Thursday, April 24, 2008

"God, I Love Baseball"

Sometimes it's helpful to remember why we love baseball. For me, it's the little stuff. Yes, the playoffs are fun. Yes, the action of the game can be riveting. But better than those things are the relatively inconsequential things that happen during your typical, relatively inconsequential weeknight game. A foul ball that wakes up everyone in the visitor's dugout. A fan shouting an obscenity so loud the TV microphones pick it up. An ump taking a few extra seconds cleaning the plate because the catcher just caught a nasty foul tip. The sorts of things that never make the highlight packages or box scores, but which cause both the viewers and the participants to laugh, sigh, or simply reflect in ways that are totally foreign to, say, a football field.

I know I'm not alone in this, because you guys often tell me you feel the same way. For example, longtime ShysterBall reader Osmodious was just kicking back on Tuesday night, watching his Yankees take on the White Sox, and has this to share:

You just never know when you might see something you have never seen before. That is the single best reason to watch baseball, though there are scores of good reasons to as well. Here's the ESPN recap of last night's game. What you will not read in there are two things that happened that you only know about if you watched it.

During the 8th inning, a black cat jumped out from behind the screen behind home plate and ran into the Yankee's dugout. Really. Where did it come from? Who knows, though David Cone theorized that it was a Red Sox fan who brought it into the stadium for the expressed purpose of jinxing the Yankees.

The other occurred a couple of innings prior to that. Let me preface this by saying that neither Wang nor Contreras had their best stuff, making the first two hours of the game seem like an eternity (and that was only 3.2 innings!). Anyway, Nick Swisher, a pretty good hitter, was up and he was fouling off a bunch of pitches. Finally, two strikes and I don't know how many balls, he started to swing at a pitch . . . and his bat broke. Without touching the ball. He loaded up his hands (pulled them back) and started to swing and the bat broke at the handle . . . he was left holding 10 inches of bat handle as the rest of it flew off at a 90 degree angle toward the on-deck circle. He was called out on strikes, but not for swinging, as the box score lists it as a called third strike! I have never seen a bat break from the sheer strength of the batter's swing. It was kind of impressive.

It was also classic baseball comedy. Swisher stood there at the plate, still in his stance, looking at his hands, trying to figure out what had just transpired. Hopefully, somebody took a picture of his face, 'cause it was classic. Meanwhile, both Jorge and the ump are looking directly to the left at the remains of the bat, also trying to figure out what had happened. While not the most amazing thing I have ever seen on a baseball field, it was definitely a highlight. And I would have missed it if I had turned off the game because it was a little boring.

You just never know what you might see. God, I love baseball.
UPDATE: video of the bat breaking can be found here (special thanks to the commenter below for sending it in).

That's what I'm talking about. The little stuff. Things that aren't important enough for the beat writers to cover the next day but that are notable and add flavor all the same. I'm enamoured of this stuff, and my only regret is that I don't get to watch enough games to see them as often as I'd like. I'm sure many of you feel the same way. Which is why I want to start a new occasional feature around here which, using Osmodious' words, I will entitle "God, I love Baseball."

Here's how we're going to do this: You guys watch games (no big trick, because you're doing it already). You guys make a quick note of something enjoyable but inconsequential that you saw, and either write it up in an email to me (it's in the upper left hand corner of this page) or post it in the comments to the daily "And That Happened" post. I'll share it with everyone, giving proper attribution to the submitter, of course (let me know if you want anonymity).

No need to write it up as long as Osmodious did. No need for flowery prose. And certainly no need to be funny or to top one another because the whole point of this is to catalog those little, ephemeral moments that make baseball so damn enjoyable. Those sorts of things aren't always funny, and by definition they aren't spectacular. We're just going for flavor here, and a simple "hey, I was watching the Nats-Padres and the camera caught Cristian Guzman and Ron Belliard playing paper-scissors-rock in the dugout," or "yo, you shoulda seen the guys in the Cubs bullpen jawing at the drunk dudes in the left field bleachers" will suffice. All I ask is that you let me know what game it happened in and, if applicable, the players involved.

Like most things on the Internet, it will either work or it won't, and if you don't see any items in the next few weeks it means that no one cares about this stuff all that much. Which is fine too. We're not shooting for award nominations with this bit, and it certainly won't be a regular feature (if it gets really popular maybe I'll do a weekly compilation of them).

So keep watching, and let me know what happens.


Joey said...

love the idea, and yes, God, I love baseball. Going to see the Jays-Rays tonight in Orlando, let you know if I see anything there

Anonymous said...

here's the video of Swisher's swing, with narration in a language I don't know. Remarkable.

tadthebad said...

Two things. 1) Rumor has it, as does a first-hand account by Wade Boggs, that Jim Rice once broke a bat on a check swing. 2) For my first "God, I love baseball" entry, how about the red-tailed hawk at Fenway who attacked a Connecticut girl during a tour of the park? The girl's name: Alexa Rodriguez. You can't make this stuff up (and I think Craig may have posted about the hawk already). The hawk has received loud cheers ever since when it decides to fly over the action at Fenway.

Jason said...

I was watching it live and was stunned. couldn't believe it.

Osmodious said...

On the flipside of these kinds of things being ignored, or missed, there was a cute moment in last night's Yankees/White Sox game that was ruined (a little) by over-coverage.

Girardi came out to the mound in the 7th to check on Mussina, and asked Jorge how he looked. Joe then signaled to the bullpen and Jorge jumped in and stopped him. They all had a good laugh about it back in the dugout. YES wouldn't let it go, talking about it the rest of the game and centering a lot of their post-game coverage on it. Joe would only call it a 'miscommunication', and Jorge didn't say much about it...Mussina said that when Joe asked Jorge about Moose's ability to continue, he said "He's got nothing." He apparently did not mean to say it.

It was fun, and funny, but by spending the next hour and half on it, YES kind of took some of the fun out of it. By the third question, Moose was clearly annoyed to still be talking about it.

I think many of these 'moments' are so great because they make us feel like we are part of an exclusive's a 'we get it' or 'we were there' kind of a thing. When they make a huge deal out of it, that exclusivity is robbed. Eh, it's a theory.

BB said...

A good God I Love Baseball topic is bull pen activities. The first thing to mind is the Red Sox bullpen band. They are pretty amazing percussionists and it seems like everyone partakes. They use tarp stakes to bang on the roof of the bullpen and you can hear it throughout the game. Just goofy stuff a bunch of buddies do to stay occupied over a 162 game season.

Anonymous said...

This only loosely qualifies but John Smoltz was on Dan Patrick radio show yesterday morning talking about Maddux and delivered these tidbits:

1. In spring training they drive rentals and Maddux would follow him around and rear end him at all the stop signs until his bumper fell off
2. Maddux would get in Smoltz's rental car and spit tabacco juice all over and leave booggers all over
3. Maddux likes to leave big loogies on the ceiling around the clubhouse in the hopes that they'd drip on pedestrians
4. Maddux would just make crap up in the dugout. He'd say, "Any fly ball that hangs for 6 seconds has to be caught" and then everyone would start counting seconds and arguing about it.

As Tim Keown wrote of Maddux, Throws right, bats right, farts left.

Alex said...

Swisher must have been using one of those maple bats that have become so popular. They're lighter, but more brittle, which is why we're seeing more shattered bats than in the past. (At least, I think I'm seeing more than in the past.) It's really frustrating because, despite the obvious danger, MLB's not gonna do anything about it until someone gets hurt. Classic and not at all surprising CYA approach to a problem.

Ironic Goat said...

A little too overplayed, I suppose, but I was at the game where the ball went into Zimmermans jersey. That was hilarious, as all of us were waiting for the throw and then it just vanished.

Grant said...

Watching the Orioles on Wednesday I had one of those things.

Melvin Mora was out of position on a bunt attempt by some Seattle player (Ichiro?) and Jeremy Guthrie runs over, fields the ball, and runs for the force at third. It was awesome.

RoyceTheHack said...

A few things:

1) It is very likely Swisher cracked the bat in one of the many foul-offs Shyster reports from the at bat.
2) Is it just me, or does that bat look about two or three inches longer than, 'normal'. I know most MLB players have their bats custom made, but Swisher's bat looks like a dang flagpole. Maybe its the light.
3) Pretty jazzed about the experiment on God, I Love Baseball. I too find great joy in spying small random events of greatness.
4) Actually, upon reflection, I already have one extremely cool observation from watching the Astros ring out the Padres Tuesday night: It is the 'Stros five-run, eighth inning. After Tejada raps his big double, the camera pans the stands and who do I see in the left field boxes of The Juice Box but my very own brother - standing in wild jubilation and whooping it up with his buddies. They kept the camera on them for three or four seconds, so we (my daughter and I...), knew it was him. I called him a few minutes later and when he answered he said, "I can't hear you, I'm at the game!!....". God, I love baseball.

Cooker said...

God I love baseball... Sox/Angels on Tuesday night, Gary Matthews Jr at the plate, and as the crowd quiets down you can hear a fan very clearly yell "Gary, you are KILLING my fantasy team!". Classic

Mr. G said...

I seem to recall Manny Ramirez breaking his bat on a check swing when he was playing in Cleveland in the late '90s. I might be remembering this wrong because it was at least 10 years ago and, of course, I have no proof.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Jim Rice anecdote, for no other reason than I want to believe it. I also remember hearing once he swung at a ball, hit it, his bat broke...and the ball popped over the left field wall at Fenway for a HR.

Jeff said...

My first thought when I read this for a "god i love baseball" moment:

Yankees/Blue Jays on Opening Night (opening day was rained out the day before) in Yankee Stadium, Roy Halliday was pitching in the 6th inning with a 2-1 lead. Melky Cabrera comes up and hits a pop fly home run, maybe a foot and a half over the 314 foot short porch in right to tie the game. When the camera goes to Halliday for the reaction shot, you can clearly lip-read him say "fucking ballpark."

God I love baseball.