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Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category

Let the good times roll…

I’ve been wanting to make the blog more a bit more personal than book reviews (like most of you even care), and last month, I wrote an entry about how good the previous month had been. I really enjoyed writing it, and from the looks of things, you guys enjoyed reading it (all 20 or so of you). I might try to make this sort of posting a monthly feature here at my small piece of internet real estate. I have no unifying theme this time around, but here are some things that I think you might like.

Among the funniest things that is going on around here is my father’s battle with the squirrels. On our back deck, we have a birdfeeder. As anybody with a birdfeeder knows, squirrels love birdseed and have a great amount of ingenuity when it comes to acquiring the seeds. They will jump, hang upside down, risk life and limb, or do anything it takes to get the food. We have always enjoyed quite a nice variety of winged friends, especially cardinals, but also wrens, finches, and the occasional robin or jaybird. In fact, the window where our table faces out offers a nice view of the visitors. We like to eat and watch the birds also eat. Squirrels, however, are quite cavalier and will run off the birds and this has pushed my father over the edge. One beautiful day we are enjoying lunch and my father looks out the window and quickly gets up. The next thing I know, he’s in the bathroom, has opened the window, is holding a Benjamin pump air rifle, and has taken dead aim on our pesky neighbor. This particular rifle shoots pellets with enough force to easily kill small game or really infuriate large animals. He came back to the table with the look of a very satisfied man. Nobody, and I mean nobody, messes with our birdfeeder. And we have the squirrel carcases to prove it, if you’d like to find out personally. However, it appears that the squirrels are learning not to mess around with Old Man Bishop and his Benjamin pump rifle.

On a more upbeat note, probably the biggest thing that’s been happening in my corner of the universe was the marriage of Ben and LeighAnna, two of my best friends, last Saturday. I was honored to be a co-bestman for the occasion and I especially enjoyed the bachelor party. Let me be clear that an internet blog is not really an appropriate location to divulge the goings-on of a bachelor party, but I will say that everybody had a wonderful time. Let’s just hope that Chad never decides to put the pictures he took that night on Facebook. Wednesday, I went to pick up the tux. As it happens, I was fitted in late January and had lost around 30 pounds in the intervening months. The only thing that actually fit were the shoes. I was resized and went back the next day and, as you can see in the photo, the suit then fitted perfectly and all of us looked quite dashing for the ceremony. The ceremony was a beautiful and simple affair that lasted less than ten minutes – probably closer to five. The best thing was that there was not one ounce of pretense; this was a ceremony that perfectly fit the personalities of the couple getting married. LeighAnna wore tennis shoes and Ben wore pink socks (I’m not going to tell you what my socks looked like) and they actually high-fived at the point in the ceremony where they tell the groom the kiss the bride – don’t worry, they still kissed. Here’s the thing that I admire most about this couple: they are always themselves, no matter who is around or what the occasion is. There will be no surprises between them because these two people are real. Not only are they real, but they’re really in love. And I can’t think of a more fitting celebration than Saturday’s festivities. It was also good to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in a while. Especially Ben’s father, Erwin. He is one of the most engaging and interesting people I’ve ever met and if you think you are going to draw a box around Erwin Frazier and somehow categorize him, forget about it. He’s a free thinker in an age when people are not particularly thoughtful. A lot of other really good stuff happened this weekend that was related to the wedding, and I will be eternally grateful to Ben and LeighAnna for the joy their wedding brought into so many people’s lives – including mine.

Finally, I have to say that it’s March. And March means many things, but it always means that it’s almost baseball season again. Perhaps it’s because I’m an avid Cubs fan, but something about the start of baseball season buoys my spirits and makes me feel great. Every new season reminds me that warm summer nights lay in the very near future. There is nothing like a night at the ballpark, complete with hotdogs, cool refreshing beverages, and seats on the thirdbase line. What teams should we watch out for? The Phillies have one of the best rotations in baseball history – I think even better than the Braves teams of the mid-90s. The Red Sox and Yankees will be competitive. In general, the teams out west look pretty weak to me. One of the most interesting divisions to watch will be the National League Central. Of course, the Pirates and the Astros will go nowhere. But the Brewers might turn out to be really strong, the Cardinals have a lot of question marks but huge potential, and if the Cubs can shore up their defense, they will be dangerous. Perhaps as the season draws nigh, I will have more to say here about baseball. If the Cubs have a really great season, I will probably have quite a bit to say. If they Cubs have a terrible season, I’m sure I’ll have even more to say. One final word about the coming season relates to the Cubs. This is the first season after the passing of Cubs legend Ron Santo. He gave us all inspiration, joy, and laughter. He will be sorely missed by Cubs fans, and baseball fans everywhere who understood what he meant to the game.

That’s all I have for now. Another great month has passed, and I’m looking forward to the next thirty days. And, of course, let the good times roll!

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Hall of Fame Inductions

Yesterday, baseball fans learned that the BBWAA elected two players into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven will join executive Pat Gillick as inductees this summer in Cooperstown.

The only thing surprising about Alomar’s election is that he was not elected on his first year of eligibility. He is one of the best second basemen to ever play the game. While this was only his second year on the ballot, his brief delay into the Hall of Fame say volumes about the failure of both writers and fans to recognize excellence at second base. I once heard a scout argue that second base is the hardest position to scout for because top infield talent usually ends up at shortstop, and then third base. Sluggers end up in rightfield, leftfield, or on first base. Top centerfielders are a breed unto themselves, along with pitchers and catchers. But second base is often occupied by good, not great fielders, with limited use at the plate. Thus, a player like Alomar, with a sure glove, a good eye at the plate, and an occassional burst of power is truly among the rarest of breeds in Major League Baseball.  

Gillick, elected by the Veteran’s Committee, was an obvious choice. The former general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies assembled some of the finest teams in recent history and produced three World Series champions, including back-to-back championships with Toronto in 1992 and ’93. Gillick’s teams were never flashy and never had tremendous star power, like so often produced in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Boston, but his legacy speaks for itself.

Blyleven’s election to the Hall of Fame is, to me, due mostly to longevity than any other one factor. His statistics, with the exception of his record of over 3,701 strikeouts, are not staggering. While he had many excellent seasons, his overall body of work does not place him among the truly great pitchers of all time. Nevertheless, longevity should not be cast aside when considering candidates for Cooperstown. Rewarding pitchers, a position that makes staying power particularly difficult, for longevity is not unheard of. The names of Don Sutton and Phil Niekro rush to mind. But both Sutton and Niekro had over 300 and 3,000 strikeouts. While Blyleven deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, his election is indicative of a much more important and disconcerting trend in baseball.

The appearance of Raphael Palmerio on the ballot for the first time, with his paltry 11%, says all the needs to be said about Blyleven’s (and, to a lesser extent, Alomar’s) election. With the specter of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs looming over baseball, writers are now rewarding workmen players like Blyleven who earned their statistics. The numbers might not be awe-inspiring, but they demonstrate honesty and prolonged hard word. And it’s refreshing to see that honesty and hard work, two virtues that never go out of style, are still being rewarded.

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