Monday, December 31, 2012

Frank Menke, Charles Fountain, and the Evening Independent

As a follow-up to the last post, the BBB would like to share with you a couple of related tidbits.  While researching that post, we discovered a page from a 1914 edition of the Evening Independent, the sports page of which appears to have been the definitive source of information for all St. Petersburg residents regarding all four of the major sports - you know, baseball, boxing, motoring, and yachting.  

Well-heeled aristocrats could pick up a copy of the paper for three whole cents or two for five.  The contemptible poor, however, had no excuse for being ill-informed either, as they could easily just wait for a cloudy day, because on the next it would be free.  You see, in an effort to publicize St. Petersburg as The Sunshine City, copies were given away like the dole following overcast days.

The relevant articles are reproduced below.  In the left column is a description by Hearst Corporation's nationally-syndicated sports writer, Frank Menke, of a game to take place at Coffee Pot Park in St. Petersburg. Please delight in Menke's use of "slabman" as a synonym for pitcher.  In the right column is an hilarious account of a Cubs' third "sacker" and his relationship to umpires and neckties.

The BBB would also like to update the reader as to our progress with Under the March Sun, by Charles Fountain, also mentioned in the last post.  Not more than 17 e-pages in, we are now assured it will be a real pleasure.  Here is how Fountain describes pitcher fielding practice:

Finally, the BBB would like to wish everyone a happy new year.  Even the Red Sox fans.

Matt Silverman's New House and Coffee Pot Park

On Saturday mornings, late mornings really, the purveyor of this site wakes and delights in the vast stretch of free time laid out before him, before he must return to work again and suffer the awfulness therein again. He stumbles out of bed achingly, yet looking forward to the peacefulness and lack of productivity that accompanies prolonged sessions on the internet, and indulging every random curiosity, usually baseball-related.

This past Saturday morning found yours truly on a baseball website that shall remain nameless for reasons discussed soon enough. This particular post on this particular website briefly mentioned that Tampa Bay Rays President Matt Silverman recently purchased a mansion in the St. Petersburg area. This article linked to another article that went into almost exact detail as to the street name, distance from Tropicana Field, and prior owners of the home. Although this information is probably a matter of public record, and therefore within the bounds of journalistic propriety to release for public consumption, we here at the BBB feel Matt Silverman would probably rather not have his home address revealed to all of you out there on the internetSome of you are frightening.

However, knowing that we are of reasonably sound mind, the BBB, exercising its every random curiosity, endeavored to determine the exact house purchased by Mr. Silverman and we succeeded in that regard. Through a series of sequential calls placed by an informant to a series of public pay phones along Bayshore Boulevard, we were finally directed to a clandestine meeting with none other than Don Zimmer, waiting for us at a public park bench. He gave us the exact location.

As stated before, we are uncomfortable sharing that information with you unwashed cretins, but suffice it to say, Mr. Silverman lives somewhere in the vicinity of what is known to the locals as Coffeepot Bayou, as delightful a name given to a bucket of water as there ever was.


So, where are we going with this? Well, readers of the last post will recall Baseball in Tampa Bay, by A.M. de Quesada. This book provides two photographs of particular interest to the topic at hand. One he describes as being of Coffee Pot Park, which he tells us was the spring training home of the St. Louis Browns in 1914, the Philadelphia Phillies from 1915 to 1918, and the Boston Braves from 1921 to 1937.

Coffee Pot Park?

De Quesada describes the other photograph as being of Waterfront Park, which according to Charles Fountain in his book Under the March Sun, which we uncovered while Google-searching, was located more to the south, where 1st Avenue South meets the bay. 

Waterfront Park?

In fact, Fountain’s book states that the Boston Braves actually played at Waterfront Park, not Coffee Pot Park, when they began their Florida spring training era in 1922. We actually suspect both photos are of Waterfront Park, based on their similarity to each other and other images we’ve seen. But that’s really not the point of all of this. The point is that beginning in 1914, the era of spring training in St. Petersburg had begun and it began at Coffee Pot Park. Based on several sources, this fact is clear.

Knowing this, we began to wonder about Mr. Silverman’s new house and its proximity to Coffee Pot Bayou. Obviously, he is a baseball man. He might appreciate the history of this location and its seminal role in spring training.  So, we began to wonder, did Matt Silverman just buy a house on the very spot where spring training
in St. Petersburg began in 1914?

We knew the location of the home, which is near the bayou depicted in the Google Maps image above. We also knew that there used to be an old ballpark located near Coffee Pot Bayou. But where exactly did the old ballpark used to be? De Quesada never mentioned that fact. At first glance, that Masonic Lodge on the bayou’s northwest corner seems like the likely spot. Look at that big open space of greenery and the bent land boundary adjacent to the water where an outfield wall could have been. That’s gotta be it, right?

Nope. The Masonic Lodge’s webpage, which details how it came to be, has no mention of it being on any hallowed ball park grounds.

OK, so where do we search next?

Wikipedia! And here, on its sacrosanct pages, where every single fact is 100% accurate, we find something helpful:

In 1965, Fred Lieb wrote that the park was located at First Street North and 22nd Avenue in the "Granada Terrace" section of the city.[4] In 1966, Ken Goldman also wrote that the address of the ballpark had been at "First Street North and 22nd Avenue" which by today's map would place the park southwest of Coffee Pot Bayou.

All right, now we’re diggin’ where there’s taters. Back to Google Maps! Back to Google street view! First Street North and 22nd Avenue!  

But wait a minute… it’s just an ordinary house. And some trees and stuff. Where’s the old ballpark? Where’s the grandstand? Where’s the line of Ford Model Ts? At least give me one of those bronze historic landmark signs! C’mon, Google Maps, gimme something!

To make matters worse, this was not the location of Matt Silverman’s new home. Not even close. In fact, it was probably a 10-minute drive away.

Our disappointment notwithstanding, the search had been fruitful nonetheless. We discovered a new book to read, the previously mentioned Under the March Sun, which, by all accounts and online previews, appears to be a well-written wealth of information on the topic of spring training, which began humbly enough and is now big business.

So what’s the appeal of exploring these old parks? It’s silly to romanticize that time period and the games which took place there. Most players were probably just eager to get it over with and move on to the regular season when the games really mattered.  However, some probably had a fondness for the seasonal return of baseball in a place that was warm, even during the winter, where they could fish in the bayou between practices. Now, almost one hundred years later, it’s nice to ponder the beginning of it all, the early years of what became Major League Baseball as we know it, with its enormous stadiums, fervent fan bases, and legions of scouts and reporters and bloggers. It’s just kind of neat to think about that on a lazy Saturday morning in December.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Does This Catcher's Mask Make Me Look Fat?

Click to enlarge.
I don’t know much about the inhabitants of Clearwater circa 1895.  However, I presume they were all continually stricken with typhoid fever and smallpox, old-timey diseases unknown to the modern ballplayer thanks to the healing powers of a Phiten necklace.  It’s got titanium, OK?  That’s science. Bespectacled men with Erlenmeyer flasks and sexy lady-scientists with rebellious hemlines have proven that titanium, when formed into a multicolored braided necklace, frightens away the demonic spirits and ill humors that cause disease.

Returning to the topic at hand, the image above, staring creepily at you from within this webpage, was taken from A.M. de Quesada’s Baseball in Tampa Bay, an exploration of baseball in and around Tampa, largely via historical photographs.  It is available for purchase here.  Quesada informs us, “Members of a Clearwater baseball team enjoy a day of ball games while wearing women’s clothing to amuse the crowd of spectators, c. 1895.  This was not an unusual practice by local teams, as other teams would perform similar stunts to attract crowds to the games.  (Courtesy of Pinellas County Historical Museum.)”
 Although I have scarcely read but a single chapter of this otherwise delightful Nook book, I can tell you this particular picture is a hell of a thing, certainly fit for framing and hanging directly above your youngest child’s bassinette, so as to instill in him a love of the game and an absolute terror of the men who played it.  Look at that ghostly-eyed killer, second from the right in the back row; the ray of Florida sunshine second from the left in the back row; and of course, the pièce de résistance, the bloodcurdling catcher’s-mask-and-prairie-dress ensemble.  Yeesh!

Friday, December 21, 2012

JEtbLue pArk, The Singularity, and The Apocalypse

Return visitors here know the BBB takes kindly to a lot of things, but Red Sox Nation ain't one of 'em.  However, like a doomsday cult leader the morning after The Big Day, we are amenable to new interpretations.  In light of the rescheduled apocalypse, we went about the delightful task of securing spring training tickets for this coming February (YAY!).  

While engaged in this wildly giddy task, we were presented with even greater delights in the form of sweet, sweet technological advance.  You see, it is now possible to comparison shop for seats at JEtbLue pArk.  Just click on one of the sections located here, and you will be transported, as if by a magical comet ride, to the spring training home of Red Sox Nation in Fort Myers, Florida.  

Is your seat in the shade?  Is it near the aisle, or in the first row of the section, perhaps?  Technology can provide us these answers now.  So, on the day of the real apocalypse, be comforted by that fact even while the snake god Kukulkan emerges from his stone temple and tears the flesh from your skeleton, sending it headlong into the abyss, and then into The Singularity, and then back into the abyss once more, with feeling. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Minors Imitating Majors: Nick Goody

You may click to enlarge the Funk.

There are some among us whose style, whose carriage, is so unique we are compelled to imitate it.  We should forgive ourselves of this, and rebuke those who would deny us our imitation, for we are but mortal and cannot be expected to throw on the bedraggled rags of shabbiness when the vestments of divine Funk are near.  Like Eddie Murphy robed in the sweaty velvet of Soul, we dip our toes into the Celebrity Tub that is HOT, and in the process, stave off banality for one more day.

So Please, Please, Please, join me in remarking that Nick Goody, number 58 of the Tampa Yankees, resembles Jonathan Papelbon, also number 58, of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Let us enumerate as we contemplate the ways in which they are similar:
1.       Pre-pitch flat back
2.      Pre-pitch hanging right arm
3.      Pre-pitch left foot double tap
4.      Pre-pitch glove positioning at right shoulder
5.      Mid-delivery left knee raise across body
6.      Mid-delivery high right leg whip
7.      Post-pitch hop

First, the exemplar (Sep. 30, 2012):

Now, the mimic.  The official BBB videographer, who it seems is apathetic towards the lint on his lens or he would have done something about it by now, captured video of Mr. Goody at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin (Aug 29, 2012):

The attentive viewer will note Mr. Goody discourages stolen base attempts by expediting his knee raise while third base is open and a runner is on second, but that doing so is unnecessary while second and third bases are occupied.

This has been the second installment of Minors Imitating Majors

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dave Wills and the Bad Dandelions

Mr. Wills during the Rays nerd-themed road trip.

You probably know Dave Wills's voice from when it answers your prayers at night.  You probably know that Dave Wills's voice has the power to create and destroy worlds a million times over.  You probably also know Dave Wills is one of the Tampa Bay Rays radio broadcasters on 620 Amplitude Modulation, also known as 620 AM for those in a hurry.  What you may not know is that during Rays Neon Hat Promo Night, Dave Wills weaved beautiful simile into his color commentary. casting a penetrating gaze out onto the great expanse of his workplace, Mr. Wills compared the appearance of neon hats against the blue backdrop of sparsely-populated Tropicana Field seats to "bad dandelions" popping up from the blue football field of Boise State.  For that, the BBB celebrates Dave Wills, man of golden voice and silver tongue.  The relevant clip is available just below, followed at the very end of this post by a sterling example of his previous work, which begins at the 0:50 mark.


The bad dandelions in their natural habitat.

Indelible Links

From Don Morris and Curtis Krueger of the Tampa Bay Times, a graphical retelling of Baseball's Greatest Night, which occurred approximately one year ago.

CityScape's proposal for a new Rays stadium.  

The enthusiastic, mustachioed smile of Dewayne Staats.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hark! The Herald Hornblowers Blow

When important things happen it is imperative that we celebrate with the blowing of horns.  The Herald Angels knew this, as do the self-assured retirees at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin. 

Who amongst us has not yearned to bellow thusly?  This is not simply the unmodulated cacophony of fools and dumb children, as it was that horrible night in Miami when the Marlins handed out free vuvuzelas.  This is strategic!  So let the denizens of that far dugout hear the grey lions roar!  Then, as conquerors, we shall return to the somewhat old yet virtuous women of the Sunset Village Retirement Community and we shall bruise in them the serpent’s head, joining Thine to ours, and ours to Thine, as the randy hymnal suggests all good Christians do. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Minors Imitating Majors: Melvin Mercedes

There are some among us whose style, whose carriage, is so unique we are compelled to imitate it.  We should forgive ourselves of this, and rebuke those who would deny us our imitation, for we are but mortal and cannot be expected to throw on the bedraggled rags of shabbiness when the vestments of divine Funk are near.  Like Eddie Murphy robed in the sweaty velvet of Soul, we dip our toes into the Celebrity Tub that is HOT, and in the process, stave off banality for one more day.

So join me in remarking that Melvin Mercedes, of pre-pitch twist and post-pitch duck, resembles Detroit closer Jose Valverde.  Sitting at 97 mph if the stadium gun is to be believed, Mercedes, 190 pounds if the Lakeland Tigers website is to be believed, made it Too Funky in Here on September 12th, 2012 en route to the Florida State League Championship at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Brett Lawrie Needs to Adjust Himself

When Major Leaguers are rehabilitating from injury, they frequently play a few games for their franchise’s Minor League affiliate just before returning to the Bigs.  Such was the case for Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie during a recent Florida State League Division Championship game at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin.  Now, a while back over at Tropicana Field, the BBB scouting department had previously entered into their Atari Portfolio PDA that Brett Lawrie is a fidgety sort, fussing and twitching and adjusting himself throughout the entirety of his defensive outings.  So, we were primed to notice his behavior at this Minor League game, where we moved in to capture some close-up video and synchronize it to horns and whistles for your giggly entertainment.

Thank you for watching.  You may now return to your Taco Bell entrée and Jerry Bruckheimer production.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dave Huppert's Ritual at Third Base

Dave Huppert, where do you go when you look so far away?

When it comes to the official BBB videographer, frequent visitors to this site have come to expect a certain level of incompetence.  His regrettable performance is due entirely to a bizarre pre-game ritual consisting of two parts:  (a) positive self-affirmations shouted into the ballpark restroom mirror and (b) the execution of twenty-five Karate Kid-style crane kicks atop the first base dugout during batting practice.  The impetus for this strange behavior is known only to the videographer.  However, we do know that invariably these intense activities reduce him to a state of tremoring hypoxia, resulting in the poor planning and execution of his craft, which has been well-documented in these web pages.

As a result of these sad facts, it came as quite a shock to the BBB editors that their bungling camera jockey turned in the following well-framed and properly-focused video of someone else’s ritual.  The video is of championship manager Dave Huppert and the strange little rite he performs before every Tigers turn at the plate.  Every inning of every game, Mr. Huppert trots out to third base, stands on top of it, and methodically swipes the dirt from around the bag, one side at a time in a very specific order:  right foot along the side facing home plate, then left foot along the side facing second base, then left foot along the side facing left field, then finally, left foot along the side facing the third base stands.  See this curiosity for yourself in the video below or at tonight’s Florida State League playoff game in Lakeland.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Chairman's Box and Bell

Peter Bragan Sr. at Wolfson Park, 1984.  Florida Times-Union.
Peter Bragan Jr. (right) at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, 2012

Peter Bragan Sr. owned a successful car dealership before purchasing the Jacksonville Suns in 1984.  Like all captains of industry, Senior had in his home a large bell which he used to signal the successful completion of an accomplishment, like impregnating a busty coquette or making a really good ham sandwich, for example.  Not content to sequester the Bell of Accomplishment from the masses who loved him, and whom he loved, Senior mounted the Bell of Accomplishment onto a lacquered yoke and in turn, mounted the yoke-and-bell assembly onto wheels so that it could be placed among the Jacksonville commonage.  And now, even after Senior’s passing, the bell can still be heard heralding every Suns’ home run and victory at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

"Please do not sit in the Chairman’s Box."  It shall remain empty.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Bullpen Bench at Jacksonville

At Jacksonville Suns games, impudent children are shamed, much like Hester Prynne, with Logan Morrison jerseys.

One thing separating our summertime diversion from the lesser sports is diversity of setting.  Baseball parks provide variety in the form of varying outfield and foul territory dimensions.  Such variety keeps the sabermetricians busy with their slide rules and gum erasers, but for most fans the appeal is different.  

One appeal is that time spent simply talking about those nooks and crannies provides our stomachs respite from the gaping maw of our insatiable appetite for Cracker Jack; wet, steamy peanuts; and all manner of sweet delights found at the confectioner's table.  More importantly, these jutting irregularities allow us to appreciate the comical hardships endured by athletes suffering errant ricochets and, at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, unsupervised mouthy runabouts in close proximity to the home team’s bullpen.

The BBB documents below the effrontery uttered by those willful little hellions:

“Hey, can you hear me?”

“I bet I could throw faster than you."

“When the game is over, you guys wanna come over and play Xbox?”

“When is the game gonna be over?”

“Hey, can you hear me?” 

“My sister says you're not really that cute.”

"My mom says you have a flat butt.  She calls you Mr. Flat Butt."

“Hey, can you hear me?”

"Can you teach me to spit like that?"

“Is this the World Series?”

“Hey, can you hear me?”