Cup of Coffee: April 8, 2021
The annoying extra innings rule, exhausting local fandom, overblown economic fallout, misguided social media "improvements," and exasperating Ponzi schemers.
Good morning! And welcome to Free Thursday! How’s about it?
And how’s about all the fun stuff we have today? Stuff like recaps which stray a bit farther off the balls and strikes than usual, some talk about how it must be exhausting to follow baseball in New York and Boston, more on how little is lost by moving the All-Star Game, how NOT to improve a social media platform, thoughts on Ponzi schemers, thoughts on the Thought Police, and a contemporaneous account of the 1960 World Series that I have, once again, on my mind.
And That Happened
Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:
Orioles 4, Yankees 3: It was reported yesterday that researches have discovered a tiny subatomic particle that is being influenced by forms of matter and energy that are not yet known to science but which may nevertheless radically affect the nature and evolution of the universe and which could completely upend the laws of physics. That would be disruptive to a fundamental part of humanity and civilization! But even if it comes to pass, it won’t be as disruptive and goddamn annoying as the automatic runner on second in extra innings rule.
This game was the fourth of the day to feature that stupid rule yesterday, and here it affected two innings. It’s a rule which I wasn’t calling “stupid” when it first appeared in the minors, because I only experienced it a couple of times. And which I didn’t think was stupid last year because last year nothing mattered. This year, however, I’ve come to loathe it after just a week of play.
Maybe it’s a function of the rest of baseball mostly returning to normal, but it just feels like some tacked-on anti-baseball every time it comes up. Probably because it’s not a rule aimed at solving any real baseball problems as opposed to serving as a lifestyle enhancement for people in and around the game of baseball.
Bill James — whose opinions on baseball still mostly hit even if he’s off-the-rails in other respects — wrote this the other day about that, and I think he’s spot-on:
“The professionals--the players, the umpires, the scoreboard operators, the writers, the TV crews, the broadcasters--they all hate extra-inning games because they mess with your life. You miss planes, you wind up getting to the next city at 5:00 AM rather than 3:00. It's not fun; the decision was based on what THEY want, rather than what the fans want. There's no way to fix it.”
I think that’s right. At the very least I know that, even if fans will sometimes complain about sluggish 3+ hour nine inning games, I have never heard fans complaining about long extra inning games, mostly because they’re rare and kind of wacky. I have, however, in press boxes and around ballparks, heard no small amount of anxiety on the part of writers and scouts and team officials about games going extras and messing with their lives. Which, hey, I won’t discount that. No one likes their lives messed with. It’s just to say that this has nothing to do with forward-facing baseball or the fan experience. Indeed, because it’s gimmicky and anti-climactic, it’s detrimental to the fan experience, even if it’s allowing the writers and team employees to get to bed a little earlier.
And I’m not alone. During extra innings in this game the fans at Yankee Stadium chanted “PLAY! REAL! BASEBALL!” in reference to the automatic runner rule. I agree with them and I suspect a lot of fans around the game agree with them.
As for the game, the Orioles’ Anthony Santander played the hero in multiple ways: homering to give Baltimore a 2-1 lead in the fourth, scoring on an error to give them a 3-2 lead in the 10th and then, in the bottom of the 11th, with the score 4-3, he threw out Gio Urshela trying to score on a fly ball to end the game. Chance Sisco's RBI single in the top half of the 11th was the difference maker on the scoreboard.
That all sounds kind of exciting, but frankly I’d prefer regular baseball in extras.
Athletics 4, Dodgers 3: Trevor Bauer was pretty dominant — even though they took a ball away from him for pine tar inspection at one point — allowing one run on a wild pitch and then later giving up a homer to Matt Chapman which made it 3-2 L.A. The A’s tied it up off of Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the ninth via a single, a walk, a sac bunt, and a sac fly — they should call these death by a thousand cuts blown saves “Kenley Jansens” at this point — and then Mitch Moreland singled home the automatic runner on second for the winning run in the bottom of the 10th. That gave Oakland its first win of the season. They now have 155 games to go in which to do what only three teams have ever done before: make the playoffs after starting the season 0-6. Those teams: the 1974 Pirates, the 1995 Reds, and the 2011 Rays.
As for Bauer, I suppose we’ll hear more about that ball the umps took away soon, but my view of it is that even if it’s clean, Bauer is the kind of guy who you can totally rattle if you mess with him like that enough over the course of the season. You can get in his head and he will melt down and play the victim at some point if opposing managers keep asking umps to look at baseballs and things. Everything about his whole persona suggests that he has an acute chill deficit disorder and, because of that, I suspect opposing managers will keep messing with him.
Phillies 8, Mets 2: Homers from Rhys Hoskins and Alex Bohm in the first made it 4-0, a J.T. Realmuto three-run homer in the fifth made it 7-1 and if everything wasn’t academic before that, it was academic then. Six of the Phillies eight runs were charged to David Peterson. Five Phillies pitchers allowed 11 hits but only two runs. Yeah, I know the guild requires that in such situations that I write “scattered 11 hits” but I don’t care. If they want to fine me they can fine me. Frankly, I’m tired of their shit.
Atlanta 7, Nationals 6; Atlanta 2, Nationals 0: Atlanta wins its first and second games of the season in a doubleheader sweep. In the first game the Nats jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first but Atlanta plated five in the second to Washington’s one, making it 6-5 early. It’d stay that way until the seventh inning — and final inning because we’re doing that dumb seven inning games in doubleheaders thing again this year — when they traded runs, leaving Atlanta on top.
The second game was a pitcher’s duel with Stephen Strasburg tossing six one-hit shutout innings to Huascar Ynoa’s five two-hit shutout innings. Pablo Sandoval’s pinch-hit two-run homer off of Tanner Rainey in the seventh gave Atlanta their winning runs.
By the way, whoever wrote the AP gamer for this one 100% has a novel they've been working on for a while:
Even though spectators were present — unlike last season, when they were banned —- there still was fake crowd noise piped in, offering an odd, and annoying, hum of a soundtrack.
With nary a cloud interrupting a crystal blue sky, and a temperature of 75 degrees at first pitch and climbing, the teams combined for 11 runs after merely two innings of the first seven-inning game.
Cardinals 7, Marlins 0: Jack Flaherty one-hit the Fish for six shutout innings and two relievers two-hit them for three more. It was 0-0 until the seventh, but at that point the Cards’ offense woke up. Yadi hit a two-run homer that inning, Paul Goldschmidt singled home a run in the eighth and then Dylan Carlson hit a grand slam in the top of the ninth to make this one look like more of a laugher than it was for most of the way. That grand slam came off of a pitcher named Zach Pop, by the way, who I refuse to believe is a real person as opposed to some nom de guerre one of my dipshit friends used on forums back in the 90s.
Mariners 8, White Sox 4: Chicago took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth but then they got hit by a buzzsaw. Or, since this is the Pacific Northwest, let’s say they got his by one of those old-timey two-man saws that you see in the old cartoons featuring lumberjacks and stuff. Personally I’ve never seen one of those in action, just a few nailed to the wall of bars and restaurants trying to give off that old rustic lodge feel, so for all I know they suck. Sort of like the push-mowers with the exposed rotating blades, which you really only see in old cartoons too, some period pieces — Henry Francis used one in a “Mad Men” episode once — and the occasional city yard of urban hipsters who also probably keep chickens out back.
Wait, what was I talking about here? Oh yeah, the ballgame.
The wheels flew off for the White Sox in the bottom of the sixth when the M’s strung together three RBI singles, a sac fly, an RBI double, and then another RBI single which resulted in a seven-spot. That turned a 4-1 game into an 8-4 game and that’s where it ended. Kyle Seager drove in three on a 3-for-4 day. No other Mariner had more than one hit. Didn’t need it.
Rangers 2, Blue Jays 1: A Nick Solak homer and a Leody Taveras RBI single was all the offense the Rangers needed as they got six shutout frames from Kyle Gibson. Texas takes two of three from Toronto. Here’s manager Chris Woodward on Gibson’s strong day:
“It was just nice for Gibby to get back out there and do what we expected with all of the work this guy has put in. He looked like the No. 1 today. He kind of set the tone.”
I don’t care about the substance of that, I just want to live in a world in which someone, even once, comes up with a nickname for a guy named Gibson that isn’t “Gibby.” Not sure I’ll see it in my lifetime, frankly.
Reds 11, Pirates 4: The Reds socked four more homers yesterday, with Tyler Naquin, Nick Castellanos, Tyler Stephenson, and Aristides Aquino going deep. They also plated double-digit runs for the fourth time in six games giving them 56 runs in all so far. That’s the most in Reds franchise history through the first six games, surpassing the 51 scored in the first six by the 1976 Big Red Machine. After the game Pirates manager Derek Shelton said, “we're definitely ready to get out of Cincinnati.” No kiddin’ man.
Cleveland 4, Royals 2: Shane Bieber pitched into the seventh inning, striking out 12 and allowing one. That gives him 24 strikeouts in 12.1 innings this season. That’s probably not sustainable. All of Cleveland’s runs scored on two two-run homers from José Ramírez. That’s not a sustainable level of production either, but it’s also kinda awesome.
Twins 3, Tigers 2: Detroit’s Akil Baddoo had another great day, hitting an RBI triple and throwing a runner out from left, but it takes more than one guy to consistently win and the Tigers didn’t have much beyond him and a Wilson Ramos solo shot. The Twins got a two-run double from Jorge Polanco in the sixth to make a 2-1 game in Detroit’s favor into a 3-2 game in Minnesota’s favor and that’s where things ended.
Red Sox 9, Rays 2: Nathan Eovaldi allowed one run and struck out seven over seven, Christian Vázquez homered for the second game in a row and drove in three, Xander Bogaerts had three hits, and J.D. Martinez doubled and drove in two to help the Sox complete the sweep of the Rays. Which was no mean feat given that, coming into the series, the Rays had won eight straight games at Fenway Park and 13 of their last 14. Sure, it was interrupted by a winter, but we count streaks over winter in baseball for some reason. Something about the unbreakable ribbon of history and whatnot.
Brewers 4, Cubs 2: Brandon Woodruff had a no-hitter going until Ian Happ led off the seventh with a clean single. That resulted in no damage and Woodruff left after his seven shutout frames. At that point the game was 0-0 because Kyle Hendricks had six shutout innings of his own with one more added by Alex Mills. Things changed in the eighth, though, when Lorenzo Cain homered in the top half and Joc Pederson homered in the bottom. Tied after nine, Cain homered again in the tenth — a three-run shot this time — and Milwaukee held on despite Jason Heyward’s RBI and a thwarted Cubs threat in the bottom half. A close fun game from afar, but the Cubs should be a bit concerned about their bats given that they had only three hits here after getting one-hit in their 4-0 loss on Tuesday night.
Giants 3, Padres 2: Darin Ruf hit a two-run shot early but the Padres scored one back and then tied it up with a Wil Myers solo homer in the bottom of the eighth. San Francisco plated the automatic runner in the top of the tenth via a flyout which advanced him to third and then a Donvan Solano sac fly. Thrilling.
Rockies 8, Diamondbacks 0: Antonio Senzatela shut out the Snakes for eight innings and only used 96 pitches. Probably could’ve had a complete game if it was later in the season. Meanwhile, the Rockies touched Madison Bumgarner for five — his ERA now stands at 11.00 on the season — and hit up Anthony Swarzak for three more. None of the runs came on homers. Chris Owings was 3-for-3 with two driven in and Sam Hilliard knocked in two more.
Owings is now 7-for-14 with five of those hits going for extra bases on the year. I saw him play in person at the Futures Game once many years ago and I thought he’d be great based on a couple of things he did there. That didn’t happen — he has an OPS+ of 72 and has only been a regular starter for two seasons in a nine-year career — but it’s a reminder that even the most pedestrian of players are super damn talented. Sometimes, even if they aren’t that great compared to the many other super damn talented players there are, they remind you that they too are super damn talented, even if it’s just for a little while.
The Daily Briefing
Mets-Nationals series rescheduled
MLB announced yesterday that the season-opening series between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets, originally scheduled from April 1, 3, and 4 at Nationals Park but cancelled due to the Nats’ COVID outbreak, will be made up as follows:
Saturday, June 19: the clubs will play a split doubleheader at Nationals Park to make up the April 1 game;
Monday, June 28: originally a mutual off-day for both teams, this game will make up the game from April 3; and
Saturday, September 4: the clubs will play a split doubleheader at Nationals Park to make up the April 4 game.
This is way easier to do for games between division rivals in an era of unbalanced schedules, of course.
George Springer now has a quad issue
The Blue Jays big offseason signing, George Springer, started the season on the injured list due to an oblique injury suffered in spring training. He was set to debut for the Jays today, but yesterday the team announced that he injured a quad muscle while running the bases after taking BP on Tuesday. “Whilst” running the bases? I’m seeing a lot more “whilsts” these days, and not just from British people. Kinda worried about Whilst Creep, frankly. Not gonna lie about it. It concerns me.
Anyway, they’re waiting on an MRI to see how bad it is. But either way, the beginning of Springer’s 2021 season truly sucks.
Jays GM Ross Atkins gets a five-year extension
The Toronto Blue Jays announced yesterday that general manager Ross Atkins has been given a five-year extension. Along with the recent extension of team president Mark Shapiro, it means that the Jays’ braintrust will be together for a long time.
Atkins has been the team's GM since late 2015. Before that he held high posts in Cleveland’s front office under Shapiro. The Blue Jays advanced to the ALCS in Atkins' first season on the job due to a holdover core put together by Alex Anthopoulos, but the club then embarked on a multi-year rebuild. The club turned the corner from that rebuild last year, with a core led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, finishing four games above .500 and making the postseason. This past offseason Atkins made some prominent free agent additions in Springer and Marcus Semien and the Jays appear to be a contender for the long haul.
Which is to say that Atkins is pretty good at his job. At least the parts that don’t involve, you know, seeing or doing anything about blatantly obvious harassment committed by one’s direct reports. Then again, when it comes to the upper echelon of the executive class, alleged obliviousness to that sort of thing probably contributes more to job security than attentiveness would.
Only in New York! And maybe Boston!
Whilst scrolling yesterday I came across a WEEI story about the previous night’s Red Sox game. The headline: “Two days later, they’re the feel-good Red Sox.” The story starts out as a mea culpa, basically saying “we take back all the gloom and doom we wrote about the 2021 Red Sox based on the first four games of the season, now we think they’re magic!”
It’s not the sort of story that is super uncommon, but it strikes me that that particular kind of angle — the angle in which nearly every game is cast as some sort of referendum on the season as opposed to just an encapsulation of the previous night’s action — is fairly rare in baseball reporting. And it’s confined mostly to writing about the Red Sox and the two New York teams. Elsewhere you tend to get more sedate things about what happened last night and what trends are developing or what have you, with almost no definitive judgments about whether the local team sucks or is amazing on a nightly basis. It puts me in mind of a quote from one-time New York Mets manager Art Howe, who once noted that the baseball season is 162 games, except in New York, where it’s 162 one-game seasons. I suppose that goes for Boston too.
As someone who reads a great deal of baseball reporting and who interacts with a lot of fans across various fanbases, that certainly rings true. There are hardcore fanatics of every team, but nowhere does that football-style live-and-die-with-every-game sensibility persist more than in New York and Boston. Even within games, if you follow along on social media, you’re more likely to find New York and Boston fans parsing each inning or even each pitch in granular detail, complete with side arguments and arguments about the arguments spinning off. It’s not as common while following along with games involving other teams, which tends to be a more chill experience.
When I’ve talked to Sox, Yankees, and Mets fan about this sensibility, I’ve typically been told that it’s because they’re more passionate or, according to some, because they are better fans that fans of other teams. I write that off as an all-too-common provincial exceptionalism one sees from people from places like New York and Boston, of course. There are a lot of ways to be a fan, and while having a heart attack over daily or hourly developments is an uncommon one, I don’t think it can be said that it’s qualitatively better. Or worse for that matter. Judging those kinds of things objectively is not only impossible, it’s probably pointless. Everyone rolls the way they roll and that’s fine.
But even if I won’t judge it, and even if I can’t share it — personally that sort of rooting seems exhausting to me — I am fascinated with it, and I wonder where it comes from.
I’m usually inclined to believe that it’s a function of media narratives fueling an “every game is life or death” level of importance. There are simply more sportswriters and sports talk hosts in places like New York and Boston and they all are searching for angles to differentiate themselves. A good way to do that is to go big or dramatic, to hype relatively unimportant things as important, and to stir up debate over such things in the fan base. When you’re the only columnist or one of only two talk radio hosts in a smaller city, you can find lots of angles that aren’t “OH MY GOD, THE TEAM IS 1-3, IS IT TIME TO PANIC?” but in New York or Boston that may be where you find the readers or listeners that mean the difference between you keeping your job or not.
But . . . they do find the readers and listeners with that stuff, which suggests that the treat-baseball-like-it’s-football mindset is not merely a media creation. People respond to that stuff and engage with it, suggesting that such a mindset exists in a good number of baseball fans already.
How much is that every-game-matters media hype creating narratives as opposed to serving an organic interest that already existed? I've been working this gig for years and I still don't know.
Reminder: Atlanta isn’t losing much by losing the All-Star Game
While most stories about Major League Baseball moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Colorado parrot the local tourism authority’s bullshit claim that losing the game will cost the local economy $100 million, at least some news outlets are, you know, asking people who know about such things what the real story is. And it’s amazing what such people will tell you if you simply ask them.
For example, a reporter from the Gainesville Times, rather than simply reading a press release from vested interests, asked Joel Potter, an academic economist with a specialty in the economics of sports, how that actually works:
In response to the criticism of economic effects, Potter said the potential losses are not exactly what they may seem.
“The vast majority of this revenue would have ‘leaked’ away from the local economy since this affluent demographic would have spent most of their money elsewhere in the world” . . . The biggest economic losses, according to Potter, are to high-income groups, such as team ownership and the metro city’s hospitality owners.
“Since most of the money from hosting an All-Star game goes to these ‘big fish’ individuals, and because most of these individuals tend to spend their dollars further afield,” said Potter, “the local economy doesn’t really lose much, if anything, from the game’s cancellation . . . Even though nearby hotels might lose revenue because the All-Star game is leaving, the typical workers at such hotels will still likely make the same wage,” said Potter.
Potter likewise cited the study I recently cited in which a 24-year survey of MLB All-Star Games revealed that the economic impact is actually closer to a net-neutral gain.
I don’t think that will stop most sports reporters and political reporters for that matter from citing the bogus figures from the local tourism bureau and from the league which claim that MLB’s pulling out of Atlanta is a BIG BLOW, but at least we know that there is better information out there.
Eduardo Núñez signs in Taiwan
Eleven-year MLB veteran Eduardo Núñez didn’t latch on anywhere this offseason. Which, given his recent production and the fact that he’ll turn 34 this year is not super surprising. Yesterday, however, he signed with the Fubon Guardians of the CPBL. Good for him for finding someplace to keep playing.
I’ll admit I probably would not have written about this if it wasn’t for something I found when I quickly Googled Núñez to see if there was any other recent news about him. What I found was what appears to be a translated article announcing his signing with Guardians on some weird aggregator site. It seems like maybe it’s a Chinese-language article translated into English — if it was Spanish the translation would be much better based on my experience — and something is definitely lost in translation:
The dominican Eduardo Nunez signed with the Fubon Guardians of the Taiwan League to play professional baseball after achieving nothing with the MLB .
Núñez just took two shifts in the MLB 2020 with the New York Mets before being cut by that team and not being signed by any other. Eduardo Núñez is still 33 years old and has a lot to give.
Eduardo Nunez It was that player who won the World Series with the Boston Red Sox being one of the best infielders on the team at that time, however, he goes off to live a new experience in another league.
May you live a new experience somewhere one day as well.
Downvotes on Twitter? Eh, no
Twitter is reportedly considering adding reactions and downvotes. As that linked article notes, there are a lot of downsides to that kind of thing, but based on my own personal experience in running websites, I can tell you that this is a terrible idea.
The key to getting rid of negativity and toxicity on any platform is requiring greater buy-in and commitment in order for people to express themselves. The more anonymous, low-effort engagement you allow — the lower the barrier to entry, if you will — the shittier the discourse and commenting and general vibe of your platform.
Those of you who were active in the NBC comments know how this goes. Anyone could comment with almost no barrier and they did not need to use their real name. There were also up/down thumbs most of the time. It lead to a ton of negativity, fueled by anonymity and lack of buy-in. And the thumbs were hackable too, with bots flooding any articles that had progressive or political sentiment in them to downvote absolutely everything. Compare that to here, where you all are paying actual money for the right to comment and interact. Now there’s virtually no bullshit because, really, who’s gonna pay even a few bucks a month to troll and be a jackass?
Requiring payment > Requirement real names > requiring registration > allowing anonymity to comment > allowing negativity even short of having to comment in the form of up/downvotes. The closer you are to the former end of that continuum, the better your platform is going to be.
Ponzi schemers never learn
The Los Angeles Times reports that a small-time actor, whose credits come under the name Zach Avery, but whose real name is Zachary J. Horwitz, has been arrested as part of a $227 million Ponzi scheme. He is alleged to have falsely claimed that he had film licensing deals with HBO and Netflix for old back catalog movies that would be sold overseas and from which he’d profit handsomely. Investors, always seeking easy money, bought in to his bogus pitch, funding his purported purchases and sales of film rights on promises of big returns. Avery/Horowitz never paid out and, like all Ponzi schemes, it eventually all unraveled amidst forged letters, robbing Peter to pay Paul, pathetic empty promises, and all of that.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the highest profile case I ever worked on as a lawyer involved a big-ass Ponzi scheme. My client was the schemer. As part of that I became something of an expert in Ponzi schemes, at least at the time. I gained such expertise partially so that I could understand what we were dealing with, but also because at some point I’d have to write a brief arguing for as small a sentence as we could get for our client, and being able to say “this guy or that guy was way worse a fraudster and he got a smaller sentence!” would be useful. Comps are important in both baseball and the law.
The one thing that always vexed me, both in my client’s case and in the case of the other Ponzi schemers I studied, was that they never had an exit strategy.
It takes three seconds to realize that these kinds of scams are, eventually but inevitably, going to come crashing down. Before that, though, you’re gonna have a gabillion legitimate-looking dollars at your disposal that you can use for anything. That’s the appeal of the scheme! Never, ever, however, do these guys seem to use that time and those gabollion dollars to construct a new identity and an escape plan.
It’d be so easy to do it too! Especially for these guys, most of whom are really good at forgery and lying and reality-creation of various stripes. So much of their criminal behavior involves fooling people and playing a part. You’d think even a small-time actor like this Avery/Horowitz fella would be able to pull it off fairly easily. To sock his money in some offshore accounts, to create a new life and a new identity, and to bail on everything and assume that new life and identity the moment you start getting letters from your duped investors suggesting that they’re getting impatient. But nope. They never seem to have an endgame.
I imagine there’s some sort of pathology involved there. Maybe the narcissism or whatever else it is that fuels the chutzpah it takes to scam people also causes them to fool themselves into believing they’ll never be caught. Maybe guys like me who are good at seeing risks and spend a good time worrying about bad outcomes are particularly ill-suited to running a respectable Ponzi scheme. Or, maybe, this is just the hidden data problem. Maybe there are a number of great scammers out there who did have an exit strategy and took it, but we don’t hear about them because they disappeared into the ether before the law got wise.
In other news, yeah, I spend an awful lot of time Monday morning quarterbacking crime.
Great Moments in Thought Policing
The Party of Freedom, which casts everything it doesn't like as "Orwellian," would like to monitor and catalog your political beliefs, Citizen:
In a push against so-called cancel culture that has been years in the making, the Republican majority in the Florida Legislature appears ready to pass legislation that would require public colleges and universities to survey students, faculty and staff about their beliefs and viewpoints.
These sorts of things are always cast as pro-free expression because, honestly, who is against free expression? But make no mistake, this is part of the larger conservative political project of casting colleges, young people, and educated people as “out of touch,” justifying attacks on higher education and the institutions and funding sources that support it. Just as the right loses at the ballot box when the playing field is level, they lose in the marketplace of ideas when ideas are freely exchanged, and they really, really don’t like that.
If you just want to find out the attitudes of college students, faculty and staff, hire a public opinion firm yourself. Wanting to mandate thought policing by schools is another thing entirely.
“You will never guess where I have just been. To the last and most exciting World Series game!”
About eleven years ago Judi, the mother of a good friend of mine sent me copy of a letter she had found in her parents’ things. It was a letter she had written them on October 13, 1960, when she was a student at the University of Pittsburgh. As I had just started working as a baseball writer, she thought I would find it interesting.
The letter, which starts out with the words in the headline up there, describes the spur of the moment decision to wait in line for standing-room-only tickets to Game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the Yankees and the Pirates. “It wasn’t too hard a decision to make,” she wrote.
Judi wrote that she and two friends took turns waiting in the line that queued up at 9PM the previous night until noon on the day of the game, relieving each other to go to morning classes and the like. They got their tickets: “$4.40 for standing room! I think that is terrible, but I was happy to go,” she wrote.
According to the letter, once the gates opened, Judi and her friends had to run — literally run — to find a good place to stand in Forbes Field. They made it directly behind home plate. Maybe they’re even in that screen shot up above.
Judi described the game as “perfectly fabulous.” She kept score, and enclosed the scorecard in the original letter to her parents, though she told me that, as of 2010, it could not be found anywhere. She wrote “I missed some of the pitches, etc., because people were yelling so loud, and I forgot whether right field was 7 or 9.” She had to explain to her companions — two male math majors who obviously didn’t know much about baseball — why, if such a beast as “pinch hitting” were allowed, Casey Stengel couldn’t just have Mickey Mantle bat every single time. Judi didn’t mind explaining that, however, because she enjoyed being “the expert,” for a change, she said, and schooling these young men on baseball was a lot of fun for her.
Bill Mazeroski’s famous walkoff home run itself got a surprisingly basic description in the letter, with Judi noting that “he had to fight his way to home plate due to all of the fans on the field.”
The best passage of the letter was this:
“So many times we were perfectly jubilant and so many times really sad, and yet, in the end, I was so weak I could hardly scream. As we went out of the ballpark there was Benny Benack and the Boys really whooping it up . . . the streets were full of happy people, and horns have been blowing from the minute the game was over until right now (7:00 p.m.). I imagine it will go on all night.”
Judi went on and on in the letter to her parents, describing the mood of the crowd, the city and the campus, all of it filled with great warmth and with an in-the-moment feel that you don’t get from historical accounts of the game. It was so immediate and joyful a description.
Judi eventually settled in Wooster, Ohio, where she raised three children, opened a book store that is now owned by one of her sons, and welcomed and adored seven grandchildren. Her baseball fandom persisted, though her loyalties eventually shifted to Cleveland. She even subscribed to this newsletter. When she did so I assumed it was merely an act of generosity on her part, but based on the analytics I can see, she opened it and read it almost every day through this past Monday morning.
Judi passed away unexpectedly on Monday evening. According to her daughter, “she had had half her G&T and was watching the Indians game and quietly slipped away.”
Rest in peace, Judi.
Have a great day, everyone.
That’s the way to go. Godspeed, Judi.
- I totally don't treat the Mets that way. Though that might be because I never fully expect any given season to amount to much. But maybe also because I don't read or listen to every little thing anyone is saying. I have been treating the Knicks that way because I am now listening to a podcast about that team that drops often, and I figure the more you break down every game, the more you think every game is its own thing.
- I can't say that if everyone who manufactures baseball thinks the runner on second in extra innings is good for the workers, that I will oppose it just because the fans don't like it. Workers should have the right to determine workplace rules. Yes, the game doesn't exist without the fans, but it's not how we make our living.
- Thanks for the link to the particle physics story. Dennis Overbye is the dean of cosmology writers and one of the reasons it's worth having a subscription to the Times. "Who ordered that?" is one of the great one liners in physics history.