Pirates in a pickle between 1st and home?

Mudcat Grant

Pirates
Courtesy of MLB.com

Even if you don’t follow baseball, you may remember the May 27, 2021 game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the top of the third inning. Wilson Contrares of the Cubs gets a single and stole second base. With two outs, Javy Baez hits the ball to third baseman Erik Gonzalez. He throws to first baseman Will Craig, a little offline, but in plenty of time.

All Craig has to do is step on first base and the inning is over. But Baez stops running towards first and instead heads back towards home plate, gingerly evading Craig’s tag. Meanwhile, the runner Contrares is heading toward home. Craig flips the ball to the catcher, Michael Perez, but not in time to tag the sliding Contrares.

Now Baez runs to first. There’s no one there. Second baseman Adam Frazier is running over to cover the bag, but Perez’s throw is offline, and Baez ends up on second base. Perez is initially charged with an error though it is later attributed to Craig. The next batter, Ian Happ, drives Baez home.

Much was made of the fact that Craig could have just touch first, and rightly so. On CBS This Morning, Gayle King tried to mitigate his mistake, but co-host Anthony Mason was having none of it. “He gets paid to do that.” True enough. But, more than that, virtually any Little Leaguer or college player or minor leaguer would have known this.

Baseball in the headlines

This is why I love the story. Baseball, even though it’s probably not the National Pastime, was in the spotlight. Almost any fan would recognize what to do in the situation. My wife was reading a YA novel, Six Innings by James Preller. She doesn’t always understand the jargon that Preller uses – “stayed in the park,” e.g. Yet I am confident my wife would have just tagged first base.

BTW, if Craig had not tried to toss the ball to the catcher Perez, he could have just ignored Contrares and tagged Baez, because the batter can’t touch home plate in this situation, lest he is declared automatically out. Even though the runner Contrares reached home, his run would not have counted.

Rule 5.08 states: “No run shall score during a play in which the third out is made by the batter-runner before he touches first base.” This is unambiguous. Also, if the second baseman Frazier had covered first base sooner, Perez’s throw probably gets Baez, and the inning ends with no runs scored, instead of two.

Not incidentally, The Cubs won the game by two runs, 5-3. The play is #1 on the list of the Top 50 Plays of the First Half! (2021 MLB Highlights). Writers from both the New Zealand Herald and Slate called it the worst baseball play they’ve ever seen.

Will Craig was sent back to the minor leagues and was eventually released; he’s reportedly going to play baseball in Korea. Baez was traded to the New York Mets. Meanwhile, Frazier, an All-Star, was traded to the San Diego Padres for three players. This sort of thing happens when a team is last in its division, as the Pirates are, unfortunately.   

Mudcat

Jim “Mudcat” Grant, American League’s first Black 20-game winner, died in June at 85. He was a starter for Cleveland and Minnesota, then a reliever, with the Oakland A’s and the Pirates.

“By his account, Jim Grant acquired his nickname at an Indians tryout camp in 1954 through a combination of racial stereotyping and disregard for his geographical roots. Mudcat was the informal name given to large catfish found in muddy streams, especially in the Mississippi Delta, though Mr. Grant was born and raised in Florida.

“’In those days, they thought all Black folk was from Mississippi,’ he once told the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. ‘They started calling me Mississippi Mudcat. I said, ‘I’m not from Mississippi,’ and they said, ‘You’re still a Mississippi Mudcat.’ And it’s been very good to me.’

“Mr. Grant’s experiences with racism and his interest in Black history inspired him to write ‘The Black Aces: Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners” (2006),…a collaboration with Tom Sabellico and Pat O’Brien.”

Chuck Connors would have been 100

Celtics, Cubs

Chuck Connors.baseballIt could have been in TV Guide or another magazine, or a newspaper article. All I know is that, during the run of the TV show The Rifleman (1958-1963), I knew that Chuck Connors had been a professional athlete before he became an actor.

He played basketball with the Boston Celtics. In 1946, Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors was the first NBA player to shatter a backboard, doing so during a pre-game warm-up in the Boston Garden.

The future actor also played baseball. Before the 1940 season, he was signed by his hometown Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent. Though somewhat successful in the minor leagues, he got into only one game with that major league team, in 1949.

On October 10, 1950, he was traded, with Dee Fondy, to the Chicago Cubs for Hank Edwards and cash. He spent part of the 1951 season with the Cubs, appearing in 66 games, 57 of them as a first baseman, batting .239.

“In a 1997 biography titled ‘The Man Behind the Rifle’, author David Fury says that ‘Chuck”‘Connors acquired his nickname while an athlete playing first base. He had a habit of calling to the pitcher: “Chuck it to me, baby, chuck it to me!”

North Fork

His IMDB record begins in 1952. But he’s best known for playing Lucas McCain in 168 episodes of The Rifleman. The Complete Directory To Prime Time Network TV Shows, by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, have a great description of the show.

“The setting was the town of North Fork, NM, whose marshall seemed incapable of handling any of the numerous desperadoes who infested the series without Lucas.” I’m sure I watched it a lot in the day, and it’s still available on MeTV.

Lucas McCain was ranked #32 in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” in the 20 June 2004 issue. He raised Mark (Johnny Crawford) by himself.

Chuck spent a season on Arrest and Trial, a cop show with Ben Gazzara, which I don’t remember.

Bitter Creek

Connors was on another western, Branded (1965-1966). “Jason McCord, the only survivor of the Battle of Bitter Creek, is court-martialed and kicked out of the Army because of his alleged cowardice. Rather than demean the good name of the Army commander who was actually to blame for the massacre, McCord travels the Old West trying to restore his good name and reputation.

And my sisters and I would reenact the  opening theme, which I can hear in my mind’s ear to this day:

“All but one man died, There at Bitter Creek. And they say he ran away. Branded! Marked with a coward’s shame. What do you do when you’re branded, will you fight for your name?

“He was innocent. Not a charge was true. But the world would never know. Branded! Scorned as the one who ran. What do you do when you’re branded, and you know you’re a man?

“Wherever you go for the rest of your life, you must prove… You’re a man.”

And in the intro, the officer would break McCord’s sword over his knee. We would take a thin tree branch and break it in the same way. Or more often, take this paper covering that came with the dry cleaning and tear it.

Oddly, I don’t remember the show itself very much.

Redux

Here’s some trivia. “He suffered almost the same fate in each of his two television western series. In The Rifleman: The Vaqueros (1961), he was stripped to the waist, tied to a tree, and left to die under a scorching sun by a group of Mexican bandits. And in Branded: Fill No Glass for Me: Part 2 (1965), he was stripped to the waist, tied to a tree, and left to die under a scorching sun by a group of Indian warriors. (In both cases he survived.)”

I didn’t see him much after that, except in an occasional guest appearance, and two episodes of Roots. No, I did NOT see Werewolf.

Chuck Connors was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1991.

Born: April 10, 1921, in Brooklyn, New York City, NY
Died: November 10, 1992 (age 71) in Los Angeles, CA

Cubs, Cronkite, and Halloween

Wet leaves on wooden inclined plane = nearly horizontal person, somewhat in pain.

chicagocubsI swear I read a number of people who treated the baseball World Series win by the Chicago Cubs as, “Oh, that’s nice,” rather than the astonishing event that it was. Heck, even Arthur wrote about it, not once, but twice. He noted that “Some things transcend all of that, and sport can, for some, be one of those things.”

And the stories I read about fans remembering parents, or grandparents, who loved the Cubs, but never had the joy of seeing them win the National League pennant (last time, 1945), let alone the whole enchilada (1908, 108 years ago; 108, like the number of stitches on a baseball). This was touching, for example.

I was rooting for them, once the New York Mets were quickly eliminated. General Theo Epstein, who got the long-suffering Boston Red Sox fans a pennant in 2004 and 2007, may be a miracle worker.

Apparently, there were a number of people who predicted the Chicago Cubs would win the Series this year.
***
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Walter Cronkite of CBS News. I’ve remembered his natal day since about 1980 when I realized it coincided with the date the hostages in Iran were taken a year before.

So much in the news has changed since his heyday, the 24-hour news cycle, and competing with the TMZs of the world, not to mention Facebook and Twitter as news sources.

I read his autobiography and reviewed it here.
***
Monday, I decided to ride my bike to work. But the front tire was light and failed to inflate, so I stuck it back into the shed, locked the door, turned around, and, as I wrote in Facebook about 45 minutes later:
Wet leaves on wooden inclined plane = nearly horizontal person, somewhat in pain. I’m hobbling to work now…

Managed to hit my head to the right of my left ear, and my left shoulder, and my back (wearing the backpack), and turned my left ankle. It happened so fast, I didn’t have a chance to put out my hand to try to save myself, which, I suppose was a good thing. No lasting damage, but I was sore for a couple of days, especially my back.

Got a very angry IM on Facebook that evening about something I wrote which a person believed was a mischaracterization of their feelings, and was quite possibly friendship ending, which made me both sad and exhausted, as I tried to explain my POV. I had a nice IM exchange from an old friend about something else I had written.

The highlight of the day had to be, when I was handing out Halloween candy, a half dozen College of Saint Rose students Halloween caroling of this Thomas Tallis piece. I even sang along on the repeated section.

That’s when I could still sing because subsequently, I’ve lost my voice; hope I can shake whatever bug is irritating my vocal chords, or my vocal cords.