Archives for posts with tag: Brooklyn
Yasiel Puig, left, and Andre Ethier, right, high-five teammates after a very solid win in Pittsburgh.

Yasiel Puig, left, and Andre Ethier, right, high-five teammates after a very solid win in Pittsburgh.

OK. The Dodgers hit 10 games below .500, and that seems really bad with the season’s halfway point rapidly approaching. But yesterday’s game gave me hope.

Not only did the boys in blue work together to get Clayton Kershaw out of that horrible first inning with only one run given up, but they managed to not allow another Pirates run after Pittsburgh had tied it up, 3-3, (on a home run off our new “closer” Kenley Jansen) in the ninth.

Plus, Juan Uribe and Nick Punto came through in the clutch, knocking in two runs with good, solid hits in the 11th. Then Brandon League tried his best to give the game away, but defense saved his ass. A fine display of Dodger spirit if I’ve ever seen it. (And kudos to Andre Ethier, who hit like he used to yesterday.)

Author Mark Harris writes about baseball like nobody else.

Author Mark Harris writes about baseball like nobody else.

Perhaps the melee with Arizona brought the players together somehow. Maybe the team can turn this season around, like the fictional Mammoths do in Mark Harris’ brilliant novel “Bang the Drum Slowly.” I am not advocating any Dodger die, of course, but the team in the book — and the movie starring Michael Moriarty and Robert De Niro — come together and become a force to be reckoned with, turning their misfortunes into a pennant through sheer good will and teamwork.

“Bang the Drum Slowly” is one of four books narrated by pitcher Henry Wiggen that follows his career with the fictional New York Mammoths.

If you love baseball, you should stop everything and read these books right now. They are beautiful, poignant, exciting, funny, heartbreaking … just like baseball. In “Bang the Drum Slowly,” Wiggen reluctantly befriends Bruce Pearson, a so-so catcher who is not the brightest bulb on the porch but is also dying of cancer. Bruce’s misfortune puts things in perspective for the other players on the team, and they stop griping about everything and start playing baseball the way they were meant to. Here is an excerpt:

One of four Mark Harris novels following the baseball life of pitcher Henry Wiggen and the New York Mammoths.

One of four Mark Harris novels following the baseball life of pitcher Henry Wiggen and the New York Mammoths.

We whipped Chicago twice. Nothing in the world could stop us now. Winning makes winning like money makes money, and we had power and pitching and speed, so much of it that if anybody done anything wrong nobody ever noticed. There was too much we were doing right. It was a club, like it should of been all year but never was but all of a sudden become.

The great thing about these books — the other titles are “The Southpaw,” “It Seemed Like Forever” and “A Ticket for a Seamstitch” — is that Harris writes about baseball with all its glories and its flaws. The players are cruel and vain a lot of the time, they mercilessly tease the weakest among them, and they care primarily about themselves and their own careers. But when they need to come together, they do, and they are all the better for it.

The Dodgers need some of that right about now.

Everything is right and everything is wrong with baseball.”
— Mark Harris, preface to “Diamond: The Baseball Writings of Mark Harris,” 1994

The incredible writer of the Henry Wiggen tetralogy could have been talking about last night’s game, when the Dodgers showed unbelievable grit, rallying for four in the fifth inning to take a 4-3 lead, then squandering everything in the 12th beneath the 500-pound gorillas of Ronald Belisario and Brandon League.

There isn’t much more to say about the game, so let me talk about Mr. Harris, the greatest baseball writer the nation has ever produced.

Yankees pitcher Carl Mays

New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays

Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman

Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman

In “Diamond,” Harris recounts the tragic true story of Ray Chapman and Carl Mays.

“A single moment of baseball,” Harris writes, “has remained forever unlike any other. Memorable moments have winners and losers. This moment had no winners. Everybody lost.”

Ray Chapman was a shortstop for the Cleveland Indians that August of 1920. He was a sweetheart beloved by all his teammates, married and expecting a baby.

Carl Mays "slings the pill from his toes," said one Baseball Magazine writer.

Carl Mays “slings the pill from his toes,” said one Baseball Magazine writer.

Carl Mays was a pitcher for the Yankees, morally rigid and unlikeable, whose “submarine” pitching style was described by one Baseball Magazine writer as looking “like a cross between an octopus and a bowler.”

In the top of the fifth in a game at the Polo Grounds, Cleveland was ahead of the Yanks, 3-0, and clinging to a slim lead in the American League. Chapman came to the plate to lead off the inning and was struck in the head by one of Mays’ crazy pitches. He went down and was taken to the hospital where he died later that night. All of baseball mourned the passing of this “glorious example of our American manhood,” as he was eulogized. The priest performing the ceremony also asked forgiveness for the man who had accidentally killed Chapman.

But Mays became even more hated as “a vicious creature who threw beanballs at other players,” according to Harris. Mays said he was just trying to brush Chapman back, that he had expected Chapman to move out of the way. “That’s what I was paid to do,” he said. “Get the ball over the plate.”

Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy is developing a reputation for plunking batters.

Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy is developing a reputation for plunking batters.

On Dodgers Live yesterday, Ian Kennedy said essentially the same thing. He tried to claim he wasn’t aiming for Zack Greinke’s head, the ball just got away from him. But in the same breath he added that he was also trying to get even for “Miggy” (D’backs catcher Miguel Montero), who had been hit by Greinke an inning earlier in retaliation for another beanball Kennedy threw that had slammed Yasiel Puig in the face.

This is a dangerous game Kennedy is playing, whether he thinks it’s “what I was paid to do” or not.

Carl Mays’ career and reputation went into a downward spiral after Chapman’s death. “Nobody ever remembers anything about me,” he told the Sporting News in 1963, “except one thing — that a pitch I threw caused a man to die.”

I don’t think Ian Kennedy wants to be remembered that way, so he better reconsider the way he’s playing before it’s too late.

I am personally relieved the game is over, after seeing five hit batters.”
— Vin Scully

Dodgers Juan Uribe and Clayton Kershaw, left, are after the head of D'backs pitcher Ian Kennedy, right, who had just beaned Dodger pitcher Zach Greinke, the fourth hit batter of the game, so far.

Juan Uribe, Ronald Belisario and Clayton Kershaw, left, are after the head of D’backs pitcher Ian Kennedy, right, who had just beaned pitcher Zach Greinke, the fourth hit batter of the game.

I’m pretty sure a lot of people feel exactly the opposite of the way Vin feels. And I admit, it was good to see some fire in the bellies of people like Ronald Belisario and Josh Beckett. I never thought Belisario cared that much about his team or his teammates, but he was out there kickin’ ass and callin’ names during the seventh-inning skirmish.

Now, let me just say that Ian Kennedy is someone I know a little. I played Blackjack with him at a Puerto Rican casino, and Steve has caught waves with him, both in the Caribbean and the Pacific. I would like to think he wasn’t trying to hurt anybody; he works for Kirk Gibson, so some quid pro quo plunking is expected of him. But then Vin Scully said Ian had the most hit-batters of any National League pitcher last year. That bothers me some.

I abhor violence, I cringe when I see people hurt in any way. My sensitivity is apparently part of my nature, because I’ve been this way since I was a kid. But after I became a mother in 1986, it became ridiculous. I can’t help thinking that every person (even a bad guy) is somebody’s child. It’s very difficult for me to watch any movie or TV show without shutting my eyes for a great deal of it. And I know hitting a guy with a baseball is a long way from shooting him with a rifle, but a baseball going 92 mph can be as lethal as a bullet if it hits somebody in the right (or wrong) place.

I’m hoping, as I’m sure Vin Scully is, that this violent feuding doesn’t carry over to tonight. Baseball is a game of strategy and wit. It’s an intelligent game that can be beautiful in its simplicity. It’s not a game where brutality is an asset. Leave that to football and hockey.

Kenley Jansen has been named Dodger closer, replacing the disastrous Brandon League.

Kenley Jansen has been named Dodger closer.

Closing time

Finally, maybe we have a guy who can close a game. Manager Don Mattingly named Kenley Jansen the new Dodgers closer, replacing the disastrous Brandon League.

Ten pitches, three outs, Dodger victory. Way to go, Kenley.