IT’S MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL OPENING DAY…
…and the official start of another season of America’s favorite pastime! It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t appreciate what makes the game so special… a sunny day at the ball park, or an evening game played under the lights; hearing that crack of the bat and the cheers of the fans echoing in the stands. Even the healthiest among us can’t resist a hot dog, peanuts, and an ice cold beer. It’s a game of tradition and nostalgia, and most of us love watching the game even if we don’t know anything about baseball. It’s made for the fans.
Wouldn’t it be even more fun if you had a few insider tips and knew a bit of trivia about the game and the season to come? Here are the top “9 Things You Need To Know” for the 2015 season. That’s one for each inning, of which there are 9. We assumed you knew at least that.
1.A-Rod is back
New York Yankee Alex Rodriquez makes his return to baseball after being suspended for a year for using performance-enhancing drugs. Baseball’s bad boy accepted his 162-game suspension for doping, which kept him off the field the entire 2014 season. The suspension, the most severe punishment in baseball history, is said to have cost A-Rod $25 million in salary. Rodriguez may be the man you love to hate in baseball, but games are more exciting with him in the lineup. We hope he has a good season. Everybody loves a comeback!
2.Derek Jeter is not
Yankee fans are still recovering from Derek Jeter’s retirement after a fairytale farewell season. Number 2 hung up his cap and his number is being retired too. Relive one of his most memorable plays HERE and then get ready for a new era of Yankee baseball. Their new shortstop, Didi Gregorius, has some big cleats to fill! While he’s more known for his glove than his bat, Gregorius had a great spring at the plate, and has fans looking forward to his first season in the Bronx.
3. Uniform style
Most teams have gone traditional in recent years and have multiple variations of their home and away uniforms (the better for merchandising, of course). The Oakland A’s are taking #ThrowbackThursday pretty seriously. At every Thursday home game, the A’s will honor their franchise by repping throwback uniforms and giving away commemorative buttons to the first 5,000 fans.
Our favorite uniforms are still the originals though, many of which are available at EBBETS FIELD FLANNELS. Their authentic wool flannel baseball jerseys, caps and jackets are identical to the originals in fabric and craftsmanship, and have been recreated using the original materials, lettering, sleeve patches and trim.
4. What just happened?
While the game seems quite simple — hit the ball, run around the bases — there are a few rules that can be quite confusing if you don’t know how what’s happening on the field:
The Balk: You’re watching the field, the pitcher goes through what looks like his regular pitching motion when all of a sudden the umpire jumps up, points to first and the batter runs to first. What just happened? If the pitcher doesn’t come to a complete stop during his windup, or makes a false move without stepping off the pitching rubber, the hitter and all the base runners advance one base. It’s meant to prevent quick pitches or deceptive moves.
The Infield Fly Rule: Man is on first and the batter hits a soft fly ball into the air toward the second baseman. Before the ball comes down the umpire signals an out. What just happened? Since the fielder cannot purposely drop a catchable ball in order to execute a double play, the batter is automatically called out.
Dropped Third Strike: You’re looking at the scoreboard and see the batter has two strikes on him. On the next pitch he swings and misses for a third strike, but the catcher has dropped the ball. Instead of heading back to the dugout, the batter makes a mad dash towards first. What just happened? If the catcher drops the third strike, the batter becomes a runner and can attempt to go to first. The runner must be tagged in order to record an out. Interestingly, the pitcher still is credited with a strikeout. Sixty-eight different pitchers have struck out four batters in one inning in the history of the Major Leagues, including three last season.
5. On the plate…
The New York Yankees have hired nutritonist Cynthia Sass, according to a piece in The New York Times, with the mission of making the team the healthiest in baseball. Other teams as well, like the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers, are looking to gain the competitive edge through nutrition. Certain foods are known to enhance performance, boost the immune system, encourage healing and reduce inflammation, while unhealthy foods do the opposite. If the right foods can keep one player in the lineup for one extra day, and that player helps win a game, it benefits the whole team. Nothing will be off limits, but unhealthy foods will not be on display.
For a typical game day, Sass recommends eggs (the so-called perfect protein) with lots of vegetables, oatmeal and fruit for breakfast. Lunch should include a lean meat protein, a quinoa grain bowl or a salad with olive oil vinaigrette and avocados. For dinner, grilled salmon, baked sweet potato, are on the menu with lots of grilled vegetables and fruit on the side. Sass also recommends avocado and organic dark chocolate, which she says has natural substances that relax blood vessels and open up circulation.
6. Hall of Fame—who’s in, who’s not
“Future Hall-of-Famer” is about as high an accolade as “future Oscar-winner” or “future Grammy-winner.” But the controversies surrounding some of the biggest stars of the game has gotten them all but banned from the Hall. Anyone who has been tainted by steroid scandals is sitting on the outside looking in, including Barry Bonds (762 lifetime home runs, first on the all-time list and holder of the single season record), Mark McGwyre (10th all-time, second-highest single season total), Sammy Sosa (8th all-time, 3rd highest single-season) and Rafael Palmeiro (12th all-time). Roger Clemens (7 Cy Young Awards) and A-Rod (5th on the all-time list with 654 career homers, 6 behind Willie Mays, and still technically active) will probably also be left out in the cold.
The most notorious player to be left out of the Hall is Pete Rose. Rose holds dozens of major league records, including most career hits, games played, at-bats and outs. He also made the All-Star team at five different positions. Rose was an amazing player, but he admitted to gambling on baseball while playing for and managing the Cincinnati Reds. A new book by Kostya Kennedy, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, makes the case for why baseball should reconsider. After all, he may have bet on games, but he did not fix their outcome like the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox (immortalized in the John Sayles movie “Eight Men Out”).
In case you are asked, the 4-member 2015 class of inductees, the largest in 60 years, includes Craig Biggio, Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz
7. Collectibles Trivia
Baseball is full of collectors, scooping up everything from autographed balls and bats, to baseball cards, pieces of turf and old stadium seats. The most valuable collectible however, is the baseball card featuring all-time great Honus Wagner, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first decades of the 20th century. Wagner was one of the original 5 inductees into the Hall of Fame in 1936 (along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson), and he was also an avid anti-tobacco advocate. The American Tobacco Company put Wagner’s picture on one of the cards included with its cigarette packs, and Wagner protested, limiting the press run. Legend has it that only 200 were produced and fewer than 10 survive. One of the cards came to auction in 2013 and sold for $2.1 million.
You might be spending less time at the ballpark this year, thanks to a new Major League Baseball initiative to speed up the pace of play. From 1950 to 2014, the average game has increased in duration about 45 minutes, from about 2 hours and 22 minutes to 3 hours and 8 minutes. There are probably a whole host of factors contributing to the longer games: TV timeouts, increased use of relief pitchers, more spitting and scratching between pitches. But MLB is initiating a few rule changes to help pick up the pace. Batters will be forced to keep one foot in the batter’s box throughout their at-bats, timers will be added to limit break times between innings, and managers will be able to challenge calls from the dugouts. The league will impose warnings and fines on players and clubs violating the rules.
9. If you write it, they will read
Baseball has inspired some of the finest works of literature. Maybe it’s the continuum of history, both its own and within America’s history. Maybe it’s the unique way this team sport affords the opportunity for individual achievement and heroism. Or maybe it’s just the excitement of the athleticism, the competition, and the spectacle of a stadium full of people sharing an experience. Whatever it is, here are some of the greatest pieces of writing that just happen to be about baseball:
“Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” by John Updike. Published in the October 20, 1960 issue of The New Yorker, it is Updike’s lyrical and loving account of Ted Williams’ final home game in Fenway Park. Updike compiled the essay and other remembrances into a 50th anniversary book, which was published just before his death.
The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn (1972). Kahn grew up near Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and covered the Dodgers during their glory days in the 1950s (winning their only World Series title against the hated Yankees in 1955). Kahn’s book retraces those days and his own childhood, and revisits his idols many years removed from the playing field.
The Glory of Their Times, by Lawrence Ritter (1966). Ritter managed to collect an oral history of life in the big leagues during the first half of the 20th century. The simple tales from these hard men is a stunning reminder of how far baseball, and our country, has come.
Three Nights in August, by Buzz Bissinger (2006). When the award-winning author of Friday Night Lights turns his attention to baseball, he chooses to examine the game through the eyes of Tony La Russa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. As La Russa leads his team in a tight three-game series with the Chicago Cubs, Bissinger’s insight into the strategic complexities and personal challenges of baseball is compelling.
Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, by Jane Leavy (2002). Koufax, who turned in what is probably the most dominant five-year stretch for any pitcher in history and retired at age 30, is one of the more inscrutable heroes of the game. Leavy sheds needed light on the man and his legacy.
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis (2004). Lewis introduces the world to game of baseball as it is strategized today, the intersection between statistics and athletics. The fascinating story, told from the vantage point of Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, was made into an equally terrific movie starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.
The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship, by David Halberstam (2003). Halberstam wrote a couple of baseball books, but this one poignantly tells of the friendship among four members of the Red Sox in the 1940s, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky. Halberstam weaves the history of their playing days into the story of a road trip the men take to see an ailing Williams at his home in Florida.Number 2, 5, 8: Illustrations by Spencer Houghton