Continuum Classic: The clever baseball reference in the “Parks and Recreation” book

In honor of last night’s excellent finale to Parks and Recreation, a classic post from September 19, 2013, on the clever baseball reference in the Parks and Recreation book:

 

In 2009, Parks and Recreation first aired. A spiritual spin-off (but not an actual spin-off) of The Office, it follows the life of the Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and the rest of the staff of the Parks and Recreation Department in the fictional, Springfield-like city of Pawnee, Indiana.

In 2011, Knope released a book on Pawnee in the show, entitled Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America. NBC released the book in the real world.

In 2013, as part of a Netflix/Hulu binge to get caught up on Parks and Recreation before the next season starts, I also read Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America. I got it from the library (thankfully, my local library is not run by Ron Swanson’s second ex-wife Tammi). In doing so, I was able to catch a clever baseball reference in it during a section on Pawnee’s school board- which is filled with people who have lots of A’s at the start of their names in order to be at the top of the ballot, helping them win simply through the laziness of the voters of Pawnee. I’ve put the page up below the jump*, can you spot it?

*(Please don’t sue me, NBC!) Continue reading

CONTINUUM CLASSIC: Why nobody pays attention to College Baseball, outside of the CWS

In honor of the College Baseball season starting tomorrow, here’s a post originally published on June 1, 2012:

In basketball, the NCAA tournament is in many ways a far bigger event than even the NBA Finals as the marquee event for the sport.

In football, the passions in some regions for college teams are larger than that of any NFL team. Okay, with the possible exception of Green Bay. Maybe.

Baseball, however, has it’s amateur competitions mostly forgotten. Yes, the draft is shown on MLB Network (at least the first round or two), and it isn’t too hard to find a college game on TV if you know where to look… but it is a afterthought unless it’s draft day (and even then, there usually are just as many high schoolers who are getting drafted) or the College World Series.

There are several reasons for this:

  • As I mentioned, lots of players are drafted out of high school, so the level of competition in NCAA isn’t quite what it is in football or basketball.
  • With the exception of the best of the best, it’ll be several years before you see a top college player in the big leagues, since they will go to the minors for seasoning. This ends any type of “hype” that can be built up around future pros, and why the MLB draft is so little followed beyond seamheads.
  • Aluminum bats. They may have been changed over the past decade or so to act more like baseball bats and not like trampolining home run machines, but there is still the PING! that, while tolerable when heard in Little League, seems to be grating when you see grown men swinging them around.
  • Lack of regional parity. If it seems like the BCS division of football is dominated by southern and western colleges, it’s even worse in baseball. After all, they can practice all year round, and don’t have to worry about the weather. A look at the winners of the College World Series over the years shows it. There hasn’t been a CWS winning team from above the old Mason-Dixon line (39 degrees and 43 minutes N) since Oregon State went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. Before then, though, there hadn’t been one since (The) Ohio State University won it in 1966. Heck, there hadn’t even been a northern team that came in second place since Eastern Michigan lost to Arizona in 1976.
  • Baseball, unlike basketball and football, became a professional sport fairly early on, meaning the long traditions found in college hoops and gridiron aren’t as common in baseball, since they didn’t have time to form before the rise of the pros. The only big tradition it has that is known nationally is the fact that the College World Series is in Omaha, and ALWAYS in Omaha.

So what can be done? Well, MLB is apparently discussing helping fund scholarships and a transition to wooden bats in NCAA, which could be helpful. However, I think College Baseball will remain what it is: fun to watch come the College World Series, but generally ignored outside of that.

Classic Continuum: The Luckiest Man

(This article was initially published on July 4, 2012.)

It was July 4th, 1939. Lou Gehrig was a dying man. Earlier that year, he’d ended his 2,130 consecutive game streak, taking himself out before a game in Detroit for the good of the team (he was hitting .143 with an RBI). A visit to the Mayo Clinic in June confirmed the worst: he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the disease that now carries his name. Although his mind would remain intact, his body would slowly betray him. Although his wife had told the doctors to try and withhold some of the more horrible details of the diagnosis from him, there is evidence to suggest that Lou knew, somehow, that he was on his way out. He announced his retirement from the game he loved.

So it was on Independence Day that the Yankees held a day in his honor. They retired his number 4- the first in baseball to be so honored. Some of his most famous teammates, including Babe Ruth, joined delegates from across the country in Yankee Stadium.

Everybody knows how the speech began, and many know how it ends, as can be seen below:

However, that was because, as amazing as it sounds, no media outlets had recorded the whole thing. That is partly why Gary Cooper‘s speech in Pride of the Yankees is occasionally played instead, although it moved the beginning of the speech to the end for artistic reasons and was more of a paraphrase of the actual words Gehrig gave on that day.

Since Gehrig’s death in 1941, he has remained an inspiration and a rallying-cry in the fight against ALS and similar diseases. What had been before Gehrig a little understood disease is now studied across the world.

Progress has been made. A few years back, a report came out that suggested that people who have a history of concussions may be more likely to develop an ALS-style disease (Gehrig, it should be noted, took plenty of beanballs during his career, and also had played football at Columbia), and there is also some evidence that genetics and mutations may also play a role. Despite this, however, there remains no cure.