Baseball Quote of the Day

“In baseball, you can’t kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why this is the greatest game.”

Earl Weaver

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Old Hoss Tells Us We Are #1

Rad was more than a tremendous pitcher. He was a pioneer. Here is a quick tip of the cap to, and acceptance of, the bird flipped our way by the legendary gent who’s namesake was the inspiration for this blog. Here is the man in all his glory, Old Hoss Radbourn in a Boston team photo on Opening Day, 1886, giving the finger to the cameraman. This is the first known photo to showcase the gesture. Way to go ‘Ol Hoss!

Old Hoss Radbourn, back row, far left, flipping the bird. The first known photo to show the gesture.

Connecting the Final Cubs’ Dots

All good things come to an end. Except in this case…

One good (or bad, depending on your preference) thing will be ending soon. As the offseason winds down, so does the once-enormous number of quality free agents available, as well as some long-rumored trade deals that are on the hook for the Cubs.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs
Jorge Soler

It’s been a weakly kept secret that the Cubs are looking for another arm in the rotation, while several teams are interested in one of the Cubs’ hot young bats. Many have been the times where IF Javy Baez and/or OF Jorge Soler have been mentioned in potential deals with teams, notably Cleveland and Tampa Bay, both of whom are in love with the young player(s). Among those free agents still available, is CF Dexter Fowler. There is one scenario where resigning Fowler, who initially rejected the Cubs’ qualifying offer in November, would make perfect sense.

Cleveland has been highly interested in Soler for some time, and a deal involving P Carlos Carrasco would be a nice fit. Should the Cubs trade Jorge Soler, the very next move would ideally be to sign Fowler, or vice versa. It’s a simple matter of connecting the dots. With Soler out of RF, the Cubs can move newly acquired Jason Heyward over to right, his natural position, and have Fowler patrol center. In addition, this would effectively load the Cubs lineup (even more than it already is), for with Fowler you have a table setter who scores runs and also has some added power.

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Carlos Carrasco

Other potential suitors for Soler include Tampa Bay, who have been in pretty regular talks of late, for a deal for P Jake Odorizzi. Should the Cubs not want to move Soler or Baez, there are plenty of big prospect bats available that would be attractive for any number of teams.

jake-odorizzi
Jake Odorizzi

In all, these are good problems to have. I for one, believe the Soler-Heyward-Fowler carousel, as long as they’re adding a strong SP in the process, would be the best scenario for the Cubs.

But then, how often do we get to have our cake and eat it too?

Shoeless Joe vs. Field of Dreams

I’ve long maintained that Field of Dreams is not a baseball movie.

It’s really not. It is at it’s core, a story about an Iowa farmer named Ray Kinsella who is long racked by guilt wishing to reconcile his relationship with his deceased father, John, by way of their one mutual love, baseball, as the backdrop. The wonderful novel from which the film is based – Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, tells a noticeably richer story and like most book to film adaptations, the written version is different than the visual. The changes from book to film, due largely for pacing & budget’s sake, spin a wider and thicker web with many signficant differences. At the risk of sounding overly theoretical and metaphysical, let’s examine the main changes between the novel and film. Which is better – the book or the movie, you ask? Well, that’s entirely up to you. However, if you have not read the book, stop reading now if you wish to avoid spoilers…

Several important characters were in the book but not the film. Most crucially:

Eddie Scissons: An oldtimer who originally owned Ray’s farm. He also claims some fame as the oldest living Chicago Cub (or is he?)

Richard Kinsella: Ray’s identical twin brother. He has a girlfriend named Gypsy and whether by design or by intent, he cannot see the field or the players…

Abner Bluestein: Real estate business partner of Ray’s skeptical brother-in-law Mark.

JD Salinger: The book’s version of Terrence Mann. In real life Salinger threatened to sue if his personage was used in the film, so the fictional character of Mann, brilliantly played by James Earl Jones, was created.

Other important book to film differences:

  • In the book, “the voice” that Ray heard was not a whisper. It was in the form of an old-style PA announcer. (Think Tex Rickards and you’ll get the idea.) This type of voice really puts a spooky charge into the creation of Ray’s leap of faith endeavor.
  • Ray only built one part of the field at a time, not the whole thing like in the movie.
  • The players didn’t disappear into the cornfield. Rather they exited the ballpark through a door in the left field wall. This was historically (at least partially) accurrate as many ballparks in the deadball era didn’t have tunnels through the dugout to the clubhouse. Most parks back then had their clubhouse entrances somewhere in the outfield, and some didn’t even have visitors clubhouses at all.
  • One of the most common questions among fans of the movie is “where do the players go when they disappear?” Well, this question was directly addressed in the book. When Ray asked the players what becomes of them when they leave the field, Sox first baseman Chick Gandil answers “we sleep.” “And wait”, says Happy Felsch. “And dream…oh, how we dream,” adds Shoeless Joe Jackson. Taken literally, this would attest to what Jackson and others alluded to in the film, in that there IS an afterlife and the players are fully conscious of it. Taken figuratively, one can assume the players simply don’t know where they came from, how, or why they are there, which Jackson also hinted at in the film. This whole scene is open for endless debate. (My personal theory is that the Black Sox were in a sort of purgatory, while honest, noble players like Ray’s father, were in heaven—yet all former players got to enjoy their Lazarus-like resurrection to this Edenic field regardless of which afterlife they came from.)
  • When the field is fully built, a semi-transparent mirage of an entire stadium completes the effect, with ghostly players appearing along with the “real” players that first came to Ray’s field, which only Ray and his family can see or talk to. As such, they got to watch entire games and not just practices as were shown for much of the film.

Thus, while not surprising that the novel lays out more detail and enriches the storyline, there is no real wrong answer as to which is better. Both are excellent. Yet the novel, in several ways, delves a bit deeper into the actual baseball angle, with several subtle references and offering tidbits of folklore about the game. While many of these are not present in the film, studying the book gives one that “oh! NOW that makes sense!” feeling when watching the movie.

My advice: Enjoy both the book and film for the full experience of this magical story.

…and go have a catch with someone.

 

 

 

Chapman’s Unwitting Prophecy

Baseball isn’t just the weirdest of all games. It’s also the spookiest. When you examine past eras of the sport, the ghosts of those bygone days tell an often eerie tale. Ray Chapman, the sparkling Indians shortstop who was struck by a pitch in the head and killed on August 16th, 1920, has a special place in the haunted history of our pastime.

Ray Chapman

At the end of October, 1919, members of the Cleveland Indians gathered at the Hotel Winton for Chapman’s bachelor dinner. Throughout the evening, amid the laughter, speeches and well wishes, Chapman could be heard whistling a song over and over, much to the confusion of his teammates and close friends.

The next time the entire club was together for a non-baseball related function was for Chapman’s funeral, less than a year later. The diddy he was whistling that night, it was recalled, was named “Good Bye Boys, I’m Through.”

Coincidence? Surely. But a bizarre instance nonetheless.

Ray Chapman’s grave