Author: Craig Calcaterra

Polo Grounds

The time the Yankees played the Dodgers played the Giants


I’ve been following baseball to one degree or another since the late 1970s. You would think that in 35+ years of this a guy would’ve heard of everything, but I still learn about new, crazy stuff that happened in baseball all the time. The latest thing I learned may have been the craziest: the time the Dodgers, Yankees and Giants played a three-way game.

This story comes to me via Dan Lewis, who writes a daily newsletter called “Now I Know.” “Now I Know” assembles strange but true facts and stories and delivers them to your inbox each morning. It’s free and it’s highly recommended if you have any sort of a mind for trivia, history or just plain weirdness. Dan also has written “Now I Know” books — his latest is “Now I Know More” — and that’s where this Dodgers-Yankees-Giants story comes from.

The upshot: it was in June of 1944 and the game was a benefit for the war effort. The format of the three-sided game was devised by sportswriters. Who in 1944 had not yet, as a profession, decided that looking back and blindly defending tradition was the most important thing one can do with a press credential. Nope, this was downright radical, and it worked like this:

In the top of the first, the Dodgers came to bat against the Yankees, and in the bottom of the first, the teams switched sides. Then the Dodgers came back up to the plate for the top of the second. So far, normal. But the team pitching to them now wasn’t the Yankees. It was the Giants. The two NL rivals faced off for that inning, and in the third, the Dodgers took a breather in the shared away-team dugout while the Yankees and Giants faced off. This pattern repeated twice over the next six innings.

The Giants were the team that got the dugout to themselves, as the game was played in the Polo Grounds. The Dodgers and Yankees shared the visitor’s dugout. The Dodgers beat the Yankees beat the Giants, 5-1-0, respectively.

And with that, I can say I have now heard about the weirdest game ever. Until I hear about a weirder game which, the way baseball history rolls, I’ll probably hear about in a couple of years. Maybe when Dan’s next book comes out.

(But seriously; get Dan’s book. It’s fantastic stuff).

Mike Napoli to have jaw surgery for sleep apnea

Mike Napoli Getty

Mike Napoli takes a lot of bumps and bruises, and he’s having surgery in November. But that surgery has nothing to do with the bumps and bruises: it’s to address his chronic sleep apnea.

The surgery, as reported by WEEI, seems pretty major and sounds like nothing anyone would want. It’s called maxillomandibular advancement surgery, which is the technical term for “we’re gonna cut your jaw bone and move it forward . . . wait, you’re looking pale, do you need some water? Maybe sit down and you’ll stop being queasy surgery.”

But want has nothing to do with it. People who, like Napoli, suffer from sleep apnea and are resistant to less radical treatment like CPAP machines and nasal surgery need this sort of thing. Apnea interferes with sleep and can make your life miserable. And, if it’s serious, the interruption in breathing it causes can pose a serious risk to the person with it.

Playoff Reset: NLCS Game 3; ALCS Game 3, Take two



The Game: St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants, National League Championship Series Game 3
The Time: 4:07 PM Eastern
The Place: AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
The Channel: Fox Sports 1
The Starters: John Lackey vs. Tim Hudson
The Upshot: Tim Hudson hasn’t pitched in a series beyond the Division Series in 16 years, but he goes today. Not going today in all likelihood: Yadier Molina, who suffered a strained oblique on Sunday night. He says, however, he feels better than he thought he would, but it’d be really surprising to see him in the game. Figure A.J. Pierzynski will get the start behind the plate for the Cardinals. The Giants don’t run that much so missing Molina’s arm could be a problem, but Molina’s pitch-framing abilities could be missed by starter John Lackey.

The Game: Baltimore Orioles vs. Kansas City Royals, American League Championship Series Game 3
The Time: 8:07 PM Eastern
The Place: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Jeremy Guthrie
The Upshot: A day after the rainout, the Orioles and Royals look to do it again. Nothing different here than we thought it’d be yesterday other than the bullpen arms are a day fresher. Game 4 is where the starting pitching matchups be affected by the rain, but we’ll talk about that tomorrow. As for tonight: one sobering stat still holds for Baltimore: in the 29 years since the League Championship Series was switched to a best of seven, no team that has dropped the first two games at home has come back to win the series. That has happened 11 times in the past. Expect Wei-Yin Chen and Jeremy Guthrie to have some rust, as Chen has not pitched in 11 days and Guthrie hasn’t gone since September 26.

The rainout could mean Chris Tillman and James Shields come back for Game 4

Chris Tillman

The rainout pushes Game 3 to Tuesday and Game 4 to Wednesday, which means we could see Game 1 starters James Shields and Chris Tillman in Game 4 on regular rest. No word from Ned Yost on that, but Buck Showalter has already said that Tillman is a possibility for the O’s on Wednesday.

Tillman would’ve originally gone again in Game 5, with Miguel Gonzalez going in Game 4, but now Showalter could flip-flop them, with the thinking being that if you have a must-win game you’d rather have your ace going. Of course, that ace gave up five runs in four and a third innings on Friday, so it’s not like he’s a sure thing. Shields, for his part, gave up four runs on ten hits in five innings. Maybe if the Royals are up 2-1 or 3-0 by Wednesday, however, it won’t be such a . . . big game.

Fox’s alternative, sabermetric-oriented broadcast of the NLCS gets mixed reviews

old TV

Over the weekend, Fox offered an alternate broadcast of Game 1 of the NLCS featuring its Just a Bit Outside crew, including Rob Neyer, Gabe Kapler, C.J. Nitkowski and Kevin Burkhardt, all of whom were joined by Padres manager Bud Black. The idea was to provide an analytical/sabermetric experiment in calling a game.

I didn’t see it for various reasons, but I’ve read a couple of reviews of it all from sources who one would assume are sympathetic to the exercise: one from Baseball Prospectus and one from Beyond the Box Score. UPDATE: Here’s another good review from The Big Lead. The verdict: mixed.

Both reviews laud the effort and note times of interesting and novel insight. Both, however, noted that there may have been too many voices involved, the commentary didn’t track the game so well early, focusing on broader concepts and that the split-screen approach (the game on one side, the commentators and various graphics on the other) further served to disconnect the commentary and the viewer from the game. As the game went on, however, adjustments were made, more full-screen action was featured and the analysis tracked the game action more closely.

On a more big picture scale — again, with the caveat that I didn’t see this broadcast and that I’m going off the reviews here — my sense is that networks would do better to integrate more advanced analysis and fresher voices into existing broadcast paradigms rather than silo it off in its own sabermetric world. Just as baseball teams have integrated old and new school methods into team construction, broadcasts would do well not to overload on one approach but, rather, to take the best aspects of conventional and unconventional broadcasting techniques to make something that is smart enough to appeal to those who want more from their broadcast but accessible enough for the majority of people who are content with someone giving you a more in-the-moment play-by-play.

All of that said, I think you have to give Fox credit for trying something new, and the hope that this is merely the first stab at an ongoing experiment to rethink how games are broadcast and not a one-off. That network has the rights and lots of games to broadcast, so there is no reason it can’t play around with the format a great deal and see if they can’t find a fresh approach.