Showing posts with label baseball. Show all posts
Showing posts with label baseball. Show all posts

1.18.2019

jackie robinson: "i owe more to canadians than they'll ever know."

Let me set the scene.

The year is 1946. The United States is deeply segregated. The birth of the civil rights movement that would begin as African-American soldiers returned home to Jim Crow, after fighting for democracy abroad, is still a good 10 years away.

Newlyweds Jackie and Rachel Robinson leave their hometown of Pasadena, California, for Florida, where Jackie will become the first African-American to play organized, professional sports in the United States. When Rachel sees "whites only" signs for the first time in the airport bathroom, she takes a deep breath and walks in anyway, feeling scared, but proud and defiant. Neither Rachel nor Jackie had ever seen the heart of the Jim Crow South. They had no idea what awaited them.

Despite her airport bravada, Rachel and her husband weren't allowed to board their plane. They were "bumped" from their scheduled flight, and the flight after that, and the one after that. They were also not allowed to purchase food while they were waiting. The airline finally suggested they go into town and wait until a flight was became "available". Twelve stressful hours later, they were allowed to fly as far as Pensacola, Florida -- where they were forced off the flight, their seats sold to white passengers.

They then boarded a Greyhound bus, where they were forced to sit in the rearmost, windowless row, for 16 hot, bitter hours, then waited in a dirty, overcrowded "colored" waiting room for yet another bus, shared with black labourers on their way to work. Thirty-six hours after leaving Pasadena, Jackie and Rachel finally reached Daytona Beach, where the Brooklyn Dodgers held spring training.

Robinson and Branch Rickey,
Spring Training, 1946
And then it began. Teams cancelled games rather than have a black player on their field. Thousands of paying (African-American) customers were turned away when the "colored section" of inferior seats were sold out. Disgusting catcalls from the stands were standard. Pitchers threw at Robinson's head repeatedly. Sliding baserunners aimed their spikes at his skin. When the team was on the road, Jackie and Rachel stayed and ate at the homes of African-American families, as none of the hotels or restaurants that served the team would admit them.

At the end of spring training, Jackie was assigned to the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' top "farm club". Road games were a nightmare – but home games were a joy.

From Jackie Robinson: A Biography, by Arnold Rampersad:
In Montreal, after about a month in a guest house, and despite an acute postwar housing shortage, Jack and Rachel found a nice apartment. Expecting the sordid resistance that would have come in virtually any white American neighborhood, she was stunned by the genteel response when she answered an advertisement to sublet half of a duplex apartment at 8232 Rue de Gaspé, in the traditionally French-speaking East End. Deliberately, Rachel [who was pregnant with their first child] had chosen the less affluent French-speaking district over its wealthier English counterpart, which she expected to be more exclusive. (Montreal had no distinctly black district.)

On De Gaspé, almost everyone spoke mainly or only French, and a brown face was unusual; but the woman of the apartment received Rachel pleasantly, poured tea and talked, and quickly agreed to rent her apartment furnished, with all her own linen and kitchen utensils. Rachel was almost overwhelmed. "The woman didn't merely agree," she said, "she insisted that I use her things. She wanted me to be careful–no water on the hardwood floors, that sort of thing, but she was gracious. It left us euphoric, really. All the months in Canada were like that."

They moved in without incident. Later, when she began to show, an informal delegation of local women visited her to offer not only advice and friendship but also coupons from their ration books, so she could buy any scarce foodstuffs she needed or craved. With the language barrier and the demands of the Royals' schedule, Jack and Rachel could make very few friends in the neighborhood; but upstairs were the Méthots, with seven or eight children who brightened the house. Rachel and Jack came to know Edgar Méthot and his wife, who had just had a baby; twenty-seven years later, the Methots would recall the Robinsons as "such good people." Their closest friends, however, were a Jewish couple, Sam and Belle Maltin. Sam, a Canadian and a socialist, wrote on sports for the Montreal Herald but was also a stringer for the Pittsburgh Courier; like Rachel, Belle was pregnant at the time. Knowing of Rachel's love of classical music, the Maltins took them to outdoor concerts on Mount Royal that reminded Rachel of visits to the Hollywood Bowl. Belle introduced Rachel to Jewish cooking and also knitted her a sweater she still wore fifty years later. The Maltins had another black friend, Herb Trawick, a football player with the Montreal Alouettes, and the Robinsons got to know him as well.

On the whole, however, the Robinsons aimed for a subdued life when Jack was home. Rachel's day was bound up in going to the ballpark to watch him. When he was away, sometimes she traveled with him (although the club frowned on wives on the road), but mostly she stayed home and sewed clothes for herself and the coming baby, or worked on a crochet tablecloth she was making for her dream home in California. She got to know some of the neighborhood children because they followed her on the street or carried her groceries home; she also tempted the children living upstairs by leaving a door open and a bowl of fruit in plain sight. Rachel could say little to most of the adults – she had taken Latin but no French – but they remained friendly and protective of her. She liked to watch them come out onto their balconies to take the sun in the lazy summer afternoons; they, no doubt, admired her brown-skinned beauty and grace. In May, an Afro-American woman reporter, recalling Rachel's night of abuse in Baltimore, wrote admiringly of her unusual calm and poise: "The only person I know who can equal her is that first citizen of the world, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt."

. . .

[Robinson] could count on a uniformly warm reception only at home, in De Lorimer Downs. "I owe more to Canadians than they'll ever know," he said later. "In my baseball career they were the first to make me feel my natural self." Robinson would write later about one French-accented rooter who "used to shout from the bleachers, if things were bad, 'Jackie, 'e's my boy!' The man had lungs of brass, a voice of iron, and a heart of gold."

. . .

Protected in this way, Jack flourished on the field despite his periods of gloom. Typical was a game in Baltimore when he led an injury-ridden Royals team to a 10-9 victory, after Montreal went ahead 8-0 only to have Baltimore tie the game. Jack not only got three of the Royals' seven hits but also stole home. Such feats made him a lion to his teammates, and to his manager, [Clay] Hopper, who was now almost a complete convert to Rickey's view of Robinson. In Newsweek, Hopper saluted Jack as "a player who must go to the majors. He's a big-league ballplayer, a good team hustler, and a real gentleman." Race now meant less to other baseball men. "I'd like to have nine Robinsons," Bruno Betzel, the Jersey City Giants' manager, declared. "If I had one Jackie, I'd room with him myself and put him to bed nights, to make sure nothing happened to him."

"I've had great luck and great treatment," Jack told Newsweek modestly. "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me." By September, when the regular season ended, he had completely vindicated Rickey. Robinson became the first Royal to win the league batting crown; his average of .349 also eclipsed the Royals' team record, set in 1930. Hitting only three home runs, he nevertheless drove in 66 runs; he also scored more runs, 113, than anyone else in the league. His 40 stolen bases put him second only to his teammate Marvin Rackley's record-setting 65. At second base, he ended the season with the highest fielding percentage in the league. With one hundred victories, the highest number in team history, the Royals won the pennant by eighteen and a half games. They also played before the largest crowds at home and away – more than eight hundred thousand people – in the history of the club.

In the playoffs, the Royals won two tough seven-game series, first with the Newark Bears and then with the Syracuse Chiefs. Against Syracuse, in the deciding game, Jack went four-for-five. Then, late in September, the Royals traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, for the Little World Series against the Colonels of the American Association. For many of the Louisville players, officials, and fans, Robinson's presence was the most urgent single consideration; the series brought integrated baseball to Louisville for the first time. The Colonels, who had agreed only reluctantly to his playing, underscored their opposition by sharply limiting the number of seats for blacks, many of whom were left to mill about in confusion outside the park. Some who made it inside probably regretted their luck. "The tension was terrible," Robinson wrote, "and I was greeted with some of the worst vituperation I had yet experienced."

The Montreal press loved him.
The series opened with three games in Louisville, during which Jack slumped, going one for eleven. His failure only fed the rage of many white fans in the cheaper seats. "The worse I played," he recalled, "the more vicious that howling mob in the stands became. I had been booed pretty soundly before, but nothing like this. A torrent of mass hatred burst from the stands with virtually every move I made." As Jack suffered, Montreal dropped two games after taking the first. The abuse was so great that the white Louisville Courier-Journal felt obliged to deplore the "demonstrations of prejudice against Montreal's fine second baseman, the young Negro, Jackie Robinson," as well as the "brusque refusal" of the park to accommodate more black fans.

However, when the series moved to Montreal, the local fans repaid the Colonels. A storm of abuse, unprecedented at a Royals game, descended on the visitors. Down 4-0 at one point in the first home game, the Royals stormed back to win 6-5 in the tenth inning on a single by Robinson. In the fifth game, Jack doubled and, just after Louisville tied the game 3-all, hit a towering triple; then he laid down a bunt in the eighth inning "which really settled the fate of the Colonels," according to the Montreal Daily Star. "This was a really heady play, a beautifully placed hit." With Al Campanis, he also executed superb double plays to kill off Louisville scoring threats. Finally, on October 4, before an ecstatic crowd, the Royals defeated the Colonels once again, 2-0, to win the Little World Series. Robinson, who finished the series batting .400, also scored the last run.

Hustling to leave the ballpark in time to catch a plane, Jack made the mistake of stepping back onto the field before he could shower and change. Deliriously happy Montreal fans snatched him up in celebration. Previously, they had lifted Clay Hopper and a white player to their shoulders. Now, hugging and kissing Robinson, slapping him on the back, they carried him on their shoulders in triumph, singing songs of victory, until he was finally able to break away. Watching, the veteran writer Dink Carroll of the Gazette began to cry: "The tears poured down my cheeks and you choked up looking at it." Inside the locker room, Hopper warmly shook his hand. "You're a great ballplayer and a fine gentleman," he told Jack. "It's been wonderful having you on the team." When Robinson reappeared outside in street clothes, a large part of the crowd was still waiting. "They stormed around him, eager to touch him," the Gazette reported. Knowing exactly what he had accomplished over the season, they sang in tribute, "Il a gagné ses épaulettes"—He has earned his stripes; "they almost ripped the clothes from his back." In the Courier, his friend Sam Maltin wrote memorably of the astonishing scene: "It was probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching on its mind."

10.29.2018

thank you 2018 red sox! #unstoppable

108-54
   3-1
   4-1
   4-1
   119 wins

It was a magical season. Red Sox owner John Henry said it himself: "This is the greatest Red Sox team ever."

In 2007, I dubbed the championship -- and the team -- inevitable. It stuck, and became the theme of our gamethreads. Last night I asked, "If 2007 was inevitable, what was 2018? What's the one word?"

That word was unstoppable.

My #YearOfTheMookie didn't extend to the World Series. In this round, there were so many unlikely heroes. Steve Pearce won the series MVP award, but my money was on David Price. He was brilliant. As was Chris Sale.

And no one was more brilliant than rookie manager Alex Cora, who pushed all the right buttons to creatively manage his mix-and-match pitching staff. Cora's first act as Red Sox manager was to fly relief supplies to Puerto Rico -- "my island," as he calls it. Last night while receiving congratulations, he asked if he could bring the trophy to that island. Millions of people heard him ask, how can they say no?




Thanks to Joy of Sox for the pics. Many more such beautiful (and a few amusing) photos here.

10.27.2018

in which baseball makes me pull an all-nighter: 2018 world series game 3

Last night, the Red Sox and Dodgers, and their fans, survived the longest World Series game in baseball history. Somehow I watched til the end and am still at work today! Joy of Sox (a/k/a Allan) says:
The clock on my desk read 3:30 AM when Max Muncy hit an opposite field home run to left-center in the bottom of the eighteenth inning, giving the Dodgers a 3-2 win over the Red Sox.

This was the longest World Series game of all-time, both by time (7:20) and by innings, smashing the previous record of 14, first set in 1916 when the Red Sox bested the Dodgers. According to a tweet from Stats by STATS, this game lasted 15 minutes longer than the entire 1939 World Series, when the Yankees swept the Reds in four games in a combined 7:05 [Times: 1:33, 1:27, 2:01, 2:04].
I had to work last night, rushing home at 9:15, annoyed that I had already missed 4+ innings. Ha! Allan got home from work at 12:45 a.m. -- catching the last bus of the night -- and was surprised and happy the game was still on. Little did he know there were hours still to play.

I was falling asleep between innings, and often during at-bats. If you stream games the way we do, MLB shows highlight clips -- the same clips, over and over and over -- between innings. And of course some of these clips feature the Red Sox. So I'd have the weirdly disorienting experience of waking up, seeing Jackie Bradley, Jr. make an amazing catch, robbing a player of a home run... only to realize that was a different game.

Perhaps the craziest thing about the night was that I wasn't even heartbroken when the Sox lost, 3-2 in the 18th inning. Both teams blew several scoring chances, and it was only a matter of time before a pitcher gave up a dinger. We took the division series in five games, and the league championship series in five games. Now we'll win the World Series in five games. No problem.

As I crawled into bed, I was sure that I'd call in sick today. But it's Saturday, we're short-staffed, I was out one day last week...so I bit the bullet and limped into work. I'm fine now. Tonight's game, however, may be a different story.

I'm collecting some other thoughts (read: complaints) about MLB, but I'll save them for a future post.

10.19.2018

thank you, 2018 red sox! #yearofthemookie

2018 Red Sox To-Do List

✔  Win the division with unprecedented number of wins.

✔  Beat the Yankees in the ALDS.

✔  Beat the Astros in the ALCS.

__ Win the World Series.

__  Mookie Betts wins American League MVP award.

9.30.2018

thank you, 2018 red sox!


It is the Year of the Mookie.

108 wins. Eight games up. 11 wins to go.

That is all.

8.06.2018

คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019

mlb.tv, roku, and appletv: why is this so difficult?

If you're an app developer for MLB, or if you're with Roku or AppleTV, skip down to the final paragraphs!

Because Allan and I follow an out-of-town baseball team, we subscribe to MLB.TV, and have done so for ages. As much as I dislike pay-per-TV services, being able to watch any baseball game at any time, with either the home or away feed, is amazing.

Once we were able to do this by streaming, as opposed to through cable, the price went down and the quality went up. I've blogged many times about the wonder of the Roku streaming device, and how it solved so many issues for watching baseball, TV series, and movies.

Last year, I learned that the Canadian streaming service CraveTV offers lots of Showtime and HBO content. Thanks to exclusive licensing deals, Crave is not available on Roku; it only streams on AppleTV. (You can watch on a computer or mobile device, but we don't like that.) So in order to get the additional Showtime and HBO content, we bought an AppleTV device.

Lo and behold, AppleTV is now way better than Roku! When Roku first came out, it was widely agreed that it was the best streaming device on the market. Now fourth-generation AppleTV blows Roku away. The streaming quality is much better, the interface is easier, and it offers more premium content.

Here's where baseball comes in. MLB.TV on Roku lets users choose separate video and audio feeds. For many reasons, I prefer the NESN (Red Sox) TV feed with audio from the local Red Sox radio on WEEI. Roku lets you do this, and it syncs. (In the olden days, I would watch baseball on TV with the sound on mute, and keep the game on the radio. This was my preferred way to enjoy baseball, but the audio and video were completely out of sync.) So Roku did away with all that, and we've been in baseball heaven.

But now, with the 2018 season, the Roku MLB app is a total shambles. It stutters, freezes, and crashes constantly. We could barely make it through a half-inning without frustrating stops, starts, and reboots. And the definition is awful. It's like we're streaming some analog feed with a dial-up modem.

On AppleTV, MLB streams beautifully and in good-quality hi-def. However, the MLB app on AppleTV does not let you choose separate video and audio feeds. We can watch NESN with the NESN announcers, or listen to WEEI with no video at all, but we can't mix-and-match feeds.

Roku: Please fix your MLB.TV app!

AppleTV: Please get your MLB.TV app to have this capability!

MLB.TV: Please get your developers on this!

10.05.2017

alds begins today

This Red Sox team has been driving me crazy, seesawing between amazing and horrendous. I don't have a lot of optimism right now, especially after our dismal showing against Houston ... the team we meet in the first round of playoffs.


Dear Red Sox,

Please be amazing.

Love always,

A fan with no expectations

10.15.2016

it is designed to break your heart

In between my infrequent posts, the Red Sox's postseason came and went. As Basil Fawlty says, blink and you missed it.

It was a strange baseball season for Sox fans. In late June, it looked like another lost cause, and I drifted away, preferring binge-watching on Netflix to sitting through loss after loss. Then suddenly it all looked so possible. Boston got hot, Baltimore faded away. Forget about the wild card, we wrapped up the division with a tidy four-game margin.

Then October comes, and the September Red Sox are nowhere to be found, the team back to its anemic June version. sigh

The Sox's oh-for-three showing in the American League Division Series had me thinking a lot about the particular joys and heartbreaks of the game itself.

Game 2 was a blow-out. Boston didn't show up, and there wasn't much suspense.

But Games 1 and 3 were both close, and in baseball close games mean suspense, frustration, and missed opportunities. Game 3 was especially suspenseful, since it was an elimination game, win or go home. The suspense, the missed opportunities -- every runner left on base, every scorched line-drive into a Cleveland glove -- got me thinking.

Baseball is full of quiet space. The reason some people find it slow and boring is the same reason fans find it exciting. (Also the reason many serious fans despise the constant noise and fake entertainment at the ballpark.) Those built-in quiet spaces frame the game into a series of distinct moments. Action-pause, action-pause, action-pause. And each of those moments holds the potential for joy -- and its opposite.

Depending on the situation, that potential could be perfectly ordinary, or unbearably suspenseful. Will the pitcher preserve the no-hitter? Will that soaring ball clear the fence? Will the runner make it to the plate before the tag? Each time the pitcher goes into his wind-up, each time the batter takes his stance -- we wait -- we wait -- in our mind's eye, we see what we want to happen, imagining it as if we could will it to happen -- comeon-comeon-comeon -- knowing we have been in this position countless times before, the memories of every crazy, impossible, joyous comeback gathering in our minds -- until we feel ready to explode with joy, and then -- celebration or frustration. We cheer. Or more likely, We sigh. We curse. We groan. The whole ballpark lets loose a collective groan, and the millions of fans watching at home groan with them.

And then the whole thing begins again.

No other sport that I know of contains this kind of constant tension and suspense. The sports with more action -- soccer, basketball, hockey -- don't allow for it. The ball or the puck is moving too quickly. The moments of tension and suspense may be numerous, but they are fleeting. In baseball, where the action appears to stop, is the peak of tension, where we hold our collective breath.

And of course the action only appears to stop, to the untrained eye. That's another thing about baseball: the individual contests being fought nearly constantly within the team sport.

Other sports have defense guarding offense, and there's the lone hockey goalie versus everyone. These are in some sense individual-within-team. But pitcher versus batter is a game onto itself. The pitcher's arsenal, the count, the number of outs, the number of runners on base and which bases, the batter's strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies, the lineup, the defensive shifts -- all this and more is happening with every pitch. Not nothing is happening -- everything is happening.

So there we are, ALDS Game 3. Bottom of the sixth, Red Sox down 4-1. Runners on second and third, and only one out! Tying run at the plate! David Ortiz! Storybook ending? Comeon-comeon-comeon... No.

Bottom eight. Runners on first and second, two out, Xander Bogaerts smacks a bullet... right into a glove.

We're still breathing, not dead yet, but first our pitchers have to hold the score, each pitch an agony of suspense as we collectively will the Cleveland batters to do nothing. Finally three outs, we breathe, allow ourselves a millisecond to relax, then here we go again, our season in the balance, David Ortiz's final season in the balance.

Bottom nine, two on, two outs, here comes our storybook ending, we just know it, another chapter in the book called David Ortiz Greatest Clutch Hitter Ever -- comeon-comeon-comeon -- and our season ends.

Every at-bat, the potential for celebration or disappointment, for joy or heartbreak.

A much better writer said it best.
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 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. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.

thank you, david ortiz!



















Thank you and goodbye.

10.02.2016

thank you, vin scully!

The Red Sox are cruising into the postseason, something I didn't think I'd see during the dog days of summer. Our beloved Big Papi is saying goodbye with a chart-topping season, fans all over the country enjoying a glut of Ortizmania.

But truly, the most momentous baseball story this season is the farewell of Dodgers announcer Vin Scully. The man has been calling Dodgers' games -- solo -- for 67 seasons. And throughout, he's been setting a standard for excellence that no one else approaches.

The Dodgers are my nominal "other team," but my love and appreciation of Scully has little to do with the Dodgers. I love baseball on the radio. As far as I'm concerned, it's the only thing radio is good for, but it's a perfect match.

When I watch baseball on TV, I like to get the audio from the radio broadcast, and I've done that for as long as I can remember. My truly favourite radio baseball scenario is driving with Allan, preferably on a baseball road trip, but any road trip will do, turning the radio dial until I find a baseball game, and listening to the game as the scenery rolls by. That's a little slice of heaven.

Baseball is made for radio, and baseball radio was made for Scully. Or maybe Scully made baseball radio. Maybe his relaxed, conversational style, the depth and breadth of his knowledge, and his respectful attitude -- never mean-spirited, never fawning, made the perfect marriage of sport and medium endure for all these years.

Today, the final day of the 2016 season, all games start at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. I'm going to watch the Dodgers-Giants live, then watch David Ortiz's final regular season game on delay. Two men who have helped make the game great.

The LA Times with some thoughts on today's game.
It will be a very pleasant good afternoon, and a wonderfully fitting one too: Vin Scully, calling his final game, with the playoffs on the line for his boyhood team.

After Scully delighted us with a career for the ages, the baseball gods have rewarded him with a finale for the ages. Some voices go hoarse without ever calling a clincher. In the final four games of his career, Scully could call two.

In his farewell game at Dodger Stadium, Scully called the game in which the Dodgers, his employers of 67 years, clinched the National League West.

On Sunday, his last day behind the microphone, Scully will call the game in which the San Francisco Giants could clinch a wild-card spot — 80 years to the day after he says he walked past a laundry, saw the score of a World Series game in which the New York Giants had gotten pummeled, and declared his allegiance for the Giants.
Here's an excerpt from "A guide to appreciating Vin Scully if you weren’t there to appreciate him the whole time," by Grant Brisbee.
Baseball on the radio sticks around as a kind of anachronism as the rest of the world shifts to television for its news and entertainment, and it sticks around long after the quality of televised baseball improves. Not only is it the format that you can sneak up to your room, follow at work, and bring to the beach with you, but the pace of the game fits it perfectly.

Baseball is action and inaction, with the gaps giving us time to breathe, time to contemplate the next move. It’s sort of a cliché to compare baseball to chess, but ... c’mon, the fastball’s the rook, the curveball’s the bishop, the slider’s the knight ... here, let me draw you a diagram. As the catcher and pitcher are figuring this all out, the hitter is going through the permutations in his head, too. Runners are leading. The crowd is roaring. Everyone crouches down and waits for the next active moment. There’s tension. Oh, how there’s tension.

And there’s a voice describing it all. When you’re following the radio, you get one sense to work with, and then you have to fill the rest in on your own. That means your imagination has to do at least a quarter of the work, and sometimes it sighs and complains, but it’s OK because you’re your imagination’s biggest fan. It was designed just for you, you know.

Scully was that voice for everyone, echoing through the garage while you were under a car, in the car as you were going for a drive, at the mechanic’s because you had no business being under the car in the first place. When you’re young, old, in-between, with an old friend, remembering an old friend, everywhere.

When television took over, Scully spent more and more time on the medium, for different sports and different audiences. But the foundation of the affection felt for him, the necessity of him, was built on the stream of consciousness coming over the radio. It was perfect for him. Baseball was perfect for the radio. He was perfect for baseball. The feedback loop got stronger with each decade.

* * *

It helps that Scully is the best, of course, a master storyteller with a photographic memory and appreciation for tangents. It helps that his voice is unquestionably the archetype of what a sports broadcaster’s voice should be — calm, sonorous, with enough range to let you know when the really important stuff is happening. It helps that he knows he’s there in service of the game, not the other way around, which means there are times when it’s better to shut up and let the crowd call the game for a little bit.

It’s possible that Scully holds the highest possible approval rating for anyone who’s done any job in the history of the world. ...

Everyone else loves him. Probably because he’s the best.
Plus: Love letters to Vin Scully from some of his legion of fans.

10.03.2014

amazing but true: mlb does the right thing and increases fans' access to the postseason

The biggest surprise of the 2014 baseball postseason isn't the absence of both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. It isn't the Kansas City Royals, playing baseball in October for the first time since 1985.

The biggest surprise of the 2014 postseason is Major League Baseball's decision to put fans ahead of corporate contracts.

After years of ensuring that baseball fans could only watch the playoffs and World Series if they subscribed to certain television providers, MLB has finally reversed course. The 2014 postseason is available to MLBTV subscribers through a variety of providers and devices.

A few days ago, I wrote a long, ranting post (available below!) about how MLB always puts corporate television contracts ahead of fans. When I started collecting links to complete the post, I was amazed to learn that MLB's policies had changed.

I don't know if MLB was forced to do this in court, or if some smart young executive finally got them to understand that increasing numbers of fans will never access baseball through cable TV, because they watch games on their mobile devices, and if games are not available on those devices, those fans will simply choose another form of entertainment. Or perhaps there was some other scenario.

Whatever happened, it benefits fans. For a few dollars on top of a regular MLB.TV subscription, almost the entire postseason is available. A few National League playoff games aren't included yet, but I suspect that's only a matter of time.

There are still many problems with MLB's pay-per system, but this is a huge step in the right direction. And it's a huge boon to us personally, as we watch baseball via streaming only. I have one complaint, and it's a big one.

WHY DIDN'T THEY DO THIS LAST YEAR????!!!!

The Red Sox won the World Series in 2013 and we missed huge swathes of the postseason, while we dealt with tech frustration, outages, and maddening buffering. Wait til next year, indeed. Bring on 2015!

Here's the post I wrote but didn't post.

* * * * *

mlb puts corporate contracts ahead of fans, now and always

Several years ago, we improved our leisure time options considerably when we got rid of cable TV and went to streaming only. We changed our internet provider from Rogers to Teksavvy, paying less money for unlimited bandwidth (rather than more money for capped useage), and bought a Roku streaming device. I've been thrilled with the results.

We used to pay a lot of money for cable TV and we used it almost exclusively for baseball. Plus we spent even more money to also access games online through MLBTV. Through Roku, we were able to eliminate that duplication and lose an entire monthly bill. Add Netflix streaming through Roku and we were all set.

Except for one very important thing: the baseball postseason.

Postseason games (playoffs plus the World Series) are not available through MLBTV.com. This is not new. In fact, fans are so accustomed to it that many or most don't question it, accepting a ridiculous situation as completely normal. Why aren't postseason games available through a subscription to MLB.com? Because MLB has exclusive contracts with TV providers, to ensure that all fans who want to see postseason games can only do so through those providers. For us that would mean getting cable TV through Rogers, in order to have a Fox affiliate station. In the US, it might mean having DirectTV or some other pay-TV service.

In other words, loyal baseball fans like us who spend money all season to watch every game cannot watch the postseason unless they get cable TV. Major League Baseball generates enormous revenue through these TV contracts, so it allows TV to control access. Fans don't figure into the equation. We are nothing.

I am perfectly aware that this is not a new situation. I did not wake up this morning and suddenly realize that MLB was screwing its fans. I am writing about it because I think many fans have stopped seeing this: it has become an invisible and accepted fact of life. We don't complain to MLB because we feel powerless to change the situation, even though we are the consumers of the product, the end user that baseball needs - in great numbers - to survive.

When MLB players went on strike in 1994, there was a lot of talk about fans leaving the sport. Much was said and written about supposed greedy and selfish players, and occasionally you'd see a mention greedy owners, too. Supposedly there was a dip in attendance as fans turned away. In fact, the sport's steroid-induced offensive surge was encouraged by MLB because it revived interest in baseball.

The 1994-95 strike was in response to team owners having imposed a salary cap. No corresponding cap existed - or will ever exist - on team profits. And the so-called luxury tax, through which teams pay penalties on burgeoning payrolls, does nothing to equalize payrolls among the teams. If the Red Sox or Yankees pay a payroll penalty to the owner of the Twins, nothing compels the Twins to spend that windfall on improving the team.

However, the Major League Baseball Players' Association, i.e. the players' union, refusal to accept a salary cap is usually characterized as greedy, while MLB allowing TV providers to control access, thereby screwing over fans who don't or can't pay for that access, is accepted as normal.

There are some tech fixes and workarounds through which locked-out fans can try to access postseason games. But for true fans, who really want to watch the game, these fixes are very poor substitutes. In 2013, the Red Sox were in the postseason for the first time since we changed to streaming and Roku. We used various tricks and workarounds on our computers, but it was a frustrating and unsatisfying experience. Nothing worked really well. Suggestions from friends - "Why don't you go to a bar?" - were unrealistic. I watch somewhere between 20 and 30 postseason games. A baseball game is around three hours long. I have neither the desire, the energy, nor the money to spend that much time in a bar. Watching the occasional game in a pub is fine for a casual fan, but I'm not setting up shop in a pub for the month of October.

This year, with the Red Sox's abysmal 2014 performance, the postseason isn't as urgent as it might be, but it has the potential to be an exciting postseason in many ways, and I want to watch it. I'm willing to pay extra for access to all the playoff and World Series games. I think that's wrong - I don't think fans should have to pay extra for that! - but I'm willing to do it. But I can't, unless I get cable TV. Because MLB cares more about its TV contracts than its fans. And that sucks.

9.29.2014

keith olbermann: derek jeter is not god. (a must-see!)

Dog, I am a glad this baseball season is over. And not only because the Red Sox finished in last place.


8.06.2014

babe ruth was not a fat red sox: thoughts on historical fiction arising from dennis lehane's "the given day"

I recently read The Given Day, Dennis Lehane's novel about 1919 Boston, especially the Boston police strike, and the widescale rioting that followed.

The book is an engaging hybrid of historical fiction and noir crime thriller. It deals with labour history, racial bigotry in both Jim Crow states and Boston, radical political organizing, and the United States during World War I and on the eve of Prohibition. It's also full of great characters, plot twists, and suspense. If you enjoy historical fiction, I do recommend this book. However, I'm writing about it to highlight something that bothered me, and to try to analyze why.

The Given Day came to my attention through happy circumstance: the author used my partner's book Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox in his research. We were very excited to see Allan's name in the acknowledgments! (And because authors are listed alphabetically, Allan's name is listed right beside Howard Zinn's. Nice!)

I edited 1918, so I happen to know a lot about baseball in 1918, and especially about the young Babe Ruth, in his pre-Yankees days. That's why, when I began The Given Day, I was startled to read Babe Ruth described as fat.

When Babe Ruth played for the Red Sox, he was not fat. The Babe Ruth that is most known to the general public sported a beer belly and thin, scrawny legs. But the Babe Ruth who wore a Boston uniform, and held the record for consecutive scoreless World Series innings pitched, looked like this:


He was tall, slim, and in strapping good form. When he swung a bat, he looked like this:


In the time that The Given Day is set, the overweight Babe Ruth is years in the future.

I was so troubled by this error, that I almost put down the book. But I continued reading, and ended up enjoying it. Then, at the end of the novel, Lehane makes another error, again related to Babe Ruth, this one an often-repeated mistake: he writes that Ruth was traded to the Yankees. Red Sox owner Harry Frazee didn't trade Ruth to the New York Yankees. He sold his contract. In a trade, Ruth would have gone to the Yankees and Yankees players would have gone to the Red Sox. But Babe Ruth went to the Yankees in exchange for $125,000. That's not a trade. It's a sale. Again, I was so disappointed to see this.

Why do these minor details bother me so much?

In historical fiction, fictional characters come into contact with actual historical events, crossing paths with people who really lived. Through the fictional characters, the reader gets the ground-level view, the emotions, the human factor. And through the historical events, the reader gets the larger picture, the context, the backdrop.

When we read historical fiction, we expect certain indisputable facts to be portrayed accurately. How the Red Sox fared in 1918 and when the Volstead Act (Prohibition) took effect, for example, are indisputable facts. Even in fiction, those should be accurate. Indeed, the conventions of historical fiction demand that they are.

Similarly, we rely on the fictional portions of a historical novel to be plausible. In The Given Day, when the fictional character of Luther Lawrence, an African-American man, interacts with a white gas station owner in Oklahoma and with a corrupt member of the all-white Boston Police Department, those interactions must reflect the attitudes and conventions of 1919.

As readers, we rely on the author's research and retelling of historical events to be accurate, and we rely on the fictional portions of the book to be plausible relative to the time setting. We shouldn't see characters turning on the TV (or the radio) to get the latest Red Sox scores. We shouldn't see African-Americans hanging out in Boston Irish saloons. And we shouldn't see a fat Babe Ruth.

When I read Babe Ruth in 1918 described as fat, I thought, if Lehane has gotten this wrong, what else has he gotten wrong? Can I rely on the history in this historical fiction to be accurate?

I wanted to give the author the benefit of the doubt. Was there a reason he would describe Ruth as overweight? While Lehane was researching, he must have looked at photos of all his historical characters. It would have been easy to see that Babe Ruth, in 1918, was not fat. So was this a plot element, perhaps, or a device? As far as I could tell, it was merely description. That made me wonder why Lehane wouldn't purposely describe Babe's powerful, trim physique, since that may very well be different from what the reader expects, and could add a touch of interest.

The second error, at the end, is annoying, but less troubling to me. Perhaps some people describe any transaction where a team owner adds or subtracts a player as a trade. I don't know why people would do this, but perhaps they do. Perhaps in this instance, "trade" is used in some kind of generic sense. (If he was traded, who was he traded for? Who did the Red Sox get in return for Babe Ruth? The answer is no one: the owner received cash. Thus it was a not a trade.)

Other than The Given Day, I have no knowledge of the Boston police strike or the riots. I have no independent knowledge against which to truth-test the events recounted in Lehane's novel. Like most readers, I'm counting on Lehane to present the facts. I believe it's his obligation to do so, and what's more, I believe that Lehane sees it as his obligation, too. In the portion of the book with 1918 Ruth, all the other details are accurate, a heap of little facts gleaned from historical accounts: Ruth punching hats on the train, Ruth having left the team to play in Chester, Pennsylvania, his expensive gift from Harry Frazee, and so on. Why weave together all these actual events, but describe Ruth the way he looked 20 years later?

Everyone makes mistakes, for sure. It's not that I think Lehane made some kind of unforgivable breach or that this error ruins his very fine book. But once I saw that error, it was difficult to trust the rest.

4.30.2014

josh lueke is a rapist and why we should continue to say so

Stacey May Fowles has written an incisive, biting, and definitive piece about shaming men who rape. I can scarcely quote from it (although I will), because every word is not only necessary but perfect. Please join me in reading this stellar essay, and in cheering for Fowles and every survivor of sexual assault, and in calling out every Josh Lueke we can find.

May I add, too, that this essay explains exactly why I will never stop saying animal torturer and dog murderer every time I hear or read the name Michael Vick. A blog reader recently told me I should give it up because Vick has "done his time" and "expressed regret". To which I politely say: fuck that.

Stacy May Fowles, "Josh Lueke Is A Rapist, You Say? Keep Saying It.":
I know that a lot of us are well aware of what kind of person Josh Lueke is, and that rape is a very bad thing. We don't need reminders to be secure in that knowledge, nor is it likely we'll forget. But with all due respect to Mr. Hahmann and his ilk, the onslaught of tweets calling Josh Lueke a rapist is not for you. It's for the thousands of rape survivors who watch games and know that what they love is sullied by baseball's willingness to turn a blind eye to the kind of suffering they themselves endured. It's a gesture on the part of fans who know it's unlikely Lueke will ever see his career end as a result of those actions, but refuse to tolerate his inclusion, who believe that, while a team may opportunistically decide to field a talented player who has committed an act of sexual violence, it shouldn't be immune from the disgust of the public.

That disgust is healthy, too; it reinforces the taboo and militates against the impulse of big-time sports to normalize and flatten out even abhorrent behavior like Lueke's. (Josh Lueke is "moving forward" from his difficult "situation," says MLB.com, as if he'd done nothing more serious than strain an oblique. Five years from now, he could very well be just another ballplayer with a vaguely checkered past. Was it some legal thing? Drugs, maybe? Who can remember, anyway?) Saying something out loud is a small token that takes very little effort, and perhaps it doesn't "do anything" in the traditional sense, but for someone like me who understands what it's like to be violated and to watch the man who altered my life forever live on in relative, undisturbed success, it certainly means something. In many ways, the gesture means even more within the confines of sports culture, a place that is generally ruled by the most toxic kind of masculinity.

Apologies to those for whom these Josh Lueke tweets interfere with their enjoyment of a game, but the threat of sexual assault interferes with how a vast majority of women enjoy life.

4.13.2014

military propaganda at sports events reaches new extremes: continuous recruitment ads at baseball games

I've recently returned from a lovely trip to Boston, filled with so many of my favourite things: friends, family, books, and baseball.

I love Fenway Park, and I'm always happy to be there. On this trip, we saw three great games, two of them wins, so I was thrilled. The games were marred by only one thing: nearly constant propaganda for the US military. This is not an exaggeration.

Throughout Fenway Park, as in many sports venues, monitors show a TV feed of the action on the field. Right now, between innings, the Fenway Park monitors show a continuous feed of advertising for the United States Army. During the game, the ads continue on a sidebar beside the action.

Let that sink in a moment. The constant advertising crammed into every moment of the ballgame, and the constant linking of sports and the military, are now joined in this doubly offensive development.

There is something particularly Orwellian about watching a baseball game while a constant stream of silent images of war and military run in your peripheral vision.

I gathered from the brief branding displays that the ad feed is supplied by Access Sports Media. According to its website, Access Sports Media
provides advertisers cross-platform solutions engaging passionate fans in sports venues nationwide through digital out of home, social media, mobile, and in-venue sponsorships. Access Sports reaches more than 110 million viewers annually through a national footprint of 200 sports properties and a digital network of over 20,000 screens across professional, minor league and college sports.
Its list of clients includes many major corporations, a few specific products, and - listed first - the US Army.

The Army ads themselves stem from a campaign written about here in The New York Times, called a "reality" theme without a trace of irony. Of course, it bears little resemblance to reality. There are no bombings, no destroyed villages, no torture prisons. No amputations, no traumatic brain injury, no alcoholism, no domestic violence, no suicides.

The ads are built around the slogan "Army Strong": "There's strong, then there's Army Strong". This is a particularly good sell for a Boston-area audience: after the Boston Marathon bombing, the city rallied to a cry of "Boston Strong". The Times article notes that the ads are
an example of what is known on Madison Avenue as a program-length commercial or infomercial. Once the province of gadgets peddled with hard-sales entreaties like, “But wait, there’s more,” such longer spiels have been embraced by well-known brands like AT&T, Bing, Chase and Teleflora, along with a number of automakers.

Program-length commercials are becoming more popular as part of a trend known as content marketing, sponsored content or branded entertainment. The trend is meant to counter the growing habit — particularly among younger consumers, like the target audience for the Army, ages 18 to 24 — of ignoring traditional forms of advertising.
The "Army Strong" ads at Fenway are a barrage of quick-cut images emphasizing camaraderie and bonding, toughness and strength, dirt and grit, and stirring patriotism. Men (I saw no female soldiers in the ads, although there might be one somewhere) worked hard and played hard, always together, often dirty, but always serious and strong. In a world where career choices often involve life behind a desk or tethered to a computer, the men in these ads were running across rugby fields, rappelling down snow-covered mountainsides, parachuting out of airplanes, and using lots of exciting-looking equipment.

Only two quick images gave any hint as to why so many men are running, rappelling, shooting, and seeing the world through night-vision goggles. In one image, a woman in a hijab slides a slip of paper in a ballot box. In another, a group of soldiers sit in a circle in a tent, listening to a traditionally-dressed Afghan man (or, I should say, an actor dressed as one). What's the caption here? "How many weddings did we bomb today?" "You take the oil, we'll keep the heroin"? Or maybe just "Me smokem peace pipe."

As both Allan and I have written about before (here, here, and here, for example), there is already a huge amount of military propaganda inappropriately linked to sports events. The Boston Red Sox and the many other teams that contract with Access Sports Media - a list is here - now take the trend to new extremes.

I wrote this to the Boston Red Sox. If you are a sports fan who finds this advertising offensive, I hope you will speak up to your team's management, too.
I am a Red Sox fan who lives out of town. I am able to enjoy games at Fenway about every-other year, at best. I love Fenway Park, and thus, when I attended three games against the Texas Rangers last week, I was extremely disheartened to be subjected to continuous military recruitment advertisements.

Many young people, especially those from low-income families, believe what they see in the United States Army's ads and enlist, only to find the reality gravely different. Of course, who would ever sign up if the ads showed the truth? Amputations, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder; rampant alcoholism and domestic violence, skyrocketing suicide rates.

By partnering with Access Sports Media to show these deceptive ads at Fenway Park, the Red Sox are complicit in that deception.

The Red Sox Foundation promotes the "Run to Home Base," which raises money to "provide much needed services to local veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan... with combat stress disorders and/or traumatic brain injuries". At the same time, the Red Sox are helping to ensure that more healthy young men and women will eventually need those services.

The constant showing of military propaganda during a baseball game is inappropriate and offensive. I hope the Boston Red Sox will reconsider the decision to run Access Sports Media's US Army recruitment ads during games.

12.25.2013

wmtc winter break goes low-tech

Every year I seem to break the holiest commandment of the holiday season: I'm not busy. I always hear how "everyone is so busy this time of year" and "this is such a crazy time of year, you can't get anything done," but that never reflects my experience.

We don't travel to see family, we have no extra social events, and we don't do Christmas shopping. Many years ago, we used to send a huge pile of winter-holiday cards, but we've gone digital with that, and we don't do it every year.

So Christmas is an extra day off, and here in the Commonwealth, we have Boxing Day, too. Two days off with nothing to do and no obligations. A strange scheduling glitch at the library gave me four days off in a row, which I am thoroughly enjoying. I'm reading, doing things around the house, and we're taking that final move-in step that never got done: hanging pictures.

And one more thing! Here's something else I'm doing with my un-Christmas winter holiday.


A few years ago, a Joy of Sox friend was cleaning out closets, and asked if anyone wanted some Sox-related jigsaw puzzles. I used to love puzzles, and hadn't done any since my days as a nanny in the mid-1980s. She sent them to me, but in our old house (pre-flood), we didn't have a spare table and didn't have the space. Where we live now, we have plenty of room to set up a card table, and my winter break gives me the perfect excuse.

The puzzle pictured above ended up like this.


After a brief period of admiration, this took its place.


So far it looks like this. The challenge of field and sky remains!


I find jigsaw puzzles very relaxing, and so addictive! When I was growing up, we often had a puzzle laid out on the dining room table. We would work on it together, or anyone who walked by would try to get a few pieces in. When I said this in a Joy of Sox gamethread, many people had similar memories.

Making these puzzles is also great for listening to music, for which I never have enough time. The little table I'm working on is beside our huge collection of LPs. Jigsaw puzzle plus vinyl, how low-tech can you go?

10.31.2013

thank you, 2013 red sox! thank you, david ortiz!


This was a magical season, and the most exciting postseason I've seen in a very long time.

David Ortiz - the only man to play on the 2004, 2007, and 2013 Red Sox teams - will be a hero to the city of Boston and to every Red Sox fan forever and ever, amen. A big man with a huge bat, an enormous heart, and more brains than he gets credit for.

In the world of my personal fandom, sometime during the middle of the summer, between the foot and the flood and the move and the new job, I lost touch with the season. Or, more accurately, I began following the season the way most people do, rather than as an obsessive fan who never misses a game.

Suddenly, in mid-August, I saw the writing on the wall: this team was going all the way. Rarely do you see a baseball team with no weaknesses, and the 2013 Red Sox had it all. After the shock of the 2011 collapse and the abysmal 2012 season, the 2013 team was headed to its third World Series win in ten years.

It was time to climb back onboard and reboot my obsession. I glued myself to the Red Sox and they rewarded me with a September and October I will never forget.

Thank you, 2013 Red Sox! Thank you, David Ortiz!

10.30.2013

in which i survive three days without internet, or how rogers (maybe) punishes former customers

Sometime late on Thursday night into Friday morning, our internet went down. This is the worst possible time for such an event, as internet is our lifeline to baseball, and the Boston Red Sox are on their way (I hope) (I believe) to winning the World Series.

From the sound of things, there were problems at some major internet hubs in the area, with massive outages affecting parts of Mississauga, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton, and so on.

What was the problem? When could we expect service to resume? TekSavvy wasn't able to tell me... because Rogers wouldn't tell them.

I have been Rogers-free since March of 2012, and I have been extremely pleased with TekSavvy. TekSavvy's customer service is excellent, their tech support is excellent and local, and they deliver more internet for less money. I pay about 30% less for unlimited service at a higher speed; that is, I paid Rogers 30% more for capped usage at a slower speed.

The only sticking point is that TekSavvy is a re-seller. They contract with Rogers and other cable and DSL providers to use networks and technicians. And Rogers doesn't make it easy. During this recent (and unusual) outage, TekSavvy said "the vendor" (i.e. Rogers) was giving them no information on what was happening or when the issue might be resolved.

When I woke up to no internet on Friday morning, I told myself, there was no game that day, and we had until 8:00 on Saturday. It seemed highly unlikely that we'd be without internet for that long.

On Saturday morning, we still didn't have internet, and I was getting worried. Our Halloween program at the library kept my mind off waiting, and when I came home on Saturday, I rushed to the computer. Still nothing.

By Saturday evening, hours before the start of World Series Game 3, I was a bit panicked. I have a smartphone, so I could see my email. Our home phone is VoIP, but I can live without a home phone for a while. But... baseball!!

Saturday at 8:00, and still nothing. A friend who is a Red Sox diehard texted me play-by-play of the game! (My hero!)

Sunday morning, still nothing. TekSavvy still has no word from Rogers.

Sometime during the day, we realized that the sports radio station in Toronto would probably be carrying the national World Series broadcast. I'm so accustomed to thinking of radio on the internet - that's how I listen to the local Red Sox announcers - that I had forgotten about regular, non-internet radio. The Toronto station probably didn't broadcast all the playoffs, but the World Series would be on for sure. And it was. I happen to love baseball on the radio, so I was happy and relieved.

And Sunday night, while listening to the game, I absentmindedly turned on the TV and saw that the Roku streaming device had a connection. We came back online late Sunday night, about 72 hours after losing access.

So, does Rogers screw with TekSavvy and TekSavvy customers?

On one end of the spectrum we have total innocence and coincidence: Rogers had a huge outage, and although TekSavvy was not kept informed, TekSavvy customers were in no worse shape than Rogers customers. On the other end we have total conspiracy: Rogers targets TekSavvy, making TekSavvy customers unhappy with their second-rate, discount service, and more likely to switch (or switch back) to Rogers.

In the middle, we have a gray area where the outage affects everyone, but Rogers conveniently puts TekSavvy at the bottom of its to-do list, and makes sure it gets to everyone and everything else first.

Here's a possible precedent. About 12 years ago, my phone service was "คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019slammed" - that's when a telco illegally switches your phone service without your permission. After the surreptitious switch, they either charge you exorbitant amounts for calls, or charge you a termination fee to leave. Or, if you don't look closely at your phone bill, you just pay them and continue doing so. My service was switched to an AT&T affiliate. The AT&T customer service representative assured me that it must have been an accident, because a reputable company like AT&T had no interest in stealing anyone's business.

After my service was switched back, I reported the slam to the FCC. The FCC rep told me that AT&T was the number one slammer: it slams thousands upon thousands of customers every year.

You can draw your own conclusions about Rogers.



10.20.2013

red sox. american league pennant. happy.

The 2013 Boston Red Sox have won the American League Pennant, and the right to play the St. Louis Cardinals in the 110th 109th* Major League Baseball World Series.

This makes me incredibly happy.

1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007... 2013? Seven wins down, four to go.

That is all.


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* Oops, forgot about the strike year.