November 8th, 2011

Yoenis, superstar


By Eric Freeman

On Sunday night, a highlight video of Cuban defector and aspiring MLB center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, known as “Yoennis” up until a few days ago, appeared on YouTube. It set the sports world (well, one very specific quadrant of it) abuzz, and then just as abruptly, was removed by the uploader, presumably due to copyright issues.

The baseball clips of the 26 year-old Cespedes, generally considered the most talented Cuban position player of his generation, are impressive. Yet virtually no one wanted to talk about anything but the pure spectacle of the 20-minute package: the use of Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” as a backing track; more weightlifting reps than anyone could possibly want to see; an unexplained shout out to former Packers running back Ahman Green; sound effects seemingly cribbed from a high-school sophomore’s PowerPoint presentation; and a lingering close-up of a pig on a spit. .

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Reblogged from The Classical
November 7th, 2011

Baseball’s white rabbit



illustration: Paul Windle

By Paul Flannery

Bill Lee is late. There are sixteen kids, their parents, and a man named Miro who is running for mayor waiting for him on a Little League baseball field in Burlington, Vermont. The weather is unusually cold for October, and now it’s starting to rain.

Lee’s baseball life is equal parts inspiration and cautionary tale. During his fourteen-year run in the big leagues, he survived with little more than guile and a sinking fastball, and then proceeded to blow up his career for a principle. Exiled from professional baseball almost three decades ago, Lee now haunts a thousand small ballparks around the world. Burlington is one more stop on his never-ending tour.

Miro Weinberger is Lee’s catcher. Together they make up the battery for the Burlington Cardinals in the Vermont Senior Men’s Baseball League. The 64-year-old Lee led them to the championship this past season, but the most memorable game for Weinberger was a 14-inning affair in which Lee threw more than 200 pitches. Weinberger has organized a clinic as part of his mayoral campaign. Just as it’s starting to look hopeless, the Nissan Pathfinder comes barreling into the parking lot.

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so, this is happening.

(Source: theclassicaldotorg)

Reblogged from no coast offense
October 25th, 2011

Very cool, Ron Washington and Donruss. Very cool, indeed.

How does he look even older here? 


Very cool, Ron Washington and Donruss. Very cool, indeed.

How does he look even older here? 

(Source: lowerclassconspiracy)

Reblogged from Your Man Devine
October 24th, 2011

More of that Fall Classical at Deadspin. Today, I wrote about George W. Bush, Texas Rangers Fan #1, and the predicament of cheering along with Dubya. 

Subjected to repeated shots of Bush, interpolating them into the game as I would any other recognizable face in a baseball stadum, I rarely think “arch-fiend doodler” or even “apocalyptic klutz.” He’s utterly harmless, and actually, seems natural in a way he never did while attempting to run the country. But the Bush reax shots—and our reax to them—are not just a question of relief. This is George W. Bush’s element. He’s no different from any number of Texas oil brats who went off and had themselves an adventure, one that involved sizable failures but never a crisis of confidence.

That’s Tom Scocca on the headline, and bongos. I thank him for both.

October 21st, 2011

Rebecca T. Alpert, Professor of Religion and Women’s Studies at Temple University, started out trying to get to the bottom of the Jewish affinity for baseball. But, reared on the 1950’s Brooklyn Dodgers, she found it impossible to not also bring race into the picture, at one point arguing for Jackie Robinson as a great Jewish sports hero. She ended up writing Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball (Oxford University Press). I interviewed Dr. Alpert over the summer for a piece that didn’t end up happening. I thought this stuff was a good read, though, so here it is. 

SHOALS: How did you find your way to this topic?

ALPERT: I discovered that in Negro League stories there were often questions about “Well, who were these sort of smarmy Jews who owned Negro League teams, and what were they about?” I wanted to see if there really was anti-Semitism, and it lead me to trying to use baseball to peer at some of these questions that are really about this hypothetical connection between Jews and blacks.

SHOALS: A figure in the book like Abe Saperstein is incredibly hard to make sense of by today’s standards. He wasn’t white, but was more white than the blacks he dealt with professionally. This had its avantages, for him and his black peers (and even the players), but also made him an easy target. There’s a real connection there, but it’s remarkably ambivalent.

ALPERT: With any historical myth, it’s important to see what’s underneath it. But it’s also important to remember the Jews who created that myth saw themselves immediately after the Holocaust. They weren’t talking about the Holocaust, but I do believe they used the changes in American society and use championing the changes in American society as a way to deal with anti-Semitism as much as it was to do with anti-black racism.

SHOALS: That was one of the more striking, I think, single themes in the book. Because that almost really does turn it into what makes it seem self-serving. It could have been anyone. Robinson is, in a way, the missing link between the struggle of Hank Greenberg and Koufax’s great moment of acceptance by mainstream America. What makes it tricky is that he’s at once subject and object.

ALPERT: You can’t separate Koufax from the whole Six Day War phenomenon, as well. When you talk about the power of the civil rights movement, Jews, I think, at that time, translated the civil rights stuff in relation to the Six Day War. And in 1967 was Koufax and the Six Day War and it was all “Jew is beautiful.” I lived through it, and that is how I experienced it. And I think it’s borne out by a lot of the literature. That’s really what was going on.

SHOALS: Also, that’s right on the verge of the late 60s split between Jews and blacks in the movement. It’s interesting timing there that the most Zionist pressure point is also the one where the “special relationship” starts to fray.

ALPERT: Absolutely. I sort of feel like blacks are saying to us, “You’ve stolen enough. You’ve taken enough. Now you’re taking our ‘black is beautiful’ thing. No, you can’t have it. No, you can’t claim to have done anything that has contributed to our well-being.”

SHOALS: I wonder if there also isn’t a different between business interest versus activist interest. When you’re talking about business situations, there’s almost inherently strife, because there’s money involved.. Whereas activism, the people are working together because they have common ideological goals or at least overlapping ones. The Negro Leagues are bound to make Jews look less sympathetic because they’re trying to make money. It was a business. You get the same problem in the record business. Jews helped promote music, but they also exploited artists at times.

ALPERT: Part of the problem with sport, and entertainment as well, is that people don’t want to think of it as a business. They want to think there’s something holier or purer about it, which is, again, how Jews concoct their connection to baseball a lot of the time. But you’re absolutely right when business interests get involved. You read a lot of criticism also of the black Negro League owners. It wasn’t like they were good guys and these Jews were bad guys. I tried to bring that out in the book as well. I wanted to love [owners like] Cumberland Posey and Effa Manley, but they, too, were business people.

October 20th, 2011

Today, The Classical begins. Well, sort of. The little sports site that could decided we couldn’t wait until our permanent home was ready. Nor could the MLB calendar. Thus, we will be keeping a daily World Series diary on Deadspin. Today, our first, is from Eric Freeman. It’s about Tony La Russa’s misshapen individualism. 

July 13th, 2011

For Tablet, I got to do a profile of Al Rosen, the Indians slugger who probably should be a lot more highly-regarded than he is. After 10 or 12 minutes of prime material, Rosen said “But you’re not going to print all of this. We’re just talking now, like two friends.” It offered a remarkable insight into the relationship between athletes and the media, circa 1956. Rosen knew he had given me enough to write the story, and then gone the extra mile to lend it some shading. His clarification was the equivalent of “background”. But the language he used at that moment, and the assumption of mutual respect, even trust, were relics from another era.

June 28th, 2011
There’s this book called ‘Voices of Baseball’—I don’t know if it’s in print anymore. It’s a book I got when I was a kid; I think it came out in the Eighties. It’s not an oral history of baseball, but it’s basically a book made out of quotes pulled from all different kinds of sources and then arranged by subject, including teams, cities, players, eras, race, drugs, sex, and the history of the game. Sometimes I think my whole idea of poetry was shaped more by books like that than by poetry books.
Anselm Berrigan, in my interview with him for the Poetry Foundation.