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  • feedwordpress 08:01:56 on 2017/10/24 Permalink
    Tags: baseball, bean bag, Bill James, cornhole, Frank Geers, , Matt Guy, , ,   

    “Most players are just happy to get the bag on the board”*… 

     

    In 2000, Matt Guy [left-most in the photo above] began to notice his competition in professional horseshoes had gotten older, while no younger players came to replace them. There had never been big money to be made playing horseshoes, but Matt liked the competition and the opportunity to bond with his dad.

    When his dad decided to retire from competition, Matt had risen as high as sixth in the world, but it was time for a change.

    Soon enough, he was introduced to professional cornhole.

    As Matt Guy rose among the ranks of professional horseshoe players, Frank Geers had his own dream. He wanted to create a sports league.

    Geers figured his best bet would be a backyard lawn game, like horseshoes, ladders, or cornhole. He sought to emulate-lesser known spectator sports that still draw high levels of participation, like bowling. He eliminated some games for being too complicated or dangerous. Cornhole had obvious appeal for its simplicity and accessibility. Matt Guy noticed it immediately too.

    “Horseshoes used in competition are two and a half pounds thrown over 40 feet,” Guy explained. “In cornhole, it’s one-pound beanbags being tossed 27 feet.”

    Then, there was the money. Geers understood that people wanted to watch competitors win big prizes…

    The two men leading the charge to turn the bean-bag toss into a major spectator sport: “Serious Cornhole.”  See also: “Life’s A Pitch When You’re The World’s Best Cornhole Player.”

    * Frank Geers, founder, president and CEO of the American Cornhole Organization

    ###

    As we limber up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1963 that Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was hired as Manager of the New York Yankees.  Berra played almost his entire 19-year baseball career (1946–1965) for the Yankees, where he became one of only four players to be named the Most Valuable Player of the American League three times.  According to  sabermetrician Bill James, he is the greatest catcher of all time and the 52nd greatest non-pitching player in major-league history.  

    Berra’s accession to leader of the dynasty of which he was a crucial part was a natural, and a storied success. Less expected was his subsequent move to manage cross-town rival the New York Mets– where he was, again, successful.  He is one of seven managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series (as a player, coach, or manager, Berra appeared in 21 Fall Classics). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

    Berra is also remembered for the “unique”  observations on baseball and life with which he graced reporters during interviews:  e.g., “Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical,” “It’s déjà vu all over again,” “You can observe a lot by watching,” and “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  In The Yogi Book, Berra explained, “I really didn’t say everything I said. […] Then again, I might have said ’em, but you never know.”

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:28 on 2017/10/11 Permalink
    Tags: Babe Ruth, baseball, called shot, , , legend, , , Wrigley Field   

    “Don’t ever forget two things I’m going to tell you. One, don’t believe everything that’s written about you. Two, don’t pick up too many checks.”*… 

     

    Ruth stepped out of the box after strike one, then stepped out again after strike two. Tired of being heckled, he pointed two fingers, which is where the controversy begins. In the legend, he was pointing to the center-field seats, four-hundred-plus feet away, calling his shot in the way of Minnesota Fats saying, “Eight ball, corner pocket.” Root’s third pitch was a curve—the deuce. Off the edge of plate, down, but Ruth swung anyway, sending it into deep afternoon. It landed exactly where he’d pointed, that’s what they said, beside the flagpole in back of the bleachers—490 feet from home. Lou Gehrig followed with another home run. The Yankees won 7 to 5 and went on to sweep the Series.

    Ruth’s “Called Shot” is among the most famous plays in baseball history. Drawings show the penultimate moment: Babe, Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, arm outstretched, two fingers raised like the Pope giving a benediction. There’s a statue, movies. But it was disputed from the start. Did Ruth really call his shot, or did it just look that way?

    Grantland Rice and Westbrook Pegler, among the most famous sportswriters of the day, had been watching from the press box behind home. Both claimed to have seen Ruth point to center, calling his shot. Franklin Roosevelt, then candidate for president, was at the game—he threw out the first pitch—and he saw it, too. Ditto Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. Among the last living witnesses is retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who, then a twelve-year-old Cubs fan, was at the game with his father. The Cubs pitcher “Guy Bush was razzing Ruth,” Stevens told the writer Ed Sherman. “He and Ruth were in some kind of discussion back and forth. I heard years later it was over the Cubs being tightfisted and not giving a full share to Mark Koenig. I do remember Bush came out of the dugout and engaged in a colloquy with him … My interpretation was that he was responding to what Bush was saying. He definitely pointed toward center field. My interpretation always was, ‘I’m going to knock you to the moon.’ ”…

    The most iconic event ever to occur in Wrigley Field did not star the Cubs—it unfolded in 1932, and starred the New York Yankees, with the home team serving merely as foil: The story of Babe Ruth’s most famous homer, “The Called Shot.”

    * Babe Ruth

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    As we beckon to the bleachers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1911 that Ty Cobb was awarded the Chalmers Prize (an automobile), the equivalent of today’s MVP Award.  The “Georgia Peach” had achieved aa 40-game hitting streak and a .420 batting average, the highest in the league and record for the time; he led the league that year in numerous other categories as well, including 248 hits, 147 runs scored, 127 RBI, 83 stolen bases, 47 doubles, 24 triples and a .621 slugging percentage. Cobb hit eight home runs but finished second in that category to Frank Baker, who hit eleven.

    Ty Cobb, left, and Joe Jackson, whom he bested for the 1911 batting title

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:42 on 2017/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: baseball, Dolly Gray, , immaculate inning, pitching, ,   

    “Just take the ball and throw it where you want to. Throw strikes. Home plate don’t move.”*… 

     

    In the major leagues this season, batters have been hitting the ball so hard, and so far, that pitchers are suggesting foul play. “There’s just something different about the baseballs,” one veteran reliever complained earlier this summer. “I don’t have anything to quantify it, but the balls just don’t feel the same.” It’s been an unprecedented year for home runs: hitters are on pace to shatter the previous single-season record for them (5,693), which was set in 2000, at the height of the steroid era, when sluggers were making widespread and illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs. In June, players hit more home runs than in any previous month in the game’s history (1,101), sometimes in gaudy fashion, as when seven different players hit grand slams in a single day (another record)…

    Under the circumstances, it was easy to miss another major-league record being set this week. Granted, it was somewhat obscure. It concerned one of baseball’s most pleasurable and least appreciated feats: the immaculate inning.

    Rick Porcello [above], the starting pitcher for the Red Sox, threw one in a win against the Tampa Bay Rays on [August 9]. He struck out the side—three up, three down—on nine consecutive pitches. It was the eighth immaculate inning pitched this season, which topped the previous high (seven), from 2014…

    Rarer than a no-hitter: “The ephemeral perfection of the Immaculate Inning.”

    And check out The Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s “Treasures from the Baseball Diamond.”

    * Satchel Paige

    ###

    As we contemplate control, we might consider its opposite, recalling that on this date in 1909, in the first of two games at South Side Park, Dolly Gray of the Washington Senators entered the record book by walking eight White Sox in the 2nd inning, with seven of the walks in a row (each feat a Major League record that stands to this day). The six runs scored were enough for a 6 – 4 Chicago win, although the Sox managed only one hit against Dolly.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:49 on 2017/07/06 Permalink
    Tags: All-Star Game, , , attraction, baseball, game, , Simpson, Skee-ball,   

    “God’s a Skee-Ball fanatic”*… 

     

    In the early 1900s, the thing Joseph Fourestier Simpson desired most was to create something people respected. A career hustler—real estate agent, cash register salesman, and railroad clerk were just a few of the many jobs he held—Simpson longed to invent something he could patent that would have lasting appeal.

    A handful of his inventions made minor waves: He perfected an egg crate that could protect shells during bumpy transportation routes, and created a new kind of trunk clasp that kept luggage tightly shut. None of it made him rich, but one invention in particular would at least gain him some national recognition. It was a ramp that could be set up in arcades and amusement parks, a kind of modified form of bowling that allowed players to lob a wooden ball over a bump and into a hole with a pre-assigned point value. He dubbed it Skee-Ball after the skee (ski) hills—and especially the ski jumps—that were then becoming popular in American culture.

    Simpson filed for a patent in 1907 and received it in 1908. Later, he would see his Skee-Ball become a popular and pervasive attraction along the Atlantic City Boardwalk, in Philadelphia, and across the country. But Simpson wouldn’t see any profit from it. In fact, he’d suffer financial ruin. Even worse, history would become muddled to the point where most people wouldn’t even realize it was Simpson who had invented it…

    The tale in its entirety at “The Hole Story: A History of Skee-Ball.”

    * “Rufus, the thirteenth apostle” (Chris Rock) in Dogma

    ###

    As we roll ’em true, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that the first Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

    Lou Gehrig (back to camera) and Al Simmons at the plate as Babe Ruth approaches to bat. Ruth homered to give the American league a 4-2 victory.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:10 on 2016/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: baseball, cost overruns, Doubleday, , , Pittsfield, Rio, ,   

    “The Olympic Games… purport to follow the traditions of an ancient athletics competition, but today it is the commercial aspect that is most apparent”*… 

     

    The above graphic from HowMuch.net, a cost information site, visualizes data from a recent study by Oxford University to compare the budgets of previous games.

    The study found the average cost overruns for Olympic Games to be a whopping 156% from 1968 to 2016. This means that the Rio Games were a budgeting success, at least in relative terms, by ‘only’ running 51% overbudget.

    It should be noted that the study accounts only for sports-related costs, such as those relating to operations or building venues. The study excludes indirect capital costs such as upgrading transport or hotel infrastructure, since data on these costs is harder to come by, and is often unreliable. Also, some Olympic Games were omitted from the study, as they did not have available public data on the costs involved.

    The good news for organizers is that cost overruns, as a percentage, are generally going down.

    The 1976 Summer Games in Montreal caught everyone off guard after going 720% overbudget, and the city was saddled with debt for 30 years. Lake Placid (1980), Barcelona (1992), and Lillehammer (1994) were all grossly overbudget as well with 324%, 266%, and 277% overruns respectively.

    However, recent games – with the exception of Sochi (289%) – have all been pretty good as far as Olympics go. The average cost overrun since 1998 has been just 73%.

    The bad news for organizers is that costs, in general, are still going way up. Organizers are just getting slightly “better” at budgeting for them.

    Here are the total costs for all games in the study – note that costs are adjusted to be in 2015 terms.

    More– and enlargeable/zoomable versions of the graphics– at “Rio Games a success at ‘only’ 51% over budget.”

    * Ai Weiwei

    ###

    As we pass the torch, we might note that it was on this date in 1791 that the town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts voted to ban the game of baseball (and other activities that had disturbed many of the townspeople).

    Until about a decade ago, it was widely believed that baseball was created by Abner Doubleday (or his contemporary Alexander Cartwright) in 1846; and indeed, the “modern” game– baseball as we know it– was. But historian Jim Thorn’s discovery of the Pittsfield Bylaw, fifty-five years older, is the earliest known reference to the game.

    The relevant section: Be it ordained by the said Inhabitants that no person or Inhabitant of said Town‚ shall be permitted to play at any game called Wicket‚ Cricket‚ Baseball‚ Batball‚ Football‚ Cats‚ Fives or any other games played with Ball‚ within the Distance of eighty yards from said Meeting House – And every such Person who shall play at any of the said games or other games with Ball within the distance aforesaid‚ shall for every Instance thereof‚ forfeit the Sum of five shillings to be recovered by Action of Debt brought before any Justice of the Peace to the Person who shall and prosecute therefore And be it further ordained that in every Instance where any Minor shall be guilty of a Breach of this Law‚ his Parent‚ Master‚ Mistress or guardian shall forfeit the like Sum to be recovered in manner‚ and to the use aforesaid.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:45 on 2016/08/27 Permalink
    Tags: baseball, combat juggling, Dummy Taylor, , , juggling, San Malcolm, ,   

    “Juggling is sometimes called the art of controlling patterns, controlling patterns in time and space.”*… 

     

    email readers click here for video

    Part friendly circus act, part vicious duel: welcome to the world of combat juggling. Unlike the variety show clowns that would entertain you as a child, combat juggling is no joke; this is a competitive contact sport and there can only be one person left standing … er, juggling…

    Great Big Story recently sat down with Denver, Colorado variety performer Sam Malcolm to learn more about the competitive and sometimes vicious sport of combat juggling.  [Via]

    * Ronald Graham

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    As we keep ’em in the air, we might recall that it was on this date in 1900 that Luther Haden “Dummy” Taylor made his Major League debut.  A deaf-mute right-handed pitcher, he was a key feature of the New York Giants’ National League championship teams of 1904 and 1905.

    Taylor communicated on-field with his teammates– all of whom learned sign language– with his hands. He is credited with helping to expand and make universal the use of sign language throughout the modern baseball infield, for example, the use of pitching signs.   And Taylor contributed to signing’s repertoire of profanities, frequently cussing out umpires with his hands (and largely getting away with it…  except when, as with Hank O’Day, he encountered a ref who knew sign language).

    Taylor was also a consummate showman, an accomplished juggler who would often put on “a grand juggling act” in front of the Giants’ dugout to amuse the fans.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:46 on 2016/05/02 Permalink
    Tags: Albert Von Tilzer, baseball, , , Jack Norworth, , rock-paper-scissors, Take Me Out To The Ball Game,   

    “A combination of Halloween [and] Mardi Gras — really, a Star Trek convention with binge drinking”*… 

     

    …While the game dates back to B.C. times and clubs of serious Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) players have existed quietly for decades, a tournament in 2002 launched RPS on its path to being a sport that could compete with Darts, Poker, and Scrabble for ESPN airtime.  

    In 2002, two brothers, Douglas and Graham Walker, rented a bar and held the first Rock Paper Scissors “world championship” in Toronto. Douglas says they “would have been happy if 25 [or] 30 of [their] friends came to drink beer and play for a big prize.” To their surprise, hundreds of people showed up. The next year, major media outlets like CNN covered the tournament. In 2006, Bud Light sponsored a tournament and offered a $50,000 cash prize

    More at “Inside the World of Professional Rock Paper Scissors.”

    Scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes lizard, lizard poisons Spock, Spock smashes scissors, scissors decapitates lizard, lizard eats paper, paper disproves Spock, Spock vaporizes rock, and as it always has, rock crushes scissors.

    • Sheldon, “The Lizard-Spock Expansion” (Season 2, Episode 8), The Big Band Theory

    * description of the Toronto professional Rock Paper Scissors tournament

    ###

    As we prepare to throw down, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” was copyrighted by Albert Von Tilzer‘s York Music Company.  Vaudevillian Jack Norworth (who wrote over 2,500 songs during his career, including “Shine On, Harvest Moon”) had scribbled the lyrics on scraps of paper during a subway ride; Von Tilzer added the music.  Neither man had ever attended a baseball game.  Nonetheless, their tune (with lyrics revised by Norworth in 1927) has become the unofficial anthem of North American baseball, traditionally sung during the the seventh inning stretch.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:43 on 2015/10/26 Permalink
    Tags: 1975, baseball, Carlton Fisk, , , Mets, , subway series, , World Series, Yankees   

    “Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.”*… 

     

    On the eve of the World Series, an appreciation of Game 6 of the 1975 championship contest between the Red Sox and the Reds: “Game Changer: How Carlton Fisk’s home run altered baseball and TV.”

    * Leo Durocher

    ###

    As we settle in for the run, we might recall that it was on this date in 2000 that the New York Yankees defeated their cross-town rivals, the Mets (4-2 that evening; 4 games to 1 overall) to take what was known as “the subway Series.”  The Yankees became the first team in more than a quarter-century to win three straight World Series championships.

    Mike Piazza and Derek Jeter face off

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:12 on 2015/09/22 Permalink
    Tags: , baseball, , Musial, Private Snafu, , , , , ,   

    “All art is propaganda”*… 

     

    Between 1943 and 1945, with the help of Warner Bros.’ finest animators, the U.S. Army produced a series of 27 propaganda cartoons depicting the calamitous adventures of Private Snafu.

    Read the extraordinary story (replete with a cameo by Bugs Bunny) and learn how one of the cartoons inadvertently let slip one of the war’s greatest secrets– “Ignorant Armies: Private Snafu Goes to War.”

    And watch the Private Snafu films here.

    * Upton Sinclair

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    As we stand to attention, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that Stan Musial tied Ty Cobb’s record for the most five-hit games in a season (four)– and he did it in style, hitting successfully on the first pitches from five different pitchers.

    “How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away.”
    — Vin Scully

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:12 on 2015/08/14 Permalink
    Tags: baseball, David Mullany, , , Karl Reinhardt, , Pentagon, tiling, , wiffleball   

    “You can’t criticize geometry. It’s never wrong.”*… 

     

    In the world of mathematical tiling, news doesn’t come bigger than this.  In the world of bathroom tiling – I bet they’re interested too.

    If you can cover a flat surface using only identical copies of the same shape leaving neither gaps nor overlaps, then that shape is said to “tile the plane.” Every triangle can tile the plane. Every four-sided shape can also tile the plane.

    Things get interesting with pentagons. The regular pentagon cannot tile the plane. (A regular pentagon has equal side lengths and equal angles between sides, like, say, a cross section of okra, or, erm, the Pentagon). But some non-regular pentagons can.

    The hunt to find and classify the pentagons that can tile the plane has been a century-long mathematical quest, begun by the German mathematician Karl Reinhardt, who in 1918 discovered five types of pentagon that do tile the plane…

    Pentagons remain the area of most mathematical interest when it comes to tilings since it is the only of the ‘-gons’ that is not yet totally understood…

    Read the whole story– and see all 15 types of pentagonal tilings discovered so far– at “Attack on the pentagon results in discovery of new mathematical tile.”

    * Paul Rand

    ###

    As we grab the grout, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953, after a year of experimentation, that marine engineer and retired semi-pro baseball player David Mullany, Sr. invented the Wiffleball.  (He patented it early the following year.)  Watching his 13-year-old son play with a broomstick and a plastic golf ball ball in the confines of their backyard, Mullany worried that the effort to throw a curve would damage his young arm.  So he fabricated a full- (baseball-)sized ball from the plastic used in perfume packaging, with oblong holes on one side… a ball that would naturally curve.  The balls had the added advantage, given their light weight, that they’d not break windows.

    David Jr. came up with the name: he was fond of saying that he had “whiffed” the batters that he struck out with his curves.  The “h” was dropped, the name trademarked, and (after Woolworth’s adopted the item) a generation of young ballplayers– and their parents– converted.

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