“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…
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…
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 (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…
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.
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…
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?
“Take me out to the ball game — take me out to the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks — and I don’t care if I never get back.”
Prelude to a post about baseball.
It has been too long since I’ve been in a regular habit of writing. (Two “been”s in one sentence, she thinks; perhaps I’m rusty?) I suppose writing a dissertation ought to be counted as writing, but there’s something particular about being able to control your topic and tone so completely, that you are freed from the normal rules of academic discourse and allowed, in the most straightforward sense, to be yourself. So now that the dissertation is done and uncertainty looms ahead, I’ve been thinking about how to get back into this groove – which is in many ways a process of becoming reacquainted with a substantial portion of myself left sadly neglected…
Yesterday — besides being Independence Day — was also the 75th anniversary of the farewell speech of Lou Gehrig, a hero of mine. Due to my fanatical love of baseball, this speech gets to me every single time.
R.I.P. to Lou “The Iron Horse” Gehrig, the patron saint of baseball.
“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.
When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.
So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for…
When someone asks you your favorite sport
And you answer Baseball in a blink
There are certain qualities you must possess
And you’re more attached than you think.
In the frozen grip of winter
I’m sure you’ll agree with me
Not a day goes by without someone
Talking baseball to some degree.
The calendar flips on New Year’s Day
The Super Bowl comes and it goes
Get the other sports out of the way
The green grass and the fever grows.
It’s time to pack a bag and take a trip
To Arizona or the Sunshine State
Perhaps you can’t go, but there’s the radio
So you listen-you root-you wait.
They start the campaign, pomp and pageantry reign
You claim the pennant on Opening Day
From April till fall
You follow the bouncing white ball
Your team is set to go all the way.
They fall short of the series
You have a case of the “wearies”
And need as break from the game
But when Christmas bells jingle
You feel that old tingle
And you’re ready for more of the same.
It will be hot dogs for dinner
Six months of heaven, a winner
Yes, Baseball has always been it.
You would amaze all your friends
If they knew to what ends
You’d go for a little old hit.
The best times you’re had
Have been with your Mom and your Dad
And a bat and a ball and a glove.
From the first time you played
Till the last time you prayed
It’s been a simple matter of love.
Baseball is grass, chalk, and dirt displayed the same yet differently
In every park that has ever heard the words “play ball.”
Baseball is a passion that bonds and divides all those who know it.
Baseball is a pair of hands stained with newsprint,
A set of eyes squinting to read a boxscore,
A brow creased in an attempt to recreate a three-hour game
From an inch square block of type.
Baseball is the hat I wear to mow the lawn.
Baseball is a simple game of catch
and the never-ending search for the perfect knuckleball.
Baseball is Willie vs Mickey, Gibson vs Koufax, and Buddy Biancalana vs the odds.
Baseball links Kansan and Missourian, American and Japanese,
But most of all father and son.
Baseball is the scent of spring,
The unmistakable sound of a double down the line,
And the face of a 10-year-old emerging from a pile of bodies
With a worthless yet priceless foul ball.
Baseball is a language of very simple words that tell unbelievably magic tales.
Baseball is three brothers in the same uniform on the same team for one brief summer
Captured forever in a black and white photo on a table by the couch.
Baseball is a glove on a shelf, oiled and tightly wrapped,
Slumbering through the stark winter months.
Baseball is a breast pocket bulging with a transistor radio.
Baseball is the reason there are transistor radios.
Baseball is a voice in a box describing men you’ve never met,
In a place you’ve never been,
Doing things you’ll never have the chance to do.
Baseball is a dream that you never really give up on.
Baseball is precious.
Baseball is timeless.
Baseball is forever.