Saturday, 10 December 2011

Life imitates "Major League" part 2

Since we now have this internet dealio, I thought I might actually try to solve the Mystery of the Missing Games. Baseball-reference showed that the Indians didn't play any games that year between May 13-19, but then, when I checked on the other AL teams, it turns out they didn't play during that week either. Was it something to do with V-E Day occurring the previous week? Nope. Baseball Library's chronology showed that all of the AL games were rained out for four straight days (see the entry for May 18). That, and having their end of the season doubleheader against the White Sox rained out (see entry for Sept. 30), probably accounts for most of the missing games. The team vs. team stats for the year for the Sox and the As show that they played two and four (respectively) fewer games against the Indians than their other opponents -- it appears that, in a season with a lot of rainouts, the Indians were hit the worst.

In the course of this research, if you can call it that, some fascinating sidelights turned up, as always, like the fact that the A's in '45 had a road record of 13-63. Putrid. The chronology for September 1945 is overflowing with interesting tidbits: a DiMaggio hit his 4th grand slam of the season, but it was Vince not Joe; the Yankees, due to the wartime player shortage, used a pitcher whose last major league appearance had been 22 years earlier; one home run was hit by the Senators in their home stadium all year, and it was an inside-the-parker; there was a no-hitter and Bob Feller's sixth career one-hitter (he would wind up with 12 for his career, along with 3 no-hitters); a contending AL team (the Senators) wrapped up their season a week before everyone else; a record was set for walks in a season; the Cubs set a record with 20 doubleheader sweeps in a season, and also wound up with 21 wins against the Reds for the season (against one loss); a batting title was won on the last day of the season; a pigeon figured in two plays; one-armed outfielder Pete Gray got his last major league hit; and Bobo Newsom and Johnny Dickshot are mentioned.

Anyways, what will the league do this year if the Indians are in contention and have played 3 or so fewer games than the other contenders? Last year, St. Louis and San Francisco would have had to make up a game on the Monday between the end of the season on Sunday and the start of the playoffs on Tuesday if the game had been of consequence to the standings (it wasn't), but there isn't time to make up a whole lost series. So there could be some weird wild stuff if the Indians are in the race for the playoffs (and the punditry says they will be).

Life imitates "Major League"

Due to the continuing bad weather in Cleveland, Major League Baseball this week took the unusual step of moving the Indians' home games against the Los Angeles Angels to the Milwaukee Brewers' Miller Field, which was interesting, since, in the 1989 movie Major League, Milwaukee's then-home field (County Stadium) for some reason played the role of Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. I thought I would be the only one to make that connection, but to the surprise of this commentator the Milwaukee people really played up the Major League angle, playing "Wild Thing" over the PA system when a Cleveland reliever was brought in in the 9th, asking for Dorn to be used as a pitch hitter, and so on (details in the articles here and here). Bill Veeck (one-time owner of the Indians, and, before that, the then-minor league Brewers) would have definitely approved of the showmanship and wackiness on display.

All the cancellations in Cleveland reminded me that I had never tried to figure out, back when I was something of an amateur baseball historian and noticed such things, why the Indians played so few games in the 1945 season (bear with me here, or not): Cleveland finished that year with a record of 73-72, when the season was supposed to run 154 games. Nine cancellations seems like a lot. Actually, they had two ties, so they played 147 games total, but that was still the fewest in the league; the totals, counting ties, were: Boston -- 157; Washington (the Senators) -- 156; Detroit -- 155; St. Louis (the Browns) -- 154; Philadelphia (the A's) -- 153; New York -- 152; Chicago -- 150; Cleveland -- 147.

Odds and sods -- April '07

I've put a ton of items in my "for website" folder over the last month or so, but I haven't been moved to write about hardly any of them for some reason, especially The Big Important Issues in the news. So here's some blathering over a few exceedingly unimportant things:

The book, it ain't worth a-rea-eadin': I recently read Bob Dylan's Chronicles, Vol. 1, and it wasn't bad, but it also it wasn't very good either, and nowhere near what I expected from the lavish praise given it by critics (the paperback edition I read starts with twelve and a half pages of ecstatic blurbs from reviewers). As most reviewers noted, this isn't a comprehensive memoir; Dylan instead covers four vignettes, or perhaps a better word would be acts (in the sense of acts of a stage play) in his career, two of them before he was a star and two from later in his career, and he doesn't cover them in chronological order. I'm fine with that approach conceptually; the trouble is that the two vignettes from later in his career are real "who cares" territory (the longest section of the book deals with the recording of his 1989 album No Mercy -- can you name a single song from that album? me neither), and not much insight can be gained from the other two sections, in my view. Certainly he doesn't answer those obvious questions about his career that everyone asks (like, "when are the Traveling Wilburys getting back together?" and "So what's with all those adverbial / adjectival song titles in the 60s, like 'Queen Jane Approximately,' 'Absolutely Sweet Marie,' 'Obviously Five Believers,' 'Temporary Like Achilles,' 'Positively 4th Street'?" and "What kind of song can a tambourine man play, anyway? You are aware it's a percussion instrument, right?"). What it lacked in a coherent narrative, it also lacked in memorable anecdotes. Not recommended.

This is really brilliant

I'm breaking radio silence to say merely that this video counting down from 100 to 1 with movie quotes is really brilliant. What makes it especially brilliant is that he uses great movies for the most part, Sunset Boulevard, Citizen Kane, The Wild Bunch, etc. etc. -- I recognized almost all of the clips (here's the list). Also, many of the numbers in the quotes are not mentioned in passing but are highly pertinent bits of dialogue in the film, for example 57 for The Manchurian Candidate, 50 for Cool Hand Luke, 39 for the The 39 Steps, 11 for This is Spinal Tap. Bravo, Vincent. Let's hope the suits don't order it taken down for a few days at least.

From the "eBay: is there anything it can't do?" Department

So a couple weeks ago I was re-reading Peter Guralnick's two-volume biography of Elvis (actually, I skimmed it and re-read the more interesting parts) and I thought I recognized the title of one of the books he cited a few times in the first volume: "The Rockin' 50s" by Arnold Shaw. I went on eBay and immediately recognized from the picture of the cover that I had checked that book out from the Defiance public library and read it when I was in grade school, or maybe high school. It's out of print, but I bought a copy on eBay from a lady in Pennsylvania (for $2.00! And shipping, of course), and now I'm starting to re-read that. The reason the book stuck in my mind was that, despite its title, it actually pays more attention to the existing pop music milieu into which rock n' roll music erupted than to rock itself. In fact, I don't recall any other book I've read that does a better job of describing the contrast between the music business and the music-buying (and -listening) habits of the public before and after the arrival of rock music (the author was himself in the business in the 50s, as a music publisher). The first couple of chapters I've re-read show that the book is as interesting as I remembered it. Good deal.

Speaking of the rockin' 50s, the recent ill health of Bo Diddley prompted me to look for videos of him on the internet for purposes of a blog post, since I'm a big Diddley fan. I had a vinyl double album of his greatest hits put out by Chess Records in a cheap cover that fell apart about 20 minutes after I bought it (the album cover I mean, not the album, which I played a gazillion times and which I think I still have). I replaced that with the CD The Chess Box, and then most recently replaced that with an album from iTunes that sounded like it was mixed better than The Box.