My memory is about a ball I saw going over the center field fence in Buff Stadium. Any ball going over that fence was impressive in that it was 440 feet from home plate (the legendary Polo Grounds was only 442). The right and left field fences were 12 feet high. They added another six feet to the 440 foot center field fence. It was rare to see a ball clear that center field fence. It saved money on baseballs, no small thing in the minors.

But that night the Eagles started a 19-year-old first baseman named Willie McCovey. I remember little else about that game but my memory is of seeing a ball he hit leaving the park over the center field wall on a straight line that was still rising when it disappeared into the darkness.

After he hit that home run, I noticed the crowd gasping even when he would swing and miss. His movement was like velvet and oh so powerful. Still a teenager, McCovey hit .281 for the Dallas Eagles that year with 11 home runs. That isn’t huge production for a double A ball player. But I saw one of those eleven home runs and it was unforgettable.

That was the only time I ever saw Willie McCovey play in person. And McCovey never made it to the New York Giants. By the time he made the Giants two years later, they had moved to San Francisco.

Twenty-nine years and 521 home runs later, in 1986 he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I saw him hit one of the longest home runs ever hit in organized baseball. No video recorded it. There was no StatCast to give us accurate, scientific measures.

But, like Mr. Jim Flinn, I know what I saw. And I thank him for jogging my memory.

Are they finally beginning to see the simple truth behind the Big Lie?

‘You’re kidding yourself’: Crenshaw spars with GOP activist who claims 2020 election was stolen https://www.houstonchronicle.com/politics/texas/article/gop-activist-dan-crenshaw-election-2020-stolen-16382965.php

Of course Rep. Crenshaw needs to stand by for that much feared call from Trump. But I think they are beginning to think, so what? He’s a loser. And he lost by a sizable margin. That’s beginning to look like the greater threat to their electoral standing.

G-Droppin’ with Greg

Politicians will do crazy things to try to connect with some part of the electorate whose votes they crave but whose life and culture may be foreign to them. The Democratic candidate on their first hunting trip is a favorite. Only Ann Richards was able to pull that one off persuasively. With her big hair, Texas drawl and a deer rifle in her hand, she let them know that she would probably hold her own in a bar fight with any of them two-steppin’ cowboys. And it probably wasn’t her first hunting trip, either.

My all-time favorite was when an incumbent Texas Secretary of Agriculture named Reagan Brown decided that he could connect with Texas’ farmers and ranchers by jamming his hand into a bed of fire ants while the photographers stood by drooling. Cowboy types were not impressed. His opponent wasn’t only a Democrat, he was about as progressive as they come. Thank you, Reagan V. Brown for giving us a few good years with Jim Hightower.

A bit less showy than the faux hunting trips and the fire ant challenge (too bad there were no social media in 1982), there is the practice of what I call G-droppin’. Candidates for statewide and national offices typically have been educated with bachelor’s and law degrees, often from Ivy League schools. They have learned how to speak proper English and they speak it with a precision that often makes their home folks think of them as “puttin’ on airs.” Put these folks in front of a judge in a courtroom and they speak the king’s English.

But a roomful of voters at the American Legion Hall in Clute will have them droppin’ Gs from their present participles. Even President Obama did it. He dropped Gs with the worst of them. But it never sold the way Ann Richards sold her NRA-appealing hunting trips. With Obama, the G-droppin’ seemed like the opposite of puttin’ on airs, at least to me. He was just too honest and too good for that kind of panderin’ to the willfully ignorant. It never seemed natural.

But Greg Abbot has handed me one that tops the Reagan Brown performance. But there is no way that I can wring any humor from it.

In order to establish kinship with folks in the Trump cult, he has endangered all our lives and put our children at the head of the line. By issuing an executive order forbidding local governments from mandating masks and vaccines, he no doubt hopes he will be able to pick up the support of the leftover dregs of the Trump “base” in Texas. And as the evidence builds that his edict is probably going to cost lives and create more drag on the economy, he does what DJT would do. He doubles down. How utterly stupid and mean.

Fortunately there are some leaders at the local level who aren’t having any of it. Call it civil disobedience. Call it leadership. They see their jobs as protecting their citizens. Lina Hidalgo’s doin’ it. Sylvester Turner’s doin’ it. Some school districts are doin’ it, too.

In your face, *re* Abbott.

J. R. Richard Remembered

New of J. R. Richard’s passing was sad news yesterday. By all accounts, he was a great person, although, we knew him only as a great pitcher cut down in his prime.

The report from mlb.com that is linked above covers the highlights of an all-to-brief career. A moment of silence, please, for one of the great ones.

You won’t find his name in the baseball Hall of Fame. Maybe distinctive careers like his should be remembered there.