Recently in Baseball Category

The Basepaths of Righteousness


A couple of these border on blasphemy (#9 stands out), but I can't say I disagree with that many of them.

Ten reasons why baseball is God's game

8. It has its Suffering Servant, viz. the Chicago Cubs, the "Cubbies," a team annually "like a sheep led to the slaughter" (and crucial to the game is the play called the "sacrifice"). But "Cub fans love the Cubs, warts and all, no questions asked. This quality is called faith" (Peter Glenbock).
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Another deathblow to my childhood


The WSJ yesterday had a depressing story about the baseball card industry. In order to reverse a decline in sales, card companies are including ever creepier relics as "chase cards" -- big ticket prizes that entice collectors to keep buying packs.

I blogged once a long time ago about how bizaare relic cards are (money quote: "Yes kids, for months worth of your hard-earned lawn-mowing money you can purchase a shred of lycra which caressed the rear end of your favorite second baseman/left fielder."), and it seems it's gotten even creepier. It seems some card companies have upped the ante, moving from second class to first class relics:

Ms. Artusa, a baseball-card collector since the 1970s, found something unusual in one pack -- a scratch-off code that pointed her to a Web site. The site told her she had won something too delicate to include in a regular pack: a single strand of hair from the head of Abraham Lincoln.

Click through and you'll see the article is not dated April 1st.

For a long time now, the baseball card industry hasn't been about baseball and this is further proof:

The industry has since streamlined, but "the good old days of building a set, one 15-card pack at a time, are pretty much over," Mr. Kelnhofer says. While cheaper packs today go for around $2, he says, "the card makers' survival is predicated on attracting and keeping the collectors who make the big-ticket purchases."

Those are people like Ms. Artusa, who got the Lincoln hair. The night she and her husband came across their prize, they were going through a case priced at $1,800 and containing 192 packs of baseball cards.

What is this but legalized gambling?

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Double Play


I'm sure there's a worse way to have your misery compounded than to turn on the car radio while driving away from the softball field after a 6-1 loss only to hear Derek Lee ground out with the bases loaded to end a 5-3 loss to the lowly Reds -- but it sure didn't seem like it last night.

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Danielle Bean on Baseball Season


All I have to say is: Someday!

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Psychological Warfare


I don't think I've ever seen anything like this before:

Country singer Danielle Peck, an Ohio native who used to date the Boston Red Sox ace, was scheduled to sing the national anthem and "God Bless America" on Thursday night for Game 5 of the AL championship series.

Beckett was set to pitch, with his team on the brink of elimination. Boston trailed the Cleveland Indians 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Peck was a substitute for Taylor Swift, another country star, who was originally slated to handle the singing duties.

"(Peck's) record company called and said she's got Ohio ties and we said, 'Perfect,"' Indians vice president Bob DiBiasio said...

DiBiasio said the Indians were unaware of the history between Beckett and Peck.

"An incredible coincidence," he said. "Honestly."


Beckett doesn't seem to have been too distracted:
8.0 IP 5 H 1 ER 1 BB 11 K

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Champions of Faith - a review


It was with a bit of skepticism that I accepted a review copy of Champions of Faith earlier this summer (sorry Mr. Walsh, I have a pregnant wife and a new house, I've been busy). It's a movie produced by the good folks at Catholic Exchange that profiles the faith lives of Catholic pro baseball players. Given my love of baseball and my faith (not in that order), you might find my worries strange, but then consider that the last movie to combine baseball with spirituality was Bull Durham and you might understand1.

Though the DVD is excellent overall, as with anything, parents should watch it with their children as there are some troublesome parts. For one, there are simply too many moments in Champions of Faith where the players and coaches profiled show a Prayer of Jabez-ish mentality. Says one: "If you put God in first place, he'll put you in first place, if you put him in second place, he'll put you in second place." Really? Tell that to Job. Or, if you prefer a more contemporary example, tell that to the Devil Rays. Sorry Tampa Bay! Nobody on your team puts God in first place!

More seriously, the structure of the movie tends to promote this idea. It's great that Jack McKeon is a devout Catholic (and I'm generally inclined to appreciate an old man chomping on a cigar talking about his devotion to the Little Flower) but is that why the Marlins won the World Series in 2003?2 The movie doesn't quite say so, but it does talk about McKeon's faith in the context of that season. The same goes for the Cardinals' 2006 World Series. Jeff Suppan and David Eckstein are evidently faithful Catholics, but, but.... come on!3 Like I said, watch this with your children.

So why watch it at all if it's so problematic? Well, like I said, overall it does a good job. For the most part it gets out of the way and simply lets the players talk about their faith, which is always a good thing (except when it's not, see above). Specifically, though, there are two great parts of the movie that could be useful for teaching boys. The first is a powerful montage where a couple dozen players profess their belief in the real presence. It's powerful because they are clearly sincere. Boys sometimes just need to hear these things from somebody who's not mom or dad. You can argue all day about why that is and it's probably not a good thing, but there are many kids out there who will be moved by seeing their heros confess their faith in Jesus present in the Eucharist.

The second great part is the profile of Mike Sweeney. It's a real, well-presented example of humility. A few years ago, Sweeney took a beanball from Jeff Weaver and went after him, causing a bench clearing brawl. Now, if you know anything about Jeff Weaver, you can instantly sympathize with Sweeney, but Sweeney explains his realization that he needs to ask for forgiveness, and it's a great concrete lesson in one of the hardest parts of our faith to put into action. Most school age boys would benefit from that part.

All in all, it's a good movie. The camera work is excellent, capturing not only some of baseball's greatest shrines (shots of Wrigley Field feature prominently) but also some magnificent images of the St. Louis cathedral and a mission in California (maybe San Diego). Really, except for the few prosperity gospel moments, it succeeds in showing that real people, even people many children regard as heroes, take seriously and put into practice in their lives their Catholic faith in Jesus Christ.

Papa-Lu's rating: Three stars out of 4


1 Entertaining movie if you can tolerate the constant blasphemy and Susan Sarandon. Back to post

2 Obviously, my being a Cubs fan has a lot to do with it, although Steve Bartman might favor the thesis that stealing a foul ball out from Moises Alou was divinely guided. Back to post

3 Interesting dynamic going on with this movie. It prominently features the 2003 and 2006 World Series, and the closing sequence begins with the White Sox winning in 2005. In fact, some Cubs fans may actually have their faith damaged by this film (j/k of course). Back to post

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The Greatest Blog Ever


Cardboard Gods - dedicated to baseball heros of yesterday. PG-13 language.

Thank you, Ross. I mean it.

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Sports Illustrated has a slideshow of ten "Notorious Basebrawls."


I gotta say, I seem to remember when I was a kid seeing many fights far more ferocious than these. Does anybody else recall George Brett being held in foul territory by one guy while another bloodied his face? They should have done more research into the 80s.


Unfortunately, my beloved Cubbies seem to be over-represented, and always on the instigating side. I remember watching in disbelief when Kyle Farnsworth tackled and pummeled Paul Wilson in 2003.

Bonus points to whoever can say what these two pictures have in common.

I should also add that I don't condone physical violence as a way to resolve disputes. Unless the S.O.B. really deserves it.

Hat-tip: BettNet

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Ouch! That's cold, man.


The harsh realities of Little League: "Dad, tell me the truth, why did you cut me off the team?

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Somebody please make it

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Even Ryno is selling out. "If you root for them, next year they'll root for you." Give me a break.

Go Astros.

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Things Change


Failing to meet up with a certain someone at the airport yesterday left me in a mood somewhere southwest of melancholy. To heal this, I took an extended route home and ended up passing by my grammar school. Having nothing else to do with my day, I pulled over and walkd around the gorunds. Noting that although some things had changed a great deal, it basically looked the same as I remembered it. I reminisced a bit about some of the very fun times I'd had, some of the foolish or not-so-nice things I'd done as a child, and some of the scary moments.

It can't say it was a particularly moving or important experience to be back at A.G. Bell School, but it was nice to remember faces and events.

Afterwards I decided to see if the baseball card shop we occasionally patronized (and occasionally shoplifted) still existed. I've thought recently about unloading some of my old collection, and I decided if the shop was still in business I'd drop in and see what the current market is like. Indeed, the shop did still exist, and I spent quite a while there talking to the lady who runs it. It turns out she was heavily involved with the baseball league I used to play in, and in fact I think I was on a team with her son Mitch for part of a year. We talked about the park and some of the characters who used to play and coach there. I had no idea, but it turns out lots of the coaches there were cops. I found this humorous, since I remember a great deal of the kids in the league being hoodlums-in-formation.

Anyway, this was a sweet old lady, possibly lacking for people to talk to (or possibly just that friendly), and I tried to leave several times only to be coaxed into further conversation. We talked about baseball cards (she was quite helpful), asthma (her son and I also both spent a good deal of our childhood in the Children's Memorial Hospital emergency room), how the neighborhood's changed, what kind of job I should look for, her parenting strategies... anything and everything.

Anyway, let me get to the baseball card part of this story. In short, I'm glad I lost interest when I did. The current scene is nothing short of ridiculous. I don't see how any child could on his own be a serious collector anymore. There's too many brands and sets and subsets and special collections and limited editions. Players now sign exclusive contracts, and the card companies don't even make cards for all of the players anymore. Every year, the rookies autograph a special set of cards which people hoard hoping that this particular rookie strikes it big.

I flipped though the pricing guide, and my stomach turned a little bit more. The pricing guide gives a value to coupon-cards that come with each pack that you are supposed to collect and then send in to receive memorabilia. This is like saving UPC symbols from cereal boxes for their own sake, rather than sending them in for a prize. The coupon-cards don't even have a picture on them, just the name of a player.

The absolute most ridiculous discovery I made, though, is the craze for relics. Bat splinters, glove leather and jersey material inserted into reliquary-cards are the newest card-fad. A card featuring a splinter of floor from Michael Jordan's last game (before he un-retired this most recent time) goes for forty or fifty dollars. Similar second class relics can be found in all sports for all the biggest stars. The most morbid sight I saw was a card, selling for forty dollars, featuring a piece of Craig Biggio's real, authentic, true-to-life, genuine, certified game-time pants. Yes kids, for months worth of your hard-earned lawn-mowing money you can purchase a shred of lycra which caressed the rear end of your favorite second baseman/left fielder.

I understand there's a place for these objects in collecting, but it just seems wrong to tie these objects in with the cards. It makes it harder and harder for kids to achieve the satisfaction of completing a set or getting all the cards for their favorite player. Even the lady running ths shop admitted that it was ridiculous. "I keep telling people that the only thing they don't sell yet is the jock strap, so it must be coming soon."

As for my collection, my expectations weren't that high, and they were about met. See, I started collecting in the early-mid eighties, right when things started getting out of hand. New companies were being formed, "traded" sets and special subsets were appearing. The scene was by no means as fanatical as it is now, and it was still possible - though challenging in a character-building sort of way - to collect a whole year's set, but it was starting. The collection of my brother - five years older than I and a collector for a couple of years before I started - might contain some real valuable gems, but by the time I started, people already had the idea that these things were going to be valuable in a monetary way as opposed to mere sentimentality. Cards were already becoming investments as opposed to keepsakes, and so great numbers of well-preserved cards exist, and so mine are not worth all that much.

Now mind you, I'm not complaining too loudly, for the fact that my collection might be worth anything at all is due entirely to this trend. Still, there is something wrong. I once heard Father William McNamara (quoting somebody else I believe) define a fanatic as one who having forgotten the ends, multiplies the means. It seems like the end of collecting baseball cards was once to honor, celebrate, commemorate our sports heroes and their achievements. I remember poring over statistics, memorizing them along with the bits of trivia that would be printed on the cards. Collecting was about the sport, especially the team. I would trade any superstar from another team (well, you know, within reason) if I could get my hands on that one unknown "scrub" who played 10-12 games for the Cubs. Now, however, it appears that it's about the players. The card containing the piece of floor was not commemorating the sixth of the Chicago Bulls' amazing championships. It was commemorating Michael Jordan. With the end forgotten, or replaced - the means have become multiplied. I could get Sammy Sosa's regular card, All Star card, relic card, Stadium Club, Donruss, Upper Deck, whatever... none of it would increase the end of honoring or celebrating anything. It's fanaticism.

Insert appropriate religious analogy here.... there are plenty of them. But I'm not in the mood just yet. I'm still lamenting the destruction of the hobby that filled my childhood days with hours of joy. Of course, the event related in the first sentence of this entry is not helping.

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Mama-Lu's Etsy Shop

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