Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Lost Art

One look at the career leaders in sacrifice bunts tells you that the strategy was used far more often back in the olden times than it is now. Last night while watching Tyler Pastornicky lay down a perfect bunt on the first try, I got to thinking about who had the most all-time. When I saw the top 50 filled up with names from the past, I wondered how many Greg Maddux had. Unlike today’s drag bunters, Maddux would always square around with his entire body facing the pitcher…the way we were taught in Little League. When reading about Maddux having the most sac bunts by a right-handed hitting pitcher, the same paragraph mentioned that teammate Tom Glavine had the most ever by a left-handed hitting pitcher. Not only that, but Glavine has more sacrifice bunts than ANY player in the past fifty years. Ozzie Smith retired just two behind Glavine.

In fact, very few modern day players appear on the list. Interesting that sluggers Babe Ruth, Mel Ott, and Lou Gehrig made the list (as did Wally Pipp, who had more). Juan Pierre is the active leader with 163, with Derek Jeter a distant second…74 sacrifices behind. Fun fact: Scrappy Jack Wilson ended his career ranked second on the active list. I suppose we need not worry about seeing Jason Heyward’s name on this list any time soon. Here’s a list of some of the notable names on the all-time sacrifice bunts list:

512 Eddie Collins (1st)
392 Jake Daubert (2nd)
383 Stuffy McInnis
366 Willie Keeler
309 Tris Speaker
300 Rabbit Maranville
291 Ty Cobb
285 Joe Tinker
272 Wally Pipp
254 Fielder Jones
242 Buck Weaver
231 Pie Traynor
226 George Sisler
221 Nap Lajoie & Honus Wagner
216 Tom Glavine & Rogers Hornsby…69th all-time 
214 Ozzie Smith
208 Nellie Fox
199 Bert Campaneris
193 Phil Rizzuto
180 Greg Maddux & Possum Whitted…180th all time
169 Tim Foli
163 Juan Pierre…active leader
155 Mark Belanger
151 Larry Bowa & Marty Marion
148 Roberto Alomar
147 Brett Butler & Joe Niekro
142 Bob Boone
141 Ozzie Guillen & Charlie Gehringer
136 John Smoltz, Don Sutton, & Alfredo Griffin…216th all-time
131 Shoeless Joe Jackson
129 Phil Niekro
128 Rod Carew
123 Livian Hernandez & Luis Castillo
121 Felix Millan, Tom Seaver, & Bucky Dent
113 Babe Ruth, Gaylord Perry, & Royce Clayton
109 Mel Ott
106 Lou Gehrig & Jim Gantner
105 Roy Oswalt, Javier Vazquez, & Gravvy Cravath
104 Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Piersall, Robin Yount, & Jack Wilson
089 Derek Jeter: ranks second among active players

Most Creative

While Anna did not work on her high school yearbook this year, she and several of her friends were voted as superlatives. Anna was voted Most Creative. Mary-Clayton’s brother Thomas was voted Most Creative in the Thursday school. Other superlatives we know:

Most Creative: Anna, Thomas
Most Likely to Write a Book: Brittany and her prom date Josh
Most Likely to Stay in their Hometown: Addie (from our small group) and Blake, her boyfriend
Most Likely to be in a Movie: Raleigh (Anna’s prom date), Whitney, and Emerald
Best Dressed: Emily

Among this year’s graduates are former Living Science students Charles Norman, Hannah Hargreaves, Wesley Arasmith, Jessica Braswell, Rachel Gentry, and Emerald Bentley. Colleges the Veritas graduates are attending include Duke, Emory, Georgia Tech (3), UGA (2), Oglethorpe, Lee (2), Calvin College, North Georgia (5), Kennesaw, Shorter, and the University of Mobile.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sacrifice Bunts

Tom Glavine holds the MLB record for the most sacrifice bunts by a left-handed hitting pitcher: 216.

Greg Maddux holds the record for the most sacrifice bunts by a right-handed hitting pitcher: 180. 

On the Grid

Twitter is a great place to get up-to-the-minute inside information about people and things you’re interested in. I’m an old fogie, but it seems to me like if it was important enough for you follow someone on Twitter you would read all their posts. I follow 33 people, including several that tweet a lot (the two Braves beat reporters, for instance). It’s almost impossible for me to read all the tweets. Kids follow hundreds of people: all their friends, etc. There’s no way they read all those tweets. To them, I suppose Twitter is like Facebook: you follow someone just because they’re your friend. Then the friend follows them back, and everyone has lots of followers. Since I don’t follow everyone I know, I don’t have many followers (46). But like me, most people my age don’t follow everyone they know.

Instagram is great for sharing pictures, but I don’t have many pictures to share. I kind of use Instagram as a place to save pictures, so all my phone memory isn’t used up. Ceil is big into Instagram and Twitter, but doesn’t have a Facebook. She has more followers than me, but only because she follows more people. Facebook is good because it’s easy to stay caught up with people I never see any more: old SPdL people like Connie Morris and her cute grandkids, the Worrill sisters, Kimberly Kitchens, and many others.

I do more and more on my phone: Facebook, Twitter, email, and reading a few of my favorite websites. It’s easy to get on “Ceil’s” desktop computer at night, where I can do 90% of everything else. Then I have to dag out my laptop a couple of times a week for the other ten percent. Haven’t gotten on either computer these last two nights.

At work Thursday they brought in Dreamland BBQ. Being outside so much at work triggered my asthma. Used that as an excuse to not exercise. On the way in to work this morning a picked up a large diet Mountain Dew for the caffeine.

Watched Atlas Shrugged: Part One on Netflix Thursday night. Also part of Bingo Long, the Negro League baseball movie filmed in Macon in the 70’s. Later we watched the Duck Dynasty season finale. Checked out Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Kennedy from the library, and I’m getting close to finishing the Dream Team book. Saw that Netflix had the eight part series of Ken Follett’s World Without End. Perhaps I’ll watch it.     

Got a haircut on the way home from work Wednesday. Then I had to drive up past Crabapple to pick up Anna. Ceil fixed a Chinese dish for supper. She was watching American Idol, so I read my Dream Team book. I had saw where the Braves had the lead, so I didn’t bother to listen to the end of the game. When I got home I got caught up on the bad news.

Making Memories

Running the bases at Turner Field after a Sunday Braves game…what a thrill that must be for a young fan. Imagine if we could’ve done that back in the day. My oldest was able to run the bases a couple of times, and during a chilly winter festival got to pitch off the bullpen mound. I think once I got to escort one of my younger two as they meandered around the Turner Field bases.

Now that I think about it, as a kid I did get to walk out on the old Atlanta Stadium outfield grass. Before a day game in 1966 or 67 the Braves players lined up in the outfield, and fans were able to pose for pitchers with them. I remember mainly because we still have the photos. Many were unrecognizable, but Felipe Alou was one of them. My younger brother was wearing his little Braves uniform, and Joe Torre scooped him up. Torre appeared to have ice cream on his face. My mom still tells the story to this day.

A few years later we made a huge sign to take to Braves’ Banner night. I thought it was a winner: Chief Noc-a-homa displaying a speared cardinal, that day’s opponent. The dead bird even had an “X” for it’s eye. Sadly for me, I had to stay in the outfield bleachers with my mom while she took pictures. My dad and sister carried the sign, and my little brother walked along with them, a mascot in his little uniform. Another fan put up a huge “SHUFFLE THE CARDS” sign that I thought was cool.

September 23, 1999 was home school day at Turner Field. While my wife watched from the stands, I lined up with my youngest two for the pre-game warning track parade. As we walked past the dugout, infielder Ozzie Guillen was at the top of the steps greeting people. Had I been a quicker thinker, I could’ve thanked him for tossing my son a ball earlier in the season. At the same time my oldest got to play tee-ball in right-centerfield. When Chipper Jones came out to warm up near the right field line, my son got the ball and threw it to Chipper. The Braves went on to beat the Mets that afternoon, a key game in the pennant race. MVP to be Jones hit the crucial home run.

A few years ago I took my youngest to a day game, that was to be followed with by a Mumford & Sons concert. Walking around the stadium after batting practice, for kicks we decided to get in line for the pregame parade. Underneath the stadium we saw the band’s stage, ready to be wheeled out onto the grass.

Were these on-field experiences something my kids will always remember? Only time will tell.    

Rough Weekend, BUT...

Rough weekend. Sounds like being on the road so long wore out our young millionaires, but at least it gave the ESPN crew another talking point. Back to back national telecasts on ESPN, who are surely glad to televise a Strasburg start against a quality opponent. As discouraging as four straight losses were to this fan, first let me step back and see where we are:

Record: 15-9, best in the NL and third best in MLB.
Lead: 2-1/2 over the Nats, who are 4-6 in their last ten.  

This without Heyward, McCann, Venters, and Beachy. This with typical slumps from Uggla and BJ, and hardly any production from the top two spots in the order. Even the White Bear is starting to struggle. Seems like the Braves have a lineup full of future DH’s: McCann, Uggla, Francisco, Freeman, Gattis. Friday night Tomahawk Talk followers made light of all the strikeouts, and for fun I took the opposite opinion. Received some support for my stand. Any fan who is surprised by the high strikeout totals hasn’t been paying attention the past four months.

As a former opposite-field singles hitter, this post-steroid-but-still-swing-for-the-fences/damn-the-strikeouts era in baseball is frustrating and perplexing to me. If Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and his AL Champion teammates can cut down on their swings and go oppo, and the Giants and Cardinals, winners of the last three World Series, can do the same, why don’t others follow suit? What happened to Moneyball and Sabermetrics and OBP? I just don’t understand how a player can think he can be successful striking out so much. I guess they see similar players get awarded, so they follow suit.

Why should BJ Upton change, after the Braves gave him a huge contract? We knew what we were getting into with BJ. He was the most attractive centerfielder available at the time, after Span was traded to the Nats. Without BJ (and since we didn’t trade for Span), it’s less likely Wren would’ve been able to complete the trade with the Diamondbacks. Right now Justin Upton and Chris Johnson are the team’s best hitters. Both are willing to hit to right field. So will Gattis, but right now I’m thinking Gattis will play less as McCann eases back into his catching position. Then we’ll know even more about Gattis, and whether he will stay in the bigs all summer. He could play every day at Gwinnett, then return for the stretch run.

This weekend I read that judging a team four weeks into the season is like judging a date after picking her up at her door. We’re not 15% of the way into the season. I really don’t want to be the sounding gong, repeating myself over and over. If it’s any consolation, this weekend the Tigers did hit plenty of fly balls that our outfielders did catch.

Better to talk about more important things. Saturday both teams looked swell in their Negro League uniforms. Uni-Watch thought they were flannel, as opposed to knock-offs.     
More photos here:

Prom Weekend

Thursday night Ceil had driven over to the DeKalb Farmer’s Market to get more flowers for Anna’s prom. After work Friday I stopped off to talk to the mechanic about the van’s transmission. He hadn’t had any success trying to figure out the problem. By the time I got home, C and A had left to go up and set things up for the prom. It was after ten before they got home. Talked to my dad on the phone for a long time. I was on my cell, and the reception wasn’t good in the house, so while I talked I walked around the back yard pulling ivy off the trees. The dead tree that fell in the woods last month was much bigger than I’d thought, so I’ll need to go down and get it out of the creek, if that is possible.

Ceil had been trying to reach me while I was talking to my dad. Matthew had a friend coming over, which meant I spent the next hour frantically cleaning the house. They played Legos and watched Harry Potter. The Braves got routed 10-0 by the Tigers.

Saturday Ceil got a late start, so I drove Anna to North Point Mall, then up past Windward to her pre-prom nail appointment. Drove home, then drove Ceil back to Roswell to pick up the van. Stopped by Kroger, then home to help Matthew with homework. Later we went up to the Hargreaves to take pictures of Anna and her friends in their prom finery. Anna, Caroline, Emily, Brittany, and another friend, plus their dates. Most of the time I was juggling three cameras. There was plenty nice scenery that served as backdrops: trees, a lake, and the horse barn. Anna’s date, Raleigh, was new to this group, and was the quiet type. He drove a nice Duck Dynasty style pickup truck with “In God We Trust” on his license plate. He was too young for Anna to ride with him.  

After pictures the kids ate at a hibachi restaurant. Ceil went straight to the prom to serve as a chaperone, and take down her flowers when it ended. It was almost midnight before Ceil returned home. I went home, ate, and watched the Richard Gere movie Double on Netflix. Later I went over to pick up Matthew at a friend’s house…they had cooked ribs.

Sunday we cleaned house. Later Ceil left for SC: her mother’s surgery is today. Eventually I drove up to pick up Anna, and later I picked up Panda Express for Matthew.  Read my Killing Kennedy book and watched the Braves lose. Should’ve watched the NBA, since I’d been watching all the highlights on SportsCenter.

Monday morning I drove the van to work. It’s not in good shape at all. Traffic on Holcomb Bridge was gridlocked, so I made a U-turn and went Old Alabama.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Date

Anna's date was the one with the cool shoes. Also a cool Duck Dynasty-junior pickup, but he hasn't been driving long enough for Anna to ride with him.

The Barn

The gang poses in front of the Hargreaves' barn.

The Gang

2013 Veritas Prom

The boys horse around while Anna and her friends pose for the cameras.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Where Were You When...

Since Braves’ pitcher Rick Camp died yesterday, I thought it would be interesting to see what people were doing when Camp hit that game-tying July 4th home run in the wee hours of the night. 

Back then I was working for Sepco. Mr. Suggs hosted a cookout that afternoon, and I stayed and watched the whole game with brothers Rob, Steve, Joe, and friend Franc. 

What were you guys doing?

7 Hours in the Car

Left work at 4:30 on Tuesday and proceeded to spend most of the next SEVEN hours in the car. Traffic home was bad, and I didn’t get home until almost 5:40. I immediately left to take Matthew to his group meeting. While I waiting on him to finish I went through the Wendy’s drive thru and got one of their new flatbread sandwiches. Probably twice as many calories as a McDonalds McWrap. On the way home I got Matthew his usual Taco Bell beefy 5 layer burritos. Dropped off Matthew and changed clothes. At 7:45 Anna and I headed out to Athens to pick up Will’s Jeep. Arrived at his dorm around 9:15, loaded some stuff up, and got back on the road. Got back home at 11:30.

I’m always scared to death of complicated TVs. Ours at home isn’t the simplest. Last year when we at the Zone is was proud that the TV never got messed up. In SC I never mess with my in-laws TV’s.

Games: for a while I was addicted to playing Family Feud on Facebook. Years ago it was Minesweeper, but you need a mouse for that one. Lately I’ve been trying to stay away from games. Words With Friends looks exactly like Scrabble. I’m tempted to try that, but I don’t want to get hooked into a time-sucker. The kids were playing Temple Run on iPhone. They’re always playing something new. M was playing a game where you fly planes and buy airports.

Lazy Wednesday evening…went to bed at nine. Thought I might wake up later and do something, but instead I slept right on through.

This week I need to:
…take Matthew to his small group (this afternoon)
…get my summer clothes out of the attic (before Thursday)
…send in insurance forms
…exercise (but my back still hurts from yardwork Sunday)

Saturday is Anna’s prom, so many pictures will be taken. Friday night Ceil and Anna have to set up flowers. The prom is in Cumming.

Last night for supper we had eggs, bacon, grit, hash browns, and toast.
Sunday night we had fried chicken tenders.
Sunday lunch was hot dogs.
Saturday night we ate at The Grill in downtown Athens, a burger joint.
Lunch Saturday was leftover burritos
Breakfast on Saturday was French toast.
Supper Friday night was Chinese.
Not exactly diet food.

23 Degree DH Sweep

If he keeps up this pace, the Braves Evan Gattis will finish with about 40 home runs. He’ll be a cinch to place second or third in the NL Rookie of the Year vote, behind Mets pitching sensation Matt Harvey. I mean, Harvey beat the Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals!

The Braves own the best record in the majors: 15-5. Perhaps because it’s still so early in the season, but every game the Braves win seems magical. Jumping out early in yesterday’s game one in the 23 degree cold with home runs by Justin and Uggla, Gattis’ go-ahead homer and game-ending throw to nail the base-stealer in front of his family (and friends dressed as white bears!).

Listened to game two on my drive back from Athens. More home runs, plus a hit parade from Schafer and The Juan Francisco Experience. Teheran’s quality start and confident, eyes-on-the ball sacrifice bunt. Good times. I didn’t get home until 11:30, but I stayed up to see the highlights.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Let's Play Two

Probably best to save the rookie Teheran to pitch the second game of the doubleheader, but if Fredi pitched him in Game One against the lefty Jeff Francis, the Braves could take advantage of more lefty-righty matchups. Laird will catch Teheran, putting another right-handed bat in the nightcap's lineup against righty Jon Garland. With Freddie Freeman back, Chris Johnson takes over the third base spot with his lofty batting average. Does C Johnson play both games of the twin bill, or will the Juan Francisco Experience get a start as well?

With Heyward holed up in a Denver hospital, will we see Evan Gattis' outfield debut? Since the White Bear's average has recently dipped, I foresee him batting fifth behind Freeman. This creates a better lefty/righty balance. Or would Gattis see more pitches batting ahead of Freddie? When Jordan Schafer plays, should he bat leadoff?

It's almost fortunate that Teheran's turn in the order came up during this doubleheader, since it is doubtful Gattis would've caught both games. This way Laird doesn't play any more than he has to. Fredi hinted that Uggla would return, but probably not for all 18 innings. I say ease him in slowly. Here are some possible lineups…

R…BJ Upton CF
R…Simmons SS
R…J Upton RF
L…Freeman 1B
R…Gattis C
R…C Johnson 3B
R…Uggla 2B
L…Schafer LF
L…Minor vs. Jeff Francis (L)

R…BJ Upton CF
S…Pena 2B
R…J Upton RF
L…Freeman 1B
R…Gattis LF
L…Francisco 3B
R…Simmons SS
R…Laird C
R…Teheran vs. Jon Garland (R)

Will Dances

Shopped on-line for cars Friday night, after putting the van in the shop. Watched as the Watertown Police apprehended the second bombing suspect.

Saturday morning I stopped by the bank, stopped by the library, and retrieved needed items from the van. As usual, we got a late start headed out on our trip to Athens. We avoided 316 and instead drove up 85 to highway 139. This brought us into Athens right by the Classic Center, where Will's afternoon event was just letting out. We visited with Will for a while, then Ceil browsed in Five Points while I got the boys something to eat. Matthew ate some Varsity dogs, and I got Will a Barbarritos burrito.

Two campus ministries, the Methodist Wesley Foundation and the Baptist Campus Ministry, combined to produce this big dance recital: an afternoon and evening performance of 17 separate dances put on by well over 75 students. The Athens Classic Center was filled to capacity for both performances. Will "danced" in one of the seventeen numbers with a group of male students, all dressed in red T-shirts, black sweatpants. Most, including Will, wore red shoes. His group received some of the loudest cheers of the night.

We sat with Charissa's parents, who we know well. Charissa choreographed the dance routine that Will's group performed. Charissa and fellow Living Science graduate Lisa Seo also danced. Anna used to dance with Charissa at the Eastside School of Ballet. One of the guys in Will's group is the son of a lady I had sung with in Chapel Choir at SPdL, Margaret Dudley Bryant. She sat on our row, along with the daughter of SPdL alum Danny Downing. Will's former teammate Will Bartlett, a recent UGA grad, was there as well. After the performance we saw Lisa's family. After Lisa graduates next month she is starting a job in Target's fashion department, in Savannah. Charissa hopes to land a teaching position down there as well. Lisa's older sister Sarah recently found a job in Atlanta.

Afterward we walked downtown and ate at "The Grill." The diner was packed. I saw one of the red-T-shirt guys that Will had danced with, sitting in a booth with one of Will's old little league baseball coaches. Until then Will had not realized that Phillip was the older brother of one of his baseball teammates. There were several others in the restaurant that Will knew as well. Will said he wasn't hungry, the proceeded to eat half of Ceil's burger AND half of Matthew's burger. There were plenty of choices on the menu, but I chose the Big Molly, a pretty good half pound burger. We didn't leave Athens until 11:45, and it was 1:00 am before we made it home.

School is winding down for Will. He's going to make one A minus and two A's. In one class he scored just one point away from an A, but he's writing a paper to raise the grade to an A. His flag football team lost a playoff game, but he said he caught two spectacular touchdown passes.

Sunday I paid bills on my laptop and did enough yardwork to have my back ache again. Couldn't get Will's lawnmower to crank, so the grass didn't get cut. There's still laundry to do, as well as insurance forms to mail, and I didn't get the summer clothes out of the attic. This week is the open house at work, and I need my Ryerson shirt from the attic. Watched the Braves, and figured out how our Netflix works.

The Next Nationals

First thing every morning my cheerful co-worker in Augusta calls me to discuss the most recent Braves happenings. Sometimes I have to pull up Twitter or the internet to get a complete report. Today he helped me realize that even though the Braves dropped three straight to the Pirates, the Nationals were only able to make up one game in the standings, thanks to the Mets. That didn't matter to the doomsday theorists on the AJC blogs, who were ready to fire Fredi after the first two losses in Pittsburgh (though the Braves still had the best record in baseball).

Good thing I was busy Saturday, and missed a second-straight Nationals/Strasburg/Harper love-fest on the Fox nationally-televised game. ESPN joined the party, going on and on about Harper's fourth career multi-home run game. Gerard Mulligan, a Letterman writer, did notice Bryce's bad haircut, and blamed it on his youth. Nice that the Mets beat up on the Nats this weekend, confounding the national media. Now the trendy thing for Sports Illustrated, and other media, to do is determine who the NEXT Nationals-like powerhouse will be. This week Sports Illustrated published this laughable "Nats-ometer":

2013: Mariners
2014: Royals & Mets
2015: Pirates, Cubs, & Marlins (weren't they the team to beat last year?)
2016: Rockies, Padres, & Twins
2017: Astros

Little has been written about the MLB's youngest team: your Atlanta Braves.

Did Andrelton make WebJems or the Top Ten plays? Mark Bowman had the Tweet of the Day: "I think Sam Holbrook was impressed with the range Simmons showed while making that incredible catch." By my reckoning, Simmons ran forty yards to make that play. MLB's twitter feed called it a "sick catch." Less heralded was the tag to nab the Pirate base stealer. Had Andrelton not slapped his glove straight down to the ground immediately after catching it, Marte would've been safe. At the plate Simmons collected three hits, his third multi-hit game of the year.

The Braves aren't the only NL East team with injuries. Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the DL, and his pheenom replacement went 0-4 in his debut. Philadelphia's Ryan Howard says he is pain-free, but runs slower than ever, like he's walking on egg-shells.

Bill & Kitti's oldest son Matthew is listed in 42's credits. He was cut from the movie, but had gotten work as a stuntman.

As much I love Duck Dynasty, I'm wondering if Wednesday's season finale is when the show finally jumps the shark. The family vacations in Hawaii, and Uncle Si surfs. He'd better look out for great whites. I was afraid the show would come to this.

Felix Hernandez: 300 Wins?

Mariners’ ace Felix Hernandez entered the 2013 season with 98 wins. This is his ninth MLB season, so he’s only averaged 11 wins per season. Now 27 years old, if he averages 14 wins a year for the next 14 years (through the 2026 season, when he will be 40 years old), Hernandez will still be six wins short of three hundred. In his eight previous seasons Hernandez only won 14 games three times, but never back to back.

Now for the inevitable Greg Maddux comparison: The Braves’ ace won at least 15 games a year for a record 17 straight years. At the end of that run he had 305 wins. After dropping to 13 wins in 2005, Greg rebounded to win 15 games the next year, then won 14 games in 2007. That was twenty straight years with at least 13 wins. After the Braves opted not to re-sign Maddux after the 2003 season, he went on to win 66 more games over the next five seasons…an average of 13 wins a year.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Reading List: March & April

The Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever, by Jack McCallum. Incredible story of the 1992 Olympic basketball team by the Sports Illustrated writer who covered the team, from before its formation to after the gold medal ceremony. Behind the scenes story of Jordan, Magic, Bird, Barkley, Ewing, Pippen, Robinson, Stockton, Mullin, Malone, Drexler, and Laettner.

The Knuckler: My Life with Baseball’s Most Confounding Pitch, by Tim Wakefield. I had always been interested in Wakefield, ever since his days as a rookie for the Pirates. After hosting The Next Knuckler series on The MLB Network, I just had to delve into his entire career.

The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods, by Hank Haney. Much is learned not only of the golf great, but also his teacher.

The Host, by Stephenie Meyer. Author of the teenage Twilight vampire series, Meyer’s adult novel centers around an alien species inhabiting the bodies of earth’s human population, and an unlikely human-alien love triangle.

The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

To Heaven & Back, by Dr. Mary C Neal. The author drowned while kayaking, then was escorted to heaven by angels. But since it wasn’t her time to die, they took her back. The experience shaped her outlook on life, and helped her deal with future events.

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life Beyond this World, by Kevin Malarkey. After a car crash put his son in a coma, the author writes of the boy’s encounters with angels…and Jesus.

The Wright Brothers: They Gave Us Wings, by Charles Ludwig. While helping Matthew with his paper, I figured I might as well read the whole book. Educational.

State of Fear, by Michael Crichton.

Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, by Chris Matthews


The group of guys Will danced with at Restoration. Living Science graduate Charissa Pipe (right), who danced at Eastside with Anna, choreographed the routine. To her left is Will's friend Daniel Bailey, whose mother Margaret Dudley Bailey was in SPdL Chapel Choir with me during my college days. Between Charissa and Daniel is Phillip Ian, who played baseball at Mt Paran back when Will did. Will is the one in the back center, with all the hair.

New Lights

Before spring break Will helped put up new lights by the front door. After spring break he shaved off his beard.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lead...For God's Sake

Last night I went to a men’s dinner at Johnson Ferry Baptist. They have it once a month, but this was the first time my friend Lee had gone. He got our friend Reid to go as well. Will’s girlfriend’s grandfather was there, a long-time JFBC member. About fifty attended: about 15 older men and the rest between 35 and 50. BBQ beef, baked beans, new potato salad, cole slaw, hushpuppies, toasted Italian bread, brownies, and peanut butter cookies…cooked up in the JF kitchen, not catered. Real good for church food.

The speaker was Todd Gongwer, an Indianan who wrote the book Lead…For God’s Sake. Shorter than me, he played basketball at a small college in Florida, then coached at small D2 colleges in Indiana. Later he tried the franchise restaurant business, and all along the way has tried to become an expert on leadership. Read over 400 books on the subject. His book was recommended by Lou Holtz and Urban Meyer. The Ohio State head coach read the book during a low time in his live, and became friends with Gongwer. The book is a fictional story about a basketball coach who learns leadership skills.    

Missed most of last’s night series opening win over the Pirates. Heard about the White Bear’s game-winning home run on the AJC.com gametracker. Fredi said Blake DeWitt would’ve been the emergency catcher. With all the struggles that Simmons and others have had trying to sacrifice bunt, that recent clutch bunt DeWitt laid down was a dandy. Don’t know who the emergency catcher will be when Freeman comes back next week. Not having one would put a damper on pinch-hitting opportunities for Gattis, except Evan will be in the lineup most of the time. http://capitolavenueclub.com had a favorable offensive statistical synopsis.

Having Phil Jackson coach the Hawks would be a dream situation. Read where he was disappointed that the Lakers didn’t re-hire him, but he took too long trying to make up his mind. I’m interested to see if Joe Johnson flops in the playoffs for the Nets, like he did with the Hawks.

18 in America

Golfer Dylan Dethier wrote the book 18 in America about his journey playing golf in the 48 contiguous United States. Golf Magazine published some interesting numbers from his trip, and I extrapolated a few more.

141 days on the road, at least
140 nights spent sleeping in his Subaru station wagon
146 feet of Subway sandwiches consumed
127 courses played  
35,173 total miles driven
250 average miles driven per day
68 lowest score, at Truth or Consequences Golf Club, in New Mexico
86 highest score, at Merion Golf Course in Ardmore PA
$2.10 lowest greens fee, at Coonskin golf course in Charleston WV
$220.00 highest greens fee, at Valhalla golf course in Louisville KY
$6,220.00 total cost of trip
$43.80 cost per day
1005 approximate gallons of gas consumed, at 35 MPG
$3266.25 approximate cost of gas used, at $3.25 per gallon.
$773.80 estimated cost of the 146 foot-long Subway sandwiches

If these dollar estimates for gas and Subway are close, that leaves about two thousand dollars for 125 rounds of golf. I’ve got to think that his average greens fee was higher than sixteen dollars per round. But since he slept in his car and ate Subway, perhaps he mostly played cheap public courses.

They ought to build a golf course in Four Corners, Arizona, so a golfer could travel through four states while playing 18 holes.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Great Minds...

At home last night I clicked on the Uni-Watch web site, as I usually do. They provided a link to a blog post from Tuesday. A guy from Chicago had almost exactly the same Jackie Robinson idea. I posted my letter to Selig on our blog, and posted this link there as well.

Uni-Watch mentioned that BJ had worn hard to see stirrups Tuesday night. Since he had worn them in Tampa I was hoping he would bring the look to the Braves. Uni-Watch thought it might've been a Jackie tribute. I'd been meaning to write the Braves about bringing back the Braves' signature striped stirrups, I've sent emails, but a letter might make more impact.

Boston Marathon Bombing

A co-worker has a relative who is an ER doctor in Boston. Monday he was working a medical station about halfway along the marathon route. His wife and young kids were watching the race nearby. After the bombs went off he hopped on the back of a police motorcycle and went to help out. Without the car keys, his family was taken in by another family that lived nearby. The wife finally went to the hospital to retrieve the keys. She and the kids didn't make it home until almost 11:00 that night.

Sports Illustrated/Golf Magazine conducted a poll of 100 of the top golf teachers…
1. Should Masters officials have DQ'd Tiger Woods for his illegal drop at the 15th hole on Friday?
…35% said Yes and 65% said No.
2. When he wasn't DQ'd, should Woods have withdrawn from the tournament?
…33% said Yes and 67% said No.

McDonalds McWraps were one dollar all this week. They're not as bad as the Taco Bell beefy 5-layer burritos that I used to get!

Frank Wren Letter

Frank Wren
Executive VP & General Manager
Atlanta Braves
Turner Field
755 Hank Aaron Drive
Atlanta, GA 30315

Mr. Wren,
I am writing in regard to the Braves players’ socks. Last year BJ Upton looked great playing while wearing Tampa Bay’s striped stirrups. He actually mentioned that he played better while sporting the old time look.

Please make the Braves classic striped stirrups and/or socks part of the everyday uniform. This would make the iconic Braves uniform look even better.

With BJ Upton, Jason Heyward, Jordan Schafer, Reed Johnson, Jonny Venters, and sometimes even Tim Hudson sporting the high-socks look on a regular basis, the classic striped socks would even further set the team apart.  

Thanks for your consideration on this matter.



cc: John Schuerholz, President
cc: Bill Acree, Director of Team Travel & Equipment Manager

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ten Straight

Every game that the Braves win seems so exciting. Once they tied it up and O'Flaherty entered the game, I was confident we could win with our bullpen. Not sure how long I can continue to expect great things from the pen, after Avilan so painfully strained his hamstring. I guess it wasn't a big deal for Kimbrel to come in, since he was already warmed up. He didn't pitch on Sunday or Monday, but now the Braves play nine games in nine days. With Avilan, Venters, and Martinez sidelined, Wren will look to Gwinnett for another lefty.

Not looking forward to losing, but the win streak will greatly buffer any pain. Can't wait for that first loss when the "same old Braves" refrain is dusted off.

Chris Johnson had a busy night at first. Made a sweet scoop on the last play of the game on Uggla's long throw from the shallow centerfield grass. Guess he's not often mistaken for the Tennessee Titans running back. It took me until now to make that connection. He may be playing over his head, but I'm happy with C. Johnson's competitiveness. As Randy Jackson would say, the dog is in it to win it.

Five solo home runs. I scolded Joel Norman for not catching one of them, since he was sitting in the left field seats. He said he came close to grabbing the Upton blast. Will's friends Caleb and Tanner were also at the game. Our work tickets were raffled off, but right now Tuesdays are a busy night at our house.

I'm a sucker for all the number 42 jerseys to honor Jackie Robinson. I knew the event was Monday and Tuesday, but when I first tuned in and saw Jeff Francoeur leading off first base I thought he had changed his number again. An educated mistake, since he's gone from 7 to 12 to 21. Forty-two seemed a logical progression. Frenchy led the league with 19 outfield assists last year, and easily gunned down Andrelton with a perfect throw. Nearly gunned down Schafer as well, but the throw was off the mark.

Two Jackie ideas: In the future the Braves would look good wearing the old-timey looking crème uniforms on Jackie Robinson Day. And even though the event is meant to honor the ex-Dodger great, teams could honor the breaking of the color barrier by wearing the number of the player who broke the color barrier on their team, or their most famous African-American player. The Braves and Brewers could all wear Hank Aaron's 44, and the Giants Willie Mays' 24, or Monte Irvin's number 20. The Royals could honor Buck O'Neal. Newer teams could stick with Robinson's 42, or honor a local Negro League great. I'll have to look up Jethroe's number at Baseball Reference. Today I mailed a letter to Bud Selig (my first ever, promise) with this suggestion. The powers that be might not want to take away from the Jackie-fest, but Selig worships the Hammer.

Nice Sports Illustrated article about 42, and Q&A with the director, who mentioned my old stomping grounds: Macon's Luther Williams Park and Chattanooga's Engle Stadium.

Hilarious how Brian Jordan often refers to the rightfielder as Jason "Haywood." Then a producer must quickly correct him through his earpiece, and Jordan pronounces it correctly from then on. What makes it worse is that Jordan has visited the Heyward home down in McDonough to shoot a TV show. Jason hasn't been getting many hits, but Jim Powell reminded the radio audience that Heyward had pounded the ball in Washington , but hit it right at people. Heyward had told Powell that wasn't worried, that he like the way he was hitting. Then sure enough, Heyward drove one out of the park in the eighth inning…opposite field, even.

With Tomahawkin' Tom Glavine in the TV booth, one of the other announcers made reference to the Nike "Chicks Dig the Long Ball" commercial he and Greg Maddux starred in. They called it "one of the greatest commercials in history." A great ad, but not quite the way I remembered it. Since I was on the computer at the time, I looked up the ad on YouTube and showed it to the fam. Do you guys remember how DJ Christopher Rude would always call Glavine "Tomahawkin' Tom" back in the early 90's during the morning call-in from Dan Patrick? 9:20 am sounds like the time of that 96 Rock sports report. Pardon the pun, but it was classic. They would always end the segment by calling out "John SMMMMoltz!"

Expanding Jackie Robinson Day

Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
Allen H (Bud) Selig, Commissioner
245 Park Place
New York, NY 10167 

Dear Sir,

Major League Baseball should be commended for recognizing the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut, breaking the color barrier. I have long revered Robinson for his courage and hard fight becoming the first Negro in the big leagues. I also marvel at his all-around ability, excelling in football, basketball, and track & field.

Now that Jackie Robinson Day has gone on for several years, perhaps it is time to expand the celebration. Once Robinson integrated the Dodgers, then every other team faced the same struggle. Some teams, like the Cleveland Indians, handled the situation better than others (Boston and Philadelphia, to name two). From Larry Doby to Ernie Banks to Pumpsie Green, each player who was the first to integrate each team and city faced many of the same hardships as Jackie. Perhaps it’s time to honor them as well.

SUGGESTION: Have each team honor a player instrumental in integrating that team or city. For the newer teams that never faced this predicament, they can honor Robinson or a Negro League great that was associated with their city or state. For instance, the Kansas City Royals could wear Buck O’Neil’s number. Since new jerseys are already being made up for Jackie Robinson Day, it would not be much more expensive to outfit each team in the period jersey and cap of the player to be honored. Later this game-worn equipment could be auctioned off to help develop minority baseball players. Here’s a list of possibilities:  

Braves: Hank Aaron’s 44 (or Boston Brave Sam Jethroe)
Marlins: A Cuban great, like Zoilo Versalles, Cookie Rojas, Tony Perez, Tony Oliva, Preston Gomez, or Bert Campaneris
Mets: Willie Mays’ 24
Nationals: Jackie Robinson’s Montreal Royals number
Phillies: John Kennedy
Brewers: Hank Aaron’s 44
Cardinals: Tom Alston
Cubs: Ernie Banks’ 14
Pirates: Roberto Clemente’s 21, or Curt Roberts.
Reds: Chuck Harmon
Diamondbacks: Jackie Robinson
Dodgers: Jackie Robinson’s 42
Giants: Monte Irvin’s 20
Padres: Jackie Robinson, Nate Colbert, or Cito Gaston
Rockies: Jackie Robinson
Blue Jays: Cito Gaston?
Orioles: St Louis Brown Hank Thompson
Rays: Jackie Robinson
Red Sox: Pumpsie Green
Yankees: Elston Howard
Indians: Larry Doby
Royals: Buck O’Neil
Tigers: Ossie Virgil, Larry Doby, or Willie Horton
Twins: Tony Oliva, or Washington Senator Carlos Paula
White Sox: Minnie Minoso
Angels: Leon Wagner?
Astros: Joe Morgan or Jimmy Wynn?
Athletics: Bob Trice
Mariners: Jackie Robinson
Rangers: Washington Senator Carlos Paula

Thanks for your time. And as a Braves fan, please suggest that those great outfielders wear striped socks and strirrups!



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More on Tiger

The people who think Woods should have been disqualified (or withdrawn) don't understand the recent rules changes in golf. They may consider themselves golf traditionalists, but any true golf enthusiast would want to understand what the CURRENT rules are. Saturday there was plenty of discussion on the Golf Channel and ESPN, and those experts quickly came to terms with how the Masters Rules Committee made their decision. The Master even consulted golf's ruling authorities: the R&A in England, and the USGA in the United States. Both supported the Masters' decision. Other golfers seemed to be supportive of the new rules, thinking that they may benefit in the future. Those people crying foul obviously have not done their due diligence.

It was Lindsey Vonn's ex-husband who proudly called in, claiming Tiger had broken the rules. Golf doesn't seem to mind viewers calling in to point out rules violations, but many professional golfers aren't crazy about it. Years ago a golfer (Craig Stadler?) had to hit a shot while on his knees, so he placed a towel on the ground so his pants wouldn't get dirty. Someone called in, saying the broke the rule about building up his stance. According to the rule book, Stadler had violated the rule.

Finished up my taxes last night, and did Will's. More work than I had realized.

As I recall, Delle Donne stayed at Delaware to be near her special-needs sister. Wonder if she will turn down Chicago or ask for a trade.

A Sports Illustrated article said Griner had more impact on the women's game than Lew Alcindor had on the men's game. Bobby Knight watched her score the first five times she touched the ball…scoring five different ways.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tiger's Masters

Heard someone on the Golf Channel say that had Woods withdrawn, he would've been saying the Masters rules officials hadn't handled the situation correctly. Whatever that new rule was that came into play was not known by most of the people calling for Woods to withdraw. These people weren't listening to the entire story.

Chad blasted Woods on Facebook. Others responded, explaining how the new rules were being interpreted, but Chad wasn't open to what they were saying. He was against Tiger because of his lapses in character. After he was put in his place, Chad stayed off Facebook the rest of the weekend. By-the-way, Chad no longer works for the US Representative's office in Asheville. Now he is a "Federal Affairs Communication Manager" for Duke Energy.

After his Sunday round Tiger didn't mention how he very well could've won had he not hit that flagstick on Friday. He just said that he needed to shoot 65 on Sunday to win, and he didn't.

I didn't hear the full story, but evidently one of the people to call CBS and the Masters about Tiger's apparent Friday rules infraction was the ex-husband of Tiger's new girlfriend, Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn.

Third Straight Sweep

I was so glad the Braves beat the Nats Saturday on Fox. Since the Fox announcers usually use the Friday game for talking points, it was sweet that the Braves snatched that game away from Washington as well. Fox announcer / ex-Dodger Eric Karros made some interesting points during the Saturday game, but went out of his way to label Strasburg's performance "dominant"…since the Nats were only losing 2-1 AND the runs were unearned. Strasburg was even given credit for making a good pitch to the rookie Gattis. The White Bear was given little credit for homering off a doubly-difficult Strasburg pitch (fast and high). Karros made much of Strasburg wanting to pitch deeper into games, but did not connect that to how his high Saturday pitch count once again forced him from the game. Hudson pitched into the eighth, as I recall. Hudson also out-hit the 2012 Silver Slugger Award-winner.

Fortunately I was able to watch most all of the Washington series. I too had a bad feeling about the Friday night game, but was delighted with the comeback. Fredi said he was playing for the tie because of Washington's fragile bullpen. Nice to see Kimbrel back in dominant form.

No, the Nationals haven't proved anything yet. One problem they'll have in the postseason is Ryan Zimmerman's arm. The ball tends to find people in crucial situations, and Zimmerman is an accident waiting to happen. Adam LaRoche may have hurt himself trying to catch Zimmerman's wayward throw in Sunday's game.

Love how so many Braves fans have taken to hating the uber-talented media-darling Harper. Bryce got lucky Saturday, easily throwing out Uggla at the plate because the left-fielder was playing so far in, with the pitcher batting. With BJ on deck, Uggla should've been held up at third. And with everyone fawning over Harper's all-out hustle, nothing was mentioned about his slow trot after grounding back to Hudson. When Bryce crosses home plate after a home run, why does he signal the crowd with the hook'em Horns sign? As they used to say on Seinfeld, that was Chipper's move. Harper may be the real deal, but I'm tired of hearing about him. At least Subway signed Mike Trout, and not Harper. And what's the deal with Harper's bad haircut? The balding Evan Gattis looks better.

Good stories Sunday by Joe and Chip, when defensive replacement Reed Johnson stuck his spikes into the wire fence making that great catch. Joe likened it to the career-shortening catch by young Bobby Valentine. Chip voiced what I was thinking: Braves fans may remember the name Brian Asselstein, who was hurt when his spikes got caught in the wire fence at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Most of Saturday's game was played before Master's coverage began. Sunday's broadcasts over-lapped more, but thanks to the Braves offensive explosion, I didn't mind changing over to the golf tournament. Even then I made a point of flipping back to catch the Gattis at-bats. If Gattis isn't Roy Hobbs, perhaps he is like another name from baseball's past. With all the different jobs Gattis has held in the past, perhaps he works for the CIA. Perhaps he is the next baseball spy, like Moe Berg.

If power rankings change every week, why are these experts afraid to rank the Braves over the Nationals? Washington my have the best team in the long run, but with Atlanta sweeping three straight series without McCann, Freeman, Beachy, and Venters, how can you not rank them first?