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Friday Rewind: Thank You for Two Wonderful, Amazing Years
EN ROUTE TO KANSAS CITY — Hi, everybody. Welcome to Joe Blogs. Today is our two-year anniversary here, and it is happening during an epic three weeks when I’m bouncing from place to place talking about my brand new book, WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL, and last night I had an utterly epic event in St. Louis with my friend and hero Gerald Early, and tonight I’m going to be in Kansas City with my friend and hot fruit nemesis Mike Schur*, and I’m blurry and happy and grateful and still somewhat confused about how all of this is happening.
*I’m told there are still some tickets available for tonight’s event at the Unity Temple on the Plaza, and I have to share something very funny with you, or at least you will find it funny if you listen to the PosCast: Before every event, I get a “run of show” from the publishing house, you know, it gives various details like how long we should talk, how we’ll handle questions and answers from the audience, etc. For tonight’s run of show, they say: “You and Mike talk for 30 to 35 minutes and then open it up to questions.” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Thirty to thirty-five minutes? Me and Mike? We’ll probably spend 30 to 35 minutes freaking out about the Yankees’ good play or my recent agreement with Mike that cashews might be better than almonds and not have even started talking about the book. Anyway, would love to see you there tonight.
But if you can indulge me for just a moment — I’ll get to some sports stuff in a moment — I want to talk about the two-year anniversary of this crazy place and a little bit about what it means to me.
Some years ago — I guess we’re talking more than 35 years ago now — The Charlotte Observer hired me to answer the phone and type up local sports boxscores and do whatever little jobs needed to be done to help the newspaper come out on time.
One of my jobs, I recall now, was actually typing in ACC basketball scores. I guess most of the time they would come over the wire, but sometimes, for some reason, the boxscores would be faxed in and I had to type them into the computer and format them. And I remember the hell I had trying to abbreviate the name of N.C. State point guard Chris Corchiani. It doesn’t seem like that long a last name, but in my memory, it was two letters too long and I couldn’t decide if I should type it as Crchini or Corchni or Cochini. I believe Corchiani is a unique name in that every letter in it is kind of vital in preserving the name’s integrity. Anyway, this was my job, abbreviating Corchiani, taking high school track and field results, reporting local holes-in-one, etc.
But when I had spare moments in the day, I would write sports stories. What kind of sports stories? Well, if you’re here at JoeBlogs, you already know — I would write really terrible versions of the stories that you read here. I would write about the glory of the triple or I would write about the absurdity of the chain gang in football or I would write about how the ticking clock at the beginning of “60 Minutes” was, when I was in high school, the sound of doom because it meant the weekend was over, or I would write about how Ruben Sierra was going to be a Hall of Famer or I would write about how awesome the Astros rainbow uniforms were or …
I wasn’t writing these for anybody. I tell people now that I was writing them as “practice columns,” which is sort of true and sort of not true. It’s true in that, yes, I desperately worried that I wasn’t a talented enough writer to make a living doing the only thing that I ever truly loved doing, and I did have this vague notion that the more I wrote, the better I might become. But it’s not true in that I don’t recall the writing being VOLUNTARY, if you know what I mean. I wrote because I kind of didn’t know what else to do. When I was bored in class (which was often; I’m sure I had/have ADHD), I wrote. When I was sitting in my room with the typewriter my mother bought me, I wrote.
If you had asked me at that time if I liked writing, I would have laughed and said I hated it because I thought of writing as a teacher saying, “Write a two-page essay on Beowulf” or “Today’s assignment is to write about three Inca customs that changed the way Ohio evolved.” What I did wasn’t writing. It was just me goofing off by explaining exactly how the Cleveland Browns were going to win the Super Bowl.
The sports editor of The Charlotte Observer then was my friend and mentor Gary Schwab, and maybe we can coax him into writing something in the comments about his memory of this: He found some of the “practice columns,” I wrote and called me into the office. I was 100% certain I was in trouble for, basically, writing odes about Cory Snyder’s arm or some REM song or the show “Bosom Buddies,” rather than doing my job, which was supposed to be figuring out a better way to abbreviate Corchiani.
But I wasn’t in trouble. My memory of that meeting might be different than his, because I was honestly frightened he was going to fire me. Instead, he was just kind of … curious. What sort of person writes pretend columns that nobody is ever going to read?
And now it’s 35 years later, and thanks to you, I wake up every morning and write pretend columns that nobody is ever going to read … only somehow, lots of you read them and comment on them and share them with friends and talk about them with family, and I’m not even living my dream life because this is all, truly, better than anything I could have dreamed. I passed “lucky” a long time ago. I’m beyond blessed.
Two years ago, I took the plunge and decided to go completely on my own, write the stories I want to write, and write the books I want to write, and hope that enough people would come along for the ride. And here you are. It’s amazing.
For those of you who have been thinking about signing up for the full JoeBlogs experience, I’m going to put a subscribe button here below that offers a special anniversary 25% discount for JoeBlogs. I promise the next year will be a lot of fun. But mostly, I just to thank you for being here.
Let’s do some rapid-fire Brilliant Reader Challenges today, because I have to get going to K.C. I’ll get as many in as I can:
Brilliant reader David challenges me to construct the most likable Yankee team ever.
This is, of course, an impossibility, but here’s the best I could come up with:
Catcher: Darth Vader
First base: Don Mattingly
Second base: Goldfinger
Shortstop: Scar from “The Lion King”
Third baseman: Josh Donaldson*
Leftfield: Rickey Henderson
Centerfield: Mickey Rivers
Rightfield: Hans Gruber
Starter: Ron Guidry
Reliever: Cruella de Vil
Manager: Yogi Berra
*As a bonus, I’m going to quote you a footnote from my book WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL about Josh Donaldson. I had written a little joke about Donaldson’s knack for wildly celebrating fly balls that are eventually caught by outfielders.
This Donaldson joke is the sort that you do not normally include in a book because a book is permanent and the joke is of the moment; I doubt Josh Donaldson’s hilarious habit of hitting the ball, flipping the bat in home run triumph, and then watching as the ball is caught without undue effort by an outfielder will be remembered for very long. So, if you are reading this in a distant future where the name Josh Donaldson does not ring a bell, just know that such a man lived, and he often flipped bats on routine fly balls, and it was glorious.
Brilliant Reader Spence challenges me to consider if Dave Kingman would get a little bit more respect if he played in today’s game.
So, look, if Dave Kingman played today, and I’m just guessing, he’d mostly be a designated hitter and he might hit 50 home runs a year every year, and he might hit 600 home runs for his career, and he’d probably play for even more than the seven teams he played for, and you wouldn’t want to see his Twitter/X account.
My serious question about him: Would Dave Kingman have been a different kind of hitter if he played today? That is to say: Would he walk more? The guy never walked in his time. Walks, of course, weren’t as valued then, so there’s a chance he would walk more. Then again, the greatest players have always walked a lot more than Kingman did. If Kingman had walked 70 or 80 times a year instead of 40, he’d have been a significantly more valuable player.
The thing that strikes me about Kingman was the talent — raw power galore, startling speed for such a big guy (6-foot-6), such a ridiculous arm there were thoughts of him becoming a pitcher. The story I always heard — and I never spoke with Kingman himself about this — was that he was pretty blasé about it all, but in 1979 he decided to prove to everybody just how good a baseball player he could be. And that year he hit .288/.343/.613 with 48 homers, 115 RBIs and 97 runs scored. That always left me with the impression that Kong could have been as good as he wanted to be. Today’s game would have been perfect for him in many ways, IF he wanted to be great.
Brilliant Reader Jim asks me to reprise my old “The Royals are going to win the division” column that I would write annually in Kansas City.
All right Jim. I’ll do it next March, just for you.
Hey, if you feel like it, I’d love if you’d share this post with your friends!
Brilliant Reader TS challenges me to talk a bit about doubles — specifically, how many doubles would a batter have to hit to earn his way into the Hall of Fame based solely on that achievement?
I love this question because there definitely is an answer. I’m not sure I’m going to nail the answer, but we do know that if a batter hits 3,000 doubles in his career and nothing else, he’d go to the Hall of Fame. So the number is out there; the question is how close to 3,000 it is.
OK, here are your top five doubles hitters:
Tris Speaker, 792
Pete Rose, 746
Stan Musial, 725
Ty Cobb, 724
Albert Pujols, 686
All of them except Rose are in the Hall of Fame (or headed there, in Pujols’ case), and Rose would be in the Hall if he hadn’t ruined it for himself in so many different ways. I’ll get back to Pete in a second, because I think he’s the key to this question.
Best I can figure it, the top 17 doubles hitters ever are either in the Hall of Fame, will be in the Hall of Fame or are named Pete Rose. I find this super-interesting because, do you know how many of the top 17 home run hitters are not and will not be in the Hall of Fame for the foreseeable future? SIX! (Bonds, A-Rod, Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro, MannyBManny). Doubles, at the moment, feel more pure than home runs.
Pete Rose was famously not a home run hitter — he hit only 160 in his career, and in the last 15 years of that career he managed a mere 57 homers in almost 10,000 plate appearances. He hit line drives and ran like hell and took extra bases and that was the whole story. His 700-plus doubles and 135 triples define him as much as his all-time hit record.
In that spirit, I don’t think someone could hit 700 doubles in their career and NOT be a Hall of Famer. I suppose that you could construct a player mathematically who could hit 700 doubles and not be an all-time great, but practically and realistically, I don’t think such a player could exist. Doubles represent hard-hit balls, they represent shots down the line and liners into the gap and smashes off the wall, and if you manage 700 of those, you’re going to Cooperstown.
OK, I do want to just mention a few book events coming up, because this tour has been so much fun, even more fun than I expected, and it’s amazing meeting so many of you, and I have to say that both the book and the show are getting rave reviews, and come on out!
— Tonight, as I’ve said, I’m in Kansas City with Mike, it’s going to be huge, buy your tickets.
— Saturday, I’m at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati with star of stage and screen Jeff Garlin, and it’s going to be amazing. Get your Cincinnati tickets.
— Tuesday, I’m in Los Angeles, at the Wilshire Ebell, with, get this, Molly Knight AND Mike Schur, AND some guy you might have heard of named Nick Offerman, and, I mean, obviously this is going to be the greatest night of the year. Get your L.A. tickets.
— Wednesday, I’m at Copperfield’s in Santa Rosa, Calif., and I might have a special guest, I might not have a special guest, but it’s going to be a blast either way, the WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL show is getting close to Broadway level, and this one is actually FREE! RSVP right now!
— Thursday, Substack is throwing a special party for me, and Molly Knight and Farhan Zaidi will join, and I’m afraid this one is sold out.
— Next Saturday, I’ll be in Topeka, talking baseball with Bill James at the Kansas Book Festival. I’ll talk more about this one next week, but … yeah, it’s going to be super-fun. Info about Kansas Book Festival.
OK, gotta run to K.C. See you tonight!
JoeBlogs Week in Review
Sunday: Because I couldn’t help myself, I had to write about Ronald Acuña Jr.’s epic home run on Saturday.
Monday: To kick off Brilliant Reader Challenge Week, I made a Hall of Fame case for Brian McCann.
Tuesday: Five Underrated Pitchers in My Lifetime.
Wednesday: The all “Big” team, i.e., MLB players who had “Big” nicknames.
Thursday: Who are baseball’s Core Hall of Famers?