This is a wonderfully succinct, yet broad sweeping look at the history of our national pastime. If you’re looking for an introduction to the development of this wonderful game, this is a great place to start. Even if you are familiar with the game and its past, this is still a refreshing review of the game.
Here is a fascinating panel discussion from last year that I watched late last night (too late — my poor sleep schedule). Hosted by the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, this discussion encompasses all sports and the culture that surrounds athletic competition in general. From children’s organized sports on up through the pros, these folks explore the problems of the idea of winning at all costs.
Clearly, we see, there are some issues when it comes to ethics in the world of sports. When the majority of athletes self-report that they would be willing to take a pill to become Olympic-caliber athletes (with the caveat that they’d die in five years), we realize that our priorities are wholly out of whack. When cheating does take place, nobody in sports wants to be a snitch, and the idea that “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” permeates the atmosphere. How do the higher ups of an organization combat this attitude?
This discussion is long, but if you have the time to watch even a little bit of it, it is certainly worthwhile.
ESPN.com posted this video a couple weeks ago, providing a sort of umpire’s perspective on the pitches of Aroldis Chapman. I have to confess that I was a tad underwhelmed the first time I watched it. However, when I imagine trying to actually swing at these pitches, I realize just how hard he really can throw a baseball. It’s pretty impressive, really.
I have a vague memory of watching this short toon as a kid. The part I remember best is the bit about Bugs playing catcher to his own pitching. I found myself wishing that I was fast enough to do that, especially considering how hard Bugs seems to be hurling those fastballs.
Continuing my journey through The Simpsons episodes, I am a good chunk of the way into season three. Last night, I watched the episode “Homer At the Bat” and was thrilled to recognize a reference to The Natural. Early on in the episode, Homer tells Bart about the time he carved a bat from the wood of a tree that was struck by lightning.
Just like Roy Hobbs, Homer hits like a dream with his special bat. However, with the exception of Mr. Burns trying to cheat his way to winning a bet, the allusion to The Natural largely ends there.
The episode later ends with Terry Cashman’s “Talkin’ Baseball” parody, which he wrote just for this episode, “Talkin’ Softball.”
Growing up, I never paid much attention to The Simpsons. Tragic, yes. I saw an episode here and there over the years, and always enjoyed the ones that I watched, but never made a habit of consistently watching the show. It’s not something that I went out of my way to avoid, so much as I simply did not go out of my way to make the time for it.
Recently, I’ve decided to try to rectify this transgression, and I am currently about halfway through season two of this entertaining series. As with many forms of American pop culture, baseball was bound to find a way to make an appearance, and I didn’t have to wait long for it. The episode “Dancin’ Homer” features the time that Homer Simpson, drunk at a minor league ballgame, started dancing like a fool for the crowd, and thus earned himself a position as the team mascot.
What I did not realize is that the team for which Homer was hired to make a fool of himself, the Springfield Isotopes, became the inspiration for a real life minor league team’s name. The Albuquerque Isotopes are a Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, having been previously affiliated with the Florida Marlins (2003-2008) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2009-2014).
The real world Isotopes play at Isotopes Park, cleverly nicknamed “The Lab,” which seats 11,124. The stadium stands in the same spot as where historic Albuquerque Sports Stadium once stood, until it was almost completely razed in 2002. Some remnants of the old stadium were incorporated into Isotopes Park. The stadium also serves as home to the University of New Mexico baseball team.
The Albuquerque team does not have a real-life Homer Simpson to serve as their mascot, but rather features a yellow, orange, and red alien/dog/bear creature named Orbit.
In 2016, Forbes named the Isotopes the fourteenth most valuable team in Minor League Baseball. They finished the 2016 season with a 71-72 record, which, interestingly, was good enough for second place in the Pacific Coast League Pacific Southern division.
About six months ago, I posted a song that had been written and performed by Canteen Slim, “For the Thrill (Hit It Where They Ain’t).” About a week ago, he and his wife were nice enough to share another fun little gem with me, featuring Slim doing quite an impressive Jack Nicholson impression.