Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983
STMcC in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Monday, April 10, 2017

EXAMINES EVERY FACET OF THE DIAMOND

.
.
THE BASEBALL FAN'S COMPANION:
How To Watch The Game Like An Expert
by Nick Bakalar
published: 1996
.
OK, I've got good news and bad news.
.
THE BAD NEWS: I read Nick Bakalar's book, 'THE BASEBALL FAN'S COMPANION' in its entirety and only encountered a couple of things about baseball that I didn't already know.
.

THE GOOD NEWS: I'm forty-six years old, I've spent my entire life watching, following and playing baseball. I have a lifetime's worth of baseball knowledge crammed into my grey bean and this book covered all of the information that it took me over four decades of devotion to baseball to acquire. So what I'm really saying here is that if you are new to baseball and want to gain a full understanding of how the game is played and the strategies that are employed by managers and players in an attempt to score at least one more run than their opponent does, then this book is all ya really need.
.
Some people claim that BASEBALL IS LIFE. I won't go that far, but I will say that baseball is far and away my favorite sport (followed by football and then chess. And if you don't think chess is a sport it's only because you've never sat across a board from me. Chess is not only a sport, but I prove it to be a CONTACT sport!)
.
When my Pa married my Ma, he didn't know much about baseball, after all, Los Angeles was football territory and professional baseball didn't reach that city until 1958, the year my parents tied the knot and the same year that the Dodgers moved West. My Ma was already a baseball junkie coming from Cincinnati where she'd dated a couple of the Reds players at different times and followed the team almost like a religion.

.
When the Dodgers followed my Ma West to L.A., she took a job with the organization. While Dodger stadium was still under construction, she was told to go down on her lunch break and select her seats if she wanted to purchase season tickets. Being a very smart woman, she went down and chose the two best seats in the stadium. (No, I'm not kidding.) Subsequently, my Bro, my Sis and I all literally grew up at Dodger stadium, raised on Dodger Dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
.
I have photos hanging on the walls of my house that show me hanging out with the likes of Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider, Jim Gilliam, and Dick Bass, etc. (If yer a real sports fan you know that the last name belongs to a famous Rams running back, not a baseball player.)
.
Even when our family was fairly poor in later years, with financial help from my Grandpa, we still managed to keep the season tickets and now my Aunt Jane owns them. I'm telling you all this only so you will appreciate the fact that baseball has really been a very significant part of this reviewer's life. I KNOW THE GAME! And if you want to know the game as well as I do, all ya gotzta do is read 'THE BASEBALL FAN'S COMPANION'.
.
Nick Bakalar does a fine job in explaining the sport and examining all of its nuances; everything from the art of pitching, defensive positioning, hitting, and even the largely misunderstood science of baserunning / basestealing -- this is where even many serious fans fall short in their understanding. In other words, Bakalar's "got all of the bases covered." (Sorry, sometimes I can't help myself.) He explores the thinking of pitchers, hitters, position players, managers and even umpires, which he claims "are people, too" (although he didn't prove that to this reader's satisfaction). And Bakalar does it all with clarity, humor, and an obvious passion for the game.
.
If you've been sitting there watching a baseball game and thinking that it's slow and boring because nothing seems to be happening, it's only in your mind where nothing's happening. You simply haven't grasped the game yet. As my friend, Rick Bass (son of Dick Bass), who played professionally says, "There's ALWAYS something happening in baseball!"

.
This book will get your head in the game. I won't say it's a home run; I'll say he's hit the ball into the gap for a three-bagger, only because I take exception to his analysis comparing Dave Kingman with Tony Gwynn. (Gimme Gwynn any day! Bakalar didn't factor in where the two hit in the order: Kingman's job was to drive 'em in; Gwynn's was to be on base to BE driven in. Which one completed his assignment most often, and what was the quality of the players surrounding them?) And in his fun chapter, 'CHATTER: How They Talk Baseball And How You Can Too' (which will have you speaking "Baseball lingo" as well as I do in no-time flat) he missed one of the most obvious: A "Twin Killing" means a double play.
.
Ladies, are you sick and tired of hearing your husband say, "Not now, honey. It's the bottom of the tenth with two outs, a full count, the winning run in scoring position, the closer is wild and the cleanup hitter's in the box" and wondering what in the world he's talking about? Then get 'THE BASEBALL FAN'S COMPANION'. The next time you'll be able to answer your husband with, "When he strikes out chasing the high cheese, come here and give me a hand" and yer couch potato hubby's gonna fall right outta the cushion's indentation.
.
I need to close this review with one of my favorite baseball stories (not included in Bakalar's book) about Ted Williams -- in my opinion, the greatest hitter who ever lived:
.
There was a young pitcher new to the major leagues. He was facing a batter by the name of Ted Williams. "Ball three", said the umpire; and the pitcher walked halfway to the plate and screamed, "What was wrong with that pitch?!" The umpire dusted off the plate without answering. The young, frustrated pitcher wound up and threw; Williams whacked the ball and it flew over the Fenway Park fence for a home run. The umpire walked out toward the pitcher and said to the rookie, "You see, son, when you throw a strike, you don't have to look to me; Mr. Williams will let you know."

.
~ Stephen T. McCarthy
.

6 comments:

  1. I grew up playing ball on the field down the street. I wasn't any good, but I had fun.

    I had a friend/co-worker that loved baseball. She would listen to either a baseball or hockey game every opportunity she had. She was Dodger's fan as well.

    ~Mary
    Jingle Jangle Jungle
    #AtoZChallenge 1970's Billboard Hits

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Howdy, MARY ~
      Having fun is the main thing. I was not athletically gifted enough that anyone for a even a moment ever entertained the idea that I might have a professional career in baseball ahead of me. But I had fun too, and we were ALWAYS playing something. If not baseball, then football. If not football, then some sports-themed board game.

      ~ D-FensDogG

      Delete
    2. Over the line, strikeout, pickle, wiffle ball or just playing catch. Those were the days.

      Delete
    3. Or simply throwing the ball against the neighbor's wall on Sunset Avenue to practice fielding ground balls.

      ~ D-FensDogG

      Delete
  2. But don't throw too high or you'll be searching in the ice plant.

    ReplyDelete

*** NOTE: COMMENT MODERATION IS ACTIVATED. ***
All submitted comments that do not transgress "Ye Olde Comment Policy" will be posted and responded to as soon as possible. Thanks for taking the time to comment.