Category: Sports

Cubs Baseball: The American Institution

Cubs Baseball: The American Institution

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Cubs Baseball and My History

WGN broadcast Cubs Baseball. This much is certain. WGN also worked a negotiation to be on every cable package across America. That negotiation lead to a young Kentucky kid growing up to be a life-long Chicago Cubs fan. Baseball is one of those things that I love. In fact, behind my family, I would argue that baseball is the thing I love most in life. I love playing the game, I love watching the game. There’s nothing about baseball that I dislike, except how it ends in October. Former Commissioner of Baseball, A. Bartlett Giamatti once wrote:

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

A Facebook friend posted that quote earlier, and it set my mind into a whorl about how I feel about what I refer to as the Holy Game on a regular basis.

My response

Over the dormancy, the roots gather strength, and it emerges again in the fair distant warm places in the spring, gathering it’s strength from the very heart and soul of America herself. Continue to be like an amazing perennial bush that blossoms and bears it’s fruit all summer long. The scent lingers, causing you to hunger for more, and during the dark cold nights, you know that soon, as the days begin to grow longer again, the holy game will return. You remember the stories you heard at your grandfather’s knee, of the greats like Paige and Foxx, Doerr or Williams. Of the heartbreak of the Red Sox that so many take enjoyment from.

The game of Doubleday… the double play tandem of Tinkers, Evers and Chance. The game of Ruth, Mays, Aaron, Banks, and Mantle. The game played in the sandlots and the game played in mammoth cathedrals. The game that truly has become a representation of what the dream of America is. This truly American institution. This wonderful and amazing game called, Baseball. And while the gates at 1060 West Addison have shuttered for the final time in 2017 for Cubs Baseball. The ever present spark still burns, lingering as an ember in the hearts of the Cubs Nation, that Next Season is right around the corner.

 

The James Earl Jones Monologue from Field of Dreams

One of my inspirations is Field of Dreams. Specifically, the James Earl Jones monologue truly speaks to me.  In case you’ve never seen it,

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Robert McGregor – A Calculus of Color – Book Review

Robert McGregor – A Calculus of Color – Book Review

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Calculus of Color Book Cover
McGregor takes us on a solid journey from race baseball to an integrated game.

Robert Kuhn McGregor is a emeritus professor of history from the University of Illinois-Springfield. He taught among other things, a course on baseball. Using that career’s worth of knowledge, McGregor takes swing at the history behind the integration of the American League. Lesser known than the Jackie Robinson story, it is a story of courage that needed told before it was forgotten. Thus, A Calculus of Color came to be. McGregor begins his book with a brief introduction of the Negro Leagues. He finishes with the integration of the last team to do so, the Boston Red Sox. In taking this monster swing, McGregor hit a grand slam.

Negro League Ball

McGregor begins his book introducing the reader to the Negro Leagues. Despite varied successes throughout history, the leagues did not go forward until Rube Foster took the helm. At that point, the Negro National League grew to have some success. The barnstorming activity of the men (and women) of this league honed the skills of such players as Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Satchel Paige. It is from this league that Bill Veeck signed a young Larry Doby to become the first black player in the American League.

Integration Across the League

The breaking of the long-standing “gentlemen’s agreement” took years, especially in the junior circuit. While Doby broke the color barrier in 1947, it would be 12 years before Pumpsie Green made his début for the Red Sox, completing the integration of the MLB. McGregor’s book takes the reader on a trip describing and discussing each team’s decision to hire its first black player.

Recommendation of McGregor’s Book

I enjoyed the book, a lot. Any fan of baseball, or the history of America’s Pastime should find themselves lost in these pages describing the journey from racially based leagues to a major league system where the best players wind up on a roster regardless of the color of their skin. I rate this book 10/10, and highly recommend its purchase.

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Let the Bartman Incident Go. Cubs Fans. Let it Go

Let the Bartman Incident Go. Cubs Fans. Let it Go

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Any true blue Cubs fan can remember the 2003 NLCS. The one where the game turned in a blink of an eye when a fan made a play for a ball that was near the stands, or potentially in the stands. A day when the ire of the entire Cubs nation fell upon one lifelong Cubs fan who merely made a mistake. Steve Bartman did exactly what 99% of fans would have done in that situation. In fact, in the photo, there appears to be other fans making a play for the same foul ball. However, one incident, even for a long-suffering fan base such as the Chicago Cubs, should not cause a game to turn the way it did.

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Larry Doby’s Debut July 5, 1947

Larry Doby’s Debut July 5, 1947

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Larry Doby was born on December 13, 1923 in Camden, South Carolina. Unfortunately, his name is forgotten to most casual fans. It is regrettable that his role in integrating the American League well known to those with little interest in the history of the game. Unlike his National League counterpart, Jackie Robinson, his number 14 is not retired league wide. And unlike Jackie Robinson Day, which has been on April 15 every season since 2004, there is no national Larry Doby day that is celebrated throughout the league.

Negro National League

Newark Eagle Logo
Newark Eagle Logo

Doby played with the Newark Eagles from 1942 when he was 17, until Bill Veeck bought his contract from Effa Manley and the Eagles in 1947. He did miss most of the 1944 season and all of 1945 serving in the United States Navy.

Major League Debut

During a warm summer’s day at Comiskey Park, in Chicago on July 5, 1947, the Cleveland Indians visited the Chicago White Sox. Doby entered the game as a pinch hitter for relief pitcher Bryan Stephens in the top of the seventh inning. He struck out on five pitches. Hardly an auspicious début for someone breaking down a barrier. However, his friendship with Joe Gordon began during that game, as Gordon was the only player willing to play catch with him to warm up.

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Thoughts on Mayweather-McGregor

Thoughts on Mayweather-McGregor

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From the fight with Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather’s Defense is boring, yet impenetrable.

One of the key aspects of the typical aging athlete is that of a legacy. It appears that for Floyd Mayweather money trumps legacy. The retired undefeated champion has now booked a boxing match against UFC champion Conor McGregor. This fight is a horrible booking for several reasons.

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OP-Ed Tim Tebow Isn’t Very Good at Baseball

OP-Ed Tim Tebow Isn’t Very Good at Baseball

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Zero for six with five strikeouts during two shortened games of a doubleheader is not good. Even less so when the stadium you are visiting is filled with people cheering for you. That was Tim Tebow‘s line Sunday during a double-billing while visiting the Lexington Legends. I went to

Tebow batting in 2017 Spring Training

the game out of idle curiosity. I left feeling like baseball was some sort of ugly back-up date for Mr. I Don’t Have a NFL Delivery. His fundamentals are better suited for beer league softball, which he could afford to play I’m sure, with his SEC network gig. He faced both left and right-handed pitching in the double-header, and made contact just one time, a fly out to centerfield. Thrice he went down looking at a fastball at the bottom of the zone. Of his six at bats, he had one ‘quality’ at bat, where he battled to what wound up being a 10 pitch strikeout.

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Centre Soccer Alumni Day

Centre Soccer Alumni Day

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My history with Centre

Old Hillside/Game Field
Hillside/Game Field as I remember it. Photo taken from the Centre College webpage. Claim of fair use on photo.

A long time ago, I was the barnstorming equipment manager and statistician for the Centre College Colonels soccer team. Every fall, my duties included setting up the home field, keeping stats, announcing games, and going on the road for stats and equipment. The field we played on was good, but my first year, the announcing table was under a little shade awning. Before my Sophomore year, we added a on-field press box, with an elevated videography platform. After I graduated I stayed away for a lot of years.  I followed Coach Jeb Burch’s live tweets of games on a regular basis.

Often, I thought about going back, and visiting with Coach Burch, but I never did. I think I didn’t want to think about how much I enjoyed those autumns, because my depression was crippling me. Part of me didn’t want to think about it because I did not enjoy college except for the part where I was working with the team. It seems like that I would have been much happier if I had of dropped out and worked with the team as an employee.

The Set Up

Coach Burch and "Cowboy" Dave Mitchner
The author with Coach Burch.

I happened to catch a post from Coach Burch regarding the Alumni Day, and the new grounds. Coach Burch sent another tweet asking for photos from teams past to decorate the new locker room — the concept of which piqued my interest. Thus, I contacted him and offered to bring down copies of the 1998, 2000, and 2001 team photos.

 

 

 

The Visit

A video board
A video board?! Wow!

So on 1 April 2017, I went back to Centre for possibly the second time since I graduated in May, 2002. First of all, Campus has changed. I probably couldn’t find my way around on foot now without relearning quite a bit. Secondly, the new pitch. I don’t think there’s anything like in all of Division III. I am not sure if there is anything like it in Division II. The turf is a smooth Bermuda Grass. Air wing nets hang beyond the goal on the fence to prevent balls from leaving the area if a shot is high.

The surface and facilities are just amazing. And there is a public restroom right there next to the field! No more having to walk to the port-a-potties. The new press-box sets above a set of bleachers. There is a platform above the press-box for observation. A patio with made on site burgers. These amenities for fans at a small Division III school in Kentucky are amazing.

View from the Home Dugout
View from the Home Dugout. Press box and bleachers across the pitch. (c) Dave Mitchner 1 April 2017
New Seats
The author’s 2-year old doing his best coaching pose in the new seats.

The  bench/dugout areas for the players are awesome. Leather bucket seats, with a drink holder, stand for both the home and away sides. A water tap is between the technical areas, so water does not have to be carried far. Everything about the new facility is just great.

I watched most of the alumnae game, and the first half of the alumni game. I opted to leave early because of the cold and having my two-year old with me. Coach Burch, Coach Hoffman, and Coach Chisley’s work into the new facility is awe-inspiring. Hopefully, it raises the bar for soccer complexes throughout Division III sports.

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Sabres at Red Wings – 3/20/2017

Sabres at Red Wings – 3/20/2017

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Hard to believe that there are only seven games left at the Joe. My pops is a Wing’s fan, so I’ve watched plenty of games on the television from that stadium. I’ve always loved Hockeytown, even as I became a Hawks fan. I always hate when they close old stadiums. Tonight’s match brings about two hockey teams that are on a down year, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres.

This is my first Buffalo game of the year. No idea what to expect other than Jake Eichel is high on the points list, and is a former 2nd overall draft pick. Thanks to injuries, Brady Austin gets his first NHL start after having most recently played in Rochester Americans in the AHL. Good for him getting what is sure to be the first of many. If you have to get your first career start on the road, I can think of no better place that to start at the Joe.

Robin Lehner draws the start for Buffalo, and Petr Mrazek takes his turn as the Detroit Netminder.

First Period

Austin has a great hit on Abdelkader right off the bat. Welcome to the NHL kid, good hit. Hopefully, mom and sisters are in the stands to see that hit on one of the hardest hitters in the league.

Dylan Larkin deserves an Emmy for drawing a high stick penalty. Jake Eichel will serve the penalty, for the “high stick” against his World Juniors teammate. Red Wings power play seemed lame and could not manage a single shot on the power play.

Detroit defenseman Mike Green drew the penalty for hooking Eichel. Sabres ranked 2nd in the league on the Power play. Ristolainen slotted an excellent pass to O’Reilly, who is able to set up Jake Eichel at the left circle. Goal scored at 10:50. Ristolainen now leads the league in Power Play Assists.

At 1930, the Wings have a great opportunity. However, phenomenal work by Robin Lehner keeps the sheet clean.

Second Period

Tater to the box for 2 minutes for tripping O’Reilly. Sabres power play doesn’t miss a beat from last time. Fifteen seconds into the power play, Molson scored at 8:59. Mrazek gives up the close range five hole. Teammates Ennis and McCabe with the assists.

Abdelkader has a great chance at 938. Lehnrer gets a hellovasave. Jake McCabe drew penalty for hooking. Wings get their 1st shot on goal on the PP, saved by Lehner. No shots on the first power play. Wings PP is so bad, I’d almost rather have a NCAA power play out there. Can’t maintain possession in the zone.

Finally, at 12:57 the Red Wings get on the board with a goal by Tomas Tatar. Tatar found himself in the right place at the right time to slot the biscuit on the back post. With assists to Green and Zetterburg .

Third Period

in the first minute, a Josh Georges skated off the ice with assistance. From an uncalled elbow from Tatar. It looked similar to the elbow that the  disciplinary committee reviewed by Matthew Tkachuk in the Calgary/LA game. Tkachuk gets a 2 game ban, so interesting to see if Tatar will get the same. Georges may have missed one shift.

The third period was 20 minutes of boring hockey. At 4:45, Georges sets a two minute minor for hooking. Later, Brady Austin is whistled his first minutes in the sin bin for his NHL career for hooking. The Red Wings’ powerplay again leaves something to be desired. The Sabres’ kill was on fire tonight, and ensured that the Wings couldn’t get it done.

Mzarek to the bench for the last two minutes of the game. Wings couldn’t do anything with the man advantage on the power play, and couldn’t do anything with the empty net. Disappointed with the Red Wing’s performance.

Take Away

Buffalo doesn’t suck. Eichel missing 21 games at the start hurt them. I look for the Sabres to be in serious contention by this time next year. Detroit played uninspired. Not what I would expect from a team that was closing out a historic stadium like the Joe. Hopefully they give their fans a better show with their six remaining games.

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World Baseball Classic – Canada vs Dominican Republic

World Baseball Classic – Canada vs Dominican Republic

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I can’t stay up to watch baseball games that start at 10:00 PM local time. I am also unable to get up at 430 AM local most days. So, I haven’t seen but a few moments of the World Baseball Classic 2017 pools A (Seoul) and B (Tokyo). Thus, last night’s Pool C match between Canada and the Dominican Republic was the first game for me to see. It appeared a warm and humid night in Miami’s Marlins Park. The first pitch hurled into the night at 6:10 PM local time. Dominican Republic supporters filled the stadium, with very few Canadians in attendance.

Canada is not a team that I think of when it comes to baseball, and they drew possibly the most loaded team in the world. How loaded is the DR, you ask? To the point five time Gold Glove winner Adrián Beltré is batting as Designated Hitter.

Canada’s Jonathan Malo scored both of Canada’s runs. The first came on a balk after having reached on an error by Shortstop Jose Reyes in the third. The second after reaching on a fielder’s choice and driven home by a double by Dalton Pomey in the fifth. Freddie Freeman did not reach base safely. He did show excellent contact in his first at-bat, but a tremendous diving stop by Third Baseman Manny Machado gobbled up what would have been at least a double.

Ryan Dempster made his first appearance on the mound since the 2013 World Series, and threw 49 pitches over two innings.  The Canucks scattered 6 hits over the course of the game, and committed one error, a throwing error by 2nd Baseman Pete Orr.

The Dominican Republic came loaded for bear. The team made solid contact 16 Hits for 9 runs and committed one error. Wellington Castillo hit a 2 run shot in the second off of Ryan Dempster that barely cleared the right field wall. José Bautista drilled a 3-run homer in the sixth off of Dustin Molleken. I would estimate the Bautista homer at approximately 450 feet. Nelson Cruz, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Santana all hit doubles.

The Dominican pitching excelled, as they pitched by committee. Carlos Martinez probably could have pitched a fifth inning, but WBC rules have mandatory pitch count maximums designed to protect the players. Robles, Abad, Colome, Betances, Rodney and Familia all made relief appearances. Familia played to get the final out of the game. For the Canadians, Dempster threw 2, and Albers, Henderson, Chapman, Mollekin, Mathieson and Wick appeared in relief.

The game was closer than I thought it would be. Had Dempster been able to get out of the dumpster fire that was the 2nd, this game could have gone either way.

Man of the Match

Carlos Martinez deserves my man of the match honors. The Cardinals Ace gave up 3 hits and 1 run in 4 innings pitched. The balk call was questionable at best. Both TV announcers and myself thought that he used a proper stretch mechanic. But in Baseball, the only opinion that truly matters is the crew chiefs.

 

 

Take Away

Unless something like the flu were to go through the Dominican Republic clubhouse, I do not see how they won’t win this tournament again. Japan and USA could offer a challenge. And with the Mensch on the Bench, who knows what will happen when the Israeli team takes the field in the Quarters this week in Tokyo.

Scorecard

The thumbnail takes you to my scorecard of the match. Pencil didn’t scan overly well, but I think it gets the majority of the point across. Sorry for misspellings. The TV people don’t leave the lineup cards on the screen long enough for those of us scoring at home anymore.

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