Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Thoughts On Baseball Without Research

  • One of the three major sports in America.
  • Out of politeness to Canadians, we usually say that there are four major sports, but let’s be honest.
  • It is actually acceptable to be mean to Canadians when baseball comes up, because they’ve mostly rejected it; the Blue Jays are in the playoffs as we speak, but the other major league team, the Expos, was mostly tolerated by Montreal.
  • Every other country in the world loves baseball.
  • What the fuck, Canada?
  • You are usually very cool, Canada, but then there’s this.
  • Stop being rude to America’s largest trading partner and continue.
  • Sure: baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, NY, in the 1830’s or so.
  • Except it wasn’t at all.
  • Like every other thing on the entire planet, it evolved: there are vague descriptions of baseball-like games in old (14th and 15th century) manuscripts, and paintings of guys holding bats, and also the game has clear cousins/ancestors in cricket and rounders.
  • The game we know, though, became recognizable–mostly–in the years before the Civil War: there were professional leagues by the 1850’s, and one of the very first things they did was segregate the game.
  • It was a blurry and weird version of the sport, though: they kept changing the number of balls and strikes, and moving the pitcher’s mound and the bases.
  • No adjustment was made to the segregation.
  • The owners were satisfied with that rule.
  • By around 1900, all the smaller leagues around the country had been beaten into submission by two big operations: the National League, which was from New York; and the Western League(which turned into the American League), which was from west of New York.
  • And, presaging the merger of the National and American Football Leagues 70 years later, the two combined to form Major League Baseball; every year, the best team from each league would meet in the World Series.
  • Technically, it was the Major Leagues, but–like everything in the past–everything about the whole endeavor was bush league.
  • Players were pretty much owned by the teams, and they could be traded at will, and fuck ’em if they didn’t feel like taking the contract they were offered.
  • And if you played for a cheap owner (and you had to be monstrously miserly to be known as “the cheap one” in that group), then you might get charged for your uniform, or any balls you lost.
  • Speaking of the uniforms: they were made of burlap and thistle, the pants alone weighed fifteen pounds, and they stunk like flatulent dogs if you got them wet.
  • And the gloves weren’t gloves.
  • I mean: technically, they covered your hands.
  • That makes them gloves.
  • But they weren’t “baseball gloves.”
  • And for some reason, you would leave the glove in the field when you weren’t using it; like, just drop it in the grass and trot back to the dugout.
  • Nothing about the past makes sense.
  • Baseball grew: it helped to sell evening papers–all the games were played during the day, so the late edition had the scores–and the stadiums whose names you know by heart started going up: Fenway and Tiger and Wrigley, and Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds in New York.
  • Yankee Stadium wasn’t built for a few years.
  • By Babe Ruth, with his meaty, uneducated hands.
  • The Babe started as a pitcher, and a good one, and became the first real slugger in the game, and also the most famous man in America.
  • He was born in a junkyard, and raised by a pack of stray dogs; he could eat 80 hot dogs in between innings, and wash it down with five gallons of Schlitz; his bat weighed 45 pounds; he cured many children of cancer with the power of his mighty taters.
  • When the Holland Tunnel was under construction, a section of bedrock looked to be impossible to drill through, but Babe Ruth took a couple cuts and it shattered like a teenager’s heart.
  • Speaking of tortured metaphors, baseball has inspired some of the worst writing in the history of the language.
  • Overwrought, mawkish, hero-worshipping, reactionary, and–worst of all–purple.
  • (Although in those early sportswriters’ defense, how many times can you say “home run” in an article? Or “run?” Hell, or “ball?” You’d mix it up, too.)
  • And further in their defense (to continue an argument from within parentheses, which is frowned upon in most circles), the names of early baseball players led you down a path of poetic fervor: Wonderful Terrific Monds III and Mysterious Walker; Johnny Dickshot and Jack Glasscock; Urban Shocker and Cannonball Titcomb and Buttercup Dickerson and Moonlight Graham.
  • I didn’t make those up, swear to God.
  • There was also Fingers Fokker, and Arbogast St. Cyr, and Fanny Adams, and Kermit “Wooly” Woolworth, and Doozy Dicks, and Lollipop McGahee, and Brothers Misterson, and Erasmus Pike, and Chester “Half-Breed” Itz.
  • I made those up.
  • Those were all white guy names because, obviously, baseball was segregated until 1947, when Jackie Robinson started the season with the Dodgers.
  • (I unthinkingly wrote Rickey Henderson instead of Jackie Robinson, and as good a player as Rickey was, he would have been a terrible choice to break the color barrier. Jackie Robinson ate a lot of shit, and did it with quiet dignity; Rickey has never been introduced to quiet dignity.)
  • There was always black people playing baseball–the Negro Leagues and other smaller leagues–but there was a “gentleman’s agreement” to keep MLB white.
  • Plus, if the Yankees had hired a black guy in 1915, then that black guy would have been stabbed by Ty Cobb.
  • First time the Tigers were in town: boom, stabbed.
  • Anyway: black guys were allowed to play, and then there was astroturf, and then all the players started taking steroids, and now games are three hours long and governed by dreadful statisticians.
  • Baseball’s a team sport, but it’s not a group activity: it’s composed of discrete actions that can be quantified and inserted into Excel spreadsheets and argued about on the internet.
  • You used to have a batting average, and your RBI’s, and your runs, and your homers.
  • Maybe five or six more things, but it would fit on the back of a baseball card.
  • And then Sabermetrics were invented.
  • Sabermetrics is applying statistical analysis to baseball, and it’s absurdly complicated and bothersome, and it rules baseball now.
  • Remember the baseball team’s manager/stats guy in high school?
  • That guy is in charge.
  • Baseball players used to be evaluated by how good they looked in their trousers, but now there’s math involved.
  • Random thoughts:
  • There is something called the infield-fly rule, and it is applicable some of the time, but not other times.
  • Up until the mid-1980’s, players were still permitted to smoke in the dugout.
  • I once heard an announcer on a public radio station refer to the Negro Leagues as “the African-American Leagues,” and I almost steered my car into oncoming traffic.
  • Hitting a big league curveball is the toughest single action in sports, and unlike some athletes who demand complete quiet (looking at you, golf and tennis) you’re expected to do it while thousands of people are yelling at you and taking flash photos.
  • While the majors may be open to all races now, wizards still may not play.
  • As a young Thoughts on the Dead, I played Little League for several years and enjoyed not one single second of it except the tickets we would receive for the snack bar after a game.
  • Wait: I also like the uniform, especially the stirrup socks with the toreador pants; I thought those were fabulous.
  • Baseball’s headgear is more amenable to other activities than those of other sports: if you show up at the food court in a football helmet, the cops are going to tackle you.
  • It is also a bad idea to wear a football helmet to the food court because eating your Sbarro’s becomes difficult, to say nothing of an Auntie Anne’s pretzel.
  • If you were wearing a football helmet, you could only eat half of a churro.
  • Panda Express would be the best place to eat if you were at the food court in a football helmet.
  • Because of the chopsticks.
  • You maybe wanna call it a night?
  • A little.
  • You’re getting weird.
  • You’re getting weird.

16 Comments

  1. Luther Von Baconson

    October 5, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Fergie

  2. You forgot one Mr ToTD – Geddy Lee loves baseball.

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