Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category

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Men of Iron

January 11, 2007

Crossposted to Blue House Diaries

Cal Ripken, Jr. in the mid-1980s 

I don’t have much use for the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I’ve never been there and I have no real desire to go.  To me, it’s a fake.  It’s marketing hype engineered by that unholy alliance of baseball management and sportswriters, based on ignorance, greed and hubris.  On the other hand, the players themselves appear to take it seriously.  For those players who are gifted enough to be considered for the Hall, this is their last professional competition – truly their Last Hurrah.

In spite of my dislike of the Hall, I was happy to see Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn elected.  They were prominent figures in the baseball landscape of my youth.  Ripken was a favorite of mine.  Even before The Streak got going, he radiated a highly-focused intensity and seemed to be following some higher calling.  As was much-ballyhooed at the time, his tenacious devotion to duty was old-fashioned, a throwback to a bygone era.  If Howard Pyle were to return from the dead and write a book about chivalrous ballplayers, the hero would be Sir Cal.

His point of honor with the consecutive-game streak was to play the entire game, or at least most of it, never making a token appearance in the game just to extend the streak (as had been done on occasion by the first “Iron Man”, Lou Gehrig).  Over time, his dedication showed a hint of obsession.  As The Streak ground on and he played through some serious injuries, the strain began to show on Ripken’s face, his features becoming more gaunt, a mask of stoicism, his pale eyes glowing ever more brightly with some inner torment.   He was no longer a courtly knight – he was turning into one of those crackpot ascetic saints who lived on top of a column for years to prove some obscure religious point.  The whole thing was getting dreadful.  I wanted to scream “Stop it, already, we get the message!  Just STOP IT!” 

When the The Streak finally came to an end, it was a relief.

tonygwynn.jpg

Tony Gwynn, from the same time period

Tony Gwynn’s persona seemed more normal.  He was blandly handsome and looked like he smiled a lot.  And why wouldn’t he, when he was such a great hitter.  I never liked the Padres but he was someone I liked to watch even though he always hit the crap out of my dear Mets.

In the late ’70s, when the Mets were in the cellar, it was possible to get good seats at Shea.  One weekend I scored a box seat near home plate and watched the Cardinals play the Mets.  simbacard.jpgThe game was unmemorable but I’ll never forget the sight of the Cardinals’ heavy-hitting catcher Ted Simmons behind the plate.  He was a big guy, but not that much bigger than any of the other players.  What set him apart was his big presence.  He carried himself with great dignity.  The expression on his saturnine face was aloof, almost contemplative.  With his helmet off, his long hair falling almost to his shoulders, his catcher’s armor gleaming bright red in the sun, he was quite a sight.

He wasn’t pretty enough or elegant enough to be King Arthur’s favorite knight, but he might have been the best at kicking ass.

However, Ted Simmons isn’t in the Hall of Fame.  In spite of his 21 years of major-league service and his stellar offensive stats, the voters deemed him unworthy, and after his first year of eligibility he was dropped from the ballot.  For discussions of why this is a miscarriage of justice, see here:

Ignorance is Not Bliss: Why Ted Simmons Belongs in Cooperstown

and here:

If Maz [Bill Mazeroski], Why Not Simmons?

This is one of the reasons I think the Hall of Fame is a crock.  Baseball isn’t about who gets the bronze plaque with the poorly-sculpted likeness on it – it’s about who the fans remember.

Which lesser-known ballplayers do you remember?

Future baseball articles on Feminist Supervixens will include profiles of players from the little-known history of women’s baseball.

H.R.H. Supervixen

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The Inconvenient Truth

January 6, 2007

It’s been interesting observing the roiling soup over at Daily Kos, the accusations and character assassinations flying back and forth, and all the different brawls.  There are the brawls instigated by small-fry bullies trying to “make their bones” and impress the admins, and there are the long-standing grudge matches between Major Playahs who, like Japanese movie monsters, occasionally take a break from terrorizing the general population to spend some quality time breathing fire at each other.

It’s a very similar feeling to that I once experienced while sitting in the upper deck at a home opener at Yankee Stadium.  Not being a Yankees fan, I didn’t realize until that day that it was a tradition to get insanely drunk at the home opener and start fights with fellow fans.  The preferred method appeared to be to throw popcorn and/or beer down on people a few rows below you, and then scream obscenities at them when they turned around to see what the hell was happening.  If you did this right, you could engineer quite a considerable free-for-all.

As I looked down from my lofty perch, I saw knots of combatants coalescing all throughout the stadium, the knots growing larger and finally spinning out of control while blue-suited security guards slowly waded towards them.  There was a game taking place on the diamond, but nobody seemed to care about it – they were too engrossed in their own personal fights. 

Leaving the stadium afterwards, walking down the long ramp toward the street, I was crushed in a mass with thousands of drunken, belligerent men, some of whom were so trashed they could hardly walk, and all of them uttering garbled cries that sounded like the bellowing of cattle going to the slaughter. 

I resolved then and there never to go to Yankee Stadium again, under any circumstances.

Watching Daily Kos from afar, I see many similarities to that day at the stadium.  It’s truly a toxic environment, wrapped up in its own narcissistic brutality and unsuited to any positive interaction at all, much less achieving a positive change in the world.  I was planning to write a detailed account of the events leading up to my banning, with a description of the double standards and favoritism, the ways the “rules” are selectively enforced by a small band of thuggish semi-morons, and the way that lying, deception and manipulation permeate the entire site down from the very top of the hierarchy.  This is an excellent example, from the Wizard of Kos himself:

One of the problems we’ve had in the past when people step out of bounds on the site, behavior-wise, is that our choice of responses was limited. We could ban, which was extreme, we could give a public warning, but being publicly called out sometimes elicits the exact opposite kind of response. And as for sending emails, we don’t demand current and working email addresses from our users for privacy reasons.

Now, we have a warning system in place. If someone steps out of bounds (being an asshole in the comments, copyright violation, etc.), an admin can lock down the user’s account. A warning shows up at the top of the page explaining the transgression. The user has to click a button acknowledging he or she has read the warning before being given access to the site.

That sounds good, but the inconvenient truth is that the admins don’t give a rat’s ass about this, at least where it affects people they dislike.  When I was banned, I received no such warning.  Neither did two other recently-banned Kossacks, whose only offense appeared to be that they said a few things critical of DKos Sacred Cows.  On the other hand, two other posters who made a puerile sexist remark about a female front pager were quickly banned, and then, later on, quietly reinstated.  These posters must have kissed the proper asses in the proper way.

As I said, I planned to write in detail about all this, but the longer I’ve been out of the Daily Kos environment, the less I give a shit about it.  Like the day at Yankee Stadium, the immediate horror and disgust of living through it is past, leaving it a merely trivial episode, good for a laugh.

I only hope that none of the Big Swinging Snools at Daily Kos ever get any real-life power in our government, because if they do, we’re all fucked.

And now, on to bigger, better Supervixenish things.  Happy Kosless New Year!