Friday, October 20, 2006

"The Catch"

Endy Chavez's spectacular, leaping catch in the final NLCS game, doomed to be a footnote because of the Mets' loss, is compared in this Slate article to Willie Mays' magnificent running, reaching and pivoting catch in game one of the 1954 World Series.

I must have watched the '54 Series. My parents and I had just returned from England, where my dad had been stationed in the Air Force, and I was in third grade at Eglin Air Force Base Elementary School, where, during the World Series, we were excused from class to go to the "cafetorium" where a TV was set up (all Series games were played in the afternoon, then). However, I don't remember anything about it. I was just learning about baseball, while unlearning cricket and rounders. Neither the Giants nor the Indians captured my fancy.

The first Series I remember came the following year. By then I knew that the Yankees were the big, bad bullies, and the Dodgers the scrappy underdogs the Yanks had always slapped down. Besides, Brooklyn was the first place I'd touched U.S. soil after our return. So, I rooted for the Dodgers, and was rewarded. For me, "The Catch" will always be the one Sandy Amoros made in game seven of the '55 Series. (I love the Bob Gibson quote that starts the article.) The poet and Brooklynite Marianne Moore gave it a prominent mention in her celebratory "Hometown Piece for Messrs. Alston and Reese."

As a Mets fan - I consider them the Brooklyn Dodgers continued by other means - I am saddened that Molina's homer erased the prospect of Endy's catch becoming as iconic (if not as artful) as Sandy's.

Go Cardinals!

Not that I have anything against Detroit. It's just that they're in the league that plays a debased version of the game; one in which strategy has been sacrificed to short attention spans.

Update: The Cards got off to a good start last night, which was particularly important because they started a rookie pitcher with a questionable record, but who happened to have the only fully rested arm available.

Fray colleague JMB weighs in on my side in the DH rule contoversy, but backs the Tigers because he's Detroit born and raised. Fair enough. I give my wife a pass to support an AL team because she's from Massachusetts.

Update-update: Unfortunately, there are bad precedents concerning winning the first and losing the second game of a series in this post-season. Just ask Joe Torre and Willie Randolph. I hope Tony LaRussa's law degree will help him distinguish the Cards' case.

As for Twiff's (scroll down) arguments in favor of the DH, I have these replies: (1) it makes the game more interesting; and (2) there's something wrong with a low ERA?

Update-update-update: Twiff (scroll down s'more) comes right back at me. OK, I'll freely admit that the AL game is, as a general proposition, tougher on pitchers than the NL version. By the same token, though, it's got to be easier on batters. I haven't seen a comparison of batting averages of players who switch leagues, but I'd be willing to wager that those going American to National see their averages decline more often than not. As anecdotal evidence, I can think of Roberto Alomar, who batted in the high .200s his first three years at San Diego, then, after moving to the AL, batted .300 or better for nine of eleven seasons (the other two he batted .295 and .282), but whose average plummeted to .266 when he returned to the NL in 2001. Then there's Eddie Murray, whose average bounced around the .300 mark over his twelve years in Baltimore, then plunged to .247 his first year with the Dodgers. (He did bounce back and have a career high average of .330 his second year in LA; I guess the sunshine did him good. But the following year he was back down to .260.)

When all is said and done, I guess it comes down to whether you prefer a game with lots of hitting and scoring or one with lots of subtleties and strategy. I'm in that camp that enjoys "little ball"; for example, seeing a pitcher lay down a perfect bunt with one out (there are many pitchers who can do it), or seeing a manager having to decide whether to pinch hit for a pitcher who's been throwing well with a tie game in the sixth or seventh. I even enjoy seeing a pitcher surprise everyone by hitting a home run, as Bronson Arroyo, new to the NL, showed he could do twice this year.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The beauty of New Jersey in the morning.

A few days ago I was taking my customary weekday morning walk from my daughter's school at the south end of Battery Park City to my office at 45 Broadway, near Bowling Green, by way of the pedestrian esplanade on the Hudson River shore. There was a solid overcast of high clouds and, off to the east, the rays of the rising sun were coming through unimpeded below those clouds. They were then reflcting off the buildings in the Newport section of Jersey City, creating this striking scene.

As I walked further south, I got this view of the Statue of Liberty, with a Chandris cruise ship docked beyond her in Bayonne, the arch of the Bayonne-Staten Island bridge in the distance, and, in the foreground, a Circle Line tour boat returning from Liberty Island to her dock at the Battery.