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Why would Ruth curse Boston anyway?

What's that you say? Don't have the attention span to read a whole column dedicated to one subject because you're too caught up in the playoffs? What a coincidence! I'm too playoff-addled to write one. Instead, here are 13 things on my mind at this point in time:

1. The Most Memorable Game in LCS History: Game 1, 2003 NLCS
Look at the title again. It says, "memorable."
Doesn't it stand to reason that I'm going to remember
last night's game better than one played last year or
five years ago or 20? You bet it does. I mean, who can
forget that crowd on Waveland Avenue massing toward
Sosa's home run ball in the dim glow of the
streetlights or Mike Lowell, rising from the ashes of
his injury to secure the first victory. I certainly
can't -- at least not on the morning after it happened.

2. The Red Sox hair thing (or lack thereof)
Some people can get away with shaving their heads and
some cannot. Unfortunately, in order to know into
which of those two categories one falls, one must
actually shave one's head. A number of the Red Sox,
bent on performing a ritual of team unity, have found
out the hard way that they are not the second coming
of Yul Brynner. Phrenology might have been nonsense,
but it would be useful to still have a few of its
practitioners around so they could feel your head
before you shaved it to determine if it was suitable
for the Mr. Clean look.

3. The Curse of the Bambino
If I'm not the first person to say this, I apologize.
Even if I'm not, it bears repeating. Let's assume for
a moment that there are such things as curses. OK. Got
that? For the purposes of this argument, we now live
in a world where you can curse a guy who steals your
parking space so that when he returns to his car it's
filled with scorpions. Why then, would Babe Ruth curse
the Red Sox? They sent him to a team that could afford
to pay him more than the President of the United
States that played in a city with more than a dozen
newspapers all fighting over who would try hardest to
make him famous. It was a city with more of the things
Ruth liked in terms of sheer volume: more women, more
food, more booze. Why would he have cursed the Boston
Red Sox? What he should have done is written them a
thank-you note.

4. Seeing my name in headlines
I opened ESPN.com's baseball page yesterday and saw
the following headline: "Morgan: Baker underrated."
Well, here was good news! Our television analyst, Joe
Morgan, was giving me my due. But no, it was -- once
again -- a reference to Cubs manager Dusty Baker. I
really need to get a pen name.

5. Joe Torre's job tenure
I would liken Joe Torre's job to that of a guy
delivering nitroglycerine on a unicycle: he's only as
good as his last pothole. When the road is smooth,
both are safe. One screw up, though, and it's all
over. It's a silly way to treat an employee, really --
not the nitro on the unicycle thing, that sounds
economical.

6. Miguel Cabrera
If he stays on third base for the rest of his career,
we may be seeing the earliest stage of a Hall of Fame
lifestyle. If he is moved to the outfield he runs the
risk of blending in with the crowd. I say this because
of the paucity of third basemen in the Hall of Fame.
Chipper Jones may have hopped off the Cooperstown
Express by leaving the hot corner behind. Which
reminds me: the time for Ron Santo to be elected to
the Hall is about 10 years past. It goes way beyond
him being the best third baseman not in the Hall.
Santo is the single-most deserving eligible player
without a plaque. Can those responsible please make it
their New Year's resolution to get him in the door?

7. The Freak
The writers at ESPN.com were asked to make selections
for the postseason including who would be the MVP of
the World Series. I took the coward's way out and
picked the most-likely suspect from the team I picked
to win it all: Pedro Martinez. A more daring move
would have been for me to choose Lou Merloni or
somebody like that. Every other year, or so it seems,
an obscure player seizes the moment and has the best
week of his life during the playoffs. Think Brian
Doyle in the 1978 World Series. What should we call
these guys? "The Fluke?" That's too condescending, I
think. They are big-league ballplayers, after all, and
earned their place on the roster with years of hard
work. My name-in-progress is "The Freak" but that
isn't written in magna. Freak is nowhere as
condescending as it was in 1932 when Todd Browning
made his movie of that name. It's passed through a
number of different meanings since then, so why not
this, too?

8. Conspiracies
See, now that the Cubs have lights and can play their
World Series games at night, The Man is going to let
them get into it for the first time in almost 60
years. Your skeptic would say that the Cubs have
lights for a long time. "Ah," counters Conspiracy
Theorist guy, "that was just a feint to throw
investigators off the trail."

9. Airfare/ticket cost ratio
(Wealthier readers may skip this one if you like,
unless you enjoy laughing at the plight of those less
fortunate than yourselves.) Are you contemplating
going to the World Series even though you don't live
within driving distance? To complicate matters, do you
not have game tickets yet? Imagine what you're going
to pay a scalper to see a game at Wrigley Field or
Fenway Park if they should survive the LCS. I think I
once saw this on a fortune cookie message: "The ticket
for what you are to see should never cost more than
what it costs to fly there to see it." There's a way
around this, of course: fly first class. Come on,
what's the hassle? Bankruptcy laws are pretty lenient
-- what have you got to lose?

10. Old-school fans
What are the chances that there is anyone living who
saw the Cubs win their last World Series. Given the
fact that children rarely went to ballgames in those
days, I would say just about no way for the Cubs. A
17-year old at the time of the 1908 Series would be
112 today. That's over 900 in dog years -- or is it 16?
Even a four-year old -- about the youngest age a person
could be and still have a memory of the thing -- would
be 99 today. You look at pictures of crowds at
ballparks then and there just weren't a lot of kids
running around. Where were they? In factories and
mills earning their keep -- not like these slacking
grade schoolers of today.

11. Not quite as old school fans
Same question, only for the Red Sox. According to the
last census, there were 66,000 centenarians in the
United States. What are the chances that at least one
of them saw a World Series game in 1918? Series
attendance that year was about twice the number of
centenarians we now have roaming our streets and
creating havoc and chaos with their graffiti,
hot-wiring of cars and getting into zip-gun and
motorcycle chain rumbles. Your cut-rate actuarial type
would tell you that each of them went to two games of
the '18 Series apiece, but you'll get no such
misleading conclusion here. Since attendance at
ballgames in the teens was predominantly male and
since women outlive men (because, frankly, they have
so much more to live for), the chances aren't good
that there are any surviving witnesses. Maybe three,
tops.

12. Baseball's first postseason reliever
Watching both starters surrender six runs apiece and
still manage to stay in last night's game in spite of
the fact that most teams now carry 17 pitchers on
their postseason rosters was pretty surprising. One
would think the hook would have come earlier for at
least one of them. On the topic of postseason relief,
it was 100 years ago this week that a small piece of
history unfolded in the context of a larger one: the
first relief appearance in postseason baseball
history. Well, postseason history that conveniently
forgets the eight postseason series that were played
in the 19th Century, anyway.

On Oct. 2, 1903 the Pirates summoned Bucky Veil
from the bullpen to bail out Sam Leever with the team trailing 2-0
to start the second inning of Game 2 against Boston.
Veil, a 22-year old rookie who had both started and
relieved during the season, pitched credibly. He threw
seven innings, allowing one run on six hits and five
walks while striking out only one, as was custom at
the time. It was, sadly, his penultimate major league
experience. The following year he appeared in one game
for the Pirates and that was the end of his time in
the bigs.

If you are of a mind to count the mostly forgotten
19th Century World Series, then the first reliever
ever in the history of postseason tournament play
was Jimmy Ryan, a rookie with the Chicago White
Stockings (now Cubs) in 1886. Much like Francisco
Rodriguez last year, Ryan was a rookie who had only
pitched in five games in his big league career to that
point. He saw most of his action as an outfielder. He
was summoned to relieve Ned Williamson in Game 5
against the St. Louis Browns of the American
Association. Williamson was the team's shortstop who
had only pitched in two games that year, giving some
indication of how seriously manager Cap Anson was
taking matters by that point. Ryan threw four wild
pitches and didn't do much to keep Chicago in the
game. If you'd like to know more about baseball's
mysterious postseason contests of long ago, read
Glory Fades Away by Jerry Lansche.

13. Knuckeballers in the postseason
Tim Wakefield starts tonight for the Red Sox. Prior to
this year, he had a 7.11 postseason ERA. The
postseason hasn't been especially kind to
knuckleballers, at least the famous ones of modern
memory. In a group that includes Barney Schultz, Tom
Candiotti, Hoty Wilhelm, Charlie Hough, Phil and Joe
Neikro, none of them ever won a postseason game and
together they posted a 4.06 ERA. This was greatly
aided by Joe Neikro's scoreless pitching in 20
innings. Wakefield has done something none of them
managed to do: get credited for a postseason win. He
had two complete game victories with the Pirates in
1992.

Jim Baker writes Monday through Friday for ESPN Insider. He can be reached at jbakerespn@yahoo.com