Sam

Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco Giants’

The problem with baseball nowadays

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Yet another story about an overpaid major league ballplayer on the wires today. The Giants signed back-up catcher Eli Whiteside to a one-year $ 600 K contract. That is the figure that Whiteside will earn if he makes the big league club. If he is placed on the minor league roster he will make $ 175 K next season. Another way of looking at this is that if Whiteside makes the minor league team next year he will be paid more than Willie Mays ever made in his prime years with the Giants. In fact Mays’ top salary with the Giants was $ 180 K in 1971-72. I wonder how Wille Mays feels when he hears that a back up catcher who hit .197 last year, whose lifetime average is a paltry .218 and whose game-used bats don’t even sell for $ 20.00 on EBAY stands to make more money in the minor leagues than he (Mays) made as the marquee player in the National League for twenty years ?

The argument can be made of course that $ 180 K – when the adjustment is made for inflation – was worth far more in 1972 than it is nowadays. But how much more ? According to the US Govt official Consumer Product Index inflation calculator $ 180,000 in 1972 has the same buying power as $974 K in 2011. In other words, if Eli Whiteside can get his average over .200 in 2012 he will probably be making more than Willie Mays, inflation and all.

All of this begs the question, what is wrong with America nowadays that a professional baseball player – even a lousy one – makes so much money ?

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Doubleheaders

In Uncategorized on April 28, 2011 at 5:41 am

For no particular reason I was thinking about doubleheaders tonight. Whereas each Major League team used to play a handful of doubleheaders each season, nowadays it is unusual if a team has even one doubleheader on its schedule. And now they are called “day-night doubleheaders” the first game played in the afternoon and the second game in the evening, three or four hours after the conclusion of the first game. Fans of course must buy tickets to two separate games, what is always the coda of the announcement when the “doubleheader” is announced with great ceremony on the radio broadcast. In other words, if you want to go to a doubleheader nowadays you have to buy two tickets, leave the ballpark after the first game, and re-enter the park several hours later. Is this a doubleheader or deceitful marketing ?

Doubleheaders were wonderful because, more than anything else, it meant that you got to watch a game for free. Buy one and get one free. What was more American that. One suspects that owners did not make any money by allowing fans to buy a $ 1.00 bleacher ticket and watch two games over the course of an afternoon. But back then it really didn’t matter. Doubleheaders belonged to an era when the line between baseball as a game and baseball as a business was not so clearly drawn. Doubleheaders were just another baseball tradition that showed up on the schedule year in year out. Fans profited. Owners lost. No one cared becuse it was just baseball.

Doubleheaders gave us some of the greatest single-day performances in baseball history e.g. Stan Musial’s 5 home runs in a DH on May 2, 1954 or Roberto Clemente’s 10 hits in a DH in 1970. If you loved baseball, you especially loved Sundays – because of doubleheaders.

Doubleheaders. Yet another marvelous baseball tradition that greed has banished into obscurity.

World Series Celebrations, circa 2010

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 5:38 am

Well, the Giants won the World Series yesterday and so another baseball season comes to an end…in November.  Alas.

A San Francisco native who now lives in Tokyo, I was curious to read about the reaction of the city to this Championship. After all, this is the Giants first since moving to San Francisco since 1958. Judging from the accounts in the papers the celebrations were pretty tame; there were no riots, no vehicles were overturned or set on fire, there were no stabbings. This is San Francisco, after all and not Los Angeles.

Yet baseball celebrations are not what they used to be. Take 1962 for example, when the Giants defeated the Dodgers in game 3 of their playoff series to head to their first World Series since moving West. There were over 50,000 fans to greet the team at San Francisco International Airport as they arrived home from LA that night. The crowds spilled over onto the runway and not only the Giants charter but many other the flights had to be diverted. In fact, that used to be how fans would show their dedication – by going out to the airport sometimes in the middle of the night, in thousands, to greet the team as it returned home.  The broadcasters would even announce the flight details – numbers and times – so fans could plan their trip accordingly. It was incredibly exciting.  How different nowadays when fans opt instead to riot, loot and burn vehicles. 

But thankfully not in San Francisco this year.

Pom Poms

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 at 3:09 am

I tuned into the Giants – Phils game five today. Good game but for the likes of me I cannot understand why teams are handing out pom poms. It looked as if everyone at ATT Park tonight had a bright orange pom pom. It is hard enough trying to watch a game nowadays when the 11 year old kid in front of you has a foam finger and oversized foam rodeo hat and the vendor with the rainbow cotton candy ( it is no longer pink , folks)  is obstructing your vision every couple of innings. But can you imagine trying to watch a ballgame when EVERYONE in your section is waving a bright orange pom pom ? I certainly can’t. Unfortunately, most of the teams encourage this pop frenzy. There are a few exceptions like the Yankees and Red Sox. Indeed, the vibe at the ballpark these days – with the blaring music, dot racing, kissing contests, food courts, and pom poms is more similar to an amusement park than to a ballgame. Contrast this to the baseball crowds of old, like the photo above of Milwaukee Braves fans lining up for the World Series in 1957. Do these look like the kind of people who would be waving pom poms ? I think not.

Baseball and integration

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I  just finished a book about The Birmingham Black Barons, entitled Willie’s Boys. The book is by John Kilma and it chronicles the Birmingham Black Barons 1948 season – Mays’s first season in professional baseball. The book contains a wealth of information about the Negro leagues, details the ardour and injustices black players faced playing in the south, as well as the excitement in the Negro leagues at a time baseball had just begun to “experiment” with segregation. I use that word because it really was an experiment.

One can always learn something from a book like this. For example, it was interesting to read about Branch Rickey. The standard line on Rickey is that he brought Jackie Robinson to the majors because he had a deeply rooted moral committment to integration. Not so according to Kilma who argues, concvincingly, that Rickey’s was a business decision and nothing more.

There is also pathos in this book. Many great Negro League players, such as Barons Manager, Piper Davis, never had the chance to play in the majors simply because their playing careers were at an end when black players were just starting to trickle into the Major Leagues. The most famous of these players was, of course, Josh Gibson. But there were many other Negro League legends who never got the chance to play in the Major Leagues and one senses that they looked upon the change with both hope and regret.

More than anything, however, the book reminds us what an unjust society we used to live in. Watching the Giants-Phillies game the other day, I could not help but think about Willie’s Boys every time the camera panned into the stands or dugout and I saw black and white sitting together. It is nice to feel that, to some extent, we have been able to overcome our prejudices and that everyone has the opportunity now to play on the same field or watch a game from the same vantage point. Progress is a good thing.

ATT Park seagulls: A case study

In Satire on July 1, 2009 at 8:33 am

graph

We had noticed an escalation of Seagulls at SF Giants games through the first third of the 2009 season. Under normal conditions, as patrons leave the ballpark gulls will come into feed on the unfinished food and debris. This season however there seemed to be more gulls than usual and we had also identified the presence of a “Recon Gull, ” a lone gull that would appear in the stadium several innings before the  flock.  The “Recon Gull” we identified as a Red-Legged Kittewake ( Rissa Breverostis) , a species more known for its large eyes and keen night vision than scavenging.

In order to gain an understanding of this phenomenon and to establish a possible link between gull feeding habits and the SF Giants 2009 rotation we conducted a field study over 10 games. As most bird migration occurs at night (Wilzack 1995) our field study took place over 8 night games and 2 day games. We measured wind speed using current algorithms and have assigned a tolerance of – 2 for large bird clusters per starter. This methodology is consistent with Obannon (1972).

Based on our observations we were able to establish a clear link between Giants starting pitcher and gull populations inside ATT Park. We also noted the presence of  several “Recon Gulls” as early as the first innings when Barry Zito was on the mound. This is unusual because not more than one “Recon Gull” was observed when the other Giants hurlers were on the mound. We hypothesize, therefore, that of the 3-4 “Recon Gulls”   observed when Zito was on the mound, only one was a true “Recon Gull” the others  most likely being Ring Billed Gulls ( Larus Delawarensis ) a species that is omnivorous and will scavenge on anything. For the complete findings please click on graph.

First friday night game of the season

In Traditions on April 23, 2009 at 11:49 am

First Friday night game of the year was last week. Giants won 2-0 to snap a six game losing streak. Watching the 2009 version of the SF Giants is about as interesting as watching a fly trapped in your kitchen try to navigate its way back to the outside world……….so we spent much of the evening sipping beers from a couple of 1958 Hamms wax beer cups I had found on EBAY and looking at Casey Stengel “Old Perfessor” quotes on Lin’s I-phone. Lin was looking to enhance his profile on his company’s website with a little Stengelese. Settled on the following :

The secret of successful managing is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the four guys who haven’t made up their minds.

As a kid I used to enjoy going to Friday night games at Candlestick Park. In those days night games started at 8:05 which allowed people to eat at home with their families ( at one time in America the family dinner hour was sacred ) and then head out to the ballgame. Contrast that to nowadays when most teams have a 7 pm first pitch which more or less gives fans no alternative but to eat at the ballpark, where they pay inflated prices for food. Foregoing the $ 4.00 parking lot we would park in the dirt lot on the perimeter of the stadium for a buck and then make our way to the ticket booths outside the concourse. The prices in those days: $1.00 for bleachers; $ 2.50 for upper reserve; $3.50 for lower reserve. $4.50 for a box seat. $ 4.50 today doesn’t even get you an order of fries at ATT Park.

It would get bitterly cold at Candlestick (this was before the stadium was enclosed in 1971-72) as the wind used to blow in across the outfield from the bay. We would bundle up with our thermoses and enjoy the game and the organ music between innings, which is about all a baseball game used to consist of.

Inside the ballpark the crowd was diverse. Unlike today when exorbitant ticket pricing has created a caste system at the ballpark, at the old Candlestick Park dishwashers with the buying power to afford a $ 3.50 ticket would sit side by side with lawyers and engage in conversation while watching the game. For a 12 year old kid like myself the diversity was a fleeting escape from the homogeneity of the suburbs , but valuable social education nevertheless. In a society struggling to be fair baseball was the great equalizer. Not any more. I don’t know the last time I sat next to a black person at a baseball game. A sad commentary on our society, and on our National Pastime, I believe.

Final thought on this post: Was reminiscing with Lin about the old days when ballpark Cokes came in waxed cups with cellophane lids. Remember those ? The lids were heat sealed on the cups and crackled loudly when you poked your finger thorough them. Those cups have disappeared meaning, I guess, that not everything about going to a ballgame nowadays is to be lamented. And beer used to be poured in the stands while you kept one eye on the game. It was only $ 0.75 then. Now it is $ 9.00.

Hard to believe, isn’t it