“Safe at Home” — A baseball play, performed in a ballpark

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Obviously there are some great sports movies and plays, but there are probably more bad ones than good ones. Sometimes they’re bad because it’s hard for actors to convince the audience that they’re credible athletes. Sometimes the stories are just dumb. I think a lot of the time people decide to make sports movies first and worry about a decent script way, way after designing the uniforms and stuff.

Sometimes, however, they’re bad because the stakes of sports aren’t, in reality, as big as the stakes in real life, so it’s hard to get as invested in a sports drama like you might a thriller or a murder mystery or a romance. SO many creators of sports drama forget this, making “winning the big game” the dramatic apex. It’s a mistake, though. “Rocky” was a great sports movie despite him losing his bout with Creed because it was a story about a man who was an underdog in life, not just boxing. It wasn’t about an athletic event alone. “Bull Durham” was great despite the hero getting cut before the end of the season because it was a story about three people dealing with real life stuff first (Nuke growing up, Crash growing old, Annie settling down), baseball second. There are tons of examples of this.

Over at The Hardball Times, Jack Moore tells us of a baseball play that does not make this mistake. And which, because of a truly unique setting and storytelling structure, sounds absolutely fantastic in execution as well as conception:

Safe at Home is a unique production, staged at St. Paul’s CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints, an independent baseball team known for its creative and wacky promotions and for being one of the best fan experiences in baseball. The Saints lent their three-year old park in the heart of St. Paul for Safe at Home. Groups of roughly 25 audience members were brought through nine areas of the stadium, with a seven-minute scene unfolding at each stop along the way.

Yes, the audience moves from place to place to see scenes set in the batting cage, the dugout, the clubhouse, the press box, etc. And the story itself — which Moore reviews and examines fully — sounds amazing: it’s just before the seventh game of the World Series between the Padres and the Rangers. The Padres star starting pitcher is a Dominican player who is contemplating boycotting the seventh game as a political protest over racial justice and immigration. Fans, the press, the umpires, team ownership and a presidential nominee, seemingly based on Hillary Clinton, are all at the ballpark and are all dealing with the implications of it all.

Moore’s review is excellent and thorough. Really, go read it to see how they produced the play and the logistics involved. And, of course, he has some great insights regarding the dramatic narrative. The key part he hits, in my view, is how the play does not make the mistake with the stakes involved in sports that I outlined above. It’s a great example of how sports and the real world can intersect and speak about one another.

Even if we never get a chance to see this play — and it’s hard to imagine that it could be easily reproduced or go on the road — simply having read about it is a thought-provoking experience. Both about the play itself and about how any of us would react if its premise occurred in real life.

 

Jones, Maddux, Morris consider Bonds, Clemens for Hall

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Hall of Famers Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris and Ryne Sandberg are among 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee that will meet to consider the Cooperstown fate of an eight-man ballot that includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro.

Hall of Famers Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also are on the panel, which will meet in San Diego ahead of the winter meetings.

They will be joined by former Toronto CEO Paul Beeston, former Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs executive Theo Epstein, Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno, Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng, Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter and Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams.

Three media members/historians are on the committee: longtime statistical analyst Steve Hirdt of Stats Perform, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Neal and Slusser are past presidents of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark will be the committee’s non-voting chair.

The ballot also includes Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Curt Schilling. The committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A candidate needs 75% to be elected and anyone who does will be inducted on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the BBWAA vote, announced on Jan. 24.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their 10th and final appearances on the BBWAA ballot. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program, just over two weeks after getting his 3,000th hit.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) in 2021. Support dropped after hateful remarks he made in retirement toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the BBWAA ballot in 2019. Murphy was on the BBWAA ballot 15 times and received a high of 116 votes (23.2%) in 2000. Mattingly received a high of 145 votes (28.2%) in the first of 15 appearances on the BBWAA ballot in 2001, and Belle appeared on two BBWAA ballots, receiving 40 votes (7.7%) in 2006 and 19 (3.5%) in 2007.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.

This year’s BBWAA ballot includes Carlos Beltran, John Lackey and Jered Weaver among 14 newcomers and Scott Rolen, Todd Helton and Billy Wagner among holdovers.