The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

Big, Bent Ears, Chapter 7: Anatomy of a Sequence

July 22, 2015 | by

Tape markings on the stage of the Tennessee Theater indicating equipment placement for tUnEyArDs's set at the Big Ears Music Festival in 2015. Photo: Kate Joyce

Tape markings on the stage of the Tennessee Theatre indicating equipment placement for tUnE-yArDs’s set at the Big Ears Music Festival in 2015. Photo: Kate Joyce

What do crushed tulips, baseball, and Jonny Greenwood have in common?

It’s the kind of question that would only be asked in “Big, Bent Ears,” Sam Stephenson and Ivan Weiss’s “Serial in Documentary Uncertainty.” The series’s seventh chapter examines the process and work of photographer Kate Joyce (the answer to the riddle above), a member of their documentary team and an erstwhile child detective. Regular readers will remember Joyce’s work from our “Bull City Summer” series, where her typologies of ball markings on the outfield wall, bubblegum-wrapper lawn darts, and abandoned cups of melted drinks offered an accounting of the game’s periphery. For “Big, Bent Ears,” Joyce takes a similarly sideways view of the action, and her need to look beyond a subject (sometimes literally) in order to see it more clearly defined is on view in her filming of an interview with Greenwood earlier this year:

I was looking for a way to bring the outside in, to invite the street into the room. The way we framed that shot was to have Greenwood sit nearly in front of a window and focus the camera lens through the window on the exterior. I had spent so much time walking around Knoxville, photographing scenes around town. I wanted to see if there was a way to combine the street with the interview. I remember when the interview was over being disappointed that more things didn’t happen outside the window.

Read the latest chapter here, and catch up on the rest of the series:

Nicole Rudick is managing editor of The Paris Review.

The Rise of the Tablescape, and Other News

May 6, 2015 | by

From a display of outdoor patio furniture and table settings at Pereira & Luckman, Beverly Hills, California, 1953. Photo: Julius Shulman

  • Tim Parks on reading and the senses: “We have a vested interest in supposing that we are capable of projecting a kind of continuous movie of the events in a novel … The problem is that upon close examination the reading experience is far more complex and far less visual than is commonly supposed … So what do we see when we read? First the page, of course, and the words printed on it. No ‘image’ we have of the characters or settings will ever be as concrete, as indisputably and continuously present, as the solid book … ”
  • Pedro Martinez’s new autobiography reveals, at last, a field-tested secret to beating performance anxiety: “Early on, when I was in the minor leagues and measuring the opposing batter, I would conjure up a scene straight out of the most gruesome Hollywood blood-and-gore slasher flick: my mother, strapped tightly by ropes to a chair, her mouth gagged, her eyes clenched shut, too terrified to look down at the tip of a knife held to her throat by the leader of a gang of kidnappers.”
  • Today, in pleas from academia: Can’t we stop conferring, already? Haven’t we had enough of this masquerade? “Conferences feel necessary, but their purpose is unclear. They have great potential to help revitalize the humanities, but have not yet lived up to this potential.”
  • Other than perennial favorites—your John Dowells and Holden Caulfields, anyone from Joyce or Nabokov—who are the greatest unreliable narrators? Look to Henry James, for starters, and “give up pretending there weren’t unreliable narrators before 1940”: “The Sacred Fount is his least read major novel, and certainly his oddest. The narrator spends the entire book concocting elaborate deductions about fellow partygoers based on next to no evidence.”
  • If “a dining table was once a simple, knockdown affair,” how did we end up with profligate place settings, glutted with silverware, centerpieces, and candelabras? A history of tablescapes finds that “improved manufacturing technologies led to a boom in utensils and flatware. Elite European tables have displayed silver dishware since the Middle Ages, but the variety of dishes for holding food continually increased, as they became more specific and more ornate. This trend peaked in the Victorian Era, when an abundance of silver, glass, and porcelain contributed to the table’s shiny new look, with about twenty pieces per place setting.”

Hot Stove

February 9, 2015 | by


A young Harper Lee, her thoughts no doubt consumed by the New York Mets.

Harper Lee fever has gripped the nation. Ever since news of her lost novel hit last week, the famously reclusive writer has been everywhere—trending on Twitter, spawning lists, smiling above the fold on the front page of today’s New York Times. Naturally, there’s been as much controversy as delight: Is the elderly author being taken advantage of? Does she want the book released? According to her lawyer, the author is humiliated by such allegations. 

Whatever you think about the release of the novel, the whole thing has started to feel a bit squicky, or at the very least odd. All of this has so little to do with the woman herself. Or so I declared self-righteously to my head over the weekend, when I resolved to take an attitude of superior distaste towards the whole business. When I saw a feature on Harper Lee’s New York in the New York Post, my lip curled. Until, that is, I glanced at the annotated map and saw that it listed—along with the Yorkville flat where Lee lived off and on for decades, Capote’s Brooklyn Heights home, and the offices of agent Maurice Crain—the old Shea Stadium. Read More »

Future Eligibles

October 29, 2014 | by

Finding a Hall of Fame for Dock Ellis.

Dock Ellis getting a manicure in a Detroit barbershop on July 13, 1971. He was starting pitcher later that day for the National League in tonight’s All-Star game with the American League.

Dock Ellis getting a manicure in a Detroit barbershop on July 13, 1971. He was starting pitcher later that day for the National League in the All-Star Game with the American League.

Let’s get Dock Ellis into the Hall of Fame. Oh, not really, of course—by the Hall’s statistical criteria, he isn’t even close. But after a visit to Cooperstown in September, I found myself imagining a Hall of Fame that would enshrine him.

Ellis is unquestionably famous, after all—infamous, too. He is the subject of No No: A Dockumentary, which headlined the Hall of Fame Film Festival I attended last month; a Society for American Baseball Research panel event a few weeks later; a psychedelic song, recorded in 1993, by Barbara Manning; and, especially, an excellent book, published in 1976, by The Paris Review’s own Donald Hall, Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball. Evidence keeps mounting that Dock—always flamboyant, often controversial—was the emblematic player of his era, the seventies, with its dubious introduction of such artificialities as the designated hitter and Astroturf; the acrimonious battle for free agency; and all those drugs.

Ah, yes, drugs. Ellis, who died in 2008, is best known as the pitcher who, in 1970, threw a no-hitter while tripping on acid—appropriately, his name in a box score reads, “Ellis, D.”—but that freak feat is a red herring, and it’s not even his most freakish. On May 1, 1974, Dock decided to send a message to the Pirates’ archrivals, the intimidating Cincinnati Reds, who had cowed Pittsburgh into competitive docility. “We gonna get down,” Dock decided. “We gonna do the do. I’m going to hit these motherfuckers.” Donald Hall recounts Ellis’s plan and its execution. The first guy Dock hit was Pete Rose (who should also be in the Hall of Fame, though for very different and far more genuine reasons). After he hit three batters, walked another who ducked and dodged four pitches, and threw two beanballs at future Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, Ellis was mercifully removed from the game with this remarkable stat line: zero innings pitched, no hits, no strikes thrown, three hit batsmen, one walk, one run allowed. “Dock Ellis faced four batters in the first inning,” the box score decorously explains. Dock’s own explanation of himself in No No says more: “It’s not that you’ve got to watch how I pitch,” he insists. “You’ve got to watch how I play.” Read More »


Field of Dreams

August 19, 2014 | by

Chasing down one grand slam.

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 3.31.41 PM

From Baseball ABC, 1885

It was my 3,664th day on Earth, as I later calculated, and I was in a Little League fantasy scenario in Princeton, New Jersey. Play-offs, bases loaded, up at bat against an intimidating pitcher with a gnarly high kick. For an instant, my Louisville Slugger met with the ball, the leather and rubber shape-shifting against the aluminum. A roper up the middle into deep center—I can still feel the smack off the fat of the bat. I’d hit an inside-the-park grand slam. This was my finest moment as an athlete. It’s forever seared into my brain, scored by the cacophony of yelping mothers and fathers loud enough to drive kids away from the ice-cream truck to investigate.

This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Little League’s existence, culminating in August’s Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Williamsport’s Carl Stotz founded the league in 1939 by rounding up his nephews and their neighborhood friends. With the added attention to Little League this year, I began considering my brief moment of glory and how many children over the decades have received such a jolt of confidence—or the opposite—on ball fields nationwide.

The league has since ballooned into an international behemoth, with more than two-hundred thousand teams in all fifty states and more than eighty countries the world over, from Uganda to Kyrgyzstan. Each year now, more than two million boys (and some girls) play ball—their teams often sponsored by local businesses and larger corporations—and get schooled in triumph and failure, sometimes life and death. (The year 1956 marked the first on-field death in Garland, Texas, when Jerry Armstrong hit the twelve-year-old Richard “Rick” Oden in the head with a pitch.)

Our own conquests may not occur in front of the forty-five thousand live fans and more than a million TV viewers the Little League World Series attracts, but they mold our characters nonetheless, before modest collections of parents and siblings. Still, I realized how little detail I actually recalled from my big day. Who was the pitcher? What was the weather like? How old was I exactly? Read More »


You Belong to the City

August 18, 2014 | by


A still from 1986 Mets: A Year to Remember.

1986 Mets: A Year to Remember is quite possibly the most amazing video yearbook for any professional sports team … ever.” That’s a comment from someone named the Wright Stache, who’s done God’s work by putting most of said video yearbook on Vimeo. But it could be anyone who grew up a Mets fan. There’s the series itself, of course—Game Six, Buckner, Jesse Orosco on the mound—but anyone with an ESPN subscription and a memory can tell you about that. A Year to Remember—known in our house simply as “The Mets Video”—is something different. 

“I watched that video,” said a friend of mine recently. “I don’t really get what’s so great about it.” I didn’t even know how to respond to this. Is the Mets video tied up for me with my brother and my childhood and past glories and the pain of defeat and the entire nature of youth, life, and maybe death? Obviously. But it’s also pretty obvious that it’s just objectively awesome. 

It’s an official Major League Baseball video; I remember that it came in a blue plastic case. Why we had it, I don’t know. I guess it was just what you did in the eighties. Because we weren’t the only ones; a bunch of my friends also owned it, and we can all recite the narration and replicate the “routine double play” from the play-offs and, of course, do a hotfoot in a pinch, as demonstrated by Roger McDowell and Howard Johnson. Indeed, the Mets video occupies a place of honor in a certain varietal of NYC psyche: for those of us who were really young in 1986, that long-ago triumph was symbolized by the video. And scored by Duran Duran. Read More »