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Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Curveball“The three best visual illusions in the world were chosen at a gathering last weekend of neuroscientists and psychologists at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Florida.

“The winning entry, from a Bucknell University professor, may help explain why curve balls in baseball are so tricky to hit.

“A properly thrown curve ball spins in a way that makes the air on one side move faster than on the other. This causes the ball to move along a gradual curve. From the point of view of a batter standing on home plate, though, curve balls seem to ‘break,’ or move suddenly in a new direction.

“This year’s winning illusion, created by Arthur Shapiro of Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, may explain this phenomena. His animation shows a spinning ball that, when watched directly, moves in a straight line. When seen out of the corner of the eye, however, the spin of the ball fools the brain into thinking that the ball is curving.

“So as a baseball flies towards home plate, the moment when it passes from central to peripheral vision could exaggerate the movement of the ball, causing its gradual curve to be seen as a sudden jerk.” (more @ Fox News)

A demonstration of the illusion of a baseball “breaking” can be found at the American Institute of Physics website.

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“Nearly a decade ago, embarrassed about reports of widespread fraud in the $1-billion-per-year sports memorabilia industry — dominated by baseball and filled mostly with fakes and forgeries, according to an F.B.I. investigation — Major League Baseball did something about it.

“Now every game has at least one authenticator, watching from a dugout or near one. The authenticators are part of a team of 120 active and retired law-enforcement officials sharing the duties for the 30 franchises. Several worked the home openers for the Yankees and the Mets, helping track firsts at the new stadiums. They verified balls, bases, jerseys, the pitchers’ rosin bag, even the pitching rubber and the home plate that were removed after the first game at Yankee Stadium.

“Nothing is too mundane to be authenticated, if deemed potentially valuable. Cans of insect repellent used to combat the midges that swarmed the 2007 playoffs in Cleveland were authenticated. So were urinals pulled from the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis and office equipment from since-razed Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. The Phillies are cutting the clubhouse carpet from last season into authenticated 18-by-24-inch mats. . . .

“Authenticators carry rolls of high-tech hologram stickers. A bullet-shaped one is placed on the object. Removing it leaves polka dots of the decal attached and renders the removed sticker unusable. A second sticker, with a matching number and a bar code, is scanned by a hand-held unit, instantly recording the item into M.L.B. computers.” (more @ NY Times)

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baseball-lingoWhere would pols, pundits and morose mucky-mucks be without the language of baseball?

“Here’s the pitch: Despite distractions, you have to keep your eye on the ball. You have to be aware of something unexpected coming out of left field, and only if your ad-libbed response is not off base will your home team go to bat for you. You can’t be born on third base and think you hit a triple. Last year, candidate Obama took the sting out of criticism by the scribes for playing ball with a Chicago fixer by admitting, right off the bat, that his property purchase was boneheaded. Palin showed she had something on the ball, considered 2008 a warm-up in the bullpen and took a rain check for 2012, when she hopes to knock the ball out of the park, unless she gets thrown a curve by the rise of Romney, now in the catbird’s seat.” (more @ NY Times)

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bigburger“Last week, the West Michigan Whitecaps minor league baseball team sold more than 100 mega-sized burgers on opening night.

“It’s made with five patties plus chili, American cheese, nacho cheese, tortilla chips, salsa, lettuce, tomato and sour cream — all piled on an 8-inch bun.

“The mammoth meal weighs more than 4 pounds. And, even in this era of scaling back, plenty of people took on the burger by themselves.

“This monster of a burger is called the Fifth Third burger. It has five 1/3-pound patties of beef.” (cont’d @ NPR)

A video of the burger being prepared can be viewed here.

[Click on image to “supersize.”]

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fidrychMark Fidrych, an eccentric All-Star pitcher nicknamed ‘The Bird’ whose career was shortened by injuries, was found dead Monday in an apparent accident at his farm. He was 54. . . .

“The curly-haired right-hander was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1976 when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games. He spent all five of his major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, compiling a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA. . . .

“Fidrych acquired the nickname ‘The Bird’ because of his resemblance to the Big Bird character on the Sesame Street television show. During games, he would bend down and groom the mound with his hands, talk to the baseball and slap five with teammates in the middle of the diamond.” (more @ ESPN)

RelatedIn ’76, Bird was the word

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Johnny Blanchard, a power-hitting catcher and outfielder known as Super Sub who played in five consecutive World Series for the Yankees in the 1960s, died Wednesday in Robbinsdale, Minn. He was 76. . . .

“As a left-handed hitter who could deliver the long ball, Blanchard seemed a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium and its short right-field fence. But he was essentially a catcher and had little chance of breaking into the starting lineup since the Yankees had Yogi Berra and Elston Howard.

“Blanchard’s best season was 1961, when he hit a career-high 21 home runs and batted .305 in 93 games. He was decidedly in the shadow of Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth’s record with 61 homers, and Mickey Mantle, who hit 54 home runs . . .” (more @ NY Times)

[Johnny Blanchard hit a home run in the first baseball game I ever attended. My father had taken me to a Sunday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium where I spent the entire first game waiting with glove in hand to catch a Mickey Mantle home run (we were sitting in foul territory behind third base but I was young and unwilling to give in to the territorial realities of a sport I was just beginning to understand). About mid-way through the second game, and having not yet caught a Mantle home run — no one other than Blanchard had connected for a homer all day — my father suggested we leave right then so we could beat the traffic leaving the stadium at game’s end. As he started up the car in the parking lot, the roar from the stadium behind us left little doubt of what had just happened – Mickey Mantle had hit a home run! It took me quite some time to forgive my father for ruining my chance to catch Mantle’s homer but I still remember fondly the Yankee whose home run I did witness that day – Johnny Blanchard. R.I.P.]

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kellGeorge Kell, the Hall of Fame third baseman who won the American League batting title in 1949 with the Detroit Tigers and was a longtime broadcaster for the team, died Tuesday at his home in Swifton, Ark. He was 86. . . .

“Kell played in the A.L. for 15 seasons, was an All-Star 10 times and had a career batting average of .306 with 2,054 hits. He hit at least .300 in nine seasons and led the league’s third basemen in fielding percentage seven times.

“He captured the batting crown in a race that went down to the final day of the 1949 season, finishing a few decimal points ahead of Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. Kell’s batting average was .34291 (rounded off to .343) to Williams’s .34276.” (more @ NY Times)

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