“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…