The Irish influence on 19th century baseball can’t be overstated. Indeed, in his “Historical Baseball Abstract,” Bill James wrote this:
“Baseball in the 1890s was dominated by Irish players to such an extent that many people, in the same way that people today believe that blacks are born athletes, thought that the Irish were born baseball players.”
Insert a century and an ocean and the idea of specifically-Irish baseball players seems kind of odd. Descendants of Irish-Americans of that era have been assimilated, so we tend not to think of them as Irish in the same way they used to be thought of (for better and for worse). No one back in Ireland plays it of course. Or at least that’s what I thought before I read this:
Baseball may be America’s National Pastime, but the Irish have been playing baseball for over a decade. “The Emerald Diamond” is an award-winning documentary that tells the story of Ireland’s new found obsession with the game. Originally released in 2006, “The Emerald Diamond” is being re-released in March 2011 as part of a national screening tour to raise funds for non-profit groups and youth baseball leagues in Ireland and America.
Apparently there are youth and adult leagues all over Ireland now. Got their own website and everything. File that under stuff that (a) I did not know before this morning; and (b) makes me happy.
I just saw Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs refer to this as “BryceGhazi” and we’re not gonna top that, so we shouldn’t even try.
The controversy: Bryce Harper, in defeating Kyle Schwarber in the Home Run Derby last night, didn’t follow the rules. Or else his dad, who was pitching to him didn’t. The rule in question is that the pitcher has to wait for the last hit ball to land before delivering the next one. Given that the Derby is a timed event, such a thing matters, of course, because the faster you get pitches the faster you can hit them out of the park. At least if you don’t get too tired first.
Harper’s dad was a bit quick with the final three pitches in the final round, allowing Harper to get to 18, tying Kyle Schwarber before winning it outright with his 30 seconds bonus time. Watch as Harper waves for his dad to deliver the pitch while the last ball is still flying:
I’m not gonna argue that he didn’t do it. I will say, however, that no one should really care. Mostly because it’s the Home Run Derby and it doesn’t matter a bit. Getting mad about this is a half-step removed from getting mad that Blackjack Mulligan used a foreign object to gouge Pedro Morales’ eyes during a house show in 1976. Yes, it’s true, but c’mon, we’re entertaining people here.
I have not seen any suggestion that Kyle Schwarber is upset, but if he later says he is I’ll simultaneously understand yet still roll my eyes. I doubt MLB will do anything here or issue a statement of any kind. If it does, I’ll roll my eyes harder. Because, I repeat: It’s the Home Run Derby.