17 August 2005

King Felix, New B-R pages, Blue, Meet the Mets!

Baseball-wise, last night is what you'd call a "good night." Much as I enjoyed the really great (though upper deck) seats at Shea... I didn't see too many pitches past the 8th inning, honestly. My eyes were busy going cross-eyed as I stared at the out of town scoreboard.

So before I get started, I should also point something else out- from now on, for me, Jonathan (he prefers this to 'Jon') Papelbon will be known as "Blue," because, well, he's my boy.

Anyway, through the first few innings, I saw we jumped out to an early lead, and thanks to the "Out of Town Game Notes" at Shea, I realized it was from a Jason Varitek 2-R HR. The score stayed 2-0 for a while, and I was getting really pumped- Blue was holding them down through 3... through 4... through 5... nope. In the 5th, the Tigers finally did tie it, and it looked like Blue had been pulled for Gonzalez. My guess was that he was great in the early going, but hit a wall due to the reliever role he'd been in at Pawtucket for the last two weeks.

Agonizing as I saw the "at bat dot" move quickly from away to home every time the Sox were at bat, the score remained tied at 2 until the 8th, when the Tigers added a run. So down a run, in the 9th, I couldn't help but just flat out stare at the board, instead of my customary "look after every pitch." I was flat out pumped up when the scoreboard ticked a "3" for us, tying it, and when I found out it was David Ortiz, I nearly fell to my knees in thanks. There's no other way of putting it- David Ortiz is a gift from God. No other way to describe it.

The Met game ended before they flashed any 10th inning scores, but we did notice the Yankees surrendering a 3-2 9th inning lead as well, with Rivera on the mound no less. Eduardo-Yankee Slayer-Perez hit a HR off Mariano (his 2nd of the game- 9th of the year- the first being his THIRD of the year off Randy Johnson) to tie it.

So when I get home, I have the dual pleasure of seeing the improbably robust Sox score- 10-7, Boston (on another Ortiz HR and another Varitek HR), and an improbably hilarious finish to the Yankee game- 4-3, Tampa Bay on a 2B off Embree- and three straight walks from Scott Proctor. Unreal.

Good night. Staring in the face of an increasingly shrinking 2.5 game lead... we come out in late innings and steal a 4.5 game lead. TWO GAME SWING!

Papelbon's final line:

5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

I recently went ahead and put in sponsorships for two baseball-reference.com pages: Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown and, of course, my favorite Negro Leaguer of all time, Wilbur "Bullet Joe" Rogan, whom I wrote about earlier in this blog. This is in addition to the sponsorship I have going for Gabby Hartnett, one of the all time great catchers.

A little background on Mordecai Brown:

"You haven't space enough to tell of all the grand deeds of Brownie on and off the field. Plenty of nerve, ability and willingness to work at all times under any conditions. The crowds never bothered him. There was never a finer character -- charitable and friendly to his foes and ever willing to help a youngster breaking in."

— Johnny Evers

Brown was born October 19th in Nyesville, Indiana. At a young age, Brown suffered a farming machinery accident, robbing him of the majority of his right index finger in the process. Thus is born one of the more compelling stories in baseball history- "Three Finger" Brown.

Brown began his career in 1903 with the St. Louis Cardinals, pitching one season there contributing 201 innings and a 2.60 ERA. That winter, St. Louis traded Brown to Chicago with Jack O'Neill for Jack Taylor and Larry McLean.

Brown was the star of the deal, of course, making it well worth Chicago's while. In 1904 and '05, Brown threw nearly 475 IP total, compiling ERAs of 1.86 and 2.17 respectively with a total of 170 Ks. In 1906, Brown pitched the Cubs into their first World Series on the strength of a career-best 1.06 ERA for the season. The Cubs, however, lost in six games to the cross town rival White Sox. Brown went 1-2 with a 3.66 ERA in the Series. In Games 1 and 4, Brown was excellent- the tough luck loser in the the first game, going 9 IP and surrenduring 2 runs in the 2-1 loss. In Game Four however, he threw a complete game shutout to beat Nick Altrock and the White Sox, 1-0.

Coming back however, on one day's rest, facing elimination, in Game 6, Brown was hit hard, giving up 7 ER in 1.2 IP before being pulled in favor of Orval Overall.

In 1907 and 1908, however, Brown pitched fantastically both in the regular season ('07: 20-6, 1.39 ERA; '08: 29-9, 1.47 ERA) and the World Series, going 3-0 across both Series and not surrendering a single run- a complete game shutout to win the title in Game 5, 1907; two innings of scoreless relief in Game 1, 1908; and yet another complete game shutout in Game 4, 1908. 1908 would be the last World Series victory for the Chicago Cubs.

Three Finger pitched marvelously again for Chicago through the 1912 season, after which he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Grover Lowdermilk. In 1914, Brown split off from Major League Baseball to join the newly formed, rival Federal Leagues. He lasted two seasons there, playing for the St. Louis Terriers, the Brooklyn Tip-Tops and the Chicago Whales.

Brown finished his career in 1916 at the age of 39 after 14 seasons. He finished with a final record of 239-130 (.648), with a career ERA of 2.06, an ERA+ of 138 over that span. He struck out 1375 in his career while walking only 673- and 2.1:1 K/BB ratio. He was the first pitcher in major league history to pitch four consecutive shutouts, which he accomplished in 1908 on June 13th, June 25th, July 2nd, and July 4th. He died on Valentine's Day in 1948 at 71 in Terre Haute, IN. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949 by the Veteran's Committee.

So yea, the Met game. It was a good time- we had seats in the Upper Deck, section 1, about 15 rows up. Nice, unobstructed view from behind home plate, saw the whole field. Not bad. I'm telling you, Shea has some good seats for cheap. Not bad.

As for the game- pretty ho-hum. Kris Benson looked shakey early on, but really settled down to throw 7 solid innings, only giving up the 2 ER in the 4th. The Mets answered right back with 4 of their own off Mark Redman, however, and it was never really close after that. We did get the benefit of an absolutely OBLITERATED HR off the bat of Cliff Floyd in the 9th, to make it 6-2, which was the final score.

Of course, the reason we had the idea to go in the first place was because it was Beatles night at Shea- the 40th (and a day) anniversary of the Beatles legendary Shea Stadium concert. Scheduled for the festivies was going to be a Beatles tribute band, Strawberry Fields. The guys came out, dressed like the originals did in the faux-cop outfits from '65, with the same equipment, etc. They banged into "Twist and Shout" pretty quick, and it sounded OK. The best part, though, was when the cameras beamed their faces up on the Jumbotron.

The real Beatles were all in age ranging from about 22-25 in 1965. The Shitty Beatles (NOT just a clever name) here were seriously not a day under 55+, all four of them. They seriously looked like the models on the outside of the package for those pre-made Halloween costumes you can buy at Party City and whatever. I swear to fucking God too, I wanted to take a swipe at John. He had this shit-eating grin on his face, for some reason.

Of course, there's a dilemma when you're a tribute band- do you acknowledge that you're aping, or do you actually go the whole nine yards and pretend to be them? Guess which one they did? I got up to grab a hot dog right around the time Paul- old enough to be my grandfather, I think- told us "this next song is off our record before lahhhst."

One of the things Shea did do that was really cool was have personal messages on the Jumbotron from Ringo and Paul (seperately)- they were fun to see, but unfortunately, being in England and all, and likely not really giving a shit, they weren't totally up to speed on what the atmosphere was going to be at the park. No one whispered in Paul's ear to tell him that the crowds just don't come out for Met-Pirates games on Tuesdays in August. His attempts to start a "hoo... hoo... hoo..." chant were an indication of this fact, and to say no one paid attention would be an understatement. Still pretty cool.

Also, the kid behind us really and truly came thisclose to a heel stomp in his little peach-fuzzed nugget pouch. New meaning was brought to the words "loud," "obnoxious," "excruciating," "ear drum pain," and "mild retardation." Not fun at all.

I'm going back to Shea soon, I think. It's just too easy, cheap, and fun to not go there semi-regularly. Come on, it's major league baseball. I love it.

Just wanted to say a few words about Felix Hernandez, who I finally saw pitch on Monday night in Seattle.

Three starts, a 0.86 ERA, 21 Ks and 3 BBs, .151 OBA. 19 frigging years old.

King Felix is probably the best pure pitching prospect since Doc Gooden, a 95+ MPH fastball with hard movement, an excellent change he can spot relatively well, a very good curve, and apparently a slider he can throw around 91. Word is the Mariners don't want him using the slider for the time being to protect his elbow, but either way, barring injury, I don't see how you can overestimate what he's capable of. What I was seeing him throw against the Royals the other night was Pedro-like stuff, Pedro-like just before the crest of 99-02 for Martinez. Hernandez is, again, NINETEEN YEARS OLD. Unbelievable.

Interesting to note as well that this means Felix will be a free agent right around 24-25 years of age (for comparison- Jonathan Papelbon's age right now). If healthy, there truly is no limit for the enormity of the contract he'll command.

His next three starts:

Aug 20 at MIN
Aug 26 vs CHW
Aug 31 vs NYY

Viva la Felix! Don't fuck this up, Seattle. Here's a link to the video highlights of his performance: 8 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 11 K

Finally, I never got around to it when it actually happened, but I must say, I always liked Peter Jennings light years more than Brokaw and Rather. He was my favorite. I remember distinctly his being on the 2000 Daily Show election special, and being absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. Not like, "wow, that non-comedian personality is making me laugh out of surprise," but like "this guy is being just as funny as Stewart, Carell and Colbert."

Here's a great picture of him taking BP with the Portland Sea Dogs:

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