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Weekly Pepper - Week 16

by Gregory Pratt,
July 21, 2008

Other Weekly Peppers:

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Gregory Pratt returned from the west coast this week to find a new bed in his bedroom. For the first time in years he has a headboard. It will make a noticeable difference in his life!

American Boys -- I watched the Home Run Derby in Whittier, California with my best friend's family, and I was the only "serious" baseball fan in attendance. That did not stop anyone from enjoying Josh Hamilton's thorough domination of the first round of the Derby, however, and I very much appreciated the performance. Josh has been a favorite of mine for years, as he is a genuine five-tool ballplayer (scouting report here) who has always been known as a kind, considerate human being, and besides that, I find it easier to encourage my fellow man than put him down. Despite my familiarity with his good-nature, I was still surprised by how natural his performance was, and how little stress he appeared to be under.  Whereas the other contestants looked like they were straining themselves and worrying about not looking good, Hamilton was simply smiling and taking in the event. I contrast Josh to Alex Rodriguez and his sourpuss (and shameful) refusal to hit in the homerun derby, and I feel proud of Hamilton for doing what's right for the game of baseball with a smile on his face. Someone in the ESPN booth mentioned that Reggie Jackson would've never sat out a derby in the final year of Yankee Stadium, and I would note that in comparison to Rodriguez, who really does not deserve to be a Yankee. I mean, listen. The New York Yankees are a special franchise, an American institution, and it is an honor to wear their uniform in their stadium and perform in the Derby or the ASG. But Alex Rodriguez isn't interested in being a true American hero. I still haven't gotten the chants of Ham-il-ton Ham-il-ton out of my head.

Stirring the Soul's Dormant Fire -- In addition to being one of baseball's best all-around ballplayers, Ichiro Suzuki is one of its great characters, and I was as amused by this news story as his American League teammates were by the event it describes. Here's the story: before the All-Star Game each year, the manager gives a speech to get the team ready for the exhibition, and after his speech Ichiro gives his own. This is what he says (roughly transcribed by the great Jeff Passan): "Bleep ... bleep bleep bleep ... National League ... bleep ... bleep ... bleeeeeeeeep ... National - bleep bleep bleepbleepbleep!" Here is another good quote from Ichiro Suzuki about a defensive play he made during the All-Star Game: "I expected Pujols to try to get to second base because he is not Bengie Molina."

River Dancing --
Jonathan Papelbon made some stupid remarks before the All-Star Game about how he should be closing over Mariano Rivera. He apologized, as he should've, and that would've been that, except for his being harassed during the All-Star Parade while riding with his pregnant wife. Here is a fascinating story titled "Driving Mr. Papelbon" about the scary ride. Obviously, no one deserves to be hounded for making a harmless-if-thoughtless-and-egomaniacal statement, so I'm glad he's alright. I'll bet it all would've worked out much more smoothly if he had stood up to dance for the crowd.

Ozzie Guillen's Lineup Card -- Click this Onion story, and don't even think about it, meat, just do it. I can't excerpt it because there might be children reading, but it's the best paragraph you'll read today that wasn't written by me or George Carlin, who is, incidentally, a misunderstood comic.

Jeter and The Nerds -- Slate Magazine is the best online-magazine out there, and while its sports page is its weakest page, it does put out good stories here and there. I'm not sure how I feel about this one, but I'd be shirking my duty as a columnist if I did not point Baseball Evolution and its readership to an article that seeks to explain "[w]hy baseball researchers are obsessed with denigrating the Yankee captain's defense."

"Commie Ball" -- Okay, one more article recommendation. (Rich, especially, will like this one.) Michael Lewis went to Cuba to write about baseball in that country, and it is a great read that everyone who loves baseball and has some interest in the world around us should print out and give themselves to when they've got twenty minutes. And on that note, let me say that everyone has time to read, whatever protests they might give to the contrary. So have at it, because you're an American and you're glad to know you're free.

Tragedies -- I lied. I have one more story to recommend. (Hey, the All-Star Break leads to much more literature than it does ballplaying.) This story is a real tragedy about a catcher in the Padres' system whose brother was killed in the military under dubious circumstances. His coach calls him "the best leader in the country" and he might not be far-off. True heroism is in perseverance.

When Your Team Gives You Losses and No-Decisions, Steal Bases -- Okay, it's not as catchy as Cicero's proverb about lemonades, but it is more appropriate. Despite the fact that San Diego has refused to win a ballgame for Greg Maddux in thirteen straight starts, he is having himself a quality season.  But there's some more, nifty news coming from his game lately: "[H]ere's something else about Maddux - he stole a base on Saturday night, the 11th of his career. Only one pitcher whose career started after World War II had more steals in his career than Maddux has now, and that's Bob Gibson. For a guy whose reputation as a pitcher is as more of an artist than an athlete, that's not too bad at all. Then again, six of Maddux's stolen bases have come in the last five seasons, which would speak again to his incredible blend of mind and body."

Hideo Nomo -- Hideo Nomo has officially retired. I've always liked the guy, and I hope he finds happiness outside of baseball just as sure as he found success inside of it. He's a great man and a great ballplayer. Which you can't argue with, because I am defining "great" in baseball terms as someone who made a highly-notable contribution to the game of baseball. And that he did.

Hurricane Katrina -- I didn't know that Ron Washington's home was damaged in Hurricane Katrina, or that he's still putting the finishing touches on its repair, until I read it this week. It's incredible how many people are still suffering from that tragedy, and I wish Washington and all others well in their attempts to patch up their lives. Obviously, it's easier for a guy like Ron Washington than someone getting by paycheck to paycheck, but nobody deserves that sort of pain.

Unauthorized History of Baseball -- Speaking of Japanese contributions to American culture, let me direct you to Ben Sakoguchi's artwork. Here's a description, from the site: In 2004, Sakoguchi began a dedicated look at how the game of baseball, which has long been referred to as America's National Pastime, has reflected the quirks of American culture. He finished 120 new baseball canvases for the 2006 "Winter Ball" exhibition at Los Angeles City College, and is continuing to work on The Unauthorized History of Baseball in 100-odd Paintings.

History of the Week -- Since I am feeling so literary today, let me direct you to this article as my history of the week. It is an imperfect piece for its neglecting to mention the time Mark Buehrle threw an eephus pitch to Ichiro, but it is a good article about the eephus pitch, with a special emphasis on the 1946 All-Star Game. Enjoy!

Gregory Pratt is a political science and history double-major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His political commentary can be found at the Office of the Independent Blogger, and he can be reached at

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