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Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Willie Davis, who succeeded Duke Snider as the center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and used his blazing speed to steal 20 or more bases 11 straight years, led the National League in triples twice and set a record of three stolen bases in a World Series game, was found dead on Tuesday at his home in Burbank, Calif. He was 69. . . .

“Frank McCourt, the owner of the Dodgers, said in a statement that Davis was ‘one of the most talented players ever to wear a Dodgers uniform.’ Davis played 14 seasons for the Dodgers, on teams that were almost immediately the stuff of legend. Among his teammates were Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Maury Wills. His 31-game hitting streak in 1969 is still a team record. It was the longest streak in the majors since Dom DiMaggio’s 34 games in 1949 for the Boston Red Sox.

“Davis holds six other franchise records, including hits (2,091), extra-base hits (585), at-bats (7,495), runs (1,004), triples (110) and total bases (3,094).

“Davis lifetime batting average was .279, and he had a total of 398 stolen bases. He made it to the major leagues in 1960 and retired after the 1979 season.

“Over his career, he played more than 2,200 games in center field, was a two-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner for his defense. He won World Series rings in 1963 and 1965, stealing three bases in one inning in the 1965 Series.” (more @ NY Times)

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“The closest toy store to Tiger Woods’ boyhood home is a Toys ‘R’ Us in Huntington Beach, California. There’s a strong chance Earl and Kultida Woods shopped for Christmas presents here when then their son was young, and the store yesterday was girded again for the holiday rush, with Barbies and pottery kits stacked up front. For those on a budget, there was a clearance sale on action figures in the back: the NFL’s Jay Cutler in a Broncos uniform (he’s now a Bear), the NBA’s Ben Gordon as a Bull (he’s now a Piston)—and native son Woods. Regularly $15.99, the Woods action figure had been slashed to $9.98.

“So it goes these days with greatest brand in sports, now that he’s been revealed to be a horn-dog of the highest order. At press time, his major sponsors were behind him. Nike has Tiger’s back. So, too, does Gillette. And it will be hard to tell if Tiger’s travails have any effect on sales of Buicks in the short term. But as it’s Christmas shopping season, the sales of Tiger videogames (through Electronic Arts), action figures (through Upper Deck), and memorabilia offer an immediate window into the scandal’s effect.” (cont’d @ The Daily Beast)

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I’m not sure why I feel compelled to post this, but:

SCOTUS_baseball_card“If you’re a fan of the U.S. Supreme Court bobbleheads that can be found on the desks of powerhouse lawyers and law professors nationwide, then you’ll like the next brainchild of the bobbleheads’ creator: Supreme Court baseball cards.

“The first one, commemorating Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. as the Court’s ‘pitcher,’ has been issued to cognoscenti who subscribe to the unconventional law review Green Bag. Editor Ross Davies, who commissioned the bobbleheads, cooked up the trading cards too.

“Roberts is shown in the image of Mordecai ‘Three Fingers’ Brown, the famed Chicago Cubs pitcher who, like Roberts, grew up in Indiana. In the background is legendary umpire Bill Klem — a nod to Roberts’ 2005 statement that the Court must strive to be a ‘fair and unbiased umpire.'” (more @ Law.com)

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Shameless self-promotion, I know, but . . .

Anson Program“Since the 1970s, as a collector, as a dealer, and as an auctioneer (one-half of the highly respected Sloate & Smolin Auctions and the sole owner of About Time Auctions), Jerry Smolin has been well known as a baseball historian and as a true connoisseur of baseball memorabilia. He is one of the few collectors or dealers whose experience spans from the earliest days of the organized hobby as we know it to the present day, and he is universally respected and recognized as a true scholar in the field.  Some of the greatest treasures of baseball memorabilia of all types, especially nineteenth-century items, including cards, photography, documents, and display pieces, have passed through his hands in private sales and at auction over the past thirty years. One special area of personal collecting interest that has been a constant for all these many years has been early baseball programs. This collection of thirty-five programs (which will be presented in twenty-eight lots) was assembled with great care and patience, and with an eye for quality, rarity, historical significance, and display value. This is by far the best collection of early baseball programs we have ever offered or even seen in one place. Only the best examples of their type were added to the collection, one program at a time, armed with a great appreciation and an unmatched knowledge of what is special in the field of program collecting.” (cont’d @ Robert Edward Auctions)

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Smalling“A mail carrier arrives at a suburban four-bedroom home here each day with more postcards and envelopes than anyone else in the neighborhood receives, unsure of why the house gets so much mail or why it has its own ZIP code extension.

“If the carrier stepped inside, she would find the reason: 2308 Van Buren Avenue is the unlikely headquarters for an ongoing effort to collect the home address of every living major league baseball player, umpire, manager and coach. She would also find the solitary man behind the effort: Jack Smalling, a widowed 68-year-old crop insurance salesman.

“On Tuesday, Mr. Smalling will begin shipping the 15th edition of  ‘The Baseball Autograph Collector’s Handbook,’ a listing of home addresses for nearly 8,000 major leaguers, from Aardsma (David) to Zimmer (Thomas) — with Bench (Johnny), Mays (Willie) and Pujols (Albert) in between.

“Mr. Smalling started collecting autographs in 1962 and soon began constructing the address list to help fellow collectors send requests to players. He has more than 100,000 autographs in his personal collection.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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Harry_Wright_SeatedHarry Wright, a Hall of Fame manager and pioneer during professional baseball’s gestation period in the 19th century, kept his letters in scrapbooks along with pictures and ledgers from his distinguished career. These faded pieces of paper are fragile evidence of some of the earliest business practices in baseball.

Hunt Auctions was scheduled to sell some of the items on July 14 at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game FanFest in St. Louis. But the letters have been temporarily pulled from the auction after drawing the attention of the F.B.I. because of the possibility that they were taken years ago from the New York Public Library.

“The letters were written to Wright, who was the manager, the general manager and a center fielder for the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, considered the first team of all paid players. A year before his death in 1895, Wright willed his archives to professional baseball’s two major leagues. The materials were donated to the library in 1921, and some of them vanished more than 20 years ago.

“The library lists as missing three scrapbooks of letters written to Wright during the 1870s, ’80s and ’90s. Of the 25 lots linked to Wright in the auction, at least 23 are from the same period as the missing scrapbooks. Only one other scrapbook remains at the library.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

Update: (7/5/09) Another Clue That Baseball Auction Has Stolen Items

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CB021034“Slang is like a breeze; it softly comes and goes, as new times bring new buzzwords. Some stick (‘cool’ defiantly endures); some induce cringes when dusted off (‘groovy’ is now in the dustbin of irony). It’s obvious when slang becomes less funny or less meaningful through overuse: ‘Internets,’ for example, has become too widespread to be implicitly derisive of George W. Bush. Slang, in other words, is inevitably ephemeral–but it’s not always incidental. When hip-hop listeners crack the codes of songs en masse, rappers know it’s time to invent anew. The refusal of normative, dominant culture–beginning with the fundamentals of language–is embedded in the form. Baseball vernacular, for its part, isn’t so expressly political, nor is its obscurity as deliberate. Baseball belongs to the same class of folklore as, say, jazz, hamburgers and even hip-hop–but to employ Ken Burnsian hyperbole about the significance of its wordplay is a tough sell. It is what it is. As [Paul Dickson, author of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary] writes, it’s ‘low-key and light’–slang for its own sake. In other words, the richness of baseball’s old, weird vernacular is pure, pointless creativity. . . .

“Baseball slang is an avalanche of skewed logic. The commonest words take on very precise meanings. ‘Stuff’ refers quite specifically to the totality of a pitcher’s arsenal: his array of pitches and the velocity and movement with which he throws them. A pitcher can easily have good stuff but not succeed if his ‘command’–the ability to locate pitches accurately–is erratic. Terms associated with dirt and filth are highly complimentary. A hitter respectfully calls an excellent pitcher ‘filthy,’ a term that evolved out of common adjectives from a decade ago: ‘nasty’ and ‘dirty.’ ‘Dirtbags’ and ‘dirt dogs’ are consummate hustlers, guys with perpetually soiled uniforms and caps and batting helmets stained with sweat, tobacco juice and pine tar. Naturally, dirtbags and dirt dogs play ‘dirtball.’ A player who is ‘pretty’ is the opposite of a dirtbag, as is a ‘muffin.’ Food references are as prevalent as the television announcers who longingly mention the hallowed postgame buffet in the players’ clubhouse. The ball itself can be an egg, apricot, apple or stitched potato. ‘Jelly beans’ are rookies and inexperienced kids, the type a veteran might relentlessly call bush for a year before acknowledging him properly. Reaching base for your team’s big hitters is ‘setting the table.’ ‘Fat’ pitches are hittable ones, almost exclusively delectable treats, my favorite being ‘ham-and-cheese.'” (more @ The Nation)

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Kerouac Baseball“Almost all his life Jack Kerouac had a hobby that even close friends and fellow-Beats like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs never knew about. He obsessively played a fantasy baseball game of his own invention, charting the exploits of made-up players like Wino Love, Warby Pepper, Heinie Twiett, Phegus Cody and Zagg Parker, who toiled on imaginary teams named either for cars (the Pittsburgh Plymouths and New York Chevvies, for example) or for colors (the Boston Grays and Cincinnati Blacks).

“He collected their stats, analyzed their performance and, as a teenager, when he played most ardently, wrote about them in homemade newsletters and broadsides. He even covered financial news and imaginary contract disputes. During those same teenage years, he also ran a fantasy horse-racing circuit complete with illustrated tout sheets and racing reports. He created imaginary owners, imaginary jockeys, imaginary track conditions.

“All these ‘publications,’ some typed, some handwritten and often pasted into old-fashioned composition notebooks, are now part of the Kerouac archive at the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. The curator, Isaac Gewirtz, has just written a 100-page book about them, ‘Kerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats,’ to be published next week by the library and available, at least for now, only in the library gift shop.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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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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sugarshack“Ernie Barnes, whose drawings and paintings of athletes, dancers and other figures in motion reflected his first career as a professional football player, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 70. . . .

“Mr. Barnes was an offensive lineman in the old American Football League, playing four seasons in the 1960s for the New York Titans, the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. He would often say later that even during his playing days, his heart was more in the painting and sketching he had been doing since he was a child.

“But the athletic experience clearly influenced his painterly vision. His work, which mostly depicts black people — Mr. Barnes was black — is kinetic and often vividly bright, though even in his black-and-white pencil drawings the strain of competing bodies is evident in the curves, stretches and muscular exertions of the figures.

“While his most famous painting, ‘Sugar Shack,’ a jubilant dancing scene that appeared on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album ‘I Want You’ and was shown during the closing credits of the television situation comedy ‘Good Times,’ is not literally sports-related, it is nonetheless a characteristic work, with its vibrant tumble of bodies.” (more @ NY Times)

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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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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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jackjohnson1“Sen. John McCain said Wednesday he’s sure that President Barack Obama ‘will be more than eager’ to pardon the late black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who was sent to prison nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman.

“Appearing with three of Johnson’s family members and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., McCain unveiled a resolution urging a presidential pardon for Johnson, who was convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. The law has since been heavily amended, but has not been repealed. (more @ ESPN)

[Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion in 1908, defeating then-champion Tommy Burns from Australia; Johnson reigned until 1915, losing his title to Jess Willard in a controversial fight in Havana, Cuba. Best remembered for spawning a search for a “great white hope,” Johnson’s story has been chronicled in both stage and film productions of “The Great White Hope” and in “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson,” a PBS documentary by Ken Burns. Two particularly fine studies of Johnson’s cultural significance written by prominent sports historians are Bad Nigger!: The National Impact of Jack Johnson (Al-Tony Gilmore, 1975) and Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes (Randy Roberts, 1983).]

Related

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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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Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker magazine, on New York’s two new baseball stadiums, “the first time that two major-league stadiums have opened in the same city at the same time”:

“A stadium is a stage set as sure as anything on Broadway, and it determines the tone of the dramas within. Citi Field suggests a team that wants to be liked, even to the point of claiming some history that isn’t its own. Yankee Stadium, however, reflects an organization that is in the business of being admired, and is built to serve as a backdrop for the image of the Yankees, at once connected to the city and rising grandly above it.” (more @ The New Yorker)

RelatedTwo New Baseball Palaces, One Stoic, One Scrappy

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colsanders540“A statue of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Colonel Sanders tossed into Osaka’s Dotonbori River some 24 years ago by rowdy Hanshin Tigers fans has been discovered. . . .

“The Colonel ended up at the bottom of the river in 1985, when delirious Hanshin Tigers fans celebrating the team’s first Central League title in 21 years decided the figure bore a striking resemblance to Tigers slugger Randy Bass and, lifting it off its base in front of the Dotonbori Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, gave the Colonel a victory toss. The fans put a little too much energy into the toss, and the Colonel Sanders figure went over the railing of the Ebisu Bridge and into the river. Since the statue’s victory dive into the Dotonbori, searches for the statue were undertaken, but none with any success.

“The Hanshin Tigers have not won the Japan Series since 1985, a fact attributed by some to the ‘Curse of Colonel Sanders.'” (more @ Mainichi Daily News; via Newser)

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basketballComing Soon – the WORD Basketball League!

WORD Books in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is setting up a summer basketball league for book lovers. The league will welcome men and women and will likely play its games on the playground courts across the street from the store.

To prove their league-readiness, applicants need not demonstrate their shooting or dribbling skills – instead, book-loving hoopster-hopefuls need to answer the following five questions:

1. Who wrote Ulysses?
2. What is the best selling book of all time?
3. What is J. D. Salinger’s most well-known book?
4. Name a book that has been banned in the United States in the last 100 years.
5. What is your favorite book?

Those who don’t score well (on the test) are invited to cheerlead.

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header1Mastro Auctions, responsible for the sale of over $250 million in sales since its inception in 1996, has ceased operations. 

“The suburban Chicago company’s assets have been taken over by a newly formed sports and Americana auction house, headed by former Mastro President and Chief Operating Officer Doug Allen, Vice President Ron Oser and Logistics and Auction Manager Mark Theotikos. The new company will be called Legendary Auctions. 

“Long-time collector/dealer Bill Mastro, who started Mastro Auctions in 1996 and served as Chairman and CEO, is leaving the hobby, according to a press release issued Tuesday night on behalf of Legendary Auctions. 

“‘Circumstances make it clear to me that the business needs to move in a different direction at this time,’ Mastro stated in the release. ‘Legendary Auctions is a positive step that allows everyone to be taken care of, especially our customers who have been so loyal. I am looking forward to taking some time off for now, and wish Legendary Auctions only the best as they move forward.'” (more @ Sports Collectors Daily)

Legendary Auction‘s Press Release announcing the acquisition of Mastro Auctions can be found here.

RelatedIs the Sports Collectibles Industry (or Mastro Auctions) on the Ropes?

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