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Pitch-tipping: the new old piracy

King Kelly, base-skipper

King Kelly, now- beloved base-skipper

Doug Glanville posted a New York Times column about the A-Rod pitch-tipping allegation, in which he argues that:

If in fact there was a pitch-tipping scheme, I would expect a full investigation, not just of Alex but of any player who would share information with his opponent. It is that serious.

It’s a little hard for me to view this whole tipping sidenote with the stern and worried attitude that Glanville presents in the column. In 50 years, such episodes will be remembered fondly, as signs that baseball was still a quirky game with lots of little ins and outs and rules-trifling trickery. Excepting steroids (which I consider an entirely different level of “oh shit”), Pete Rose and the Black Sox scandal, the baseball literati and fanerati look back on most of the gambling and cheating and boozing and fighting from the old days as symbols of freewheeling charm and the anti-establishment nature of the game, with the canonization of rogue leagues and managers and players who were giant assholes. Here I’m thinking of your King Kellys (drank himself to death, ran from first to third directly), and your Ty Cobbs (old X-ACTO-Spikes).

It’s notable perhaps that pitch-tipping to the other team can affect the outcome of the game, in the manner of “throwing” a game. It remains, though, that if Honus Wagner devised a secret code between he and Nap Lajoie, with a double shuffle-left hand twitch-triple-spit, it’d be a fantastic quip about the simpatico between baseball legends. The stories that survive over time are those that transgress. The only incidences of nicety that last are those involving extreme nicety (Christy “The Christian Gentleman” Mathewson comes to mind).

Not so cute when it's contemporary.

Not so cute when it's contemporary.

In times like these, it bears remembering that people used to really fucking hate pirates. The global outrage over this Somali pirate business, with calls for government actions and protections and whatnot, echoes the way populations used to view the pirates of yesteryear. The bastards impeded commerce and scared everybody. Now, of course, our nations most beloved hero is a pirate: Ross Ohlendorf.

All I’m saying is that, as ever, let’s be careful about the nature of our unrest. For there will come a time when we’ll laugh at ourselves and the mess we made back then.


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A tale of two craftsmen and the media events that showed us more: Christian Bale and Alex Rodriguez

Two semi-recent media events continue to hound me, if only for their polarity: Christian Bale’s on-set rant, and Alex Rodriguez’s steroid “confession” and ensuing press conference.

  • Bale’s rant: A spontaneous, slightly scary outburst from an actor at the top of the film industry; a private psychological event, not intended for public consumption.
  • A-Rod’s whatever-it-was/is: A stagy, cagey, reactionary PR torture session, from a ballplayer still at the top of his industry; a public event, intended solely to make excuses for private psychological events.
Were all wearing some kind of mask, am I right?

We're all wearing some kind of mask, am I right?

Each media event involves a craftsman in a given field, and each media event reveals something about the respective craftsman’s relationship to his craft.

Bale’s rant is a glimpse into the artist’s mind, hovering ever on the border between control and chaos. In the arts, beauty and truth often emerge from the scorched earth struggle between sanity and insanity, life and death, the conscious and the unconscious, control and chaos. Continue reading

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bigPumaLinks: What’s a steeroid? Tell more more about this


Lance Berkman says he’s clean but that nobody will care. Houston Chronicle

Roy Oswalt wants a separate record book for convicted PEDers. Houston Chronicle

Richard Sandomir wanted tougher questions put to A-Roid. New York Times

Dave Zirin knows that A-Rod is only the latest fall guy. Edge of Sports

“The screaming is about the screamers,” as BP investigates all the media PED hullabaloo. Baseball Prospectus

As good a time as any to look back at John Updike’s “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.” New Yorker

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Reading into the micro-narrative: The hot stove league then and trade rumors now


1. a story or statement in general circulation without confirmation or certainty as to facts.
2. gossip; hearsay.
3. Archaic. a continuous, confused noise; clamor; din.
4. to circulate, report, or assert by a rumor.

Lee Allen, HOF historian

Lee Allen, HOF historian

According to baseball historian Lee Allen in The Hot Stove League, “No one knows when baseball followers first began to gather in winter around the hot stove of a barber shop or country store.” Also, “the phrase, ‘hot stove league,’ is of uncertain origin.” The 1955 doesn’t linger long on the etymological details. Instead he revels in the odd stories of baseball, and wacky player names of which my favorite is Wedo Southern Martini. Allen, however, does spend a few sentences to describe the nature of the hot stove leagues around mid-century: “If winter, for the baseball fan, is a time to look ahead and visualize successes for his favorite team, it is also a time to look back at the bittersweet patch, to review the triumphs and the heartbreak of the past,” what he calls “a lull in the action that permits the fan to take pause and consider what he has seen and read about.” The writer sounds like a peaceful guy who likes a nice quiet time pondering people like Wedo Martini, and as a historian for the Hall of Fame he found the right occupation.

Vinegar Bend Mizell

Vinegar Bend Mizell

In reading one account of the hot stove league from another era, I think it bears considering what today’s winter reverie is like. Allen’s view of what is currently this time of year is a pensive one, full of not just future-hopin’, but past ponderin’ too. It is a literary time when fans would not only argue vigorously over the politico-strategic details of next year’s team, but also share the calm moments talking about old times, conjure their best yarn. The hot stove as the gathering place could not be a more bucolic, romantic symbol. It is warming, soothing. Outside it’s cold as nuts, but around the piping stove it’s possible to imagine that summer ever existed and will exist again. Shivering at a train stop, for example, doesn’t spur the desire to ramble on about HOF second basemen William Jennings Bryan Herman or Vinegar Bend Mizell.

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