My fifth 1935 Goudey: Dazzy Vance

My fifth 1935 Goudey: Dazzy Vance

As I mentioned before, four of my cards came in a single visit to a local baseball card shop. The nicest card in terms of condition that I bought in that four-card batch featured Hall of Fame pitcher Dazzy Vance, so overall it was probably the best card out of the batch as well.

Vance is the only Hall of Famer on this card, but the other three players certainly had interesting careers, even though 1935 wasn’t necessarily a highlight year for any of them.

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My contributions to the Wikipedia

When I was checking up on some facts on Joe Jackson, I found the free Wikipedia to be of use. In the very well-done account of the Black Sox scandal (to which I made some minor edits, replacing a couple of odd word choices and fixing some commas), I noticed a link to a non-existent biography of pitcher and ringleader Eddie Cicotte. So I whipped out my Baseball Encyclopedia, opened it up to Cicotte’s statistics, did a couple of Web searches to grab some more detail and check my own memory, and based on those references, I wrote one.
Cicotte was a knuckleballer, but I found the Wikipedia didn’t have an article on the knuckleball either. So I wrote one of those too. Along the way to writing that, I found the Wikipedia had a biography of Hoyt Wilhelm, which I didn’t touch, but didn’t have one of Phil Niekro, the most notable pitcher from my lifetime to throw the pitch. I didn’t write that biography.

I also found there’s no biography of Jimmie Foxx. That wrong will have to be righted by yours truly very soon. As will the criminal exclusion of Mike Sweeney, and the embarrassingly sketchy history of the Kansas City Royals. (The George Brett biography was reasonably complete; I made a few minor additions.) I can see how this can get addictive fast.

I read a while back some astronomical statistic about the Wikipedia’s size, but that it wasn’t yet as big as the Encyclopædia Britannica. I visited it, ready to contribute an article or two, but couldn’t think of anything. I figured I’d write about technology but found all the articles in my area of expertise were already very impressive.

So my contribution to this fount of knowledge is in the area of baseball instead.

Hey, it’s good that it’ll go somewhere.

This year, Selig outshines even Steinbrenner

Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. –Proverbs 17:28
Bud Selig has once again opened his mouth and is calling the Minnesota Twins, despite their raging success this year–and not-so-shabby last year–a candidate for contraction.

Translation: Twins owner Carl Pohlad loaned me money a few years ago, even though it was against baseball’s rules, but that’s OK because I enforce the rules, and now he can sell the team to the rest of the owners and I can make them pay more money than he could get by selling the team outright, so I’m going to do him that favor, no matter how bad it makes baseball look.

They talked during the All-Star Game about how Bud Selig once sold Joe Torre a car. That’s appropriate, because Selig is still spewing as much crap as a used-car salesman and he doesn’t know where to stop.

I really don’t understand is why Selig, in this era of corporate scandal that destroyed Enron and WorldCom and Martha Stewart and now threatens the AOL Time Warner empire, is willing to do anything that has even the most remote appearance of corruption. But maybe Selig’s like a 16-year-old with a red Lamborghini, an attractive girl riding shotgun, and a fifth of whiskey. The worst possible outcome always happens to the other guy, right?

And the ironic thing is that in 1995, Carl Pohlad’s company loaned Bud Selig money, because Bud Selig’s Milwaukee Brewers needed money.

Hmm. The Brewers ran out of money. The Brewers’ owner went to the Twins’ owner for money. Interesting.

The Brewers last went to the World Series in 1982. They lost in seven games. The Twins went to the big show in 1987 and won. They went again in 1991. They won. In 2001, the Twins went 85-77 and finished second in their division and even finished second in the wild-card race. The Brewers finished 68-94 and did what they almost always seem to do best: prop the Cubs up in the standings.

I know of a team in the northern midwest that seems like an excellent candidate for contraction. And that team would be:

The Milwaukee Brewers.

Leave the Twins alone.

But don’t get me wrong. Selig isn’t a complete waste. Selig is doing an outstanding job of frustrating George Steinbrenner. You see, before Selig became the most hated man in baseball, Steinbrenner had been the undisputed champion, for about 30 years. But don’t get me wrong. Steinbrenner’s having a great year. Why, last week he accused Major League Baseball of conspiring against him. He wanted superstar outfielder Cliff Floyd. Floyd went from Florida to Montreal to Steinbrenner’s archrival, the Boston Red Sox. Now it’s conspiracy.

That’s the way Steinbrenner thinks. A few years ago, George Brett had dinner with George Steinbrenner. Back in Brett’s heyday, the Yankees and Brett’s Kansas City Royals were big rivals. They met in the playoffs in 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1980. The Yankees won three of four years. At some point in their conversation, Brett noticed his view of Steinbrenner’s face was blocked by a menu, so Brett moved it. Steinbrenner put it back. “I can’t stand looking at you,” Steinbrenner said.

“Why?” Brett asked.

“You beat us too many times in the playoffs,” Steinbrenner said.

Brett asked if beating the Yankees once counted as “too many times.” Steinbrenner said yes.

Now you know why I rooted for the buy-a-championship Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series last year. Yeah, I wanted the Cardinals to go. But I wanted Steinbrenner to not get what he wanted.

But Steinbrenner’s not just an immature little kid who’s not willing to share his toys. Two weeks ago, Roger Clemens was making a rehab start at Class A Tampa. The home-plate umpire was–horror of horrors–a woman! Well, Steinbrenner was horrified. They were mishandling his pitcher.

Earth to Steinbrenner: A rehab start is about throwing pitches to real-live batters to see a few things. First and foremost, does it hurt? Second, can you throw seven innings? Third, does it hurt?

Earth to Steinbrenner, again: Gender has nothing to do with the ability to see, to know the rules, and call balls and strikes.

Earth to Steinbrenner: The male umpires who call balls and strikes in the major leagues seem to have never read the rulebook, because they never call a strike above the belt. So if your theory that women don’t call balls and strikes the way men do happens to be true, having a woman behind the plate was probably a very good thing, and I eagerly await the day when we see women umps in the Big Leauges.

Then Steinbrenner said Ms. Cortesia should go back to umpiring Little League. “She wasn’t bad, but she wasn’t that good,” he said.

Clemens’ assesment: She did great.

So tell me who’s a better judge of an umpire’s ability: a loud, rude, obnoxious baseball owner, or a 40-year-old pitcher with 18 years’ experience in the major leagues?

Yep, Steinbrenner’s been in rare form these past couple of months. But he’s been eclipsed by Bud Selig. Pete Rose and Don Fehr are back and spewing as much garbage as ever, as well, and Ted Williams’ kids are doing their best to make everyone forget their dad’s Hall of Fame career. And Reds GM Jim Bowden made the mistake of invoking the memory of Sept. 11 when talking about a possible player’s strike. (He was wrong, of course. Sept. 11 destroyed two towers, but it didn’t destroy New York and it didn’t destroy America. A strike could destroy baseball.)

Yes, they’re all valiant attempts to look stupid. They’ve even managed to drown out baseball’s one-man wrecking crew, player agent Scott Boras. But none of them can hold a candle to Bud Selig.

It’s kind of like 1941. Joe DiMaggio had a great year in 1941. So great, he even won the MVP that year. But nobody remembers that anymore, because 1941 was the year Ted Williams batted .406. DiMaggio was the better overall player, and DiMaggio was the far bigger celebrity, and DiMaggio handled the limelight a lot better. But 1941 was Ted Williams’ year. Nothing could eclipse him. Not Luke Appling. Not Jimmie Foxx. Not even The Great DiMaggio.

2002 is Bud Selig’s year. Steinbrenner and Rose and Fehr and the rest of baseball’s repulsive bunch will be remembered for a lot of things, but saying the most stupid things in 2002 won’t be one of them.

They don’t make ’em like Ted Williams anymore

The last man to hit .400 in the major leagues died today at 83. But there was a lot more to Ted Williams than carrying a big stick.
Williams was a flawed role model, but he certainly got one thing right, and it’s fitting that he died on July 5. You see, Ted Williams gave up seven of the best years of his career to be a Marine pilot. Can you imagine Barry Bonds going through boot camp to become a Marine? I didn’t think so. Read more

Dave gets a movie rental card

Faced with producing a documentary film, and faced with the increasing prospect of doing it on my own without help from people who know what they’re doing, I went on an excursion last night. Well, first I called up a friend to see if she was doing anything. She wasn’t home, so I decided to do something useful with my Saturday night: research.
I drove to Hollywood Video, filled out a membership form and handed over my driver’s license and a credit card. I came home with two installments of Ken Burns’ acclaimed Baseball series. I wanted to see how Burns did documentaries, particularly how he handled stills and mixed stills with old movies. So I grabbed the 1910s-1920s installment and the 1930s-1940s installment. Then I drove over to Wal-Mart and picked up a couple of frozen pizzas. Then I came home to watch and learn.

Burns usually shoots still pictures the way a cameraman would shoot a scene, either shooting the less-important part of the scene and then panning over to the important part, or shooting a panoramic view of the whole picture, then zooming in on the important subject. When faced with a good, well-composed and well-cropped closeup, he just lets it sit alone. On television, there’s no such thing as a still–the image will jump a little–so you can get away with that more than you might think. He added a little more life with sound effects and voiceovers. For example, when showing a picture of a sportswriter, he added a voiceover and the quiet sound of a manual typewriter. That’s an interesting trick I’ll have to remember–when you can’t engage the eyes with much, engage one of the other senses.

And what about transitions, the whiz-bang stuff that Premiere gives you so much of? If Burns ever used a transition, it was very subtle. Where I looked for transitions, I found only hard scene changes.

But for all his critical acclaim, I was disappointed with the 1910s-1920s installment. Babe Ruth Babe Ruth Babe Ruth Babe Ruth. I had to check the tape to make sure this was Baseball, and not a biography of Babe Ruth. Yes, Babe Ruth was (unfortunately) the most important player of that era. But Babe Ruth wasn’t baseball. He was a fat drunk who hit a lot of home runs mostly because he had a ballpark with a nice short porch in right field for left-handed hitters to hit into. And he mostly played right field, so he didn’t have to run around a lot. Yes, in his early days Ruth was a tremendous athelete. But he didn’t take care of himself, and had he played anywhere else, he would have been far less remarkable.

What did Ken Burns have to say about the 1929 World Series? Author Studs Terkel came on and talked about how his buddy had tickets to Game 1 of the series and wanted him to go. He didn’t go. Lefty Grove was expected to pitch. Instead, Howard Ehmke (who? Exactly.) pitched instead. There’s a story behind that, but heaven forbid Ken Burns spend 30 seconds telling that story when he can use that 30 seconds to show a package of Babe Ruth-brand underwear instead.

Screw it. I’ll tell the story. About mid-season, A’s owner/manager Connie Mack went to Howard Ehmke and told him he was letting him go. Ehmke was a veteran pitcher, but he was well past his prime, and Mack rarely pitched him–six of the other pitchers on his staff went on to win 11 or more games that year. Mack was a notorious cheapskate and was known to sometimes only take two pitchers with him on road trips, so far be it from him to keep Ehmke around and on the payroll when he didn’t need him. At that point, the A’s were World Series bound, with or without Ehmke, and the whole league knew it. (No wonder Burns didn’t talk much about the 1929 season–the only noteworthy thing Babe Ruth did that year was remarry.) But Howard Ehmke had never pitched in a World Series, so he pleaded with Mack to let him stick around just long enough to pitch in a World Series game. Now Connie Mack may have been a cheapskate, but he wasn’t a soulless bastard like so many baseball owners of that day and later days. He had compassion on his veteran pitcher and said OK. Now I don’t remember whose idea it was, but they even talked about him starting one of the games. Mack asked him which game he’d like to start. Figuring he had nothing to lose, Ehmke answered, “The first one, sir.”

Absurdity. The best pitcher in the game that year (and for most years to come) was one Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove. You play the first game to win, so you go find your best pitcher to go win it for you. So the whole world expected Lefty Grove would pitch Game 1. So the Cubs, expecting left-handed fireballer Grove, loaded up their lineup with right-handed power hitters. At the last possible moment, Mack announced his starting pitcher would be soft-throwing right-hander Howard Ehmke. Ehmke pitched the whole game. He won, too, striking out 13–a series record.

The 1929 World Series was one of the most dramatic series ever, with the A’s staging a gutsy come-from-behind victory in Game 4, scoring 10 runs in the 7th inning to overcome an 8-0 deficit. Lefty Grove came in to pitch the 8th and 9th and preserve the victory, notching his second save of the series.

But since Babe Ruth sat at home while all this was going on, I guess nobody wants to know about it. They don’t want to know about any of the colorful guys on either team either. Jimmie Foxx was the greatest right-handed home run hitter in the game before Mark McGwire came along. A converted catcher, Foxx would play seven positions at some point in his career. Whereas Ruth began his career as a pitcher for the Red Sox, Foxx wrapped his up as a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. Like Ruth, he was always smiling. And he was one of the nicest guys to ever play the game.

The rest of the Philadelphia clubhouse wasn’t as nice as Foxx. Left fielder Al Simmons was a vicious hitter–arguably there were two things on that team meaner than Simmons’ bat, and those were Foxx’s bat and Simmons’ temper. It was a good thing the A’s didn’t lose much in those days, because after every loss, Simmons, hotheaded catcher Mickey Cochrane, and hotheaded pitcher Lefty Grove would redecorate the locker room. Connie Mack knew better than to go near the place until after they’d left.

As for Hack Wilson, the Cubs’ star center fielder, well, I’ve heard stories about him. It would have been nice to hear some new ones.

Hopefully we’ll find out a little bit about all these guys in the 1930s-40s installment. After the Yankee Dynasty of the late 1920s ended, the A’s Dynasty replaced it, and Ruth was retired by 1935–his last great season was 1932–so there isn’t much excuse to talk about him.

So while I was able to learn a fair bit about how a movie can come together and look good from discrete elements that are varied and sometimes damaged, I’m less impressed with Burns’ storytelling. To hear Burns tell it, you’d think the only teams that played baseball in that era were the Yankees, Red Sox, Yankees, A’s, Yankees, New York Giants, Yankees, the Chicago Cubs, Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals, Yankees, and the Negro League teams, who rightly or wrongly got more screen time than the non-Yankees MLB teams.

04/20/2001

Games. Anyone who knows me well knows that, in my mind, there are three computer games worth owning: Railroad Tycoon II, Civilization II, and whatever the year’s hot statistical baseball simulation might be (but I’m always disappointed with the lack of a financial aspect–gimme a lineup of Ty Cobb, Rod Carew, George Brett, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Nomar Garciaparra, and Mickey Cochrane, along with a pitching rotation of Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Cy Young, and Denny McLain, and I’ll slaughter you no matter who you’ve got–though my payroll would probably be upwards of $200 million just for those core 13 guys).

But if I were stranded on a desert island with a computer and could only have one game…? I’d take Civ 2.

Well, Sid Meier’s working on Civilization III now, and expecting a late-2001 or early-2002 release. And I found a great Civ site at www.civfanatics.com , with info on the upcoming Civ 3, along with info on the rest of the series, including strategies, loadable scenarios, patches, and other good stuff.

Hardware. Now that I suddenly don’t owe four figures to the government like I suspected I might, the irrational part of me has been saying to go buy some new computer gear. The rational part of me is reminding me that the markets are down, interest rates are down, interest rates are going to be cut again, and thus it’s probably a good time to sink some money into the market, preferably unsexy, proven blue-chips like General Electric, Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch. No matter what the economy does, people aren’t going to stop buying light bulbs, soda and beer, right? And I don’t care about dividends or short-term gains. I’m reading up about nutrition with the goal of increasing my life expectancy into three digits. I’m in this for the long, long haul.

But computer hardware is a lot more fun than stock certificates. And no one wants to read about me buying GE stock, right? So, let’s talk hardware.

First off, some people say you shouldn’t swap out motherboards because you should never take down a working system. Build a new system, then part out the system you’re replacing. I understand the logic behind that. That means starting off with a case and power supply. Time to buy for the long haul. For the long haul, there are two names in power supplies: PC Power and Cooling, and Enermax. Where to go, where to go? I hit PriceWatch and searched on Enermax. Bingo, I found Directron.com , which stocks both brands, along with a good selection of cases and allows you to swap out the stock power supply with whatever you want. Sounds great, but you generally only get about a $12 credit when you do that. Bummer. I went to resellerratings.com, looked up Enermax, and found a rating of 6 on 42 reports. That’s comparable to companies like Dirt Cheap Drives and Mwave, both of whom have given me excellent service over the years and get my business without hesitation.

What else have they got? Well, if you want to build a stealth black system, black cases, floppy, CD/DVD/CDRW drives and keyboards, for one. Nice.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to offer PCP&C’s cases. They do offer the ultimate l33t case, the Lian Li line. Cost of entry: $159 and up, no power supply included. The ultimate l33t solution would be a Lian Li case and an Enermax power supply. But would I really want to spend $200 on just a housing and power…? They also offer cases from Palo Alto, who makes cases for Dell and Micron. Working in a Micron shop, I’m very familiar with the Palo Altos, and they look good and won’t slice you up, though sometimes you have to disassemble them more than you might like. Cost of entry: about $70, including a 235W power supply, which you’ll want to swap out for something better. They also offer InWin and Antec cases, both of whom I’ve had good luck with. Reading further on their site, they claim only to stock cases their technicians have been able to work with easily and without injury.

And unfortunately, their commitment to quality doesn’t necessarily seem to extend to motherboards. I found the accursed PC Chips amongst their offerings. Boo hiss!

On the good side, if you want a PC on the cheap, here’s the secret formula: At Directon, grab an Enermax MicroATX case for $29, a Seagate 20 GB HD for $89, a socket 370 PC Power & Cooling fan for $19, a vial of heatsink compound for $1, and a Celeron-433 for $69 (highway robbery, but watch what I do next), then head over to Tekram and grab a closeout S-381M Intel 810-based motherboard for $34. Then head over to Crucial and pick up whatever size memory module you want (a 64-megger goes for $35, while a 128er goes for $60). Boom. You’ve got a real computer for well under $350, even accounting for shipping and a reasonable floppy, CD-ROM, keyboard and mouse. Or salvage them from an older PC. Get it and spend the money you save on a really nice monitor. For most of the things you do, you need a nice monitor more than you need clock cycles.

You could save a few bucks by picking up an old PPGA Celeron at your favorite Web closeout store, or on eBay, but the extra shipping will probably chew up all the savings. The going rate for a PPGA Celeron, regardless of speed, seems to be right around $60. You’ll pay $10 to ship it, while adding a CPU to an order that already includes a case and other stuff won’t add much to the shipping cost. One thing that did impress me about Directron is they don’t seem to be profiting off shipping, so they get honesty points. I’d rather pay $5 more up front and pay less shipping, because at least the dealer’s being honest.

I didn’t come to any conclusions and my credit card stayed in my wallet, but maybe I’m a little further down the road now.

And I guess it’s time for me to go to work.

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