Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

Going, Going, Gone

June 4, 2009

The City of Detroit has decided to tear down what remains of Tiger Stadium at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.  This sentence may not mean anything to you, but it is profoundly important to me.  The Skydome turns 20 this week, and it was there, during the first season of play under the dome, that I fell in love with the team from the automotive city.  The first 17 years of my fandom consisted mostly of awful teams struggling to be competitive.  Regardless, I was hooked and to this day the Tigers are one of only two sports teams I care enough about to actually support (the Tiger Cats are the other).   I attended multiple games at Tiger Stadium on two separate occasions.  Both occurred during the final season before moving to Comerica Park.  I was fortunate enough to walk on the field after one of those games, and have some fantastic pictures of the field, dugouts and scoreboard. Tiger Stadium was certainly dated and run down, but it was also historical, and even a bit magical.  It represented so much of baseball’s history in the motor city.  Most of the Tiger greats played on that field (whether it was called Navin or Tiger). Although Comerica Park is very nice, and the team has been successful since moving there, it could never replace Tiger Stadium for character and memories.

It’s too bad that the current economic situation, and the recent fortunes of the City of Detroit have made saving the stadium unfeasible.  I’m sure downtown Detroit doesn’t need another vacant lot, but they can’t afford to maintain what’s left any longer.  Someday there will be no one left who remembers the highlights and lowlights of that stadium.  In my brief encounter, I found it to be the most incredible baseball park I have ever attended.  Sure it was worn down and dirty, but it also had an intimacy and charm that I’ve never experienced.  The 20 year old Skydome could never compare.  Today I say goodbye to a brief acquantince, and I am grateful I had the chance to be there before the end.

Knee Bender

May 27, 2009

It’s poetry in motion
She turned her tender eyes to me
As deep as any ocean
As sweet as any harmony
Mmm – but she blinded me with science
“She blinded me with science!”
And failed me in biology

Thomas Dolby

She Blinded Me With Science

Scientific research has vastly improved our lives.  From medicine to technology, very smart and innovative people give us longer and easier lives.  All of that is fantatic, but what I really want to know is why does a fastball appear to break sharply?  Thankfully there are people using their grant money to sort out pressing questions like this. The team of Arthur Shapiro (American Museum), Zhong-Lin Lu (University of Southern California), Emily Knight (Dartmouth) and Rob Ennis (SUNY Optometry) study this visual illusion. Shapiro’s blog outlines the study along with a great visual representation of the effect. The site is filled with neat visual tricks. The point of all this research is to reach a deeper understanding of how we see the world.  I find it amazing that our view of the world is almost completely dictated by what we see.  The work of visual researchers expands our knowledge of how we perceive the world.  This allows us to go beyond the illusions.  A curveball doesn’t really break, but we see it that way.  Maybe that’s why so many players swing and miss.

The Thomas Dolby song I’ve referenced is a clasic 80’s tune.  If you haven’t seen the video for it, you really should. The craziness will blow your mind. It’s really a Sci-Fi B-Movie disguised as a music video. Here it is:

Mighty Casey Has Struck Out

May 25, 2009


Originally uploaded by dfallis

This lovely picture was taken by my friend Dave at a recent Blue Jays-Yankees game. We were sitting up in the 500 section at the Rogers Centre. He captured the ball in motion and Rios leg twisting into his swing. I am always amazed by the quality of photographs Dave takes, so please take the time to visit his Flickr page and enjoy his work.

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, which means lots of afternoon baseball, and poignant reminders of those who died in war. Canada partakes in this activity on November 11th, and this blog featured a few posts on the topic during that month. The combination of sports and war brings to mind the stories of many professional athletes who spent the 1940’s fighting overseas. My grandfather spent a portion of his time in England playing hockey with many NHL’ers, though he was only an amateur. Many of these men fought on the front lines during the war. I wonder, if a large war were to break out today (the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are obviously a smaller scale than WWII) how many of our athletes and other celebrities would line up to serve? It’s a much different question now because they are millionaires today, whereas in the 40’s they made salaries that were more in line with the average worker. It’s an intriguing question particularly since many professional athletes have the level of fitness and discipline needed to be ideal soldiers. The average Canadian or American probably doesn’t anymore. I hope we never find out.

A Sliding Double

May 15, 2009

I’ve slowly been tempting you with poems over the last little while. Since I am off to a Blue Jays-Yankees game this evening I thought I’d leave you with this:

Victoria Park

You could hardly believe that I was here
60 years later
A patch of dirt and a grassy hill
Were the last connection between us
You were taller and with a heavier bat
Cleared the fence
The gathered fans
And the trees beyond
I was lucky if the ball dropped in
For a single or a sliding double
I imagine you were as light on your feet
And that while I snagged line drives
Before they could touch the earth
You would twirl your arm
And snap your wrist
To say goodnight to another pretender
A big hitter
The grandstand is empty today
But I’ve seen the pictures
When ladies
And suit wearing children
Crammed together
To catch a game
Many people still pass by
Through 7 innings
But they are focused on the road
Or their dogs
Or the sunset in the distance
In the top of the 6th
I let my mind wander
To a different time in space
When you stood out on that mound
And destroyed their dreams
With speed and movement
Clever spins
Crooked breaks
Until a snap of the wrist
Accompanied by a furious swing
Restores my attention

Ten Days Too Late

May 12, 2009

I’ve proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strip’s worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And every one was taken in
Powers chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage

Bruce Cockburn

Pacing the Cage

Finally a new episode of the podcast is up today. In it I continue the discussion of Slice O Life by Bruce Cockburn and even play a song from the album.  I also talk about baseball and play a song by the very talented Andy Mckee. Expect to hear more of his work on upcoming episodes of the show. As always you can find the podcast on iTunes, here, or over there–>

Take Me Out To The Ball Game, No More

March 11, 2009

Well the World Baseball Classic is over for me.  I mentioned in a post the other day that I was interested in it, but that was only to a point.  The Canadian team gave up 6 runs in each of two games and have already been eliminated from the competition.  At this point I am not at all interested in who wins.  That might make me a terrible baseball fan, but that is the reality of the situation.

I was wondering about the reaction of the Canadian media to this failure.  I didn’t expect much of an uproar, and with the Briar, NHL GM meetings, March Madness, and even spring training dominating the sports world in this country, there seems to be little room for discussing Canada’s performance.  When the National Hockey team failed at the World Juniors and later at the Olmypics the entire nation seemed to scream for answers.  Canada has been a middle of the road baseball nation for a long time, despite having a fairly well developed little league and amateur system.  I suppose it is hard to compete with warmer places like California or the Caribbean where baseball season can run year round.  I am not qualified to find the problems with Canada’s baseball program, but pitching was certainly a major factor at the WBC.

The fact is Canada can’t be a baseball super power until it is more widely embraced by young athletes.  I don’t think that even can happen with all the other sports options out there. The fact is as long as hockey dominates our nation other sports will be forced to take the best athletes they can get (many of whom are world class)

A podcast is coming in the next day or so, in the meantime enjoy this lovely video from last year:

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Maple Syrup???

March 8, 2009

O Canada Our Home And Native Land!

The almost entirely meaningless World Baseball Classic is underway, and Canada’s schedule kicked off yesterday with a game against the U.S. in Toronto.  The game will already be decided when this post goes up. I am writing it during the first inning with the score already 1-0 for Canada.  So there is some hope for the home side.  Baseball season always begins with a lot of fanfare for those who love the game. Even though we are 7 months from the World Series, and the WBC is in many ways a less than stellar exercise (I happen to love international baseball), the boys of summer have arrived.

A lot of people don’t understand why anyone likes baseball. They find it long and boring. I can’t argue against that because if you don’t already like baseball you might never.  I will say though that if you are a patriotic sort of person the WBC is your chance to get excited about the sport.  Although you’ve already missed Canada vs. the U.S., there will be more Canadian games, including the possibility of a rematch or two with those Americans. Give it a shot, I think you’ll find that the most pastoral of games is for you.

Why do I love baseball? Well for one I started playing when I was 4 and didn’t stop until after my 23rd birthday, so it’s been a major part of my life. I will probably play many more times before I die.  It’s a game where individual performance is paramount.  No one can help you succeed out on the field.  A great receiver can make a mediocre QB better, a great PG elevates the game of their teammates, and a strong centre will help his/her wings score a lot of goals, but in baseball your teammates aren’t really going to affect your performance.  In the same way a player can’t be saved by schemes or plays.  For example, Steve Nash’s game was elevated by playing in the seven seconds or less offence.  The batter stands at the plate alone, with only himself to control his performance.  Other than during ball in play situations, when fielders must cover their positions, baseball is a one on one game.  Baseball is not necessarily better than other sports, but this unique feature of the game sets it apart from others.  People often write about team chemistry, but unlike in more team oriented sports, I don’t think it’s that big of a factor in baseball.  I played on a team with some people I couldn’t stand, but I still had a great season.  Once you are at the plate, on the mound, or in the field, it’s just you and the ball.

It’s also hard to deny that the opportunity for individual glory is an attractive part of the game.  A dominant pitching performance is beautiful to watch, and there is nothing more exciting than a sliding triple.  Nevermind the joy that comes from a walk off home run.  In baseball there can be a sudden death style finish every single game, no matter what the score is going into the ninth inning.  As has been written many times before baseball games are open ended. Without a clock an inning they can last indefinitely, meaning no lead is safe until every out is recorded.  Baseball is a game of hope.

Hopefully I will be able to add a note to tomorrow’s post that Mike Johnson (who just K’d two Americans in the first inning) pulled off another big win over the U.S..

I Fly Up To Meet You

November 17, 2008

The greatness of Ty Cobb was something that had to be seen, and to see him was to remember him forever.

George Sisler

Ty Cobb was the greatest Detroit Tiger’s player of all time. He is also considered one of the “bad guys” of baseball history.  He was known for his spikes up slides and his violent play. You have to be pretty bad to be considered a violent baseball player, since it is among the most non-contact sports on earth. I mention Ty Cobb not only because I love baseball and the Detroit Tigers, but because he represents a past that we probably don’t want to return to. Another interesting thing about baseball is that among all the team sports, it is the loneliest. I spent many a summer day playing the game and know that a lot of it was spent with my own thoughts.  When I played centrefield I would talk to myself since there no one was really around.  Perhaps the reason baseball is so beloved is that it is reflective and leisurely unlike the other major sports.  Athletics is usually about winning and competition but for me it as always been a place to think, act, react, and reflect.  The outcome is usually beside the point for me. Maybe I just can’t handle the failure?

Lonely Day tells one person’s tale as they wander the streets and ultimately leave to see the person and place that they love.  They refuse to leave because everything that they left back home is not as important. This song spawned two other songs, The Lights and May, both of which will appear on the blog this week.  This was the very last song I started recording, as The Lights and May represent earlier attempts that went off in different directions.  Lonely Day is a very straight forward song, with only 5 instruments represented.

I hope you enjoy, Lonely Day: