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Posts Tagged ‘baseball

“oh, it’s a strange magic”*…

A spell for identifying a thief: To find the thief write on a piece of kosher parchment these names [see words at the end of the spell], and hang them around the neck of a black rooster. Then circle around the suspects with the rooster, and it will jump on the head of the thief. And this has been tested.
Kematin kanit kukeiri ve-hikani yazaf

One of the items in our postponed exhibition Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word is a tiny little codex from sixteenth-century Italy. It is entitled The Tree of Knowledge (Ets ha-Da’at) and contains a collection of some 125 magic spells for all sorts of purposes: curses, healing potions, love charms, amulets. There are a good number of such magical-medical manuscripts in the Hebrew collection, but this volume is special for at least two reasons. First, because of its neat layout and accuracy in its execution. Secondly, because it has an introduction in which Elisha the author tells the story of how he collected these spells.

[There follows the story of the compilation and selection of the spells…]

You can certainly see even from this small selection of spells how valuable the Tree of Knowledge is! Elisha’s long journey from Italy to Galilee through the Mediterranean, his painstaking efforts to acquire hidden and ancient knowledge, were not in vain. And you, dear reader, are only one click away from all this treasure!

Disclaimer: We do not take responsibility for the endurance of these spells. Even strong magic can lose or modify its power over the centuries! Please, do not blame us if you turn into a frog. Try these spells only at your own risk…

From the British Library, “The Tree of Knowledge: magic spells from a Jewish potion book

* Jeff Lynne, ELO, “Strange Magic”

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As we contemplate casting, we might recall that it was on this date in 1984 that Dwight Gooden set the record for strikeouts in a season by a rookie– 276 (pitched, in Gooden’s case, over 218 innings). The record, which still stands, was previously held by Herb Score with 246 in 1954.

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Written by LW

September 12, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Most players are just happy to get the bag on the board”*…

 

In 2000, Matt Guy [left-most in the photo above] began to notice his competition in professional horseshoes had gotten older, while no younger players came to replace them. There had never been big money to be made playing horseshoes, but Matt liked the competition and the opportunity to bond with his dad.

When his dad decided to retire from competition, Matt had risen as high as sixth in the world, but it was time for a change.

Soon enough, he was introduced to professional cornhole.

As Matt Guy rose among the ranks of professional horseshoe players, Frank Geers had his own dream. He wanted to create a sports league.

Geers figured his best bet would be a backyard lawn game, like horseshoes, ladders, or cornhole. He sought to emulate-lesser known spectator sports that still draw high levels of participation, like bowling. He eliminated some games for being too complicated or dangerous. Cornhole had obvious appeal for its simplicity and accessibility. Matt Guy noticed it immediately too.

“Horseshoes used in competition are two and a half pounds thrown over 40 feet,” Guy explained. “In cornhole, it’s one-pound beanbags being tossed 27 feet.”

Then, there was the money. Geers understood that people wanted to watch competitors win big prizes…

The two men leading the charge to turn the bean-bag toss into a major spectator sport: “Serious Cornhole.”  See also: “Life’s A Pitch When You’re The World’s Best Cornhole Player.”

* Frank Geers, founder, president and CEO of the American Cornhole Organization

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As we limber up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1963 that Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was hired as Manager of the New York Yankees.  Berra played almost his entire 19-year baseball career (1946–1965) for the Yankees, where he became one of only four players to be named the Most Valuable Player of the American League three times.  According to  sabermetrician Bill James, he is the greatest catcher of all time and the 52nd greatest non-pitching player in major-league history.  

Berra’s accession to leader of the dynasty of which he was a crucial part was a natural, and a storied success. Less expected was his subsequent move to manage cross-town rival the New York Mets– where he was, again, successful.  He is one of seven managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series (as a player, coach, or manager, Berra appeared in 21 Fall Classics). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Berra is also remembered for the “unique”  observations on baseball and life with which he graced reporters during interviews:  e.g., “Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical,” “It’s déjà vu all over again,” “You can observe a lot by watching,” and “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  In The Yogi Book, Berra explained, “I really didn’t say everything I said. […] Then again, I might have said ’em, but you never know.”

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Written by LW

October 24, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Don’t ever forget two things I’m going to tell you. One, don’t believe everything that’s written about you. Two, don’t pick up too many checks.”*…

 

Ruth stepped out of the box after strike one, then stepped out again after strike two. Tired of being heckled, he pointed two fingers, which is where the controversy begins. In the legend, he was pointing to the center-field seats, four-hundred-plus feet away, calling his shot in the way of Minnesota Fats saying, “Eight ball, corner pocket.” Root’s third pitch was a curve—the deuce. Off the edge of plate, down, but Ruth swung anyway, sending it into deep afternoon. It landed exactly where he’d pointed, that’s what they said, beside the flagpole in back of the bleachers—490 feet from home. Lou Gehrig followed with another home run. The Yankees won 7 to 5 and went on to sweep the Series.

Ruth’s “Called Shot” is among the most famous plays in baseball history. Drawings show the penultimate moment: Babe, Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, arm outstretched, two fingers raised like the Pope giving a benediction. There’s a statue, movies. But it was disputed from the start. Did Ruth really call his shot, or did it just look that way?

Grantland Rice and Westbrook Pegler, among the most famous sportswriters of the day, had been watching from the press box behind home. Both claimed to have seen Ruth point to center, calling his shot. Franklin Roosevelt, then candidate for president, was at the game—he threw out the first pitch—and he saw it, too. Ditto Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. Among the last living witnesses is retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who, then a twelve-year-old Cubs fan, was at the game with his father. The Cubs pitcher “Guy Bush was razzing Ruth,” Stevens told the writer Ed Sherman. “He and Ruth were in some kind of discussion back and forth. I heard years later it was over the Cubs being tightfisted and not giving a full share to Mark Koenig. I do remember Bush came out of the dugout and engaged in a colloquy with him … My interpretation was that he was responding to what Bush was saying. He definitely pointed toward center field. My interpretation always was, ‘I’m going to knock you to the moon.’ ”…

The most iconic event ever to occur in Wrigley Field did not star the Cubs—it unfolded in 1932, and starred the New York Yankees, with the home team serving merely as foil: The story of Babe Ruth’s most famous homer, “The Called Shot.”

* Babe Ruth

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As we beckon to the bleachers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1911 that Ty Cobb was awarded the Chalmers Prize (an automobile), the equivalent of today’s MVP Award.  The “Georgia Peach” had achieved aa 40-game hitting streak and a .420 batting average, the highest in the league and record for the time; he led the league that year in numerous other categories as well, including 248 hits, 147 runs scored, 127 RBI, 83 stolen bases, 47 doubles, 24 triples and a .621 slugging percentage. Cobb hit eight home runs but finished second in that category to Frank Baker, who hit eleven.

Ty Cobb, left, and Joe Jackson, whom he bested for the 1911 batting title

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Written by LW

October 11, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Just take the ball and throw it where you want to. Throw strikes. Home plate don’t move.”*…

 

In the major leagues this season, batters have been hitting the ball so hard, and so far, that pitchers are suggesting foul play. “There’s just something different about the baseballs,” one veteran reliever complained earlier this summer. “I don’t have anything to quantify it, but the balls just don’t feel the same.” It’s been an unprecedented year for home runs: hitters are on pace to shatter the previous single-season record for them (5,693), which was set in 2000, at the height of the steroid era, when sluggers were making widespread and illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs. In June, players hit more home runs than in any previous month in the game’s history (1,101), sometimes in gaudy fashion, as when seven different players hit grand slams in a single day (another record)…

Under the circumstances, it was easy to miss another major-league record being set this week. Granted, it was somewhat obscure. It concerned one of baseball’s most pleasurable and least appreciated feats: the immaculate inning.

Rick Porcello [above], the starting pitcher for the Red Sox, threw one in a win against the Tampa Bay Rays on [August 9]. He struck out the side—three up, three down—on nine consecutive pitches. It was the eighth immaculate inning pitched this season, which topped the previous high (seven), from 2014…

Rarer than a no-hitter: “The ephemeral perfection of the Immaculate Inning.”

And check out The Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s “Treasures from the Baseball Diamond.”

* Satchel Paige

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As we contemplate control, we might consider its opposite, recalling that on this date in 1909, in the first of two games at South Side Park, Dolly Gray of the Washington Senators entered the record book by walking eight White Sox in the 2nd inning, with seven of the walks in a row (each feat a Major League record that stands to this day). The six runs scored were enough for a 6 – 4 Chicago win, although the Sox managed only one hit against Dolly.

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Written by LW

August 28, 2017 at 1:01 am

“God’s a Skee-Ball fanatic”*…

 

In the early 1900s, the thing Joseph Fourestier Simpson desired most was to create something people respected. A career hustler—real estate agent, cash register salesman, and railroad clerk were just a few of the many jobs he held—Simpson longed to invent something he could patent that would have lasting appeal.

A handful of his inventions made minor waves: He perfected an egg crate that could protect shells during bumpy transportation routes, and created a new kind of trunk clasp that kept luggage tightly shut. None of it made him rich, but one invention in particular would at least gain him some national recognition. It was a ramp that could be set up in arcades and amusement parks, a kind of modified form of bowling that allowed players to lob a wooden ball over a bump and into a hole with a pre-assigned point value. He dubbed it Skee-Ball after the skee (ski) hills—and especially the ski jumps—that were then becoming popular in American culture.

Simpson filed for a patent in 1907 and received it in 1908. Later, he would see his Skee-Ball become a popular and pervasive attraction along the Atlantic City Boardwalk, in Philadelphia, and across the country. But Simpson wouldn’t see any profit from it. In fact, he’d suffer financial ruin. Even worse, history would become muddled to the point where most people wouldn’t even realize it was Simpson who had invented it…

The tale in its entirety at “The Hole Story: A History of Skee-Ball.”

* “Rufus, the thirteenth apostle” (Chris Rock) in Dogma

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As we roll ’em true, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that the first Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

Lou Gehrig (back to camera) and Al Simmons at the plate as Babe Ruth approaches to bat. Ruth homered to give the American league a 4-2 victory.

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Written by LW

July 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

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