Tag Archives: Chicago Cubs

The 2016 Baseball Solstice

After the 2016 World Series ended in a nationwide outpouring of anguish over the Cleveland Indians’ heart-rending loss
in worldwide jubilation over the Chicago Cubs’ victory ending more than a century of frustration, the realization slowly sunk in that another winter without baseball was approaching.

We’re in the thick of that long, agonizing, “wait ’til next year” layoff, but a glimmer of hope flickers in the night: the annual Baseball Solstice is just one week away.

The solstice — the midpoint on the calendar between the last out of the World Series (early the morning of Nov. 3 this year) and the first pitch of exhibition ball at spring training (Feb. 24, 2017, in Arizona and Florida) — will be marked Dec. 30.

For me, the solstice will be sweeter this year. Last year at this time, I was recuperating from surgery for prostate cancer. I just passed a full year without any detectable sign of cancer in me, and I’m mighty grateful for the excellent care I’ve received from my surgeon,  and the great support I’ve received from family and friends.

As we head to the new year, I’m hoping for continued good health for many seasons to come. Maybe the Indians will actually win the series one of these years!

 

 

 

Setting the annual Baseball Solstice

IMG_5776With the temperature flirting with 70 degrees today here in New Jersey, I’m aching for baseball even as I acknowledge we must endure weeks of winter before we hear “Play ball!” again.

So it’s high time to announce the annual Baseball Solstice, that precise point between the final out of the World Series and the first pitch of exhibition games renewing America’s Pastime for the next season.

The 2015 series ended at 12:30 a.m. EDT on Nov. 2 in New York as Wilmer Flores of the Mets struck out and the Kansas City Royals celebrated the end of a 30-year championship drought.

Those of us pulling for the Mets must wait till next year, in humiliating fashion for me as my sisters-in-law in the Kansas City area expressed their love by sending me a box full of Royals duds and swag.

It will be March 1 when we again hear the crack of the bat in the first handful of Grapefruit League games in Florida and one in the Cactus League in Arizona. (Follow Countdown to Spring Training for a daily dose of encouragement.)

That makes for an interval of 119 days, and thus we must fix the solstice on January 1, 2016, the first day of the new year on the secular calendar observed by fans of football, hockey, basketball, soccer and squash.

But we baseball fans know the day belongs to us.

So get out there that day and play some catch with someone you love or like (yes, even somebody in Dodger blue). Read some Roger Angell. Or watch a DVD showing highlights (singular, if you’re a Phillies fan) of your team’s 2015 season.

As the offseason deals continue to scramble rosters and cruelly give hope to Cubs fans, there’s no need for speculating on which team will prevail in 2016. It’s an even year, and it’s bye, bye baby: The San Francisco Giants will take it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Marking the Baseball Solstice with a list of Top 10 moments

To mark the Baseball Solstice, I’ve been contemplating the greatest moments in baseball history. A number of these came to mind instantly, a few of them took a bit more prodding of the memory banks.

This list is strictly my own reckoning on this date. Ask me in a few weeks or a few months, and some of the items may change — although the top three to five would likely stick.

10. The Amazin’ Mets win the 1969 World Series. The expansion Mets were a miserable franchise in the 1960s (no comment on subsequent decades) and their defeat of the Orioles was as exhilirating as it was surprising. I should note that I was rooting for the Orioles, yet even as a kid I thought the Mets were quite the story.

9. Cal RIpken breaks Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played. Gehrig’s once unassailable record fell when Cal took the field that night, an event that connected the glory days of the past to what was then the present day.

8. Billy Buckner boots the grounder at first base. The Red Sox were oh so close to breaking the curse of the Bambino, and then Buckner let the ball go between his legs. It would be several more years before the Red Sox would finally win their first World Series  since the first decade of the century.

7. The George Brett pine tar bat incident. Never have I seen anything so uproariously funny during a baseball game. Brett charged from the dugout like a demon, screaming bloody murder. Later it came out that Billy Martin had waited for the ultimate moment to call the pine tar violation, which makes the incident even funnier.

6. Who’s On First? OK, so this isn’t a real baseball moment. But Abbot and Costello’s classic routine underscores baseball’s relevance in American culture better than anything.

5. Babe Ruth calls his shot. We know that “Who’s on First” was made up, but the Ruth legend is somewhere in between fact and fiction. That the famous gesture to center field was issued in a Yankees’ defeat of the Cubs in the World Series tells me without a doubt it really happened.

4. Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man” farewell address. This sad yet sweet moment under the echoing arches of Yankee Stadium is undeniably one of the great ones. It’s a reminder of the nobility of man, and that baseball can break your heart.

3. Roger Maris hits his 61st home run. Through all the relentless pressure he faced, Maris still managed to launch home run No. 61 off Tracy Stallard in 1961. He broke Babe Ruth’s single-season record that day. And he did it witout any hint of performance-enhancing drugs.

2. Willie Mays catch at the Polo Grounds. In Game One of the 1954 World Series, Vic Wertz ripped a monster drive into cavernous center field. Mays raced straight back and brought the ball to earth and, his cap flying off, hurls the ball back toward the plate. The Indians, the winningest regular-season team ever, were toast and lost to the Giants in four straight.

1. The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.  Bobby Thompson smacked a home run off Brooklyn’s Ralph Branca to give the Giants a victory in the final of a three-game playoff series to determine the National League champion. It was the ultimate “walk-off” moment, immortalized by Russ Hodges’ radio call: “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

The Mets honor Mariano, and then defeat him

The New York radio airwaves are abuzz over how the Mets did the improbable last night and scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning off Mariano Rivera to beat the Yankees 2-1.
It was a stunning victory — the second in as many nights at Citi Field — and even more amazin’ because the Metropolitans had honored Rivera at the start of the game and had him throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

While Rivera is unquestionably worthy of all laurels, I found the Mets’ decision to honor him during the Subway Series a curious one.

Rivera is a New York sports icon, but he’s a Yankee. He wears pinstripes. Always has. He has a fistful of World Series rings. He’s the anti-Met.

Would something like this happen elsewhere? I can’t see the Cubs or White Sox honoring anyone from the other Chicago nine, and the Dodgers would never be in the business of honoring Angles (or Giants!).

The Mets’ brass evidently decided honoring Rivera would be a classy move. But that’s where the class ended.

Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer, told Rivera before the game that he didn’t expect the Mets to make the World Series this year. I don’t care what your team’s record is. You don’t publicly announce that you don’t expect your team to fail, certainly not this early in the season.

Maybe Wilpon was trying to mess with Rivera’s head, to distract him with an honor so that the Mets would force him to blow a save. That, however, would require a bit of baseball acumen at a level totally lacking from Mets leadership the last decade or two.

A season without a seat in the stands

I’m looking back on the 2012 season and realizing that this is one of those rare years in which I didn’t see a major league baseball game in person.

Having switched jobs and coasts in May, I left California before having a chance to see the Giants or Athletics play at home. My two cross-country drives to get our cars out east were too hurried to route by way of a big-league stadium. And once I got east for good, I never found the time to run down to Philadelphia or head up to New York to catch the Phillies, Yankees or Mets.

I managed to catch plenty of games on TV, radio and especially on the MLB app on my iPhone. I did get to see one minor league game on each coast, the Nuts in Modesto and the Thunder in Trenton. Thank goodness for that.

Also on the plus side, we finally got ourselves high-definition TV this summer, and it’s been great to see those major league parks come alive on the screen in our family room.

But as for seeing a game live and in person, I’ll have to invoke the eternal cry of Cubs fans: Wait ’til next year!

[Note: This post was composed during the baseball playoffs but I never posted it until now.]

O Holy Cow: The Baseball Solstice coincides with Christmas

The high priests have looked to the sky and determined that the Baseball Solstice will coincide with Christmas this winter, to be celebrated from sundown on Christmas Eve to sundown Christmas Day.

The Baseball Solstice, noted in this blog a year ago, marks the midpoint of the long layoff in play between the final out of the World Series and the first exhibition game of Spring Training.

Sergio Romo struck out A.L. MVP Miguel Cabrera in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 4 of the series on Oct. 28 to complete a San Francisco sweep of the Detroit Tigers.

The next games between major league opponents begin Feb. 22 in Arizona and Florida.

As fate would have it, that makes the midpoint Dec. 25, the second most holy day in Christendom. (The first is Easter, which coincidentally marks the point at which fans of the Chicago Cubs traditionally abandon hope for the new season.)

It is a bit awkward for baseball’s midwinter ritual to come at Christmas, and we baseball fans mean no disrespect on such a sacred day that many of us will be observing. (We’re also a bit leery that fans in Philadelphia will boo Santa Claus.)

But there’s apt symbolism for the pairing: We baseball fans cherish the sport as one of the greatest gifts we have.

You can mark the days to the start of Cactus and Grapefruit league play on the terrific Countdown to Spring Training site on Facebook.

As for marking the solstice, we encourage all baseball fans to do so in a meaningful, fun way: break out the baseball cards and find your favorite players, get in touch with fellow baseball fans by phone or email or social networking or (and this may sound crazy in this era) around the dining room table. We encourage you to visit the nearest ballpark and look eagerly forward to warm, sunny days on the field or in the stands come spring (or July, if you’re a Brewers fan).

As a Giants fan, I’ll be savoring the memories of the 2012 season. As an Indians fan, I’ll be lighting a few candles. And as a baseball fan overall, I’ll be glad to know that the first cry of “Play Ball” is drawing nigh.

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.