Just as our long, brutal winter ended in the northeast, major league baseball swiftly returned last week to usher in the new spring season. It couldn’t come soon enough.
Although I didn’t mention it on this site at the time, baseball—along with late-season bicycling—was a welcome distraction last fall as my life was basically falling apart. Baseball seemed like an unlikely source of solace at the time because I had essentially missed the entire 2014 regular season. As a cord cutter, it was impractical to watch a game on television. Also, watching baseball at home was, to me, not unlike drinking—it’s kind of fun but socially unacceptable unless you’re doing it with other people.
The unthinkable happened: I managed to miss an entire season of baseball
Even more unusual for me, I didn’t attend a single baseball game in 2014. I hadn’t gone an entire season without going to a baseball game since the Clinton administration. The closest I came to following the 2014 baseball season was catching a few occasional glimpses, such wood-cover notebooks for the hipster set that resemble baseball bats, better-than-perfect games, a film about the late Doc Ellis, and yes, Derek Jeter retiring. It was so bad that I was basically shocked to learn that the Washington Nationals were considered a favorite to win the World Series.
As I was sleeping on a friend’s couch in late September, I learned via Twitter that the As and Royals were playing perhaps the best one-game playoff in the history of the game. That excitement, that connection to other people, and that feeling of not-knowing the outcome are why I loved watching baseball in the first place. After that game, I was determined to watch as much baseball as possible to reconnect with friends and strangers alike. I had felt alone for the past two months and, even if I was always around my friends, they were around mostly to console me. With the baseball playoffs, however, it was an activity we could all share that wasn’t about my own emotional pain. In the end, I watched every almost game of the playoffs anyway I could: on a television screen at a friend’s place, on a projected image at a local bar, or through a streaming device using a VPN. By the time the World Series finished at the end of October, my life seemed to make a little more sense than it did before the that crazy game in Kansas City.
All I want is one more baseball game. “See you tomorrow night!” I need the distraction
For all the relief baseball brought me last year, I had basically missed spring training and was vaguely aware that baseball was starting this year. But last week, while I was in California for a wedding and some other business, my brother came through with an irresistible offer: he had tickets to Opening Day at Dodger’s Stadium.
I forgot how exciting it is to go to an Opening Day game. It had been close over ten years since I had been to one, most recently at the now-demolished Shea Stadium. It had been even longer, since 2001 or so, since I had seen an opening day game at Dodger Stadium: I remember Chan Ho Park pitching a shutout against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Last Monday was a truly exhilarating experience that included several highlights.
The Dodger Stadium Express bus didn’t exist more than five years ago, but it was a very popular way to get to the stadium that day. When we saw the long lines of people waiting board the bus, one guy in our crew called an Uber to take us to the stadium. It was a foolish decision because the driver couldn’t get us any closer than a mile from the stadium. We ended up getting out of the car and hiking up the hill. After the game, however, we waited patiently to board the bus, but it took close to an hour to travel down the hill to Union Station. The interminable trip however did not dampen our mood: most everyone remained festive recounting the game’s highlights and debating about the best option for post-game revelry. By the way, the duration and popularity of this shuttle bus service convinced me there are two places in Los Angeles that could really use direct rail service: LAX and Dodger Stadium. I hope to see it happen in my lifetime.
Two things happened around the same time. Pitcher Yimi Garcia entered the game in the seventh inning to relieve Clayton Kershaw, and new Dodger and veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins hit a three-run homer to break a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning that ultimately won the game for the Dodgers. First, we learned to pronounce Garcia’s first name—Yee-mee!— in the seventh. We later repurposed it for Rollins in the eighth—Yee-mee!
Getting reacquainted with Mexican slang and their colorful uses at a ballgame. Although this is hardly what I would call a “family blog,” I won’t get into any details here.
Watching the game in person was not only the best way to watch the game, it was probably also the only way for most people. For the second season, most fans can’t watch the Dodgers on TV because of a retransmission dispute between SportsNet LA and most area MVPDs, including DirecTV. My guess is that the game was available on TV for as many people in 2015 as it was when Dodger home games were available only on ON-TV in the 1980s.
It was not only a great way to start watching baseball again, it was the best way end this awful and depressing winter.
But by notching one more strikeout than Cain or Koufax, Kershaw bested them by one point. However, reading the description of each game, Kershaw seemed to dominate in more ways than Game Score can measure. Let’s see, here. Kershaw faced 28 batters, and one reached due to a Hanley Ramirez error. Kershaw punched-out fifteen of the remaining twenty-seven batters, which leaves twelve batters. Eight of those put the ball in play but failed to get the ball out of the infield. That leaves four batters who, according to the accounts I read, made soft contact, managing to only lift some lazy fly balls to the outfield. Let that sink in: there were only four lazy fly balls hit to the outfield! By comparison, in Matt Cain’s perfect game from 2012, there were seven balls hit to the outfield, and that seemed freakishly low at the time. In either case, it shows how dominating Cain and Kershaw were in these historic games, turning big league hitters into beer league players.
One was perfect, but one was better than perfect.
Hanley Ramirez seriously owes Kershaw a nice gift for blowing that play, like a sports car or a year of college tuition. ↩
On Friday, the Dodgers six-game winning streak came to an end. And it was a remarkable loss. As beat writer Ken Gurnick wrote:
this was a hideous loss of historic proportions, a 16–1 pulverization by the Phillies for the most lopsided home loss by a Dodgers team since 1947 in Brooklyn (19–2 to the Giants) and the largest margin of defeat since 2001 (20–1 to the Cubs).
An even more remarkable fact was that my brother and I were at the 2001 game versus the Cubs…in Chicago. It remains our only trip to Wrigley Field. As sons of an airline employee, we used to be able to fly for almost free. During the 2000 and 2001 baseball seasons, we flew to a few ballparks on overnight flights and often returning the same day on the last flight of the day to Southern California.
On May 4, 2001, we took a red-eye flight from LA to Chicago, arriving super early for a Dodgers-Cubs game. After breakfast and some brief window shopping, we headed to Wrigley field. Both teams, as I remember, were playing well and were probably in first place in their divisions. (They were.) But, as any serious baseball fan knows, your positions in the standings in early May means nothing because there’s still more than 130 games of baseball to play. We expected two overachieving teams to play a good game. We were wrong. Instead, we witnessed the Cubs pummell the Dodgers, 20–1. The Dodgers’ only run came off a Gary Sheffield double. Since we arrived at the ballpark early, we saw the Dodgers take batting practices, and he was hitting shots over the brick wall. No one else stood out in my mind, and that now seemed like a prescient analysis of what was to come.
Because we were dressed in Dodgers gear, we were heckled. Nonstop. A notable taunt was “Hey, Hollywood!” We deserved it. We were in enemy territory. Our team was getting killed. And because we had no sense of “springtime” in Chicago, we were underdressed, wearing shorts on a drizzly day that seemed much colder than the afternoon temperature of 57°.
My brother and I had a strict policy of not leaving a game early. However, we agreed that if the Cubs scored twenty runs, we’re outta here. But we came back only to see that the relief pitcher for the bottom of the eighth inning was utility infielder Chris Donnells, who threw three pitches to end an eighth-run eighth inning.
This morning, my brother reminded me of that game. It was bad. But it was also great and not only in how bad it was. Thanks, brother, for the reminder.
As happy as I am for Mets fans and Johann Santana for his no-hitter, his performance was hardly the epitome of dominance. R.A. Dickey pitched a one-hitter last night, where he walked none and threw only 106 pitches, whereas Santana walked five batters and threw over 130 pitches, risking his season and recovery from shoulder trouble.
So while Santana’s game was pretty nifty, Dickey bested him by Game Score: Dickey had one base runner compared to Santana’s five. Dickey had the misfortune of pitching a great game not only after the biggest pitching moment in history of the Mets, but also on the same night as one of the greatest performances in the history of the game. Not bad for a thirty-seven year old knuckle-ball pitcher.
The Columbus Capital Base Ball Club plays by the rules and regulations of base ball as adopted by the National Association of Base-Ball Players on December 12th, 1866, when the team was founded.
The Gotham Base Ball Club of New York play games according to 1864 rules, when pitchers pitched underhanded, a foul ball was not a strike, a ball caught on one bounce was a put-out and the fielders wore no gloves. The team was founded c. 1853.
The Flemington Neshanock Base Ball Club plays by 19th century rules, uses authentic replicas of 19th century equipment and wears 19th century uniforms. As was the custom in the middle 19th century, all fielders play barehanded and do not wear gloves. The original Flemington Neshanock were established in July 1866 and comprised mainly of the town’s prominent constituents.
I am most intrigued by the Gotham Club and the 1864 rules. The lack of fielding gloves makes it seem a lot like Chicago style softball.
Since last night’s Mets-Dodgers game was rained out last night and because the Dodgers apparently have a long plane ride home tomorrow afternoon, those of us holding tickets to tonight’s game end up getting in to a single-admission double header.
I miss the old days when they would actually schedule double headers like these. Consequently, when these kinds of games end up happening, it really makes me happy.
The only downside is that it’s pretty windy today so it might be tough sitting out there for about six to seven hours. I guess that’s why we have gift shops for….