Written by Joe Kleinsasser Tuesday, 24 June 2008 15:25
With all due respect to former pro baseball player and broadcaster Joe Garagiola, baseball isn’t just a funny game. It’s also an unusual game.
Name another sport where the dimensions vary from stadium to stadium. Football fields, soccer fields, basketball courts all use standard dimensions. Not so baseball.
Some dimensions are consistent, i.e., the distance between bases and the distance from the home plate to the pitching rubber. But ballparks are not created equal.
For instance, there’s Fenway Park, with its short left-field fence and famous Green Monster, and Wrigley Field, with all of its nooks and crannies along an outfield wall covered with ivy. Baseballs have been known to get lost in that ivy.
And what used to be easy, determining a home run, isn’t anymore. It used to be obvious if the ball went over the fence. But the odd configurations of some home run fences makes determining a home run an adventure. Did the ball hit over the line or below it? Did the ball hit something beyond the fence that allowed it to bounce back on the field, creating doubt as to whether it was a home run?
Teams have been known to let the grass grow thick and tall in the infield if it better suited their team, tilt the foul lines to help the ball roll fair or foul, and move the home run fences closer or farther back to better suit the strengths or weaknesses of the home team.
Baseball also is unusual at the professional level in that the American League uses a designated hitter and the National League doesn’t. It’s odd that Major League Baseball can’t agree on what the rules should be.
And then there’s the dress code. To my knowledge, baseball is the only sport where the managers and coaches dress in uniform, like the players. You don’t see football, hockey or basketball coaches dress in uniform. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but it is unusual.
Speaking of unusual, what sport has as many statistics as baseball? It’s a statistician’s dream. There’s a saying, “Statistics are for losers.” In this case though, statistics are for baseball fanatics.
Quote of the week from former basketball star Charles Barkley on Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester’s no-hitter against KC: “If it was against the Royals, it should only count as half a no-hitter.”
I also read that the Royals have had a 12-game losing streak four times in the past four seasons, which is four more times than the Yankees have had a 12-game losing streak in the past 95 seasons.
Did you hear about the Yankees extracting from the new stadium’s concrete a David Ortiz shirt planted by a Red Sox-obsessed construction worker hoping to hex his team’s arch-rivals? The shirt excavation cost the Yankees about $50,000, but the Yankees figured it was worth the cost to reverse the jersey curse.
The excavated shirt was sold for $175,100 in a charity auction on eBay. The money was donated to the Jimmy Fund, a cancer charity, and the official charity of the Red Sox.
Finally, I read in a book that New York Yankee great Yogi Berra’s strategy at the plate was simple. “You can’t hit and think at the same time.”
His philosophy was tested his rookie season, when a veteran catcher tried to psych him out. As Berra stepped into the batter’s box, the catcher informed him that the trademark label on his bat was turned the wrong way. Usually, batters want the trademark right-side-up.
Berra was unruffled. He turned to the catcher and said, “I didn’t come up here to read.” He proceeded to hit the next pitch out of the park for a home run.