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?

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Best of 2015- How many sports has Mario played?

Originally published on September 12, 2015.

The question of who the greatest video game athlete of all time is a hard one. Many go with Bo Jackson, with good reason. Still others (such as the Cespedes BBQ duo) wisely go with the Secret Weapon himself, Pablo Sanchez. But for sheer variety, none can defeat Mario, the most versatile athlete in video game history, who, by coincidence, celebrates the 30th anniversary of the release of Super Mario Brothers today!

And today, to honor National Video Games Day, which I just found out exists like ten minutes ago on Twitter, I’m running down every single sport Mario has ever played.

(Go below the jump for more)

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For #NationalVideoGamesDay: How many sports has Mario played?

The question of who the greatest video game athlete of all time is a hard one. Many go with Bo Jackson, with good reason. Still others (such as the Cespedes BBQ duo) wisely go with the Secret Weapon himself, Pablo Sanchez. But for sheer variety, none can defeat Mario, the most versatile athlete in video game history, who, by coincidence, celebrates the 30th anniversary of the release of Super Mario Brothers today!

And today, to honor National Video Games Day, which I just found out exists like ten minutes ago on Twitter, I’m running down every single sport Mario has ever played.

(Go below the jump for more)

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Bizarre Baseball Culture: Popeye and “The Twisker Pitcher”

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.

Today we have a cartoon from 1937 starring Popeye the Sailor Man. It’s called The Twisker Pitcher, and it’s dark as hell. Seriously, this cartoon has…

A) Rampant steroid use (the spinach)

B) Violence, both on the field and in the stands

C) A near total disregard for rules and the space-time continuum

D) A total disregard for player safety.

Oof. So, go below the jump for a summary of this, the 47th Popeye Cartoon:

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Best of 2014- Future Possibilities for International Games

Originally published on July 27, 2014.

At the start of the season, regular season games were held in Sydney, Australia.* Whether you like it or not, it was not the first and won’t be the last time that MLB opened overseas. But, where will MLB go next? Here’s an overview of possibilities:

 

* This was partly written immediately following those games, but fell by the wayside until now, so here it is.

A Return to the Tokyo Dome

Used under Creative Commons license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en), taken by “DX Broadrec”.

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Baseball Pedigree: Has hosted baseball since it opened in 1988, home of the Yomiuri Giants, hosted WBC games in 2006, 2009 and 2013, hosted MLB season-opener games in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012. Japan is one of the preeminent baseball nations on Earth and host to the world’s 2nd most prominent baseball league.

Capacity: Between 42,000 and 55,000 (depending on configuration)

Pros: Japan is baseball-mad, has shown it can pack the stadium for MLB games, and the Tokyo Dome is highly-familiar to MLB officials and some players thanks to it’s many previous MLB-related events. Being a dome makes weather considerations non-existent, and Tokyo’s status as one of the world’s greatest cities allows for plenty for players to do when not playing.

Cons: It’s been done before several times, it’s a type of stadium that has been phased out of MLB, and, while this isn’t much of a factor that MLB cares about much, there is the time difference issue, with night games in Tokyo being early morning games in the Eastern USA and very, very, very early morning games in the western part of the USA.

Likelihood of return: It’s inevitable that MLB will return to Japan again sometime in the future, the question is whether the Tokyo Dome is the place it will happen. More-than-likely yes, but I’ll be looking at other possible Japanese sites later on.

(HIT THE JUMP FOR THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE)

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The Pitcher is the Third Most Important Position In Sports (behind Goalie and QB)

Not too long ago, I saw a ad for a Sports Illustrated book entitled NFL Quarterback: The Greatest Position In Sports.

I immediately recognized this as bull. Oh, maybe being the QB is the most glamorous position in sports, but that’s just one definition of greatest. As far as the greatest importance, quarterback isn’t it.

No, rather, a ice hockey goalie is. NFL teams can go far with average or only-slightly-above average QBs. Doug Williams had nearly as many career interceptions as he did touchdowns and never made a Pro Bowl, but he was hot at the right time to help Washington stomp Denver in January of 1988. Trent Dilfer threw more interceptions in his career than touchdowns, but his Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV. The Jets got to within one game of the Super Bowl twice with Mark Sanchez as their quarterback. The Broncos won a playoff game with Tim Tebow at QB.

But, look at hockey, and I’m going to guess you’ll have trouble finding a champion who didn’t have a good goalie (and those that didn’t have good goalies that ended up winning probably had that goalie playing the best few weeks of his career). If a goalie is standing on his head, he can turn a mismatch into a even one, turn an underdog into a favorite, and make even the most unlikely of upsets possible (see: Miracle on Ice, Jim Craig, 1980 Olympics, which given his lack of success in the pros may fall into the “greatest few weeks of his life” category).

Now, to baseball, as Madison Bumgarner showed us this October, the third most important position in sports is the pitcher. Way back when, when men were men, arms were expendable and relievers were just guys who’d come in if somebody was doing really, really, bad, the pitcher was perhaps just as important as the goalie in hockey. Old Hoss Radbourn infamously singlehandedly pitched the 1884 Providence Grays to the title, throwing 678.2 IP, pitching in 75 of the team’s 112 games and starting 73 of them. His 59 wins that season is a record that will never be broken. In 1904, Jack Chesbro set the modern-era record for wins with 30 for the New York Highlanders, he pitched in 55 of the team’s 151 games, and started 51 of those appearances.

Those were the days when “wins” or “losses” meant far more than they do today, since pitchers were all but assured of going the full game, and their opposite numbers were expected to do the same, making the W-L record more analogous to a heavyweight fighter.

Since then, the worth of an individual pitcher has gone down. Having one or two or even three or four good pitchers is no guarantee of success like a good goalie or a good QB is. That’s because, well, it’s rare that they are in the game the whole time, and as good as they are they still can’t control their own offense. Just look at how Detroit’s great starting pitching has been constantly foiled in postseasons past by a suspect bullpen, or how Philadelphia’s “Big Four” starters of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt failed to even get to a World Series because their team’s offense took a holiday.

Still, as Bumgarner showed us this past month, there are still times that a pitcher can make all the difference. If Madison Bumgarner isn’t pitching, it’s likely that the Royals win the World Series. A single player isn’t supposed to decide an entire series. Not anymore.

But nobody told Bumgarner that. And he went on to show just how important the position of pitcher is.

Future Possibilities for International Games

At the start of the season, regular season games were held in Sydney, Australia.* Whether you like it or not, it was not the first and won’t be the last time that MLB opened overseas. But, where will MLB go next? Here’s an overview of possibilities:

 

* This was partly written immediately following those games, but fell by the wayside until now, so here it is.

A Return to the Tokyo Dome

Used under Creative Commons license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en), taken by “DX Broadrec”.

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Baseball Pedigree: Has hosted baseball since it opened in 1988, home of the Yomiuri Giants, hosted WBC games in 2006, 2009 and 2013, hosted MLB season-opener games in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012. Japan is one of the preeminent baseball nations on Earth and host to the world’s 2nd most prominent baseball league.

Capacity: Between 42,000 and 55,000 (depending on configuration)

Pros: Japan is baseball-mad, has shown it can pack the stadium for MLB games, and the Tokyo Dome is highly-familiar to MLB officials and some players thanks to it’s many previous MLB-related events. Being a dome makes weather considerations non-existent, and Tokyo’s status as one of the world’s greatest cities allows for plenty for players to do when not playing.

Cons: It’s been done before several times, it’s a type of stadium that has been phased out of MLB, and, while this isn’t much of a factor that MLB cares about much, there is the time difference issue, with night games in Tokyo being early morning games in the Eastern USA and very, very, very early morning games in the western part of the USA.

Likelihood of return: It’s inevitable that MLB will return to Japan again sometime in the future, the question is whether the Tokyo Dome is the place it will happen. More-than-likely yes, but I’ll be looking at other possible Japanese sites later on.

(HIT THE JUMP FOR THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE)

Continue reading