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Tag:Ted Williams
Posted on: September 28, 2010 1:29 am
 

Ken Burns at the top of his game

Given documentary filmmaker Ken Burns' talent for storytelling, were he to draw them up, each baseball season would ebb and flow in perfect cadence, with six divisional races each thundering toward its own unique and dramatic climax right up until the final day of the season.

Being that the game has a mind of its own and refuses to be tamed, we're left to settle for Burns' forays into documenting it for PBS.

Given his latest work -- The Tenth Inning, to be shown on your local PBS television station in two parts on Tuesday and Wednesday -- it's a pretty darned good trade-off.

Picking up where he left off in Baseball, which, with some 43 million viewers, was the most-watched series in PBS history, Burns and his co-producer (and co-director) Lynn Novick hit all the right notes in The Tenth Inning. From the dramatic opening showing a young Barry Bonds with an ominous hint of what's to come, Burns and Novick reel you in quickly and keep things moving at a nice, crisp pace that Greg Maddux would appreciate.

Particularly good is their treatment of the 1994-1995 players' strike and the resulting break in trust with the fans, the examination of the Latin American and Asian influx into the game (there's some great, if brief, Roberto Clemente footage, and some good stuff on Ichiro Suzuki) and the treatment of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase in 1998.

You can't help but be moved by the excellent chapter on 9/11 and baseball in its aftermath. And as the documentary moves beyond that into Bonds chasing the single-season and all-time home run records, his gargantuan size is maybe even more striking in hindsight than it was at the time. From there, the handling of the game's steroids scandal is skillful.

Among the interviews woven throughout, those with Joe Torre and Pedro Martinez are especially good. So, too, are those from MSNBC's Keith Olbermann -- who tells a wonderful story of meeting a New York cop on the street on the day baseball resumed following 9/11 -- and Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton.

There are so many small, perfect touches throughout that I won't get into all of them. But a couple of small examples -- and those of you who regularly read this space on the Internet know how I relate to all things music -- are from the soundtrack: As Burns and Co. are covering the Braves winning the World Series in '95, Georgia's Allman Brothers are playing in the background. And behind a segment on the Cleveland Indians of the '90s is music from Ohio-native Chrissie Hynde.

There are so many more examples like that, big and small. The Tenth Inning is beautifully done and, if you love baseball (or even are just OK with baseball but love American history), it's worth scheduling a couple of hours Tuesday night and a couple more Wednesday night to make sure you see this.

And if you can't, it's definitely worth DVRing for a look when you get a free night or two.

Believe me, you'll be thrilled that you did.

Likes: The 50th anniversary Monday of Ted Williams blasting a home run in his final at-bat before retiring, perhaps the most memorable final act in any Hall of Fame career -- and certainly the only one to be the subject of such beautiful prose as John Updike's Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, the author's famous essay for the New Yorker. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary, the Library of America is presenting a cool little book reprinting Updike's original essay, plus an autobiographical preface and a terrific new afterward prepared by the author just months before his death. This is the essay in which Updike begins "Fenway Park in Boston is a lyric little bandbox of a place. ..." and, after describing Williams running around the bases with his head down and refusing to tip his cap to the crowd -- curtain calls wouldn't become customary until years later -- includes this sublime bit of writing: "... But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he refused. Gods do not answer letters." If you're interested in the book, you can find more details (including ordering information) here.

Dislikes: Really hate to see Atlanta's Martin Prado go down with what surely looked like an oblique injury in Monday's game against Florida. This week's battle for two playoff spots involving the Braves, San Diego and San Francisco is going to be riveting, and you really don't want to see teams depleted. Atlanta already lost Chipper Jones weeks ago. ... Meantime, will injuries to Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria (quad) and Minnesota's J.J. Hardy (ankle) this week turn into significant issues for October?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Pretty girls from the smallest towns
"Get remembered like storms and droughts
"That old men talk about for years to come"

-- Drive-By Truckers, Birthday Boy

Posted on: November 23, 2009 2:04 pm
 

Mauer wins deserved MVP

The only possible way Joe Mauer could have NOT won the AL Most Valuable Player award this season was if the Twins had fallen hopelessly out of contention by September.

Now, there are those of us who believe Mauer STILL should have won it even under those circumstances, given his historical batting numbers as they relate to catchers, the position he plays, his importance to the Twins and the way he limits opponents' running games.

But that would have been a more difficult argument.

As the Twins chased Detroit into September, that argument was pushed aside. By the time the Twins extended their season to game No. 163 for a second summer in a row, the AL MVP vote had become a no-brainer. In giving Mauer 27 of a possible 28 first-place votes, AL MVP voters, as they should have, easily recognized this.

No disrespect to the handful of other great players in the league, perennial MVP candidates like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter from the Yankees and Kevin Youkilis from the Red Sox.

But Mauer, who missed April with a lingering groin injury, is on an historic arc offensively while playing well the most important position on the diamond defensively.

In hitting .365 this season, Mauer won his third AL batting title, becoming one of just 10 major leaguers in history to win three or more batting crowns.

In compiling a .444 on-base percentage and a .587 slugging percentage, Mauer became the first catcher in history to lead his league in batting average, OBP and slugging.

He also became only the 13th player in AL history to do it, and the first in nearly 30 years, since Kansas City legend George Brett in 1980.

Of the 12 AL players to accomplish the feat, 10 are in the Hall of Fame: Brett, Fred Lynn, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, George Stone, Napoleon Lajoie (twice), Ty Cobb (three times) and Ted Williams (five times).

It is way too early to know whether Mauer will one day be enshrined in Cooperstown as well. But at 26, he's certainly off to a tremendous start. And we do know this: His decision to decline a football scholarship at Florida State a few years ago not only has turned out to be a brilliant decision by Mauer, but the entire state of Minnesota's gain.

 

Posted on: July 16, 2008 4:01 am
 

Oh no -- not Milwaukee again!

NEW YORK -- It was shades of Milwaukee in the wee hours Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and not in a good way.

Lovely town, Milwaukee, but baseball is still scarred from the embarrassing All-Star tie played there in 2002. And as the AL and NL were deadlocked in the 15th inning in the 79th All-Star Game, each manager had called on his last available pitcher -- Scott Kazmir in the AL, and Brad Lidge in the NL.

Things were so grim in the NL dugout, especially with San Francisco's Tim Lincecum unable to pitch because he was stricken with the flu Tuesday, that Cubs closer Kerry Wood volunteered. Wood was taken off of the active roster because of a blister on his right index finger, but he was here in uniform.

"I asked if I could go, but I don't think I was an option," Wood said. "I think because they had taken me off of the active roster."

He asked bench coach -- and Cubs manager -- Lou Piniella, and the two of them were stumped for a minute.

"Maybe," Piniella told Wood, on the basis of Lincecum being out.

While that was left unclear -- Wood never did even go down to the bullpen and warm up, let alone pitch in the game -- NL manager Clint Hurdle was dangerously close to asking Mets third baseman David Wright to make his major-league pitching debut had the game gone much further.

"I told David, 'You were the last pick, I went and got you, have you ever pitched in an All-Star Game?'" Hurdle said. "I said, 'You wanted to be in this thing, that's all I've read, all I've heard for the last three days. You won't believe how much you might be in it here real quick.'"

Wright's response?

"Let's go."

Indications were, though, that there was no way the game was going to let another Milwaukee occur.

"We were told the game would find a way to finish itself," Hurdle said. "I'm good with that. That's communication. Black and white. Plain and simple. We knew that going in. We talked about it before the game."

****

It was only the second walk-off victory for the AL in All-Star history, the other one coming in 1941.

And in a statistical oddity -- the Elias Sports Bureau dug this up -- the NL fielded a lineup Tuesday that included Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters with batting averages  of .340 or higher for the first time in an All-Star Game since ... 1941.

Back then,  the AL batted Joe DiMaggio (.357) third, Ted Williams (.405) fourth and Cleveland's Jeff Heath (.371) fifth. Tuesday, the NL batted Lance Berkman (.347) third, Albert Pujols (.350) fourth, Chipper Jones (.376) fifth.

The AL won that '41 game on Williams' game-ending homer.

****

Go figure: When the game got late and the lineups got crazy, NL manager Clint Hurdle moved Cristian Guzman to third base. Guzman has started more than 1,000 major-league games at shortstop, but had never played third. He made a terrific play on a Carlos Quentin chopper to end the 11th.

****

The NL had been 9-0-1 in All-Star extra inning games.

 

 
 
 
 
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