Well, we’re almost halfway through the 2018 Major League baseball season and there are things to be learned. We know, for example, that the Giants are much better when Joe Panik and Madison Bumgarner are in the lineup (even though “Bum” lost his first two starts).
In one month, for the first time in Major League history, more strike outs than hits were recorded. It’s pathetic how these guys are swinging from their heels, strike outs be damned. It reminds me of the delightful old commercial, where Braves pitchers Greg Maddox and John Smoltz are hitting in the batting cage, murmuring, “Chicks dig the long ball.” Ha!
There are things that Major League baseball players do that will puzzle me forever. For one, why the single flap batting helmets? When you’re on base, you can get hit in either ear by a thrown ball. Why leave one ear exposed? And why doesn’t everyone wear the C-flap, to protect their jaw from the hundred-plus mph fastballs flung towards them? You see more and more, but still. Ought to be mandatory.
And why do batters remove their batting gloves when they reach base? You’re probably going to slide at some point in the game. Why wouldn’t you continue to protect your hands from infield grit or a baseman’s spikes? I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.
A month ago, in a college play-off game, a relief pitcher for LSU was due to bat. The manager was going to pinch hit for him, but the kid said, “Coach, I hit nukes in high school!” The manager let him hit, and he roped a double off the wall to drive in a run or two. After the game, at the press conference, the kid admitted that he had never hit in high school. The coach, with a wistful smile said, “You lied to me?!”
I remember watching the College World Series about ten years ago with my son. At one point during a Florida State game, Curtis opined, “It would be nice if we could get that kid.” That “kid” was the team’s shortstop, catcher and closer. He could do it all. Buster Posey.
A favorite baseball story has to do with home run calls. When a Giant hit a homer in the old days, Russ Hodges would intone, “Bye, bye baby!” For his successor, Lon Simmons, it was, “You can tell it goodbye!” When Hodges retired, Bill Thompson slid into the second slot. The San Francisco Chronicle had a contest to come up with a home run call for Thompson, but KSFO radio never let him use it. “Adios, mother!” (I kind of like it, and Jon Miller does slyly pay it obeisance with his lusty call, “Adios, pelota!”)
Though I am not a fan of “Charlie Hustle”—Pete Rose should never be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame (gambling is the ultimate sin in sport)—I am a great fan of the quality he espoused and lived by. I saw it a few weeks ago when the Giants’ Evan Longoria ran hard out of the box on what would have been, should have been a double play. But, because Longoria didn’t quit on the play and beat the throw . . . the Giants went on to score three runs that inning. Three runs that would not have been toted up in the absence of his hustle.
Speaking of hustle, did I ever tell you about the time I scored on a walk? You’ll understand why I remember this play so vividly when I explain. My adult hardball team was playing at Sonoma State’s excellent diamond. Seriously green grass, laser level. I was at bat. When ball four was recorded, the ball skipped past the catcher, so I sprinted to first base on the off chance that he might be a tad lazy retrieving the ball (the field’s backstop is a good distance from home plate).
Sure enough, he had taken things for granted, so I turned to second. The catcher frantically grabbed the ball and heaved it toward second. Wildly. He overthrew the infielder and the ball skittered into centerfield . . . where that outfielder had taken his eye off the play to ogle the young female soccer players beyond the fence. Needless to say, the ball went all the way to the wall . . . and I scored on the walk! ©2018 Richard Paul Hinkle