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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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