Baseball anecdotes

We’re down to the wire in the Major League baseball season, with wildcard winners still to be decided. My eyeballs feel the strain, watching as many games as I can fit in with MLB.tv. Exciting stuff, with three or four games to go. It’s nice to be semi-retired with time on my hands.

I played baseball for most of my youth and into young adulthood, though I failed to make Little League. First there was Babe Ruth, then American Legion, then high-school ball, followed by college. From the age of 16 to my mid-20s I was on several different semi-pro teams. That’s a lot of games, and from that history I have a few memories more distinct than others.

The one seared deepest in my head takes us to old Veterans’ Field in Los Angeles, then home to the UCLA Bruins. It’s the bottom of the 12th, and I’m in to hold a one-run advantage for Cal. I don’t recall how a Bruin reached base. But I do recall that Chris Chambliss, UCLA’s first baseman came to the plate representing the winning run. I made the cardinal error of throwing a slider into the left-hander’s sweet spot, low and inside. The ball screamed off his bat, taking just a few seconds to clear the right field fence. I shouted, for the first and only time, “F**k!” (I take some solace in shutting out the Bruins  in Berkeley a few weeks later. A one-hitter, if memory serves.)

Let’s visit Concord’s municipal ball field, which has since been replaced with city offices. I’m starting a playoff game against Richmond’s team. Two runners get on in the top of the first. The next batter for Richmond has a neck as thick as my thighs. He wreaks power. My manager bounds out of the dugout to have a little chat with me. He tells me that whatever pitch I throw to this guy, make sure that it’s not over the outside part of the plate so that the batter with the thick neck can extend his arms. Next pitch, precisely into the forbidden zone, from which the ball was launched over the armory outside the left-field fence. Three runs, just like that. (More solace that afternoon, as I settled down, pitching near hitless ball the rest of the way, with our team winning 15-3.)

Back at Cal’s Evans Diamond. I had pitched one inning the night before in an exhibition game with the Oakland A’s in the Coliseum. Three up, three down against Rick Monday, Joe Rudi, and Tom Reynolds, though Monday’s line drive nearly knocked over our second baseman. At Cal the next day, I was to start against Santa Clara, in what became my weirdest performance ever.

The visitors hit the hell out of the ball in the first couple of innings. Fortunately, all the batted balls found leather, and I escaped unharmed. It was the third inning, I think, when after a few more line-drive outs I completely changed my mechanics, adopting techniques of a fellow pitcher. Amazing. I wound up throwing a shutout with lots of swings and misses.

Now on to Stanford’s Sunken Diamond. I take the mound in the bottom of the first for visiting Cal. The Cardinals’s (as they were then called) leadoff hitter happened to be my battery mate in high school. He did not waste a moment, propelling my first pitch over the centerfield fence. The next time I faced him, he drilled a line drive off the outfield fence for a triple. There was no solace this time, as I lost that game, though I got Bob Boone to pop out.

Finally, I’ll return to high school. I had pitched a no-hitter the previous start. Fast forward to the top of the seventh (the last inning). I had yet to give up a hit and recorded two strikeouts. Just one more out to go. I induce the next batter to swing and miss at a curve ball in the dirt. Unfortunately, the ball got past our catcher. It bounced against the wooden backstop right back to him. He had more than enough time to throw to first base to nail the batter and record the final out. Ah, but his throw sailed over the first baseman’s head and into right field for an error. Now you’re guessing what happens next. I’m going for my second, consecutive no-hitter and need just one more out. However, the next batter shows no mercy, lining the next pitch over the shortstop for a solid single. I threw my glove down in disgust, which made the headlines of the local newspaper’s next edition. So, I settle for a one-hitter.

We have but a weekend left in the MLB regular season. The Mariners are hanging on, just two games shy of a wildcard berth. My beloved Giants, who mysteriously forgot how to win games in the second half, after sporting baseball’s best record in the first, cling to the second wildcard slot in the National League, with St. Louis just a game behind. The team that drafted me out of high school in 1965, the New York Mets, holds the first wildcard position. There is a very real possibility that the Giants will travel to Citifield for the one-game playoff between the two wildcard winners.

Divided loyalties, to be sure. Mercifully, no Trump in this post.

The big duper

Donald Trump has managed to fool most of his supporters, who, aside from being “deplorables,” are mostly angry white men. Few, if any, occupy the top one percent of income earners.

Both Hillary Clinton and Trump have proposed tax plans. Here is a telling chart from Vox on how each candidate would tax the one percent.

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Yglesias on Trump’s performance

I’ll quote from the last few paragraphs of Matthew Yglesias’s post on Vox:

On one level, “Donald Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about” is the ultimate dog-bites-man story of the 2016 election.

But that’s why I think it’s useful to try to purge yourself of your existing knowledge of the campaign. If you just tuned in Monday night expecting to see two well-qualified and broadly competent candidates discussing the issues in some kind of recognizable shape, you would find yourself sorely disappointed.

The conceit of the Trump campaign is that he’s a smart, business-savvy outsider who can fix things. But he clearly has no idea how to fix things. He doesn’t even seem to have a grasp of what the problems are.

If you were just tuning in to this campaign, you would find yourself hung up on a pretty obvious question — why did the Republican Party nominate a guy who clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about? It’s a good question.

Digby on Trump’s performance

He simply tried to bluff his way through with incoherent misdirection, hostility and sarcasm, even as he made the absurd claimed that his temperament is his best quality. He gave the worst debate performance of his short political career. In fact, it may have been the worst debate performance of any political career.

— Digby, writing for Salon

That said, and I agree with the characterization, having watched the debate in its entirety, no amount of facts about what Trump says, does, or implies will dissuade his supporters. It is “the primitive simplicity of their minds,” as Hitler wrote, that makes them impervious to truth.

Not all equal

If you’ve been making the rounds of self-described fact-checkers this morning you will encounter uneven qualities, to say the least. On the whole, I judge the efforts of the Washington Post and The Guardian superior to that of the New York Times. But there are many other outlets engaged in the activity. I was particularly struck by this headline in the Seattle Times, which relied on external sources:

AP FACT CHECK: Trump, Clinton deny their own words in debate

We’ve come to appreciate the term “false equivalence,” as if “both sides do it.” When, in fact, either one side doesn’t “do it” at all or to a far lesser extent than the other. Reading the content of the linked article, one finds that Trump’s misstatements greatly trump Clinton’s.