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.

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(Blogathon ’16!) The Sliding Scale of Fictional Baseball Realism

This 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.

Earlier today, in my look at Touch, I mentioned that you can make a 0-10 scale of baseball realism in works of fiction, with zero being baseball-in-name-only and ten being actual footage of a game.

Well, I’m going to expand upon that:

0: Baseball In Name Only

In this category, it’s not really baseball at all. They may call it baseball, but it certainly isn’t the actual sport that we know. The Moe Cronin version of baseball fits here.

1: Utterly Absurd

In this category, while it’s clearly meant to be baseball, the rules of the game and the laws of physics have clearly taken a vacation. Some classic cartoons fall into this category.

2: Very Absurd, but still with some realism

In this category, the work might have cartoonish physics and occurrences, but it still is grounded in reality enough to have the rules of baseball still be mostly the same. In theory, a baseball movie where the rules are not consistent or are wildly different but where everything else is played straight could also qualify here. Classic cartoons that aren’t “utterly absurd” usually fall in this category.

3: Absurd, but mostly consistent

Works in this category are clearly absurd and cartoonish, but are at least consistent: the laws of physics may not be what they are in the real world, but they don’t suddenly change mid-game, nor do the rules suddenly change simply because the story demands it. Most “cartoon” baseball video games, like Backyard Baseball and the Mario Baseball series, fit in this category.

4: Many absurd elements

While clearly meant to be a realistic world that has our baseball’s rules and our laws of physics, the amount of absurd, cartoonish or unrealistic elements in the work make it more strange than realistic. Consider Mr. Go, for example, which has two baseball-playing gorillas, a little girl acting as a first-base coach and a finale that involves the baseball coming undone into a million pieces, which sort of overwhelms what would probably otherwise be a 6 if, say, it only had one gorilla.

5: Equal Mix of Realism and Fantasy

A work that sort of teeters between being realistic and being bizarre. This is more of a transitional spot on the scale, as it’s rare that anything ever stays at 5, inevitably going to 4 or 6 instead.

6: Realistic, but with one or two “big lies”

This is mostly realistic but it has one or two big elements (or the equivalent of one or two big elements made up of lots of smaller elements) that keep it from being something that you can honestly expect to ever happen in the real world. Sidd Finch could fit here, as could most of the movies in which a kid becomes a big league skipper or ballplayer.

7: Realistic, but highly unlikely

There’s nothing in this work that couldn’t happen, but it’s highly unlikely and any real event like this would probably instantly become one of the most notable things in baseball history. You could argue that Major League fits here, sort of.

8: Near total-realism

While some rules might be bent or not enforced on a strict basis, and some things might happen that are unlikely (although not nearly as unlikely as things that fall at seven on the scale), this is pretty realistic. Casey At The Bat, the classic poem, could be considered as this, with only the ability of everybody to seemingly hear everything keeping it from being a nine.

9: Utter realism

The only things that are not realistic in works of this category are omnipresent techniques like camerawork and editing for time, or stylish touches added in to indicate, say, that a player is angry. Bull Durham could, in theory, fit in this category, as could most (but not all) fairly true-to-history biopics and most realistic baseball video games.

10: Actual Baseball Footage used/Documentary

If you are watching an actual baseball game, or watching a documentary that uses baseball footage and does so without changing things for dramatic effect, you are watching a 10.

 

Feel free to consider where on the sliding scale your favorite piece of baseball fiction would fall!

6 PM: First References

This 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.

 

Coming later this month: “International Baseball Culture”

Bizarre Baseball Culture is perhaps my most popular segment on the Baseball Continuum. In it, I, as I say: “…take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.” It’s seen comic books, video games, novels, TV episodes, animated shorts, a radio drama, and even a full-length movie. They’ve ranged from the well-known to the hyper-obscure, leading Michael Claire to dub me the “Indiana Jones of baseball comics“, which I guess isn’t the worst thing to be put on a tombstone.

Anyway, in search of good material, I have recently began to look overseas. Some of my favorite Bizarre Baseball Culture posts have been from elsewhere in the world. The Pokémon episode, for example, was pretty popular. Mr. Go might have been the most fun I’ve ever had doing Bizarre Baseball Culture (well, until you see what the 50th installment is). My most recent installment was, of all things, an episode of an Ultraman TV series.

However, here’s the thing: it is stupid to assume that everything foreign is bizarre. Oh, to be sure, plenty of it is, just like how the American-made works of fiction I’ve covered here on the Continuum have been bizarre (intentionally or not). I mean, no matter what country it was made in, a movie about a gorilla playing baseball would have been bizarre.

But to say it is all bizarre, simply because it is foreign, would be highly ignorant and also disrespectful. These are places with their own traditions, not only in baseball but in their popular culture. To immediately dub a fairly mundane (i.e. no baseball-playing gorillas or evil glove monsters) baseball comic from Japan or a baseball film from Korea “bizarre” would be like being the baseball entertainment equivalent of the crotchety old columnist who claims that Latin American players aren’t playing the game the “right way” despite the fact that that’s the way they’ve played all their lives. And, guess what, I am not a crotchety old columnist, although I wish I was being paid like one.

So, with that out of the way, I am proud to announce that, starting with a piece in this year’s blogathon, there will be a new recurring feature on the Baseball Continuum: International Baseball Culture. It will cover baseball entertainment from outside the United States and sometimes Canada* that isn’t “bizarre”. Now, there will continue to be foreign-sourced baseball works in Bizarre Baseball Culture, but they will only be those that would qualify for the series due to their content. If it turns out that there’s a Mexican movie in which luchadores play baseball against mermen from Atlantis, that’s still going into Bizarre Baseball Culture. But if it’s a serious drama about a baseball team called the “Luchadores” who are playing a team called the “Mermen”, that would be International Baseball Culture.

So, please join me during the Blogathon when I begin my International Baseball Culture travels with the beginning of a series of articles on Mitsuru Adachi’s Touch, a baseball dramedy/romance manga and anime that won awards, set viewership records in the 1980s, and was in 2005 named one of the ten greatest anime ever… and yet has never seen an official release in North America.

*I’ll be taking Canada on a case-by-case basis. For example, you could argue that the works of W.P. Kinsella are Canadian because Kinsella is from Canada, but you’d be ignoring the fact that most of his baseball stories are set in America and deal pretty specifically with American baseball. But if somebody were to make a French-language drama about a man and a woman who fall in love over their shared longing for the return of the Montreal Expos, that would probably fall under International Baseball Culture.

HUMOR: Cable TV descriptions of baseball movies that must be made

You know how when you come across a movie on cable, they give you a brief description?

Well, here are some baseball movies that must be made, and what their cable TV description would be:

BOBBLEHEAD THE MOVIE: A 1960s bobblehead is forced to come out of retirement to lead his team over more realistically-proportioned action figures. Starring the vocal talents of Kevin Costner, Rainn Wilson.

MURDER MOST FOWL: After the shocking murder of Mrs. Met, the San Diego Chicken must lead the hunt for the mascot responsible. Starring Ted Giannoulas and the guy in the Mr. Met costume.

BAY OF PUIGS: A greedy baseball agent finances a invasion of Cuba, looking to open it up in order to find more talent to sign. Starring William Dafoe and Pitbull.

MINOR PROBLEMS: The GM of a minor league baseball team must escape assassins sent to kill him after a disastrous “Russian Heritage Night”. Starring Paul Giamatti and Zooey Deschanel.

HOSS: The tale of the pitching deity and dapper gent is brought to life. Rated NC-17 for language, violence, excessive drinking, opium use and syphilis.

DINOSAUR BASEBALL: Dinosaurs play baseball —*Television explodes from the awesomeness before you can finish reading it.*

 

The All-Announcer Team

This certainly has been done before, but I thought I’d do it: What if you had to make a team made up of announcers and color commentators (either as regulars or as common fill-ins) from either TV or Radio, assuming you could have them in their prime? Well, it’d probably look something like this (there is a jump after the pitchers). I note what team or, in cases where they work for a national network, network they are currently commentating for.

Starting Pitching Staff: This is one of the big strengths, with Jim Palmer (Orioles), Bert Blyleven (Twins) and Don Sutton (Braves) already in the Hall of Fame and with Tom Glavine (Braves) and John Smoltz (Braves and TBS) are going to join them one day. How you’d order such a rotation is anyone’s guess.

Relievers: Dennis Eckersley (TBS), of course, is the closer. Jeff Montgomery (Royals), Larry Andersen (Phillies), Al Hrabosky (Cardinals), Dan Plesac (MLB Network), Rob Dibble (the obscure Compass Media Network radio broadcast) and Mitch Williams (MLB Network) form the rest of the bullpen.

(JUMP)

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Dear MLB Network: Steal these three ideas

In 1928, sliced bread hit the market. Presumably, the phrase “best thing since sliced bread” was started shortly after. Amongst the things better than sliced bread: MLB Network.

But MLB Network isn’t perfect, so, if anybody from MLB Network is reading this, here are some suggestions:

1. Bring back Baseball IQ, open it to fans.

Baseball IQ was a tournament on MLB Network last offseason where representatives from the 30 MLB teams as well as organizations like the Hall of Fame had a trivia tournament, with the winning team getting money for charity.

Bring that back, only open it up for fans. Scour the Internet and SABR for people to play it. The winner of the whole thing would win a “golden pass” that allows them to attend any MLB event free of charge (these are normally given only to presidents and Hall of Famers, although they were also given to the Iranian hostages, Charles Lindbergh, etc.)

2. During the season, occasionally have “breakfast baseball” by showing games live from Japan.

Would give early-risers something to watch, and increase the exposure of international baseball to an American audience. The announcers would be in New Jersey calling it off of a Japanese feed. Wouldn’t cost all that much.

3. Have a minor league show

Most people have no idea what is going on in the minor leagues, and to most fans, even the best prospects are just names on paper. Why not have a show that showcases Minor League players and games, a sort of mini-version of MLB Tonight for the most extreme baseball aficionados who want to know how well the number seven prospect for the Royals is doing, or what’s going on in the Eastern League pennant races.

I mean, it can’t hurt, right?

An act of unnecessary baseball research: Miguel Tejada and Aaron Sorkin

During the pilot episode of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom (a good show, if a little soapboxy), newsman Will McAvoy is reminiscing with his old flame/new executive producer MacKenzie McHale and remembers that he once went to an Orioles game with her father, which ended with Miguel Tejada hitting a double to win the game 4-3, driving home runners who were on first and third.

However, either McAvoy’s memory isn’t as sharp as he’d like to believe, or the universe of The Newsroom isn’t just different because there is a fictional news network around… because no such thing ever happened. From 2004 (when Tejada joined the Orioles) to 2007 (it’s said the two of them haven’t seen each other in three years, so presumably that’s the latest such a game could have happened), Tejada didn’t hit any walk-off doubles for the Orioles.

However, just for the sake of argument, here are some possibilities of what he actually was talking about:

The only time that Miguel Tejada ever had a walk-off double with men on first and third was when he was with the Athletics. Given the fact that McAvoy so clearly remembers it being an Orioles game, and the fact that all of these characters appear to be based on the East Coast, he probably didn’t mean that.

He hit a walk-off home run against the Tigers in 2004, but the men were on 1st and 2nd, it ended the game by the score of 7-5, and, let’s face it, it’s hard to believe somebody would think it was a double.

Personally, I think it was likely this game from August 2006. The Orioles, like in the game remembered by McAvoy, won by one. Two men were on when he had the hit (a single). It’s entirely possible that, in the madness that so often follows a walk-off hit, that McAvoy would think that Tejada had gone to second. As for all of the other inconsistencies in McAvoy’s memories, well, he mentions that he and Mackenzie’s father had been drinking a lot that day, so, well, there you go.

So, there you go, the answer to a baseball question nobody asked.