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Bo Knows Baseball Position Numbers, Do You?

bojackson

Bo knows…he’s awesome. Still.

I admit, I never liked baseball growing up. I didn’t play, and we didn’t have a team, except for the double-A “Memphis Chicks,” short for the region’s native Chickasaw Indians, and no one ever thought to be offended.

I also found the game to be as exciting as milk. (Even the “South Park” kids hated it for stealing their summer.) The three most memorable things I recall were:

Bo Jackson living in the apartment next door to my sister while he played for us en route to becoming one of America’s all-time greatest athletes

—The “Medicine Man” mascot—a white dude in a loincloth and buffalo horns (again, no one was offended, and I kinda think we should have been?) and

Looks like I wasn't the only one excited to meet The Chicken.

I wasn’t the only one excited to meet The Chicken.

—Meeting the San Diego Chicken when he (she? Aren’t chickens girls?) visited our ballpark. He was a lot shorter than I expected.

Baseball was also confusing to a seven-year-old word nerd. A “hit” only counted if a player hit the ball and reached base—but the way I saw it, guys hit the ball—like made contact with the bat—all the time. And didn’t the word “strike” also mean “to hit?” (Hell, the games wouldn’t have been so interminable if they played my way.)

Who’d-a thunk then that I would eventually wind up working for a baseball team, handling their public relations and keeping score—a skill that I have found not only fairly easy once you get the hang of it, but literally a game-changer for me. Because once I understood the positions, it was logical.

baseball positionsImagine you are standing behind the batter’s box, like the umpire, facing the field. The players are numbered in a sort of backwards question mark order:

1—Pitcher
2—Catcher
3—First baseman
4—Second baseman
5—Third baseman
6—Shortstop
7—Left fielder
8—Center fielder
9—Right fielder

Once you have that down, the game, specifically defensive plays and outs, are not only easy to spot, but fun to record. It’s pretty obvious on offense when you see a player single (1B) to first base or hit a home run (HR). But to understand the announcer when he says “a 6-4-3 double play” or “F8!” is more satisfying because you understand the numbers, and those numbers translate into images in your scorebook. If you think baseball is all math and stats, remember there is a lovely visual component to it as well.

Baseball (softball too) became fascinating to me when I realized on a scorecard you can see patterns develop right before your eyes—kind of like a photo in a darkroom, or knitting a sweater—but with men in tight pants. For example, marking this in your scorebook column…

F-7, ♦, L5, 6-3

 …isn’t some maddening Morse code, it’s simply:

  • a flyout to left (out #1)
  • a 2-run homer (you color in the diamond for home runs – my favorite part, as long as it’s my team)
  • a line drive out to the third baseman (out #2), and
  • an out from the shortstop (position 6) to the first baseman (position 3, thus three outs, and the half-inning is over with one run scored).

When you process a game visually, noted by your own hand, it is imprinted in your memory. Plays happen fast, but when you’ve recorded them, they are yours forever. My friend Bob has a scorebook he kept with his dad in the ‘60s, and he remembers each game, right down to the weather that day. These are some of his most cherished memories, not of just baseball but his now departed father.

SCORECARD-yankees-20080921-640

The Yankees scored seven runs in this 2008 game against the Orioles. (James Teresco, Creative Commons)

I will get into the basics of scoring in a later post. But for now, scoring keeps your head in the game (handy for parents whose children are in weekend-long tournaments) and makes statistics and trends easier to follow. And unlike other sports’ box scores, just columns of numbers, you can “see” an entire baseball game’s progression just based on a series of numbers and symbols—sort of like Neo in “The Matrix” when he finally understands everything in binary code, 10010110101.

There are many tutorials on the interwebs about how to score a baseball game (here is just one), and any paper game program or scorebook will also have a key. But even if you are just watching (or, OK, still bored off your butt waiting for little Timmy’s turn), maybe now you will follow along a little more because just like Bo knows, now you now who is who too.

PS–Don’t forget to enter our sports short essay contest! Free entry, great prizes! Deadline August 31!

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Oh, What a Record?

Hey ladiiiieeess! We're droppin' some serious baseball knowledge on ya!

Hey ladiiiieeess! We’re droppin’ some serious baseball knowledge on ya!

As I watched the Giants’ Travis Ishikawa* belt the winning home run in the National League Championship Series, it got me thinking about the first Japanese hitter to get America’s attention with his bat.

Back in the 90s, I didn’t know who the Beastie Boys meant in “Hey Ladies” when they claimed “I got more hits than Sarahadu Oh!”

But the lyric was certainly deserved. Oh holds (but not without debate) the all-time world record for home runs with 868. Not Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds—Sarahadu Oh.

Oh was born in Japan to a Japanese father and Chinese mother. He played his entire career in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants, debuting in 1959. His first season, he only hit .161 with seven homers, but after a little wax-on, wax-off practice (OK, some actual, real samurai and zen training), he soon was hitting .300 with at least 40 homers for eight consecutive seasons. By his 14th season, he’d hit 500 taters.

Meanwhile in AMUUURRCA, Aaron was advancing on Babe Ruth’s HR record of 714, and eventually passed it in 1974 (despite death threats!) As a goodwill celebration, Aaron and Oh, who was six years younger than Aaron and had already hit 600 homers by age 34, met in a home run hitting contest in Tokyo in November 1974. Aaron won 10-9.

Which is just one of many problems many baseball purists have with Oh’s record. He only played in Japan while America had more seasoned players. His seasons were shorter—130 or 140 games as opposed to MLBs’ 160+, so he couldn’t wear down with injuries as fast. Japanese parks were smaller. And so on it goes…

Aaron retired in 1976, but Oh continued to play, passing Aaron as world leader on September 3, 1977. He retired in 1980 with 868 home runs and 2,786 hits. He led the league in home runs 15 times and was elected MVP nine times.

And well, if you doubt his records, here is one you can believe: dental records. *Ishikawa (whose father is Japanese American and his mother European-American) met his now-wife, a dental assistant, after he was hit by a pitch in the face.

Sports Numbers You Need to Know

Simply the best.

Simply the best.

So in honor of Derek Jeter’s historic sendoff last night, I thought I would compile a quick list of these sports stats and numbers you often hear in bar conversations, on Sports Center, and even in rap songs (scroll to :46 for a Jay-Z reference to #5).

So here is a baker’s dozen (and just a FEW–bear with me, I’m writing this on a coaster), so please feel free to comment with other biggies.

I’m listing the numbers first for a little quiz fun, then scroll down for the answers.

Let’s go!

1 — 2

2 — 12th Man

3 — 60 feet, 6 inches

4 — 23

5 — Game 6

6 — 42

7 — 17-0

8 — 158.3

9 — 100

10 — 99

11 — 2,131

12 — 18

13 — Oh let’s go for the baker’s dozen: 1,098. Now you may scroll….

**********************************************************************

1 — Derek “Captain” Jeter, Yankees shortstop for 20 years, retiring after 2014.

2 — Slogan (with a super cool history) of Texas A&M and Seattle football (and a host of others), meaning the crowd’s noise and support as the additional team member to the 11 on the field.

3 — Distance from professional pitcher mound to home plate.

4 — Michael Jordan’s jersey number.

5 — Famous 1998 NBA Finals game between the Bulls and the Jazz; Bulls won 87–86, their sixth NBA Championship in eight years. It was also the final game with the Bulls for Jordan and coach Phil Jackson. It earned the highest TV ratings of an NBA game of all time. Jordan hit a jump shot with 5.6 seconds left to put the Bulls on top for good 87–86.

6 — Jackie Robinson’s jersey number – first African-American to play in Major League baseball.

7 — Final 1972 record of the Miami Dolphins, still the only fully undefeated NFL season.

8 — A “perfect” passer rating for a quarterback’s game. Stat is calculated using a player’s passing attempts, completions, yards, TDs and interceptions. NFL rates QBs from 0 to 158.3. College football uses a different formula and ranks from -731.6 to 1261.6. (Shrug.)

9 — Number of points Wilt Chamberlain scored in a single game in an NBA win over the Philadelphia Warriors, 169-147, on March 2, 1962. (Another key number: 20,000, the number of women he claims to have bedded.)

10 — Wayne Gretzky’s jersey number, the first ever to be retired league-wide by the NHL.

11 — Number of consecutive games played by the Oriole’s Cal Ripken to surpass Lou Gehrig’s 56-year-old record (2,130).

12 — Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 career major championships.

13 — Number of all-time wins by Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, before retiring in 2012 due to dementia. She is the only coach in NCAA history, and one of three college coaches overall, with at least 1,000 victories.

Good Guys Do Finish First. Even if Overshadowed by the Worst.

Beamer, Benz or Bentley? Mazda.

Beamer, Benz or Bentley? Mazda.

So this week the Baltimore Ravens finally released Ray Rice for literally knocking the flipflops off his fiancée in a casino elevator (and TMZ became a reputable news outlet).

This after months of other NFL suspensions for pot, PED’s, and a little Percocet promenade by a team owner. NOT to mention Roger Goodell et. al. imposing sentences for these infractions that would give you whiplash (2 games-4 games-6 games-8, what don’t fans appreciate? Arbitrary penalties, that’s what.)

So for some relief, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me their favorite football players—no, any athletes—who demonstrate the good, honest, charitable side of sports–and just human nature. And they delivered (pro wrestlers! Woot!).

By the way, I’m focusing only on the fellas here, not because women athletes don’t have legal issues (Hope Solo, come on, honey), but it’s the gentlemen who have dominated the police blotters of late.

So here, in no order, are just a FEW gallant guys who are using their athletics platform (or just plain old good hearts) to make the world a place of shiny, happy people holding hands, not punching women with them:

Grapplers Giving Back
The longtime WWE favorite “Mankind,” Mick Foley, now donates hours lobbying against sexual assault with the group RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). John Cena has granted more than 400 “wishes” for the Arizona Make-A-Wish Foundation, making him the current record holder.

Stop or I’ll Shaq!
Countless NBA players have or support charities—James, Jordan, Battier… But as the kid of a homicide detective, I find it quite touching that Shaquille O’Neal has applied to become a reserve police officer in Doral, Florida—a job he did once before in Miami 2005. That’s 7-1, 325 pounds of serving and protecting.

Feel-Good Football Players
I’ve written before about St. Louis’ Scott Wells and his three adopted Ugandan children. Now I have to give a nod to my Redskins, particularly Darrell Green, whose name was mentioned a LOT today. Not only an amazing athlete and Hall of Famer—maybe the best the nation’s capital has ever seen—but a true philanthropist, founding or supporting children’s charitable organizations, September 11 relief, education efforts and numerous boards and councils.

That said, I find running back Alfred Morris pretty awesome just for driving, still, his 1991 Mazda 626 that he bought for $2 from his pastor. OK it’s been fully restored, but it’s nice to see a player keepin’ it real.

Many friends like Holly Peterson Linder and Michelle Burstion Young pointed out not just one player but the entire Bengals organization not only for keeping defensive lineman Devon Still on the practice squad after being cut, but donating all proceeds from the sales of his jersey to pediatric cancer research. His daughter Leah is in Stage 4 with a 50-50 chance of survival. The good news is at this time his jersey is the highest selling Bengals jersey ever.

Don’t Mess With Widows
As for hockey, a classic name came up today. Mark Messier has served on a number of boards, including the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, and the Tomorrow’s Children Fund, as well as helped bring more ice rinks to the city. The NHL created the Mark Messier Leadership Award in his honor.

But most important, says my friend H. Paul Brandes, “Leading the Rangers to their only Stanley Cup in my lifetime should be considered a charitable act in and of itself.”

Children’s Home…Runs
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw received rousing votes today from Vin Scully cousin Patti Shea and others, and it’s easy to see why. He and wife Ellen raised money to build an orphanage in Zambia and he recently hosted a massive ping pong tournament on the field of Dodger stadium as an ongoing part of “Kershaw’s Challenge.” He has already received the Roberto Clemente Award and the Branch Rickey Award for his humanitarian work – Cy Young is probably next, for, you know, like garden variety pitching and stuff.

The Phillies’ Chase Utley and wife Jennifer work closely with animal causes like the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and encourage people to adopt pets, not buy.

The Rays’ Evan Longoria is a downright superhero here when he saves a reporter from a stray ball.

I also still love how the Mets’ Daniel Murphy missed opening day this year for the birth of his son, despite some announcers’….different (dumbass) views of paternity leave and C-sections.

And finally, my friend Jeff Jackson sums it up: “Real athletes don’t tell everyone the good things they do, they just do it! Derek Jeter!”

Yes indeed, Shortstop, Number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.

PS – some of the honorable mentions today: Tiger Woods; Ole Miss’ Deterrian Shackelford; Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf; Brandon Marshall; Russell Wilson; Warrick Dunn; Caron Butler; Andrew Luck; Mary Lou Retton; Joe Torre; Albert Pujols; Serena Williams; Ryan Zimmermann; Ted Williams; Stan Musial; Mario Lemieux; Jacob Tamme; Brett Keisel; Kenny Perry; Vincent Lacavalier; Brooks Laich; Nicklas Backstrom; and duh…OVIE!

Tim Lincecum: All Right, All Right, All Riiiiight!

Mitch Kramer before, and...nope pretty much still the same.

Mitch Kramer before, and…nope pretty much still the same.

OK with the U.S. men’s soccer loss/win/advance/happy-headscratcher to Germany Thursday, I meant to see if people agreed with me here on something earlier in the week.

In college, each year my sorority glommed on to one movie and watched it all year. “Pretty Woman” was freshman year, “Boomerang” sophomore year, “Grease 2” for some godforsaken reason was junior year.

Then senior year, the whole campus went apesh*t over a little independent comedy with a bunch of no-namers like Ben Affleck, Jason London and some ugly dude named Matthew McConaughey. The real star of “Dazed and Confused” was pint-sized pitcher Mitch Kramer, trying to win his game while dodging roving bands of rabid seniors seeking to paddle incoming freshmen.

(In between a little beer and weed at “the moon tower” of course.)

Funny thing is today, San Francisco pitcher Tim Lincecum, who threw his second career no-hitter—both against San Diego, a record—this week, looks just like Mitch. That is one dope doppelganger. Do you agree?

Word Up! What’s a “Balk?”

Cameo Word Up

Yo pretty ladies, around the world, got a BALK to show ya, so tell all the boys and girls…  

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s major sports news: a baseball team winning on a “balk.”

In fact, this instance may be the most famous yet. It happened Wednesday night when the Cleveland Indians won a game 11-10, and the series, against the Detroit Tigers when pitcher Al Albuquerque was called for a balk with bases loaded in the 13th inning.

A balk is a very nuanced transgression, but basically it’s an illegal motion by the pitcher. He moves as if he is going to pitch, but does not intend to.

This results in an immediate dead ball, and runners are each awarded a base. This resulted in a run in this week’s case, and therefore a win for the Indians, also known as a “walk-off balk.” “Walk-offs” are feats, usually home runs, that immediately end a game.

Want to see a balk? (Don’t feel bad–I barely can.) Here is Albuquerque’s unfortunate flinch (around 36 seconds in):