And That Happened: Classic


Note: due to the All-Star break, we now bring you a special “Classic” edition of “And That Happened.” The following originally ran on July 13, 1969:

Orioles 4, Red Sox 0: A three hit shutout from Mike Cuellar lays the
Bosox low. After two years of upstart seasons — first from these very
same Red Sox and then the Tigers last year — it looks to this scribe like the
Baltimore Orioles are firmly back in control of the American League. The
reason is simple: a class organization, top to bottom, and so will it
ever be.

Royals 7, White Sox 0: Look, great day for Kansas City, but let’s be honest: neither of these teams are going anywhere this year, and I can’t be bothered with this game. I’m far more concerned about this moon shot they’re planning on Wednesday. Look, I know we’re doing this because we have to beat the Russkies, but let’s be honest here. Those boys are going to probably die up in the cold void of space, either because their rocket explodes or they run out of fuel or the lander doesn’t meet back up with the orbital unit or something. Better off if they simply film the whole thing in some Hollywood studio like that way-out movie with the apes and the rectangles last year. The Russians wouldn’t know the difference. Of course no one ever asks me anything and I’m sure I’m the only one who’s thought such fanciful thoughts.

Twins 11, Pilots 1: Bouton got into the ballgame today. Pitched two and two-thirds innings and gave up two hits, one of them a tremendous double by a former teammate of his at Western Michigan, Frank Quilici. They lost this one 11-1 and the Fat Kid hit another. The Seattle staff is impartial in the home-run race between Killebrew and Reggie Jackson. They both kill them.

Athletics 4, Angels 2: The Athletics take one at home.  The only thing dampening this day was a little bit of something that’s all too common on these trips up to the Bay Area: hippie uprising. A bunch of pinkos from up Berkley way were blocking the players’ entrance before the game, demonstrating for workers’ rights or something. Luckily this game’s starting pitchers — Catfish Hunter and Andy Messersmith — worked together to break things up. Good choice with those two. Company men. You know they’d never be swayed by that union organizer brain washing.

Tigers 15, Indians 3: Mickey Lolich runs his record to 12-2 and the
Tigers beat the Indians in the latest installment of the Battle of Lake
Erie. Before the game this reporter learned that Cleveland officials are confident that the last remnants of the fire that broke
out on the Cuyahoga River three weeks ago will be contained within the
next few days. A shame what’s happened down in Cleveland. How envious
the Indians players much be as they visit Detroit these past few days.
Engine of Democracy, capital of the music world. Perhaps one day it can
aspire to the Motor City’s heights, though admittedly, few cities can.

Yankees 3, Senators 1: The Yanks win one on the road in R.F.K. Stadium, which will be host of this year’s All-Star Game on July 24th.  Just got word of the game’s details: they’ll be 25 men on each team, one of whom will be a starting pitcher who will handle the bulk of the game. The rest of the players will either start and play the majority of the game or will sit on the bench in case of an injury or the need for some pinch hitting. As it is an exhibition game, the results will not count in the standings or for any other purpose.  The only difference this year is that, for the first time, the All-Star Game has been expanded into something they’re calling “All-Star Week,” with all manner of festivities to mark the occasion. Rather than just the game on the 24th, there will be drinking and carousing on the 22nd and the 23rd.

Shameful and needless spectacle, I say. It used to be just about the game, ladies and gentlemen, it used to be just about the game. I guess that’s progress for you. Why, some day in the future, if man and woman are still alive we may find that everything we think, do or say will be in the pill we took today.

Er– sorry about that, it’s just that that song is on the radio everywhere you go lately, so the future has served as a terrifying prospect to me of late.

Cubs 7, Phillies 4: The way this Cubs team is rolling, my friends, there appears to be nothing that will stop them from taking the pennant and putting and end to their seemingly interminable 61-year drought. I mean, let’s be serious: who’s gonna challenge the Cubbies? The Mets? Ha! That sad sack club is five games back and doesn’t have a field general the likes of one Leo Durocher on their side. Start printing those World Series tickets now, boys, start printing those World Series tickets now.

Cardinals 6, Pirates 3: Three base on balls for Pirates’ starter Steve
Blass. Rare to see his control rattled like that. I’m sure it’s nothing,

Astros 10, Reds 4: Little Joe Morgan walked twice and scored a run for Houston, but he didn’t get any hits. I wish someone would tell him that if you don’t get hits, you’re really not doing your job as a hitter. Hitting the ball gets things moving along. Walking just clogs up those bases. He could learn a lesson from his counterpart on the Reds, Mr. Pete Rose, who had a couple of hits yesterday and really helped his ballclub. Sure, the Reds lost, but that’s because Larry Dierker is a winning pitcher. Hard to win against a winning pitcher like that.

Dodgers 3, Giants 2: Over 45,000 were in attendance for a close, 14-inning affair. The Dodgers expect even bigger crowds for their August 8th and 9th Family Night promotions, brought to you by Gateway Markets!

Padres 7, Braves 5: No home runs for Henry Aaron on this day, but he continues his torrid season all the same. While Babe Ruth’s hallowed record will almost certainly belong to Willie Mays one day, Hammerin’ Hank stands a chance of hitting as many as 600 or 650 home runs if things break right for him.  If he does, however, his mark should be discounted by historians, what with playing as he does now in that band box of a stadium down in Atlanta. It’s an unfair advantage and a mockery of all competition. As far as this writer is concerned, Babe Ruth — and possibly Willie Mays — will forever be the Gold Standard when it comes to the long ball.

Expos vs. Mets: Postponed:  Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head . . . And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed, nothing seems to fit . . . Hey, I just made that up on the spot!  Not bad, eh? Plunked it out on the piano right here as I was typing. Hope I didn’t disturb my neighbor Burt Bacharach with that one!  He’s been working hard on the score to some new cowboy movie and has a had a serious case of writer’s block.

That’s all the games from yesterday. If you want to discuss these game summaries, I can be reached here:

C. Allen Calcaterra
c/o Hard-Ball-Talk
National Broadcasting Company
Rockefeller Center
New York, New York

That’s right, you just put your “comment” in an envelope and sock it to me!

Kudos to Fox for not going crazy with the curses

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I turned on last night’s Fox broadcast fully expecting them to spend too much time on history and curses and billy goats and black cats and Steve Bartman and 1908 and 1948 and all of that jive while spending too little time on the game and the players at hand. I will admit now that I was pleasantly surprised that that was not, in fact, the case.

To be clear, the pregame show was a friggin’ train wreck in this department. There the narrative framing was basically wall-to-wall. In the first segment, Fox studio host Kevin Burkhardt used the phrase “reverse the curse” within his first thirty seconds of speaking. Then, before much if any actual game stuff was referred to, Burkhardt mentioned all of the following things in the space of a, maybe, 45 second span:

When the montage ended, Alex Rodriguez said that “every player wants to break that curse.” Then they threw it to the first commercial at 7:38 or so. In the second segment they ran a prerecorded thing about championship droughts, making liberal mention of 108 years for the Cubs and 68 years for the Indians, but then got down to some actual game breakdown.

In the third segment, Burkhardt threw it to the P.A. announcer at Progressive Field for player introductions, once again mentioning 108/68 years as he did so. After that, they ran a montage, set to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “The Waiting,” in which centenarians and other older folks talked about how long they’ve been — wait for it — waiting for an Indians or a Cubs championship. Lots of them mentioned billy goats and curses and stuff.

When that was over Fox finally threw it to Joe Buck and John Smoltz up in the booth. Buck added a punctuative “the waiting is the hardest part,” and soon after they ran a Buck-narrated pre-produced montage about what was going on in 1908 and 1948, saying who was president, noting when Model-Ts were invented and all of that, all set to “Time has come today” by the Chambers Brothers. So, yes, that was a lot to take in in the space of a half hour.

But that’s on me, right? Who in the heck needs to watch a pregame show? No one, really. Alex Rodriguez and Pete Rose are proving to be a nice combination for Fox — getting rid of C.J. Nitkowski has cleared the congestion a bit and both A-Rod and Rose are proving to be naturals after a 2015 in which they were somewhat clunky — but a pregame show is pretty superfluous. The actual baseball breakdown those guys provide can be accomplished in less than ten minutes. The rest of it practically begs for those narrative-servicing montages, and frankly, no one needs ’em.

Most notably, though: the curse and weight of history talk basically ended once the game got going. Indeed, Buck and Smoltz were shockingly and refreshingly narrative-free for most if not all of the contest. They talked about Jon Lester and his issues holding runners. Corey Kluber‘s slider. Andrew Miller being Andrew Miller. Kyle Schwarber being there at all. They did a really nice job of handling all of the Xs and Os the way you want your broadcast booth to handle it.

Smoltz in particular was outstanding, showing that Fox’s decision to make him their number one color guy while reassigning Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci to be a fantastic one. A two-man booth is superior to a three-man booth in almost every instance, but the second man in Fox’s booth now mixes his insight and his regular conversation seamlessly. You never feel like Smoltz is talking down to you or speaking from his obviously superior place of baseball authority. His tone is as if he’s letting you in on stuff he thinks and hopes you’ll really appreciate knowing and he never plays the “I USED TO PLAY BASEBALL” card in the obnoxious ways some ex-player commentators do. And he’s right: we do appreciate what he tells us.

Beating up on Fox’s baseball broadcasts has been its own sport for many of us for several years, but there was nothing to really beat them up about last night. Sure, we could do without in-game interviews, but after the pregame show Fox showed remarkable restraint with respect to pushing history and narrative and curses and all of that baloney that has little if anything to do with the 2016 Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. They kept it focused on the baseball game that was going on before us in ways they haven’t always done in the past. It was refreshing and, dare I say, downright enjoyable.

More of this please.

Republicans accuse Hillary Clinton of being a bandwagon Cubs fan

CHICAGO - APRIL 4:  Hillary Rodham Clinton throws out the first pitch before the Chicago Cubs Opening Day game against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on April 4, 1994 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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This was inevitable: The Republican National Committee published a ridiculously detailed and self-serious opposition-research report accusing Hillary Clinton of being a “bandwagon” Cubs fan.

If you’re of a certain age you’ll recall that Clinton, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, spoke about being a Cubs fan as a kid. You’ll also recall that when she was running for her senate seat in New York, she gave shoutouts to a heretofore unheard of Yankees fandom. A lot of people have had fun with this at various times — we’ve mentioned it here on multiple occasions — but I wasn’t aware that anyone considered it an actually substantive political issue as opposed to an amusing “politicians, man” kind of thing.

The Republicans think it’s serious, though. Indeed, there’s more detail to this oppo-hit than there is any of the party’s candidate’s position papers. And while someone could, theoretically, have a lot of fun with this kind of material, the opposition report is not even remotely tongue-in-cheek. It reads like a poisition paper on nuclear proliferation. If the GOP had been this serious about vetting its own candidate, I suspect they wouldn’t be in the position they’re in today.

As for the substance: eh, who cares? Sports is entertainment and cultural glue. As a kid in Chicago, being a Cubs fan is both fun and makes some sense. As a senator from New York in the early 2000s, you’re gonna get to go to some Yankees games and sit in some good seats and that’s fun too. And, of course, politicians are going to say opportunistic things in order to attempt to connect with their constituents. Think of that what you will, but if you think of that as something which reveals something deep and dark within their soul about what kind of person they are, you probably need to step away from the cable news for a while and get some fresh air. Or you probably need to admit that you already believed the worse about her and that this is just an exercise in confirmation bias.

Heck, at this point I almost hope she finds a third or fourth team to root for. Indeed, I hope she makes a comic heel turn, puts on a Chief Wahoo hat for tonight’s game and claims that, deep, deep down, she had always rooted for the Indians. Then even I could get on her case about it. And we could all talk about how, in her own way, Hillary was really bringing the nation together.