Category Archives: notes

Working to Play, Playing to Work: Mexican-American Baseball & Labor in Southern California

Tropics of Meta

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“I remember traveling to Lake Elsinore, which was a long way in those days,” reminisced Zeke Mejia in 1996. “But the only ride we could get was from a friend who hauled fertilizer in his truck, so all the guys crawled inside … and tried not to breath during the ride. By the time we arrived to play well we all smelled like fertilized fields. We did it because we loved the game.” 1

For Mejia and thousands of other Mexican Americans laboring in Southern California during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, baseball served as a means to at once demonstrate belonging in the United States, while simultaneously asserting their own identity. In Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside counties, Mexican American baseball teams dotted the landscape, creating a human geography of social, economic, and political connections that helped buoy working class communities, and even contributed to unionization efforts amid widespread…

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Diamonds Separated by Oceans: Baseball, Japanese-Americans, and Southern California’s Pacific Rim

Tropics of Meta

Baseball game at Manzanar War Relocation Center | Photo: Ansel Adams, courtesy of the Library of Congress Baseball game at Manzanar War Relocation Center | Photo: Ansel Adams, courtesy of the Library of Congress

“If California has made any contribution to sport on a national level, it is in the democratization of pursuits that were previously the prerogatives of elites,” noted the dean of California history Kevin Starr in 2005. “Most of the champions of the twentieth century who come from California first developed their skills in publicly subsidized circumstances: municipally supported swimming pools, golf courses, and tennis courts in particular, where middle class Californians, thanks to the recreational policies of Progressivism, were introduced to these previously social register sports.” 1 Indeed, even under the weight of racism, groups denied equal access to mainstream U.S. society found sports as a means to greatness and, in part, as a declaration of their commitment to America. Take two-time gold medalist Highland Park native Sammy Lee, or Hall of…

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cain

The On Deck Circle

This is the third and final installment of this series.  If you are just discovering this series, and you want to go back and take a look at prior posts, here’s the link to Part 1 (which also discusses the criteria I used compile this list) and Part 2, which lists players #11-#20.

Now, on to pitchers #21-#25:

English: Mike Mussina English: Mike Mussina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

21)  Mike Mussina – Yes, here’s another one whom we might not think of as, strictly-speaking, a 21st-century pitcher.  Yet about 43% of Mussina’s career WAR value occurred from 2001 until his retirement after the 2008 season.

Mussina’s career fits neatly into almost two halves.  He spent the first ten years of his career, through the year 2000, with the Baltimore Orioles.  They were generally his best years.

During that span, he finished in the top ten in Cy Young voting five times.  In…

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andypettitte

The On Deck Circle

This is the second of three installments in this series.  If you want to go back and read the criteria I used to compile this list, or to find out who the top ten pitchers of the 21st-century have been, here’s link to the first post.

In this second installment, you will find that some of the pitchers listed were household names in the late-20th-century as well.  This does not contradict my prior sentiment that the purpose of this list is to highlight those players who are of more recent vintage.

Although I don’t necessarily want this list to reflect a Hall of Fame ballot of retired players, the fact of the matter is that some of the players we might normally consider of pre-9/11 vintage actually spent around half or more of their careers toiling in our current century, performing at a high level.

Each pitcher included on this…

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baseballgrass

The On Deck Circle

Who are the best pitchers of the 21st-century?

This is the first installment of a three-part series that will examine the top pitchers the 21st-century has had to offer.

Let me be clear, I am not attempting to discuss which of the current young arms of this generation will ultimately prevail as the greatest pitcher of (at least the first quarter) of this century.  Therefore, you won’t find David Price, Steven Strasburg, or Matt Harvey on this list.  To make this list, a pitcher has to A) Have accumulated at least 30.0 career WAR, B) Not have accumulated the vast majority of his career WAR value in the 20th-century, C) Cannot have a career ERA over 4.00 and D) Cannot have been primarily a relief pitcher.

These criteria mean that, for example, Roger Clemens, who won two of his seven Cy Young awards in this century, and even though he…

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McGraw & Mathewson.

The On Deck Circle

What does reason know?  Reason only knows what it has succeeded in learning. -Dostoevsky

If you could build your own Baseball Hall of Fame, what kind of place would it be?

It’s likely that the actual Hall of Fame includes several  players you admired while growing up.  It’s also likely that some of the players you admired the most then, and still do today, were never deemed Hall worthy.

You may not even have any real problem with that.  Intellectually, you probably understand the statistical reasoning that has served to exclude some of your favorite players.

But suppose we were to construct a Hall of the Heart, that is, a place (or, more accurately, an idea), where those players who captured our imagination all those years ago would be enshrined?  In fact, when we use the term “Hall of Fame,” it begs the question, famous to whom?

If fame…

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The Scream / Edvard Munch’s Oslo

Pedersen's Last Dream

Agony & Ecstasy

NO PAINTING SUMS UP the alienation and isolation of 21st century existence as does The Scream by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. After Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, it is the second most recognised painting in the world.

The idea came to Munch while walking in the wooded hills above old Oslo more than a century ago, following a bout of heavy drinking the previous evening.

“I was walking along the road with two friends. The sun set. I felt a great sadness. Suddenly the sky became blood red. I stopped, leaned against the railings, dead tired. And saw the flaming clouds as blood over the blue-black fjord and city. My friends walked on. I stood there trembling with angst. And I sensed a loud, unending scream pierce nature.”

Written shortly after his walk, the words that would eventually lead to the series of paintings and lithographs entitled Skrik (The Scream), contain…

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Why We Need Nomads

Vanessa Runs

Jamming and bumming around on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska

I recently stumbled on a Quora question in which the writer was thinking about quitting his job and selling his possessions to travel the world. He gave a brief description of himself (single, in his 20s, a job but no career), and asked whether he should go for it.

The resounding answer was yes, but not necessarily because it was a respectable lifestyle. Rather, because he was young enough to get away with it. Because he still had time to build a career, a family, and a real life. Because now was the time to get the travel bug out of his system.

I was glad to read the encouragement and travel tips he received, but couldn’t help wonder: what if a 40-something man with three young children also wanted to become a nomad?

A nomad is someone who travels extensively, with no real home to speak of other than…

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interlude (meditations): the date prep (anxiety remix)

You did it. You did it, dude. You, after all the nerves and the vomiting and the potent, possibly psychotic self-hatred, finally – FINALLY – worked up the courage to ask her out on a date, and now here you are: in your car and on your way towards picking her up; you’re driving the speed limit & music down low, even though feel your heart pumping? You’re going to fail, dude, you’re going to fail, you’re going to fail, you’re going to going to going to fail, dude you can feel your heart beating in your chest, pumping hard enough to keep a steady beat on your ribcage like a demon playing a xylophone, and music might be a good way to cover up that horrible melody. You’re going to be just fine, dude. You did it. You did it, dude. You walked right the hell up to the girl at the bookstore – fiction section, third shelf, near Pynchon – and you asked her out on what will probably be an anticlimactic, awkward romp through the movie theater. But you did it, dude. You showed confidence and you showed courage and chutzpah and dude, you’re going to be just fine. There is no doubt about this at all. Don’t worry about it. Oh-ho-ho, you are so fucked. You’re going to trip and fall and break your teeth, my awkward friend. It’s only a matter of time. You’re going to burn like the Hindenburg and ohhhhh the humanity, this is going to horrible and you’re going to look like a goddamn idiot, dude. That voice you hear is just your self-esteem screaming out in terror before being drowned in a bathtub. But it doesn’t matter. Look at you: you’re on your way to pick up the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen. Of all the girls in all the bookstores in this little blue world of ours, it had to be her, you know? She’s perfect: long brown hair, soft eyes, kind smile, a button with “Trystero” emblazoned beneath a muted horn. She’s perfect. Perfect. Stunning and smart and kind. And you worked up the nerve, my god. That’s a rarity & you know it. That long brown hair, that red lipstick, that wit, that grace, those breasts which, I might add, is precisely why you’re going to fuck this up. You ever look at yourself in the mirror? The glasses, the tired eyes. Your awful, coffee-and-cigarette-stained teeth. You’re a mess. Oh, and P.S.: nice shirt, douche. Don’t listen to that voice. Stop listening. Pay attention to the road – that was a pedestrian, dude. Don’t kill a pedestrian listening to that awful little voice in your head. That would probably be a bad move in the long run – like, if the date went well, would she really come and visit you in prison? “Baby, baby, I accidentally ran someone over on the way to your place. Romantic, right?” And she would laugh and twirl her beautiful hair around her long fingers and then oh god, this is going to be such a goddamn nightmare. How far away am I from her place? It has to be soon, right? Oh god, oh god, oh god, I’m going to vomit, I think feel your heart pumping? You’re going to fail, dude, you’re going to fail, you’re going to fail, you’re going to going to going to fail, dude and oh, how beautiful she is.

There’s the door.

Shit.

The Rise and Fall of John DeLorean

Delorean1

Longreads

Suzanne Snider | Tokion | June/July 2006 | 12 minutes (2,918 words)

This story by Suzanne Snider—which details the fantastical rise and fall of John DeLorean, a former titan of the American automotive industry—first appeared in the June/July 2006 issue of Tokion. Snider is the founder/director of Oral History Summer School, and she is currently completing a nonfiction book about rival communes on adjacent land. Our thanks to Snider for allowing us to feature it on Longreads. 

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