By In Stuff

2000 vs. 2017

You have no doubt heard that Major League Baseball players set a record this year for most home runs hit in a season. Alex Gordon was the guy who hit the homer that broke the record set in 2000, an irony that we can save for another day.

The home run explosion started in mid-season 2015 — we can practically pinpoint the day. Let’s go with August 3, 2015. That day, the Giants and Braves hit eight home runs, the Rangers and Astros hit five, The Arizona Diamondbacks hit five, Yangervis Solarte hit two home runs, Scooter Gennett homered (before we knew he was a legend) and so on. That day didn’t particularly stand out at the time … but the home run thing has been on ever since.

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By In Stuff

Browns Week 3: Where Art Thou Peppers?

There’s a famous sports story that probably goes back to Atlanta’s legendary columnist Lewis Grizzard. It seems that he was covering a Georgia football game, one that was disastrous for the Bulldogs. He led his column with the line, “My mother always told me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

And then he left the rest of the column blank.

I have often thought about that — it is genius on a couple of levels. One, it’s very funny. But two, it meant he did not have to actually write a column about the Bulldogs playing a stinker of a game. I have often longed to do something like that myself, but, well, it had already been done. Sometimes, you think all the good ideas have already been taken.

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By In Stuff

Browns Diary Week 2: Blech

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The temptation when following an NFL team is to think of a football season the same way you would think of a television series over a season. That is to say, you want there to be a plot, or at least the semblance of a plot, to follow each week. These two are beginning to fall in love (or are they?), OK, how did that advance? This one’s life is in danger, what did we learn about that this week? She is searching for her Mom, he is hoping to save his brother, they are on the trail of the murderer — what did we find out on this week’s show?

Trouble is, the NFL — especially for lousy teams like my Browns ¬†— isn’t like that at all.

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By In Stuff

The 1916 Giants Winning Streak

The 1916 New York Giants, managed by the great John McGraw and carried by two-time Federal League batting champion Benny Kauff, five-time runs leader George Burns and Hall of Famer High Pockets Kelly, won 26 games in a row.

You should know up front: All 26 games were played at home in the Polo Grounds.

One gorgeous thing about baseball is the way that we fans will contort ourselves to maintain the illusion that baseball, alone, has remained constant. Football and basketball fans do not do this. You will never hear a basketball fan wondering aloud how¬†Jumpin’ Joe Fulks (The Kuttawa Clipper!) would match up against LeBron James. No football fan thinks, “Sure, Aaron Rodgers is fine, but give me Arnie Herber every day of the week.”

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By In Stuff

Browns Diary Week 1: Hope

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This nutty Browns diary began with an idea. When I was a kid, the Cleveland Browns were the most important thing in my life. The Browns were also the second most important thing and the third most important thing. I thought about them constantly. I spent my time in classes writing Browns previews. I spent after school hours daydreaming about them. I skipped school to see who they would draft. I refused to eat when they lost, a diet that probably would have been pretty useful as an adult.

But as an adult … the Browns thing went away. This happened for a bunch of reasons, some of them obvious (the ACTUAL Browns went away and I was a columnist in Kansas City focused on the Chiefs) and some of them less so (I began losing my love of football). A couple of years ago, I decided to start writing this weekly Browns diary to reconnect not to football (still don’t love it) but to childhood.

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By In Stuff

Fat Pat at Bat

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In honor of J.D. Martinez’s four-homer game on Monday, I’ll post a couple of relates pieces … starting with this one on one of the most unlikely men to have had hit four home runs in a game.

On July 19, 1948, first game of a doubleheader, the craziest thing happened: A guy named Pat Seerey hit four home runs in a game. Well, no one really called him Pat Seerey. They called him “Fat Pat.” They called him “Mr. Five-by-Five.” They called him “The People’s Choice.” The papers called him “rotund outfielder” and “the flabby Oklahoman” — the second of those unquestionably the worst name ever for a Western movie.

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By In Stuff

Oh that Delpo forehand

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Sometime late in the fourth set of Monday’s grueling, mesmerizing, intoxicating and, yes, agonizing match between Dominic Thiem and Juan Martin del Potro, my wife walked in — she had heard me screaming relentlessly for at least an hour — and she asked me a question:

“Who are you rooting for, anyway?”

In a lifetime of watching sports, I have never not had an answer for that question. Every single sporting event I have ever watched as a fan — that is when I’m not working, when I’m at home watching on television — I have had a rooting interest. And it isn’t just sporting events. We watch “America’s Got Talent,” and I root for the little ventriliquist girl. Cooking shows, I root for the humble one. “Love it or List it,” I always root for listing the house.

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By In Stuff

The Big Sick

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So, I may or may not have mentioned this before, but I’m writing a book about Harry Houdini, and that means that I spend a few hours every day thinking about wonder. That is really what the book is about, more even than Houdini himself, it’s about wonder: How can a man who died 90 years ago inspire wonder in an entirely different world? When Houdini died, movies were silent. Radio was new. There was no television. Superman had not been created yet, Winnie the Pooh only just.

Yet, somehow, through the years, through the decades, through miraculous advancements in every walk of life — WIFI, CGI green screens, virtual reality, heart replacements, self-driving cars, Steph Curry’s jumper — this now ancient performer, Houdini, still evokes feelings of wonder and awe in people all around the world. The guy still changes lives. How does he do that with escapes that, for the most part, have become so ubiquitous and familiar that they are barely noticeable? This is the book I’m neck deep in writing, and it has pushed me to constantly reevaluate what wonder is.

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The 43-Inning Scoreless Streak

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It is almost impossible, when you consider the whims of modern baseball, to go 43 consecutive innings without scoring a single run. The reason is obvious: SOMEONE will hit a home run. Someone. Anyone. This year, big league hitters will bash more home runs than ever before and, as a natural result, teams are on pace to be shut out the fewest times in a decade. It’s simple math. You really can’t go 43 consecutive innings in 2017 without hitting a home run and, so, you really can’t go 43 consecutive innings without scoring a single run.

And yet, somehow, the Kansas City Royals are doing it.

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By In Stuff

The Curse of the Home Run Record

On September 30, 1927 — in front of an estimated 8,000 fans at Yankee Stadium — Babe Ruth came to the plate with his Yankees and the Washington Senators tied 2-2. Yankees shortstop Mark Koenig — the only one of the top four in that Yankees lineup NOT in the Hall of Fame — tripled, so all Ruth needed to do was crack a little single to give Yankees the lead.

Instead, he pulled a home run to right field over the head of (Hall of Famer) Sam Rice. It was not a particularly impressive home run, certainly not by Ruth standards. “Witnesses of this act in the drama say it was only six inches fair,” wrote W.O. McGeehan. “It was not one of those magnificent home runs banged against the dim horizon, perhaps, but it was a home run nonetheless, and the sixtieth.”

Ruth, as he ran around the bases, took off his cap and waved it to the crowd.

“This was his sixtieth home run,” wrote The Indianapolis News in a particularly prescient commentary, “not only for him, but for all time. Babe Ruth had come back. Nobody can tell about what will happen … but nobody can take away from Babe Ruth the record he has made.”

Nobody can take away from Babe Ruth the record he has made. Here we are, ninety years later, and in so many ways Ruth’s 60 homers of 1927 are still the standard. Four players have hit more than 60 homers in a season, but in one way or another each of them has been wounded by it. Now, Giancarlo Stanton hits home runs at a dizzying pace, and he has a shot at 60 homers, and people talk about him potentially breaking the “real record.”

But you have to wonder: Is the “real record” something that can ever be broken?

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