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The ZI-lights. If you only like watching scoring. start at 1:10 on the video.

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The Real Story of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World”

You Won’t Read It in the “Newspaper of Record.”

Today The NY Times ran a brief piece by Corey Kilgannon noting that the Astros sign stealing was nothing new in baseball. Kilgannon pointed out that it was learned in 2001 that the Giants had used a system anchored by a telescope in a window of their clubhouse beyond center field at the Polo Grounds to get the opposing catcher’s hand signals to the batter prior to each pitch. Since the 1951 National League¬†season ended with Bobby Thomson’s famous home run that became known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” the reports tarnished what had long been considered one of the greatest moments in baseball history.

But there are several¬†problems with the comparison. Sign stealing of any type – ranging from using a telescope to the plain old naked eye – was perfectly legal in 1951. As a result, many teams tried to do it using a variety of methods, some of which may have paralleled the Giants system. Stealing signs using a “mechanical device ” was not outlawed by the league until 1961. In 2001 this was extended to the use of “electronic equipment.” So while the Astros (and Red Sox) were clearly cheaters who broke the current rules, the ’51 Giants were simply taking advantage of a loophole in the MLB rulebook of the time. Kilgannon leaves this unmentioned.

Another key distinction Kilgannon ignores: the Giants relayed the signs from their bullpen in right field, whereas the Astros “banged the can slowly,” so to speak. ¬†Can the Springers and Altuves of the world creditably claim that they never heard anything? Thomson, meanwhile, went to his deathbed denying he knew what pitch was coming from the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca that fateful afternoon. Thomson said¬†that he was concentrating on the pitcher, not right field, and never got the signal. “I¬†can assure you nobody gave me any sign,” Thomson said when the reports first came out. “I was looking for a fastball and that’s what I got.” ¬†

Thomson was a humble, no-nonsense kind of guy of Scottish heritage so that is likely to be true. But Kilgannon leaves Thomson’s protestations out of his story, essentially convicting him via their absence.

Moreover, the real story of the Shot Heard ‘Round the World¬†is Thomson‚Äôs previous record against Branca. Thomson had hit 4 Home Runs against the Dodger stalwart during the season. He had also hit what turned out to be the game-winning Home Run off Branca in Game 1 of the 3-game playoff series. When Thomson came to bat in the last of the 9th of the final game with 2 runners on base, first base was open and rookie Willie Mays was on deck. Thomson already had 2 hits that day including a double. ¬†Mays was¬†0-3 with two strikeouts. Mays has said many times since that he had been praying the Dodgers didn‚Äôt walk Thomson to load the bases in order to pitch to him.

But Dodgers manager Charlie Dressen didn’t want to put the potential winning run on base and inexplicably chose to bring in Branca, who had pitched 8 innings as the team’s¬†Game 1 starter, to face his nemesis Thomson on one day’s rest.

The rest, as they say, is baseball history.

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Time to Strip the Titles from Baseball’s Cheaters

You have to admire the “take no prisoners” approach of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in handing out penalties in the great sign-stealing scandal. At this point two well-liked and well-regarded managers have been forced to resign and have rightly had their legacies tarnished forever. Presumably Carlos Beltran may soon be on the chopping block as well. However…

Is it really enough? Arguably the Astros cheated their way past the Yankees to the 2017 World Series in that year’s ALCS, winning all four games at home, where the nefarious behavior occurred. Then they cheated their way past the Dodgers to win the World Series.

So…why not do what the NCAA does in the case of serious recruiting or other serious rules violations? Strip the teams of their titles. Declare the Dodgers the 2017 World Champions and the Yankees the American League Champions. And, once the investigation of the 2018 Red Sox is complete, strip the Sox of their championship and award that to the Dodgers as well. (And no I am not a Dodger fan; far from it).

Then, fifty years from now, the sign-stealing scandals would be remembered as they should be: like the 1919 Black Sox scandal almost exactly a century earlier.

That strikes me as just desserts for the utter disregard for the integrity and image of the game shown by those involved – all multimillionaires for whom, as Lombardi once said, winning wasn’t everything; it was the only thing.

Let’s let the nice guys finish first for a change.

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Who Do You Trust?

Following last night’s Iranian missile strike on U.S. military bases in Irag, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted: “All is well.”

Meanwhile in the holy city of Qom, Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “The U.S. has caused wars, division, sedition, destruction, and the demolition of infrastructures in this region. They were slapped last night, but such military actions are not enough. The corruptive presence of the U.S. in the West Asian region must be stopped.”

Who’s correct?

Who do you trust?

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A “Make-Good” Gone Mad

Rumors of War by Kehinde Wiley

So after all the controversy about statues of Confederate heroes in the South, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond decided it had the answer. The museum purchased a 27-foot high, 60,000 pound bronze and stone statue by Barack Obama portraitist Kehinde Wiley depicting a young black man with dreadlocks wearing Nike sneakers on the back of an enormous horse, then permanently installed it at its entrance. “It’s beautiful and intimidating,” said a Washington Post reporter who attended the installation.

Great. Let’s counterbalance all the memorials to Confederate heroes (Virginia has the most of any state) that so many black people find intimidating/offensive with something that will cause many southern white folks to be even more wary of young black men than they already are to begin with. Not to mention the complete and utter lack of any actual historical significance to the scene whatsoever.

Let’s make amends as appropriate for excessive glorification of the rebellion in the states that were part of the Confederacy. But not by intimidating and alienating the very people who need to be convinced with a truly over-the-top public display such as “Rumors of War.”

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A Deal to End All Deals

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

LITERALLY. It’s a deal that will almost certainly go down in baseball history as one of the dumbest of all time. Think Albert Puljols, Jason Haywood, and yes, Alex Rodriguez, the last player to get a mega-deal from the Yankees. Now the Bronx Bombers will fork over $324 Million over NINE years to a 29-year-old pitcher who has had two outstanding seasons back-to-back with those cheatin’ Houston Astros after five years of diminishing production for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Gerrit Cole will be 38 in 2028 – the final year of the deal (!). He is unlikely to be averaging 97 MPH on his fastball at that point. Can he learn to pitch rather than throw by then, like Greg Maddux and C.C. Sabathia did in their latter years? Possibly. But was either of those two worth the equivalent of $36M a year during their last six seasons, when each posted a WAR of 3 or above only once?

Speaking of WAR, Cole did not finish in the Top 10 in that much-ballyhooed category in either of the past two seasons, even though four of the Top 10 finishers were pitchers in both 2019 and 2018. The list includes teammate Justin Verlander, as well as Max Scherzer of the Nationals and even Yankee-for-a-season Lance Lynn. Jacob deGrom of the Mets was the only pitcher to accomplish that feat in both seasons, making his measly $137M deal over five years look like the steal of the decade.

But then again, the Yankees didn’t pull out the stops to get Cole over a bunch of subjective data points. They signed him to finally lock down a World Series victory after only their second full decade without one in almost 100 years. Cole will pitch for an exciting young team that came close the past two seasons and was quite capable of eventually doing it without him. Their odds have certainly improved. But their are no guarantees in baseball. Except for Cole’s $324M, of course. That’s guaranteed.

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