Monday, March 28, 2005

Zisk Issue #10

Publisher’s Note:
Much to my parent’s chagrin, I grew up pro-union and have remained pro-labor ever since first becoming a union member over a decade ago, when I was working as a library clerk at Columbia University and subsequently as a public school teacher. But in my role as co-publisher of Zisk I’m on the other side of the table: I’m management. As you may have read in the trades, we’re at odds with the writer’s union that represents Zisk’s contributing writers. A number of writers have been accused of taking performance-enhancing substances, both on and off the job. (We’re told that you can tell which are articles are juiced [we can’t tell the difference; we’re as surprised by these revelations as you are].) We’ve been testing writers for two years now and it is our desire to initiate full disclosure—we want to release names, we want to mark past articles with asterisks—but the union won’t concede a thing.

We’ve weathered scandals before. Back in 1887 there was the “Worthy of Aspersion Four” (aka The Nefarious Beer Swillin’ City Dwellers). We endured allegations of gambling during the “Shame on You Six” trial of 1919 and took another hit during the “We’re Appalled That Half of Baseball, Like Half of American Society, Is A-Gettin’ High” hearings of the mid-80s.

Yet through all of those incidents one notion prevailed: Zisk writers are great people, better people than you and me, role models, even. They’re the guys you want living next door, marrying your daughter, and joining you for the weekly round of golf. And they always deserve our immediate and unconditional forgiveness. Sure, we’ll scold them for awhile, even wag our fingers at the really bad ones, but once it’s time to crank another issue it’s time to forgive and forget—there’s money to be made, after all.

In other news...Zisk is now on-line at: You’ll marvel at the abundance of articles from past issues (and make Steve feel like his work building the site has been worthwhile!). To launch the site we’ll be ripping off Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King’s Faithful, their daily chronicle of the Red Sox miraculous 2004 season—only we’re saddled with the ’05 Mets (who traded for Kaz Ishii—the only pitcher in history to have a 5.00+ ERA in Dodger Stadium—and we’re still stuck with Victor “Older, More Expensive, and Yet Less Effective Than Scott Kazmir” Zambrano). We’ll be posting our insights into each Mets debacle on a remarkably close to daily basis. Tune in, won’t you?


Rants from the Upper Deck by Steve Reynolds

A Dozen Other Truths Revealed in Jose Canseco's Juiced by Brian Cogan and Mike Faloon

Baseball Records by Michael Baker

My 5 Most Miserable Experiences at the Ballpark by Jake Austen

Riding Ted Williams by Frank D'Urso

Even in the Origin of Baseball...You Don't Know Nuthin' by John Shiffert

KY Jelly and Moral Responsibility by Ken Derr

We Are Family by Tim Hinely

Hey, Talk to the Sock! by Steve Reynolds

Random 2005 Preseason Thoughts by Lisa Alcock

Getting Over the Hump by Kip Yates

The Trial of Ricky Henderson: A Two Act Play by Mark Hughson

Rants From the Upper Deck by Steve Reynolds

Has there ever been a day that was stupider, more aggravating and more infuriating in recent baseball history than the recent hearings before the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform about steroid use in Major League Baseball? After 10 hours of testimony, here’s what the Ranter learned:

1) Most congressman are dumb and can’t grasp simple concepts, don’t pay attention to what anyone testifying actually says to them, love grandstanding when they know when there’s a national audience—and when the cameras are turned off love to suck up to ball players. (Yes, during a break in the testimony, the congressmen asked all the players for autographs, and even took pictures with one.)

2) Mark McGwire got some really bad legal advice, and apparently has been retired from the game for some time. (Who knew?)

3) When faced with legal trouble, Jose Canseco shrinks down to the size of, well, the balls of someone that’s juiced up.

4) Sammy Sosa loves being selective with his use of English.

5) Curt Schilling has a political future.

6) Teleconferencing does not work. (Will anyone remember Frank Thomas testified at all?)

7) And finally, “Steroids is bad.”

This entire debacle not only made the players and MLB management and the Player’s Association look bad (which is pretty hard not to do), but it also confirmed my general distrust of anyone elected to any political office. It’s telling that the only person who seemed sane at the hearing was the independent congressman from Vermont, who asked why the media wasn’t there on days they actually had hearing about issues that matter.

All in all, congress’ time and money could be much better spent on many, many other issues. Yes, steroids are harmful to anyone’s health, but last time I checked, AIDS, cancer, and heck, the war in Iraq seem to be ruining more people’s lives than Jason Giambi or Barry Bonds being idiots. Will we ever get our priorities straight? Unlikely. And this pisses me off so much I can’t even write anymore about it.

So before I run out of space, the Ranter expects a St. Louis vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of the United States of America of the Planet Earth in the Milky Way Galaxy World Series, with the Cards taking it in 6.

Steve Reynolds is the senior editor of Zisk, and looks forward to being angry most of this god damn season.

A Dozen Other Truths Revealed in Jose Canseco's Juiced by Brian Cogan and Mike Faloon

To the extent that any of us think about Jose Canseco, we all knew he would write a book some day. And it’s not surprising that he confessed to using steroids, but endorsing steroids? That’s weird, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg because Canseco’s tome contains a bushel full of other stunning revelations.

1) Infinity has been defined! Simply tally up the number of clichés contained in the lyrics to the new Green Day cd and the mysteries of the mathematical universe shall be revealed! “Boulevard of Broken Dreams?” Sweet Lord! (Note: Jose—“π = 3.15.” We’ve all been making a mistake in our long division. Go ahead, double check, seven goes into 30 five times, with no remainder!” Thanks, Jose!)

2) Will and Grace is merely the same old trite sitcom crap only with ostensibly gay characters, not really a ground breaking televised endorsement of gay rights.

3) Not only was Lucille Ball not a red head but much of the cast of Wings was truly talented, see later work by Tony Shaloub (Monk) and Thomas Haden Church (he was amazing in Sideways as the big, dumb actor friend). (Note: Many television scholars—and yes, another truth revealed, there are people claiming to be such—debate to this day whether or not Wings ever aired on a major broadcast network or was anything more than a perpetual rerun on the USA Network.)

4) Merciful Fate/King Diamond lead singer King Diamond is an ordained Eucharistic minister in Fairlawn, Ohio. Meanwhile, Mrs. Amelia Diamond runs a local flower shop, located between Baja Fresh and the Mustard Seed health food store, with her children Lucritia and King Junior, affectionately known as Li’l King.

5) The ending to Franz Kafka’s The Castle, long thought never to have been written, goes exactly like this: Comments made by K. at the Reagle Beagle, while flirting with Mrs. Roper, were actually, literally, about fixing his plumbing, much to Mrs. Roper’s angst-ridden disappointment. Chrissy, sitting one table over, yet inexplicably unnoticed by either K or Mrs. Roper, breathes a sigh of relief. End credits. (Note: Kafka’s Castle is not to be confused with the Robert Redford/James Gandolfini prison movie.)

6) Derek Bell’s “Operation Shutdown” is still underway.

7) If you end page 120, chapter six by disclosing a slew of secrets with more shocking revelations to be found on page 250, chapter nine, you can fill the intervening pages by typing nothing but “Mary Had a Little Lamb” over and over again. Everyone just skims the damn book for the juicy stuff anyway!

8) Canseco shot Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmero with pure Happy Time horse, a.k.a. uncut smack, for those who are a bit tardy on the uptake, leading to their emaciated, post-baseball frames and Palmero’s continued need for Viagra. Bonds? He was just sipping Kool-Aid, chewing on Flintstones vitamins, and reading Spiro Agnew’s How to be Surly and Win Friends and Influence People.

9) Former Cambodian dictator Pol Pot was misunderstood. Wait, sorry, that’s from Philip Short’s Anatomy of a Nightmare

10) Welfare mothers actually do make better lovers.

11) Missing aviator, Amelia Earhart, better known as Mrs. King Diamond, runs a floral shop in Fairlawn, Ohio.

12) On the periodic table of elements, Einsteinium (Es; atomic number 99; atomic weight 252 [Jose’s a very thorough researcher]) is merely a composite of previously known elements. However, no one had the balls to point out to the then-senile physicist that what he thought was a new element was in fact just a pile of Morton’s table salt (NaCl), which the legendary scientist was attempting to sprinkle on to his Schwin.

13) Yes, Juiced is ghost written, but Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Ben Hecht, and Dorothy Parker, all of whom are currently residing in Purgatory and worked on this project to absolve their sins, feel really bad about the whole thing. (Note: It’s not working, oh dear god, it’s clearly not working.)

Brian Cogan and Mike Faloon enjoy meeting up on Sunday afternoons, over pitchers of Pennant Ale, to discuss the Mets and write musicals. Their current project is titled, How Can I Serve? The Life and Times of Lyndon LaRouche.

Baseball Records by Michael Baker

Baseball has not been kind to music or poetry. The game demands not excitation, visceral grandiosity, or brief stabs at begging for forgiveness. It is a sport that expects rumination, expansion, and cool ones thrown down at day’s ends. Novels, essays, autobiographies, and September suicides are more like it: artistic yearnings of conclusive termination. Poetry and rock prefer brief moments of euphoric pain, small moments of doubt from living in the moment too much. Carpe diem, Joe Strummer, Sandy Koufax, and the lumbering ballets of Ernie Lombardi and Harmon Killebrew belong to the now. Thankfully, a Washington D.C. record company, Hungry For Music in their 8-CD collection, Diamond Cuts, seeks to explore the obvious emotional links to America’s two greatest pastimes, baseball and music.

The company’s charitable primary purpose is to buy instruments for D.C. school children and in this they have a fabulous beginning success. The albums each have distinct themes, instructive liners, and swinging artwork. They are labors of obvious humor, concern, and erudition. And they are moving. There are inevitable missteps: some of the folkies are a little too ardent and arch in their hazy love of a game that is often best pondered not in repose or coffee house but turning two under the hot July sun. Get sweaty my black clad hipsters. There are cuts from people who I never want to hear, see, or think about (Bob Costas, Paul Simon); there isn’t enough of a concerted hatred for the New York Yankees; there seems for the eight CD’s a partial pattern of naming them by innings but that pattern is enigmatic: the titles are—“Diamond Cuts,” “Turning Two,” “Triple Play,” “Grand Slam,” “Bottom of the Fifth,” “A Tribute to Nolan Ryan,” “Top of the Sixth,” and “Seventh Inning Stretch.”

The first is a series loving tributes to the Negro Leagues and distaff members of baseball royalty. Bill Campbell, a guiding light for the organization and compiler and liner note writer, contributes heartfelt lyrics words to the rousing “Play Ball!” and the great Buck O’Neil, the spokesperson for the organization, contributes fine, touching words. Springsteen and Dylan and Fogerty are here; the great SF Seals and Tom Paxton offer memorable tunes, and Cobb, DiMaggio and Nolan Ryan are honored. This is a good place to start: series regulars Dan Bern, George Winston and Chuck Brodsky each contribute fine numbers and there are very few places in the universe where Jesse Jackson, Johnny Mercer, and Satchel Paige are gathered as lustily together as they are here. Diamond Cuts is a superb collection.

The rest of the uniformly excellent CD’s follow this pattern: a healthy wide-ranging scope of songs, styles, and eras. Each volume contains the obligatory blues jump, electrified countrified folk number, zealous women singing about their orgasmic yearning for men in uniforms, bluesy introspection, cornpone declamations, and rollicking troubadours linking middle age with their deluded hopes of one more god damned spring. Many highlights, especially from the DC area: Hula Monsters’ wry “Steelin’ Home,” a couple from the expert and funny Honky Tonk Confidential’s including a pseudo-serious take on “Bases on Balls,” with a complicated backstory more fitting of the Dead Sea Scrolls: the melody is lifted from “Ghost Riders of the Sky” and actress Laraine Day—Mrs. Durocher—provided some of the lyrics on a cocktail napkin at a dinner party in the early 1950’s. The Rhodes Tavern Troubadours contribute a great number on Walter Johnson and their pal Jake Flack sorrowfully recounts Earl Weaver’s stormy reign.

Many quirky and charming oddities are to be found: Steve Goodman’s dying love for the misery-loving Cubs; Ruthie and the WranglersGreg Hardin lamenting the potential resurrection of Babe Ruth’s Massachusetts’s lacustrine-sunk piano. Another winner is Esther Haynes and the Swingin’ Dingers’ bitter sweet “It’s Opening Day.” This is ten hours of music, so pick and choose. There’s zydeco, Eddie From Ohio, Harry Caray, Peter Case, Garrison Keillor, the Nighthawks, and the formidable and queenly Ruth Brown. Get the whole set. Put a clarinet in a kid’s thankful hands. The owners actually answer the phones themselves. Talk baseball. Remember good times you never had. Then just as your team is about to sweep the Yankees in late August, pop a cool one, put the CD’s in your player, and press random. Close your eyes and sing along to songs about Joe Jackson, DiMaggio, Clemente, Dizzy, and Rube Marquard, Ty, and Stan the Man, who has a few seconds here by himself off key and perfect on “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Back to the times when giants roamed the earth and we were sinless. When we all had an equal chance on Opening Day. (

Michael Baker teaches composition at New Jersey colleges, where his students write about their fierce hatred of the New York Yankees.

Riding Ted Williams by Frank D'Urso

I grew up thinking that baseball players with single digit numbers were the best, probably because they were. We had Yaz #8, Rico Petrocelli and Johnny Pesky #6, Rick “The Rooster” Burelson #7 and Mickey Mantle of the famed (infamous?) Yankees, whose alliterative name I was enamored of, was #7, of course.

On the Boston Bruins we had Bobby Orr #4 which rhymed (I thought very much on purpose because hockey was like that). Years later I was surprised to learn about Bobby Doerr from the mid century era Red Sox (#1), because his name was so similar to Bobby Orr. I found, and still find it odd that two great players could have such similar names...and be in different sports. (An aside: I happened to get the Red Sox Encyclopedia on my last trip up to Cooperstown. It came chock full of autographs and I checked Bobby Doerr’s own handwriting to ensure I spelled his name correctly.)

The players that got famous during my youth had numbers a little bit higher up (because they came later): Jim Rice #14, Carlton Fisk #27 (and later in Chicago as White Sox #72). Joe Namath made #12 a hot number and for a year or two during elementary school football jerseys or anything with a number on it had to be 12.

The most revered number I assumed would be Babe Ruth (because we in Boston could never forget that he was a Red Sox) but they didn’t wear uniform numbers in his day.

That left the legendary Ted Williams #9 as the number that could never be worn again. Ever. At least for the Boston Red Sox. It was odd for me seeing Ted Williams with that 9 on his back in those same clips they'd bring out every spring training, the “Splendid Splinter” hitting a homerun in his last at bat, “Fucking Ted” showing off his swing three times fast for the cameramen, Ted at spring training with young Jim Rice. They never showed Ted in a Washington Senators uniform. He was only a few years removed from being an active major league manager, and Boston had reclaimed #9 as their own. Then again, these Senators had moved to Texas and become Rangers, relieving any sense of historical links and so very far away that Ted had to come home.

After college I lived on Huntington Avenue, across from Northeastern University’s main quadrangle, literally 50 feet away from what had been centerfield for the first World Series (in 1903). Huntington started, if a street can flow like a river, from downtown Boston, and heads out towards the western side of the state of Massachusetts and maybe even continues through New York and ends up in the Yukon as far as I know. At some point someone, whom I imagine would be an eager politician, realized the simpatico between a highway numbered nine and New England's greatest baseball player numbered nine. And so it was done, Route 9 became “Ted Williams Highway” (at least through the Berkshires). If I had any sort of free time I'd look up who, what, where and when, but for now suffice to say that it is there and it is good.

As an undergrad I would take the “Ted” out to my co-op job, avoiding the dreaded tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Route 9 was a long thin road that threaded over the hills away from Boston, under the TV towers and continued out beyond the highway belts. Many red lights, sometimes two lanes and sometimes three or even four. Sometimes with many stores, sometimes just woods. Sometimes it is like a real highway and sometimes it is like any other busy road in a busy town. The complexities of a San Diego boy and the Boston man with some wartime experiences thrown in. Route 9 was different enough and meant to be replaced by the Turnpike, Interstate 90 (that’s nine times 10 if you are counting). The bond funded “modern” toll road runs through Massachusetts west to east, passing right under and behind the Green Monster, but stopped at the edge of Boston...waiting. Jim Rice had hit a few baseballs out onto this road, with maybe Mark McGwire coming in a close second on the Fenway distance meter.

The “Pike” (not named after old time baseballer Pike Lippman) was eventually extended out and through Boston Harbor and Logan Airport. Local government decided to ignore the cheaper and wiser plan to simply build a new bridge to convey traffic away from downtown Boston and towards the airport. Instead, with enough federal tax dollars to choke the Budweiser stables they decided to mastermind a series of tunnels and tubes and tear down the ribbon of tar and steel that served as a highway choking point in the heart of the city. Sure people were mad that this 12-year project was a waste of taxpayers’ money, many thought (like I still do) that the thing will be outdated by the time it is finished.

But, and there is always a but, the under-the-harbor-to-the-airport tunnel was named in honor of good ol’ #9 Ted Williams. The Ted Williams Tunnel. That seemed to grab people’s attention and soothe them. Soothed us. Made us feel “included” as if we ever had a choice. As if Ted used all his hitting strategies and acute military wisdom and special vision powers to blow out a hole beneath the water (yet not “under water”). I wonder how Ted's Salvation Army mother (gawd bless her unfrozen soul) would feel that she spent her life collecting funds for the poor, pennies and nickels at a time, and here in Boston they’ve constructed a billion dollar engineering masterpiece that bears her son’s name and people pay to drive through it, three and four dollars a pop. Now that is the old time religion around here.

That Federal money for the boondoggle was provided by Ted’s wartime buddy, former President—and Bay of Pigs planner—George Herbert Walker Bush. I got to see the old man two years ago in Cooperstown. He really does like baseball and you can’t fault him for that. As far as having seen or met Ted, I cannot be certain that he was in Cooperstown on any of the trips that I made there. I think he might have been in attendance for Carlton Fisk's induction in 2000, but I’d have to review the tapes for that memory. The closest other than that would be the 1999 All Star game when my sister Lisa and I tried to work our contacts to gain entrance to Fenway Park. We found ourselves out on Landsdowne Street, shocked by the low flying jets commemorating the occasion but also mere feet away from Ted who entered the diamond from the field bleachers. We heard the crowd go wild, and we could see up on the diamond vision display that Ted was in a golf cart and as literally as close a an easy toss if we were playing catch.

So, I’ll never get to play catch with Ted Williams (or even John Henry Williams despite his bunk science), but I can ride Ted Williams. I can get to know his highway. I can really delve right into the Ted Williams, underneath the sand and the silt and the tons of water held back by engineering marvels, through and past the Green Monster and then the tiles and slick lighting, with my Fast Lane pass I merely slow down and don’t stop until I get home.

Frank D'Urso is a member of SABR and travels to Cooperstown every summer.

Even in the Origin of Baseball...You Don't Know Nuthin' by John Shiffert

(Editor’s note: The following is from the introduction to the forthcoming book, Philadelphia Baseball, 1831 to 1900 to be published by McFarland and Company in 2006.)

One of the classic philosophers, I think it was Yogi Berra, or maybe Joaquin Andujar, said, “In baseball, you don’t know ‘nuthin’.”

Another noted American hero, Mark Twain, when asked to serve as the master of ceremonies at a reception at Delmonico’s in New York, celebrating the return of Al Spalding’s group of baseball-playing round-the-world travelers in 1889, proclaimed baseball to be “the very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming 19th Century.”

Now, there’s something to be said for the veracity of both statements. The first is probably self-evident. As for Twain’s simple, yet profound comment, while baseball may well have been the embodiment of 19th Century America, its origins were not American, and extend back much further than the 19th Century. Mr. Spalding, the 1908 Mills Commission, Abner Graves and the Doubleday Myth to the contrary, baseball does not have a single origin, or a single originator. In reality, there are several contenders to the “Birth of Baseball” honor, and, in reality, none of them have a completely clear claim to the title. Because, in baseball, you don’t know nuthin’. While homo sapiens may or may not have come from a single common ancestor, extensive research over the past decade has made it clear that baseball has many roots, and many contributors to the rules. For baseball’s origins are many and varied, as varied as the rules they were played under, and the names they went by. Maybe even as varied as the pronouncements of Yogi Berra.

To start way back…Dr. Joseph Baldassarre, a professor at Boise State University, writing in the 2001 issue of the Society for American Baseball Research’s (SABR) The National Pastime, notes that children’s games played with balls date back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. In fact, pictographs still exist of children of the Nile playing ball games of some sort. No, I don’t know if King Tut or Rameses II threw left-handed or right-handed, or if there really was a Base Baal. Only Phillip Roth knows the latter, because, in baseball, you don’t know nuthin’.

Now, bat and ball games…they go back to Medieval Western Europe, most notably on the British Isles, where many of these games had religious or ritualistic overtones. (Some things never change.) Robert Henderson, while writing Ball, Bat and Bishop in 1947, makes that claim for various bat and ball games in both medieval Europe and Great Britain. Baldassarre especially remarks on the games of creag, club ball and stool ball. And what were they? It’s hard to say exactly, but, according to Baldassarre, King Edward I of England even went so far as to shell out 100 shillings so that the Prince of Wales could play creag in what may have been the first organized Little League. Stool ball may well have been a precursor to cricket, since the object of the game was for the batter to protect an overturned milking stool. Even if it wasn’t cricket’s originator, stool ball does go back a long way—it’s mentioned in the English Domesday Book in 1085. And, speaking of cricket, Baldassarre notes a reference to a sport with that name as early as 1344.

Still, these examples are a long way from the game of Albert Pujols, Al Newman, Al Schact or even Albert Spalding. Coming closer to baseball, both chronologically and geographically, SABR’s Thomas L. Altherr, an expert on early baseball and baseball-like games, writing in Nine in the spring of 2000, quotes from the 1779 journal of Revolutionary War New Hampshire soldier Henry Dearborn—specifically two references to playing “ball” that make it clear that, first, Dearborn had played the game before, and second, this game was pretty important—the players involved had to walk four miles to find a place level enough to play!

A better-known reference from the Revolutionary period is the 1778 diary of George Ewing, a New Jersey ensign at Valley Forge that refers to a game of “base” being played by the troops. However, Altherr points out that this reference is far more likely to be in regard to that era’s popular tag-like children’s game, known variously as base or prison base. This was the game that eventually came to be called prisoner’s base—I played it myself as a kid (and, no, that does not mean I’m old enough to have fought at Valley Forge, even if I did grow up near there), and maybe you did, too. Like capture the flag, nightfighter, hide-and-seek, buck-buck and ringo, prisoner’s base has nothing to do with bats and balls.

Although Ewing’s reference is not very detailed, two much more famous early Americans, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, proved to be much more responsible journalists. Maybe to keep their boss back in Washington, President Thomas Jefferson, off their backs, both Lewis and Clark noted in their journals for June 8, 1806 that the game of “base” they were playing with the Indians (Nez Perce, not Cleveland) was prisoner’s base, and not a ball game. Why would Jefferson care? Well, in 1785 he had written that “games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind.” (Sounds a little like Teddy Roosevelt, talking about football in 1906, doesn’t it?) So, while there were clearly “ball” games played during the early post-Revolutionary period, we should be dubious of references to “base’ when looking for baseball’s origins.

Another comment on the base and ball dichotomy comes from the first great baseball writer, Henry Chadwick, in 1867. Chadwick, who was born in England, claimed that the tag-like game of base, which he also says eventually became prisoner’s base, dated back to King Edward III of England’s era (that’s the early 14th century—he was Edward I’s grandson, in case you’re keeping track of the first royal baseball family), and that it was, at some point in the 17th century, “united” (Chadwick’s word) with the game of ball to form rounders, which was also called round ball or base ball (note the two separate words). Although speculative, Chadwick’s comment is especially noteworthy, since he played rounders as a boy in England, and it was Chadwick’s claim, made at the time of the Mills Commission in 1908, that baseball was in fact descended from rounders.

References to baseball from non-sports sources also appear in 18th century and 19th century literature. A few years after Valley Forge, Jane Austen, writing to Northanger Abbey in 1798, says that one of her characters liked cricket, baseball (note—two different games), riding on horseback, and running about the country. Even earlier comes a reference from a poem in A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (published in 1744), that sounds like a walk-off home run: “B is for base-ball, The ball once struck off, Away flies the boy, To the next destined post, And then home with joy.” (If only Joe Carter had lived in the 18th Century instead.)

Then, there’s a fairly well-known reference, from Massachusetts in 1834, in Robin Carver’s Book of Sports. This volume includes rules for baseball and a woodcut of boys playing the game on Boston Common. However, it should be noted that Carver apparently lifted his set of rules for “baseball” directly from another book, The Boy’s Own Book, published in London in 1829, copyright laws being somewhat looser in those days. The rules are the same in both books, except that, in the London book, they’re the rules of the English game rounders.

This is a significant understanding. Just because you call a game baseball doesn’t mean it’s the same sport that saw the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004. Almost anything can be in a name...but, if you have a reference that gives the actual rules to the game in question…that’s like finding the DNA link when trying to trace your ancestors.

Even references in the news media are typically incomplete. Up until last year, the claim for discovering the earliest written reference using the term “base ball” (the classic spelling of the national game until the early 20th Century) seems to have rested with New Yorker George A. Thompson, Jr. Writing in the same 2001 edition of SABR’s The National Pastime as Baldassarre, Thompson reports on finding an article in a New York newspaper, The National Advocate, that refers to a base ball (that’s how it was spelled in the paper) game, played in New York, apparently on April 19, 1823. The article also notes that an “organized association” of young men was playing these games every Saturday at a location that is now on the west side of Broadway, between Washington Place and Eighth Street. It should also be noted that Thompson closes by noting, “Whatever sort of ball these wicked boys were playing, it hardly seems that it could have been any form of baseball.”

Further proof of, if nothing else, an established game called base ball comes from another New York state newspaper, this time from the July 13, 1825 Delhi Gazette, which reports a challenge from nine (note the number) residents of Hamden, New York, to any like number of individuals from any town in Delaware County, New York, to play a game of “bass-ball” (another common spelling of that time), for the sum of $1 per game.

None of these 19th Century references provoked nearly the interest of the events of May 10, 2004, when one of the pre-eminent baseball historians of any time, John Thorn, turned up a gem in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. While researching the origins of baseball, Thorn came upon a reference to an ancient Pittsfield city ordinance that mentioned “baseball.” (That’s how the AP wire story spelled it, however, as noted, the game that became baseball as we know it was most commonly spelled “base ball” much later than this.) The reference Thorn found was in an 1869 book on Pittsfield’s history, and referred to a law passed by that city in 1791 regarding baseball. Thorn, with the help of Pittsfield resident Jim Bouton, went to Pittsfield city officials and, wouldn’t you know it, a Pittsfield librarian dug up the 213-year-old document in a local library. The ordinance is quite explicit—it said that you weren’t allowed to play baseball within 80 yards of the city’s new meetinghouse (for fear of breaking the windows…glass was almost worth its weight in gold in those days).

However, what isn’t obvious is exactly what game they were talking about in 1791. It wasn’t baseball, as played in the U.S., say, some 55 years later. Indeed, as the Hall of Fame’s Jeff Idelson is quoted as saying in the AP story on Thorn’s find, “There’s no way of pinpointing where the game was first played. Baseball wasn’t really born anywhere.” Absolutely correct, in that baseball is not basketball—it wasn’t invented one day in Massachusetts at a YMCA. Still, it’s pretty exciting to find more proof of baseball’s varied and broadly played antecedents in a contemporary American document.

Possibly the most intriguing literary reference in the hunt for the origins of baseball comes from 1796, and it’s not even American. The year 2001 must have been a good one for researchers, because David Block, writing an article that now can be found on the SABR website ( at that time brought to light a remarkable 1796 German book. This is a reference that gives the rules of “Ball mit Freystaten (oder das englische Base-ball)” or “ball with free station, or English base-ball.” The book was written by German physical education pioneer Johann Christoph Friedrich Guts Muths, and was called, Games for the Exercise and Recreation of Body and Spirit for the Youth and his Educator and All Friends of Innocent Joys of Youth (certainly taking the crown for the longest-titled reference mentioning baseball). According to Block, it’s a 492-page tome, written for a German audience, although there is no indication that the baseball-like game Guts Muth described was played in Germany. It was, according to Games, an English game that was well-enough established by the late 18th Century that Guts Muth, writing in Gotha in Central Germany, knew of it, and its rules.

And what were those rules? Although there were some that don’t fit what is considered baseball in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries—like a varying number of bases, home base being an area and not a specific spot and only one out per “inning”—Guts Muth’s description of “das englische Base-ball” does set some familiar standards in that; 1) the pitcher throws to a batter who has three chances to put the ball in play, 2) after hitting the ball, the batter runs the bases counterclockwise for as far as he can without being put out, which act is accomplished by the fielders catching the ball, touching the runner with the ball, or throwing to a base, and, 3) the object of the game is to complete a circuit of the bases.

What’s significant here, claims Block, is that this is a set of rules for a game that pre-dates the 1829 London-published rules for rounders/baseball. Thus, it would seem, Guts Muth’s book pre-empts both Chadwick’s and Henderson’s claim that the baseball of their eras was developed from rounders. Or does it?

It would seem obvious that these games were not baseball. Maybe they were descendents of the national pastime, maybe not. Ultimately, their claims are unproveable, because, in reality, in baseball, you don’t know nuthin’, and, besides, there is no DNA evidence in baseball’s ancestry. Given so many, varied and vague literary references, we cannot really take a shot at pinpointing the game’s start without the evidence of rules that are clearly those of baseball. And, as intriguing as it may be, “das-englische” is not baseball. At this point in time, the best we have to go on is a set of 20 rules, drawn up in 1845 by the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York, that were possibly, though this claim is tenuous, based on rules drawn up eight years earlier by the Gotham Base Ball Club. The Knickerbocker rules included; four bases set equidistant from each other in a square, a ball knocked outside of the demarcated field of play was foul and there was no advancing on such foul hits, three strikes were an out and three outs were an inning (although that term wasn’t used at that time), the batters had to hit in their regular turn, and by no means were the fielders allowed to “soak” or “plug” an opposing base runner with the ball (i.e., throw the ball at the runner… stick it in his ear… with often painful results) while he was running the bases as a means of putting him “out.” And, indeed, it was this set of rules that eventually led to the game we now know as baseball.

(Remarkably, according to noted baseball philosopher Andrew Coyne, kids on Long Island to this day in pick-up baseball games “can get an out by pegging the runner in the legs.” I liken this phenomenon to the finding of a coelacanth off of South Africa some years ago.)

Credit for these rules is most commonly given to the Knickerbockers’ Alexander Joy Cartwright, Jr., a bank teller who would later seek his fortune in the California gold fields—serving as sort of a baseball Johnny Appleseed along the way—and then leave for China, stopping in Hawaii, where he would become the founder of the Honolulu Fire Department and one of the islands’ leading citizens. While the Baseball Hall of Fame was having its official opening in 1939 to celebrate a completely mythological version of baseball’s origin, they also held an Alexander Cartwright Day as part of the events.

However, just to prove that, in baseball, you don’t know nuthin’…especially when it’s something that happened almost 160 years ago…the Cartwright fatherhood of baseball is also far from 100 percent certain. According once again to Altherr, arguments have been made—most notably by Thorn in his “The True Father of Baseball” essay in Total Baseball—that Cartwright was just one of a group of Knickerbockers who drew up the rules that evolved into baseball as we know it. Daniel L. “Doc” Adams, a 31-year-old Mt. Vernon, New Hampshire native and physician who served as the president of the committee that drew up the Knickerbockers’ by-laws, may well have had a significant hand in the 20 rules. And so too might have William Tucker and William Wheaton, also on the committee on by-laws of Knickerbocker. At least, Charles Peverelly, writing American Pastimes in 1866, thought so, and so did Francis Richter, writing in his 1914 landmark work, The History and Records of Baseball. Peverelly states that the playing rules were formulated by Tucker and Wheaton, and Richter concurs, in part because he considers Peverelly to be “doubtless authentic, owing to the contemporaneousness of the narration.” Broadly speaking, Knickerbocker’s group claim is boosted by Chadwick’s even more contemporaneous (1860) statement, in the first Beadle’s Dime Base Ball Player, that Knickerbocker deserved the honor of being “the pioneers of the present game of base ball.”

As for Dr. Adams’ individual claim, The Sporting News put in one for him in its February 29, 1896 edition. In an interview with a Sporting News stringer/freelancer the good doctor—who also stated he was the first to play the shortstop position—claimed that he personally fixed the distance between the bases and from the pitcher to the batter, and advocated that balls caught on one bounce should not be outs—a rule that was eventually codified years later. Adams also states, interestingly enough, that the Gothams were the second club organized, but not until 1850.

What about the Gotham claim? In a manner similar to Adams’ years-after-the-fact interview with The Sporting News, Wheaton, who claimed to be one of the Gothams’ members in 1837, decided to set the record straight in a San Francisco Examiner article published in November 1887 and uncovered by Randall Brown for an article in the 2004 edition of The National Pastime. In quoting Wheaton’s 1887 interview, Brown notes that the old lawyer (he would die less than a year later) claims that the Gothams were the first ball organization in the United States (untrue in either case, if we are talking about clubs that played baseball-like games, that would have been the Olympic Club of Philadelphia) and that what they had done was to make some key rule changes from the game of three-corned cat—one of the innumerable bat and ball games previously mentioned. These changes included, according to Wheaton, abolishing soaking and replacing it with tagging, permanently fixing the bases in the shape of a diamond, pitching the ball to the batter (underhanded throwing by the pitcher was forbidden), and eliminating the “out if caught on the first bounce” rule. Of course, Wheaton was also one of the founding members of Knickerbocker, and, as noted, a member of their by-law committee. If you’ve ever seen the famous photo of those half dozen distinguished gents, Wheaton is on the left end of the second row, right next to Cartwright. (Adams is in the middle of the first row.) Wheaton, in fact, is one of the two signers (on the behalf of the Knickerbockers’ Committee on By-Laws) of the copy original 20 rules appearing in Peverelly’s book.

So, did Wheaton bring some or all of Gotham’s rules to Knickerbocker, some eight years later? At this point, all we have is Wheaton’s claim, made some 50 years after the fact.

Brown does offer some strictly circumstantial hard evidence to help back up the validity of Wheaton’s claims, notably that the three other former Gotham players he mentions in the Examiner interview were indeed baseball players in New York in the 1840s, and, the area where Wheaton claimed the Gothams played, which later became part of the site of the original Madison Square Garden, was indeed an open lot in 1837. Still, memory can play tricks, even among the best-intentioned, after 50 years. At this point in time, it seems that the Knickerbockers’ claim is still the best documented, since there’s no denying that their 20 rules from 1845 existed… although exactly who among the club members drew up those rules is still subject to discussion. The best guess at this point is that Cartwright, Adams, Wheaton and Tucker all had a hand in formulating the Knickerbocker rules. However, one further caution—Thorn says those rules were actually just codifying a game the club was already playing.

And what about Alexander Cartwright, and Alexander Cartwright Day at Cooperstown? Well, that may well have been an example of speaking up at the right time. The only hard evidence of Cartwright’s involvement in the rules comes from his own diaries. Cartwright’s son, Bruce, who was living in Hawaii at the time of the Mills Commission, went right to the source of the Doubleday Myth—Albert Spalding—in protest. What’s more, when the Hall of Fame was being founded, Bruce heard about the Hall’s plan to further anoint Doubleday with the “Founder of Baseball” title, and came east with his father’s diaries, to protest further. Probably out of embarrassment at propagating a falsehood as much as anything, the Hall took the Cartwright diaries (and the son) at face value, forgetting one of the first dictums of baseball… you don’t know nuthin’.

John Shiffert is the author of Baseball: 1862 to 2003 (PublishAmerica, 2004) and the forthcoming book, Baseball… Then and Now (Publish America, 2006). He can be reached through his website,

We Are Family by Tim Hinely

My childhood friend Jim Baker always said that I was crying when I approached him with the news. I believe it was New Years Day in 1972 and Roberto Clemente, my favorite baseball player, had died. I was eight-years-old when I heard the news and Baker always swore that I came and knocked on his door the following morning and was crying when I told him. I don’t think tears were actually streaming down my face but who knows, I did love baseball and Clemente, and I especially loved the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I don’t know how it came to be that the Pirates became my favorite baseball team. I never lived in Pittsburgh, have never even been there, in fact. I grew up about an hour outside of Philadelphia so everyone in my area loved the Phillies, but not me.

For me it was all about the yellow and black.

After Clemente died I needed a new favorite baseball player, so it became Willie Stargell. I think he looked cool on the 1972 Topps baseball card, so I couldn’t wait for the occasional televised Pirates game to see how many homers Pops would blast out of the park.

The Pirates had a good team back in the 70’s but 1979 was the year! They were managed by Chuck Tanner and were solid all the way around. They had the power in Stargell (32 homers that year) and outfielders Dave Parker (25 HR) and Bill Robinson (24 HR) and John “The Hammer” Milner (16 HR coming off the bench). Plus they had a fairly strong pitching staff with leaders John Candelaria (14-9, 3.22 ERA), Bert Blyleven (12-5, 3.60 ERA), and Bruce Kison (13-7, 3.19 ERA) and of course, one of the best (and skinniest) closers ever, Kent Tekulve (31 saves, 2.75 ERA) and other bullpen ace Grant Jackson (14 saves, 2.96 ERA). So they had talent but no real superduper stars. In addition to the above they had Ed Ott (catcher), Bill “Maddog” Madlock (2nd/3rd), Phil “Scrappy” Garner (2nd/3rd), plus Rennie Stennett, Tim Foli, Omar Moreno, etc.

Through lots of hard work they finished 98-64, enough for them to win 1st place in the Eastern Division and go on to play (and sweep) the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Championship Series and then, before beating the Baltimore Orioles in seven games in the World Series. The decisive game 7 was on October 17th in Baltimore, the Pirates winning 4-1 on a Stargell homer. Stargell was nicknamed “Pops” for being the well-respected old-timer (and guiding light) of the line-up, and he was named the series MVP. The team adopted the hit song by Sister Sledge, “We Are Family” as their own (as corny as that sounds now I, as a 15-year-old, got swept up in “We Are Family” mania too) and I was riding the crest of the team’s success. Buying all the gear, bragging to my friends, and dreaming of one day when I would be a player on the Pittsburgh Pirates just like my hero, Willie Stargell...

…and that was it. The following year Stargell’s (and many others) production dropped off considerably (Stargell retired in 1982 after struggling badly for his three final seasons) and the team finished 3rd in the eastern division with a 83-79 record. The team has struggled for a long time, and even though I still consider them my favorite team I haven’t followed them for years (part of that being that I have lived on the west coast for the past 13 years). But I’ll always remember that magical year of 1979 when, for once, I could say that my favorite baseball team were the best in the world.

Tim Hinely has been publishing his own ’zine, Dagger, for 18 years. To see a copy drop him a line at: P.O Box 820102, Portland, OR 97282-1102 or via email at

Random 2005 Preseason Thoughts by Lisa Alcock

As I write this, pitchers and catchers are due to report in three days, 22 hours and 14 minutes, according to I am excited for the season to begin. I am anxious to see a Mets spring training game on Fox. So many stories popped into my head while I was attempting to focus on just one subject for this article. And, since I couldn’t choose just one item, I’ll take the liberty of mentioning all of them here.

It was a long, cold winter, or so it seemed to me without hockey. I felt aimless without my Detroit Red Wings and a winter sport to watch. It must have been the blustery wind coming off the East River that made my brain freeze and had me temporarily thinking that the Red Sox had beaten the Yankees in the World Series. (In a way, it kinda felt like they did; their triumphant comeback from the dead, completely shutting down the Yankees and watching the Pinstripes collapse in the Bronx). Then I snapped back into reality and realized the Sox had actually beaten the Cardinals. To be honest, I really thought the Cardinals would have put up more of a fight. Despite the freezing temps here in NYC, I will say that the one thing that kept me warm inside (except, obviously, my temporary brain freeze) and grinning for months was the Red Sox World Series win. I hate to quote a commercial, but dammit, that win was priceless. I couldn’t get enough of the anti-Yankees jokes and those “choking” comics. No more “1918” chants at Yankee Stadium!! The new anti-Yankee chant has to be “2000!!” And, true to my superstitious nature, I didn’t once mention any of this or display my glee to my Yankee friends.

Moving on, Omar Minaya has built up a solid Mets team, hoping they'll be able to compete this year and do better than their 71-91 record of last year. With Willie Randolph as manager and several new faces I am hoping Randolph can guide this new Mets team to a winning direction. (Oh, and if I have to hear fellow Zisk writer Kip Yates complain about Carlos Beltran leaving Houston one more time...I’m going to have to punch him in the arm). I hope Pedro is the winning Pedro of years past.

An aside—in my fantasy world, I was really hoping that the Mets would have picked up Rickey Henderson and John Olerud. I mean, why go after Delgado when you can get Olerud? I know John is older, but so what. I guess I miss the Ventura-Ordonez-Fonzie-Olerud infield days. (Remember when they were on the cover of SI with the caption: “Best Infield Ever?”) And why couldn’t we get Rickey? The man needs to be in the majors, rather than playing for the Newark Bears, or sitting out like he did last season. Let Rickey continue to add to his SB record, and maybe he can surpass Bonds’ record for walks, as he’s currently only 112 back. But hey, instead, the Mets signed Doug Mientkiewicz (I know I’m going to garble his name all season, so I’ll call him Dougie M., which I’m sure he’d appreciate). I think he’ll be pretty solid at first. I’m hoping he can improve his hitting production as well. I’m sure Boston won’t really miss him what, with that whole, “I want to keep that World Series baseball as a souvenir.” And one final Mets note, I will miss Al Leiter. He was my favorite pitcher and a good leader in the clubhouse. I hope he's content in Florida.

Next up—the steroids issue. I just don’t understand why any athlete would inject or ingest these drugs. What could be more unsatisfying than knowing you have an unfair advantage over fellow ballplayers? I feel like Nancy Reagan in her “Just Say No” campaign. But seriously, why isn’t having a good personal trainer, a consistent gym routine and eating healthy good enough to compete? Now, this isn’t a personal attack on Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi—I’m sure they’re smart men…but they made a stupid decision to take steroids. Jim Thome, one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen, can smack a ball over 400 feet into the right field stands and he doesn’t need steroids (mind you, I have no proof he’s not taken steroids, but I’m hopeful he has not). Hank Aaron didn’t need steroids. Neither did Ted Williams. What has changed in baseball since those earlier times? Is it the focus on the long ball that has athletes wanting to take steroids? Is it individual selfishness for wanting bigger contracts and the need to secure a place in the record books? Or, is it owners who can be blamed for pressuring players because they (the owners) want to draw the masses back into the ballparks so they can see homeruns and high scoring games? The new drug testing policy went into effect March 3rd. According to, each player on a 40-man roster will be tested at least once each season beginning in spring training. “The program calls for year-round testing for steroids use and stricter penalties for a player who initially tests positive, a 10-day suspension without pay, and the public revelation of that player’s name.” Also, if the player tests positive a second time, they’re suspended for 30 days, 60 days for a third time offense, and a year for the fourth time.

Steroid use is definitely not going to go away (though statistics say that usage has declined since 2003) and is not an issue that we can just sweep under the rug. Baseball isn’t perfect, I realize even minus the steroid issue, not all players begin on an even field, so to speak. But this issue makes it worse by having some players at an unfair advantage over others. In the end, those who take steroids only end up hurting themselves and their fans. And, as Larry Beil of Sports Illustrated said, “You can start putting asterisks next to every hitting record in the last decade.”

And, last but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t have anything to say about Roger Clemens. My award for “Crybaby of the Decade” goes to Roger Clemens who, in an article that I read a few days ago on Yahoo, stated that his decision to come back and pitch for Houston this year was “very heart wrenching.” Are you kidding me? I’d kill for an annual salary of $18 million. What a jerk, er, excuse me, what a wiener. Sorry buddy, I don't see how anyone can feel sorry for you. You’re the highest paid pitcher to date. I still think you should have stayed retired and spent time with your family. I'm sure you could survive on your wife’s earnings from her website (

So, that about wraps it up. Here’s to all the fans that have awoken from a winter slumber to a new baseball season. Here is to the warm summer evenings sitting with your friends in your home team’s ballpark. Here’s to overpriced beer, “not” dogs, knishes and pretzels. Yay! Baseball has returned!

Lisa Alcock has never taken steroids. Hell, it’s hard enough for her to remember to take her daily multi vitamin. She is very much looking forward to going to more than two Mets games this season.

Getting Over the Hump by Kip Yates

Something happened this fall that hadn’t happened in almost 90 years. I am not talking of the World Series victory for the Boston Red Sox or reelection of another incumbent goof. I am talking about the Houston Astros winning their first postseason series…ever! The Astros were the first team from Texas to win a postseason series in a combined 90 years. Before this season, the Astros and the Texas Rangers were o’fer the postseason. They played in a combined 10 series and had managed only nine wins between them and the Astros had eight of them. Combined both teams had suffered 31 October losses. With those kinds of numbers, even diehards think, “Just stay home!” Sometimes, a missed October is better than a dreary one right? Not so fast! We all know it is better to have been invited to the party than to be left outside the door. Of course, when it came to cheering for these two teams in October, you just hoped they didn’t make an ass out of themselves at the big dance. When it came to the big October party, Houston always seemed on the verge of at least asking the pretty girl to dance; not content to sit in the back of the room against the wall hoping she would ask you first, averting eye contact. The Rangers, on the other hand, would slosh its way onto the dance floor, trip on its own two feet, smack the pretty girl across the face and fall into the punchbowl. Clumsy! How else can you explain one win in 10 tries (and they won their first ever playoff game which means they are on a current nine game losing streak not seen since, well, the Astros, who dropped six in a row from 1999 to 2001. But the way the Astros stormed into the postseason had me thinking they would finally join the winner’s circle. They came on like gangbusters in late August and September and won 36 of 46 games. They clinched the wild card on the final day of the season with expected starter, Roger “The Rocket” Clemens in bed nursing the flu and unheralded starter Brandon Backe pitching his hometown team into the playoffs.

If you told me back in August that there would come a day in October where I prayed for the Astros to win—that’s right, prayed!—I would have said you were nuts. At 56-60, I had given in, resolved to cheer for Boston and St. Louis the rest of the way. Houston was already about a trillion games behind the Cardinals and the wild card looked bleak with Houston eight games back and behind six teams, including the Mets, who would end up 21 games behind the Astros. I would have never guessed what could and would happen. Not in a million years! Not with the Astros anyway. This is the franchise that is always coming close but just cannot close the deal. Going into the final game of the season, I still didn’t expect a miracle. Houston only needed a win or a San Francisco loss. I was certain that Houston would lose and the Giants would win and then the Giants would beat the Astros in a one game playoff at Willie Mays stadium. (I don’t believe in corporate sponsorship.) ESPN would get its dream of having Barry Bonds in another postseason. I was used to that kind of collapse. Remember—in the other league, I am a Red Sox fan.

It didn’t go that way. Houston won. I couldn’t believe it myself. They actually won, ending the Giants playoff hopes in the process. They leaped the final hurdle. Now the harsh reality of October baseball set in. I found out the first obstacle en route to a first World Series appearance would be none other than the Atlanta Braves, whom Houston had fallen to in 1997, 1999, and 2001, all the while managing one win in nine tries. Houston won the first game and predictably lost the second. There was the requisite talk of taking one in Atlanta and gaining home field, but they did the same thing in 1999 only to tank at home. The ball would be handed to Backe for the pivotal swing game three. He was marvelous and then after a strong start by Clemens, the bullpen gave away game four. It had been since 1986 that the Astros had won two games in the postseason and they had already equaled that mark against Atlanta but a tough road lay ahead. The Astros would have to play a final game in Atlanta on a Monday night to advance to the National League Championship Series. It had been nearly 20 years since Houston had advanced to the NLCS and since Divisional play began in earnest in 1995, they were 0 for four. So I found myself on the floor, eyes to the sky (that’s right, eyes to the sky), and pleading for an Astros win. A win meant that none of the pundits could ever talk about Houston never winning a postseason series again. Never again would I have to see a graphic that Houston had never won a postseason series. Team stalwarts Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio could get a huge gorilla off their back with not only a strong post season showing but helping Houston to their first series win in franchise history.

The morning before game five was played, long time Astro Ken Caminitti died of “cardiac arrest.” Oh no, only one of two things can happen now: his ex-mates will either tank or play like their balls were on fire. They chose the latter. They won. I couldn’t watch the game either. A few times, I asked my wife Jamie to give me a sign of good or bad. 2-0, she gave thumbs up. 3-2 she was a little apprehensive to say. “Just tell me!” I shouted. “Ok,” I said. “I will just put River to bed.” I remember hearing my phone ring. I ignored it. When I emerged from the silent darkness I checked my phone. Matt called. Damn it! I didn’t bother even listening to his message. I knew Atlanta had scored 12 runs to take a 15-run lead. Oh well! There is always next year. About an hour later I let my curiosity get the best of me and I closed my ears and eyes and asked Jamie to check the score for me. She woke me from my blind and silent stupor and sent me reeling into a fit of excitement. Bottom of the ninth; Houston 12, Atlanta 4. I had to watch. I could not let Astros history unfold without watching. It was momentous. I thought about waking River to witness the event but then thought, “No, I will wake him when we are about to win the World Series.” Okay, that will come later. Anyway, the Astros won. Astros win! Astros win! Astros win!

You know how this particular chapter ends. Houston is still waiting for its first World Series birth. St. Louis defeated Houston in the NLCS in seven games. Houston came within one game, though. Clemens, Backe, and Roy Oswalt were playoff stalwarts. I am left to ponder what might have been had Andy Pettitte been healthy and a solid number four instead of Pete Munroe. Perhaps if the bullpen had not imploded in Game 6, but that involves a game of woulda, coulda, shoulda. The team played their cajones off. I am proud of what they were able to do and hope they can finish the journey next season. Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran won’t be around this season except when the Dodgers and Mets come to town. Pettitte is a question mark. Clemens will make about half a million per start next year and will earn every penny of it. Lance Berkman will not play in any more flag football games. Adam Everett will learn to get out of the way of those inside pitches a little quicker. Journeyman extraordinaire Jose Vizcaino returns. Phil “Scrap Iron” Garner will be at the helm for a full season and if the second half of this season is any indication of just how good he is with these guys, I have every reason to believe and hope during next season. The Anaheim Angels and the Red Sox have both won in recent years after a history of playoff futility. Can the Houston Astros be far behind?

Kip Yates is an avid Houston Astro fan... Well duh... Convinced that someday, the champagne will taste sweeter and the victory dance will linger longer after the Stros win the Series. He keeps telling himself each year after watching another team celebrate jubilantly on the field that someday, so too will the team he has followed since 1979 leap to the heavens and shout out of sheer joy. Then the tears on his face will be tears of happiness. Kip is even passing this unrequited love for the Astros to his son. But it hasn't caught on yet. Is he delusional? His wife thinks so. What can I say? Kip is a great guy. He also HATES the Yankees with every fiber of his being but admits he appreciates Derek Jeter. What baseball fan doesn't?

The Trial of Ricky Henderson: A Two Act Play by Mark Hughson

The Players:

RICKEY HENDERSON (a baseball player, defendant)

JUDGE (a judge)

PROSECUTOR (just passed the bar exam, working for the naysayers)

DEFENSE LAWYER (pitched a one-hitter while on the junior varsity team)

JURY (culled from Nickel Beer Night at Shea Stadium)

JOHN OLERUD (baseball player)

VINCE COLEMAN (baseball player, arsonist)

BOBBY BONILLA (baseball player, jerk)

BAILIFF (courtroom security)


Setting: In a small courtroom, somewhere in the northeast, sometime around the All-Star break.

Trial Day 3

BAILIFF: All rise.

JUDGE (enters from his chambers): Be seated. Court is now in session. Will the defendant please rise…and, in respect to my courtroom, will the defendant please remove his wraparound sunglasses? How does the defendant plead?

DEFENSE LAWYER: The defendant pleads not guilty on all counts your honor.

JUDGE: Prosecutor, may we have your opening statement?

PROSECUTOR: Thank you, your honor. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, today you’ll hear many “stories.” You’ll observe a lot of fan fare about this supposed “Man of Steal.” This “Dog of Style,” and this “Hitter of Many Leadoff Homeruns.” Do not be fooled, ladies and gentlemen. You’ll be presented with the backs of many baseball cards, hear supposed “expert” commentaries, and maybe even be star struck, as people like Eric Plunk and Mike Gallego

(Complete silence…crickets chirp in the distance)

…Will sit on the witness stand. Do not be fooled, people! Rickey Henderson is as guilty as a modern day baseball is juiced. And I will prove it!

JUDGE (nodding to the Defense Lawyer): Your turn.

DEFENSE LAWYER: People of the box seats, as much as the Prosecutor would like you to swing at all his seemingly confident baseball babble, you must have a keen eye. Watch out for his Ozzie Smith back flip law-talk. You might think he’s going to throw some evidence right down the pipe, but instead he’ll try to pick you off. This whole trial is founded on speculation, not hard statistical evidence! He’ll intentionally walk you right down a vile and base path of untruths and conjecture. My client is as innocent as it is confusing as to why people think Nomar Garciaparra is a hunk.

JUDGE: Prosecutor, call your first witness.

PROSECUTOR: The prosecution calls Vince Coleman.

(Vince Coleman takes the stand)

BAILIFF: Put your left hand on the Bible; hold up your right hand. Do you promise not to swing any golf clubs?


PROSECUTOR: Mr. Coleman, tell me, what is your relationship like with Mr. Henderson?

COLEMAN: Well, I don’t know him all that well. I respect him as an athlete…

PROSECUTOR: Oh c’mon now! Don’t play games here Mr. Coleman. Weren’t you a teammate of his early in 1994, with The Kansas City Royals?

COLEMAN: That was Dave Henderson, not Rickey Henderson.

PROSECUTOR: Oh. Well, you were also a teammate of his on the 1998 Mets, isn’t that correct?

COLEMAN: No, I retired in 1997.

PROSECUTOR (sighing slightly): Well then, when you were with the Mets, the same team that Rickey Henderson has played on, isn’t it true that you lit and threw a firecracker at a woman and two children? Just answer the question yes or no!


(Jury gasps)

PROSECUTOR (Smiling smugly at Defense Lawyer): Your witness.

DEFENSE LAWYER: Do you bear any relevance to this case, Mr. Coleman?

COLEMAN: No, I don’t believe so.

DEFENSE LAWYER: When you threw that firecracker, was it more of a lollipop throw, or a shotgun-arm throw?

COLEMAN: It was lollipop.

(Jury gasps)

JUDGE: You may sit down now, Mr. Coleman.

PROSECUTOR: I’d like to call my next witness, John Olerud, to the stand…

(Olerud proceeds to the stand)

…Mr. Olerud, were you once a teammate of Rickey Henderson’s?

OLERUD: Yes I was, three times actually, with three different teams, he was traded in 1993 for…

PROSECUTOR: A simple yes or no will do. And while you were teammates, didn’t he rudely ask you why you wear a batting helmet all the time?

OLERUD: Actually, no, he didn’t. That was just a misunderstanding, which became a false rumor, perpetrated by the press.

PROSECUTOR: So you say. So you say…

JUDGE: ….Prosecutor…do you have another question for the witness?

PROSECUTOR: Why do you wear a batting helmet all the time Mr. Olerud?

OLERUD: Many years ago, I had a brain aneurysm. I wear the helmet as a safety precaution.

PROSECUTOR: For safety, eh? …And why aren’t you wearing one now?!?!

OLERUD: Because…I’m not…on a baseball field. I’m not in any danger here.

PROSECUTOR: You are aware that Vince Coleman is on the premises, right?

JUDGE: Ok, that’s enough. Defense, your witness.

DEFENSE LAWYER: Mr. Olerud, did you ever have any problems whatsoever when Rickey Henderson was your teammate?

OLERUD: No, he was a good teammate, I was glad to share the field with him.

DEFENSE LAWYER: What about when you were not teammates, when you were playing against each other? When Mr. Henderson was on first base, and you were right behind him, did he ever fart, or do anything of that nature?

OLERUD: No, I don’t recall smelling anything of that nature.


PROSECUTOR: Permission to cross-examine, your honor!

JUDGE: Granted.

PROSECUTOR: This brain aneurysm, does it affect your sense of smell in any way?

OLERUD: No, it doesn’t.

(Prosecutor sighs, sits back down)

JUDGE (to Olerud): You may step down. We’ll have a short recess…and no pepper ball out back please!


Trial Day 9

PROSECUTOR: I’d like to call my prime witness, Roberto Martin Antonio Bonilla…

(Bonilla takes the stand)

...Mr. Bonilla, I’ll get right to the point. We all know that you were once the teammate of Rickey Henderson. We also know that at the time, the Mets were in contention for NLCS title…

DEFENSE LAWYER: Objection! Whether or not the Mets were in contention is irrelevant to this case!

JUDGE: Sustained, no one cares about the Mets, prosecutor.

PROSECUTOR: Very well then. Mr. Bonilla, tell me, when you were playing in…some series, in the fall, isn’t it true that you and Rickey Henderson were playing cards in the locker room, as the NLCS title was slipping out of your team’s hands?

DEFENSE LAWYER: Judge, I object again! The Mets never had a firm grasp on the NLCS title; Piazza and Olerud carried the team, and the rotation fell apart after Leiter and Reed. They were down in the series 0-3! The prosecutor is leading the witness!

JUDGE: Sustained. Prosecutor, please refrain from mentioning how the Mets might’ve had the cajones (but didn’t), to take on the Braves for the NCLS.

PROSECUTOR: Fine, I extract that part of my statement, but the question still stands: Did you or did you not play cards with Rickey Henderson?

BONILLA: That is completely untrue, your honor. I was in the locker room only for a minute or two. I had to make a phone call in order to organize the off-season activities of the BBBBB Club…

PROSECUTOR: The….BBBBB Club? What, pray tell is that?

BONILLA (chuckles): It’s actually a very prestigious and elite club. BBBBB stands for 2 B’ed Baseballers Bettering Businesses. It’s a non-profit organization that helps small, independent companies get on their feet. Bo Belinksky founded it in 1963. Currently its members include Bruce Bochy, Bob Bailor, Bret Barberie, Buddy Bell, Bruce Benedict, Bud Black, Brett Butler, and myself. Bert Blyleven is our president emeritus.

PROSECUTOR: I see. And what about Barry Bonds? Why isn’t he in your little club?

BONILLA: We asked him, but he’s already involved in another club, the BB FAST Club.

PROSECUTOR: BB FAST Club? I’ve never heard of it. Does it have anything to do with John Hughes?

BONILLA: Double B’ed Fathers And Sons Together Club. Barry and Bobby Bonds, Bob and Bret Boone make up most of their roster…

PROSECUTOR: Well that explains why those guys aren’t in BBBBB, but what about Bill Buckner?

EVERYONE: (laughing): Hahahahahahahhaha!

PROSECUTOR: Just kidding. So you were making a phone call…

BONILLA: That’s right, trying to get the first BBBBB meeting set up. I had my wallet out so I could use my phone card—the GM Steve Phillips was such a cheap bastard. While I was on the phone, I saw Rickey go to the bathroom, but I don’t think he saw me. Just as I got off the phone, Rickey came out of the bathroom and bumped into me. We both were surprised and jostled a bench that had playing cards on it, and the cards fell all over the floor. I also dropped my wallet and some money fell out of it. We were picking up the cards; five at a time, and someone must’ve walked past us. I could understand why they would get the impression they did, but really it was all just a coincidence.

PROSECUTOR: But …um, did you…but the Mets were going to come back, and win…

DEFENSE LAWYER: OBJECTION! Your honor, we’ve already discussed the fact that Davey Johnson has no testicles. This is preposterous!

JUDGE: Sustained. Calm down now. Your witness, defense.

DEFENSE LAWYER: So, it’s safe to say you’ve had some scuffles here and there in your career, right Mr. Bonilla? Did you ever have a disagreement with Rickey Henderson?

BONILLA: No. Never had a problem.

DEFENSE LAWYER: No further questions.

Trial Day 14

PROSECUTOR: I’d like to call Rickey Henderson to the stand your honor.

JUDGE: He’s already there, Prosecutor.

PROSECUTOR: Oh. Let’s begin then shall we? Mr. Henderson, I’ll get right to the point. Isn’t it true that you were merely an above average player on substandard teams for most of your career, and that your real claim to fame, or infamy, was your flashy style and hot dog attitude?

HENDERSON: Well, I was voted to the All-Star team eleven times between 1980 and 1992. I’ve won an MVP, a Gold Glove, an ALCS MVP, and I have two World Series rings. I hold two all-time career records, for runs and stolen bases, and a few single season records as well…

PROSECUTOR: Ha! Only two?

HENDERSON: Well, four, if you count my leadoff home run record and caught stealing record.

PROSECUTOR: But there are some who say your Hall of Fame-range numbers are only due to your longevity.

HENDERSON: So I’ve got longevity, so what? I play because I love the game. In 2003 I played for the Red Sox for $350,000, probably less than you make in a year. I’ll have the game for as long as it’ll have me. I keep going until I’m totally done. You won’t see me pulling a Ryne Sandberg or Jim Palmer.

PROSECUTOR: I see. So you just lingered…hanging on to baseball simply to get those landmark numbers!

DEFENSE LAWYER: Objection your honor! The Prosecutor knows that many “landmark” stats are arbitrary—they can depend on position, placement in lineup, league, and any other number of factors. Any major stats Mr. Henderson holds he’s had under his belt for quite some time, and he’d still have that walks record if the National League wasn’t scared shitless of Bonds.

PROSECUTOR: I retract the question! Your numbers are not on trial here, Mr. Henderson, instead, why don’t you explain to the jury your snatch catch?

HENDERSON: A batter pops up, I snatch the ball out of the air, whipping my glove onto it in a quick fashion.

PROSECUTOR: And isn’t true you only do this because it looks really, really cool?


(Jury gasps)

PROSECUTOR: There you have it, folks. The cool looking snatch catch. You’re a showboat, Mr. Henderson, just admit it! A hot dog! A center-stage grabbing performer in cleats! I rest my case!

Trial day 21

JUDGE: The Prosecution has rested his case; the jury awaits your closing statement, Defense.

DEFENSE LAWYER: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury… Think for a second, not about awe-inspiring baseball stadiums, nor the highlight reel, nor “I am the greatest.” Think instead about your own neighborhood. Think about the sandlots and the parks and backyards strewn with kids playing ball. How many times have you watched a kid, maybe even your own kid, get a pop fly with a snatch grab? How many times have you seen a kid dangle his fingers as he leads off first base? How many times have you seen a little leaguer get a base on balls, and rather than be disappointed or embarrassed, clap his hands, knowing that he’s helping his team win a game? These are the things that Mr. Henderson is responsible for. The man is not monster by any means. His individual accomplishments have always come a far, far second to his desire to win. He is an aggressive, determined, professional athlete—and what’s more, he’s done more to help the game than he’ll ever get credit for. He’s combined the intensity of competition with the fun of the game. He’s helped fans become part of the game, and not just by talking to kids while in the outfield. He’s been a man of character, with character. We might want to dismiss it as “flash,” but the fact remains he has the substance to back it up. His style of play is what we all envy while younger generations look up to him with high admiration. It’s obvious Mr. Henderson is only a boon to the institution of baseball; I only hope that you can rise above his prosecutor’s insufficient and petty criticism, and find him innocent of all charges.

Mark Hughson currently resides in Syracuse, NY with his wife and cat. After a seven-year stint as a zine writer and contributor, community radio DJ, 4-track enthusiast, and all around advocate of the independent arts, Mark took some time off to reflect on his goals in life and to get back in touch with nature. His new zine and lo-fi acoustic bedroom pop album will be out next week.