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BS: Baseball code

02 Jul 11 - 04:14 PM (#3180349)
Subject: BS: Baseball code
From: josepp

Interesting book that shows how the unwritten codes of baseball govern most everything that goes on in the course of a game and ultimately in the course of a season. The authors--Jason Turbow and Mike Duca, both sportswriters--spell out a part of the code and then use real game examples to illustrate how it works.

We fans of baseball know many parts of the code because sportswriters and announcers--many of them ex-ballplayers--have mentioned them to us. An example would be, no bunting or stealing by a team with a large lead especially late in the game. Some I learned by watching a specific broadcast and just happened to catch it. That's how I learned about "peeping." A peeper is a batter who secretly glances at where the catcher sets up and positions himself in the batter's box accordingly. Catchers and pitchers carefully watch a batter to see if he peeps. In this case, Bobby Higginson of the Tigers was getting ready for the pitch and seemingly glanced down at his bat. As soon as he did, both announcers made this disapproving "oooh" and explained he was actually looking at where the catcher was setting up. That gets you a brush back from the pitcher one of them said and, sure enough, the pitcher brushed Higginson back. The pitcher's way of saying, "Knock it off, I'm watching you."

The pitcher's weapon is the ball. Break the code and prepare to get beaned. Al Cowens was a known peeper who got beaned in the face by pitcher Ed Farmer for peeping at his catcher. The ball broke Cowens's jaw which had to be wired shut. A couple of seasons later when Cowens was playing for the Tigers, he faced Farmer again for the first time since the beaning. He hit the pitch somewhere in the infield but then charged the mound and he and Farmer went at it. To most fans, it seemed inexplicable but those who know the code knew exactly what was going on: Cowens peeped and got beaned but pitcher's aren't supposed to aim for the head when deciding to bean so both violated the code and were now working out their differences.

Sparky Anderson was managing the Tigers at that time and stood behind Cowens 100%. Sparky was a code man. When we say a player or manager is "old school," fans don't generally know what that means. Within the game itself, it means he adheres to the code traditionally and right down to the unwritten letter. And nobody was as old school as Sparky Anderson. To Sparky, you don't small ball a team to death--stealing or bunting when your team is 12 runs ahead--and those that did this against him were risking retaliation from his pitchers.

Nolan Ryan and Don Drysdale were feared not just for their velocity but because they were unyielding in enforcing the code. When Lenny Dykstra got a hit and turned to the opposition's dugout, pumped his fist and bellowed out a victory scream, Ryan sat there calmly and said to the pitcher next to him, "I do believe the boy needs a bow-tie." The bow-tie was a pitch Ryan learned from Satchel Paige who told him it was one of his favorite pitches to teach batters some etiquette. Basically, the pitcher hurled a nasty pitch right at the batter's throat--hence the name. It became Ryan's favorite as well and he did not hestitate to use it on any batter who pissed him off. Dykstra never did that again.

Some batters fought back. Frank Robinson would never allow a pitcher to brush him back. He'd stand closer to the plate. Robinson was old school as well and knew the code like the back of his hand. Once, he crowded the plate and the pitcher threw and just missed his chin. Robinson picked himself up, trotted part way to the mound and said calmly, "You do that again and I'll tear your head off." Then went back to the batter's box. The pitcher didn't do it again.

Another batter that pitchers don't try to brush back very often is Ichiro. Quite simply, he can hit that. He also shifts position in the box mid-pitch so it is impossible to know where to throw. People might wonder why he does that--precisely because it skirts the code. He may not look like he's crowding the plate but when the pitch is halfway to the catcher's mitt suddenly there he is crowding the plate. Try to brush him back on the next pitch and BANG! he slaps it through the infield. And you don't want to hit him and put him on first because he's such a threat on the base paths. So Ichiro gets a pass.

Ricky Henderson also got a pass. He'd steal no matter what the score was. But pitchers and catchers forgave it because that was Ricky being Ricky. He wanted that base-stealing record and nothing you threatened him with was going to deter him from getting it. It wasn't that Ricky was trying to show anyone up but he wanted that record and would let nothing stop him. So the opposing teams just had to accept it and let him have at it.

Whenever a brawl starts on the field, it is almost always because of a code violation. To fans it might seem inexplicable but the umpires know what's going on. They try to prevent it sometimes but can only do so much. Sometimes they overdo it and interfere with the game. Once former Tiger Pitcher Jeremy Bonderman threw at the head of a player on the White Sox team. The problem was, it was only the second inning and there was no score. Bonderman had no reason to mess with anyone and the pitch wasn't very fast and batter easily ducked out of the way. It obviously left his hand too soon but the umpire ejected him right then and there. The batter said after the game that he did not believe Bonderman had thrown at him deliberately simply because Bonderman would have hit him.

Later in the game, the same umpire forbid a reliever on the White Sox to come inside or he'd be ejected. He was determined to avoid a brawl that neither team had any intention of having. As soon as the Tigers saw this pitcher staying on the outside of the plate, they proved Don Drysdale correct when he said, "Show me a pitcher who's afraid to come inside and I'll show you a loser." The Tigers teed off on the guy and won the game. Trying to circumvent the code, the umpire interfered too much with the outcome.

Other things that piss off the pitcher is being a "pimp." The pimp stands at the plate and admires his own home run--he just watches it sail over the fence before he begins his trot. Harmon Killebrew started it at least in my lifetime, Reggie Jackson took it to new levels of self-absorption and Barry Bonds turned it into a ain't-I-great ballet by pirouetting in the batter's box.

Another no-no is flipping the bat after hitting a homer. You're supposed to drop it and run not flip it away with a "And that's how it's done, kids" flourish. Nor do you jump on home plate with both feet when you complete your trot. Again, some players are cut slack but not most. The pitchers will start drilling batters to send a message and the message is easy and clear: CUT IT OUT!!!

Sometimes, a younger player will break the code and be cut slack only because the pitcher can see the reaction in the other team's dugout and knows the problem will be taken care on internally. In one case, a rookie player stole a base with his team leading by a wide margin late in the game and infuriated the batter--his own teammate. After the game, the rookie--Roger Cedeno--refused to talk to reporters but they could see he had been crying. What happened was that his teammates berated him after the game for breaking the code because he was putting them all at risk and any teammate who got beaned because of him it was on his hands and he would have no defenders because it's unacceptable so cut it out and cut it out right now! The rebuke was harsh enough to reduce Cedeno to tears.

Not all player liked the code. Torii Hunter hated it. Bob Gibson also hated it. To these men, you went out there to beat the other team as badly as you could and who gave a damn if they didn't like it? But because your teammates would pay the price, you have to respect the stupid code. Some still didn't such as Lou Brock. Brock, like Henderson who followed him, would steal bases any damn time he could. If someone on the team told him it wasn't a good idea to rub it in, Brack would shrug and say, "Fuck them." Gibson, his teammate, admired Brock's stance. "My kind of baseball," he said.

Once Torii Hunter stole base late in a game with a big lead and manager Ron Gardenhire was furious. After the game, he dragged Hunter to neutral territory (it's against the code for players of opposing teams to visit the other's clubhouse) to apologize to the other manager Terry Francona. Hunter said he forgot about the score and just ran when he saw the opportunity. Francona just told him to forget it, it was no biggie. Gardenhire was afraid Hunter's action would trigger a spate of beanings and wanted the other team to know Hunter had not stolen on his orders. That's how strong the code is.

Another part of the code is for the beaned batter never to rub the area where he is hit no matter how bad it hurts. The batter must show the pitcher "Do your worst, you can't hurt me." When a batter grabs the area where he was hit and grimaces in pain--you KNOW that one hurt REALLY bad! But most of the time, watch the batter--he never rubs the spot except maybe to spit on it and then rub it without grimacing, which is considered acceptable. Otherwise the batter is never to rub the spot and let the pitcher know he can be hurt.

I once saw Frank Robinson as a manager crying after a game because he pulled his catcher of the field part of the way through an inning. I couldn't understand why he was so emotional. What's the big deal? Turns out, it's bad form in the code to pull a player off the field. Replacing pitchers is OK (in fact, it's VERY bad form for a pitcher to argue with the manager on the mound--VERY bad). But pulling a fielder off the field is considered an odious thing to do and it so upset Robinson to have to do it that he was overcome with emotion. Those that don't know the code would find the whole thing bizarre.

The code has more clout on the field than the rulebook. Umpires enforce the rulebook but they fight against the code but realize it is so ingrained that they can't eliminate it without essentially fixing the game. And no one can manage a team that is not versed well in the code and know how to use it to win games. Ignore the code at your own peril.

02 Jul 11 - 06:45 PM (#3180440)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: GUEST,Lighter

I saw the book and thought it was like "The Bible Code."

You know, a cryptological formula for picking letters from baseball writing reveals words that tell past, present, and future?

Now I'm definitely not gonna bother with it.

02 Jul 11 - 09:47 PM (#3180491)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: josepp

Thanks, Jack the Sailor, I appreciate your pertinent input as well as your courage in posting as a guest.

02 Jul 11 - 10:06 PM (#3180495)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: Jack the Sailor



02 Jul 11 - 10:07 PM (#3180496)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: Jack the Sailor

I was going to make a joke about the DiMaggio code though.

03 Jul 11 - 10:23 AM (#3180672)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: josepp

Next time just post as GUEST so it will be removed. Thanks.

03 Jul 11 - 10:26 AM (#3180676)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: Jack the Sailor

You are insulting GUEST,Lighter, who has posted elsewhere.

03 Jul 11 - 10:31 AM (#3180683)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: Greg F.

Wasn't Nostradamus a Center Fielder for the Chicago Cubs?

03 Jul 11 - 11:29 AM (#3180712)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: josepp

The Tigers don't need a code right now--they need a new rotation. Other than Verlander, every other starter needs to be replaced. Interestingly, the Detroit Tigers are the only major league team that has never changed cities, team name or logo throughout their history. The Cleveland Indians, for example, have always been in Cleveland but were originally known as the Blues. Even when the Tigers were a minor league team known officially as the Creams, they wore the Old English "D" and were still called the Tigers because everyone hated the name "Creams." When they became a major league team in 1900, they were officially registered on the charter as the Tigers. Detroit's major league team in the 1880s was a National League team called the Wolverines. One member of the team, Dan Brouthers, still holds the National League batting average record of .343 while the Tigers' Ty Cobb holds the American League record of .367. The catcher of the Wolverines, Charlie Bennett, later worked in the front office of the Tigers. He is the only connection between the Tigers and the Wolverines. The Wolverines disbanded around 1888 after Bennett fell under a train and lost both his legs. He worked for the Tigers until his death in 1927.

All the original 8 American League teams still exist but all except the Tigers have changed names, locations and logos. For example, the original Baltimore Orioles became the New York Highlanders in 1903 and then 10 years later became the Yankees. The original Milwaukee Brewers (who were originally in the same minor league as Detroit) became the St. Louis Browns and then in 1954 became the Baltimore Orioles. The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee and became the Milwaukee Braves and then moved to Atlanta where they remain. A new Milwaukee Brewers team formed in the AL and then went defunct but were resurrected as an NL team which they remain to this day. The old Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers but Washington has a franchise today called the Nationals.

In Ireland they play rounders. But it was often called baseball or base-ball. The ball, from what I gather, is called a sliotar and looks superficially like an American baseball but it's softer. The cricket ball is hard and compact like the American baseball but looks nothing like it other than being round.

In American baseball, the play starts when the pitcher sets. He must be stock still during his set. If he moves, it's a balk which allows all baserunners to move up and the batter automatically goes to first and a third base runner comes home and scores a run. That's not the only way a pitcher can balk but he must be stock-still when he sets and the play begins as he then goes into his wind-up. In cricket, the pitcher or bowler gets a running wind-up. Consequently, they throw the ball much faster--120 mph is not unusual. The bowler also skips the ball off the ground. A lot of people get hurt when they catch a 120 mph pitch in the ribs.

The batsman has three wickets behind him as the bowler and these serve as bases. While in originall baseball, the runner was out if he was hit by the ball while running between bases, this is not permitted in cricket or American baseball because people would get killed. In cricket, a half-inning is over when 10 or the 11 players on the team are out or dismissed as they say.

Baseball early in America resembled rounders a great deal. There were poles marking the bases, the bat was small and swung with one arm, home plate and fourth base were two different areas and so on. This game was called town ball. Town ball is still played in the US with such teams as the Cooperstown Leatherstockings and use the old Massachusetts rulebook of 1858. The modern rulebook is based on the Knickerbocker rulebook of 1845 although many changes have crept in over the years.

In some rounders-type games in the US, there was only one batter at a time and this was called one-ol'-cat. Another type could have two batters and this was called two-ol'-cat. One-ol'-cat may be a corruption of "one-hole-catapult" which was played in the colonies and was very much like rounders. The catapult developed from a 14th century game called trap-ball where this device would launch the ball. Players would then chase the ball and bat it around making the game somewhat like polo. Without the catapult, trap-ball was called tip-cat, where players with sticks ran around trying to knock a stick called a cat lying on the ground into the air and then bat it before it hits the ground—the same principle behind pee-wee.

However, there was also a game in Scotland called cat-and-dog that involved trying to throw a ball called a cat (often just a piece of wood) into a hole which another player attempted to prevent it by swatting at the cat with a stick called a dog. In another version of cat-and-dog, there are two holes and after hitting the cat, the batter would run between the holes while another player tried to throw the cat in the hole before the runner could get to it. He was thereby out. The two-hole version was very much like cricket. These were probably the original version of one-ol'-cat and two-ol'-cat but the names were applied to town-ball in the colonies for the numbers batters rather than the number of holes. Cat may also refer to the animal since the town ball was essentially a ball of yarn sewn up inside a leather casing—a common cat toy. We sometimes read old-timers talking about playing a game of "old cat" or "cat ball" and this would be generally recognizable to us as baseball with a few strange extra rules thrown in.

One major difference between rounders and cricket was that the ladies were far more likely to play the former than the latter. All-female rounder clubs are very common in Ireland and Britain. In fact, stoolball is a form of cricket played by milkmaids who used their overturned milking stools as wickets. A girl standing before her wicket would throw a ball at the batter's wicket and the batsgirl would try to block the ball with a frying pan-like bat. There were fielders who would get an out if they caught a fly or popup or who could throw out the runner by hitting the stool the girl was running towards. This is similar to cricket.

From what I have been given to understand, stoolball is still played in Sussex, England and the teams are still primarily all-female although some men have played it. Originally, the game was played when one girl would use her hands to try to block another from hitting her stool with a ball—something like soccer—but bats and fielders were added in at some point as the competition evolved. In 1801, Joseph Strutt asserted that baseball descended from stoolball in his book, The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England.

In her 1798 novel (not published until 1803), Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen has the protagonist of her story, Catherine Moreland, playing "baseball." And so this has always been as much a female sport as male. In many parts of Great Britain and Ireland to this day, baseball is considered more a girl's sport than a boy's. In fact, I once met a British lady in the US who told me baseball was a girl's sport in the UK.

Other names for baseball include patch-ball, barn-ball, field-base, feeder, stool-ball, poison-ball, goal-ball, anti-i-over, round-ball, and bass-ball. There is also a Swedish/Danish version of rounders called brännboll.

The 1907 Mills Commission which concluded baseball was invented by a Civil War officer in the Union Army named Abner Doubleday is bogus. They said the first game was played in Elihu Phinney's cow pasture in Cooperstown, New York which is also bogus. The baseball Hall of Fame was founded in Cooperstown based on this false history and the supposed pasture is designated there as Doubleday Field which never existed until the WPA built for the Hall of Fame. All the known correspondence of Abner Doubleday bear no mention of the game or even any awareness that there was such a game. Why the commission picked him as the inventor of a game known to have been played in teh UK for centuries is a mystery.

03 Jul 11 - 11:42 AM (#3180715)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: wordfella

Thanks, josepp. I enjoyed your posts.

03 Jul 11 - 01:48 PM (#3180777)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: McGrath of Harlow

Just not cricket...

03 Jul 11 - 02:14 PM (#3180793)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: Wesley S

That sounds like a book my brother in law would enjoy. He was a catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and later coached for the Y*nk**s. I'll pass it on. Thanks.

04 Jul 11 - 01:46 AM (#3181072)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: Seamus Kennedy

"In Ireland they play rounders. But it was often called baseball or base-ball. The ball, from what I gather, is called a sliotar and looks superficially like an American baseball but it's softer."

Untrue. In Ireland we play "hurling", not rounders, or baseball or base-ball. Nor does hurling resemble rounders or baseball in the slightest. The ball is called a "sliotar", and it's slightly smaller and lighter than a baseball, not softer, and it's distinguishing feature is a raised seam (about 3/8 of an inch), unlike the stitched seam of a baseball.

04 Jul 11 - 08:52 AM (#3181175)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: Wesley S

And here I thought "hurling" is what y'all did after a long night at the local pub.

04 Jul 11 - 10:23 AM (#3181209)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: josepp

"Rounders is a game played between two teams each alternating between batting and fielding. The game originated in England and has been played there since Tudor times, with the earliest reference being in 1744 in A Little Pretty Pocket-Book where it is called "baseball".[1] It is a striking and fielding team game, which involves hitting a small, hard, leather-cased ball with a round wooden, plastic or metal bat and then running around four bases in order to score.[1][2] The game is popular in the UK and Ireland, particularly in schools."

04 Jul 11 - 12:30 PM (#3181285)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: GUEST,Elfcall

Regarding cricket deliveries - There is some doubt over the veracity of the speed of bowling a cricket ball, however, I would be surprised if there has ever been a delivery of 120mph nevermind 'is not unusual'

The fastest international(Test) delivery was measured at about 160kph (c.100mph) and a good international fast bowler would be consistently over 90mph.

After pitching ('skipping')the delivery would be less than 120mph. Some old cricketers would often say some bowlers gained pace of the wicket - but the laws of physics still hold!

The pain of getting hit at whatever the speed is real!


04 Jul 11 - 01:16 PM (#3181315)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: josepp

My source is a man from Scotland that spends a good deal of time in the US traveling for his company. But he could have been exaggerating.

04 Jul 11 - 02:58 PM (#3181373)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: Seamus Kennedy

In all my years in school in Ireland, elementary through college, I never played "rounders" nor saw it played. And if it were, it would not have been played with a 'sliotar' which is a hurling-ball.

04 Jul 11 - 04:15 PM (#3181412)
Subject: RE: BS: Baseball code
From: josepp

I'm just going by available sources. I don't live in Ireland. I've never seen a game of rounders and we don't play or watch cricket on TV in the US. We are baseball crazy over here--American baseball--that's what we watch and we frankly don't give a shit about anything else. Not talking down to European forms of baseball but I'm just saying we don't watch or play that over here. So I have to go by available sources just like you would have to do if you wanted to write about American baseball. I have no way of knowing how accurate those sources are just as I have no way of knowing how accurate you are.