Remembering Morganna, The Kissing Bandit

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It’s hard to remember a time when someone running out onto the playing field at a sporting event would not be chased, pummeled or tased. Or that we, as a society, wouldn’t find it uncomfortable and problematic for someone to run up to another person and give them an unsolicited kiss.  But the 1960s-80s were a very different time and place. A time and place that could produce Morganna, the Kissing Bandit.

People my age and older remember her. For those who don’t, all you really need to know is that she was an extremely buxom woman who would run out onto baseball diamonds — later in life it was more of a shuffle than a run — and plant one on various ballplayers. Pete Rose was her first target. Many others would follow. As would appearances on late night talk shows, “celebrity” panel game shows and in various places around our then comparatively barren pop culture landscape.

If you want to know more about her, go watch this mini-documentary about her. Which I found really interesting, even if I liked it somewhat better when I knew absolutely nothing about her apart from her strange, random appearances at now mostly-demolished baseball stadiums back in the era of big hair and plastic grass.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.