Not Cricket: “Bat Form”

Proponent-of-Moneyball Luthnow—victimized by success?

Proponent-of-Moneyball Luhnow—victimized by success?

Front-office personnel of the venerable St. Louis Cardinals franchise have plenty of explaining to do as the FBI investigates their hacking of the Houston Astros’s databases.

Besides the Times, Reuters has now weighed in to let the rest of the world know: Man, it just ain’t cricket!

Bluntly put, the incident or series of incidents likely involve envious retribution over the recent success of exec Jeff Luhnow, who moved from the Cardinals’s front office to the post of Astros’s GM.

The Cardinals, smack in the beer capital of America, are, as stated, one of the elite teams in MLB. The Astros have never had much collective success either in the National or American Leagues—the latter to which the franchise moved in 2013, aetat. 51, an unusual if not unprecedented transition, which Luhnow oversaw.

Move over China and other national-and-business entities better known for hacking datum networks. “Meet me in Houston, Houston?” Yes, “St. Louie has a problem.”

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Test Match Special—Voices of Summer

In the last ten years of my life, I (Parth) have been introduced to BBC Test Match Special. The month of May is the dawn of every English summer season. That means the voices of summer will describe the moments of my summer once again throughout the summer. Like any time-honored tradition, the start of the English summer has become one to look forward to in any calendar year. And I do. These voices, by calling the games, have become a the soundtrack of my summer. I look forward to them every year like a 5-year-old does to Christmas.

I am not English, but during the summer season, simply by osmosis of TMS, I become an English cricket fan. By following TMS, I get to revel in the rich history of the sport I love, in a country that has had most of it. It is perhaps the best time of the year. And, let’s be honest, the English know how to celebrate the game, in its truest sense. I am not English; but these cultural and sporting institutions make me yearn to be one!

And, the fact is, who is not in love with Henry Blofeld? (Do listen to the BBC program called the Voices of Summer).  (Available only for 28 days from today).


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Baseball in Iran

Sports-crazed Iranians take up baseball in significant numbers.

Sports-crazed Iranians take up baseball in significant numbers.

A chance reading of The New Yorker gave pause when I (Evander) noted the growing popularity of baseball in Iran. Baseball has been an organized activity there since 1993.

Reporter Jason Rezaian, a dual citizen of Iran working for the Washington Post, is jailed (as is his wife, Yeganeh Salehi) and now being tried in an Iranian court—tho not for his coverage of baseball. In fact, he writes that love of the game has suffered due to Western economic sanctions (“gloves for lefthanders are scarce”).

The Baseball and Softball Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Persian: انجمن بیس بال و سافت بال جمهوری اسلامی ایران‎) is the governing body for baseball and softball over there. It was founded in 1993 as a baseball, softball, cricket, and rugby union federation, splitting from the rugby and cricket association in 2010.

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Heee’s Baaack!

Kevin Pietersen

We need to talk about Kevin

Kevin Pietersen—the perennial thorn in the flesh in English cricket, the man whom everyone thought we’d moved on from, the busted flush, the bloke from a bygone era, the no-longer-under-consideration-under-any-circumstances chap—refuses, like Freddy Krueger, to go away. He’s just scored 326 not out for Surrey against Leicestershire. It may be his first championship century, and he may be playing in the cricketing equivalent to Triple-A baseball, but this is the sort of statement that no one at the English Cricket Board—even with the tinniest of ears or sternest of hearts—can ignore.

We can sort out where he’d fit in the batting order and whom to leave out, but a revived, emotionally resilient, and pugnacious Kevin Pietersen striding out to face the Australians in the Ashes this summer would be just be irresistible, and great box office as well. English cricket has been languishing in the public’s attention for too long: Pietersen’s return—a last hurrah perhaps—might just be what is needed to focus the mind again.

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An A-bomb from A-Rod

A-Rod says all the right things—for once.

A-Rod says all the right things—for once.

Alex Rodriguez surpassed Willie Mays last night by batting career home run 661. Not all of them came out of a bottle or from stiletto hypodermic needle.

When the New York Yankees signed A-Rod, when the late George Steinbrenner their legendary principal owner signed A-Rod, the expectation was “first American to bat 800 home runs in a career.” First Hispanic-American at that.

Maybe even the all-time record of 868 dingers from Sadaharu Oh would fall, re-projecting this preeminent sports record of power to the U.S…where the game as we know it was invented and where many believe it is best played. More importantly in the American-baseball psyche, this record would always be a projection of Yankees power. It will not happen, and the story why is well known.

As W. H. Auden puts it, for the time being (below) hear the nonetheless-historic call by announcer John Sterling.

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Hold the Peanuts and Cracker Jack

Strange indeed when the fans aren't visible

Strange indeed when even the fans aren’t visible

Back in the day (1955-83) there was a DC Comics series called the Brave and the Bold, which sometimes featured “Strange Sports Stories.” Pictured left is the invisible-cosmic baseball team.

But what if a game were played before invisible fans? Today, as a result of simmering civic unrest in Baltimore, the Orioles hosted the Chicago White Sox in front of no one but the players themselves at ever-stunning, pristine Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

This is a first in Major League Baseball history and begs the question: If a home run is hit in a fan-less forest….


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The Motherland of Baseball

CCCP National Baseball Club

The CCCP National Baseball Club: fiction and fact

In Right off the Bat, Martin and I trace the contours of international-baseball competition. Such count the Olympics (including Hitler’s infamous 1936 Games), the World Baseball Classic, and the far older European Baseball Championship. In fact, some of the all-time largest crowds, in the low six figures, have witnessed baseball at two different Summer Olympics: Berlin and, less shocking, Tokyo in 1964.

The number of nations fielding professional ball clubs is somewhat surprising. But big-time play between “baseball countries” is nowhere on the competitive scale of the just-completed ICC World Cup or the just-commencing (at this writing) IPL.

One of the largely unreported and offbeat stories regarding the spread of the National Pastime involves a Soviet barnstorming squad from 1989. If this first brings to mind the New York Yankees chewing up amateur Japanese teams of the early 1930s, then “barnstorming” might not be le mot juste.

Check out this report from the Times—exactly twenty-six years ago.

Speaking of contours, there is a learning curve to be sure, and we are not talking of the Sal Maglie variety. The late cold-war event inspired a no-doubt entertaining TV movie, The Comrades of Summer, a few years later.

Progress continues apace via the Russian Federation of Baseball, and Russia even grabbed a Silver Medal at the EBC in 2001. (Greece won its lone CEB Silver the year before; and, having resorted to their language, let me now say that France sneaked in a medal, too.)

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