Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Old School

There’s not a lot of baseball in this post, sorry. This is more of a big mess of psychological nonsense about feeling old. I actually recommend not reading it.

Please move on. There is nothing to see here.

When I turned 25, I had a quick thought that lingered because it made me feel old to be halfway to 50. I had to remind myself that no-one is immune; everyone gets a day older every day.

Today, September 14th, is my half birthday. Half birthdays are not really celebrated enough. Why can’t we start a tradition for half birthdays? Anyway, this time, I had a feeling of getting old because I am halfway to 67-years old.

As we get older, we get wiser, right? People usually calm down and gain perspective, right? Okay, so I’ll just keep telling myself: 33, 34, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and even 60’s aren’t old. Heck, 67 isn’t as old as it used to be.

I’ve also learned that when someone complains about their age, they should probably make sure no-one older is around. Nowadays, if a 25-year old complained to me about being old, I’d tell him to take it easy and show him that I have the vertical jump of an obese child. Similarly, there are youthful people halfway to 84, or 96, or 100-something who would feel I’m being a little ridiculous today. My grandmother is 91, and even 75 seems like a long, long time ago.

Did you see the episode of Louie on FX, when his comic pals introduce him to a group of girls and tell them, frankly, that “He’s over 40”? The girls make icky faces, and one of them says, “Really?!”, and Louie says, “I’m actually 42.” Louie is a youthful guy. He’s a comedian, a good one. He sees things in life that I think are funny. I find myself identifying with someone who’s 42. Does that make me feel any “older”? Yes, it does. Should it? I don’t think so. When I was 15, I identified with Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza, and they were in their 30’s. I also identified with Sofia and Dorothy of The Golden Girls. There were times I knew what Mr. Holland was feeling while writing his opus, and that movie came out when I was in college. Okay, okay, something is starting to make sense.

I don’t think people need mantras, but little reminders are helpful: Time flies. Each day is precious. Yada, yada, yada, you’re only as old as you feel. Don’t worry about what you cannot control. Make the most of every opportunity.

Since no-one gives a hoot about half birthdays, I thought we could celebrate the birthdays of a few memorable ballplayers from the past.

Out of current Major Leaguers, Delmon Young turns 25 today. Unfortunately, he’ll have to do something remarkable during a postseason moment I’m rooting for, learn to walk more than 35 times a season, stop trying to steal bases*, or join the Cubs and be awesome before we celebrate his birthday.

*Last season, Delmon stole 2 bases and was thrown out 5 times. This year, he has stolen 4 bases in 8 attempts. Over his career, across 587 games, has 32 steals in 51 attempts. As a base stealer, Delmon Young is only helping the opposition with numbers like that.

Happy 141st Birthday to Hall of Famer Kid Nichols!

Charles Augustus Nichols was born in Madison, Wisconsin and went to Queen Elizabeth Secondary School in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. What was high school like in the 1880’s? Were the girls stuck up? Were there even girls there? What was the curriculum? What was history class like? You get to 1870, and everything else is “current events”, right? This is the kind of garbage I wonder about.

Kid made a name for himself and became a Hall of Famer as a pitcher in the 1890’s and early part of last century for the Boston Beaneaters, St. Louis Cardinals, and Philadelphia Phillies. The bulk of his career spanned from 1890 through 1901 with the Beaneaters. He was known in the 1890’s as Cy Young’s main rival for best pitcher in the National League.

It’s fascinating looking back at teams back then. They also used 25-man rosters, but they often carried 20 position players and 5 pitchers.

Starting pitchers back then used to throw complete games regularly, and if they could not, managers would often use another day’s starter to finish the job.

In Kid Nichols's 15-year career, he started 562 games and threw 532 Complete Games. He was used as a relief pitcher 56 times, and he finished all 56 of those contests. Nichols averaged 291 innings per season and was consistently excellent throughout his career. The game was different back then, but standard stats (Wins and ERA) and advanced stats (ERA+ and WAR) show that he performed at a Hall of Fame level for 13-and-a-half of his 15-year career.

Happy 86th birthday to the Yankee living legend Jerry Coleman!

Coleman debuted on 4/20/49 and earned 3rd place in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting as their second baseman. The next season, 1950, Jerry Coleman was an All Star. In his first two seasons, Coleman had shown a terrific eye at the plate. His On base percentage and K/BB ratio were outstanding the first two years.

1949: .367 OBP, 68 walks, 44 strikeouts
1950: .372 OBP, 67 walks, 38 strikeouts

In 1951, Coleman struggled and found himself in a more crowded infield.  Gil McDougal joined the Yankees as an infielder and won Rookie of the Year.  Jerry Coleman did not show enough power or base stealing ability the first three seasons. In those three years, he only managed to hit 11 homeruns and steal 17 bases. The Yankees won the World Series in 1949, 1950, and 1951 with Coleman playing over 120 games, but for the rest of his career, he would be a reserve player for the Yankees. Phil Rizzuto and Billy Martin played middle infield the majority of the time for the 1952 Yankees.  In Jerry Coleman's nine seasons, his Yankees won 6 pennants and 4 World Series titles. Glory days pass everyone by, except the Yankees, apparently.

Happy 74th Birthday Stan Williams!

Stan Wilson (Big Daddy) Williams debuted in the National League the first year after Jerry Coleman retired, 1958. His Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series in 1959, and he went on to have a few good seasons pitching in the same rotation, and therefore in the shadows, of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. According to Incredible People, “In 1970, he went 10-1 on the season in relief, with a 1.99 ERA, one of the best seasons a relief pitcher has ever had.

Lastly, from the “we didn’t really want to find something interesting to say about you, but it’s still your birthday” department: Happy 53rd birthday to Tim Wallach and 38th to David Bell.

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