Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Man's World

Photo from http://www.ericenders.com/wib.htm

This evening, I was checking one of my favorite baseball sites to see if I could find inspiration for a post. I didn't find it there, exactly, but was led to a bit of wikipedia surfing by my curiosity about the Baseball World Cup. At the bottom of the page, I found a link to the Women's Baseball World Cup.

I am shocked I haven't heard of or found out about this before!

This then led me to something even more exciting: The American Women's Baseball Federation.

Will you look at that? A national baseball league for women.

This is so exciting for me to see. When I was a kid, there was a period when I wanted to be a Major League Baseball player - like many other baseball fans.

Girls who want to play baseball, however, cannot simply play on the girls team - there is no girls team. It's not like soccer or basketball, where you can just sign up and play in a "safe" environment. No, it's more like girls playing football or ice hockey: you have to fight for the right to play.

When I was 12, I went to Baseball Camp at the University of Portland. It was one week, half-day. I was very shy and quiet, and there were about 100 participants.

I was the only girl.

The head coach, and older guy who I remember seeming always grumpy, was not happy to have me there, I think. The other main coach, who is now the head coach of the Portland Pilots, was much kinder, and much more welcoming. In addition to these two, there were several players that took part in the coaching. I only remember one had a shaved head. Most of them were nice.

By the end of the week, I had a position (outfield, which I later realized probably should have been infield), slightly improved batting skills (some is better than none), and a little respect from most of the others. The last day we split into teams for a tournament, and some of the kids on my team suggested we named ourselves the Red Sox. I was the only Sox fan in the group, and the Yankee fan protested, but was ignored.

So I considered it a success.

The following spring I played Little League. Once again, I was the only girl on my team. This time, though, the coach thought it was great that I was playing. The team was split, but it wasn't so bad - half just kinda ignored me, and I had two or three real pals. Unfortunately, my season was cut short by conflicting extracurriculars, a month-long trip to Europe, and injury (just don't ask what). I went 0 for 7 (or 8?) with 7 (or 8?) Ks and one walk. I also reached base once on a passed 3rd strike, and scored one run.

Many people asked why I didn't play softball. The reason, plain and simple, was that I didn't want to! Try telling a 12-year-old whose favorite player is a pitcher to go play softball.

But I wasn't good enough batter. All my childhood, my siblings and I played tennisball in the front yard. This meant baseball, but with tennis equipment, and you didn't stop once you kept going, but often scored 7-run homers. Your fielding skills got good, but hitting a tennis ball with a tennis racket won't make the transition to bats and hardballs easy.

So I gave up the dream of playing a few years into high school. Instead, I wrote history papers on women in baseball, and how Kenesaw Mountain Landis had ruined their chances (also those of African-Americans). I researched great women ballplayers like Toni Stone and Lizzie Murphy. I knew things, for example that Billie Jean King was big on baseball, but since she couldn't play, turned to tennis. (Her brother played in the MLB for 12 years, though.) And how could I forget Jackie Mitchell, who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

So I'm excited that I can now look at the present and the future for amazing women in baseball, and not only to the rather distant past. Because there is a lot more to women and professional baseball than "A League of Their Own".

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Best of British Baseball

The other day I vented on twitter, "can't believe they're making golf an Olympic sport while baseball and softball aren't."

(Actually, it's kind of a good thing they got kicked out because it made the World Baseball Classic a top priority. It sucks for softball though.)

A Dutch friend of mine replied, "It's cause golf is played around the world and... well, the States aren't the world :P"

Oh, people. Especially Dutch people, who don't even know that their country has won the European Championship 20 times, or that it beat the Dominican Republic twice in the last World Baseball Classic. Let alone the fact that they play baseball.

Well, now that the Red Sox season is officially over, and I'll be following the MLB playoffs from afar, I'm returning my focus to baseball on this side of the world. (I currently live in the Netherlands.)

As most fans know, baseball is played in huge parts of Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. South Africa competes in the WBC, though they haven't been very successful. I've heard a little about baseball in Israel.

But very few people seem to be aware of baseball in Europe, and then if they are, even fewer seem to take it seriously. (Hopefully those Dutch upsets of the DR are changing that.)

But today, as I sifted through blogs I follow on my dashboard, I came across an entry on Baseball GB about the first inductees to the British Baseball Hall of Fame.

A little more research, and what can I say? Surely nothing more than they can at those links.

But boy is it exciting to see the game spreading and growing like this. Congratulations to British Baseball and its fans!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The New Red Sox

It used to be that you could count on the Red Sox to lose in the most spectacular way. As they said in Fever Pitch: "They don't just lose. They raise it to an art form."

All those infamous years that any real Sox fan has memorized. '46 and '75, '67 and '86... they made everyone think they were really going to win, and then they would lose in the worst and most unexpected way.

This year, we lost a different way. We lost in a way that we should have lost, when any other team would be expected to lose. The Red Sox, on the other hand, were pretty much expected to bounce back, but only because they were the Red Sox. So it came as a complete shock when they didn't.

Actually, now that I think about it... it's the same thing that happened last year. The Sox were down 3-1 in the ALCS, came all the way back to force a game 7, and then, just when everybody was sure they would pull it off (as they had, miraculously, in the 1999 & 2003 ALDS, and the 2004 & 2007 ALCS), they blew it.

I won't even try to place all of the blame on Papelbon. They played 3 games, not one, and they lost each and every one of them, with or without Papelbon.

Oh, Please, Gods of Baseball, please don't let it be an L.A. Subway Series. I don't think I could bear it, if the season came down to la-la land.

Red Sox baseball 2009 is over. Here come six months of baseball hibernation. I hate this part.

And when Joe Castiglione read those famous words of A. Bartlett Giamatti's at the end of the broadcast, that's when I fell apart.

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops..."

Friday, October 9, 2009

"What's not been a factor has been the Red Sox offense so far."

When they said that, in the bottom of the 8th, I was really hoping it would come back to bite them. But unfortunately, the comment remained terribly true.

But there was a bit more vintage Boston. You know, the tantalizing loss. Mike being the tying run at the plate and dashing all of our hopes just as they were starting to gain strength. It's coming back.

Now I want some 1999 vintage Boston, as in Boston losing Games 1 and 2 to Cleveland and then coming back to win 3 and advance. Or even 2003 Boston.

Plus, it's all in the patterns, and this one's worked out great:
2004: we beat the Angels in 3.
2007: we beat the Angels in 4.

So obviously it's gotta take all 5 games in 2009!

Postscript: Yet another complaint about Angels fans - today I saw one wearing what had to be an Angels golfing hat. With a diamond pattern.
And we complain about pink-hat fans? Evidently, it can be much worse.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Whole Lotta Ugly

What an ugly game.

I think the best word to describe Game 1 of the Sox-Angels ALDS is FAIL.

Above all, this game was a prime example of the Umpire Fail. The umpiring was a joke, reminiscent of the 1999 ALCS. What baseball fan, who saw those plays, could actually believe that C.B. Bucknor missed the call?

Not the people who know that he's a horrible umpire. Major League players voted him the worst umpire in 2003. He was awarded the title again in 2006. Wikipedia isn't letting "new or unregistered users" work on his wikipedia page... because of vandalism.

After today's game, I can't blame anyone who would try it. (Whether editing wikipedia is a form of vandalism is another issue for a different blog...)

Then there's the Broadcasting Fail. Considering that this was TBS, it could have been much, much worse. But, after acknowledging that two LA baserunners were out by a long shot, though Bucknor called them safe, they had the nerve to say that "Red Sox defense has been good, but they have three errors."

Without any mention to questionable calls. Come on! Why point that out, if you know that two of those errors should go to Bucknor for Ugly Umpiring?

And, last but not least - rather, worst of all - the Red Sox Fail.

Because we can complain about the horrible calls all we want, but none of them prevented our scoring runs. That was all Boston.

Pitching was fine - Jon Lester allowed a few too many walks for comfort, and obviously Torii Hunter's home run was the key to the game, but he did very well. (Especially considering the two 4-out innings he had to play...) 3 runs should not be enough to beat the Red Sox.

But it was. With only four hits, and these scattered across the innings, the offense was practically nonexistent. No one even made it passed second!

Papi struck out three times! He, along with Jacoby and Youk, went 0 for 4!

This is not the Red Sox I know and love.

Luckily, Beckett is pitching tomorrow. Here's hoping he can get something going, and inspire some offense from his teammates.

The Angels deserve to lose if only for introducing that horrid eye- and earsore, the thunderstick. Call me a baseball snob if you want to, but those things are ugly. They deserve to be banished to the NBA. (I'm ashamed to read that they first broke onto the U.S. scene in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, but that was at a soccer game so I don't really care.) Dear Korea, next time you want to export some fan fun, please send us the singing!

Go Sox!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Tiebreaker

And so it begins: the Phillies have just beat the Rockies and the 2009 playoffs are officially under way.

Yippee! October is here!

I woke up this morning and hurried to check the score of the Twins-Tigers tiebreaker (when I went to bed, it was 4-3 in the 8th inning). It looks like I missed an amazing game. I only hope it's an indication of the weeks to come!

It all seems a little unfair, though. Neither the Twins nor the Tigers were the clear winner after an entire season of 162 games, so how could it all be decided in one little game! (Okay, it could have been littler, seeing as it went into extras...)

And, one little close game. A difference of only one run to determine the division champion, and teeter-tottering scores through all 12 innings.

It doesn't seem like a fair way to choose a winner. I always think of as an even-handed game, with its best-out-of-five/seven-game-series. But, then, no one said it was fair - and as a Sox fan, I've seen plenty to prove it.

And, after all, whichever team won, the team from the Central Division would still be the worst of the four AL playoff contenders, and have a lower winning percentage than the Texas Rangers, who didn't qualify.

Anyway, I'm glad the Twins won. It may be hypocritical, as a Red Sox fan, but I like the whole culture around midwest baseball. The honest way they work, the middle-class type of team. The Red Sox are, unfortunately, like the Yankees - up in their own little penthouse, in one corner of the country, the two of them hitching free agent prices higher through their competitive offers. The Twins are the way baseball probably should be. Less flashy, but still amazing, exciting, and always managing to thrill you.

Okay, I guess the Tigers are that way, too. But the Twins have Orlando Cabrera, and ya gotta like Orlando Cabrera. Especially the way he picked up the pieces for us when the Red Sox management surprisingly and cruelly disposed of Nomar in 2004.

Also, I've been to the Twindome, and I loved the atmosphere. (Now there's an ironic sentence.) The people don't have to be diehards, and still it seemed like a place where everyone not only knew the game, but truly enjoyed it. Not like the games at Seattle, where families come for seven innings and a souvenir picture of the kids with their hot dogs, and where the attendance rises and falls with the winning percentage. Coming from a city that seems to take baseball for granted, it was nice to find a place where people valued it.

So, basically, I'm rooting for the Twins in the ALDS because I had a good experience at their ballpark.

And because I have two teams. You know the ones. The Red Sox, and whoever's playing the Yankees.