Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

Earlier today, I saw a tweet from Mental Floss about the home run derby. In fact, it wasn’t about the home run derby that happens the day before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, no, it was about the home run derby TV show from back in the 1960s. After being reminded of the home run derby from the 60s, I wondered, can there be too much of a good thing?

My first thought is, no! I love the home run derby, as do many other baseball fans. It’s a fantastical display of ability by some of the greater sluggers. There’ve been quite a few memorably home run derbies. There was Cal Ripken, Jr. in 1991. He hit 7 more HRs than the second place hitter. This was particularly memorable for me because it took place in Toronto (my hometown). There was also Josh Hamilton from 2008 when he broke the record for most HRs in one round, but went on to lose the home run derby. There was also Ken Griffey, Jr. in the last 90s. He won back-to-back home run derbies in 1998 and 1999. He still has one of the sweetest swings in the history of the game.

Then, as I thought more about it, maybe seeing the home run derby once a week would begin to take some of the shine off of the event. Maybe if the home run derby happened once a week, we wouldn’t have the once a year, mid-summer classic, to look forward to for the display of towering home runs.

Thinking about this also made me think about the slam dunk contest. It’s one of my favorite parts about the NBA all-star game. Watching the creativity of some of the best “slam dunkers” is really entertaining. If there were a slam dunk contest every week, would that be too much?

Other than actually producing the show, there’d be no way to know (for sure). If I had to hazard a guess, my guess is that it would be too much. Part of the fun of the home run derby and the slam dunk contest is that it only happens once a year. The amazing feats of ability are rare (at least in their display in this context). And that rarity also adds to the fun of the event. We know that at the end of the night, we won’t be seeing the feats again for another year.

“42” Demonstrates how Racism Persists 50 Years After the Civil Rights Act

During my self-imposed hiatus from writing, I saw “42.” This is the movie based on the life of the first black baseball player to play in Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson. As I was a baseball player, I knew the story, but there was still one scene that I wanted to mention here. If you haven’t seen the movie, me talking about this one scene probably won’t spoil the movie for you. It doesn’t have anything to do with the “plot,” but I thought it was really important.

The scene I’m talking about is after Jackie is already on the team with the Dodgers. He had played with the team for some time now and there was a road trip to Cincinnati. Cut to the scene in Cincinnati and we’re shown a father and son. The son is talking to the dad about being excited to see his favorite player (Pee Wee Reese) do well today. The dad is encouraging about Reese doing well today, too.

Jackie and the rest of the team take the field. Immediately, the demeanor of the dad changes and he starts hurling racial epithets at Jackie. The dad wasn’t the only person to be acting in this way. The other fans in the stands started following suit.

The part I want to focus on is the child’s perspective. In the scene, the child looks up at the dad as the dad continues his barrage. The child then looks back at the fans behind to see that they’re doing exactly the same thing. Social learning. The kid then begins saying racial slurs about Jackie. It’s enough to make your stomach turn.

If you ever wondered how racism has persisted in the US even though the Civil Rights Act passed almost 50 (!) years ago, this scene exemplifies it.

Should PED Users Be Allowed into the Baseball Hall of Fame? Old Hoss Radbourn Thinks So

A couple of weeks ago, there was a retweet that came up in my feed from someone I don’t currently follow. As a brief aside: this is another cool thing about Twitter. Even though I don’t follow a person, their tweets may show up if someone else retweets them. The cool part: I get introduced to someone (by way of 140 characters, their Twitter handle, and their Twitter picture), that I wouldn’t have otherwise knew existed.

Anyway, this tweet was from @OldHossRadbourn. For those who don’t know, “Old Hoss” is the nickname for Charles Radbourn who was a MLB pitcher in the late 1800s. Radbourn was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. He was one of the first 25 players elected to the Hall of Fame. Radbourn passed away before the dawn of the 20th century, so it’s safe to say that the person behind the Twitter account is someone else. The tweet:

Obviously, the person who is behind this account is being sarcastic. In fact, one of the people who replied to this tweet made an even more salient point:

Like Radbourn, Ty Cobb was elected to the Hall of Fame very early on. In fact, Ty Cobb was part of the first class of players elected to the Hall of Fame. A bit of baseball trivia for you: Ty Cobb was elected to the Hall of Fame with a higher percentage of the vote than Babe Ruth (98.23% to 95.13%). While Ty Cobb was probably one of the greatest baseball players — ever — he’s also know for being one of “bad boys” of baseball.

From one of the reviews of a biography of Cobb:

Stump, Ty Cobb’s ghostwriter for the 1961 autobiography My Life in Baseball, fleshes out the story in this bare-knuckle, shocking biography. Born in Georgia in 1886, Cobb began his baseball career with the Detroit Tigers in 1905 and stayed in the big leagues until 1928-all the time hated by his rivals and teammates alike because of his meanness and combativeness. The author portrays the highlights of Cobb’s career: his first batting championship in 1907; his 96 stolen bases in 1915; and his three .400 seasons in 1911, 1912 and 1922. Stump also looks at Cobb’s involvement in game-fixing in 1919, his time as a manager and his activities after retiring. He died in 1961. The most sensational aspects of the book deal with Cobb’s personal life: his mother’s murder of his father, millionaire Cobb’s cheapness (no electricity or telephone in his house), wife beating, alcoholism and racial bigotry.

So, we’ve got meanness/combativeness, game-fixing, wife beating, alcoholism, and racial bigotry. Not exactly the upstanding qualities of a person you’d expect to be elected to a Hall of Fame, right? It’s worth noting that some of the severity of these claims have been challenged, but from what I’ve read/seen, I’m inclined to think that there’s at least some truth to them.

I suppose there’s the argument that Cobb’s transgressions don’t immediately relate to his ability to play the game. That is, those players who have dabbled in Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), are immediately affecting their ability to play the game by using these drugs. I can totally understand that point.

Although, as I look down the list of players who have been suspended for using PEDs, there aren’t more than a handful of players that the casual MLB fan would recognize. Similarly, there are only a handful of all-stars. My point here is that even though players use PEDs, it doesn’t automatically skyrocket them to the top of the list of the best players in baseball. The player still has to play at an extremely high-level and for an extended period of time. No easy feat.

As the 2013 baseball hall of fame balloting starts to wind down (voting closes in January of 2013), there will probably be much ink spilt opposing the inclusion of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and there will probably be much ink spilt supporting their inclusion. I found these two cases, one from the San Jose Mercury and the other from NBCSports to seem well-rounded. In particular, the NBCSports article specifically addresses 3 common arguments you hear in opposition to players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

If I were casting a ballot for the 2013 baseball hall of fame class, I’d almost certainly tick the box for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. The conclusion from the NBCSports article puts it succinctly:

In the final analysis, I hope we can all agree that there is no baseball reason whatsoever to keep Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of the Hall of Fame. Their baseball accomplishments — both those which can be measured by statistics and those which cannot — are so far beyond sufficient for induction that it’s almost laughable to list them.  To oppose their candidacy, then, one must make a moral or ethical case based on their drug use and the voter’s opinion of their character. And that case will almost certainly be made from a great distance and with imperfect information.

You may feel comfortable doing such a thing.  I do not.  And I believe that any Hall of Fame that does not include two of the best players to ever swing a bat or throw a ball, no matter what their flaws, is an utter joke.