Fans Are Buzzing About Baseball
The cicadas are preparing to click and clack, as they do every 17 years:
This Is The Year!
Kind of like Mets fans.
I can relate. (1969, 1986, for example.)
But generically, baseball fans are way luckier than cicadas.
We start buzzing maniacally every year at this time.
I was planning a serious rant about baseball being taken over by the analytics mob, and how I don’t trust Major League Baseball after it arbitrarily trash-canned dozens of minor-league franchises.
But with a potentially full season about to start on time, it turns out that great minds think alike: my incoming queue was full of Good Stuff from fans who actually know and care about the game.
---The first stimulant came from my friend Tyler Kepner in the NYT, when he reminded us that the National League is reverting to Real Baseball this season: that is, pitchers will hit. I was happy, thinking of Don Newcombe and Bob Gibson and Madison Bumgarner and other hitting pitchers, but Tyler raised this horrifying scenario of a great pitcher-athlete: “How would a Mets fan like it if Jacob deGrom shattered his fingers on a bunt attempt?” Good point, Tyler. I am now having second thoughts.
--- The next missive was an email from Bill Wakefield, who pitched for the Mets in 1964, and we have remained in touch. He sent a link from the San Francisco Chronicle, which had three – count ‘em, three – savvy baseball columns by my esteemed colleagues Bruce Jenkins, Ann Killion and Scott Ostler.
Scott’s column was about the two Bay Area managers -- Bob Melvin of Oakland and Gabe Kapler of the Giants, both contemporary guys who give thoughtful answers to reporters’ questions and would never, ever, spit tobacco juice on reporters’ shoes.
Wakefield, who still trades Casey Stengel memories with me, wanted to know if I ever had a manager spit on my shoes. I replied, no, but Ralph Houk of the Yankees used to direct neat little sprays in the general direction of a colleague now and then.
Plus, Herman Franks, the absolutely miserable manager of the Giants, (who liked to call reporters demeaning names in Spanish for the amusement of his Latin players) apparently couldn’t spit very far, but he did drool tobacco juice down the front of his undershirt or even his uniform shirt, apparently to hasten reporters to seek more sanitary interviews elsewhere.
--- Next, Wakefield found a photo online of right field in Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Having briefly been a teammate of Duke Snider with the Mets in the spring of 1964, Wakefield wrote that after seeing the short porch in right field, he could understand why The Dook hated to leave Brooklyn. I told him how Casey had escorted a rookie named Mantle to right field before a pre-season exhibition between the Yankees and Dodgers in 1951, to show him how to play ricochets off the concave wall. Later, Casey told “his” writers that Mantle didn’t seem to process that Casey had once played right field in that very ballpark. “He thinks I was born old,” Casey said.
-- Then, my man Mike From Northwest Queens sent me a copy of the Mets’ Covid rules for fans planning to attend a game under the 20 per cent limit this season: fans must present written proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for the virus. These rules reminded Mike of the iffy nature of going anywhere right now – sports events, restaurants, theatres, travel. Mike typed: “After reading this, I’m fairly positive I’ll be seated on my couch this year again for baseball.” I hear you, dude.
-- Ebbets Field lives in the souls of ball fans. The aforementioned Mike From Northwest Queens discovered this photo online of the Boys of Summer, standing around the batting cage, just talkin’ baseball. A glossy copy of this photo used to be taped in our house when I was a kid. Just seeing Jackie and Gil and the rest, I feel 12.
---Next, Lee Lowenfish, New York polymath on baseball, jazz, movies, et al, sent along a blog by Steve Wulf, longtime Sports Illustrated star, dissecting every name and reference in the Dave Frishberg jazz song -- elegant riffs about the long-ago Brooklyn pitcher with the mellifluous name of Van Lingle Mungo.
Wulf’s treatise, with photos, is the reason the Internet was invented. He describes how Frishberg “plumbed The Baseball Encyclopedia for the names, some of which are delightful rhymes; Max Lanier and Johnny Vander Meer; Barney McCosky and Hal Trosky, Lou Boudreau and Claude Passeau."
Frishberg chose the names for poetry rather than dismal analytics. May there always be music in the loving associations of baseball, now blessedly emerging from hibernation.
* * *
Steve Wulf’s long and loving assessment of “Van Lingle Mungo.”
Ladies and gentleman, David Frishberg:
3/29/2021 04:56:03 pm
George - heard Carl Erskine on a NY Giants Preservation Society Zoom earlier this month say that the Giants and Dodgers literally hated each other during those 22 games a year. (And probably were happy when they learned the other team lost any other game.) Duke Snider said that he loathed the orange and black colors of the NYG so much that he stopped enjoying Halloween.
3/29/2021 11:01:23 pm
Lee: Before that, the Dodgers and Cardinals truly hated each other.
3/29/2021 04:57:09 pm
Public opinion is shifting on the DH. There was a time it was a 50-50 argument. Now, according to a national Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted this month, only 17 percent disagree with bringing it to the National League. Watching Bartolo Colon homer was great, but that once in ten years moment isn't worth deGrom or Kershaw breaking their fingers.
3/29/2021 11:03:52 pm
Marty: I was watching Colon's home run...I wouldn't trade it for an injury to s star. Remember David Cone getting his on a finger while bunting as a Mets rookie? Maybe I'm biased a bit because the Dodgers had some good hitters in Brooklyn and LA GV
3/29/2021 05:17:16 pm
You think we're the only ones pining for opening day? Listen to heartfelt Benny Agbayani:
3/29/2021 11:06:41 pm
Chris: When did you start looking at Twitter?
3/29/2021 05:26:05 pm
There has never been a more ardent Yankee fan than yours truly. I am ready and raring for the 20212 season. But first things first: The UCLA Bruins, my employer for the last 17 years of my career, is shocking the college basketball world. Their run may come to an end tomorrow evening, but it sure has been a blast thus far.
3/29/2021 06:26:49 pm
Rooting for the Bruins, but I know Joe won't miss a beat in switching to the new, full Yankees season.
3/29/2021 11:08:43 pm
The Mandel Boys -- my homeys from Queens -- together again.
3/29/2021 07:12:09 pm
Dear George: I love this moment before the regular season when many subjects vibrate. It reminds me of when I’m in a theatre waiting for the curtain to open and the show gets on.
3/29/2021 11:11:42 pm
Dear Altenir: I know just what you mean. When we used to drive into Queens to a cinema that showed live plays from the National Theatre, I loved that moment when the audience was quieting down....made me wish I was on the South Bank with them.
3/30/2021 01:30:45 am
Dear George: South Bank or any ballpark, I presume, is a meet with the dream. It's when the hard reality finishes and the magic happens.
3/30/2021 03:25:29 am
Baseball and Passover sure go together. Will there be a Pfizer promotion at Citi Field this season?
3/30/2021 08:10:15 am
Mendel: isn't that the final blessing of the seder:
3/31/2021 11:03:09 am
And for a number of years the empty place was for a Dodger left-fielder.
4/1/2021 12:15:02 pm
3/31/2021 12:08:12 am
I had to listen to Van Lingle Mongo, to be sure. My memory said Eddie Basinski and sure enough. I saw Basinski, ss for the wartime Dodgers and Eddie Miksis at second. Basinski was nicknamed “The Violin” and the keystone partner was “Miksis will fixus.”
4/1/2021 02:16:44 pm
4/1/2021 12:44:07 pm
4/1/2021 02:20:21 pm
Bruce, just watched the first couple of innings of the Yankee-Blue Jay game. Yes, the weight loss a major commitment for Guerrero and Gurriel. both sons of great players.
4/1/2021 05:30:47 pm
4/6/2021 02:38:27 am
George, Thank you very much for your callout to my piece on Van Lingle Mungo. As a longtime admirer of your work, I was doubly thrilled because it also led me to your blog. It was Opening Day in more ways than one. Steve
4/6/2021 01:08:00 pm
Steve: thank you for the gracious note. I love your loyalty to the 1950 Phillies....and I was thrilled to see we love the same song: "The Waters of March."
Comments are closed.
“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.