Archive for July, 2006

Getting the Information

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

Spoiled aren’t we?

Internet, ESPN, Baseball Weekly, Baseball America, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Fantasy Baseball, Strat-o-Matic, Amazon, SABR, Chat Boards, MLB.Com, Baseball Prospectus, Hardball Times, FSN, Extra Innings, MLB Audio, and even the daily paper.

All of that for games, all that for the tracking the minutia of a sport that can dump out more connected facts and figures then most events. It’s a treasure trove of information, a bucket of nuggets and future barroom banter.

It’s baseball and it’s what some of us think about too much.

Well, at least I’ve t heard that before…

Could that help point out how spoiled we are as fans? I often wonder how much information do we get each day and toss aside? I’d venture to guess that it’s a lot more than we used to get in a week or even a month. Of course it wasn’t like this all the time, many of you remember the days of scanning the first sports ticker for the update, others can remember calling 800 lines to get the score, or those of us who called the Sports Department at the local paper to get the score from some kid next to the ticker. We’d wait for The Sporting News to come so we could see al the teams numbers in one place, each Thursday we’d wait for SI to come so we could see color photos of guys who lived on our baseball cards tucked in a box under our beds.

Infancy – The Word

Information has always been the currency to the fan and the tool that the team could use to get fans interested. Let’s credit Henry Chadwick for his “Ball Players’Chronicle” a baseball weekly that appeared on the scene in 1867, fueling the fire of a game that was sweeping the eastern seaboard. This format is still alive today and many publications provide weekly updates with statistics, editorials and game stories recanting games that are played outside of your own town. Chadwick’s grasp on the game continued with his The Beadles Dime Base Ball Player, A compendium of the elementary instructions of this American Game of Ball. This proved to be the basis for most of today’s games rules and the love baseball fans have for off season periodicals.

Getting the Word Out

Back in the days of the horse and buggy the local nine was often a niche business that often favored the working class as patrons and made an attempt to draw a healthy rank of attendees from local watering holes. In the mid 1890’s it was a common occurrence for a young boy to deliver to these saloons and eateries large printed cards that held the day’s game results, with some appropriate advertising on the sides of the card. These could be distributed or displayed, always creating conversation and most likely some future plans to visit the park. By the time the men had finished their post work revelry they would head home with the afternoon paper which had countless stories about the prior days game as well as a flowery description of the events, written in a style that delivered the gods, but lost its flair in the faster paced world.

With the industrialization of America’s cities grew a large need for commercialized entertainment and usually out of a need comes innovation, and as the games popularity grew it created needs to feed the publics hunger for baseball news and in this need we can see the birth of the “Sports Departments” a section of a news business that is solely needed to report the games and the teams gossip. The weeklies grew as well and The Sporting News was claiming 60,000 readers by 1888, however the fans dreams of absolute coverage was further enhanced by Hearst’s papers when they introduced the Sports Page in the dailies in the late 1890’s.

Another amazing thing in those days could be found in any local tavern that had a telegraph or access to a local line. Some would advertise this little tidbit in the papers with ads proclaiming ‘Base Ball scores received by innings” In the establishment the telegraph operator who manned his station would receive the scores and mark them on a slate chalkboard for the patrons to see. The use of slate even prompted a New York City slate company to advertise that a business that purchased their slate would draw “A crowd about your place of business which you would not gather by any other means short of a fire.” Further innovation in displaying the games results was soon appearing across the country, and folks were hungry for up to the minute details of a games actions, even if it was not in their own state. In Atlanta young boys were placed on stage with the players names on their backs and they reenacted the games action on small-scale baseball diamond on the stage of the city Opera House.

With this electronic age came the ability to dress up these displays even more, small towns would track the World Series at the local square using colored lights to correspond with certain game events, red for a strike, blue for outs etc. In larger towns such as LA the newspapers would place 8 foot or more high scoreboards in local areas such as the YMCA, boasting in the ad that the scoreboard was the result of seven years of study and was a “wonder in its way.”

Out of the need for these events rose companies that predate the Game Trackers and Gamecast of today’s Internet game tracking. Some had fanciful names such as “The Playograph” and others were generated from companies devoted to building nothing but the scoreboards like the Jackson Manikin Board Company, which showed mechanical players moving in and out of the dugout on their boards.

The World Series was the big event that grabbed the nation and it was at this time that the board down at the corner became the most important tool in getting the game to the fans not located in the cities of play. By the late 1920’s it was not uncommon for as many as 10,000 people to gather at Times Square to watch the progress of the Series on the scoreboard, while down the street newsboys posted mini scoreboards on their news stands, anything to gain attention and maybe a sale of a paper or two.

Come On Feel Noise

On August 5th 1921 Harold Arlin a Westinghouse employee, used a converted telephone to broadcast a baseball game between the Pirates and the Phillies at Forbes Field, this was heard on Pittsburgh’s KDKA. It was the first broadcast of a major league game.

Thus a new conduit to the fans was now available, like any technology it would face hurdles before it could be an accepted across the board as a daily tool to inform the fans of the games actions. So unaccepted at its inception it was not uncommon to find men fully entrenched in the world of baseball making light of it daily. None ring more hollow in retrospect then New York Giants executive Tierney’s assertion that it was “impossible and absurd” when told of a proposal to broadcast all the teams games. His reasoning was that “It would cut into our attendance, besides hurting the newspapers. We want fans following the games from the grandstands, not from their homes. “” The Baseball Writers of America petitioned Judge Landis to squash out the audio menace, claiming, ” “Play-play detail broadcast from the park would kill circulation of afternoon papers and in the end would result in a curtailment of baseball publicity.” “Eventually the Judge decided to let the clubs decide for themselves and in 1925 Phil Wrigley became the first owner to allow broadcasting of all his teams games and in the din of the approval around the city the fans still showed up to see the Cubs play at Wrigley, just as they do today. Between 1922 and 1929 the amount of money spent on radio accessories jumped from 60 million to 842 million. By the late 1930’s the scoreboard was being replaced in public areas by a live broadcast of the game.
In 1939 the same path trod by radio was taken by television and by 1956 the even Cincinnati Reds televised every away game and more than a few select home games.

However if you missed the game or didn’t know more than the score you were still left twisting in the wind, waiting for the more than just the score, and this was available only from the papers who still despite radio and television had a hand in the game and its much needed publicity. In the paper you got the most information they still posted the daily leaders board, box scores, recaps and standings. Finding a sports section from another city in the summer was a treasure, finding a Sunday section with a Peter Gammons article was heaven as well. Things stayed status quo for the next 30 years with the late scores coming at the end of the 11:00 news or in the barrage of George Michaels Sports Machine, if all else failed you could call the news department and bother Jimmy Olsen for the score, after all isn’t that why they’re there?

This all changed about the time people started to use computers in their daily lives and loud cheers in sports departments and former jocks homes could be heard when ESPN introduced the “Bottom Line,” (a copy of CNN’s financial ticker) in 1996. This invention of the scrolling line at the bottom of the screen changed the landscape of the fan who isn’t in the stands, it freed us from calling sports departments at 2 in the morning after a night out drinking, or stomaching local news and all its pain. The scroll kicked open the door to the world we dwell in today, a world with Gamecast and instant updates for your fantasy team and your favorite team, subscription services and data feeds, excel spreadsheets and PECOTA.

There has never been a better time to be a fan as far as information is concerned and there is nothing more fun then diving into some of this stuff every now and then.

Take it from me, at one time in my life I thought the publication The National was the greatest thing that had ever used paper as a medium.

Baseball Memories – My Top Ten Games Attended

Monday, July 10th, 2006

The All Star break is always a lull that upsets the rhythm of the season in my world, sometimes needed, sometimes loathed… I’m not a big fan of the event anymore so perhaps that plays into it? The All Star game is for kids and marketing, otherwise the players would prefer a 3-day break with no coaches and no laps around the field.

Instead some get that and others get to go on a vacation with Harold and Kruk.

I myself will be gearing up for the second half of the season by cleaning out my noodle and watching no sports for 3 days, after a month that saw countless World Cup games, a Stanley Cup and more baseball then most “regular” people see in a year it’s probably needed.

Last Thursday I was lucky enough to catch the A’s playing the Angels, a game that featured 4 Home Runs from the Angels and 4 from the A’s including a walk off from Frank Thomas. This is in a park that usually suppresses offense!!

Games like that get me thinking about the other games I’ve seen over the years and in the sprit of the All Star Break I’m going to list my top ten game experiences.

So here we go.

#10 – Some games are really more about the atmosphere then the events on the field, for me my trip to original Comiskey was one of those events. It was the last season for the stadium that spitballer Ed Walsh helped design, and it was 90 win team that was going to close it out. In a game against the Indians I witnessed my last glance at Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, who at age 42 would catch fulltime and hit .285/.378/.451. A massive rainstorm delayed the game and showed the leaky parts of the stadium to the fans, my future wife learned of my disdain for ketchup on hot dogs and a fan rushed the field sliding into second base on a soaked tarp before being shown the door by Chicago’s finest. The smell of a wet summer night in a city with so much baseball history couldn’t stir the ghosts of any Indian greats and they went down to the White Sox for the last time ever in old Comiskey.

Game Played on Tuesday, July 24, 1990 (N) at Comiskey Park I

CLE A    0  0  0    0  0  2    1  0  0  -   3  7  0
CHI A    0  0  1    2  0  5    0  0  x  -   8 14  3

#9 – Some Parks were great others stunk. Learning that first hand is part of the experience. Making a bad park even worse is a tam that lacks charisma and talent. That’s where we find the 1984 Giants, a team that finished 66-96 and jettisoned Frank Robinson after game 106. Barely getting a million fannies in he mistake called Candlestick the Giants tried their best to make fans love the park.

Introducing the Croix De Candlestick a pin described as (The pin was handed out to only the best and most diehard of Giants fans. After an extra inning game at Candlestick, any fan that braved the elements and stayed for the whole game was given the coveted pin. Candlestick Park’s conditions past 10 o clock and the 9th inning at night were harsh and unforgiving. To own a Croix De Candlestick pin is a badge of honor that tells the world, “I love my Giants”) also enticing the fans to come to the park was perhaps the world worst mascot… The Crazy Crab.

Lucky for the fans in San Francisco the Crab was shelled after the season. My first game at Candlestick was a night game in the Spring… in short it was cold and it was two of the worst teams in the game.

In short it is more memorable for the stigma created for me (a transplanted Midwesterner) about the place they played baseball in San Francisco, making it by far my least favorite park ever.

Game Played on Thursday, April 19, 1984 (N) at Candlestick Park

CIN N    1  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0  -   1  4  0
SF  N    2  0  0    0  0  1    0  0  x  -   3 11  1

#8 – The death of a dynasty can be a hard thing to swallow, but seeing it first hand sometimes help you realize that expectations and reality walk different paths in this game and the 1979 Reds were the first team to really teach me that. Nothing was the same in Reds country after the Pirates finally took down the machine in the 1979 playoffs, it was and example of the Pirates book ending their mid decade futility with their 1971 championship, cementing them as the 2nd best team in the National League for the decade and showing the Reds essentially the direction to the door to the cellar that they would traverse to in a few seasons.

The first game of the playoffs was the game I caught and it was Dave Parkers blast that killed the Reds and many Reds fans dreams of one last taste.

League Championship Series Game 1 Played on Tuesday, October 2, 1979
(N) at Riverfront Stadium

PIT N    0  0  2    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  3  -   5 10  0
CIN N    0  0  0    2  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  -   2  7  0

Cincinnati Reds       IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
Seaver                 8     5   2   2   2   5   1
Hume L(0-1)            2.1   5   3   3   0   1   1
Tomlin                 0.2   0   0   0   1   1   0
Totals                11    10   5   5   3   7   2

#7 – Bo knows how to entertain, he showed some friends and me that in late August of 1990. A one-man wrecking crew in the field and at bat that day he was. It’s not often you get to see a man own the game so completely as Bo did that day. Before we blinked he was gone and yet that day still shines in my head. A Hr, Steal, 2 runs scored and 2 assists, it was like the hype that day at least.

But LaRussa’s team pulled it out anyway, making my friend very happy.

Game Played on Thursday, August 30, 1990 (D) at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

KC  A    0  0  0    2  0  0    2  1  0  -   5  9  2
OAK A    2  0  0    0  0  3    0  0  1  -   6 14  0

Kansas City Royals    AB   R   H RBI      BB  SO      PO   A
Jackson lf             3   2   2   1       1   0       4   2

HR: Jackson (22,8th inning off Eckersley 0 on 1 out).

BASERUNNING -
SB: Jackson (11,2nd base off Stewart/Steinbach).

#6 – Showdown – Sometimes you catch a great pitchers duel and sometimes the game flies so fast that you still remember like it was yesterday. I was lucky to catch a game in 1998 that featured two of the best pitchers in the past 20 years when I caught Curt Schilling vs. Greg Maddux in 1998. It’s pitchers duels like this that show us all what the game can be like when hitting is harder to generate and they show pretty clearly what a deadball or 1960’s era game would look like on the field and in the box score.

Game Played on Sunday, April 5, 1998 (D) at Turner Field

PHI N    0  0  0    1  0  0    0  1  0  -   2  5  0
ATL N    1  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0  -   1  5  1

PITCHING
Philadelphia Phillies IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
Schilling W(1-0)       9     5   1   1   1  15   1

Atlanta Braves        IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
Maddux L(0-1)          8     5   2   1   1   6   0
Embree                 1     0   0   0   1   0   0
Totals                 9     5   2   1   2   6   0
Time:2:05

#5 – Ozzie’s best game at the dish? – The Wizard of Oz was known for his glove but it was his bat that amazed me on my first trip to Wrigley in 1993. Ozzie Smith must have liked Wrigley Field, aside from San Diego and St Louis Ozzie drove in more runs at Wrigley than any other park. He had back to back 4 hit games in the early 80’s there and 2 5 hit games there as well, the only 5 hit games in his career. I happened to catch the last one and it also was a classic Cubs nightmare game with over 20 runs scored by both teams, Harry leaned out of the window and we all sang with him. Ozzie topped the day off with 6 rbi’s. It was quite the display from the skinny little guy known for his glove.

St. Louis Cardinals 11, Chicago Cubs 10
Game Played on Thursday, June 17, 1993 (D) at Wrigley Field

STL N    0  0  1    4  3  0    2  0  1  -  11 17  0
CHI N    1  0  0    2  0  3    0  2  2  -  10 19  0

BATTING
St. Louis Cardinals   AB   R   H RBI      BB  SO      PO   A
O. Smith ss            5   1   5   6       0   0       2   2

#4 – Al East Playoffs 1972 – In 1972 the old Tigers team made it to the playoffs against the rising A’s dynasty. At the time I didn’t know they were a dynasty, nor that they were actually as good as they were. But I loved the Tigers and I was ready to experience my first cognitive World Series. Despite being 2 games down in the series I was confident the Tigers could take 3 in a row from the team in green. It was even more evident that they could when I left that day, for Joe Coleman (who was in the process of being destroyed by Billy Martin and Art Fowler) pitched a complete game and struck out a then record 14 A’s in a win that only took 2 hours and 27 minutes to complete. The cherry on the sundae was that Al Kaline got on 3 times that day.

League Championship Series Game 3 Played on Tuesday, October 10, 1972 at Tiger Stadium

OAK A    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0  -   0  7  0
DET A    0  0  0    2  0  0    0  1  x  -   3  8  1

Detroit Tigers        IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
Coleman W(1-0)         9     7   0   0   3  14   0

#3 – World Series Game One 1976- Never been to a series game?

Sorry to hear that, this year will mark the 30th anniversary of my one time at the Series, and currently it sits at slot 3. Perched high above home plate I can still see Joe Morgan’s home run, hear the roar and feel the smile on my face. It’s been too long since Reds fans have felt that glow and only once in the past 30 years isn’t helping create a fan base for the future.

World Series Game 1 Played on Saturday, October 16, 1976 (D) at Riverfront Stadium

NY  A    0  1  0    0  0  0    0  0  0  -   1  5  1
CIN N    1  0  1    0  0  1    2  0  x  -   5 10  1
Time of Game: 2:10   Attendance: 54826

#2 – 1972 AL Clincher. My first taste of winning (as a fan) was achieved on a cool Detroit night in 1972, in a game that enabled the Tigers to increase their lead over the Red Sox by a game and a half with one game left. In a 3 hour contest The Tigers eked out a win against Luis Tiant and mid season pickup Woodie Fryman won his 10th game as a Tiger. Fryman would later break my heart as a Reds fan, but on this evening he was the Doyle Alexander of the 72 Tigers. As the last out was recorded fans streamed on the field and scaled the netting hanging behind home plate. My father unfortunately wouldn’t let me participate in any of the fun activities and we slipped into the Detroit noise in an attempt to get out of there before it got too crazy.

Game Played on Tuesday, October 3, 1972 (N) at Tiger Stadium

BOS A    1  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0  -   1  4  1
DET A    0  0  0    0  0  1    2  0  x  -   3  9  1

PITCHING
Boston Red Sox        IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
Tiant L(15-6)          6.1   7   3   2   3   4   0
Lee                    1.2   2   0   0   0   2   0
Totals                 8     9   3   2   3   6   0
Detroit Tigers        IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
Fryman W(10-3)         7.2   4   1   0   4   5   0
Seelbach SV(14)        1.1   0   0   0   0   2   0
Totals                 9     4   1   0   4   7   0
WP: Fryman (5).
Time of Game: 3:06   Attendance: 50653

#1 – 1971 All Star Game – Words can do this justice, it’s to this day the greatest collection of talent I have ever seen anywhere at anytime, the Killebrew Home Run landed a few rows in front of me and until the other day this game held the record for Home Runs in a game that “I” attended. The Jackson Home Run left the field faster than any ball ever seen hit, this include the rocket Vlad hit ion Thursday and a bomb off the facing at the GAB I saw Pujols smash in the first post all star game in 2004.

The 1971 All Star Game proved to me that the game was bigger than I thought, it enticed me to find out more and it’s a major reason I can’t stop thinking about baseball every day of my life.

Maybe tomorrow’s game will do that for a kid somewhere and we’ll have to read him go on about it in 35 years?

Personally I think that would be great.

All-Star Game Played on Tuesday, July 13, 1971 (N) at Tiger Stadium

NL       0  2  1    0  0  0    0  1  0  -   4  5  0
AL       0  0  4    0  0  2    0  0  x  -   6  7  0

BATTING
National League       AB   R   H RBI      BB  SO      PO   A
Mays cf                2   0   0   0       0   0       0   0
Clemente rf          2   1   1   1       0   1       1   0
Millan 2b            0   0   0   0       0   0       1   1
Aaron rf               2   1   1   1       0   0       0   0
May 1b               1   0   0   0       1   0       6   0
Torre 3b               3   0   0   0       0   1       1   0
Santo ph,3b          1   0   0   0       0   0       0   1
Stargell lf            2   1   0   0       0   2       2   0
Brock ph             1   0   0   0       0   0       0   0
McCovey 1b             2   0   0   0       0   1       4   0
Marichal p           0   0   0   0       0   0       0   1
Kessinger ss         2   0   0   0       0   0       1   1
Bench c                4   1   2   2       0   0       5   0
Beckert 2b             3   0   0   0       0   0       0   5
Rose rf              0   0   0   0       0   0       0   0
Harrelson ss           2   0   0   0       0   0       1   2
Jenkins p            0   0   0   0       0   0       0   0
Colbert ph           1   0   0   0       0   1       0   0
Wilson p             0   0   0   0       0   0       0   0
Ellis p                1   0   0   0       0   1       0   0
Davis cf             1   0   1   0       0   0       2   0
Bonds ph,cf          1   0   0   0       0   1       0   0
Totals                31   4   5   4       1   8      24  11

American League       AB   R   H RBI      BB  SO      PO   A
Carew 2b               1   1   0   0       2   0       1   2
Rojas 2b             1   0   0   0       0   0       1   1
Murcer cf              3   0   1   0       0   1       0   0
Cuellar p            0   0   0   0       0   0       0   0
Buford ph            1   0   0   0       0   1       0   0
Lolich p             0   0   0   0       0   0       0   3
Yastrzemski lf         3   0   0   0       1   0       0   0
F. Robinson rf         2   1   1   2       0   0       3   0
Kaline rf            2   1   1   0       0   1       2   0
Cash 1b                2   0   0   0       0   2       7   0
Killebrew 1b         2   1   1   2       0   0       4   0
B. Robinson 3b         3   0   1   0       0   0       1   3
Freehan c              3   0   0   0       0   0       7   1
Munson c             0   0   0   0       0   0       1   0
Aparicio ss            3   1   1   0       0   0       1   2
Blue p                 0   0   0   0       0   0       0   0
Jackson ph           1   1   1   2       0   0       0   0
Palmer p             0   0   0   0       0   0       0   0
Howard ph            1   0   0   0       0   0       0   0
Otis cf              1   0   0   0       0   0       0   0
Totals                29   6   7   6       3   5      27  12

FIELDING -
DP: 1. B. Robinson-Rojas-Killebrew.

PITCHING

National League       IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
Ellis L(0-1)           3     4   4   4   1   2   2
Marichal               2     0   0   0   1   1   0
Jenkins                1     3   2   2   0   0   1
Wilson                 2     0   0   0   1   2   0
Totals                 8     7   6   6   3   5   3

American League       IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
Blue W(1-0)            3     2   3   3   0   3   2
Palmer                 2     1   0   0   0   2   0
Cuellar                2     1   0   0   1   2   0
Lolich SV(1)           2     1   1   1   0   1   1
Totals                 9     5   4   4   1   8   3

Time of Game: 2:05   Attendance: 53559