Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hi-Yo Silver & Away! It's Whodathunkit?!: The Three Things You REALLY Want To Know About The 2010 World Series.

Whodathunkit!? is a joint venture between The Best Of Everything and Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! So you can read it twice -- saving you money!

The World Series is set -- so it's only about 2 weeks until I don't have to worry about baseball box scores showing up in that little box in the corner where I check to see if the Buffalo Bills have scored any points. (Note: They haven't.) And when they do run that score, at least I won't have that momentary confusion that comes sometimes when the baseball teams share an abbreviation with the football teams. Seeing "SF: 0 NY: 3" just gets my hopes up that there's a football game on somewhere -- even a football game between two teams I don't care about is better than a baseball game, in almost every instance.

And yet, I like the World Series. I don't watch it. That'd be nuts. Who has time to watch the World Series? Or any baseball game? It's so slow. Election returns come in faster than a baseball game -- and it takes 12 hours from the start of voting for us to get some news on who's winning.

No, I don't watch the World Series, because baseball games are too long (mirroring the season that's too long.) Cut those games to five innings and I'd give it a shot. I'd devote about an hour of my time to watching the game, and in exchange I'd get to see only good pitching, as without 9 innings to cover teams could pitch only the starter and jettison some of the dregs they keep around as "middle relievers." With fewer opportunities to score, teams might try more aggressive base-running and batters might be jumpier about swinging, so there'd be more action.

Plus, you only see about 3 pitchers in the postseason anyway -- teams throw guys like C.C. Sabathia about every 3 hours, on "short rest" or "long rest" or "whatever rest," so it's not like having 5 or 7 games with 9 innings (or more) guarantees you'll see other pitchers; it's just a guarantee that you'll see C.C. when he's fresh, then when he's a little tired, and then when he's exhausted. My plan would at least avoid seeing him exhausted.

Faster? More action? Better pitching? I realize that baseball purists are shuddering right now, but baseball purists are losers, so I don't care if I offend them.

In any event, I doubt that Bud Selig will make the change anytime soon; less is more is not a mantra that baseball, or any sport, wants to take up. Leagues get bigger, games get longer, seasons get longer, star players become more widely dispersed around the bigger leagues, the quality of play suffers, revenues drop... and ticket prices still go up while owners still get rich, so nothing will change, although leaders of the sports will talk about doing something like contraction in order to pressure players into taking less money.

So you and I are stuck with 162 baseball games per year -- 150 more than anyone watches, I bet -- plus countless playoff games plus a World Series that could end as late as November 4. What are you going to do to kill all that time, besides wonder what sexy costume you're going to wear this year to the Halloween party? (Sexy Big Bird appears to be the hot commodity this year, by the way.)

The answer is: You're going to learn The Three Best Things You Really WANT To Know About the 2010 World Series -- as Whodathunkit?! cuts past the wheat and the chaff of "sports stats" and "predictions that aren't" and "Mike & Mike" to give you information you can use to impress people at your World Series party.

But, since nobody has a world series party -- the Series stretches over a week, after all -- you could just mention these at the next office meeting to prove to the Boss that you're good for something. So here goes:

1. How'd The Lone Ranger Become The Lone Ranger?

The Texas Rangers Baseball Team are named for the Texas Rangers Law Enforcement group, which raises a question: If announcers constantly feel the need to say "The New York Football Giants" even though there's only one Giants team in football and it's in New York, so that if you just say "New York Giants" everyone will know you're talking about the football team, how come announcers don't feel the need to say "The Texas Rangers Baseball Team" to avoid confusion with the Texas Rangers Law Enforcement, which, after all, still exists? Think how confusing this hypothetical headline might be without that clarification:

Texas Rangers Beat Up Santiago Casilla.

Without clarification -- that it's the Baseball Rangers -- you might think you're reading a wishful-thinking headline from an Arizona resident.

The Lone Ranger was, of course, a Texas Law Enforcement Ranger, equipped with the pistol and white hat that mark the Texas Rangers to this day -- apparently they do wear them -- and equipped with a mask which was of dubious utility in hiding his identity -- and it's not clear why he needed to hide his identity in the first place.

According to The Texas Rangers Hall Of Fame (Law Enforcement Division):

The Lone Ranger is the sole survivor of an ambush that killed five of his Texas Ranger comrades. With the help of Tonto, a friendly Indian who cames to his aid, the Ranger buried his five companions and recoverd from his injuries. In order to mislead the outlaws into thinking that all of the Rangers died, the Lone Ranger dug a sixth grave which was left empty. Hiding his identity with a black mask, he set out with his new friend to track down and apprehend the outlaws.

Now, I don't know how much to trust that site -- how credible is a site that also claims Buck Rogers was a Texas Ranger (Space Division, apparently?) But I'd question it even without the addition of the Space Cowboy stuff -- because of this:

The Lone Ranger wears the mask to keep the people he's hunting from... knowing that he's hunting them? And he dug a fake grave just in case the outlaws were to go back and check?

Think about that: assuming the bad guys did go back and check on their handiwork, who was supposed to have buried those bodies? The outlaws thought they'd killed all six of the Rangers -- so how'd the bodies get buried? A supposed master of disguise, the Lone Ranger (who's name is usually given as John or Dan Reid) had blown his cover before he even left the scene of the massacre.

And the people who were supposed to have massacreed him? Supposedly it was "Butch Cavendish" and "a man named Collins." Collins had infiltrated the Rangers (Law Enforcement Division) and was, for his troubles, later shot in the back by Butch Cavendish. That information comes from the Wikiepedia page on The Lone Ranger, and to show you how reliable Wikipedia isn't, consider that the page on The Hole In The Wall Gang correctly lists the leader of the Hole In The Wall Gang as "Butch Cassidy," but I didn't need them to tell me that: I knew it already, because as a kid, I took piano lessons, and one song that I was asked to learn to play was "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," a song my dad wanted me to learn because he liked the version of that song that played in the movie Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. That became the only part of that movie I ever watched:

And you can see that my ability to go from a baseball team to a Robert Redford movie in a conversation is what makes me such a great addition to any party. But don't bother inviting me; I'm pretty antisocial and don't go to others' houses to watch sporting events, which means that usually, I end up just saying this stuff to The Boy or Sweetie until they get bored and walk away, leaving all the salted-in-the-shell peanuts for me.

So there's method to my madness.

2. What's the most popular walk up song ever?

Also called "at bat" songs, the walk up song is an only-sometimes-noticed thing in sports: The last mention of it I could find on ESPN was in 2004, when they listed the at-bat songs for all 30 major league baseball teams' starting lineups -- on Page 3, a spot I didn't even know existed on their website. The Giants' roster was heavy on light metal and pop rock -- ZZ Top and Van Halen made the list-- while the 2004 Texas Rangers (Baseball Edition) went with a stranger mixture of hip-hop and movie themes: In talking about OF David Delluci's choice of "The Godfather Waltz," the site notes:

Recently, Dellucci requested "The Godfather Waltz," a k a "The Godfather Theme" as his at-bat music. An Italian American, Dellucci thought the tune fit him well. Right before the next game, the outfielder got cold feet and began debating whether to use the song or not. The Rangers staff played it anyway, and it has become all the rage in Texas. Fans call up the stadium by the dozens asking what the song is from, and why they recognize it. In turn, Dellucci has become a fan favorite.

Delluci's apparently not playing baseball anymore
, but here's his song:

MTV picked a 2010 all-star roster based on the at-bat songs chosen by players, and some usual suspects showed up there -- "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne, "Enter Sandman" for a closing pitcher, that kind of stuff.

The weirdest song on that list -- it's not just me saying that, but MTV, too -- was "My Chick Bad," the song picked by Phillies SS Jimmy Rollings:

MTV heralds that as "pushing the envelope." The lyrics to the song, though, make it clear that in playing that song at a public ballpark, it's not so much "pushing the envelope" as it is "finally proving that Tipper Gore lost her fight."

A site called "Operation Sports" has what purports to be an updated list of walk-up/at bat songs for the San Francisco Baseball Giants, and outside of my iPod it's the only list you'll see featuring both BeeGees and Led Zeppelin. (The official SF list is here.) The Texas Rangers (Baseball Edition) have their own list, on which appears "Crawl" by Kings of Leon...:

That's not how you know "Kings of Leon," though. You know them from the song "Molly's Chamber,"

...a song featured in a Jetta commercial. I was going to put the Jetta commercial on here so you could see it, but Jetta has forbidden embedding the commercial -- so they want you to see their commercial, but only when they feel like showing it to you. In response, I suggest that Volkswagen owners begin pretending their cars are subject to sudden unexplained acceleration, the way Toyota owners did last year. We'll show them not to forbid embedding videos.

Fernando Perez of the Rays said that during college, he chose "The Price Is Right" theme for his walk-up music:

But I couldn't find, anywhere, anything purporting to claim what has been the most-used at bat/walk-up song in Major League Baseball. So, since nobody else anywhere has determined what that song might be, I've decided that I will simply pick it for myself -- that's how facts work, right Republican Party? -- and I've decided that it's a fact that the single most popular walk-up/at bat song ever used by Major League Baseball is...

"Una Paloma Blanca," by The George Baker Selection:

Watch for it in the Series.

3. It's a World Record! Or not - -while records may be set, or not set, in the World Series, do you really care about those baseball records? Evidence* (*my personal opinion) suggests no. Since it's a proven fact** (**see foregoing note) that every single baseball player, ever, has taken steroids and also been helped by Delaware-candidate-style black magic*** (***my last chance to make fun of Christine O'Donnell before she goes down by 20 points next Tuesday), we all know that Major League Baseball records are meaningless.

But what about records tangentially involving baseball? Well, those obviously have all kinds of meaning, and can be used to sprinkle into the conversation whenever the action in the game starts to lag**** (****which will be constantly; it's baseball, after all.). So here's a few baseball-related World Records to keep in mind while you don't watch the World Series:

Fastest Mile Run While Balancing a Baseball Bat? 7 minutes, 17 seconds -- which is faster than I can run a mile not balancing anything. The farthest anyone's walked while balancing a baseball bat is 7 miles, according to that same site. The longest throw of a baseball belongs to Canadian -- finally something for Canadia to celebrate!-- Glen Gorbous, who threw one 445 feet, 10 inches, back in 1957. Women, you're lagging behind. The longest throw by a woman was only 296 feet, back in 1931. (No 21st Century Woman has challenged that throw?)

"Sensei" Karl Varley of New Zealand -- what is it about New Zealand and World Records? -- claims the not-officially-recognized-by-Guiness record for most baseball bats broken in under 60 seconds:

I didn't count, but apparently it's more than 23. But for weirdest-baseball-related records, I'm going with largest toast at a single venue. No, it's not a giant piece of toast, much as I'd like that; it's the 27,126 people who simultaneously toasted each other after the fifth inning of a game between the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and the Hanshin Tigers.

What's interesting to note about that record is that there were 27,789 people at the stadium -- so over 600 people refused to take part in that toast. Spoilsports.

1 comment:

Nate said...

Yeah, the average American doesn't have the attention span to watch a baseball game. Why bother watching a guy try and make contact with a sphere that looks like it's coming towards your face but bends downwards at 93 miles an hour? No, no. It's much more interesting to see large men jumping on each other in big piles, wearing helmets large amounts of padding and stopping after every single play. Yeah. Real badass. People who don't like baseball, just don't watch it. No one will miss you.