Tag Archives: St. Louis Cardinals

Fixing the date for the annual Baseball Solstice: Dec. 29, 2013

The World Series is behind us, at least some of the Red Sox are shaving off their beards and baseball fans the world over are gathering scraps to light the fire for the Hot Stove League. It’s a time for reflecting on the season past and recognizing that we have several fallow months ahead before the games resume in the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues in 2014.

In our annual ritual, the high priests of baseball here at the Ball Caps Blog and Countdown to Spring Training have pointed our Houston Astrolabes to the sky and fixed the date for the annual Baseball Solstice. It will be Dec. 29, the midpoint in the days between the final out of Cardinals-Bosox series and the first exhibition games of Spring Training.

The series ended Oct. 30, and the first exhibition games will be played Feb. 26 by six teams in Florida. (Sorry, Yankees fans. We’re not recognizing the Feb. 25 game against Florida State.)

We encourage all baseball fans to mark the solstice in a meaningful way.

Play a Wiffle ball game in the snow with the kids on the block. Thumb through your old sets of baseball cards. Pick up the phone and call Dad to thank him for insisting you not throw a curve until you were 15. Venture out into the night and look for the Star of Cooperstown.

Whatever you choose, make it a celebration of the One True Game.

Cardinals and Red Sox in a World Series rematch

Ever since the Indians got knocked out (not to mention the Giants failing to make the playoffs altogether), I have sulked and turned my back on the baseball postseason. Oh, I caught a half inning here of the NLDS, a few outs there of the ALCS. Most mornings I woke up to check for the score of whatever game stretched well past bedtime with incessant late-inning pitching changes.

I tuned out nearly completely.

But the imminent arrival of the Red Sox and Cardinals facing off in the World Series will bring me back, not only to see two fine teams compete but also because of the memories this matchup will stir.

For this 50-something baseball fan, the 1967 series between Boston and St. Louis is usually what comes to mind when I think “World Series.”  (Yes, even ahead of the Amazin’ Mets in 1969 and the Giants finally prevailing in 2010.) I was 11 years old back then, in sixth grade and at the height of my boyhood baseball card collecting.

And, with apologies to the good sisters who taught me at St. Margaret Mary elementary school, Bob Gibson was God. Gibby was seemingly invincible on the mound, and I hung on every pitch appearing in grainy black and white on the Zenith TV in our dining room for whatever innings I could catch after dashing home from school.

A decade later as a college student, I’d visit the home of my roommate in Lowell, Mass., where we’d often find his father in the basement, playing a Red Sox ’67 highlights record album over and over. Even though Boston lost in seven games, for him it was worth reliving that season if only to know how close the Sox had come to ending the Curse of the Bambino.

A World Series is no longer a novelty for modern-day Red Sox fans, nor for a long time has it been for Cardinals fans. I will be tuning in, waiting for Gibson and Yaz and Jim Longborg and Curt Flood and all the others to come walking out of the long shadows.

I’m hoping for a classic.

 

 

 

Bad dream for a Giants fan: Tim Lincecum in Cardinals red

My Giants' knit hat, on a holiday background.

My Giants’ knit hat, on a holiday background.

What so troubled my sleep last night that I had a vivid dream in which Tim Lincecum was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals?

Tim was standing just a few feet from me, wearing a red Cardinals cap as well as a red jacket. It was Timmy all right: The soul patch, the long dark locks down to his shoulders. But he was on the Cardinals.

I guess the dream is merely an indicator of how day after day, baseball is on my brain. The trigger yesterday may have been that I found my black Giants’ knit cap and wore it on an errand yesterday afternoon. Lincecum often wears one of those “beanies” and I probably had him in mind when I slipped mine on.

 

 

Baltimore-Washington wins the 2012 Major League Baseball metro-area title

Which metro area had the most successful baseball season? After listening to the Athletics overtake the Rangers on my way home from work last evening, I was all set to declare the Bay Area the cross-league, total victory champions.

But then I remembered that Baltimore-Washington is eligible, and a check of the standings this morning shows the Orioles and Nationals with a combined 191 victories. That’s three better than the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s at 188.

Third place goes to Los Angeles, with the Angels and Dodgers piling up 175 wins. The New York metropolitan area checks in at fourth with 169 wins for the Yankees and Mets. And in fifth, the White Sox and the wretched Cubs trailed with a mere 146 victories, well below the .500 mark of 162.

Does anyone else on the planet care about this matter? I doubt it.

What people do care about is predictions on who will meet in the World Series.

I’d love to see an all orange and black series with the Orioles facing the Giants, and another Bay Bridge series between the Giants and A’s would be fun.

No team is a lock to make it out of its first round, let alone get to the Series. Acknowledging that the playoffs are all the more so a crap shoot with the new wild card format, I’ll pick the Giants to square off against the Yankees.

Red Sox Nation shows its pride on Massachusetts license plates

Red Sox fans are crazy for their team, and as I traveled New England while on vacation last week I was struck by the number of BoSox specialty Massachusetts license plates I saw. They were a common site on Cape Cod, on Boston area highways, and I even spotted them in New Hampshire and Vermont.

If you live in Massachusetts, the Red Sox plates are a pretty good deal: for $40 you get to display your team pride on your car and contribute to the Red Sox Foundation and the Jimmy Fund.

I’ve seen plenty of college plates around the country, but I was hard pressed to recall any other plates for Major League Baseball teams. I have seen New York Yankees plates vehicles registered in New Jersey, which also lets fans buy New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies plates, although I can’t recall seeing them.

I’m in Philadelphia a fair amount these days, and I’ve never seen a Phillies plate on a Pennsylvania-registered vehicle. If this list from the PA DMV is correct, there are none to be had — and none for the Pittsburgh Pirates, either.

Same story in California: no plates for the local nines in San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco.

How about in my home state of Ohio? Yes, you can get a Cleveland Indians plate along with plates for the Cincinnati Reds and professional teams of lesser sports like football, hockey and basketball.

Florida enables you to buy plates for the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins, and in Illinois you can get them for the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. There was talk last season about Illinois adding St. Louis Cardinals plates, although I can’t find definitive word whether that happened.

You can get a Cards plate in Missouri, although a quick search this morning didn’t show me a Kansas City Royals option.

I could spend all day researching which teams are available where, but I don’t have the time. I’ll close by saying I think these fan plates are a great idea, especially when they raise money to support great causes like the Jimmy Fund.

If you’re a fan of a team not mentioned above and know if you can buy a specialty plate in your state, I’d appreciate it if you’d note it in a comment below.

First Albert Pujols, and now Prince Fielder bolt the National League

At this hour, it appears Prince Fielder will be skipping over Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to play with the Tigers in Detroit, and that has to be a bit worrisome for the National League.

Earlier this post-season, Albert Pujols bolted from the Cardinals to the Los Angeles Angels. If the Fielder deal comes through, that will mean that the top two sluggers in the NL have jumped to the AL.

With free agency, there are no doubt a zillion reasons athletes consider when deciding to sign with a particular team. With Pujols and Fielder – both slugging first sackers – I have to think that the designated hitter position in the AL was a factor, and possibly a significant one.

Even if their legs give out, they’ll be able to keep coming to the plate in the AL longer than they would in the NL. An American League team can offer a slugger the DL and thus stretch that multi-million dollar contract a bit longer.

Fixing the date for the Baseball Solstice

Now is the winter of our discontent, baseball fans. The World Series ended on Oct. 28, and nearly two months later I’m really starting to miss the game.

Musing on this long dormant period for the national pastime, I’ve concluded that like our pagan ancestors, we must mark the passage of the seasons. And that means fixing what I’ll call the “baseball solstice,” the mid-point between the end of one season and the beginning of another.

The end of the World Series seems an overwhelmingly logical point to mark the end of a season.

But what constitutes the beginning of a new season? “Opening Day” used to mean the oldest continuously operating professional franchise, the Reds, taking the field in Cincinnati. But Major League Baseball has trampled tradition with early openers in Japan and kooky staggered schedules.

The reporting date in Arizona and Florida for pitchers and catchers is inadequate — there are no inning-by-inning broadcasts on the radio to record what happens, no box scores to enter anything into history.

That leads to one conclusion: The new season commences with the first games of Spring Training, when the teams take the field and the umpire cries “Play ball!” Every rookie has the potential to make the team, every veteran a chance to perform even better than the year before.

In 2012, the first games will be on March 2.

Between the last out of the 2011 World Series and those first Cactus and Grapefruit league ballgames, 134 125 days — better than one-third of a calendar year — will have passed since the Rangers’ David Murphy flied out to Allen Craig of the Cardinals.

So the mid-point, the baseball solstice, will be 67 62.5 days later, Dec. 30, 2011.

It’s a fitting date. In much of the United States, that’s the dead of winter with snow blanketing many a ballfield.

I’ll do something to mark the occasion. I could bay at the moon like some ancient Druid at Stonehenge and try to conjure a power hitter for the San Francisco Giants. Or maybe I’ll just look toward Progressive Field in Cleveland, beseeching the baseball gods to make 2012 the year the Indians win it all.

Centuries from now, our descendants may chance upon the ruins of Wrigley and contemplate the meaning and magic that dwelt there in ages past. With curiosity they may look upon the remains of home plate at Fenway Park or ponder what’s left of the fountains at Kauffman Stadium.

We owe it to our descendants to mark the Baseball Solstice in ceremonies of our own devising. So join me Jan. 4 Dec. 30 at sunrise. I will be in Pittsburgh, summoning my father’s spirit to bring the Pirates some luck.

Addendum: My headline on “Fixing” the date of the Baseball Solstice turned out to be a bit of irony. I miscounted the days and got the mid-point wrong. As Paul notes below, the correct date is Dec. 30, not Jan. 4. It’s still a day to celebrate.