Saturday, September 30, 2006

As I mentioned a few days ago, I spoke at the Fenway Park Writers Series yesterday. I had a couple of minutes to talk about the Vintage Base Ball Federation. I started out talking about vintage base ball in general and some of the rule changes from the 1880's until today. Then I talked about the VBBF, what our goals were, the World Series we're planning next summer and some of the people involved. I got a good laugh from the Fenway crowd when I mentioned Jim Bouton and said, "Jim used to be a Yankee, but I try not to hold that against him."

I also had a chat about vintage base ball with Dr. Charles Stienberg, the Red Sox PR guru, who was at the lunch. I had never actually met him before, so that was pretty cool.

Finally, the main event was the appearance of legendary baseball writer Roger Kahn. Mr. Kahn wrote The Boys of Summer about the Brooklyn Dodgers and was a personal friend of Jackie Robinson. He had a number of great stories about Robinson and other members of the Dodgers like Pee Wee Reese, Carl Erskine and Duke Snyder. He also told us the very sad and touching story of his son, who died young of a heroin overdose.

The Fenway Writers Series is a great event, and they are going continuing it during the off-season this year. If you ever have the opportunity to go, check it out.

On another note, we picked up my glasses today. I'm wearing them right now, and they really do make a big difference when looking at the computer screen. Of course, it looks like someone else is staring back at me when I look at myself in the mirror, but I suppose I will get used to that.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Two interesting stats for today:

While I was watching the Astros-Pirates game last night, the announcer mentioned that former Sox prospect and Pirates 2nd baseman is batting .395 with runners in scoring position. Not bad...

The Oakland A's, Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins, three of the four participants in the AL playoffs had a combined payroll of $208.2 million. The other participant, the New York Yankees, spent only slightly less, at $194.6 million by themselves.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm feeling old today. I have been having a bit of trouble reading small print, so I went to see the eye doctor. Not surprisingly, I need to get reading glasses. Now, I know many people who have had to wear glasses all their lives, but I never have, so it's a bit traumatic.

With the Sox out of contention, I have been following the National League playoff race, where only one spot has been determined. Most interesting to me is the late surge by the Houston Astros, who have had a 7 game winning streak while the division leading Cardinals have lost seven in a row going into Wednesday's action. Houston has closed to within a game and a half with four games left (five for the Cards). If Houston pulls this off, it will be an epic '64 Phillies type collapse for St. Louis. It'll be fun to watch over the next couple of days.

Monday, September 25, 2006

- Barring a miracle, the last five World Series winners will not be in the playoffs this year. The White Sox, Red Sox, Marlins, Angels and Diamondbacks will all be at home watching on TV.

- Nomah has had quite a week. He hit two walkoff home runs, the first coming in the Dodgers astonishing win over the Padres. L.A. hit four consecutive home runs on seven pitches to tie the game, then Nomar hit the game winner in the 10th. Then yesterday he hits a walkoff grand slam to beat the Diamondbacks. If the Dodgers make it to the playoffs, he will have been a big part of it.

- Leigh Montville's The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth is a great read. He gives you some insights as to what drove the Babe to do what he did: both his prodigious baseball accomplishments and his prodigious appetites for food and women, among other things. Check it out.

- I'll be talking briefly about the Vintage Base Ball Federation at the Fenway Park Writers Series lunch on Friday. Roger Kahn, author of The Boys of Summer is the guest speaker. Mr. Kahn will be talking about his latest book, Into My Own: The Remarkable People and Events That Shaped a Life, but I want to get him to sign a copy of The Boys of Summer as well. My copy is pretty ancient and beat up, so I may try to see if I can track down a newer copy sometime this week.

- Since the Red Sox have been officially eliminated, I'm rooting for the Twins in the postseason. How can you not root for a team with a guy named Boof Bonser?

- A co-worker was just on a jury for a murder trial, and he tells me there are three types of legal killings: self-defense, defense of another and accident. Was The Station fire an accident, or were the Derderian's negligent? How you answer will tell you whether the sentences handed down in the plea bargain (four years in prison for one brother, 500 hours of community service for the other) were fair.

For me, I think these guys have at least some culpability (some of the exit doors in the nightclub could not be opened, for one thing). The community service sentence is way too light, and even the four years doesn't seem like enough. I think significant jail time for both brothers would have been reasonable. Four years is on the low end; probably 5-7 years would be reasonable to me.

Of course, I didn't know anyone who died in the fire. I might feel differently if I did, but it doesn't seem to me that the Derderians intended for anyone to die that night, but it happened through the result of a number of bad decisions by a number of people. As the owners of the club, it seems to me that they should serve some time in prison for their role in the deaths of 100 people.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A few thoughts...

- Pete Rose is making headlines again, and not in a good way. It turns out the Hit King inscribed around 30 baseballs with "I'm sorry I bet on baseball." The balls were given to a collector, who promised not to sell them. Well, the collector passed away and his family, not feeling they were bound by the promise, is going to auction off the balls next year.

Rose, obviously upset that he's not getting a piece of the action, is now offering similarly signed baseballs for $300 - $350 if you want it personalized!

This all makes me ill. If Rose was really sorry, he'd be offering the balls at cost or giving them away. This is just another cynical attempt by Rose to cash in on this whole sad story. The guy waited 15 years before finally coming clean, and now he's making money off his so-called apology. He can sit outside the Hall of Fame forever as far as I'm concerned. Even better, put him in after he's dead, so he can't make any more money from his induction.

- I watched the first of the "new" Star Trek episodes the other night. For those who don't know, CBS/Paramount has remastered the show in HD and upgraded the special effects with new CGI shots. Apparently, the 1960's vintage effects, which don't look so great in standard definition, looked really grainy in HD.

The first episode was Balance of Terror, one of Trek's best and a good candidate for remastering, as it featured a space battle with a Romulan Bird of Prey. I know that there was a lot of talk on about being respectful to the original effects, but in my opinion they went a little too far.

I might be the only person in Star Trek fandom who thinks this, but if you have the technology available to upgrade the FX, then really upgrade them! Essentially, the shots in the original show were just recreated with CGI. How about showing us something new? Show the Romulan plasma weapon chasing the Enterprise from the outside, not just as a red blob in the viewscreen. Give us a shot of what it looks like to have a nuclear weapon detonate 100 meters off the ship's deflectors.

Star Trek has never been about special effects, but if you are going to go to the time and effort to do all the effects shots in the Original Series again, why not do something really exciting?

- Finally, congratulations to David Ortiz, for breaking Jimmie Foxx's 68 year old Red Sox single season home run record. Congratulations, Big Papi!!!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Check out this list. It's all the seasons where players had more than 50 home runs. The top three names, comprising the six highest single season homer totals in baseball history, are probably steroid cheats.

Another point - in the seven years at the height of the Steroid Era (1996-2002), there were nine players who hit more than 50 home runs a combined total of 17 times. In the other 80 seasons since Babe Ruth became the first to hit more than 50 homers in 1920, the feat has only been accomplished 21 times by 14 players (with David Ortiz likely to join the group prior to the end of this year).

So, 45% of the 50 home run seasons were accomplished in only 8% of the total seasons. The three poster boys of the Steroid Era (Bonds, McGwire and Sosa) hit 50 or more a combined 9 times, with Sosa and McGwire doing it four times each. Only the Babe hit 50 or more homers four times, and I think we can be pretty sure he didn't use any artificial enhancements to do it (unless there are steroids in hot dogs). Also, six of the eight seasons of 60 or more homers happened during this period, and the only two 70+ seasons.

You can draw your own conclusions if you like, but as far as I'm concerned, Roger Maris is still the single season home run champ unless Ryan Howard (with 57 as of this writing and 13 games to play) can beat him out in the last two weeks.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The kids and I went for a bike ride this afternoon. Instead of our usual ride around the neighborhood, we loaded the bikes in the minivan to head to the Marlborough, MA start of the Assabet River Rail Trail. It was a really nice ride. We did a bit more than a third of the 6 mile length of the trail before turning back for a total of around 4.5 miles, which was the longest ride either of the kids had done at one time. The scenery was nice and the trail was populated with other riders and walkers, but not crowded.

My one complaint was that the trail was mostly downhill in one direction and mostly uphill in the other. A mix of the two would have been nice. This is a fairly minor point, though. As a former railroad track, the grades were fairly gentle and not really difficult to ride. On the plus side, there was ample parking near the trailhead in downtown Marlborough and a nearby Dairy Queen for a post-ride snack.

So, if you are looking for a pleasant and not too strenuous bike ride west of Boston, check out the Assabet River Rail Trail.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Here's one thing to check out, and one to avoid.

Some local college girls have started The Lester Project. They are selling those silicone bracelets - similar to the yellow Livestrong bracelets you see everywhere - in honor of Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester. Procedes from the bracelets will go to the Jimmy Fund.

This is a great idea and hopefully both helps Jon Lester's morale and raises some money for the Jimmy Fund. The project has been mentioned in the Boston Globe, Herald and on NESN. The bracelets aren't available for sale yet, but will be soon. Keep an eye on the Web site for more information.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I subscribed to a new Star Trek podcast called Spock's Diner It had been mentioned on my favorite podcast, Look at his Butt, so I decided to check it out.

Typically, I give a new podcast two episodes before I decide whether to keep subscribing. In this case, I made it through a mere seven minutes of this one (out of a 32 minute episode). The two hosts were simply so annoying, I couldn't take it anymore. So Spock's Diner gets a big thumbs down from me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

- Has a Red Sox team fallen so far, so fast since 1978? At the beginning of action on August 18, the Sox were only 1 and 1/2 games behind the Yankees before the Boston Massacre II. Now they are 10 and 1/2 out, a loss of 9 games in three and a half weeks. I know there have been injuries to most of our best players, but could anyone have forseen this? Did anyone think we would be completely out of the playoff chase with more than 2 weeks to play? I sure didn't.

- With Deion Branch gone, who the heck is Brady going to throw the ball to?

- David Ortiz was saying that Derek Jeter shouldn't win the MVP because he doesn't drive in a lot of runs or hit homers, plus he gets to hit in that Yankee lineup. I would agree, but Papi wouldn't be my choice either, given the fall of the Sox. Jermaine Dye, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer would be the guys I would put ahead of Ortiz.

- My Dell laptop at work started acting wierd the other day and our IT staff had to come replace it. I can count on one hand the number of times I have had to take my Apple computers in for repairs, and still have fingers left over. I'll also point out that I have been using Apple computers for 23 years, starting with an Apple IIe my college roommate had.

- I know what I'm watching Friday night. The Padres vs. the Dodgers, with Boomer Wells going up against Greg Maddux. That would be 559 combined wins in that one.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Nothing long tonight, but I just couldn't let the day go passed unnoticed.

Happy 40th anniversary, Star Trek!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Remember last night when I mentioned the amazing season of the Florida Marlins?

Well, the story just gets better. Anibal Sanchez (who went to the Marlins in the Josh Beckett/Mike Lowell trade) just pitched a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks. It is the first no-hitter in MLB since Randy Johnson's perfect game in 2004.

Why can't we get guys like that?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Curt Schilling? Tim Wakefield? David Wells? Matt Clement? Who needs 'em? We have Kyle Snyder (7 shutout innings on Friday), Julian Tavarez (6.1 innings, 2 runs last night) and Kason Gabbard (7 innings of shutout ball, combining with Mike Timlin on a 1-0 shutout over the White Sox tonight). It's pretty amazing that the Sox are managing to do anything with this unheralded starting rotation, but it's been fun to watch.

Has anyone ever been named Manager of the Year and been fired in the same year? It might happen with Joe Girardi of the Marlins, who has brought this extremely young team with a $15 million payroll (less than 8% of the Yankees total) back to .500 heading into tonight's game. It's the first time in baseball history that a team has been 20 games under .500 and made it back. This is an exciting young team with guys like Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez. It would be nice if a few more people in South Florida were paying attention (there were about 12,000 in attendance at Dolphins Stadium last night).

The problem is that Girardi and Marlins owner Jeff Loria have a feud going. I don't know all the particulars, but you would think these guys could get it together, wouldn't you?

Monday, September 04, 2006

I wasn't going to blog tonight, but the just-completed Red Sox win is too good to ignore.

Tonight's matchup didn't bode well for the Sox. Julian Tavarez making the spot start in place of the injured Curt Schilling against the White Sox best pitcher, Jon Garland? Chalk one up in the loss column. right? Well, Tavarez comes out and matches Garland and goes 6 and 1/3, giving up only 2 runs before leaving.

However, despite the return of Jason Varitek, Manny Ramirez and Trot Nixon, the Sox offense still couldn't manage much against Chicago's pitching and entered the bottom of the 9th down 2-1. The White Sox closer, Bobby Jenks came in and walked Manny. Trot grounded out to first, moving Manny to 2nd, then Mike Lowell followed with a double, scoring Ramirez and tying the game. The Sox couldn't muster anything else in the 9th, and the game went into extra innings.

After Mike Timlin got Chicago in the top of the 10th, local boy Carlos Pena hit a walkoff homer for the win!

It was great to see the Sox come back and win this one. The team has been having so many problems lately with injury and illnesses, the fact that they never said die and took this game says a lot about their character.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Monday before we left for Vermont, I was heading to J.'s last summer baseball game. A. occassionally calls me on my cell phone to tell me something before a game, so I turned on my phone to check my messages once I got off the train. There was a message, but not from A.; Jim Bouton and Chip Elitzer had left me a message.

I had emailed Jim and Chip a day or two before, sending them to a link in the Providence Journal about vintage base ball. The Hillies game on ESPN Classic was the best part of the whole Pittsfield experience. It's my opinion that the game was the catalyst for making vintage base ball more than a fringe thing that just a few people were paying attention to.

A quick tutorial for those who don't know what I'm talking about. Vintage base ball (the two words are on purpose) is baseball played with rules in force from before the turn of the century. There are roughly 225 teams around the country playing vintage base ball. Most play under either 1860s rules or 1880s rules.

I called Chip after J.'s game was over; he got Jim on the phone and they told me their idea. They were starting a a new umbrella organization for vintage base ball teams. It was going to be called the Vintage Base Ball Federation, and they wanted to know if I was interested in being involved.

Well, of course I said yes. Aside from Jim and Chip, there are around ten outher people involved including former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent and Sports Illustrated's Frank Deford. Pretty impressive company to be a part of!

The VBBF was introduced to the world at a press conference in New York on the 21st. Unfortunately, I couldn't go because we were in Vermont. The press coverage was very favorable, with the Associated Press article being picked up in around 150 newspapers (try Googling the Vintage Base Ball Federation and see all the hits).

Probably the only negative about this so far has been the reaction on the part of some of the existing vintage base ball community. Many of these folks play 1860s style base ball; some of them consider the 1880s version too "modern" to be called vintage base ball. Others, I think, are reacting to a move onto their "turf" by the VBBF.

Fortunately, there are other existing teams that are supportive of our efforts, and the Web site is generating some interest from people who want to form new teams as well. Jim will be doing some interviews (he'll be on Fox & Friends on September 13). I think this has a great chance to be a big success and really promote the sport of vintage base ball. You can find out a lot more (including the plans for a vintage base ball World Series next summer) at the Web site.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

It is truly unbelievable what is happening to the Red Sox.

The Sox announced yesterday that 22-year-old pitching prospect Jon Lester was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma. Having been through cancer treatment myself (although a totally different type of cancer), I can imagine how he feels. Fortunately, it appears that he has a type of cancer that is very treatable. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jon as he goes through this.

The good news is that Big Papi appears to be OK. The doctors at Mass General are attributing his problems to stress and exhaustion.

On the more "normal" injury front, two of the Sox top pitchers, Jonathan Papelbon and Curt Schilling, are hurt as well. Schilling has a pulled lat muscle and will miss a start. Papelbon felt a burning sensation in his right shoulder during last night's win against the Blue Jays. He said it still felt tight today and we won't know how bad the injury is until he has an MRI on Monday.

So, as of right now, September 2, this is the list of players unavailable to the Red Sox:

Curt Schilling
Jon Lester
Tim Wakefield
Matt Clement
Jonathan Papelbon
David Ortiz
Manny Ramirez
Jason Varitek
Alex Gonzalez
Trot Nixon

Did I miss anyone?

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