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Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

Opening Day

March 31, 2014 | by

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George W. Bush throws the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game on March 30, 2008. Photo: Kate Wellington, via Flickr

If there is a baseball team in your area, you may one day be asked to throw out the first pitch. Throwing out the first pitch is a way to recognize someone who is famous or is being honored before the start of a baseball game. —eHow, How to Throw Out the First Pitch

A little after one this afternoon, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, a Red Sox fan, threw the ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field, where the Mets were facing the Washington Nationals. He was surrounded by seven children affected by the recent East Harlem gas explosion. According to the New York Observer, “Mr. de Blasio, wearing a personalized Mets jersey bearing his last name and the number six, stood a few feet in front of the pitcher’s rubber and tossed a strike to a Mets catcher. Still, fans aggressively booed the mayor when his name was announced, not long before he threw the ceremonial pitch.” Read More »

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Bull City Redux

March 20, 2014 | by

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Kate Joyce, Pressbox, April 2013.

On view as part of the New York Public Library’s recent exhibition “Play Things”—on prints and photographs that deal in some way with games and recreation—was a series of nine baseball cards made in 1975 by artist Mike Mandel. Originally packaged with sticks of Topps gum, the cards feature some heavy hitters at bat, pitching, and fielding: Joel Meyerowitz (2), who prefers Kodachrome film; Aaron Siskind (66), whose favorite developer is Mircodol-X; and Betty Hahn (54), who likes to shoot with a Nikon. Oh, didn’t I mention—they’re photographer trading cards.

Mandel made them (there are 134 in all) in order to satirize, and frustrate, the commercial art market: the only way to collect all the cards is by making trades. Mandel’s link between photography and baseball is apt for another reason: baseball, a famously uneventful sport, is a game in which players and fans spend a lot of time observing—each other, the stands, the field, the sky—and what is photography if not the art of observing? Read More »

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What We’re Loving: Baseball, Giacometti, Literary Sprinting

November 8, 2013 | by

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Missing baseball yet? I am: I miss the slow churn of the season, I miss sitting in the stands, shielding my eyes from an afternoon sun as a hit flies into the air—is it foul? is it fair?—only to be caught at the wall by an outfielder. I miss the rhythm of apparent inactivity mixed with maximum tension. (I don’t miss the Cubs never winning a World Series.) What is beautiful about Steven Millhauser’s single-sentence story “Home Run” in Electric Literature is that not only does it celebrate our national pastime, it celebrates this rhythm through language. As editor Halimah Marcus explains in her introduction, “With nary a punctuation mark other than a comma, Millhauser builds momentum like the titular home run—the linguistic equivalent of bated breath, of rally towels, of screaming from your seat, of going, going, gone.” —Justin Alvarez

In celebration of Neil Gaiman’s recent appointment at Bard College (my alma mater), I’ve been spending my evenings with American Gods. Not generally a reader of fantasy, at first I found myself echoing a question asked early on by our protagonist, Shadow: “What should I believe?” When we received an answer—“Everything”—it came from a man with a buffalo head. The book is a compendium of mythological tales, mixed together with intelligent precision and strewn with horror and humor. Ancient deities war with the rising gods of a digital world; a junkie leprechaun roams the streets in search of a misplaced gold coin; morticians by the names of Ibis and Jacquel chew on small bits of organs as they reseal their cadavers. Oh, and Lucille Ball is a god of the new millennium. Yet at the core of these phantasmagorical episodes is a commentary on melting-pot America, where the titans of other worlds are forgotten and replaced by newer, trendier gods—“gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon.” It’s no wonder that this novel has won both Hugo and Nebula awards or that the Internet has been in a frenzy over the rumored HBO adaptation. —Caitlin Youngquist Read More »

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The Church of Baseball

September 18, 2013 | by

Fireworks over the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Photo: Kate Joyce

Fireworks over the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Photo: Kate Joyce

On Saturday, the Bulls won the International League championship. They won the championship! We showed up to document them, and it’s as if they responded to the scrutiny, performed for the cameras. I can’t help thinking of the observer effect. Did we help cause this?

The series was tied at one win apiece after the Bulls and the Pawtucket Red Sox split a pair of 2-1 games in Durham. The run deprivation bottomed out in game three at Pawtucket: neither team scored for an incredible thirteen innings. The futility (or great pitching, if you prefer) went on for nearly six hours. It was dazing and gripping, by turns, with blurry, barren stretches punctuated by a few dramatically thwarted rallies.

Around midnight, it became clear that whoever won this game would go on to take the best-of-five series, for the blood would go right out of the loser of this marathon. Finally, in the fourteenth inning, the Bulls scored two runs—without getting a hit, naturally: Pawtucket coughed up two walks and two errors. Even though Durham closer Kirby Yates loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fourteenth, there was no doubt he’d pitch out of the jam. A rousing strikeout on a full-count pitch ended the game and, essentially, the series. Read More »

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Seventeen Innings, Twenty-Nine Years

September 4, 2013 | by

The Old Durham Bulls Park. Photo: Kate Joyce

The old Durham Athletic Park. Photo: Kate Joyce.

Should anyone flatter us by asking us what we are searching for, we think immediately, almost instinctively, in vast terms—God, fulfillment, love—but our lives are actually made up of tiny searches for things … Add them together, and these things make up an epic quest. —Geoff Dyer

The playoffs begin in Durham tonight. It’s tempting to dismiss minor-league championships as dubious, if not entirely factitious, especially in Triple-A: major-league rosters expanded on September 1, so the Bulls and their competitors have been raided for some of their best players. The post-Labor Day games draw tiny crowds anyway. So who cares?

I do. The most exciting game I’ve ever seen was a Durham Bulls playoff game.

September 4, 1984. Twenty-nine years ago today, the Durham Bulls beat the Lynchburg Mets, 8-7 in seventeen innings, in game two of the Carolina League Championship series. I was at the game in a nominally official capacity. That year I was the “statistician” for Steve Pratt, the Bulls’ radio broadcaster. My job was also factitious: Steve kept his own stats; he was just carrying out a favor for the team owner, who was collegially friendly with my stepfather and humored him by taking me on. My pay was a free sandwich after the fifth inning. I had a calculator and crunched some numbers, but mostly I sat there all summer and watched baseball. Read More »

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Ground Down

August 21, 2013 | by

Shelley Duncan at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, on August 9, 2013. Wet-plate tintype by Leah Sobsey/Tim Telkamp.

Shelley Duncan at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, on August 9, 2013. Wet-plate tintype by Leah Sobsey/Tim Telkamp.

On his first night in Toledo, in his first at bat, Shelley Duncan cue-balled a dribbler to the pitcher. On contact, he yelled, “Shit,” and began his reflexive sprint down the line. When he returned to the dugout, nobody on the team said anything to him or even looked his way. On this road trip, he was 1-10, with a .217 average for the season. He arrived in Durham from Tampa on May 6, after hitting only .182 in twenty games with the big club. As he pulled off his helmet to reveal a tangle of blond, thinning hair, I noticed a far-off look in his eyes, as though they had been hollowed out. It’s a look familiar to anyone who has seen the photographs of Walker Evans: complete exhaustion meshed with pure confusion. He took his helmet in his right hand and walked down the steps, lightly tapping the plastic against the metal railing; his lips, as he spoke to himself, made only slight putters of admonishment. He carefully put the helmet away in its nook and sat down on the bench with his white batting gloves still velcroed at the wrists. Before I even got to know Shelley Duncan, I was already worried about his future in baseball.

I first became interested in Duncan a week earlier when, watching the team in Columbus, I had spotted his name in the Durham Bulls’ media guide as having the most major-league experience of the roster. He had two considerable stints with the Indians and, before that, had made his rookie debut with the Yankees. I was intrigued because, on the surface, he seemed the aging veteran with big-league time, now toiling in the purgatory of Triple-A where everyone is either on their way up or down, or out of baseball altogether. Watching him at the end of the bench, I had no idea that his mother had passed away from brain cancer earlier in the summer or that his brother had been diagnosed with the same disease. I didn’t know that his twin sons had been born last July and he’d been away from them for almost half their lives. He was just a player who seemed near the end. Read More »

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