Super-early announcement: The 2017 #Blogathon will be January 27-29

Yesterday, perhaps the last piece of Blogathon business was done, as I sent out the last giveaways from the Blogathon to the lucky folks who won.

So, I figure now is as good a time as any to announce that next year’s Blogathon will happen on the weekend of January 27-29. This could change depending on some other factors, but that likely will be the weekend. Like this year, it will be for Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, but certain other things might be different, for example I’d like to use something that allows for Paypal donations as that would allow for more people to donate.

Still, all of that is almost a year away. But I just wanted to let everyone know… and note that the countdown on the side of page has been reset!

A Thank You, a Reminder and some other things about the 2016 Blogathon

It’s now almost two days since the last post of the 2016 Blogathon went up, and we are at $610 dollars, over $110 over our $500 goal for Roswell Park Alliance Foundation and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. That is great, and I have a lot of people that I have to thank: the various people who have contributed books and other possible giveaways (I’ll be letting you know the winners once the donations are done), the people who donated, and, of course, the many people contributed pieces to the Blogathon.

However, the drive is not yet over! As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the donations are not yet done! They are open until Super Bowl Sunday! And remember, if you donate, you have a chance to get…

  • Playing With The Enemy by Gary W. Moore
  • A “Living Baseball Card” mini-documentary on Andre Dawson
  • 2007 AAA Baseball Heroes comic
  • Signed copy of 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die by Ron Kaplan (contributed by Kaplan)
  • Wild and Inside by Stefan Fatsis (Contributed by Kayla Thompson)
  • Signed Copy of The Baseball Codes by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca (contributed by the authors)
  • One of three copies of Out of the Park Baseball (Contributed by Out of the Park Developments)
  • Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes, by John Rosengren (Contributed by Sean Lahman)
  • The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron,  by Howard Bryant (Contributed by Lahman)

 

So, please, donate!

And, what’s more, I am proud to announce that THE BASEBALL CONTINUUM BLOGATHON FOR CHARITY WILL RETURN IN 2017.

But, again, until then… DONATE!

 

Every Piece from the 2016 Blogathon

The Blogathon’s written portion is over. We had a great bunch of pieces from people from all across the spectrum of baseball: we had people from all over the world write pieces, and they ranged from award-winning pro writers all the way down to college students who are just getting started. And they wrote about all different kinds of things! In addition, I contributed pieces throughout Friday and pulled some pieces out of the archives to fill in those parts of the morning where nobody was awake for. And, remember, you can still donate until next Sunday.

Anyway, if you missed anything, here are links to all of the pieces from the #Blogathon (not counting “breather” posts where I posted about giveaways, who was writing, what you missed during the night, etc.), in chronological order (if you want to skip nearly all of my stuff, scroll down to Day 2):

Day 1 (all done by Dan Glickman):

Introduction

Famous For Something Else: Eddy Alvarez, Silver Medal Speed Skater

Baseball Card Haikus

Moe Berg’s Secret Agent Files

A Random Musing on the Fairport Little League Money-Grabbing Promotion

Songs of October (Post-2015 update)

On The Joe Maddon Head

Related To Somebody Famous For Something Else: Tony Lupien, WWE Star John Cena’s Grandpa

WBC News for January 29, 2016

International Baseball Culture: Mitsuru Adachi’s “Touch”, Part 1, which ironically doesn’t have much baseball in it

2017 WBC Team USA Projections Version 0.1

2017 WBC Team Dominican Republic projections Version 0.1

Three Mini-Book Reviews

Renaming Moved Teams

Mr. Go, if adapted for American audiences

Musings on AAA Baseball

The Sliding Scale of Fictional Baseball Realism

First References to Off-The-Field Innovations and Innovators

BREAKING OOTP, Ep. 5: The No-Homers Club

The 50th BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: DC’s greatest heroes and villains… PLAY BASEBALL?

Rochester Red Wings Programs of the Past: 1990

Scanned Hats

Day 2:

Jonathan Weeks: The Greatest Man I Have Known

Mets Daddy: The Highs And Lows of 1986

Seth Poho: The 2016 Nuclear Plant Team

CONTINUUM CLASSIC: The “Backyard Baseball” Kids: Where Are They Now?

CONTINUUM CLASSIC: 2007 AAA BASEBALL HEROES

CONTINUUM CLASSIC- The time I wrote an obituary for the 2012 Baltimore Orioles’ playoff hopes. Whoops.

Yakyu Night Owl: Dreams of Kenji-kun

Matt Wojciak: 2015 Middle Relief Report

Matt Taylor: Adam Jones Is a Difference Maker for Baltimore

Diane Firstman: Baseball Crossword Puzzle

Kayla Thompson: “Wild And Outside” Review

Dan Hirsch: The Most Average Player in Baseball History

Dan Szymborski: Doughy Nerd Gets A Job

Stacey Gotsulias: Sonnet 13

Jason Cohen: Reminiscing about Chien-Ming Wang and What Could Have Been

Eric Stephen: On Baseball and Brothers

Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman: Nelly’s “Batter Up”

Sean Lahman: How Soon is Now? Reds Fans React to Rebuild Plan

Howard Cole: Thoughts on Retiring Roberto Clemente’s Number 21

Jeff Katz: Anniversaries and World Series

Matthew Kory: “My Friend Bud”

Mike Oz: The History of Baseball Players Rapping, Abridged

Graveyard Baseball- Your guide to adopting an NPB team Part 12: Saitama Seibu Lions (埼玉西武ライオンズ)

Nate Fish: Ezra, the Ballplayer

Day 3:

Ron Kaplan- Read All About It: Blogs That Will Keep You Up on Baseball Books

Chris Kabout: Former Red Sox farmhand gives a hand in battle against cancer

Andrew Martin: A talk with Alex George

CLASSIC CONTINUUM- Bizarre Baseball Culture’s “SHORTSTOP SQUAD”

CLASSIC CONTINUUM- BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: COSMIC SLAM

Greg Gay: Victim of Circumstance

Hawkins DuBois- Searching for Baseball’s New Frontier: Examining the World of Mental Skills Training

Dan Weigel: Ranking the 15 most entertaining European baseball team names

James Attwood: Slow to Change is Not Always a Bad Thing

The Answer Key to Diane Firstman’s Crossword Puzzle

Stacey Folkemer: Baseball is more than a game, it’s part of the family

Stephanie Liscio- Forgotten Champions: The 1945 Cleveland Buckeyes

Patrick Dubuque: A Ghost Among Cardboard

Alex Skillin: Are we entering the Golden Age of Shortstops?

Gary Cieradkowski: Win Ballou

Jessica Quiroli- The Minor League Baseball Lawsuit: Wealth vs. the Working Class

The Author of @OldHossRadbourn: Three Catches

Kazuto Yamazaki: NPB Bat-Flip Juggernauts to Watch For

Jason Turbow: Thon-A-Thon

David Brown- Taters, tobacco and terror: Baseball in the Future

Marc Normandin: Bret Saberhagen’s case for the Hall of Nearly Great

Dan Epstein: The First Time

Michael Clair: An (Abbreviated) People’s History of the World Through Baseball Cards

Jen Mac Ramos: Baseball Bonds

 

So, thank you!

 

 

(Blogathon ’16) Jen Mac Ramos: Baseball Bonds

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

I was 16 when I first took an interest in baseball. I didn’t grow up with sports and I leaned more toward art than anything else.

Something changed, though. I watched an NLDS game on a whim in 2007 and thought, “Hey, I actually like this sport.” I grew more invested as the Postseason went on and I knew this wasn’t going to be something that leaves me.

***

My father was a Mets fan when he lived in New Jersey in the 1980s. He can tell you stories about watching the 1986 Mets.

Growing up, a love of baseball was never instilled in me, though. Instead, I was the one who brought baseball into the family.

At first, my father thought that I had gotten interested in baseball because my friend at the time loved baseball.

I remember getting into a fight about it with him before my first game—Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics, May 24, 2008. He told me that it wasn’t something that I had ever been interested in before, but I know that I was going to be interested in it for a long time.

***

I dragged my father to more games. I was about 18 then and I didn’t have a car. After a while, I guess he realized that I truly loved the sport and everything surrounding it.

He began watching games when I wasn’t around. I had gone to college in Oakland—about two hours away from my hometown—and he would call me after the Giants game to talk about it. He would also watch A’s games, because my brother became a fan after that game in 2008.

***

2014 came around and my dad and I went to New Jersey. I had originally planned to go to Trenton alone to see the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Giants’ Double-A affiliate, take on the Thunder. My dad wanted to come with and drive me there, so we did.

As the Flying Squirrels came out of the dugout, I started greeting the players—most of them responding with, “Hey, what are you doing here!” I had covered the team when they were in High-A the year before and most were surprised to see me in New Jersey.

Matt Duffy came out of the dugout and I said hi to him. Excitedly after, I told my dad that Duffy is one to watch.

***

August rolls around and Matt Duffy gets called up. I remember telling my dad, “Remember him?? We saw him in Trenton with the Flying Squirrels!” My dad didn’t forget. Not because he was intrigued by the way he played, though I’m sure that’s a part of it, but because he was surprised Duffy had remembered me from his short time in the California League.

From then on, whenever Matt Duffy did anything great for the Giants, we would call each other up and say, “DID YOU SEE MATT DUFFY DO THAT.”

***

The Giants made the postseason. Even year and all that. I decided to buy two tickets to Game 4 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals. My dad had never gone to a postseason game before and I figured this would be a great father-daughter bonding moment.

This game ended up being the Hunter Pence Fence Catch game and I had never seen my dad more into baseball than at that game.

I wanted to take my dad to a World Series game, but so many factors derailed that idea. He told me to go, though, because he wanted me to go to a World Series game.

***

When the Giants won the World Series, I called my dad up immediately. I yelled, “MATT DUFFY GETS A RING.” Instantaneously, my dad started recalling how we saw him in Trenton and how he remembered me and now he’s a World Series champion.

***

It’s 2016 now. My dad still reminds me of that time in Trenton and asks me if I’m ever going to interview Matt Duffy now that he’s a fully fledged big leaguer.

Duffy placed second in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2015, which exceeded my expectations for how well he would perform at the Major League level.

“You should interview Duffy at spring training,” my dad continues to tell me.

“I’ll try, Dad,” I say. “I’ll try.”

 

Jen Mac Ramos is a writer who is currently a grad student at the University of Southern California and has a bachelor’s degree in English. As a life-long resident of the Golden State, Jen grew up in Northern California and roots for most sports teams in the area. Their work can be found at Purple Row and Today’s Knuckleball. When they’re not writing, they can be found on Twitter talking about a variety of different subjects at @jenmacramos, or knitting.

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(Blogathon ’16) Michael Clair: An (Abbreviated) People’s History of the World Through Baseball Cards

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

In the beginning, there was nothing. Just a swirl of atoms and gasses mixing about in a sort of cosmic stew. Perhaps there were some Lovecraftian elder gods with tentacle faces flitting about but honestly, that’s all just conjecture.

And then, for some unknown reason, everything smashed together. This was the Big Bang.

From there … everything was set into motion, like when you’re playing Mouse Trap and you flip the switch that starts the aforementioned trap. Eventually, single celled organisms had to combine into fish who had to crawl out of the ocean and onto land.

Those things then turned into dinosaurs. I think.

Of course, Carl Everett may disagree with that.

Humanity eventually showed up, evolving from apes. Somehow,like Leo DiCaprio in “The Revenant,” they survived against the cold and the dark and the ancient beasts that wandered the world. After stumbling around, smashing rocks into things, the first farmers showed up about 8,500 years ago to plant crops.

It was at this time that animals were first domesticated, too. Little could these wild and violent creatures have imagined what would one day become of them:

With our faithful Labradoodles by our side, humans were safe to grow and learn. 5,000 years later, the first signs of writing appeared. Some say this was the first thing a homo sapien ever scratched out:

Flash forward to 800 BC and not only do we see the very first Homer, who is busy penning the Odyssey (side note: I can’t believe Topps has never come out with a Homer’s Odyssey line of cards, with dinger gods receiving Grecian-style prints), but, fittingly, that’s also when the Iron Age began.

Jacked bros will tell you that it’s never ended.

A few hundred years later, alchemists got busy looking for the philosopher’s stone that could transmute base metals into gold. They generally dressed like this:

Then in the 5th century King Arthur and his McKnights of the Round Table showed up. If you’re trying to tell me that Lancelot did not look like this, then you clearly haven’t been attending many Ren Fairs.

Soon enough, the Renaissance was upon us, ushering in a new world of emerging thought and, most importantly, art. A new understanding of human physics and how to depict them made humans look almost lifelike. Almost.

But the Renaissance would eventually be swept away under the coal-fueled wheels of the Industrial Revolution. Soon, the repeatable precision that came from factories and cameras forced man to become machine and art to change its very definition.

Soon after, the Wright Brothers would get tired of riding bikes all the time and they discovered flight. Sadly, it left poor Sean Lowe without a purpose any longer.

After some of the worst wars man had ever seen (shockingly, not a whole lot of World War I baseball cards featuring the poetry of Wilfred Owen), man discovered nuclear fusion and the world would be plunged into a new terror.

That fear would force humans to look to the stars. And if you believe the “official story”, we walked upon the moon. Yeah, right. Wake up sheeple.

Not much happened after that until the internet was created. Finally, people could send letters without having to write anything down, while also doing sex stuff without ever leaving their houses.

And cell phones were invented. And people could do more types of sex stuff without leaving their houses.

What will the future bring? Will we soon walk amongst the stars? Will we discover the purpose of existence? Will we be able to order pizza through emoji? Humans may have no idea, but baseball cards do.

(Image sources: Baseball Card Bust, eBay, Trading Card Database, Stunning Purple, This Card is Cool, Garvey Cey Russell Lopes, and probably more.)

Michael Clair writes for MLB.com’s Cut4 and will likely one day suffocate under his baseball card collection. Follow him @clairbearattack.

This guest-post was part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(Blogathon ’16) Dan Epstein: The First Time

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

The spring of 1976 was a time of sheer, unfettered happiness for me. I turned ten that May; the inchoate anger I’d felt over my parents’ split six years earlier had largely burned off, and it would be at least another year before adolescent angst began to severely kick in, leaving me free and clear to focus on reading UFO and Bigfoot magazines, shooting BB guns (I won my second straight “First Place” trophy in air riflery at the Ann Arbor “Y” that March), chewing pre-spider-egg-rumors Bubble Yum, and getting pumped up about the impending Bicentennial celebrations. And best of all, I’d just fallen in love with baseball.

I’d fallen hard and I’d fallen fast, the result of a friend’s birthday party that April, which had included a trip to see The Bad News Bears at a local theater, as well the handing out of new Topps wax packs as party favors. While I’d had a vague awareness in the game before then — thanks to my dad, who’d grown up in Brooklyn with the Dodgers and was now rooting for the Mets from afar — I was suddenly seized by the all-consuming desire to not only play baseball, but to learn everything about its history. From the age of five, I’d been completely obsessed with the American Revolution and the Civil War, and had devoured enough books on the topics since then that I could easily rattle off the names of all the important generals and battles. But now, that same obsessiveness was being rapidly re-directed towards the legends and contests of the diamond.

So when my dad announced that he’d bought tickets for what would be my first-ever major league game — a Sunday afternoon Yankees-Tigers game at Tiger Stadium on May 30 — I felt the same giddy excitement I’d experienced when my maternal grandfather had taken me to see Civil War battlefields in the South. I barely knew the difference between Al Kaline and George Kell at this point, but I still understood that professional baseball had been played at “The Corner” since before the turn of the century, and that the edifice known as Tiger Stadium had stood there in one form or another since before World War I. A place of immense historical importance, in other words.

Tiger Stadium did not disappoint, not by a long shot. Being there was like being in an old battleship, a haunted house and a theater-in-the-round all rolled into one. The double-decker, completely enclosed structure cut off all aspects of the outside world, save for the sky itself; and the smells, sounds and vibrations (and even the dark green paint) of the old ballpark seemed to hail from other eras entirely. I felt like a welcome-but-temporary guest at a banquet that had been going on for decades.

If my appreciation of our surroundings was acute, my understanding of what was actually happening on the field in front of us was considerably more vague. We were sitting just a few rows behind home plate, slightly off to the first base side — seats which cost my dad a princely five bucks a pop — which made it easy to see the argument happening at home plate during the exchange of the lineup cards, though I had no idea why the man in the Yankees uniform was screaming at the umpire. “That’s Billy Martin, the Yankee manager,” my dad informed me, as the fans around us began to hoot and holler. “He’s still pissed about a call the umpires made yesterday.”

The argument (and the jeers of the fans) quickly escalated in intensity and volume, until the ump finally had enough and tossed Martin out of the game. In retrospect, I’m guessing that Billy was probably just brutally hungover from a Saturday night out on the tiles in his old Detroit stomping grounds, and didn’t want to wait another two hours before he could get his trembling hands on some “hair of the dog.” But in that moment, I was awestruck by the abrupt intensity of the exchange, which surpassed anything I’d seen in The Bad News Bears. Before I could even see a major league pitch in person, I’d already witnessed a Billy Martin ejection.

The Yankees were the hottest team in the American League at the time, not just in the standings — they were 24-15, and they’d occupied first place in the AL East since their third game of the season — but also as a story: After over a decade of malaise and decay, Martin and owner George Steinbrenner were hell-bent on restoring the legendary franchise to its “rightful” grandeur, and they weren’t shy about saying so. But the Tigers, as my friends at Burns Park School were fond of saying, sucked; they were coming off the worst season in franchise history at that point — a dismal 57-102 campaign — and seemed to offer little hope of improvement. Ex-con outfielder Ron LeFlore had given Tigers fans something to cheer about that spring with a 30-game hitting streak, the most in the AL since Dom DiMaggio’s 34 in 1949, but even that had come to an end a few nights before my first visit to The Corner. A rookie pitcher named Mark Fidrych had made a few headlines on May 15, when he threw a complete game 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians in his first career start, but he wouldn’t win his second game until May 31; “Birdmania” wouldn’t fully kick in for another month.

The game we saw that day was largely devoid of importance, at least in the grand scheme of history. Yankees lefty Rudy “The Dude” May, pitching on only two days’ rest, threw his lone complete game shutout of the season, four-hitting the Tigers while walking only two. Detroit starter Bill Laxton also pitched well, allowing only one hit (a single to Willie Randolph, who was promptly caught stealing by John Wockenfuss) to the Yankees through five before melting down in the sixth. After Fred “Chicken” Stanley walked to start the frame, Mickey Rivers (who I was surprised to see in a Yankee uniform, having only known him via my new Topps cards as a California Angel) laid down a bunt single, and Roy White followed with a home run, the first I’d seen in a major league ballpark. Thurman Munson immediately followed with another, and Laxton was done for the day. So were the Tigers, as the score stood 4-0 the rest of the way.

Still, it was an incredible thrill for me to see guys like Rivers, White and Munson — players I only knew from baseball cards — in action that day, along with LeFlore, Willie Horton and Rusty Staub, who I’d already read about at length in the sports pages of the Ann Arbor News. (Now they were real to me!) And it was just as thrilling to run around through the gangways of the old ballpark, to gaze in wonder at the souvenir stands selling plastic batting helmets of every MLB team, to hear the ghostly echoes of the ballpark organ, to order a “red hot” with mustard slathered on it by a tongue depressor, and to run my fingers along the many layers of industrial paint that covered our seats. We spent maybe three hours at Tiger Stadium that day — the game itself lasted less than two — but I emerged from the ballpark transformed, an ardent baseball fan for life.

Two summers ago, while on my book tour promoting Stars and Strikes, I paid another visit to The Corner. I hadn’t been back since 2004, when I took some photos of Tiger Stadium’s sadly moldering edifice on a business trip through town, and — having moved away in late 1978 — I hadn’t seen a game there in thirty-six years. All that was left by that point was a field, a diamond and the old centerfield flagpole, all lovingly maintained by the volunteers of the Navin Field Grounds Crew, but I could still feel the magical vibrations of the place. I took my wife out with me to the mound, where I paid tribute to the late, great “Bird” by dropping to one knee and manicuring the dirt. Then I took her over to the area behind home plate, to show her where the seats for my first Tigers game — my first major league baseball experience — would have been, more or less. And then I said a silent prayer of thanks to the baseball gods.

Dan Epstein is the author of Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76 (which will be released in paperback this February) and Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ‘70s. Follow him on Twitter at @BigHairPlasGras.

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(Blogathon ’16) Marc Normandin: Bret Saberhagen’s case for the Hall of Nearly Great

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

Back in the mid-1990s, baseball was a significant part of my life. I was under 10 years old, and it was the sport my parents enrolled me in as soon as I was able to hold a bat and glove, the one my father had played even after school. His father was a Red Sox fan, and so was my dad, and that—at the time, burden—was passed on to me as well.

I attended Red Sox games, and watched Red Sox games, but until 1999, I just wasn’t crazy about following one team every day. It was all so new, this game of organized baseball. Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, and Edgar Martinez were all exciting, and the Mariners were great. Jeff Bagwell and the Astros had a roster that was loaded with players I had been introduced to through baseball cards and video games, and it was easy to like them, especially with the Killer B’s in tow. This is an exercise that could go on for some time, but the key point here is that, as much as the Red Sox were my team, as much as anyone could be the team of someone who is yet to hit double-digits in their age, they were also one of many. It was the sport that drew me in, more so than any one club.

Part of that had to do with my age, but also the Sox. The 1995 club won the American League East, but did so with an ever-changing cast of characters. For a nine-year-old, keeping track of the roster that set the record for most players used in a season—and in a shortened 144-game schedule—is asking a bit much, especially when the yearbooks and video games that accompany the season don’t go into that kind of detail. It also didn’t help that Boston was dismissed, and quickly, by the Cleveland Indians in the first-ever American League Division Series.

The Red Sox wouldn’t make the postseason again until 1998, and, while I began to appreciate players who were sticking around in the interim—John Valentin, Tim Wakefield, Troy O’Leary, Tom Gordon—and those who were new to the club—Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lowe—something was missing. The excitement wasn’t quite there, like it was for the game as a whole, because the Red Sox weren’t quite there.

Then, things started to change. General manager Dan Duquette sent a few pitching prospects over the border to his former club in Montreal, and acquired Pedro Martinez. I had never seen Pedro pitch, but—and this might seem repetitive, but bear with 12-year-old me—I had seen his numbers in video games and used his likeness in them, I had cards of his in my collection, I had a hefty baseball encyclopedia with even more information on him, and I knew that this was a big deal. The Red Sox had recently lost Roger Clemens, the only ace they ever had in my life to that point, and I barely ever knew him. There isn’t a game of his I remember watching besides his second 20-strikeout performance against the Detroit Tigers in 1996—if there’s a game that was going to stick in your head from the time when you were 10, one of that magnitude is the way to go.

Pedro was more real to me, in a way, and now he was with the Red Sox. This was exciting! The most exciting thing since following Nomar’s promotion to the majors, and these things happened back-to-back. That’s how you get someone young to stay interested in just about anything: bombard them with reasons to pay attention.

Boston had also retained Bret Saberhagen, who they had signed while he recovered from shoulder surgery back in 1996. Saberhagen threw 26 uninspiring innings for the Red Sox in ’97, but he was a player I rooted for and was excited about, for many of the same reasons that Pedro intrigued me. Here was a pitcher who had done nothing but succeed in his career, and for a long time, and the Red Sox were hoping he could once again be useful after recovering from major surgery. That’s the way Boston’s front office operated, hoping to hit on enough lottery tickets to fill out the roster, but for a young kid who doesn’t know anything but optimism, there was something charming about the strategy. Especially when it brought players with impressive baseball cards to town.

The 1998 season was the first that was a big deal for me, from start to finish, because it was the follow-up to Nomar’s Rookie of the Year campaign, Pedro’s first season with the Sox, and Saberhagen’s chance to recapture some of his former glory. None of these three items disappointed, and when Boston took home the Wild Card, everything seemed right. That is, until the Indians once again bullied the Sox out of the first round.

This was good, though. It left me hungry as a fan for the first time, left me feeling like the Red Sox could have won, should have won, and that just made me want the 1999 season to happen. I cared that it was Mo Vaughn’s last year. I cared that Valentin just wasn’t the same after moving off of shortstop. I cared that Pedro didn’t win his second-consecutive Cy Young, and instead finished in second, in his first year in the AL. I cared about the Red Sox, and that’s what made 1999 the most incredible Red Sox season of my life to that point, the one I still to this day hold just as dear as the successful 2004, 2007, and 2013 campaigns that brought World Series to Boston.

Bret Saberhagen was, somewhat surprisingly, a huge part of that for me.

*****

Saberhagen was a 19th-round selection of the Royals in the 1982 MLB draft. He was just 19 when he first suited up professionally in 1983, but he finished the year at Double A thanks to a dominating showing at Low A Fort Myers. That was the last time Saberhagen would pitch in the minors, until he was working his way back from surgery 13 years later.

The 1984 Royals moved Sabes between starting and relief, and the rookie logged 157 innings in the process. He didn’t miss bats, but he didn’t miss the strike zone, either, and this led to a 115 ERA+ as a 20-year-old major leaguer. Things would only improve for him from there.

In 1985, Saberhagen was the best pitcher on the World Series-winning Royals. He won 20 games, a number cited here only because he deserved them: his ERA was 2.87, 43 percent better than average, and thanks to a league-best 1.5 walks per nine, he also led the AL in K/BB at 4.2. He won the Cy Young, finished 10th in MVP balloting, and gave up just one run in 18 innings in the World Series., taking home Series MVP honors. No sophomore slump here.

Amazingly, this was not to be his best season with the Royals. That would come in 1989, when Saberhagen led the league in win percentage (.793), ERA (2.16), complete games (12), innings (262), ERA+ (180), WHIP (0.96), and K/BB (4.5). He won his second of two Cy Youngs, finished eighth in the MVP vote, and took home a Gold Glove as well. It’s not quite a World Series victory, but as a runner-up, you could do a lot worse than this.

All told, Saberhagen posted a 128 ERA+ with the Royals from 1984 through 1991, tossing 1,660 innings in that stretch. As a full-time starter (1985 onward), he averaged 215 innings per season, and 30 starts. That average is a bit misleading, too, as Saberhagen missed time due to injury that cut into that figure—likely due to the workload from the seasons in which he was healthy.

Saberhagen threw 235 innings as a 21-year-old in 1985, and that doesn’t count the additional 25 postseason frames. In 1986, the right-hander managed just 156, and, according to a 1987 Peter Gammons profile of the young hurler at Sports Illustrated, much of that was physical: “I hurt in so many places that I felt 37 and had no way to answer the people who thought it had all gone to—or through—my head.”

Whatever ailed him in ’86 vanished in ’87, when he threw 257 innings with a 136 ERA+. In 1988, it was more of the same, at least in terms of usage: 260 frames, 3.80 ERA, 106 ERA+. The 1980s just didn’t pay attention to workload and fatigue in the same way the 2000s do, though, and it didn’t help that Saberhagen handled another 260 innings just fine in 1989, his greatest season of 16.

The problems, they came after 1989. Not only was that the last time Saberhagen reached the 260 inning mark, but it was the last time he crossed the 200 inning line. From 1984 through 1989, a six-year stretch, Saberhagen threw 1,329 innings, but in the last 12 years of his career, he wouldn’t be able to exceed that figure.

This isn’t to say that Saberhagen vanished from relevance. He completed his eight-year stint with the Royals in 1991, after tossing two Saberhagen-esque years, albeit with a new career-low for innings in a season. He was dealt to the Mets after the 1991 campaign, along with Bill Pecota, in exchange for Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds, and Keith Miller. In three-and-a-half years with the Mets, Saberhagen amassed just 524 innings, but within those, he was the pitcher he had always been—in some ways, a better one. He walked just 1.3 hitters per nine, half-a-walk fewer than while with the Royals. He struck out 6.7 per nine, a figure that seems low now, but just 20 years ago was more than a full strikeout better than average per nine. The issue was the amount of time he was that good; it just wasn’t enough, when stacked up against the immense totals of his Royals’ days.

The Mets dealt Saberhagen to the playoff-hopeful Rockies in mid-1995, receiving Arnold Gooch and Juan Acevedo in return. Saberhagen, now 31, and no stranger to arm problems, was now faced with the task of pitching a mile above sea level, in an environment that hated not only his numbers, but his body. He posted his worst numbers to that point, in terms of walks and ERA, and gave the Rockies just 43 innings over nine starts, as well as one poor playoff start.

This, mercifully, was Saberhagen’s only stint with the Rockies. But with the conclusion of that contract also came shoulder surgery that caused him to miss all of 1996 and nearly all of 1997, and made him available to the Red Sox in the first place. The payoff wasn’t immediate, but when slotted into the rotation in 1998 alongside an even more recent addition in Pedro Martinez, Saberhagen did what he was known for: limited walks, missed (enough) bats, and finished with a 119 ERA+ and 175 innings pitched, his most since the strike-shortened 1994.

*****

Now we’re caught up. Saberhagen and this story are back in 1999, in the season that might define Saberhagen’s career more than any other. You see, this is the year in which Saberhagen was both at his best, and also his most vulnerable. It’s the one that exemplifies best just who Bret Saberhagen was, and what his career was made up of. He threw only 119 innings, and visited the disabled list on three separation occasions due to fraying in his rotator cuff, but nearly every one of those frames was a gem. Saberhagen struck out 6.1 batters per nine—his highest rate since 1994, when he finished third for the Cy Young—posted a 171 ERA+ thanks to a 2.95 ERA in the middle of the greatest league-wide offensive performance in the history of the game, and walked a career-best 0.8 walks per nine. Over the course of 22 starts, the 35-year-old Bret Saberhagen, who was dealing with a rotator cuff that was fraying all year long, walked fewer than one batter per nine innings pitched. This was Saberhagen at his best, even if his body wanted no part of it.

That’s what makes his playoff performance that season memorable as well. He was lit up by the Indians in Game Two of the ALDS, a little less than a month after returning from his third DL stint of the year, and was pulled before finishing the third frame. The Red Sox would lose that game, as they had lost the first of the series, as it seemed they always did against the Tribe in the 90s.

Boston won the next two contests, though, forcing a Game 5 in Cleveland. The problem with that, as exhilarating as this all was (especially for a young, impressionable Red Sox fan who was nearing the tail-end of a thrilling ’99 season that included an All-Star game at Fenway Park, Pedro’s first real Pedro! season, and couldn’t wait to return fire to an Indians team that had just seemed impossible to beat over his short life), was that Pedro Martinez wasn’t ready to start Game 5.

Any time your ace can’t start a deciding playoff game, there’s bound to be panic. But, lest you’ve forgotten your lessons, Pedro’s 1999 was essentially a 213-inning instructional guide on how to have The Greatest Season Ever. He struck out 100 more batters than he threw innings. His ERA+ was 243, or, 143 percent better than average. If it was a pitching category that was a positive, Pedro probably was better at it than whoever your childhood favorite hurler was, and in no time in his career—except maybe 2000—was he more ridiculous than he was in 1999. Not having him available to start wasn’t panic-inducing—it was devastating, the one thing that could kill the buzz gained from outscoring the Indians 32-10 in the two victories prior.

Maybe it was stupid for Saberhagen to line up to start, days removed from his own disaster, and weeks removed from sitting on the DL. Maybe it’s just the kind of gutsy thing we should hate athletes for doing, for putting themselves at risk of further injury. But it’s hard for 13-year-old me to do anything but enjoy Saberhagen more for slotting in as the Game 5 starter. He was 35, had made his millions, and hadn’t won anything in the postseason since 1985. The shoulder he had repaired just a few years before was betraying him once more—maybe now was the time to push the issue, if any time were to suffice.

Saberhagen predictably lasted just one inning, giving up five runs (and two homers) to a lineup that had scored 1,009 runs in the regular season. Boston’s story didn’t end there, though, thanks to a cast of characters already mentioned in this essay: Troy O’Leary’s two homers and seven RBI, Nomar’s two intentional walks (that preceded those O’Leary bombs) and a dinger of his own, and six no-hit innings of relief from a Pedro Martinez that couldn’t find his old velocity, but still had his plus secondary offerings and necessary junk in tow. Because of the efforts of his teammates, Saberhagen’s one inning in this series, the first the Red Sox had won in my conscious lifetime, is one I remember vividly, and without the normal recoiling five-run firsts provide.

Saberhagen would show he still had something left for postseason play against the Yankees soon after, throwing six frames with five punch outs and just the one walk, but lost despite just one earned run. It would be his final start with the Red Sox until 2001, as he missed the entire 2000 campaign recovering from the injuries that he pitched through the year prior.

His brief attempt at a comeback in 2001 showed that he was done, that everything he had left had been spent in those last seven innings of the 1999 playoffs. Saberhagen said he felt 37 back when he was all of 22, but this time around, the 37-year-old likely felt even older than that, and he called it a career.

Like many hurlers from the 1980s, Saberhagen’s career is considered more for what it could have been than what it was. That misses the point of what he did accomplish, though. Here’s a pitcher with over 2,500 career innings, whose ERA+ figures with the three teams he spent the most time with are nearly identical (Royals, 128; Mets, 126; Red Sox, 124). The only thing that ever changed was how many innings he could throw, and while he didn’t maintain the pace he set with the Royals, few hurlers in history ever have thrived under that kind of consistent abuse.

Even with the issues, Saberhagen ranked seventh in baseball in ERA+, minimum 2,000 innings pitched, over the course of his entire career, behind only Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, and Curt Schilling. Just 48 pitchers even reached the 2,000 inning plateau over that 18-year stretch, and Saberhagen was right near the top of the list, in spite of all those shoulder problems.

Appreciating Saberhagen for what he could have been is fine and all, but when you get lost down that daydreamy rabbit hole, you lose sight of what he actually was. If it isn’t clear by now, Bret Saberhagen was one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, in a 20-year period marked by some of baseball’s finest hurlers ever. Who needs could have, should have, when you have that to cling to?

Marc Normandin is the editor of Red Sox site Over the Monster, as well SB Nation MLB. You can find him on Twitter at @Marc_Normandin, assuming you like wrestling as much as you do baseball.

This essay originally appeared in the ebook, “The Hall of Nearly Great”, in 2012, and will once again be featured in a revised edition later this spring.

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