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Theo and Complete Wonderment

38 Responses to Theo and Complete Wonderment

  1. Pak says:

    My first baseball memory is the 1968 World Series. Growing up in Minnesota the 1969 season, when Harmon Killebrew won his MVP and the Twins had perhaps their best team, followed – when I was 8 years old. Thanks Joe.

    • NJTigFan says:

      Mine was also the 68 series also when I was 8 turning 9. A great uncle (truly great – wonderful guy and he lived to 101) lived in Detroit and sent me some Tiger baseball cards. Living in New Jersey everyone else was a Met or Yankee fan. So just to be different I started following the Tigers. You never knew how they did the night before until you opened the afternoon paper the next day. Sunday was great when they published the list of every batter in the league by BA. I would start at the top and see how far down I had to go before I ran into Tigers. I was in fourth grade and every game of the series was a day game (as I recall). You would be sitting there doing whatever a fourth grader does and the principal would come on the loud speaker with score updates: “The Cardinals have taken a one nothing lead in the second.” Speaks to the hold baseball had back then that it was considered that important to know what was going on in a series that neither the Yankees or the Mets were in. Had to run home after school (we walked to school in those days – and it was up hill both ways :)) to catch the last few innings. Won’t go through the series as you all probably know it but lasting memory of Gibson plowing down the last few of his 17 Tiger strikeouts. Won two bets – one for a dime and the other for a quarter (now I sound like Grampa Simpson – “In my day we called them bees!”). I will be the first to admit I jumped on a winning band wagon – but as any fellow Tiger fan on the board can attest to I have been more than purified by the fires of baseball pain and woe over the last few decades (Late 70s anyone? All of the 90s and chunk of the oughts?) Anyway I fully agreed with the 8 year old observation. I am stuck with the Tigers for a life time. As my interest in other sports has waxed and waned (and mostly waned). I live and die over Tiger victories and defeats. I find it difficult to watch the other team bat when they don’t have a three run lead (or five if Jose “The Human Heart Attack” Velarde was pitching). One last thought about rooting for a team not in your market – it was amazing how little information you really got about what they were like. The New York papers were stuffed with Yankee Met stuff – but nothing Tigers. I was walking past the Waldorf in the fall of 1984 and there was a guy standing in the back of a convertible holding a trophy having his picture taken. All of 5 people were watching. It was Alan Trammell (WS MVP). People walking by were “Who is it?” Much to the annoyance of Mrs. Trammell (in quite the mink coat) who I was standing next to. I was going to wait to say hello and then it struck me – What if he’s a jerk? I know it probably sounds foolish but I didn’t want to risk tainting the joy of the series victory and I just waived and moved on.

      • invitro says:

        “You never knew how they did the night before until you opened the afternoon paper the next day.” — Thanks for sharing, I enjoy reading these stories. For me as a kid, I most often got the scores from the radio in the morning a few minutes before heading for the school bus. I also got them from listening to the Reds games, but their sign-off was usually a bit too early for the end of the Astros game, and I do remember often listening to the entire postgame show just to get the last scores before going to sleep. I often read the box scores in the school library at lunch time if I couldn’t wait until going home to read our newspaper — only morning papers in my area so late games were a day late.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I tend to agree that around 8 is when you really get attached to baseball. I first started playing organized ball when I was 8 (I got hit the first time I ever batted in a game and was never the same afterward.) But I don’t remember ever not liking baseball. My father was born and raised in Detroit (but I was born and raised in Tennessee). In 1967 (when I was 11), we went to Detroit for a family visit a couple of weeks after the riots and went to a game at Tiger Stadium. It was a very cool stadium, certainly compared to the then-new Atlanta Stadium, where I had seen games. My father bought me a scorebook and inside was a description of how to score. So, I learned to score from that and for several years afterward I scored almost every Atlanta Braves game. And, to this day, I still keep score when I attend a game here in DC. All thanks to the scorebook from Tiger Stadium.

  2. invitro says:

    “I think 12 is the age when you fully connect with your team.” — This is it for me. The 1982 Houston Astros. At 8, I ignored baseball… I started playing, getting baseball cards, watching a couple games on TV at 6, then lost interest in MLB until age 10, when the Astros-Phillies series awoke my interest. But 1982 is the first year I checked every game to see if my team won. Interesting observation by Theo.

    • SDG says:

      I had a brief bandwagon interest in the Jays when they were winning the World Series. I was 9-11 the two years. Then it kind of fell off with the strike meaning there was no baseball. Also, I don’t really think I was into the actual game. Like, I didn’t know any of the rules like why some fouls are out and some aren’t, and I certainly didn’t think about strategy. When I was in college I kind of got into the drama of the Red Sox reversing the curse but that was probably because I hung out with a lot of people from Boston. Still didn’t care about the actual game.

      Then about 2 years ago i was sporadically employed and got really into reading about baseball history, probably stemming from reading about civil rights history and reading some very good baseball writing. Then it kind of segued into present-day baseball, even though I’m still obsessed with baseball history for reasons I don’t understand. I don’t really have a rooting interest in any particular team, except I like it when expansion teams win. My Jays fandom, if you can call it that, it thinking Rangers fans are whiny idiots, Bautista flipping his bat is cool, and hoping the Yankees and Red Sox lose.

      It’s interesting to hear how other people got into baseball since my experiences are not typical, I don’t think.

  3. Dr. Baseball says:

    I was… 8 years old when I fell in love with the Yankees in 1977.

    I actually turned 9 when Reggie hit those three balls into the night in the World Series, and that was magic and wonder and glory..

    but it was when I was 8 that the love affair began.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      You make me feel old. 🙂 I was a senior in college in 1977 and had a night class. I got out in time to go to the student center and watch Reggie hit the third home run.

      • Dr. Baseball says:

        My dad was a school teacher, he had “Back-to-School Night” and missed the first two homers. He came home and expected his little boy to be in bed, it was a school night after all.

        My dad is a great man who taught me to love baseball, but, on that night he said, “Shouldn’t we put Paul to bed?”

        My mom then said, “The Yankees are going to win the World Series. We can let him stay up.”

        I remember the tears of joy running down my face as the Yankees won. I had never cried happy tears before.

        My favorite player when I was a kid was Graig Nettles…but the greatest baseball memory from my childhood is of Reggie Jackson and that wonderful night.

        I was too young to understand all the Yankee Bronx Zoo stuff. I just loved them all. They were Yankees. So was I (in my mind).

        Just thinking about that glorious night can still bring tears to my eyes.

        This print hangs in my home office:

        This is the magic of baseball and childhood…

        Thank you Mr. October!

  4. “When you win, everything gets better.” That’s Hemingway, too.

    Epstein’s hiring of Maddon fits and doesn’t fit with Moneyball. How much does the manager matter? Let’s talk about when I fell in love with baseball–yes, at age 8. I heard a voice coming out of a transistor radio on our kitchen table, and I was hooked. That voice was Vin’s. What choice did I have but to become hooked on baseball?

    My Dodgers then were behind the Reds. The next year, they–we–won. Then two more second place finishes behind the Big Red Machine. The O’Malleys forced out Walter Alston in favor of Tommy Lasorda. I rejoiced. I didn’t think much of Alston as a manager. Now I know better.

    Now I also know better about Lasorda. As a tactician, he was a better ambassador for baseball. But notice that without too many changes in the roster, he took the Dodgers to back-to-back World Series in his first two years. I believe he made the difference through his approach, the hugging, the fun, the entertainment. Alston was more serious, and the younger players chafed at that.

    Whether you are into statistics or not, there is poetry in baseball. Epstein gets it. My eight-year-old self got it, and so does my almost 52-year-old self. Thanks, Joe. You do, too.

  5. Richard says:

    Cannot pinpoint the exact year when I fell in love with baseball; it was sometime in the mid 70s (when I was in my early teens). For some reason, the Phillies became my team – which was very odd for someone who lived in Connecticut! If I held my little transistor radio *just right* and in the right spot in my bedroom, I could pick up the games on WCAU. And not only do I remember the big lists of all the players by batting average and pitchers by ERA, the only way to really follow the game and learn about all the other teams was “This Week in Baseball” before the Game of the Week on Saturday afternoon…..

  6. Robert says:

    I was 29 and worked for a Toronto brewery, which owned the Blue Jays at the time. They sent a bunch of us to the first-ever game and I was completely wowed. It was a lousy, snowy day, there was no liquor license, and all these magic guys were doing things like hitting home runs. I was out in space somewhere at all this magic stuff, and I have loved the game ever since. Been to Cooperstown twice, can’t wait to go back. As a newbie to the sport I have to do my history research so I can appreciate it fully.It became a total love affair. Sorry, NHL.

  7. MikeN says:

    Is there anyone who disagrees with:

    If Theo Epstein retires now, he will make the Hall of Fame?

    • SDG says:

      I can’t imagine. He got both notorious “curse” teams World Series rings and turned them into dynasties (he hasn’t done that with the Cubs yet but does anyone doubt him). The real question is, does that finally shut up the people who make fun of saber stat acronyms and think they somehow go against the heart and soul of baseball?

      • invitro says:

        “turned them into dynasties (he hasn’t done that with the Cubs yet but does anyone doubt him)” — I will. The Cubs’ starting pitchers are old and older. I don’t know anything about if they have new pitchers ready in the minors, but they’ll probably need some if they’re going to be a dynasty. Dynasties are very rare also, depending on how you define one, and I think it’s probably better odds to bet that the Cubs won’t be a dynasty, rather than that they will be.

      • MikeN says:

        No, it won’t shut me up. I thought it was ridiculous how much praise he was given for his quote about RBI vs not making outs. His signings were not that good(though JD Drew had some clutch postseason hits). Having a big budget team bailed him out. I mentioned that and one person said it was part of his greatness, knowing he could afford to make mistakes.

        I do wonder if Billy Beane would have worked out for the Red Sox. If you’re always seeking value, would you be able to make the jump to spending big?

        • invitro says:

          “I thought it was ridiculous how much praise he was given for his quote about RBI vs not making outs.” — Why?

          • MikeN says:

            Because of his overall work as GM, lots of flops. See the original thread by Joe.

          • invitro says:

            I don’t see that Epstein has had any more “flops” than any other great GM, and what does that have to do with his quotes, anyway?

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      Theo Epstein = Phil Jackson. Anyone can win with that much talent and that much money. Give Theo credit for getting the right coach (Joe Maddon) but besides that, eh. I’m more impressed with guys like Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy and even Dayton Moore and Ned Yost who took good but not great teams and made them winners…

      • MikeN says:

        Phil Jackson’s teams were not that talented. Yes he ended up with 4 all stars on his first Bulls team, but no one was calling BJ Armstrong an all star when they were winning the championships. Horace Grant is good, but not exactly a super talent. The second triple was filled with players who were exposed after Jordan left. Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Kukoc, Harper, Kerr, and six nobodies doesn’t win with any coach. 2008 Doc Rivers would have lost.

        • invitro says:

          “Phil Jackson’s teams were not that talented.” — You need to lay off the bath salts, bro. Jackson had probably the most talent on average than any non-Filipino NBA coach in history. Except for maybe Doc Rivers, who’s gotta be the most underachieving NBA coach ever.

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            LOL having 3 HOFers (MJ, Pippen, Rodman) in your starting 5 = “not that talented” ? So if 60% of your starters are HOFers…oh nevermind. I agree with Invitro, too: Doc Rivers is underachieving.

      • MikeN says:

        And the Lakers had a sixth man of Devean George. Phil Jackson was the only coach who could have won Shaq his championship because he got into Pippen’s head.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        Ok, Theo Epstein is the worst, most overrated GM ever. That seems to be what you want to say. How much talent did the Cubs have when Theo took over?

        As for Brian Sabean, this guy must have hit the motherlode of luck. The Giants had ok teams that somehow got hot, benefitted from injuries or bad luck from the other teams, and won in the playoffs. I give Bruce Bochy credit, but you can’t tell me that Brian Sabean was such a genius that he knew Cody Ross, for example, was going to become Babe Ruth in the playoffs.

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          Awww is someone butt-hurt because not everyone thinks the world of Theo Epstein? It’ll be okay, Marc Schneider, lol. I’m not saying that Theo isn’t talented – but I am saying he’s waaaaay overrated, much like Phil Jackson is. As far as Sabean/Bochy, you’re nuts.

          • invitro says:

            You don’t believe the recent Giants (and Royals) teams got tons of luck in the playoffs?

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            That’s a tough Q and it’s impossible to answer. I mean, are the Patriots any less of a SB Champ because they played the Falcons instead of the Cowboys or Packers? The Cowboys would’ve matched up better with them than the Cowboys, so are the Patriots lucky that they didn’t play the Cowboys? Or are the Cubs lucky they played the Indians – who had Carrasco and Salazar injured – instead of the Rangers? “Luck” is filled with too many “what ifs” to really take seriously. And it goes both ways. Are the Cubs “lucky” that the Astros took Appel instead of Bryant? Did Theo get lucky that Arrieta turned into an ace? Did Theo get lucky that Rizzo > Cashner? Did Theo get lucky that the Rays’ end of being a decent team coincided with his (Theo’s) need to get Maddon?

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            *matched up better than the Falcons

          • Marc Schneider says:

            As I said, I give Bochy credit because he took good but not great teams and won. He’s clearly a great manager. But Sabean put together teams that largely had so-so regular season records, made a couple of moves that turned out much better than expected. The role of the GM is to put together the best team he can, not put together a team that can maybe win if things go right. Giving Sabean credit for the Giants winning in the playoffs seems perverse to me. Theo put together teams with lots of talent; that’s what a GM is supposed to do. John Schuerholz put together Braves teams that were good enough to dominate the regular season for 15 years; obviously, they didn’t do as well in the playoffs as the Giants but I would say that Schuerholz did much better at what he was supposed to do than Sabean.

      • invitro says:

        “Anyone can win with that much talent and that much money.” — Are you not aware that around 150 years’ worth of guys with that much talent and money did NOT win with the Cubs and Red Sox?

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          Yes, because every Red Sox team had Pedro, Schilling, Manny, Papi, Tek, Damon, Wakefield, and even Derek Lowe. Cmon, that’s quite a bit of talent. Add Francona as the coach and it was quite a bit of talent, cmon.

          • invitro says:

            Plenty of Red Sox and even Cubs teams have had that much talent. And of course Epstein is responsible for being smart enough to sign or trade for a lot of these and the Cubs’ players. (And to hire Bill James, if he’s responsible for that, who really gives the Red Sox a huge advantage over the rest of the league.)

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            Many of Theo’s moves sucked, though, too. Would any of the other 29 teams take Heyward’s contract? He’s a good player being paid like a superstar.

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          And show me a past Cubs team with talent like Bryant, Rizzo, Fowler, Russell, Heyward, and Zobrist to go along with pitchers Arrieta, Hendricks, Lester, Lackey, and Chapman. Maddon brought them all together, but cmon, it wasn’t a shock that they won it all.

      • Brett Alan says:

        Am I, like, misunderstanding what Theo’s job is? Isn’t he the one who assembled the talent? I realize that many of the key pieces were already there in Boston, but he brought in or drafted most of the important Cubs. Saying he only won because of all that talent just makes me think of McCarver’s quip that Bob Gibson was the luckiest pitcher ever, because he always pitched in the days the other team didn’t score runs.

  8. RonH says:

    8 years old was the time for me too. None of my family was interested in sports at all and so I’m not sure how I got the bug. But I still remember hearing the public address announcement at the end of the school day saying ” The Chicago White Sox beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 11-0 in the first game of the World Series. ” I figured Chicago must be the best team and they became my team- I grew up in Indianapolis and so had no real hometown team. Nellie Fox was named MVP after the season and he was my favorite player until he retired. Luis Aparacio was a close second. How different my baseball cheering life would have been if the Dodgers had won that first game. 🙂
    Waiting for scores until the next day was hard- especially west coast night games, for which the morning paper only had, at best, partial scores. I quickly started following the player stats in the daily, and especially Sunday paper. That’s how I became good at math- ” now if Nellie goes 2 for 4 in his next game, what will his average be then? ” I did this ‘what if’ for many scenarios for many players, including pitchers. Lots of long division practice, that’s for sure.

  9. Mort says:

    For me it was the 1960 World Series. I was nine, which I guess is a year behind schedule. And I was a year late on the bonding year, too, which happened for me at 13. 1964 was the year I got my first table baseball game (APBA), so I could replay those amazing pennant races. No calculators then: every ERA and batting average had to be figured by hand. And of course you had to count up the hits, at bats, innings pitched, earned runs, manually as well, for each player. And you had to do it, because what’s baseball without stats? Playing APBA baseball was what endeared me to ballplayers who walk a lot. I was oh so ready for on base percentage when the saber guys started talking about it twenty years later. All my favorite batters had lots of ’14s’ on their cards. (That was a BB, unless there was a runner on first and the pitcher had a ‘Z’ on his card.)

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