Category Archives: Baseball

The Atlanta Braves group-hugs the World Series 2021

I began watching tonight’s game in the fourth inning and the Braves were in the lead with 3 to the Astros’ 0.  It still felt like either team could win it until sometime in the sixth inning when the Braves increased their lead to 6.  By the seventh inning, when that score went up again to 7, the probability of the Astros tying the game decreased significantly.  It felt a bit like being a football fan and knowing that the team you’re cheering for is going to win because they’re up by at least two touchdowns and maybe a field goal and there’s only two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

It’s so great to see men group-hug and blink away happy tears.  Oh yes, the Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros 7 to 0 in Game 6 and won the World Series.

It feels so good to see other people that excited and euphoric.

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Suspense Pastoral

I’ve been watching the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros swing it out in the World Series and noticed an element of baseball game play that I’d never before contemplated.  Compared to other team sports, the rhythm and suspense of baseball game play in relation to scoring is that no matter which team you root for, you can be more hopeful that your team can keep the lead or shrink the score gap.  There are nine innings after all.  Ninety-five minutes into a baseball game and you’re not even at the fifth inning yet.  There’s a more fluid stop-and-go of “plays” that lessens the sense of fiendish urgency to score points (in contrast to football, which consists of a much more blatant stop-and-go of plays and feeds into the o-m-g-we-are-losing energy).

Moreover, unlike the rapidly changing points in basketball, baseball’s scoring fluctuates in moderation (nevermind that the Astros took quite the lead against the Braves in Game 5 of the World Series and in a short period of time).  Though the game play is slower than that of futbol and hockey, the players have an easier time hitting balls, running bases, and making homeruns.  In other words, watch a baseball game for forty-five minutes and both teams would likely have at least one or two runs.  Watch a futbol or hockey game for the same amount of time and you’re lucky if one team made one point.

It’s easier to passively watch baseball too.  One can mute the game and knit a pair of gloves without feeling as though one is missing anything that cannot be seen on the screen.  Although I have muted Falcons’ games in the past (and other football games), there’s inevitably a part of me that wonders if something illuminating is being imparted by the commentators in relation to a play or a penalty.  Speaking of the Atlanta Falcons, they did not beat the Carolina Panthers on Halloween.  They lost 19 to 13, aka, three field goals or one touch down.  After skimming the scoring summary, it turns out that the Falcons missed a field goal in the bottom of the third quarter.  Even if they’d made that field goal, they would still be down by three points going into the end of the fourth quarter.  So, unless someone pulled a TD out of their elbow before the two-minute warning, they wouldn’t have won anyway.

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

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Pic cred: Lesly Juarez, unsplash

Would You Wear the Green Sash?

Envision yourself on a quest where you must arrive at a specific location by Christmas and follow through with a promise you made the previous year.  If you keep your word, you will lose your head…literally.  A woman offers you a green sash (or is it more of a large ribbon? belt?) that as long as you keep it tied around your body, you will never die (or at least never be mortally wounded).  Do you accept?

Of course you accept…and to wonder anything more would be to venture into spoiler territory, which I shan’t do.

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Since the start of the year, I’ve only vaguely kept up with what movies would be playing in theatres in my city.  I still have not been to a movie theatre since I watched Tenet a year ago.  Among other films, I skipped The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021) when it came to town.  As the months went by, I was no longer sure I would see it at all…and then it came out on DVD.

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Passively waiting until it was available on DVD was the right choice in the end.  I got to enjoy the subtitles and a few making-of featurettes, which really contributed to my positive regard for the film.  In one evening, I viewed the film nearly twice from start to to finish with a few repeat-watches of specific segments.  I wasn’t expecting to see a fox companion…that eventually talked [somewhat like the one from Lars von Trier‘s Antichrist (2007) but minus the ridiculous delivery].

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Not long after Gawain (Dev Patel) encounters the fox, he sees giant entities traversing across the landscape before him.  On the one hand, it shifts abruptly the viewer’s perception of the time-and-place and even genre of the film, but on the other hand, Gawain did just unknowingly eat some fungus that isn’t meant for dietary consumption.

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I really like The Green Knight and I don’t know why.  Perhaps it is due to the film’s fairy-tale tone and story.

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In sports headlines, the Atlanta Braves may bring competitive glory to this here city once again (in general but also for themselves and longtime Braves fans).  I remember the 90s Braves and watching them win the World Series in 1995 against Cleveland on TV.

This moment…the pile-up at the end:

Now that I think back on the last decade before the turn of the 21st century, there was a period of time when I watched a lot of televised baseball and so many of the games were of the Braves.  Why?  Now that decades have passed, I realize fully that it was because of Fred McGriff (who played first base) and Javier Lopez (the catcher).

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While we’re at this juncture in the corner of reminiscence, check out these videos:

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Et plus, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Miami Dolphins 30 to 28 (via 3 touchdowns and 3 field goals).  Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

Pic creds: IMDB

Where Were You in April 1974?

I did not exist in 1974 when Hank Aaron accomplished an athletic feat that brought cheers and smiles to the faces of so many Americans, who may or may not have been so willing or eager to celebrate together in such a manner just ten years prior.

If you were alive then and old enough to form memories, do you remember watching this moment on TV live or in replayed clips on the news?  Did you hear the game on the radio?

Vin Scully was the announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers for nearly seven decades.  Along with just over 50,000 spectators, he was there in Atlanta to witness and to narrate Hank Aaron hitting his 715th home run.  Here’s a transcript of his words (bolded for emphasis):

What a marvelous moment for baseball, what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia.  What a marvelous moment for the country and the world.  A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol, and it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron, who was met at home plate, not only by every member of the Braves, but by his father and mother.  He threw his arms around his father, and as he left the home plate area, his mother came running across the grass, threw her arms around his neck, kissed him for all she was worth.  

As Aaron circled the bases, the Dodgers on the in-field shook his hand, and that was a memorable moment.  Aaron is being mobbed by photographers, he’s holding his right hand high in the air, and for the first time in a long time, that poker face of Aaron’s shows a tremendous strain and relief of what it must have been like to live with for the past several months.  It is over.  At ten minutes after nine in Atlanta, GA, Henry Aaron has eclipsed the mark set by Babe Ruth.  You could not, I guess, get two more opposite men: the Babe, big and garrulous, and oh, so sociable, and oh, so immense in all of his appetites; and then the quiet lad out of Mobile, AL, slender and stayed slender throughout his career.  Ruth, as he put on the poundage and the paunch, the Yankees put their ball players in pin-striped uniforms because it made Ruth look slimmer, but they didn’t need pin-striped uniforms for Henry Aaron and the twilight of history here.  He looks almost the same here as he did when he first came up twenty years ago.  

And so it was a memorable moment before the game, and now what a sweet moment it is here in the middle of the game.  So Henry and the Babe, the two greatest home run-hitters that have ever lived, and it’s a marvelous, wonderful, enjoyable moment here in Atlanta.  We’re so happy too that it could be seen all over the United States, that it will be duly reported all around the world, and I’m sure films of it will be seen all around the world.  And you can hear “Georgia” all around the world.  Henry is now at the microphone.  Henry gets it all out by saying “I thank God that it’s all over with.”  And I’m sure he has thanked God many times that he had to do it to get it all over with as he becomes the greatest home run-hitter in the history of baseball.

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Hank Aaron has died but the memories and documentation of his achievements will not fade away any time soon.

Social-cultural context of spring 1974:
~ The American participation in the Vietnam War ended a year earlier; Richard Nixon was president (with only a handful of months left in his term due to Watergate).

~ A week before this momentous occasion, the 46th Academy Awards were held and The Exorcist, Tatum O’Neal, Francois Truffaut, among others, won for their categories.  Groucho Marx also received an Honorary Oscar®.

~ The Miami Dolphins beat the Minnesota Vikings at the start of that year to win Super Bowl VIII.

~ The most popular songs in the country in the days leading up to the game were “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Sunshine on my Shoulders,” “Seasons in the Sun,” and “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Read more about that history-making home run at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Pic cred: Youtube screenshot

Impressions of Bull Durham

Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) worships at the church of baseball. When she isn’t teaching English 101 and Beginning Composition part-time at Alamance Junior College, she’s mentoring a chosen minor league player with the Durham Bulls via the recitation of poetry and the exchange of bedchamber intimacy.  She also carries an enormous handbag that must be filled with hair and makeup tools and quite possibly started that fashion trend in the late 80s and early 90s of women wearing a bazillion dangly bracelets (which calls to mind the Brighton Jewelry version of the Desperately Seeking Susan look).

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In Ron Shelton‘s 1988 part-drama, part-comedy Bull Durham, Annie takes pitcher Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) under her tutelage.  He has a great throwing arm but not enough game-smarts to really shine, so catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is assigned essentially “technical adviser” duties (such as telling him not to let his shower shoes get moldy).  Even though it’s clear that Annie and Crash have chemistry, she sticks by her rule of mentoring one player per season.

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I remember watching Bull Durham on television when I was a kid but all I could recall of it was Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner.  It received the Criterion treatment in 2018.  One of the reasons I really like Bull Durham is that it’s about baseball — actually about baseball.  It’s not a generic sports film.  Yes, it follows three characters heavily invested in minor league baseball and incorporates some cliches (pre-game rituals, unintelligible play-calling/pep-talking by the coach, insecurity, what happens once you make it to the majors), but the sport itself is not a stand-in for something else.  In a more traditional sports film that’s executed well thematically and narratively, the sport depicted could be switched with a different one (keeping the solo sport or team sport factor the same) and the film wouldn’t change that much.

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The cover art for the Criterion edition speaks to its baseball-at-the-core quality.  It’s nearly all sports paraphernalia…and one wrist tied to a bedpost, hinting at some of the plot points that will unfold.

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Another reason why Bull Durham may be one of my favorite sports films is Susan Sarandon name-dropping Susan Sontag while hitting balls in a cage, Tim Robbins’s heavy metal t-shirts, and the bit about William Blake:

Crash: Wait a second.  Who dresses you?
Annie: What?
Crash: Who dresses you?  I mean, don’t you think this is a little excessive for the Carolina League?
Annie: ‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.’ — William Blake.
Crash: William Blake?
Annie: William Blake.
Crash: William Blake?
Annie: William Blake!
Crash: What do you mean, William Blake?
Annie: I mean William Blake!

The special features on the Criterion edition of Bull Durham are fantastic.  Apparently, Ron Shelton used to play baseball in the minor leagues and he’s felt that most sports films are made from the POV of the fan and not the player.  Maybe that’s why I liked this one so much.

Here’s one such gem:

Pic creds: imdb and Criterion Collection