Stick to sports? Never.

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You’ve heard me go on and on about not sticking to sports for years. Sorry, never will.

While I will not go completely off the rails and start posting stuff about housing policy, campaign finance reform or political things that have no connection to baseball at all, I will refuse to pretend that the real world does not exist and that it does not touch upon baseball — and that baseball does not touch upon the real world — almost constantly. When the real world does intersect with baseball I will write about it. I always have, going back to the first baseball website I wrote for beginning 15 years ago.

It’s also worth noting that, to claim that baseball is a safe space where all of the real things which impact real people in real ways don’t exist is itself a political position. It’s a rejectionist one, in which the concerns of others who do care about things like, say, public financing of stadiums, racism, sexism, economic inequality, labor matters and the like are dismissed. You do not have to engage in such conversations or even pay attention to them in order to be a sports fan, but you have no right to tell others that it is illegitimate for them to do so. Or that their sports fandom is somehow lesser than yours because they do.

Today at the Columbia Journalism Review, Tony Rehagen takes up the subject of sports writers who do not stick to sports. I was interviewed for the piece and quoted extensively, as was Rob Neyer, Bob Ryan and Sarah Spain. The tweets of others like Jemele Hill and Richard Dietsch are included as well. The piece does a good job of explaining where folks like me are coming from.

Gaylord Perry, two-time Cy Young winner, dies at 84

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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GAFFNEY, S.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry, a master of the spitball who wrote a book about using the pitch, died at 84.

Perry died at his home in Gaffney of natural causes, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details.

The native of Williamston, North Carolina, made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 and San Diego in 1978 just after turning 40.

Perry went 24-16 in his debut season with Cleveland after 10 years with the San Francisco Giants. He was 21-6 in his first season with the Padres in 1978 for his third and final 20-win season.

“Before I won my second Cy Young I thought I was too old – I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”

Perry, who pitched for eight major-league teams from 1962 until 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he doctored baseballs or made batters believe he was doctoring them.

The Texas Rangers, whom Perry played for twice, said in a statement Thursday that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers an opportunity to win the game.”

“The Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team’s statement said. “This baseball great will be missed.”

Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it in that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned the spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.

Perry said he first threw it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.

He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.

According to his book, he looked for other substances, like petroleum jelly, to doctor the baseball. He used various motions and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to get hitters thinking he was applying a foreign substance.

Perry was ejected from a game just once for doctoring a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide George Brett’s infamous pine-tar bat in the clubhouse but was stopped by a guard. Perry was ejected for his role in that game, too.

After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and was its coach for the first three years.