September 25th, the past, the future, and what lies between.

There are some days that burn themselves into the history of sports.

Some of them are for good reasons: Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier on April 15, 1947, for example.

Some of them are for bad reasons: September 5 and 6, 1972 were the days when the Munich Massacre happened at the Olympics.

And some of them are for reasons both good and bad: June 17, 1994 was perhaps the most eventful day in sports history. There was even a documentary about it. Game 5 of the NBA finals was in New York. The New York Rangers had their victory parade. The first World Cup on American soil began. Baseball wasn’t on strike yet. Arnold Palmer (I’ll get back to him) played his final US Open round. Overshadowing it all, though, was Buffalo Bills legend OJ Simpson in a white Bronco.

Yesterday, September 25, 2016 was one of the last kinds of those days. The mixed kind. For you see, yesterday saw both the past and the future die. It also saw the present live.

Jose Fernandez was the future. An immigrant who fled Cuba after years of trying, diving into the water to save his mother during the trip. He pitched with a joy that few have seen, and his pitching brought that same joy to all except those who opposed him. His determination was also legendary: when he arrived in America at 15, he was by all accounts a far cry from the stud pitcher he became. It was only through hard work that he became a prospect, then a super-prospect, and then a ace.

And then he got hurt, and was mostly missing for two whole season.

And then he came back, better than he was before. A rising star who was an attraction by himself, and with endless potential ahead of him. One of the new faces of baseball, every bit as amazing as Trout, Harper, Machado and their ilk.

Except, in some ways, Fernandez was more than any of them. He represented the ideal of the game of baseball that in some ways has only existed in our minds. The game where everyone can play, regardless of where they come from or what language they can speak. The game where people can have fun like they had when they were kids, even if they are being paid absurd amounts of money. The game that is a game, not a war (like football).

And now he’s gone. A potential Hall of Fame career, up in smoke along the Florida coast, along with the lives of two of his friends. What he could have been, whether he could have met that potential and continued to bring so much joy to a game that at times desperately needs it… we will never know.

We do, however, know what Arnold Palmer had. He had quite the past. He wasn’t the greatest golfer ever, but he may have been the most famous, and with good reason. He has a drink named after him- not even Babe Ruth has that (he had to settle for a candy bar that officially isn’t even named after him). He loved the sport he played, and was one of the best at it. While it is tragic that he has passed, he lived a full life, and left his mark upon the sports world that his talent deserved.

Arnold Palmer, in other words, lived the life that Jose Fernandez could have lived.

Between mourning the lost future of Jose Fernandez and the glorious past of Arnold Palmer, the games went on, as they almost always do. It was full of the moments- good and bad and in-between- that define sports, and life. Vin Scully said goodbye to LA, yes, but there was also a walk-off HR to clinch the division. Football and golf went on, bringing their usual pains and triumphs. There is less than a week left to go in the MLB season, with some races still be decided, some careers still left to be finished and continued.

Yes, the games go on. They won’t show us what Jose Fernandez could have become, or what Arnold Palmer once was, but they will go on. And they will help us ease the pain and nostalgia, just as they help us forget the woes of everyday life on any given day.

After all, that’s what we love sports for, is it not?

“The Disappointment League, AKA The Mudville Faithful”, a baseball play I wrote in college

In 2011, while taking a drama class in college for some reason, I wrote a 5-page play that looked at how “Casey at the Bat” might have been perceived from the stands. It was then promptly forgotten, until it was found in the deepest depths of my computer in a file of old things. The following is that play. With the exception of two name changes (due to them being too close to the names of actual people I know) and a few small edits for grammar, format, or clarity, the following is exactly what was handed in in 2011, warts and all. All rights belong to me but if you absolutely positively want to put it on, let me know and I’ll probably give you the okay so long as you film it so I can see it and share it. So without further ado….

The Disappointment League (AKA The Mudville Faithful)

Characters:

Bill, a sports fan who is often disappointed by the poor performance of his teams.

Harold, Bill’s father.

June, a regular at the ballpark who is friendly but easily annoyed. Somewhat of a deadpan delivery.

Annie, a female fan whose love of the game is matched only by the power of her vocal cords, keeps a scorecard.

Benny, loud-mouthed, entitled, Italian-American fan of the opposing team. He is heavily intoxicated.

Announcer, off-stage PA announcer

Other fans are there, but do not have lines beyond the occasional crowd chant.

Setting: A raised stand full of seats at a stadium, we can’t see what is going on in the field, but the seats are filled with people in team jerseys- most of them in white and red (including Bill, Harold, June and Annie). But there is one person who is in a black-pinstriped white jersey (Benny). There is a walkway behind the seats where the fans could exit and enter, and there is a railing on that walkway for standing room only crowds to lean on. A baseball team’s dugout can be placed in front of the front row, for things like sodas and food to be placed, but otherwise it can be just assumed to be there but invisible. While the seating can be anything from just one or two rows to a whole bleacher of it (the logical extreme would be to hold it in a actual baseball stadium), some things are important: Bill and Harold are sitting next to each other, Annie is as far away from Bill and Harold as possible while staying in the same section seating, June is either two seats to the right of Bill and Harold or is one seat over and one row up from them, Benny is sitting either next to or kitty-corner to June. The rest of the seats are filled out with others, but they aren’t really important. The crowd should be jostling in their seats, the occasional “C’mon Nine!” and “Get a hit!” echoing from the extras, but now, it is a quiet murmur.

Announcer: Due up in the bottom of the ninth for Mudville- Cooney, Barrows and Flynn. Coming in for New York… Sparks Hagen.

(A grumble rises from the crowd.)

Bill: Well, this is it, dad. Down 4-2, one inning left.

Harold: Yeah, we’re in trouble. I mean, Hagen…. jeez.

Bill: Annie? How many people have to get in for Casey to come up?

(ANNIE looks at her scorecard for a second.)

Annie: Well, let’s see, Cooney, Barrows, Flynn, Jimmy Blake…. then there’s Casey.

June: There’s no way we’re getting there. Especially if…..

(Benny gets up and yells.)

Benny: Woooooah, Bombers! Let’s finish this thing, Hagen!

(JUNE turns to Benny and gives him a deathly glare, the ANNOUNCER then comes on the PA system.)

Announcer: Now batting for Mudville, Ernest Cooney….

(BILL claps.)

Bill: C’mon, Cooney!

(The sound of the crack of a bat. The crowd makes a brief rise in noise, but it then quickly goes down in disappointment, except for Benny, who stands and goes “YEEEEEEAAAAHHH!”)

Annie: (Looking down at scorecard, which she is annotating) Cooney… grounded out to short.

(Benny stands up again.)

Benny: WOOOOOOO! NEW YORK! TWO OUTS AWAY!

Bill: (turning) Shut up!

Benny: WOOOO! NEW YORK!

Harold: (under his breath) Drunken idiot.

(Everyone calms down for a second as the announcer comes up again.)

Announcer: Now batting for Mudville, Lawrence Barrow….

June: He better not swing at the first pitch.

(Sound of a bat hitting ball. A groan emanates from the crowd except for Benny, who cheers. ANNIE turns to her scorecard.)

Annie: Barrow lines out to first.

Benny: ONE OUT AWAY, BABY!

(JUNE turns around.)

June: (Grumpy) Uh-hum!

(Benny ignores her. Meanwhile one or two of the extras have gotten up and left early to beat traffic.)

Benny: WE’RE GONNA WIN AND YOU MUDVILLE LOSERS WILL FINALLY HAVE TO ADMIT HOW AWESOME WE ARE!

(BILL finally has had it, and gets up, as the ANNOUNCER calls the next batter.)

Announcer: Now batting for Mudville…. William Flynn!

Bill: (To Benny) Wait until the last out, butt-head!

Harold (putting hand on Bill’s shoulder): Calm down, son.

Benny: Oh yeah! What makes you think you can win this, kid?

Bill: Casey can still come to the plate, and he could end it with one swing!

(The sound of a baseball hitting a catcher’s mitt is heard.)

Annie (ignoring the argument between BILL and Benny): GOOD EYE, FLYNN! JUST GET ON BASE!

Benny (still talking to Bill): C’mon, Casey isn’t coming up. Your bench is empty, and Flynn is a has-been and Blake is a piece of cake!

Bill: This is baseball, anything can happen.

(Harold nods. The sound of bat hitting ball is heard and the crowd erupts.)

Harold: Get down, get down!

Annie: THAT’S A HIT! (Turns to her scorecard and marks it a hit.)

(The crowd is getting excited, more shouting of “C’mon Mudville!” and similar things.)

June: One more hit to Casey….

Benny: There ain’t gonna be a hit!

Harold: He doesn’t need a hit, he just need to get on.

Announcer: Now batting, Jimmy Blake!

Annie: C’MON BLAKE!

Bill: JUST GET ON BASE, BLAKE!

(The sound of a ball hitting a glove.)

Benny: YEAH! TWO MORE STRIKES!

Bill: Will you be quiet?

June: He isn’t gonna listen, Bill. Don’t even try.

(The sound of a ball hitting a glove.)

Annie: GOOD EYE, JIMMY!

Harold: He needs to wait for his pitch.

Benny: PLEASE, BLAKE COULDN’T HIT WAY OUT OF A PAPER-

(Benny is interrupted by the crack of the bat. The crowd goes wild.)

Annie: GO! GO! GO!

Harold: C’mon…

Bill: Send him! Send him! [beat] DON’T SEND HIM! DON’T SEND HIM!

June: He’s going to be out at third….

(The crowd erupts into a giant roar.)

Bill: SAFE!

Harold: SAFE!

Benny: C’MON! UMP! ARE YOU KIDDING ME! HE WAS OUT!

(The crowd starts to build in noise as the announcer again comes on the PA.)

Announcer: Now batting for Mudville…. Phineas Casey!

Annie: (Catching up on scorecard) Blake doubled, Flynn to third…

(The crowd begins to chant “CA-SEY! CA-SEY!” Except for Benny.)

Harold: A hit to tie, a homer to win…

Annie: JUST GET A HIT, CASEY!

Benny: YOU SUCK, CASEY!

(The pitcher throws the sphere, and everyone groans about the pitch as it hits the catcher’s mitt. Strike one.)

Harold: That was his pitch.

June: Ye-ep.

Benny: Ha! I bet the selfish bum just didn’t think that big fat pitch wasn’t his style.

Bill: Oh, be quiet!

(Another pitch. The sound of the ball hitting the glove. Everyone begins to boo and yell.)

Bill: OH, COME ON UMP! YOU ARE A FRAUD!

Annie: IF IT WEREN’T ILLEGAL, I’D KILL YOU UMP!

Benny: ONE STRIKE AWAY, BABY!

June: Settle down, all of you!

Harold: He’s got to swing at this, if it is at all close.

(The crowd gets to it’s feet, growing louder and louder….. and louder… and louder and then….)

(The lights go out, except for one, which is shown on Bill.)

Bill: Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.

(Bill slams a fist into his hand, in anger and disappointment, and walks off dejectedly.)

####

 

Pictures from #GlickTrip16 (Part 1)

At the end of August and the very beginning of September, I went to Chicago (and Milwaukee) with my father on a long-delayed trip to the three MLB stadiums there, as well as some museums and other sites. This is the first of three or four installments featuring pictures and memories/neat stuff I remember. Go below the jump (after the first picture) to see them:

Continue reading

BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Take “The Human Target” Out To The Ballgame

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Comic Book universes are huge and diverse, going through countless genres and containing both nitty-gritty realism and utterly fantastic science fiction or fantasy. And yet, they all take place in the same universe, no matter how different they seem. You can get a idea of just how crazy this is by looking at Marvel’s movie/TV empire, where Daredevil and Guardians of the Galaxy are both taking place in the same universe despite the fact that one of them is about a guy beating up mob bosses (and the occasional ninja) while the other one has both a talking raccoon and a talking tree.

However, as a result of this, sometimes characters get lost in the shuffle. They are technically part of the universe, but they rarely interact with it. Maybe it’s because their adventures are on the more mature side, maybe they are stuck in another dimension that the usual heroes don’t go to so often, or maybe, they aren’t seen because that’s just the way they want it…

Such is the case of Christopher Chance, AKA the Human Target. He’s not a completely unknown character- he’s been the subject of two short-lived shows based on his comics (the most notable being a two-season FOX series starring Mark Valley and James Earle Haley), but he’s firmly in the D-list of DC Comics. And those were both pretty different from the comics and had little indication of taking place in a world of DC Comics. In fact, when it was announced that the Human Target would be coming to Arrow, some people were surprised to find out that he even was a DC character. That’s probably because he doesn’t interact with the rest of the DC Universe all that much. Or maybe he does, but we just don’t know it.

Because, you see, the Human Target is a master of disguise. He becomes the would-be assassination victim using heavy prosthetic-work and a knack for copying voices and body language. And in this installment of Bizarre Baseball Culture, Christopher Chance figuratively steps up to the plate:

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 10.29.36 AM Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 10.30.43 AMGO BELOW THE JUMP FOR MORE:

Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Pablo Sanchez

Today, August 18, is an important day, as it is the birthday of the greatest baseball player of all time: Pablo Sanchez. Yes, Pablo Sanchez. The Secret Weapon. You remember him, from back in the day, that Mexican-American wonder-kid who couldn’t speak a lick of English (or so he claimed), but could speak the language of baseball like nobody else. He could throw a no-hitter (although pitching wasn’t his main strength), hit the ball 723 feet, and was also a great multi-sport athlete who also played soccer, hockey, football and basketball.

To this day, it is said, if you find a sandlot, close your eyes, and think of him, you can still hear his song drift through the wind, reminding us all of the legend.

Feliz cumpleaños, Pablo. We know you continue to fight the good fight.

 

(Oh, and I guess I should take the time to wish a happy birthday to my sister as well.)

Matching MLB Players with Olympians (2016 Edition)

Back in 2012, the BBC put up a neat little online app that said what Olympian you were most similar to in height and weight. Needless to say, I took advantage of the kindness of our friends across the pond by using it to compare MLB players to Olympians. Well, the BBC did it again, adding a age portion to it as well. So, after the jump, check out how some MLB players compare to Olympians.

Continue reading

The Hall of Very Good has added four, and I helped by honoring Jose Canseco’s Bizarre Baseball Cultural Life

The Hall of Very Good has added four new members: Bill Buckner, Jose Canseco, Russ Grimsley and celebrity inductee Thomas Ian Nicholas (AKA Henry Rowengartner), with the Glenn Burke Memorial Courage Award set to be revealed on Friday.

As part of the celebration of this eclectic group, I did a rundown of Jose Canseco’s many bizarre appearances in Pop Culture, from Reading Rainbow to the upcoming movie Slamma Jamma. Check it out.

REVIEW: Strat-O-Matic Baseball Daily a great idea with room for improvement

The Baseball Continuum is on vacation, but here’s a bit to help hold you over.

The idea behind Strat-O-Matic Baseball Daily is simple: it’s a computer simulation of the famed Strat-O-Matic tabletop game, but the cards change day-by-day to reflect what’s going on in the real world. For example, if a player is on a hot streak, his card will change to make it more likely (for example) that he will hit a home run and less likely that he will strike out. Similarly, if the team’s ace has been getting shelled, his card will be changed to increase the odds that he’ll be having a bad day.

It’s a good idea, and it definitely has some good points and will no doubt get better in the future, but as it stands right now, it is not as good as it could be. The main reason for this lies in the interface and ease of use- it just isn’t quite up to the standards of the current generations of other baseball simulators that exist right now like Out Of The Park Baseball.

For one thing, it takes awhile to set up. You need to get online to download everything, which isn’t a problem, but you the thing is that everything is separate from each other. There’s the main game, but the Baseball Daily portion is separate from that. And other parts are also separate. There are a lot of games that do similar things to this these days, but it just felt clunky for some reason here. Perhaps it is all in the presentation.

For another, the controls and menus in the game feel like they are 10 to 20 years out of date. Again, it’s hard to really describe this, it’s more a case of feel, but compared to other games in the genre it feels like you need to click through more screens, fiddle with more settings, and the like.

However… once you do get it up and running to your satisfaction, it does exactly what it goes out to do and changes the roster day by day as you move forward and does the same with the player cards. Oh, yes, I’ve seen some complaints on their message boards and elsewhere that sometimes the updates aren’t correct, but for the most part, it definitely changes correctly. Players enter and exit your roster during the season as they did in the real world, and their cards also change accordingly. If you want to see if you could do better in the season than your favorite team’s actual manager, this is where you can do it with the exact same rosters available to them.

And, really, how cool is that?

So, while I can’t suggest it to everyone right now, I can say to keep an eye on it in future years as the game no doubt is refined and improved further.

Note: I was provided a free copy of the game.

CONTINUUCAST 9 featuring @StaceGots, WBC News and a special BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE announcement!

The Baseball Continuum Continuucast’s ninth episode with special guest Stacey Gostulias (and her cat)! Hit play above, download by right-clicking here, follow the RSS feed here or follow on iTunes here or Stitcher here (if the latest episode isn’t up yet, it will be shortly).

The 9th Continuucast, now able to fill a NL starting lineup!

 

First, Dan talks to Stacey Gotsulias (and her cat) about the Yankees, New Yankee Stadium, the super-expensive seats in said stadium, the possibility that baseball may one day have ads on uniforms, baseball’s attempts at broadening it’s fanbase, and more. Big thanks to Stacey, who can be followed on Twitter at @StaceGots!

 

Next, Dan give his opinions on Jim Leyland being hired for Team USA in 2017.

 

Finally, Dan previews the next Continuucast, and makes a special announcement about another area that the Baseball Continuum is expanding into! Fans of BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE will want to hear this!

 

Music/Sounds Featured:

 

“The National Game” by John Phillip Sousa

 

“Here Come The Yankees”

 

The World Baseball Classic Theme

 

“Flight of the Bumblebee” (AKA The Green Hornet Theme) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov performed by the US Army Band (special “Bizarre Baseball Culture” remix by Dan Glickman featuring the Pablo Sanchez Theme and clips from previous and future Bizarre Baseball Culture pieces)

 

The Theme from Fallout 4

 

All sound and music used is either public domain or is a short snippet that falls under fair use.

 

OOTP Baseball 2017 Review

Note: I was provided a early review copy of the game.

First, let’s cut to the chase: Out of the Park Baseball is back in it’s 2017-titled installment, and it has maintained it’s strengths, improved in it’s weaker areas, licenses from both MLB and the MLBPA, and more data and options than ever. If you are wondering if it’s worth getting now over previous versions, the answer is: yes, yes it is. And if you are wondering if it’s a good OOTP to start with, I say: yes, yes it is. It’s not perfect, but nothing is.

Now, this review mostly focuses on what’s new. What I said in my three previous reviews still, for the most part, holds up.

But, man, what is added is substantial. Previous years may have added a bit here and there, or introduced features that, while good in theory, were somewhat unfinished in practice. And while that “never finished” feeling still is in effect in some areas of OOTP 17, this year’s installment is one of the most polished leap forwards in the series.

Take, for example, the 3D view. In previous years, the 3D view was sometimes more trouble than it was worth, and sometimes would wonk up the system. But now…

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 11.39.23 AMAs you can see, you can now see little peg-people representing the players. And they will move to represent the plays that happen. For example, if a batter walks, you’ll see their little peg move down to first, and if there’s a ball hit to left, you’ll see a little ball go to left and see the left-fielder chase it down. It’s not exactly high-technology, but it gets the point across. Even better, it doesn’t seem to affect how smoothly the game runs, although of course that will depend a bit on your computer. I love this, it adds a bit of “as it’s happening” flare to games that wasn’t there before, and turns what to me was something of a boondoggle way of viewing the field into something I’ll probably use regularly.

Also in that picture, you can see a bit of another great new feature: historical exhibition play! I covered this a bit during one of my “30 Teams, 30 Posts” installments, but I’ll cover it again a bit here. Basically, you can have any MLB team in history play any other MLB team in history. You could do this before, but it was very time-intensive. Now, it’s as simple as selecting a team and choosing your wanted setting and/or rosters. It’s both a good way to see interesting match-ups and also a good introduction to OOTP for people who haven’t played it before and don’t want to jump straight into the longer modes.

That doesn’t mean that the longer modes haven’t received updates. They have. In addition to the usual upgrading of rosters to their current state, is also the addition of historical minor leagues! Want to see what might have happened if Michael Jordan had continued his baseball career? You can!

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.06.07 PMWhile those are the big changes, there are also some small changes that, together, add a lot. For example, there are now computer-written recaps for games you play and/or simulate. Is it something that completely changes the game? No. But they are nice to have.

Really, if I have any issues with this year’s installment, it’s how the Steam version of it only supports the workshop for mods. In previous years, you could use a in-game system to download new logos and rosters from the internet easily, this time it only can connect to the Steam Workshop. While OOTP Developments has said that most if not all mods will eventually come to the Workshop, right now only two are there, meaning to get some mods you have to go poking around the internet for the files and install them manually. Annoying, but not a deal-breaker by any means. Hopefully it improves soon, though, as OOTP and Steam’s Workshop would seem to be made for each other.

But, really, other than that and maybe the occasional bug that will always rear up in a game of this scale and complexity, Out of the Park Baseball 2017 is quite possibly the greatest baseball simulator of all time. At least… until next year, when those mad geniuses will probably top it again!