Back to previous post: Strict orthodoxy

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Boo!

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

October 20, 2004

Playing against type
Posted by Teresa at 09:17 PM * 226 comments

Seventh game, top of the second inning, and Boston’s leading 6-0. They’ve pushed it too far this time. With all the talent and ingenuity they can bring to bear, I still can’t see how the Red Sox are going to manage to blow this one.

Addendum: In the discussion that followed, Julia Jones said she’s been living in the States for three years now, and still couldn’t understand a word of the comment thread. In case anyone else was similarly confused, this was my reply:
Okay, Julia. Here’s the basic setup:

1. The Boston Red Sox are famous for breaking their fans’ hearts by almost winning, then somehow contriving to lose at the last minute. Sox fans have been known to spend the last few seconds of winning or near-losing games on their knees in front of the TV, waiting in agony to see how the Sox blow it this time.

2. A lot of baseball fans in cities across the country hate the Yankees for having a better team than they do. The Yankees have won their League Pennant and the World Series oftener than any other team.

3. It has long been believed that the source of Boston’s sorrows is the legendary Curse of the Bambino, brought on by selling young Babe Ruth to the Yankees. This is untrue. Boston is actually cursed because the Red Sox took an unconscionably long time to get around to hiring any black players. Whatever the cause, the Red Sox haven’t won the World Series since 1918.

4. Red Sox fans have sorrows, but to be a fan of the Chicago Cubs is a tragedy. The Cubs must always lose. This is more or less a matter of religious faith with them. Their fans nevertheless suffer when the Cubs lose, just as though they’d expected some other outcome.

5. The Red Sox and the Yankees are both in the American League. The Red Sox have lost a lot of pennants to the Yankees. The Cubs are in the National League.

6. It is generally believed that some variety of Apocalyptic Last Days will result if the Red Sox and Cubs ever win their respective leagues’ pennants and meet in the World Series, as that would theoretically mean that one or the other of them would have to win.
Since the Red Sox trounced the Yankees to take the American League Pennant, last night was either a glorious victory, or the prelude to some unimaginable and unprecedented baseball disaster in the World Series that will thus be even more fraught and heartbreaking than usual.

In short, non-baseball fans, you haven’t heard the end of this. Don’t fight it. Sit back and appreciate the narrative as it unfolds.

Comments on Playing against type:
#1 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 09:52 PM:

After watching game 6 last year, I am doubtful.

I hope they do, but it's the Red Sox.

#2 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 09:55 PM:

SSSSHHHHH!

Yes, I know it's 8-1, top of the 4th, with one on and no outs. I don't CARE. I won't believe it until the last out in the 9th.

It's the Red Sox. Of _course_ they can manage to find a way!

#3 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 09:57 PM:

They don't always blow the league championship - sometimes they wait and blow it in the Series, instead. And they must blow it eventually. Far too much of the Boston psyche is based on the Red Sox not winning the Series; I hate to contemplate the magnitude of the paradigm shift that would have to follow. As a Boston-area resident, I don't care to see it.

Fortunately, there's nothing to worry about. The Sox are nothing if not reliable.

#4 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 10:11 PM:

The Yankees have not come back from this far behind in ANY postseason game. Never mind that they came from behind in the regular season more thyan anyone else (Dodgers were 2nd). This is a game 7; the paradigm has shifted. I say the Sox go to the World Series, after this most amazing comeback in postseason history. And THEN, the world must end. Or something. Depends whether or not Stephen King is writing the script. Something with the Old Ones and an undead Babe...

#5 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 10:20 PM:

StopstopstopstopSTOP!!!!

I'm holding my breath here.

#6 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 10:22 PM:

As-you-know-Bob, Stephen King _is_ writing a book with Stewart O'Nan, about the Red Sox's season from a fan's perspective.

But you know, I think the levels of unreality in this series are high enough already, not matter what happens. The undead would be superfluous.

(Cardinals-Astros going to 7 as well, Clemens will start tomorrow night.)

#7 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 10:29 PM:

Kate - hold my hand, please - I'm SCARED!

#8 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 10:34 PM:

There, there. There, there.

Just think, Derek Lowe looks rather like Owen Wilson, and nothing really bad happens in an Owen Wilson movie, right?

(Wait, is that tempting the Woof Gods? Never mind. And Wilson has been in some really sucky movies.)

The current Yankees pitcher perpetually looks like he's going to cry, does that help?

#9 ::: Hannah Wolf Bowen ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 10:38 PM:

You must not be a Bulls fan. Not that I'd blame you, these days.

A really determined sports team can blow _anything._

#10 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 10:41 PM:

Owen Wilson --- choke.

But Johnny Damon's hair? Too soon to tell.

#11 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 10:49 PM:

As a lapsed Cubs fan, I'm not sure what to make of these playoffs....

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 10:58 PM:

Seventh-inning stretch, 8-1 Boston.

This is not what I call reliable.

#13 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:01 PM:

What is this "reliable" you speak of?

#14 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:02 PM:

Well, they just put Martinez in to pitch, for _no_ apparent reason, and Matsui led off with a double.

This is not good.

#15 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:03 PM:

Well, they just put Martinez in to pitch, for _no_ apparent reason, and back to back doubles with a run scored.

This is not good.

#16 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:04 PM:

(Sorry, I thought I'd caught that first comment--even refreshed the page & it wasn't there.)

(Waaah.)

#17 ::: Janice Gelb ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:04 PM:

After game 4, I posted something about how strange I found it that the Boston fans and players were wildly celebrating their extra-innings win as if they'd just won the World Series, even though they were just prolonging the inevitable. Then of course, they won an unprecedented two more.

OTOH, they might have just found the way to lose: Pedro Martinez, he of the total collapse from Boston's last appearance in the ALCS, has just come in and given up back-to-back doubles and a run.

#18 ::: Janice Gelb ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:05 PM:

After game 4, I posted something about how strange I found it that the Boston fans and players were wildly celebrating their extra-innings win as if they'd just won the World Series, even though they were just prolonging the inevitable. Then of course, they won an unprecedented two more.

OTOH, they might have just found the way to lose: Pedro Martinez, he of the total collapse from Boston's last appearance in the ALCS, has just come in and given up back-to-back doubles, a base hit up the middle, and two runs.

#19 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:08 PM:

stop. Stop. I tell you STOP.

The key to being a Sox fan: zen.

Suspend judgment, suspend anticipation. Just be.

SHUT UP! I said, just BE!

#20 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:09 PM:

Janice and I are showing, via our comments, just how quickly it's happening!

OTOH, Martinez just got the second out on a strike.

#21 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:09 PM:

A Bostonian perspective: reliability isn't really what Red Sox fans have come to expect. The glory of the team is that they find new and different ways to lose. And even if they get out of this one, they still have another series to do it in...

#22 ::: abby noyce ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:11 PM:

The key to being a Sox fan is loving the ride. And this is quite a ride.

#23 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:17 PM:

You wrote too soon. They let Pedro pitch.

#24 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:17 PM:

Yes. Bellhorn. Yes.

Oh, must wake up my husband....

#25 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:17 PM:

I'd call that reliable, Charles. The Sox can be absolutely guaranteed to not win the World Series. It's a lot like the more predictable examples of genre fiction - the beautiful heroine always finds the murderer and the detective always marries well (or something like that), so there's no suspense there, but the narrative details of how they do it hold the interest. (Of some people, anyway - I have only an academic interest.)

#26 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:17 PM:

You wrote too soon. They let Pedro pitch.

#27 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:27 PM:

All I can say is, the Astros must not win tomorrow night. A Texas-Massachusetts World Series would be just too hack-screenwriter an outcome.

#28 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:29 PM:

It's just that our hostess seemed so certain that they were to be reliably expected to lose this game... completely closing off the possibility of greater disappointment down the line...

#29 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:29 PM:

Chris Q: Worse than last year's dream outcome?

Cubs-Sox?

Please.

#30 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:34 PM:

... or should I say, "better than last year..."

#31 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:39 PM:

I acknowledge the possibility of victory. It could happen.

#32 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:45 PM:

aiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!

Nyarlathotep....

aiiii....

Don't muck with the old ones.

#33 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:48 PM:

Jill: may I recommend that you take slow, deep breaths? Possibly put your head between your knees? Talk a brief walk around the house? It's a commercial break going into bottom of the 9th, now would be a perfect time to collect yourself.

Really. If you have a full-on nervous breakdown in comments, Making Light will never be the same . . .

(And I _agree_ with you, generally, Woof Gods and all.)

#34 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:55 PM:

Oh, fudge; the announcers are starting to take it for granted.

I, like Teresa, acknowledge the possiblity of Red Sox defeat. I would like this noted by whatever dieties are relevant.

#35 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:55 PM:

Oh, fudge; the announcers are starting to take it for granted.

I, like Teresa, acknowledge the possiblity of Red Sox defeat. I would like this noted by whatever deities are relevant.

#36 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 11:56 PM:

Kate - you are a fountain of wisdom and serene peace.

And I, a budding Yoga teacher. So far from serenity and peace.

Yet... can a New Englander possibly not have an aneurism with a 10-3, bottom of the 9th, Pennant situation vs. The Yankees?

I ask you.

#37 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:01 AM:

Argh. Sorry. I didn't realize that had double-posted.

I shall now, however, stop acknowledging the possiblity of defeat.

#38 ::: abby noyce ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:01 AM:

All right!

So... what will be the most painful Series loss possible?

#40 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:02 AM:

Ho-lee karp.

Kate - I'm going to bed now. Thank you, enabler you. In cyberspace, if you're allowing, I'm hugging you.

Now, sleep.

#41 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:03 AM:

Eeeeeeee!

*hugs* back to Jill. Get some sleep--you'll need it for Saturday . . .

#42 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:04 AM:

*chokes*

They...

But...

Dear Lord.

#43 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:06 AM:

Quite the series. The Red Sox definitely deserved this pennant.

FWIW, I watched the last hour of the game with the sound off (God Bless America made me switch the soundtrack to the radio) so I watched the game while listening to Madeline Albright at the City Club on NPR. And I still managed to yell at the TV at the appropriate moments.

As far as the World Series goes, I refrain from mentioning the name B*** B******.

#44 ::: Tonya Liburd ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:08 AM:

Grr.

When are you people going to wake up and realise that cricket is where it's at...?!?!?

#45 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:15 AM:

I've been living in the US for three years now, and I still don't understand a word of this thread...

#46 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:21 AM:

The last time the Red Sox made it this far, I had just moved to Boston.

That was 1986.

#47 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:35 AM:

I never have the TV sound turned on for Fox telecasts if I can help it -- the Sox radio guys generally do a much better job. (Fox almost never shows you or tells you how the fielders are positioned; what's up with that?)

BTW, while the Sox weren't really out of character here (they're known for inspirational victories laying the ground for vaster and more crushing defeats), perhaps the other team was...

#48 ::: Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:49 AM:

Re a Texas-Massachusetts Series, and hack writing: Hey, the Old Guy always uses hack writing. Have looked over this Bible thing?

But after the Sox --and Kerry -- win, I won't care much.

Re the overall situation: Folks, you don't understand. This is the 21st Century. The Yankees have yet to win a Series this century, and have choked in every single post-season this century. They will continue to do so, especially since they've picked up a new curse: The Curse of A-Rod. As I said when he left Seattle, "What profiteth a man if he signs a $25 million a year contract, but never gets to wear a World Series ring?"

A-Rod will never wear that ring. Bank on it.

#49 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:50 AM:

I don't care. Whatever else happens, the Yankees Will Not Win The Series. Again. A perfect record this century. That, by god, is Victory Enough.

I wonder if Sox Zen works on elections, though?

#50 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:10 AM:

Okay, Julia. Here's the basic setup:

1. The Boston Red Sox are famous for breaking their fans' hearts by almost winning, then somehow contriving to lose at the last minute. Sox fans have been known to spend the last few seconds of winning or near-losing games on their knees in front of the TV, waiting in agony to see how the Sox blow it this time.

2. A lot of baseball fans in cities across the country hate the Yankees for having a better team than they do. The Yankees have won their League Pennant and the World Series oftener than any other team.

3. It has long been believed that the source of Boston's sorrows is the legendary Curse of the Bambino, brought on by selling young Babe Ruth to the Yankees. This is untrue. Boston is actually cursed because the Red Sox took an unconscionably long time to get around to hiring any black players. Whatever the cause, the Red Sox haven't won the World Series since 1918.

4. Red Sox fans have sorrows, but to be a fan of the Chicago Cubs is a tragedy. The Cubs must always lose. This is more or less a matter of religious faith with them. Their fans nevertheless suffer when the Cubs lose, just as though they'd expected some other outcome.

5. The Red Sox and the Yankees are both in the American League. The Red Sox have lost a lot of pennants to the Yankees. The Cubs are in the National League.

6. It is generally believed that some variety of Apocalyptic Last Days will result if the Red Sox and Cubs ever win their respective leagues' pennants and meet in the World Series, as that would theoretically mean that one or the other of them would have to win.

#51 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:18 AM:

Julia, I know it's about baseball.

#52 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:21 AM:

Thank you for that remarkably clear explanation, Teresa. Until then all I had gathered was that it involved baseball. (I assumed baseball rather than gridiron.) The thread suddenly makes a lot more sense now...

#53 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:35 AM:

The real problem with the Red Sox is that for decades they were cursed with a phenomenally pigheaded and ignorant front office -- about many things, race certainly not least among them. The classic example of their idiocy is that they had a chance to sign Jackie Robinson before the Dodgers and Willie Mays before the Giants, and passed on both.

The last major hires and hangers-on from that group lost their decision-making roles just a few years ago...

#54 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:39 AM:

And Teresa has explained it all and it's very right.

Of course there are those people who still say that the Pats would never win the Super Bowl, and they've done it twice now.

I will not watch any games for fear of invoking my late grandfather's curse. If he watched any Red Sox game, they would lose. Even if they had a lead, and it was the bottom of the 8th, if Antone Pacheco watched that game, the Red Sox would lose.

I will not watch. I will not watch.

The other Kate, the one that knits and is never the Thing and certainly never Mafia.

#55 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:41 AM:

Giblets, at Fafblog! has the best response so far:

Who are you people, and what have you done with the Red Sox?

This post offers an explanation ...

#56 ::: Ben Lehman ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 02:31 AM:

For whatever reason, the above Fafblog link doesn't function for me (it links to the fafblog main page.) The earlier post probably referenced is the first one on this archive page:

http://fafblog.blogspot.com/2004_10_10_fafblog_archive.html

I lived in Boston in '86 (I was in kindergarten, in love with baseball and the Sox, and heartbroken.) I wish I could be there now.

#57 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 03:26 AM:

I am Yet A Different Kate.

Since I still live in Boston, I was able to watch the game, with the sound off, and have the radio guys on, instead. Because if I had to listen to Tim McCarver for more than about 3 minutes at at a time, something would be dead, and it sure wouldn't be me.

I'm way too hyper, here. (And insomniac.)

I became a Red Sox fan in 1986. You see my problem, I'm sure.

But, however, this is freakin' fantastic. I could reel off the records set here, but I will just say, I want to play the Astros not because of political metaphors, but because the Astros have Roger Clemens, and I am bitter.

The end.

#58 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 07:51 AM:

The final paragraph of this morning's lead story in the New York Times:

It was actually happening. The nerd was kissing the homecoming queen. Paper was beating scissors; scissors were beating rock. Charlie Brown was kicking the football. The Red Sox were beating the Yankees for the American League pennant.

#59 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 08:00 AM:

God, I hope the Sox win it all.

Then I'll never have to hear about the curse again.

#60 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 08:30 AM:

I would like to thank Kate N. for keeping my head from falling off last night. I'm glad we don't live in Somerville anymore - I am sure I would have gotten absolutely no sleep last night, as opposed to the five or so hours I snagged down here in Maryland.

I also think there's a joke in there somewhere about someone having played college ball at Miskatonic, but I'm too tired to create it.

#61 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 09:01 AM:

Never mind the political overtones if the Astros win the NL pennant; the Sox will have to deal with Clemens, again.

I didn't watch the game; the local Fox affiliate is owned by a broadcasting company currently being boycotted. Thanks for conveying the sturm und drang of the event so well.

I find that I am managing to bear Steinbrenner's pain without much difficulty. BTW, one of the best observations on being a Cubs' fan I've ever heard is: "Following the Cubbies is the best way I know to grasp the vanity of human wishes."

#62 ::: Nomie ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 09:38 AM:

I'm glad the Sox won. Really. It'll give my entire history class a reason to jeer at my professor on Monday.

But did the campus really have to stage a near-riot, complete with firecrackers? I was one of about ten people not watching the game, and I would have liked to have gotten some sleep.

If the Sox win the Series I am taking a vacation. To Canada.

#63 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 09:51 AM:

You know, Washington DC could have been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, Karl Rove could have declared martial law, the Red Chinese could have invaded California with a million soldiers, and the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald would have still led with stories about the Sox winning the pennant. They know the priorities in Red Sox Nation.

#64 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 09:58 AM:

Julia Jones: TNH's explanation was excellent. Let me just add some more recent history.

Last year, the Sox lost the pennant to the Yankees by a game-ending home run in extra innings.

The Yankees go on to lose the World Series.

Much recrimination, manuvering, etc., follows on both sides.

This series, Game 1. Curt Schilling is the Red Sox pitcher, brought in this season; normally excellent, he's got an injury to an ankle tendon that's going to require surgery basically the instant the series ends. Obviously in pain, he can't get it done, and Sox lose.

Game 2. Pedro Martinez starts for the Sox. Has been a great pitcher, starting to look mortal, isn't _bad_ but the Sox lose again.

Game 3. Sox get *shelled* 19-8.

The Sox are now down 0-3 in a best of 7 series. No team in baseball has ever won a series in this situation. Heck, no team in baseball has ever forced a Game 7 in this situation.

Game 4: Sox are three outs from going home, but tie the game in the 9th. Extra innings follow--lots of them, long ones--and the Sox win somewhere after one in the morning on a home run by David Ortiz.

Game 5: Martinez is back. This time the Sox tie it in the 8th, and they go to the 14th before Ortiz ends it again. The pitcher who gave up the losing home run in Game 7 last year, Tim Wakefield, pitches strongly late to help the Sox stay alive. (Did I mention that Martinez started that Game 7 last year, was left in too long by the manager, and gave up the lead and the tying run? That manager's contract was not renewed.)

Game 6: Schilling is back, having had his skin _stitched down_ over his tendon to stabilize the ankle. He pitches an amazing game, no extra innings are needed, Sox win.

And thus last night's game.

I'm not a huge sports fan, and I don't actually care that much about baseball. But this was absolutely _insane_.

***

Jill Smith: it's not that I wasn't involved in the game, trust me--my stomach at the bottom of the 7th felt very much like the elevator'd gone into free-fall--but I get calmer as other people get more agitated. I think it's my mutant superpower (not a very good one, I know).

I hereby state in public that I will be happy if only the Sox don't suck in the World Series. That's all.

#65 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 09:58 AM:

The Daily Show had the best line:

"But if systemic racism were the cause, there would be a curse on the entire city of Boston!"

#66 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 10:02 AM:

I am certain that this all comes of my decision to begin my magic realism novel about how Boston overcomes The Curse. If they win, I'm tossing it in the trash.

#67 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:02 AM:

I'm glad I didn't stay up to watch this. I'd never have gotten any sleep. As it is, my husband woke me when he got home from work (internet access plus espn.com's live feature are lovely things) to tell me they'd pulled off the impossible and WON. And I was wide awake for the next half hour, gabbling away at the wonder of it all.

I came into work with a huge grin on my face. It has yet to fade.

Yes, even despite the co-worker I respect very much whose only vice is her Yankee fandom, just across the hall from me.

She's been good about not yelling at me about my silly grin and Red Sox t-shirt.

#68 ::: Jacob S ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:02 AM:

I think if the Red Sox win, and Kerry wins, it'll be the closest Massachusetts has had to a sweep ever (s the Pats already won in January). Pity about the Bruins and the Celtics.

Boston will be smug for a little while, no doubt about it. Right into the second month of next year's baseball season.

#69 ::: Holly Biffl ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:13 AM:

Did everyone hear how the curse was broken?

Back in early September, Manny hit a foul ball that hit a kid in the mouth, knocking out two of his teeth. This kid *just so happened* to live in... yes, you guessed it, Babe Ruth's house. This happened the very same day that the Yanks lost to another team by a ridiculous 22 points.

Here's the link if you don't believe me: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2004/09/02/taking_teeth_out_of_curse?pg=full

Just another example of the magic and mystery of baseball... :grin:

#70 ::: Holly Biffl ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:15 AM:

Or, should I say, :toothless grin:

#71 ::: T Chem ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:18 AM:

Oh, I'm glad I can share the joy somewhere. Last night I had to explain to my husband (who GREW UP IN BOSTON) why Yankees fans were holding up pictures of Babe Ruth.

It takes a special kind of person to make me feel like a jock.

#72 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:22 AM:

Or, should I say, :toothless grin:

Thanks to fast and efficient EMS, the kids teeth were recovered and reimplanted.

That happened during WorldCon, and I mentioned it to TNH at the time.

#73 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:25 AM:

It's clear that the Sox are set on extracting the maximum agony possible from their fans this year. Which means they'll lose in the seventh game of the World Series, in the 13th inning, due to a sequence of events that could only happen to the Sox.

But, diehard Sox fan that I am, I do harbor the faint hope that the real curse on the team was that they had the most racist management in baseball. John Henry and his partners are the first Sox ownerhip since Tom Yawkey first bought the team to have no ties to the Yawkeys, and this is their second year of ownership.

And part of being a Sox fan is continuing to hope, even though you know they're the Sox, and thus divinely gifted with the ability to find new, creative ways to lose.

#74 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:45 AM:

Alex, if you know enough about baseball to write one novel, you know enough to write a different novel. Probably several different novels.

This morning at Tor, Claire Eddy is wearing a vintage Boston Red Sox shirt. She's a lifelong Mets fan, so any team that can stomp the Yankees into the cracks between the floorboards is okay by her.

Seth Lerner, our mass market art director, isn't in today. Seth is a passionate Yankees fan. There's a large sign on his computer which he must have put it up last night before he left. It says he's not here, he's taking two vacation days off, and he's going to either be very happy or very sad; but either way, he isn't going to want to be in the office.

Jim Minz is buoyant. He's been posting anti-Yankees material on his door for years now. He says he now has a comeback for Yankees fans' "twenty-six championships": "greatest collapse in the history of postseason play." He's looking forward to Seth's return on Monday.

Out in the reception area (i.e., on the other side of an open doorway from my desk), there's a fairly arcane running discussion of Roger Clemens, pro and anti.

America, America.

#75 ::: Pete Butler ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:45 AM:

If I ever have grandchildren, I intend to tell them all about Curt Schilling's performance in Game Six.

I will tell them how I watched him sitting in the dugout re-assembling his right foot with duct tape and a staple gun, then charged out onto the field screaming "LET'S ROCK!!!"

I will tell them how he then struck out twenty-one consecutive Yankees before his foot simply fell off. After chucking his foot at Alex Rodriguez's head, he fashioned a tourniquet out of the lacing from his glove and dragged himself off the field, trading obscenties with Derek Jeter then entire way.

And I will tell them how a terrified Yankees team didn't even bother showing up for Game Seven, as they weren't sure whether Curt was kidding when he promised to "feast upon their entrails" after the series was over.

Man . . . almost makes me want to have kids.

#76 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:55 AM:

Earlier this week a woman who's a Red Sox fan found a postcard postmarked 1918 under a tile in her bathroom. 1918 was the last year the Red Sox won the World Series.

[Some of these things are -really- stretching it, people grasping for sympathetic magic straws!]

#77 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:30 PM:

If anyone wants to write about this season in a magic realist vein, a little more material:

Last year, the illuminated CITGO sign in Kenmore Square was out of order during the playoffs. This year, it's again under maintenance, but they're being very careful to make sure that the side of the sign facing the ballpark stays lit.

A few years ago, the Sox started playing "Sweet Caroline" in the middle of the 8th inning. A crowd of Red Sox fans behind the visiting dugout were singing it in Yankee Stadium as the Sox closed out game seven. (Recent games have also featured a punk-rock update to "Tessie", the anthem of the Royal Rooters for the last championship Red Sox teams, way back in the twentieth century).

There has recently been some controversy over the eviction of Johnny Pesky from the Sox dugout. Pesky is a Red Sox player from very long ago who has been working for the team one way or another for literally decades, but the league office apparently dictated there be no supernumeraries in the dugout.

And Schilling's sutured ankle was bleeding in game six, as shown repeatedly on TV; no one writing in this vein should neglect the ritual possibilities of his bloody red socks.

That all said, the Red Sox may wind up confronting yet more of their past in Houston; Roger Clemens and Jeff Bagwell await...

#78 ::: Derek Lowe ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 12:54 PM:

I note that no one here has mentioned the best team in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals. (I grew up in NE Arkansas, an easy 5-hour drive up I-55 to St. Louis.)

We haven't played our own game 7 yet, and the Cards have found some interesting ways to lose in recent years, but I'm ready for a repeat of 1967.

#79 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:06 PM:

I'm glad the Sox won. Really. It'll give my entire history class a reason to jeer at my professor on Monday.

But did the campus really have to stage a near-riot, complete with firecrackers? I was one of about ten people not watching the game, and I would have liked to have gotten some sleep.

If the Sox win the Series I am taking a vacation. To Canada.

Ow, piffle. You should just try living in Italy when Juventus wins, which they do with depressing regularity. And I won't even mention what happens in any World Cup (you know, the European Football, sort, where people play teams from other nations?) win. Ah. Firecrackers are nothing. NOTHING.

As for Teresa's excellent explanation - would she also be able, I wonder, to explain to a baffled foreigner how the game actually works? Nothing is impossible for Teresa, after all. I'm sick and tired of being terminally baffled by otherwise excellent works by Stephen Jay Gould and Stephen King.

#80 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:17 PM:

Hey, if you want maddenly loud celebration with little real cause, teleport yourselves back to the Canarsie section of Brooklyn for the 4th of July any year between 1976 and about 1986. The poor pets hid in the basement for days, and the only real lull in the fireworks was between about 4 and 6 AM.

Things calmed down after the year that a couple of cars were set ablaze in the spirit of freedom...

#81 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:26 PM:

This is almost enough to make me wish I had a TV.

Almost.

#82 ::: veejane ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:44 PM:

How The Game Actually Works.

It's like cricket, only simpler (except for the rules, which are intricately exact and almost never get invoked, except during this series which sported a balk and a runner called out for interference).

Nine guys on a side. Pitcher, catcher, three guys at numbered bases, shortstop as a literal stopgap measure in between 2nd and 3rd. Outfield, 3 guys standing out in a field.

Nine other guys, coming up to bat at whatever the pitcher can throw. Hit the ball, pray nobody catches it, beat out attempts to tag you with the ball or "force" you out at a base (1, 2 or 3), and finally cross home to score a run. You get up to 3 strikes (pitches thrown correctly) and 4 balls (pitches thrown crappily) every time you're at bat. 4 balls gets you walked to 1st base; 3 strikes makes you out. 3 outs makes the teams switch sides.

Each team getting 3 outs is an inning. 9 innings makes a game, unless it's a tie, because except for certain All-Star games baseball never ends in a tie.

It's a game of statistical likelihoods (will he hit? Will it go far? Will someone drop the ball he should have caught?) and daily, gruelling play. It's a breezy summer afternoon and long calm moments of waiting before the ball arcs high, lost in the crowd or the sky, disappearing into someone's glove in the outfield.

As you can probably guess, I'm a recent convert to the religion of baseball and the Holy Order of Red Sox Nation.

#83 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:47 PM:

Alex C. Irvine's One King, One Soldier deals in magical baseball realism, plus the Grail, Rimbaud, Templars, the Oak Island Money Pit and more.

Ken Hite's capsule review: "Tim Powers methadone".

#84 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 01:58 PM:

Less poetic article on how baseball works here.

I think one of King's better short pieces was the non-fiction piece on his son's team's Little League state championship, collected in _Nightmares and Dreamscapes_. It's one of my standard brain-calming reads. I shall be scooping up his forthcoming co-authored book on this seasons.

#85 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 02:11 PM:

cd: going to look at Ken Hite's review, and then at the main page, I find:

Rooting for the Red Sox is quite obviously a sign of dementia; rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Darth Vader. (Or, given Steinbrenner's dugout-packing, like rooting for Darth Vader, Rupert of Hentzau, Moriarty, Dracula, the Klingons, Draco Malfoy, and the rich fat kids camp from across the lake.)

Besides being a funny quote, what's interesting is that I'm sure I know people who _do_ root for all of those characters, except the camp and *maybe* Moriarty.

#86 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 02:27 PM:

David was trying to explain to me this morning why all of this is Important. When he got around to the part about Babe Ruth and started to tell me who Babe Ruth was, I said, "That much I know."

#87 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 02:32 PM:

It's fair to say that baseball is America's secular religion. The order of play is extremely ritualistic, and a whole set of minor rites, such as the Seventh Inning Stretch have built up around the game. It also invites personal rituals, such as the other Kate who is never the Thing's refusal to watch a game she obviously cares about.

A couple of years ago I was holding forth on this very subject outside the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, when a tour bus pulled up and disgorged a rather large flock of nuns.

Turns out they were mostly Phillies fans who knew their baseball.

#88 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 02:42 PM:

God, I hope the Sox win it all.
Then I'll never have to hear about the curse again.

This point of view has obvious appeal, but do we really want to see Sox fans rewarded for decades of drama-queen self-pity? Personally, I'd rather taunt them mercilessly as they wail and rend their garments for the thousandth time. They get their martyrdom, which they enjoy more than victory, and we get chuckles. It's a win-win situation.

On the other hand, I would hate to see either Jeff Kent or Tony LaRussa celebrating.

So, um... rain! That's it! I'm rooting for rain. Lots of rain.

#89 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 02:57 PM:

um... rain! That's it! I'm rooting for rain. Lots of rain.

Careful there.
If there's a rain delay, the games could overlap with the election, and anything that deters voting is IMO a bad thing.

#90 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 03:20 PM:

There's so much sympathetic excitement in the air about this, it's almost enough to make baseball vaguely interesting.

Almost.

#91 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 04:25 PM:

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan:

There are over 90 stories, anthologies, and novels in the fantasy and Science Fiction genres involving baseball [Silver] The connections between Baseball and Science Fiction are also abstracted in a panel discussion [Dozois 2000]. A fraction of them involve baseball aboard a spaceship, space station, or (more commonly) on another planet. Other species observe the same laws of physics [Bhattacharjee 2003].

The issues of playing under a dome versus in a spacesuit have been treated, as well as the increased diamond and outfield areas needed in lower gravity worlds. More recently, it has been calculated that the trajectory with air friction and spin of a baseball hit in a one-atmosphere dome on the Moon could “loop the loop” on its way up from the batter. [xxx?]

In a vacuum? [Kleinbaum] reminds us that: “Anyone who's studied classical physics knows that a projectile in a vacuum has the greatest range when projected at an angle of 45 above the horizon. We can easily explain this by the fact that a projectile, in this over-simplified case, a spinless, seamless baseball flying through a vacuum, projected at some angle smaller than 45 strikes the ground such that the horizontal component of the velocity is greater than the vertical component. In essence, such a ball simply ran out of room. So little of its initial velocity was directed in a vertical direction that it was not in the air long enough to travel outward very far.

Conversely, at a larger angle, the ball lands having spent so much of its initial energy in going up that its forward velocity was so small as to make the range less than optimal. Thus, in the absence of air, we find the perfect balance between going up and going outwards at precisely an angle of 45.” Yet Adair notes that at earth’s airy surface: “To hit a ball maximum distance, the trajectory off the bat should have a 35 degree angle.”

Less often is any discussion of atmospheric density or temperature on the game. For that context, consider [bostonbaseball]:
Factors affecting distance added to a 400 foot fly ball to center field:
1000 feet of altitude +7 Feet
10 degrees of air temp +4 Feet
10 degrees of ball temp +4 Feet
1 inch drop in Barometer +6 Feet
1 mph following wind +3 Feet
Ball at 100 % Humidity -30 Feet
Pitch, +5 mph +3.5 Feet
Hit along foul line +11 Feet
Aluminum Bat +30 Feet

We leave it as an exercise to the reader to calculate the effect on baseball in playing within a 92-atmosphere Carbon Dioxide atmosphere (Venus), or the greater than one atmosphere methane/ethane atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon (Titan).

Mathematically:

“The numbers three and four appear prominently in the game of baseball. There are three strikes for an out, and three outs per inning, 3 ^ 2 innings in a game, giving the visiting team 3 ^ 3 outs per game (assuming no extra innings). In addition, there are 3 ^ 2 players per team. Four balls are needed for a walk. The number of bases can either be regarded as three (excluding home plate) or four (including it).” [“Baseball”, Eric W. Weisstein]

There is a calculational problem with the exact dimensions of home plate:

“Home plate in the game of baseball is an irregular pentagon….” The wide front edge perpendicular to the line connecting pitcher and batter is 17 inches long. Perpendicular from each endpoint of that, there are a right and left edge, each 8.5 inches long. From the endpoints of those are two diagonal edges allegedly meeting in a right angle, each 12 inches long.
“However, the Little League rulebook's specification of the shape of home plate (Kreutzer and Kerley 1990) [as described above], is not physically realizable, since it requires the existence of a (12, 12, 17) right triangle, whereas

12^2 + 12^2 = 288 =/= 17^2 = 289

The size of a baseball, and the curved shape of an unfolded baseball cover are explained as:

“A pair of identical plane regions (mirror symmetric about two perpendicular lines through the center) which can be stitched together to form a baseball (or tennis ball). A baseball has a circumference of 9 1/8 inches. The practical consideration of separating the regions far enough to allow the pitcher a good grip requires that the ‘neck’ distance be about 1 3/16 inches. The baseball cover was invented by Elias Drake as a boy in the 1840s. (Thompson's attribution of the current design to trial and error development by C. H. Jackson in the 1860s is apparently unsubstantiated, as discovered by George Bart.)

To excerpt briefly from:

Astronomy and Baseball
by Jonathan Vos Post
© copyright 2003 by Emerald City Publishing
Draft of 13 January 2003

[the entirety of which I am shortly to post on my blog]:

Baseball is like Astronomy. The best players are “stars.” A defense of 9 players (like 9 planets) observes a spinning planet-shaped baseball hurled in a parabolic trajectory. The offense, a batter, armed with a telescope-shaped bat, computes the ball’s trajectory and attempts a high-acceleration mid-course maneuver. If he succeeds, the ball launches on a new parabola for fielders to compute, while the batter attempts to orbit the pitcher on a close fly-by of three bases, returning to the launch site – home plate. The orbit is counterclockwise, like the Earth around the Sun.

This usually continues for 9 innings (like 9 planets), although there are sometimes extra innings (like Kuiper Belt Objects). The game is played either in sunlight, or under artificial illumination of a similar spectrum. The game is played only in a certain season, determined by the inclination of the Earth’s axis. Some people watch the game by naked-eye observation; some use binoculars; some get their data through antennae gathering radio waves. Complete data is tabulated, and widely published, along with predictions of the season’s future....

As the Exploratorium web site further puts it [Exploratorium]:

“The secret to understanding a curveball is the speed of the air moving past the ball's surface. As the ball spins, its top surface moves in the same direction in which the air moves. At the bottom of the ball, the ball's surface and the air move in opposite directions. So the velocity of the air relative to that of the ball's surface is larger on the bottom of the ball. What difference does that make? The higher velocity difference puts more stress on the air flowing around the bottom of the ball. That stress makes air flowing around the ball ‘break away’ from the ball's surface sooner. Conversely, the air at the top of the spinning ball, subject to less stress due to the lower velocity difference, can ‘hang onto’ the ball's surface longer before breaking away. As a result, the air flowing over the top of the ball leaves it in a direction pointed a little bit downward rather than straight back. As Newton discovered almost three hundred years ago, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, as the spinning ball throws the air down, the air pushes the ball up in response. A ball thrown with backspin will therefore get a little bit of lift. A major league curveball can veer as much as 17 1/2 inches from a straight line by the time it crosses the plate. Over the course of a pitch, the deflection from a straight line increases with distance from the pitcher. So curveballs do most of their curving in the last quarter of their trip. Considering that it takes less time for the ball to travel those last 15 feet (about 1/6 of a second) than it takes for the batter to swing the bat (about 1/5 of a second), hitters must begin their swings before the ball has started to show much curve. No wonder curveballs are so hard to hit. One important difference between a fastball, a curveball, a slider, and a screwball is the direction in which the ball spins. (Other important factors are the speed of the pitch and rate of spin.) Generally speaking, a ball thrown with a spin will curve in the same direction that the front of the ball (home plate side, when pitched) turns. If the ball is spinning from top to bottom (topspin), it will tend to nosedive into the dirt. If it's spinning from left to right, the pitch will break toward third base. The faster the rate of spin, the more the ball's path curves.” Adair quantifies that a major league fastball can spin at 1,800 rpm or 54 times faster than an old LP record. That’s a dozen rotations in the 0.4 seconds it takes the pitch to reach the plate.

Then the batter has to react quickly. As [Teresi] explains: “The batter, stepping up to the plate and staring the pitcher in the eye, has more to worry about than the Magnus effect or asymmetrical velocity dispersal on the pitch. This solid athlete must first carefully choose his bat’s starting angle and position before the ball is pitched. During the half second that the ball travels through the air, he must choose the bat’s velocity and acceleration in three dimensions, timing those motions perfectly to meet the ball within the 10 millisecond time frame it is over the plate. In other words, a timing variance of 10 ms means the difference between a ball hit straight over second base and a ball fouled over first or third base. Another example shows how precise this athlete must be. A slight miscalculation of one millimeter in the vertical coordinate during the 1.5 ms the ball was in contact with his bat (Plagenhoef, 1971, p.71) left the batter on the losing side in the decision for the 1962 world championship (Armenti, 1992, p. 29). All of these assessments must be held off until the last possible moment, in order to gather in as much information about the trajectory of the approaching pitch as possible. As if this didn’t seem enough to defy the laws of probability if not biology, the batter is required to do this while under a mental siege of distractions such as fans booing, risk of personal injury, and a sense of individual responsibility. Maybe this time the astute batter will judge and calculate correctly enough to hit a home run.”

... For another example, related to the fact that sixty-five percent of the ball’s energy is wasted as it collides with the bat and leaves the bat oscillating in the player’s hands: “Batters know from experience that there is a sweet spot on the bat, about 17 cm from the end of the barrel, where the shock of the impact, felt by the hands, is reduced to such an extent that the batter is almost unaware of the collision. At other impact points, the impact is usually felt as a painful sting or jarring of the hands and forearm, particularly if the impact occurs at a point well removed from the sweet spot. The sweet spot of a bat exists partly because bat vibrations are not excited significantly at that spot and partly because the spot is close to the center of percussion....

Also relating to the brief period of bat/ball impact [Teresi]: “Assuming the batter connects with the ball, the ball is compressed on the bat and rebounds with a certain force which is a set standard in the major leagues, relative to the pitch’s and bat’s velocities. Balls must have a coefficient of restitution of 0.514 to 0.578, a measurement of how "lively" a ball rebounds (Adair, 1990, p. 67). This means a typical baseball leaves a bat with only 35% of its original energy. The variation between balls used in the major leagues today generally means that any home run hit approximately 400 feet will deviate about four feet as a result of balls’ different restitutions.”

#92 ::: james woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 04:25 PM:

Skwid> There's so much sympathetic excitement in the air about this, it's almost enough to make baseball vaguely interesting.

I've met specialists in game theory who say that baseball is an unusually cerebral game for a popular sport. I've also known sports fans who consider that to be its biggest detraction.

#93 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 04:29 PM:

Holy Crap, JVP...forget your Ritalin again?

#94 ::: Jayme Blaschke ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 04:48 PM:

The Astros are the winningest team never to play in the World Series. '86 against the Hated Mets still hurts to this day. The Cubs and BoSox are tagged as cursed, but the Astros are tagged as chronic under-achievers.

Still, you gotta think this is their year with Clemens on the mound tonight, even playing in St. Louis.

#95 ::: Jayme Blaschke ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 04:51 PM:

Not only do BoSox fans have to face Clemens if the Astros win, they've got to face Bagwell. Not up to the level of the Curse of the Bambino, but certainly One That Got Away.

#96 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 05:05 PM:

Anna, it's simple. One team holds the field, and pitches the ball. The other side bats, and tries to run the bases. If they get safely round the bases and come home, they score.

If the batter hits the ball inside certain boundaries, it is "in play" until it stops being in play. While it's in play, the batter gets to run the bases.

If the ball goes up into the air and is caught before touching the ground, the batter is out, his baserunning doesn't count, and anyone who was on base and moved forward has to go back to where they were. This is why you see outfielders making tremendous leaping catches at the outfield wall.

If the ball touches the ground, then it's in play until someone retrieves it and touches the batter with it. Usually this happens when it's thrown to the player stationed at a base toward which the batter is running. If it's first base, he's automatically out. If it's any other base, he can turn around and try to get back to his previous base before the ball can be thrown to the player stationed there. This is why you sometimes see baserunners throwing themselves flat and sliding into a base: they're trying to avoid getting tagged.

You can also tag another runner who'd already gotten on base but has now been caught off base.

Two runners cannot be on the same base. If there's a runner between first and second, a runner on first, and the ball's been thrown to the guy at second base, the runner who's caught between bases is out. He's also embarrassed.

If the ball goes into the stands or out of the ballpark, it's a home run. The happiest of home runs is the one where there are already runners on all three bases, so you score four points off one hit. This is called a grand slam. The Red Sox did it to the Yankees in the seventh game.

You must touch each base as you go around, or it doesn't count. If you miss one, you have to go back and touch it, and are almost certainly going to get tagged. Whether you get tagged or not, you will get jeered at.

There are a lot of rules for batting. The ball must be thrown within a certain area -- not too high, not too low. If it's outside the target area and the batter doesn't swing at it, it's called a ball. If a batter accumulates four balls, he gets to walk to first.

If the batter swings at a pitch and misses, whether or not the pitch is within the target area, it's called a strike. Three strikes and you're out.

If the ball's within the target area and the batter doesn't swing at it, it's still a strike. Pitchers live and die by their ability to fake out the batter.

If you hit the ball a glancing blow, so that it goes off sideways or backward, it's a foul ball, which is a strike unless you already have two strikes, in which case it's just a foul ball and you can go on hitting them forever until something else happens.

If the ball hits the batter, he gets to walk to first. If the batter's team takes it amiss, bad things may happen to one of the other side's batters in the next inning.

Batters and baserunners can sneak forward to the next base when the pitcher isn't looking. This is called stealing a base. It fails oftener than it succeeds, but when it works it's great fun, and it puts the other team's nose out of joint. Pretending you're about to steal a base is a good way to distract the pitcher.

The team at bat gets three outs. Anyone left on base at the third out doesn't count. You only make points for safely coming home.

There are nine innings (minimum). An inning consists of both teams getting a turn at bat, so it's divided into halves. If it's the first half, it's called the top of the inning, as in "the top of the second," and the second half is of course the bottom, as in the bottom of the ninth.

When you get to the seventh inning, everyone takes a break, and the fans all stand up and sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." They're supposed to sing the national anthem at the start of the game, but more and more it's sung by some professional singer, which isn't as satisfactory.

Positions: Pitcher, on the mound. Catcher, behind home plate. First, second, and third basemen. The shortstop close in between 2nd and 3rd, to snag hits by right-handed batters. Three guys in the outfield.

There is a Designated Hitter Rule, which is Bad. There's the matter of foul lines, which I forgot to explain. And there are many other rules, which are mostly arcane. Balks, for instance. But I've given you the basics.

#97 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 05:10 PM:

Jeez'o'pete. I'm actually finding the end of season baseball fun and interesting because of the Red Sox, but now I also get space-physics-baseball. Thanks, I think, JvP.

In our household, we're rooting that the Cards beat the Astros, then beat the Red Sox. Since the Cardinals are the closest thing to a good team we have in/near Kansas City... (my poor Royals, sigh.)

#98 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 05:12 PM:

There is a Designated Hitter Rule, which is Bad.

AHA! Now I know why I like this blog so much - our esteemed hostess is among the ranks of the right-thinkers.

#99 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 05:18 PM:

In fact, the DH Rule is the American League Heresy. *Ducking*

#100 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 05:22 PM:

Teresa got this exactly right. The curse is and always has been bullshit (say I, as one who was at games 6 and 7 of the 1975 World Series against the Reds, and saw the Sox collapse in Game 6 of the '86 Series in a bar up in Franconia Notch).

For the God-awful longest spell, like late 1920s through just three years ago, this team was owned by the nastiest, racist, stingy bigots, the f*%#ing Yawkeys. First his nibs, and then his bitch second wife who sat there like a cryogenic corpse up in the club house watching "her boys" play the game through the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc. They always lost because there was truly something sick and wrong with the organization. You didn't need a curse to explain it.

I said to my wife 3 years ago when the new owners took over from Yawkey bag man John Harrington, that now it was just a matter of time before the Red Sox win. If not this year, next year. But soon.

#101 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 05:35 PM:

And, of course, the standard explanation for all things baseball ....

(In contention for the title of "funniest comedy routine of all time".)

#102 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 05:35 PM:

Teresa, I think you are close to formulating the rules and customs of baseball as a creed. Translation into Latin or Greek would not be necessary.

#103 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 06:02 PM:

I must commend to the assembled the marvelous "Yankees At The Bat" over at Peter David's blog. A sampling:

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Red Sox fans that day
The series, three to zip, with surely one game left to play.
For the Yankees were their daddy, and the Red Sox Nation wept
At the prospect of their team being ignominiously swept

A faithful few would hold up hope, but certainly the rest
Had given up the hope that sprung eternal in their breast.
“If only Lady History could be made into our bitch
If we could turn the tables on the Yankees for a switch.”

But history said down by three was far too deep a pit,
No team in all of baseball ever climbed up out of it
Plus upon that stricken multitude a grimmer specter sat
‘Twas the Curse of the Bambino that had made their hopes go splat.

Go read. Have fun.

#104 ::: Josh ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 06:14 PM:

TNH, a couple of quibbles:

Batters and baserunners can sneak forward to the next base when the pitcher isn't looking.

Baserunners can do this. I'd like to see a batter try it.

This is called stealing a base. It fails oftener than it succeeds

I don't think so. Given that even the umps who call players caught stealing the most often still only call about 40% of baserunners out, stealing a base is more likely to be successful than not. (Although I can't actually find stolen-base percentages online at the moment.)

And most importantly, There is a Designated Hitter Rule, which is Bad.

Precisely wrong. Watching pitchers flail away at bat, or try desperately to bunt in any conceivable circumstance... *that's* wrong.

#105 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 07:15 PM:

Josh: Napoleon Lajoie once stole first base while he was at bat. While double-checking this, I learned that first base has been stolen from second base three times in major league play, by Fred Tenney, Harry Davis, and Herman Schaefer, after which the rules were changed to prohibit running the bases in reverse order.

Scraps DeSelby once told me that one of the interesting fruits of Bill James' statistical analyses was the discovery that stolen bases aren't such a hot idea. I misspoke when I said base stealing fails more often than it succeeds; the actual principle is that Stolen bases only make a modest contribution to team runs. Each caught-stealing event has about three times the influence as a stolen base. Follow the link to a discussion of offensive events.

As for the DHR, if this is real baseball, then everybody fields and everybody bats. If the pitcher's good enough to play, he's good enough to bat.

#106 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 07:21 PM:

"If the pitcher's good enough to play, he's good enough to bat."

Or, given the Mario Mendoza rule (the Mendoza line...batting average under .200), bad enough to bat.

#107 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 07:26 PM:


There is a sign on Storrow Drive, that is just before the Coply st exit that says "Reverse Curve." Actually, it's supposed to say that, but it's been defaced (more than once) to read "Reverse the Curse"

On my drive home at 5 am this morning,I noticed that it now reads "Reversed the Curse".

Kate Salter ( the one who knits and is not the Thing or Mafia and will not watch any red sox game.)

#108 ::: Tiellan ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 08:14 PM:

You do realize that if this is truly a sign of the Apocalypse, then surely Bush will win this election? ;^>

(And thank you for the explanation, I've lived here all but one year of my life and had no idea what the big deal was about either!)

#109 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 09:22 PM:

6. It is generally believed that some variety of Apocalyptic Last Days will result if the Red Sox and Cubs ever win their respective leagues' pennants and meet in the World Series, as that would theoretically mean that one or the other of them would have to win.

That does seem a little unimaginative; perhaps whoever's in charge could take lessons from the fiend who oversaw Sam Shay?

Another quibble: both descriptions speak of three fielders on bases and shortstop between 2nd & 3rd. In the few games I've seen, the 2nd baseman and shortstop are ~balanced around 2nd, and \everybody/ shifts a little according to the batter.

Josh: note also that the batter can try to run to first if the catcher doesn't hold onto the third strike (although I'm not sure whether this is technically called stealing, and I understand it's very rare).

#110 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 09:33 PM:

I'm still in mourning for my lost hockey season....but I know who to cheer for, and did my part yesterday by not gloating to the resident Yankees fan in the office. (I figured if I did just then, then the Universe would take a perverse delight in laying the smack down on the team I was cheering for. Whereas if I didn't gloat, then possibly I could out-psych Fate and the Universe. So I saved all the gloating for today. Hope I didn't screw their chances with Fate and the Universe though.)

My immediate superior also did her part by going to bed early--we've determined that on all the nights she watched from the seventh inning on, that the Sox lost. So she made sure to go to bed early last night.

I've heard that baseball is the most superstitious sport.

#111 ::: Josh ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 09:40 PM:

TNH: Napoleon Lajoie once stole first base while he was at bat.

I tried to track this down, with no success. Do you have a link? (Not that I don't believe you... I'm just curious as to the circumstances.) Was it on what would these days be considered a passed ball?

Scraps DeSelby once told me that one of the interesting fruits of Bill James' statistical analyses was the discovery that stolen bases aren't such a hot idea. I misspoke when I said base stealing fails more often than it succeeds; the actual principle is that Stolen bases only make a modest contribution to team runs. Each caught-stealing event has about three times the influence as a stolen base.

I thought that might be what you were referring to. Stolen bases are a great idea as long as you only get caught less than 1/3 of the time; and as a former Blue Jays fan who still has bad memories of Ricky Henderson in the 1989 ALCS, even though I know better it still feels like they have a disproportionate effect on the morale of the opposing team.

As for the DHR, if this is real baseball, then everybody fields and everybody bats. If the pitcher's good enough to play, he's good enough to bat.

I'll buy that argument when pitchers start taking batting practice. Or losing their jobs 'cause they can't hit.

#112 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 10:19 PM:

TNH, you neglected the important point that the team whose home field it is always goes last. So the visiting team gets to bat at the top of each inning and the home team gets to bat at the bottom of the inning. If the home team is winning after the top of the ninth inning, they automatically win and don't have to play the bottom of the ninth.

I also think your conception of what's a tag play vs. what's a force play is mildly confused, but I have to go to bed soon. Go Cards!

#113 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 10:44 PM:

Re the DH rule:

Forcing managers to make trade-offs and difficult choices isn't a bug, it's a feature. If not, why not just go whole hog and use two platoons, one for offense and one for defense?

Complaining that pitchers can't hit is like complaining that pawns can only move one square at a time. (Both rules even have exceptions.)

And there's nothing quite like seeing your team's pitcher make a clutch hit.

#114 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 10:58 PM:

I find the DH rule valuable as a way to distinguish between the two leagues, and to screw with AL managers' minds when playing interleague games in NL parks.

I'm amused that there are situations where AL managers will make moves that remove the DH, however. Some years ago, IIRC, Randy Johnson appeared in LF for the Mariners against the Red Sox; it was part of a double switch shuffle that allowed him to skip pitching to one batter, then go back to the mound.

#115 ::: Kayjay ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2004, 11:19 PM:

If I ever have grandchildren, I intend to tell them all about Curt Schilling's performance in Game Six.

Pete Butler, your description had me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. Thanks.

#116 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 12:09 AM:

If you look at a typical baseball scoreboard, where the innings go across like this:

              1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   R   H   E
            -----------------------------------------------
Boston        2   4   0   2   0   0   0   1   1  10  13   0
NY Yankees    0   0   1   0   0   0   2   0   0   3   5   1

The first half of each inning is on the top, and the second half is on the bottom.

#117 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 12:26 AM:

I don't mind the DH rule. I think it means that AL fans get to see both better pitching and better hitting. On the other hand, I am perfectly comfortable with NL teams holding on to tradition. I don't know if the NL preference for small ball and manufacturing runs is related to their pitchers having to hit, but it seems like it might be. And watching a well-placed bunt, or a double steal, or a good hit and run play is every bit as entertaining as a long at-bat ending in a ball over the wall. The one thing that I would hate to see is either league changing their rules, whether to adopt the DH or to get rid of it. The DH rule is an arbitrary distinction that makes the two leagues different in all sorts of interesting ways. I love it when an AL team is about to visit an NL park and their pitchers start taking batting practice, and when an NL team tries to figure out which of their players might actually do a decent job at DH. Sacrificing all that for the sake of mere uniformity would be a shame. Besides, the DH rule gives Americans something to talk about. As my dad and his friend Bob would say, "Don't distract us with the facts, Tom, we're having an argument!"

#118 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 01:55 AM:

Having worked out what a Designated Hitter was likely to be, I'm gently boggling at the idea of the equivalent being tried in cricket for any reason other than the batsman being injured and thus physically unable to run.

Guess what news story has just started on tv as I type - "Red Sox' historic victory..."

#119 ::: James J. Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 01:59 AM:

And the Cards have triumphed. Perhaps the thought of facing the Red Sox without the Yankee mystique behind him affected Roger Clemens, perhaps not. But now I am conflicted as I have not been over a World Series since 1985, when the Cards and Royals went head-to-head.

In the 1960s, Kansas City did not have a real major league team. We had the Athletics, who were essentially a Yankees farm team (and occasional Elba [see Billy Martin]). When I was forced to do three years in Topeka, I discovered Cardinals broadcasts, and found my team. The fact that my mother was (and remains) a diehard (I know, there is no other kind) Cubs fan only added to the enjoyment.

I would love nothing more for the Rex Sox to finally take it all, but at the same time, I feel obligated to root for my team. No matter how it turns out, I won't be too upset.

But to the point of this post--Kate Salter wrote:

There is a sign on Storrow Drive, that is just before the Coply st exit that says "Reverse Curve." Actually, it's supposed to say that, but it's been defaced (more than once) to read "Reverse the Curse"

I believe this is the same sign my family and I saw on our cab ride back from the Boston Science Museum where we saw the excellent LotR exhibit during the Worldcon. Shortly thereafter, our cabbie, tired of sitting in the parking lot that the eastbound lanes of Boylston had become, calmly pulled out into the westbound lanes (since hardly anyone was using them), and, after dodging a truck and some cars stopped in the intersection, deposited us at the Sheraton. We tipped well.

If the Sox can play like Bostonians drive, they've got a chance.

#120 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 02:12 AM:

Teresa, I can almost make sense of the game now! Ok, maybe not _now_, but if I print out you explanation and watch a game referring to it I'm sure I could get it. I thought about Astos and Cardinals today but the Morgans enticed me out to have wine and tapas and how could I resist?

The only thing is I'm a bit confused on the structure of the League and Series - what does 7 game mean, for example?

#121 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 02:22 AM:

The series, be it League Championship or World, is limited to seven games. The first team to win four of the possible seven games wins the Series.

That's why the Sox comeback was so startling; after losing the first three games, they had to win four games in succession, whereas the Yankees only had to win one of the next four. It meant that there was no room for error; win or go home.

#122 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 02:38 AM:

Anna - Major League Baseball is divided into two leagues, the National League and the American League. The World Series is played between the league champions, each of which is said to have won their league's pennant.

The World Series is a best of seven series, meaning that the first team that wins four of (up to) seven games has won the series.

Each league championship series is also a best of seven games contest.

Until a couple of years ago, the World Series was the only time that American and National League teams played each other, except for a couple of games that didn't count (for example, the old Mayor's Cup game held anually between the NY Mets and the NY Yankees). Now there is scheduled interleague play a few times a year to foster old interleague rivalries.

Each league is divided into three (used to be two) divisions, East, West and Central. The teams with the best win/loss records in each division, plus the team with the best record that did not win its division (the so-called Wild Card team) plays a best of 5 series to qualify for the league championship. Each of the winners of these series (the so-called Divisional series) plays for the best of 7 league championship. The league champions (or pennant winners) play each other in the best of 7 World Series.

Of course, the World Series is not really a World Series, which would truly involve the winning Cuban, Venezuelan, Dominican, Japanese, Mexican, Taiwanese (and probably a few other) teams.

Hoo boy - did I ever ramble. I'm sure someone else can say this much more succinctly.

And a short answer to what game 7 means - the team that wins game 7 wins whatever series they're playing.

And to give you some perspective, I generally don't like sports, but I love baseball with all my heart, even though I can't hit a ball to save my life.

#123 ::: Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 03:06 AM:

Well since the games take place in the genral vicinity of 1 AM onward here I've started taking a couple weeks off work to watch the world series live. Last year was very rewarding, and it's looking as though this year won't dissapoint either. Couple thoughts..

Kate Nepveu:

>As-you-know-Bob, Stephen King _is_ writing a book with Stewart O'Nan, about the Red Sox's season from a fan's perspective.If the Sox win the Series I am taking a vacation. To Canada.

#124 ::: Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 03:08 AM:

Well since the games take place in the genral vicinity of 1 AM onward here I've started taking a couple weeks off work to watch the world series live. Last year was very rewarding, and it's looking as though this year won't dissapoint either. Couple thoughts..

Kate Nepveu:

>As-you-know-Bob, Stephen King _is_ writing a book with Stewart O'Nan, about the Red Sox's season from a fan's perspective.

Well I guess that explains the look of intense concentration he seemed to be wearing throughout game 7, was wondering what had him that focused.


Nomie:

>If the Sox win the Series I am taking a vacation. To Canada.

Dunno, I don't think that'll be too effective, if the Red Sox do win I suggest you duck or risk getting hit by fireworks being shot off the ISS, hiding up north won't help.

(ok I have NO idea what happened in the previous comment.. it looked ok when previewed :( )

#125 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 03:08 AM:

Eh, well, I'm starting to get interested in baseball myself and I haven't seen a game ever.

So - do every team play seven games _with the same opponent_?

#126 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 03:24 AM:

A best-of-7 playoff series is between a pair of teams (Red Sox/Yankees, Cardinals/Astros, Red Sox/Cardinals, to choose some examples not at random), if that's what your question is. Note that a best-of-7 series does not have to go to seven games, and often doesn't, because one of the two teams wins four games first. The 2003 World Series (won by the Marlins over the Yankees), for example, was decided in six games, because the fourth Marlins victory was in Game 6.

#127 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 03:57 AM:

Another example, Anna: the first team to win four games wins the whole thing. In 1963 the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Yankees in four consecutive games; in 1966 the Dodgers were themselves beaten in four consecutive games by the Baltimore Orioles. I think the last time it's happened that quickly was in the 1989 World Series, when the Oakland Athletics beat the San Francisco Giants in four, but that was sandwiched around a huge earthquake in Northern California prior to Game Three. I think there was about a week's delay before the final two games were played.

#128 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 03:58 AM:

Anna asks if all teams play seven games against the same opponent.

No. During the regular season teams play a few games against one team, and then move on to the next. Each game counts separately. In order to economize on travel costs, teams usually play each other for several games in a row (usually one per day), but these groups of games are not a series.

Only during the divisional, league and world series do teams play a "best of" series.

Sometimes there will be a double-header, where the same two teams play one game, and then another right after they are finished with the first. Again, each game counts separately. I love double headers. (Note that seeing a double header may require sitting in the stadium for upwards of six hours.)

#129 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 04:03 AM:

The most recent World Series sweep (which is what they call it when one team wins the first four games) was in '99, when the Yankees beat the Braves.

#130 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 09:22 AM:

As a severely non-sports-clued person, I humbly appreciate that explanation! Wow! I now have a glimmer of understanding of what everyone is talking about. *grin*

Just a glimmer, mind you. ;-)

#131 ::: scott h andrews ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 09:27 AM:

Alex Cohen said:
I am certain that this all comes of my decision to begin my magic realism novel about how Boston overcomes The Curse. If they win, I'm tossing it in the trash.

heh! i had to toss 6 chapters of a spy novel ms 14 years ago when Boris Yeltsin's coup overthrew the Soviets. damned freedom and democracy!

#132 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 09:56 AM:

Alex Irvine's book sounds great. It's on my list.

Other fabulous magic-realism baseball novels: Michael Bishop's Brittle Innings (Frankenstein's monster plays single-A ball in the deep south) and Michael Chabon's Summerland (Norse and Native American mythology mashup, with baseball against the giants at "Ragged Rock").

As for me, my senior thesis was on US-Soviet cooperation in space programs. At least it was, until over Christmas break, the damn Soviet Union ceased to exist.

This was not as bad as a woman in my department, whose thesis was on why East Germany would be the last of the Warsaw Pact states to reform.

Teresa: Alex, if you know enough about baseball to write one novel, you know enough to write a different novel. Probably several different novels.

I didn't want to write a novel about baseball. I wanted to write a novel about the Curse.

#133 ::: Maines ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 10:21 AM:

Re the DH and pitchers being pathetic at bat: Pitchers aren't necessarily lousy batters. That Ruth guy, for example, who used to pitch for Boston, he could hit some.

Re ways to get to first base without a base hit: There are seven of them:


  • Walk

  • Hit by pitch

  • Dropped third strike

  • Catcher's interference

  • Fielder's choice

  • Error

  • As a pinch runner (this last one's a bit of a cheat, in that it's not the same guy)

For the uninitiated/newly initiated, Wikipedia has a nice explanation of these terms here.

#134 ::: Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 10:51 AM:

I didn't have much to add to this thread other than "Yay, Red Sox!" but now I have a tidbit:

My favorite baseball novel is The Greatest Slump of All Time, by David Carkeet. It's about a team on which every player is clinically depressed. It is also one of the funniest books I've ever read.

(All of Carkeet's books are great -- also of note to readers here would be his mystery novels about a linguistic detective: Double Negative, The Full Catastrophe, and The Error of Our Ways.)

#135 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 10:54 AM:

Oh! How could I forget: The Universal Baseball Association, Inc.: J. Henry Waugh, Prop., by Robert Coover.

Clever, creepy, and sad, and a fine cautionary tale for dungeon masters and other creators of imaginary worlds.

#136 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 12:22 PM:

Some day I expect to understand how people can get so worked up over sporting events.

Soon after that, I expect to discover a way to turn base metal to gold.

#137 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 12:26 PM:

I'm violating my rule and reading here in the office. And had to muffle laughter.

Baseball is the only sport I fundamentally understand, and I've played slow-pitch co-rec softball. My only problem (and why I gave it up) is that I can hit and I can catch (I'm a heck of a good player at Catcher position) BUT I can't run very fast. And I'm certain I'm slower now.

I'm with my hubby, I'm vaguely conflicted. The Cards are the closest thing we have to a REAL baseball team in Missouri. But my dear friend Kendall's beloved Red Sox have a chance. So WOO HOO. I'm a winner either way.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

#138 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 12:38 PM:

Paula, it's traditional that all catchers run as if the wind were blowing against them. I forget who came up with that phrase; I don't think it was Yogi Berra, but it's possible. Someone here will know, surely. I think it's a result of the position a catcher spends so much time in; it has to affect the leg muscles. They are all slow. Ever notice how the catcher is not the star base-stealer on a team?
You may feel there are other reasons you run slowly, but at least for a catcher it's expected. A slow left-fielder? Bad news.

The Royals were good when Kaufman owned the team, but he was careful of his farm system. The new owner--well, all those years at Walmart have truly shaped his management skills, expecially in the personnel area, haven't they?

I remember the 1967 series. At the age of 9, it seemed inevitable that my team would win--and they did. It took the 1968 Series to enlighten me as to the vagaries of fate where baseball is concerned.

Is it ironic that the man whose lawsuit resulted in all the free-agency teams deal with now, Curt Flood, wanted to stay where he was, and not be traded?

#139 ::: Pete Butler ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 12:58 PM:

Teresa: As somebody who likes Bill James and dislikes the DH, you may be interested in an argument he made for it back in the early '80's on the grounds that it increases the amount of strategy in a game. The argument goes, if you have a pitcher coming up for a crucial at-bat late in the game, the "choice" for the manager is purely illusionary; he has to use a pinch-hitter (unless you're dealing with a pitcher who can hit well, which is an incredibly rare breed of animal). Similarly, there are a lot of conditions where the manager more or less has to ask the pitcher to bunt rather than swing away.

I couldn't turn up the full article online, but I did find an excerpt:

"I'm not an advocate of the Designated Hitter Rule; I'm only an advocate of seeing the truth and telling the truth. What the truth comes down to here is a question of in what does strategy reside? Does strategy exist in the act of bunting? If so the Designated Hitter Rule has reduced strategy. But if strategy exists in the decision about when a bunt should be used, then the DH rule has increased the differences of opinion which exist about that question, and thus increased strategy...[the research shows] that there is more of a difference of opinion, not less, in the American League." - Bill James in The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (1986)

(This is, BTW, an excellent book. If you like baseball and you see this book in your local used bookstore, your choice is purely illusionary; you have to pick it up. ;-) )

Of course, James stops short of actually advocating the DH, and doesn't really address your specific point. But, food for thought.

#140 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 01:05 PM:

Alex, I'm with you - Summerland is one of the best baseball books ever. It takes very little suspension of disbelief to sell the idea that there's magic in the rituals of baseball.

I love the duel with the giant, where Ethan leans the power of Throwing Down The Sign. And the explanation of the origins of the DH rule.

#141 ::: Pete Butler ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 01:12 PM:

fidelio: I think catcher slowness is more an issue of knees than muscles; you're absolutely right, speedy catchers are a rare breed and tend to age in dog years. (In fact, back in the early '90's, the Houston Astros moved Craig Biggio from catcher to second base to try and give him a longer career as a player. Worked pretty well.)

One of the most unique players in baseball history was Ernie Lombardi, a Hall-Of-Famer who played for the Reds in the '30's and set the all-time gold standard for catcher slowness. He was a blistering line-drive hitter, but may have well been the slowest man ever to play the game. The running joke was "He had to hit doubles just to hit singles." Infields used to play him so deep that Lombardi once quipped that Pee Wee Reese had been in the league five years before Ernie realized he was a shortstop and not a left fielder. Lombardi's knees were so bad that he couldn't stand up fast enough to throw out would-be basestealers; he always threw from the crouch position (and was reputed to have a hell of an arm, too).

#142 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 01:51 PM:

Pete:

You're probably right about the knees, but I can't help but thinking those leg muscles must get tight and stiff. I like the Lombardi quip. You have, of course, heard the crack that when two old catchers shake hands it takes a plumber an hour to separate them, because their fingers have become so crooked.

#143 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 02:05 PM:

Dave Weingart, baseball has embedded narrative, just like poker.

#144 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 02:11 PM:

Now if Teresa would only start a thread about cricket. I've always wanted an explanation of that game.

#145 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 02:25 PM:

Cook, D. P., and Strike, S. C., Journal of Sports Sciences (JSS), 18(12), 2000.

ABSTRACT:
"This paper considers the kinematic characteristics of overarm throwing with particular emphasis on the techniques of throwing and pitching in baseball. The technique is subdivided into (1) sequential pattern of throwing, (2) lead foot contact, (3) preparatory phase, (4) arm acceleration and (5) instant of ball release. Specific biomechanical principles that underpin throwing and their application within baseball are identified. The paper also presents a case study of the three-dimensional characteristics of throwing technique in cricket. The aim was to compare the skill in cricket to that previously researched in baseball. The findings for throwing in cricket are similar to those reported for baseball, indicating that there is a definite crossover in the rationale of how an individual should throw specific to the demands of cricket and baseball. The differences noted - greater elbow flexion at lead foot contact and less external rotation during the preparation phase - can be attributed to the demands placed on the fielder and pitcher specific to their respective sports."

I'm tempted to explain the common ancestor of both games, and how they evolutionarily diverged, but my previous scientific discourse on baseball may have been a little long, so I'll restrain myself. I haven't even played softball since I was on the Computer Science team in Grad School, unless I count practice and scoring for my son's Little League team (he led a perfect 12-0 season and made All Stars). Cricket, to be objective, has at LEAST as much mathematical fascination to its fans as does Baseball; see stories of Ramanujan et al.

#146 ::: veejane ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 02:41 PM:

Paula, it's traditional that all catchers run as if the wind were blowing against them.

Traditional, but no longer 100% true. Varitek, the Sox's key catcher, is 2nd or 3rd on the team in stolen bases this year. Of course, he's also atypical inasmuch as he's 32 and still in his prime as a catcher; most catchers' knees fall apart at right about that age.

A slow left-fielder? Bad news.

This would be Manny Ramirez. And, yeah, sometimes it is extremely bad news, but most teams seem to put their worst fielder (best hitter) into left, and not just ones with funny-shaped, foreshortened left fields like Boston.

Re ways to get to first base without a base hit: There are seven of them: Walk, Hit by pitch, Dropped third strike [passed ball], Catcher's interference, Fielder's choice, Error, As a pinch runner (this last one's a bit of a cheat, in that it's not the same guy)

Er, make that 8. The official 7th way to get on first base is to actually, you know, get a base hit.

baseball has embedded narrative, just like poker.

Which is why we bleed from our foreheads thinking about it so hard.

#147 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 03:10 PM:

veejane, if the Sox are already violating so many traditions, perhaps they'll just give in and break the one that says they can't win the World Series. Of course, this will leave sports dialogue all over the country with a gaping hole, perhaps even comparable to the Big Dig, but I can live with that. The attempts to readjust will be entertaining, rather like the dog's efforts to come to terms with the cracker covered with peanut butter (hey, it bought me at least fifteen minutes of peace and quiet, beside being fun to watch).

#148 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 03:56 PM:

Things Invisible to See, by Nancy Willard, is a wonderful fantasy with baseball as a major theme. I see it's described as magic realism, but I'd say it's really a fantasy, and one of the best examples of quinessentially American fantasy. Her other novel Sister Water is not about baseball, but it is even more fantastic, quirky, and achingly beautiful.

#149 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 04:03 PM:

Quoth Beth: Now if Teresa would only start a thread about cricket.

Unfortunately, like a typical test match, such a thread would contain many many posts and would have to go back and forth for weeks on end before any sensible conclusion could be reached.

It's my understanding that some cricket matches have begun under the reign of one monarch, and not successfully wound themselves up until two monarchs later.

#150 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 04:28 PM:

In one of Roger Angell's many essays about baseball in the New Yorker (and compiled into about six books) he cites somebody's unique argument against the DH: it lengthens player introductions at the start of the game by 11%.

Mark, thanks for the correction of the year of the last sweep. I probably forgot because the only daily baseball we get out here (Hi) during the season is WTBS; seeing the Braves is not a novelty, and of course Fox puts the Yankees on the Saturday schedule nearly every week.

#151 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 05:37 PM:

For a while, the "NL is better because they don't have the DH" argument was easily countered, in my mind, by "yes, but they have more indistinguishable multipurpose artificial turf stadiums".

The demise of Three Riverfront Veteran's (what, like anyone could really tell them apart anyway) has removed that argument, thankfully.

#152 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 06:45 PM:

I am reminded of Casey Stengel's observation about Busch Stadium in St. Louis when it was still new: "Holds the heat well" was his observation to a local reporter solicting his opinion of the Cardinals' new digs.

#153 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 06:50 PM:

fidelio: oh, if Busch had turf it'd be on my list too.

#154 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2004, 07:53 PM:

Julia: Having worked out what a Designated Hitter was likely to be, I'm gently boggling at the idea of the equivalent being tried in cricket for any reason other than the batsman being injured and thus physically unable to run.

But cricket has one important difference: you end the defensive half of an innings by putting out all but one of the \team/, which means that if one of your bowlers is a lousy batsman he doesn't come up until almost everybody else has been put out. In baseball, each player in turn is up until he's put out (much more easily than in cricket) or gets \one/ hit, and then somebody else is up; when a side comes in from defending they must start their rotation with whoever would have been next had they not made their third out when they did in the previous inning. This means that pitcher will come to bat several times in a game, and probably be out each time.

And -- how often do bowlers play? The DH rule came in somewhere around the time that teams went from 4 starting pitchers to 5; part of what makes pitchers such lousy hitters is that they only face real pitching a few times a week.

I have no strong position on the DH rule, but I'm always interested in looking at the arguments -- especially when someone like Stephen Jay Gould could link baseball to evolution.

Maines: it may be useful to note that three of those are freebies (walk, hit by pitch, interference), while the others still require the batter to haul ass down to first base (or, e.g., a fielder's choice turns into a double play).

#155 ::: Maines ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2004, 02:19 AM:

veejane, I did say "ways to get to first base without a base hit". :-)

CHip, while I don't disagree with you from the standpoint of whether the batter has to run, I would suggest that a walk is not necessarily a freebie, or at least not entirely: it depends not only on the pitcher not throwing strikes but also on the batter not being fooled/tempted to swing and miss. (Exception: Barry Bonds, who just has to show up to get walked.) I suppose you could say, too, that some players increase their chances of getting to base on a HBP or catcher's interference by the way they occupy the batter's box, but that's such a slim proportion of those cases as to be negligible.

To whomever far, far upstream posted the link to Peter David's Red Sox rhyme: thank you. I enjoyed it, and so did my friend who works at the Baseball Hall of Fame. I imagine it is well circulated in Cooperstown by now.

BTW, Garrison Keillor did a "Casey at the Bat" some years back from the point of view of the opposing team's fans; he never said Boston, but that was clearly the intent. My husband can't listen to it in the car anymore, because he laughs so hard he can't drive.

#156 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2004, 03:04 AM:

Larry Brennan explains,

Until a couple of years ago, the World Series was the only time that American and National League teams played each other, except for a couple of games that didn't count (for example, the old Mayor's Cup game held anually between the NY Mets and the NY Yankees). Now there is scheduled interleague play a few times a year to foster old interleague rivalries.

Actually, certain AL/NL team combinations play a lot of games that don't count, during Spring Training. This March ritual takes place in Arizona and in Florida. All the teams that train in Arizona (the Cactus League) play each other, regardless of their usual league affiliation. Ditto the Grapefruit League in Florida. Arizona has fewer teams than Florida, so the individual Arizona teams meet each other more often. The White Sox and the Diamondbacks, for example, are in the American League and National League, respectively, but they share Tucson Electric Park every March. They play each other many times before heading off to Chicago and Phoenix.

One caveat about Spring Training games: they aren't quite the same as each regular season games, in part because they don't exactly feature the regular major league teams. Each team has a bloated roster at the beginning of the month. This consists of established players, prospects (young players considered especially talented or skilled, and therefore likely to reach major league status), rookies, minor leaguers, and non-roster invitees (has-been or never-quite-was major leaguers that the team may sign if they play well and don't want much money). During spring training, they gradually get weeded out and "sent down" to the minor leagues until there are 25 players left. This is one reason why spring training exists, and why the games don't count toward regular season standings and statistics. It's also why a game on March 5th will often have the big name players in the first three innings, who then leave for the golf course while younger players come in to play the later innings.

In September, by the way, the major league teams are allow to expand their active roster to 40 until the end of the regular season. This is partly a reward for minor leaguers who played well enough to merit a September "call up." By then, the AAA (highest minor league) teams are finished with their regular season.

I also dispute the idea that three or four games in a row between two teams during the regular season do not constitute a series. Sure it's a series. It's just not a "best of" elimination series. When the Padres win two games and the Rockies the other two, they are said to have "split the series."

Karen in Tucson

#157 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2004, 04:12 AM:

Um, how can we be discussing baseball SF/Fantasy and not yet have mentioned W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe? Sheesh. (Even if you hate Kevin Costner, it's still a great book.)

#158 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2004, 05:43 AM:

Thanks for the book recommendation, but please sit back down, have another beer. This is baseball. It ain't over 'till it's over.

Meanwhile, it occurred to me that "playing against type" could mean different things, coming from someone in publishing.

#159 ::: Maines ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2004, 02:15 PM:

Further caveat re spring training games: for some players, particularly pitchers, they're more about practice against live players than about game. That's why you may see, for example, a relief pitcher starting the game, or a split squad game (half the team is playing this game, while the other half is somewhere else playing against a different team). But it's fun to go to, because the tickets are cheap, and the players more accessible. We were at a game in which a minor-league up-and-comer was pitching a couple innings, and all his fellow pitchers came and sat in the stands to cheer for him.

Then there's Arizona Fall League, where up-and-comers in AAA go to get some specialized training in preparation for moving up. And winter ball in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic and probably other places, where major leaguers and promising minor leaguers play with Latin American players to keep their skills sharp in the off season. So, in theory, it is possible to go to baseball year round, if one is willing and able to travel. (This is my fantasy, to spend an entire year travelling to baseball games.)

#160 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2004, 09:01 PM:

And so... we're in the bottom of the second, Boston: 4. St. Louis: 1.

I still can't believe this is The World Series. Wow.

#161 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 12:10 AM:

Congrats, Boston fans, on game one.

#162 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 12:28 AM:

I may have a fingernail left, but it'd be hard to find. That was a heck of a game; certainly no pitcher's duel, though.

#163 ::: Ted ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 12:37 AM:

Cricket fans who want to get an intro to Baseball (from the Cricketer's perspective) might like Playing Hardball: A Kent County Cricketer's Journey Into Big-League Baseball, by E.T. Smith.

Um, that's it. Besides "yippee", that is.

#164 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 02:20 AM:

Fenway is NOT a ballpark that helps pitchers out most of the time... there's the Green Monster in left field, that turns what might be easy outs elswhere into automatic at least doubles. There's the seabreeze, which can move the ball clear out of the ballpark to home runs that with no wind wouldn't have been, or what should have been popup fly balls into fielders' gloves for relatively easy outs, into the standards for a strikes in grueling battles better pitcher and batter--I don't know if there is a significant difference between the average number of pitches per batter overall for the AL, versus Fenway, but I wouldn't be surprised.

It's a small ballpark, and popups that would be outs in other fields, go into the stands instead of foul territory on the field.

And then there are the windshears and windshifts, that used to be worse back before the additional box [premium] seating got added... made being an outfielder in Boston a challenging position.

==========

Back in the days before the AL allowed DHs, the Red Sox had a pitcher, Earl Wilson, who was actually a good hitter, and who was sometimes used as a pinch hitter in games he wasn't pitching in. Sometimes he wound up playing first base that way.

#165 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 11:19 AM:

maines: a fair point, at a more subtle level; I was distinguishing only at the decision point.

Paula: a sea breeze comes \from/ the sea; since Fenway (like most fields) has the outfield at the east side, a sea breeze helps pitchers rather than hitters. (And I wouldn't call last night's chill gale a "sea breeze", but in the ~5 minutes I was listening the announcer twice said -"that would have been a home run except for tonight's wind."-) Boston's east winds are notorious; thanks to them the temperature \dropped/ substantially between the 9am start of my last two final exams and the noon finish, and there was the year it was ~90F at the start of the Marathon (noon, 26 miles from the water) and ~60F at the finish (2pm, 2 miles). The fair-weather winds (from the west or northwest) are the ones that help hitters in Fenway.
Note also that putting up the luxury boxes ("406 club"(?)) was shown to have hurt hitters by putting more wall behind home plate -- but even before then it wasn't clear how much of the problem was the park and how much was Boston's habit of losing top pitchers (Tiant, Clemens) who still had several good years in them.

#166 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2004, 01:47 PM:

An incoming wind generally helps pitchers -- except for knuckleballers. This may well have had something to do with Wakefield's sudden wildness yesterday; see here.

#167 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2004, 04:03 PM:

Adding to the end-time paranoia should the red socks win the World Series, a total lunar eclipse will take place during game four.

"Coincidence? I think not."

#168 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2004, 04:29 PM:

JVP, way back you made reference to a couple of studies on baseball and science fiction. Got the full citations? I'd like to dig up some for a friend of mine who is an extreme baseball fan. I went so far as to get out my copy of "Hoka!" and read "Joy in Mudville" again... I lost my enthusiasm for baseball when Roberto Clemente died lo these many years go, but I've found myself antsy to turn on the TV in the evening these past few days!

#169 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2004, 05:53 PM:

Wearing my Red Sox tee to work again today (I might just wear it to pieces before the season's out, at this rate).

It's funny. I used to get strange looks, and some pity when I wore this shirt. Then again, I'm a long way from Red Sox Nation.

But lately, it elicits a smile, a thumbs-up, sports commentary and an occasional outpouring of support for the Sox and the assertion that they'll win.

This is how I know none of the commentors are lifelong Sox fans. It's been my experience that Sox fans know better than to say the Sox will win. Quite the opposite, in fact; most Sox fans SAY, "They'll choke," while entertaining hope in the same part of their brain that hopes Kerry wins, their next evualuation will net a gigantic raise, and that they'll hit all the traffic lights green on the way home.

#170 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2004, 05:59 PM:

Janet Croft:

Also in [bostonbaseball]: “Here's something to think about as a pitcher. The batter exerts some 6000-8000 pounds of force on the ball. This force is required to change a 5 1/8th ounce ball from a speed of 90 mph to a speed of 110 mph, this distorts the baseball to half its original diameter and the bat is compressed one fiftieth of its size…. Bad news for batters, if you swing 1/100th of a second too soon a ball will go foul down the left field side (right handed batter). 1/100th of a second too late and it's foul in the right field seats (and the decision to swing has to happen within .04 seconds).

The connections between Baseball and Chemistry are more dilute, but Michael Swanwick [Swanwick] jokes: “Real baseball is played on a diamond. Virtual baseball is played on a zirconium.”

REFERENCES:

Robert K. Adair, The Physics of Baseball, (Harper and Row, 1990, ISBN 0-06-096461-8). Adair is Sterling Professor of Physics at Yale University and, from 1987 to 1989, Physicist to the National League: “...the ‘muzzle velocity’ of the ball -- as it leaves the pitcher's hand -- is about 8 mph greater than its speed across the plate. The ball loses speed at the rate of about 1 mph every 7 feet. This means that a very fast fast ball leaves the hand of the pitcher at well over 100 mph: at the plate measured speeds include 98.6 (Feller, 1946), 99.7 (Johnson, 1914, though how they got the number I don't know), and 100.7 (Ryan, no date) mph. Johnson claimed that Dr. Smokey Joe Wood was even faster. Add 8 mph to each for the speed at the hand.
Check out the book if you're interested in baseball, Magnus coefficients, and Reynolds numbers.

Adler,
www.adlerplanetarium.org/history/exhibits/evam/games.html

Armenti, Angelo, Jr. The Physics of Sports, New York, American Institute of Physics, 1992.

Astronomy Now Store
http://spaceflightnow.com/store/clothing/apollocaps.html

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, “Fly Ball or Frisbee, Fielder and Dog do the Same Physics”, New York Times, 7 January 2003, p.D3; which cites [McBeath 1995]

Bostonbaseball
www.bostonbaseball.com/whitesox/physics.html

Bradley, M. J. "Building Home Plate: Field of Dreams or Reality?" Math. Mag. 69, 44-45, 1996.

Brancazio & Katt, “The Mechanics of a Breaking Pitch”, Popular Mechanics [month/year?], by ex MLB pitcher Jim Kaat plus a scientific explanation by physicist Peter Brancazio.

Vannevar Bush; “July 1965 MIT Professor of Electrical Measurements Harold "Doc" Edgerton produced a batch of multiflash baseball photos and sent them to long-time colleague Vannevar Bush for comment. Edgerton was noted for developing the modern stroboscope, which, when employed in photography, could freeze motion and enable observation and analysis of events too rapid for the unaided eye, or standard cameras, to comprehend. Bush had devised early analog computers and had supervised the nation's World War II defense-related research effort. Both men enjoyed tinkering with electrical gadgets and shared a fascination with the unseen. Bush's August 1, 1965, response to Edgerton (from MC 25, the Harold Edgerton Papers) records his thoughts about the physics of baseball.” See:
http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/exhibits/bush/

Gardner Dozois, et al.
www.scifi.com/transcripts/2000/sfbaseball.html

Nick Dvoracek
idea.uwosh.edu/nick/astronomy.htm

Exploratorium
http://www.exploratorium.edu/baseball/curve.html

Nick Greene
space.about.com/library/weekly/aa101902a.htm

Adam Kleinbaum, “The Physics of Baseball”
http://hcs.harvard.edu/~hsr/99_hsr_webpage/hsr/winter97/bball.html

Mike Knobler, “Hard Breaking Balls Haven’t Thrown this Physicist for a Curve”, The Jackson (MS) , Clarion-Ledger
www.decatursports.com/articles/base/physics.htm

Knox, 2001
http://bubba.ucdavis.edu/~knox/ast10/Hw_solutions.htm

Kreutzer, P. and Kerley, T. Little League's Official How-to-Play Baseball Book. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

Michael K. McBeath, Dennis M. Shaffer, Mary K. Kaiser, “How baseball oufielder determines where to run to catch fly balls”, Science, v.268, n.5210 (28 Apr 1995) pp.569-574

Alan M. Nathan, “Aerodynamics of the Baseball”
www.npl.uiuc.edu/~a-nathan/pob/
These [hotlinks] are a series of web sites with information about the flight of a hit or pitched baseball through the air. Good starting point are the excellent sites on aerodynamics by the Glenn Learning Technologies Project and The K-8 Aerodynamics Textbook. Another nice article appeared in Popular Mechanics in 1997 entitled The Mechanics of a Breaking Pitch , by ex MLB pitcher Jim Kaat plus a scientific explanation by physicist Peter Brancazio. A somewhat technical but still interesting site is The Physics of Baseball Pitching. Check out LeRoy Alaways' Web Site, which contains a link to Dr. Alaways' Ph.D. thesis entitled "Aerodynamics of the Curve Ball", which can be downloaded in pdf format. The thesis is an experimental study of the trajectory of pitched baseballs along with an analysis to determine properties of the aerodynamical forces on a spinning baseball. Along these same lines, an interesting account of some recent work of Alaways can be found here . Professor Jim Carr from Florida State has written a nifty Java script Baseball Flight Simulator to simulate the flight of a baseball. For additional studies of the flight of the baseball, complete with a computer code and some very nice explanations, check out the work of Joanne Treurniet by clicking here .

Sten Odenwald,
http://www2.ari.net/ho me/odenwald/cafe.html/

Plagenhoef, S., Patterns of Human Motion, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 1971.

Physics, “The Physics of Baseball”
www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~cross/baseball.html
For further details, see: Am J. Physics, September 1998; and
Alan M. Nathan, Am J. Physics, 68, 979 (2000)

Steven H. Silver
http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/baseball.html

Michael Swanwick, “The Periodic Table of Science Fiction”, © 2002 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.
http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/elements/zirconium.html

Scott Teresi, “Physics of a Home Run”
http://www.teresi.us/writing

Thompson, R. B. "Designing a Baseball Cover. 1860's: Patience, Trial, and Error. 1990's: Geometry, Calculus, and Computation." http://www.mathsoft.com/asolve/baseball/baseball.html. Rev. March 5, 1996.

Watts, Robert G. and A. Terry Bahill, Keep your Eye on the Ball, New York, W. H. Freeman and Company, 1990.

Eric W. Weisstein, “Baseball”,
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Baseball.html
© 1999 CRC Press LLC, © 1999-2003 Wolfram Research, Inc.

Eric W. Weisstein, “Baseball Cover”,
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/BaseballCover.html

Eric W. Weisstein, “Home Plate”,
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/HomePlate.html

#171 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2004, 09:12 PM:

"...and the bat is compressed one fiftieth of its size..."

Meaning that it's still forty-nine fiftieths of its size, I hope.

#172 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2004, 09:47 PM:

Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2004, 09:12 PM:
"'...and the bat is compressed one fiftieth of its size...'

Meaning that it's still forty-nine fiftieths of its size, I hope."

I hope so too, Andy, because this blog is not the right venue for a Quantitative Relativistic Baseball, where a REALLY fastball undergoes Lorentz contraction, and so does the bat swinging for it. Hard to tell what team a player is on when he is redshifted while sprinting away from us, and is blueshifted when sliding towards us.

Or Quantum Baseball. Was that a strike or a ball? The umpire seems uncertain... The manager has taken the field and is protesting that the ball was illegally entangled with the bat...

#173 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2004, 12:18 AM:

Quantum baseball: well, he's probably on base.

However, if nobody can observe the bullpen, the pitcher may or may not be warmed up.

#174 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2004, 01:12 AM:

Re: Quantum baseball

Dennis Overbye thought of it first, at least in the context of the current World Series.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/26/science/26quan.html

#175 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2004, 01:22 AM:

Is that from tomorrow's NY Times, Andy Perrin? I'll look at a hardcopy, thanks.

also:

Peterson, I., 1989. Quantum baseball. Science News 136(Aug. 5):88.

[must have at least seen the title, and had it stick in my head]

See also:

Quantum Games
Taking advantage of quantum effects to attain a winning edge
Theorists studying quantum computation offer new perspectives on coin tossing, chess, and game theory.

References:

Eisert, J., M. Wilkens, and M. Lewenstein. 1999. Quantum games and quantum strategies. Physical Review Letters 83(Oct. 11):3077.

Meyer, D.A. 1999. Quantum strategies. Physical Review Letters 82(Feb. 1):1052.

Further Readings:

Bower, B. 1998. Yours, mine, and ours. Science News 153(March 28):205.

Buhrman, H., R. Cleve, and A. Wigderson. Preprint. Quantum vs. classical communication and computation. Available at http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/quant-ph/9802040.

Deutsch, D., and A. Ekert. 1998. Quantum computation. Physics World (March):47.

Peterson, I. 1998. Playing your cards right. Science News 154(July 18):40.

______. 1998. Starting up quick quantum searches. Science News 153(April 18):244.

______. 1997. Silicon champions of the game. Science News 152(Aug. 2):76.

______. 1997. Divide and conquer for quantum computers. Science News 151(June 14):367.

______. 1997. Computer triumphs over human champion. Science News 151(May 17):300.

______. 1996. Quantum-quick queries. Science News 150(Aug. 31):143.

______. 1996. Formulas for fairness. Science News 150(May 4):284.

______. 1996. The soul of a chess machine. Science News 149(March 30):200.

______. 1996. Bits of uncertainty. Science News 149(Feb. 10):90.

______. 1995. Quantum bits. Science News 147(Jan. 14):30.

______. 1994. Opening a quantum door on computing. Science News 145(May 14):308.

______. 1989. Quantum baseball. Science News 136(Aug. 5):88.

Weiss, P. 1999. Quantum Internet. Science News 155(April 3):220.

An introduction to quantum game-tree searching can be found at http://www.voicenet.net/~aaronson/gametree.html.

Sources:

David Deutsch
University of Oxford
Centre for Quantum Computation
Oxford OX1 3PU
United Kingdom
Web site: http://www.qubit.org/

Jens Eisert
University of Potsdam
Quantum Theory Group
Institute for Physics
D-14469 Potsdam
Germany
Web site: http://www.quantum.physik.uni-potsdam.de/JE/hello.page.html

Lov K. Grover
Lucent Technologies
Physics Research Lab
1D435 Bell Labs
700 Mountain Avenue
Murray Hill, NJ 07974
Web site: http://www.bell-labs.com/~lkgrover/

David A. Meyer
University of California, San Diego
Project in Geometry and Physics
Department of Mathematics
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
Web site: http://math.ucsd.edu/~dmeyer/research.html

From Science News, Vol. 156, No. 21, November 20, 1999, p. 334. Copyright © 1999, Science Service.

#176 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2004, 01:33 AM:

"You teach me baseball and I'll teach you relativity... no we must not. You will learn about relativity faster than I learn baseball."

-- Albert Einstein

#177 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2004, 01:43 AM:

My infamous troublemaking abilities are at work tonight. Please adjust the joint of your nose, JvP. I wasn't trying to imply you copied Overbye. I just thought it was entertaining that you both hit on the same idea. Great minds, etc.

#178 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2004, 01:53 AM:

Andy Perrin:

No apology necessary, though it was gentlemanly of you to offer. I was just kicking myself for naively think that I had invented something new.

More on relativity and baseball [warning: Math- or Physics-indifferent please skip the following]

excerpted from:

http://www.bramboroson.com/cultural/feb21.html

You might be thinking "How the heck could it be that
the curved path a baseball makes when you throw it is
actually a straight line in curved spacetime? I can't
see that!"

Well, remember that the spacetime "distance" between
two events is:

distance^2= dx^2+dy^2+dz^2 - c^2 dt^2

Actually when spacetime is curved by a uniform
gravity, the "distance" is:

distance^2= dx^2+dy^2+dz^2- (c^2 + 2 g y) dt^2

And remember we can use any coordinate system. We can
use a coordinate system that moves along with the
baseball, so that the baseball does not move in space.
It only moves in time. So then the spacetime
"distance" is only the amount of time felt by the
baseball. Mathematically we end up with:

distance^2 = - (c^2 + 2 g y + v^2) dt^2

It's not dt that is the time felt by the baseball--t
is just a coordinate--but the negative of this
"distance", which expresses the only motion the
baseball makes (in its reference frame).

To minimize this "distance" we need the time "felt" by
the baseball to be maximized. On the one hand,
increasing y makes time go faster, because gravity
causes time to slow down (at a black hole, time
stops!) On the other hand, increasing the velocity v
causes time to slow down because when you go fast,
time slows down. But it's hard to get both. If you
want to go high up where your clock speeds up, you
need to go fast, but that slows your clock down. So
nature finds a middle ground, where you have some
limited speed and some limited height before you come
back down again.

For example, when you throw something up, at the very
top of its trajectory it kind of lingers. It has its
lowest velocity then. Why doesn't a tossed baseball go
up, and then just bounce right back when it reaches
the top of its path? Because when its high up, a
baseball is passing more time. A path that spends more
time high up is a path closer to maximizing the time
the baseball feels (minimizing the spacetime
distance).

Actually the spacetime distance can be either a
maximum or minimum--and can be a "local maximum or
minimum" in that it is only relative to nearby paths
that the true path something travels on is "straight".

#179 ::: Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2004, 11:42 PM:

and so it came to pass, under a blood moon, the curse met its final demise.

#180 ::: Bill Buckner ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2004, 11:58 PM:

Does this mean I'm off the hook?

#181 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 12:20 AM:

Kate S who is not the Thing and certainly not Mafia - It may now be safe for you to watch your team. Try it out early next season and see what happens. Poof! Curse lifted!

#182 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 12:22 AM:

Sox sweep! And it's not even close.

First the Pats, then the Sox, and next Tuesday we go for the trifecta!!

#183 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 12:30 AM:

ohmygawd! The curse has been reversed!

#184 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 01:43 AM:

Oy! Bonking one's head is never fun. Feel better.

#185 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 01:44 AM:

Sorry, just realized that that could have sounded funny to our friends across the pond - Hitting one's head is never fun.

#186 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 02:11 AM:

As one of the myriad Kates, let me answer that with a HELL YES.

Concussions, or even just contusions, are bad, however. Sleep well.

#187 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 10:19 AM:

Happy. Just very happy.

#188 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 10:29 AM:

Another of the multitudes of Kates saying, yes, very happy!

(Though not happy that you got hit on the head. Be careful and feel better soon.)

I actually didn't watch the game last night--I'd hit the wall, not on baseball but on general fatigue and stress--which I feel kinda guilty about now, but I just couldn't manage it. Have seen highlights and read stories, though (firmly pushing aside free agency speculation until never, because honestly I'd never cared before now, and this is not the time to start).

Yay!

#189 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 10:47 AM:

This morning I have a goose egg at center top of my forehead, and appear to be mildly concussed. It'll pass.

On the other hand, this morning's footage of Red Sox fans is just too damned cute for words.

#190 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 10:48 AM:

Wow, you responded before I had quite finished saving. I will not swallow cold poison and jump in the sea.

#191 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 11:18 AM:

Arguably I should have been checked out, but I wasn't, so here I am. My working theory is that if I had a hematoma where I hit my head, my symptoms would be stranger and more severe; and if I'd done something like crack a vertebra, my neck would still be hurting a lot, instead of hurting a little. I do hope I'm not wrong about that. I do believe it's just a bit of concussion.

In the vernacular, I have progressed from being knocked silly to merely being a bit addled. I won't be operating any heavy machinery for a while.

#192 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 11:32 AM:

Take it easy, and I hope you feel better soon. After the Cardinals put up all those goose eggs, it's scary that one of them could end up hitting you on the forehead.

#193 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 11:45 AM:

Ok,

So the Sox are up 4 games to none in the World Series. Everything is looking good for them.

How are they going to screw it up this time?

#194 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 11:52 AM:

Eric wrote:
So the Sox are up 4 games to none in the World Series. Everything is looking good for them.
How are they going to screw it up this time?

Isn't it obvious? St. Louis is going to hire Karl Rove. He'll fight it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

#195 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 12:23 PM:

Feel better, Teresa.

There's only one more thing for the true baseball fan to say: Next year in Chicago.

#196 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 12:43 PM:

I found this terrific diptych on one of my favorite photograph journal sites: http://www.slower.net//entries/001842.php. Entitiled "One Down, One To Go".

Note - the page contains one expletive, but mostly it contains one great big work-safe picture, so if your workplace sniffs for cusswords it's NSFW, otherwise it's OK.

And while you're there, check out his real photography - very New York, and quite stunning.

#197 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 01:02 PM:

Teresa, I hope you're right. But I have one word: Mozart.

#198 ::: Maines ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 01:26 PM:

Well, the Red Sox have cost me a short story. (It's no longer marketable because of the reversal of the curse. So I posted it here for friends who grow nostalgic for those bad old days.) Small price to pay for a Red Sox victory.

A bump on the head is, however, not a good price to pay. Hope you feel better, Teresa.

Indeed, next year in Chicago. Cubs vs White Sox. That MasterCard ad about what Red Sox fans would give to see their team in the World Series? As a Cub fan, I am making my list.

#199 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2004, 04:43 PM:

The new, rebooted Green Lantern #1 (which came out yesterday) has Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Hal Jordan attending a Yankees-Red Sox playoff in which the Yankees win. I'm wondering whether this means Jordan or Kyle Rayner will reconstruct the multiverse again, or whether all subsequent events in the new GL will be part of an alternate timeline.

#200 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 10:16 AM:

Alison Scott:

Disemvariabled Pythagoros: ^2 + ^2 = ^2

Disemvariabled Fermat: There exist no integers greater than 2 such that ^ + ^ = ^

Too late to stop me from multiplying, though. My son's blogged here...

#201 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 11:35 AM:

Lenny, it seems more likely to me that in a few months somebody will throw in a passing reference to [time-oriented character X] accidentally or deliberately changing the outcome of the American League Championship Series.

(That's how I'd do it, at any rate.)

#202 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 12:18 PM:

It was an odd night on wednesday, the eclipse and then silence shattered by horns, sirens and cheers.

Okay Larry, Maybe I'll watch next year.

Teresa, I hope your head is better. *snugs*

I just finished a knitted cat bed to be felted and given away to charity.

I must admit, it's nice to see so many Kates floating about. Kates are rather special, you see.

Kate S.

#203 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 12:48 PM:

One might note that in the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, every time James Bond gets knocked out (which is fairly frequently -- the guy has a glass jaw) the first thing he does when he wakes up is puke.

#204 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 02:19 PM:

Kate (Not the Thing) wrote:
I must admit, it's nice to see so many Kates floating about. Kates are rather special, you see.

You lie, in faith; for you are called plain Kate,
And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst.
But Kate -- the prettiest Kate in Christendom --
Kate of Kate-Hall, my super-dainty Kate --
For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate,
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation:
Hearing thy mildness praised in every town,
Thy virtues spoke of, and thy beauty sounded --
Yet not so deeply as to thee belongs --
Myself am moved to woo thee for my... Viable Paradise facilitator.


(I actually memorized that in eleventh grade. Had a crush on a Kate.) >8->

#205 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 02:50 PM:

(I actually memorized that in eleventh grade. Had a crush on a Kate.)

That probably stands a better chance of success than the Ben Folds Five song "Kate," at least...

(Sample lyric: "Every day she wears the same thing/ I think she smokes pot/ she's everything I want/ She's everything I'm not." That's from memory, of course.)

(I hasten to add that I remember those lyrics just because that's what I do, not because I was trying to impress my Kate...)

#206 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 03:00 PM:

How many of the Kates are named Kate, rather than nicknamed Kate?

I'm a Kate--says so on my birth certificate and all. (Never a Katie, not since I was old enough to express an opinion on it.)

Re: Kates in art--_Taming_ makes my skin crawl; and memorizing the Ben Folds "Kate" (lyrics) wouldn't work to impress me anyway, because it's about as unlike me as you can get.

Teresa: how are you feeling today?

#207 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 03:13 PM:

How are you feeling today, Teresa? Head bump still bad?

#208 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 04:07 PM:

Re: Impressing Kates

How about quoting Shakespeare?

#209 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 04:13 PM:

Whoops, must remember to read carefully before posting.

#210 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 07:04 PM:

This should impress Kates:

Ka-ka-ka-Kati, minu armas Kati,
sa oled ainus, ke-ke-kes mind võlund!
Kui saabub õhtu, nälg näpib kõhtu,
siis te-te-tervitan sind köögi akna all.
Ka-ka-ka-Kati, tule siia, Kati
ma ki-ki-kingin sulle siidirätiku,
Ka-ka-ka-Kati, kui lüpsad lehmi,
ma oo-oo-oo-oo-ootan lauda ukse ees.
Ku-ku-kuu paistab üle lehmalauda,
su järel jooksen pa-pa-paljajalu ma.
Ka-ka-ka-Kati, tule siia, Kati,
ma ki-ki-kingin sulle kuuma suudluse!

Chicks dig Estonian.

#211 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2004, 12:14 AM:

Someone using Estonian is much more impressive than quoting Shakespeare. It's rarer to find someone who can do it, you see.

I'm a Katharine, I admit it. But whenever someone refers to me as Katharine, I look around to see who they're talking to.

I'm skipping the Sox parade in order to canvass tomorrow. Sigh.

#212 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2004, 02:25 AM:

My given name is Kathryn, and that's how I spell it, no e. But from the day I was born, I have been Kate. (Or Katie) My Mom is Kathleen and she
is Kathy, and My late grandmother was Kathleen, but was always called Kay. (Odd side note, after my grandmother died, my Mom went to vote and was told that she, My Mom, was dead. Mom wasn't amused, but did get to vote.)

Steve Eley - *blushes*, and good job!

Tom, the estonian is impressive and looks a lot like the somg my late grandfather used to sing to me. He'd sing
"K-K-K-Katie, K-k-k-k-atie,that's the g-g-g-g-irl that I adore, when the moon rises over the cow shed she'll be waiting at the k-k-k-k-Kitchen door."

There are two more Kate songs that I know of -

Katie put the kettle on, and an much older one I learned in chorus at the Waring School, it began:

"Sweet Kate of late, met a man she disposeth,

Never any yet died of such a fitte, neither have I fear of proving..."

and a few more lines, that I can't remember.

Teresa, I hope your head is better today.

I'm not going to go to the Parade either, as I have a paper to write, bread to bake and cleaning to do.


Kate S.

#213 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2004, 03:05 AM:

Tom, the estonian is impressive and looks a lot like the somg my late grandfather used to sing to me. He'd sing "K-K-K-Katie, K-k-k-k-atie,that's the g-g-g-g-irl that I adore, when the moon rises over the cow shed she'll be waiting at the k-k-k-k-Kitchen door."

It is, in fact, the Estonian translation thereof. Follow the link in my previous post for the full English text (only the chorus in Estonian, alas).

There's no one in my family named Kate, but my dad used to sing it anyway.

"Sweet Kate of late, met a man she disposeth,
Never any yet died of such a fitte, neither have I fear of proving..."

I have a copy of this somewhere. Let me know if you want me to dig it up. I like the part that goes "Tee hee hee, quoth she."

#214 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2004, 11:20 PM:

There's also the Barenaked Ladies song "Maybe Katie", though it's not exactly calculated to impress any Katies you might be trying to date.

#215 ::: kate martin ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2004, 01:01 AM:

I sang that one in high school, Tim. (The 'tee hee hee quoth she' one.) It was really awfully fun.

(I was in a 9 woman choral ensemble.)

In case anyone cares, there were "only" about 3.2 million people at the parade today. But I painted and did not canvass, which I shall be doing tomorrow, instead.

#216 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2004, 12:04 AM:

So with the Sox taking the Series, of course the Patriots get pasted. I \think/ it's nice to know the world won't end tomorrow. (Or would that take getting the Celtics and Bruins back to their winning ways?)

#217 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2009, 10:46 PM:

Spam from 80.122.229.70

#218 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 08:25 PM:

I'm still waiting for the Cubs' turn.

...it'll be a long wait.

#219 ::: Chicago Cubs ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 04:07 AM:

Not any more.

#220 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 07:54 AM:

^Best reactivation of a mothballed thread ever.

#221 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 08:58 AM:

With last night's loss, Cleveland immediately inherits the longest-championship-drought title.

I would note that according to Kinsella, this year was the Last Pennant Before Armageddon, which is uncomfortably not-quite-funny-anymore considering what's happening in a week.

#222 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 10:24 AM:

Chicago still holds the record for longest drought; Cleveland now has the longest active drought. In much the same way that the death of the King of Thailand a few weeks ago rendered QEII the longest-reigning living monarch.

#223 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 11:06 AM:

As someone pointed out elseweb, last night, the last tie the Cubs won the Series, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were still a thing.

#224 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 03:36 PM:

The last time the Cubs won the series, radio coverage was delivered via dramatic performance and improvized Foley noises, working from a telegraphed realtime box score.

There's a change in technology for you.

#225 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 03:52 PM:

Last night when I "watched" the Cubs win, it was via pitch-by-pitch descriptive text with a cartoon image of the batters at the plate -- effectively a web interpretation of a telegraphed realtime box score. Maybe technology hasn't changed that much.

#226 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2016, 04:38 PM:

225
i was watching a box score with a description and some visuals for who was on which base and the balls, strikes, and outs.
But I grew up listening to games on radio, and that's always seemed to be better than TV for baseball.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.