Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Weird Science

I just ran into something (not literally, for those who believe everything) that caused me to write this piece. Let me explain why. I was born May 25, 1956. So, in little more than one day, I will turn fifty. I am not happy about this. I don’t like the idea of turning fifty. It feels like I’m crossing a Rubicon in my life and the descent to serious aging will quicken. Consequently, my date with history has been on my mind of late.

Where was this going? I had surfed over to ESPN to check the baseball scoreboard. I do this religiously during the season. I have been a life-long baseball fan. One of the first books I owned was about the Baseball Hall of Fame. I even made up baseball dice games when I was a kid and kept stats (geek!).

Oddly, the results of the thousands of rolls of the two six-sided dice were similar in range to historical baseball norms. Different combinations of the dice elicited different results. Sometimes these resulted in re-shakes, which introduced more combinations. The average batting average was .280 to .300. and ERAs (earned run average) were in line with MLB.

Another strange thing was players like Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn, etc., performed frighteningly similar to their real life selves. A weird connection mainlined by my fingers into those dice.

As a kid and later as an adult, my favorite team, other than the Braves, later the Brewers, was the Pittsburgh Pirates. I don’t know why, I had this thing for Pittsburgh. So naturally, when I first got involved in the fantasy baseball craze, my Strat-o-Matic expansion club was named the Pittsburgh Pirates (Braves and Brewers already taken).

If interested, check out the Strat-o-Matic website. It’s an incredibly accurate baseball experience.

For the next 15 years, my Pirates won five division titles (24-team league with 6 divisions), was the wild card entry another 3-4 other times and made it to one World Series where Larry Walker (a fav of mine traded to my World Series opponent at the beginning of the season) single-handedly snuffed the hopes of the Pirate faithful by winning two games with walk-off homers. Walker and his team, the Chicago White Sox, won the series four games to two.

A few years ago, I entered another league. This league added general manager to the list with its introduction of a salary structure, free agency, etc. This team, the Cream City Pirates has won one division title, and a wild card appearance.

Anyway, if you've stayed with me so far, hang on, we're almost there.

So, while surfing ESPN I saw this: “… excerpt from Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders, where Neyer recalls the Braves' signing of an aging Babe Ruth.” I clicked and read. Near the end, Neyer says this about the fading former Bronx Bomber:

There would be one last hurrah. On May 25 in Pittsburgh, Ruth hit a two-run
homer in the first inning. In the third, he hit another. And in the seventh, he
hit one more home run (this time with nobody on base). The latter two homers
came against Guy Bush, who years later would say, "I never saw a ball hit so
hard before or since. He was fat and old, but he still had that great swing.
Even when he missed, you could hear the bat go swish. I can't remember anything
about the first home run he hit off me that day. I guess it was just another
homer. But I can't forget that last one. It's probably still going."

I looked at the date of the game and where it was played (and the last name of the pitcher who yielded the final two homers ... indicative of the fall of the modern-day Bush?) and I was surprised and kind of thrilled at the cosmic implication that this was the reason I'm a baseball fan.

Hey, if thousands of monkeys pecking away indiscriminately at typewriters can produce Shakespeare over a journey of an eon or two, then anything is possible.

3 Swings of the bat:

grumps said...

While you're crossing that river to 50 make sure you take time to splash a little bit. The water's fine and it's fun on this side.

Happy Birthday

Julie said...

Hey, I'm not 50, but my wife just turned 50 last month. She loves it, so cheer up, it can't be that bad.

And, as my favorite aunt -- who just turned 75 last Sunday -- likes to say, "Any day above ground is a good day."

Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Tim, it's not that bad on this side of 50.

Strat-o-Matic, what memories! What a game. The computer games are just not the same. Roll the dice, look up the result, hit and run, steal, you could do just about anything. And the results were reasonably realistic, too.

If we baseball geeks ruled the world, ....