Category: sportswriting

A Dailey Freelance Exclusive! Ode To Cartwright, Adams and Wheaton.

When you write freelance material for a client, it is great to be able to give them something that no one else has. Kind of like getting “the scoop” before any other news outlet, to put it in olde-timey journalistic parlance. Really it is about giving them something fresh to offer their followers. Digging a bit deeper than anyone else bothers to.

To illustrate what I’m talking about:

This Friday is the anniversary of the day that, in 1846, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York played the first known match under the official rules they had written up the year before. In the match they were destroyed by a club called the New York Nine, who thrashed the over-confident Knickerbocker Club by a score of 23-1 on the Knicks’ home turf, Elysian Fields in Hoboken, NJ.

I have noticed that history tends to come down to us in threes.

  • First there is the mythologized version of what happened.
  • Then there is “the real story.”
  • And then, when you dig a little deeper you get “the whole story.”

The myth was that Abner Doubleday had invented baseball in Cooperstown, NY seven years before the Knickerbocker vs. Nine match. The myth is the reason that to this day the National Baseball Hall of Fame is situated in Cooperstown. But it didn’t happen.

The “real story” is that Knickerbocker Club member Alexander Cartwright had written the rules the previous year. Often referred to as the “Cartwright Rules” it is a set of regulations so imperfectly perfect that they seem totally random and ordained from On High all at once.

But the “whole story” is that versions of the game were already being played by kids for probably hundreds of years before Cartwright. Though he probably played a huge role in the “invention” of baseball as it is played today, a great deal of the credit ought to go to another Knickerbocker Club member, Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams, and William Wheaton. As a matter of fact, Wheaton has claimed to have written up a set of rules for the Gotham Base Ball Club in 1837!

There is plenty of information, and there are plenty of accounts that have been dug up concerning their roles in early baseball that you can research on your own if you are interested.

That is “the scoop” I mentioned. That’s the “exclusive!” In the old days, in pursuit of “the scoop” a story would rarely reach the “real story” level, and certainly their was no time for the “whole story”. Fortunately it is a different time and Dailey Freelance can take the time to give you more depth. More substance.

Super Bowl Week Reflections of a Fair-Weather Kansas City Chiefs Fan

When I was a little kid I had this irrational delusion that the Kansas City Chiefs were some unnaturally powerful football team. I feared them. This was in the mid-late 1980s when, back in reality, Kansas City had a losing record almost every year. I honestly don’t know where the notion even came from.

Then, in the early 1990s when suddenly they were an actual perennial playoff team, I began to root for them. This was the era of hand-me-down legends for the Chiefs’ roster. Joe Montana. Marcus Allen. Others. They became my secondary “favorite team” and I thought for sure they’d make their way to the Super Bowl. My tertiary favorite team was the Philadelphia Eagles, for equally hazy reasons. I always hoped to see the two of them face off in the big game, but looking back this would have resulted in some messy and unnecessary internal conflicts, so I’m glad it never happened.

I was always lukewarm about Philadelphia anyway. The Kansas City Chiefs repeatedly let me down all throughout high school. By the time I went away to college, I had stopped caring what they did too. They aren’t even my secondary favorite now. The Saints are. I actually rooted against Philadelphia in the Super Bowl one year!

This Sunday the Kansas City Chiefs will play in the Super Bowl for the first time in my life. I was actually kind of hoping they would face the Green Bay Packers, which was a moral conflict on another level, being from Minnesota. I justified it by saying that I was rooting for a rematch of the first Super Bowl, not the Packers themselves.

You know…for history’s sake. Yeah.

The funny thing is, after years of growing disinterest in what the Chiefs were doing, it is hard to revel in their success without feeling like I am being a bandwagon jumper-onner, or a fair-weather fan at best.

I know I still can root for them. If they win, I can smile at the team I thought so highly of so long ago finally making good. But I know their victory would be all the more sweet had I never stopped following them. A good friend of mine has been a Chicago Cubs fan for over 30 years, and when they won their first World Series in 108 years in 2016, he basically told me he could die happy now.

I’ll smile if “my Chiefs” win, but it won’t give me that sweet, life-affirming culmination of years of faithful fandom that it could have been.

I guess what I am saying is never give up on your dream. When you see it through to the end, I am sure it will be all the sweeter for you. Even more so because it will be something you achieved yourself, a moment that football fandom can never really give you, no matter how good your team is.

Enjoy the game.
Go, K.C.!

Stealing Signs – A Baseball Fan’s Lament

This year marks 100 years since eight members of the Chicago White Sox were banned from Major League Baseball for life. They allegedly accepted money from gamblers in exchange for intentionally losing the 1919 World Series. At least one of them, “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, had been a sure Hall of Famer, until then.

In the fallout of the scandal, MLB’s first Commissioner, Judge Kennesaw M. Landis was appointed, and swiftly moved to clean up the various methods of chicanery that had existed in baseball, under the radar and out in the open, for decades.

Now we are engaged in a another great scandal, one that threatens to defile our national game. See, to some of us, baseball is still our national game. It, in fact, belongs to the world, but the point is, to some of us, in the words of Terrence Mann in “Field of Dreams”, “it reminds us of all that once was good and could be again.”

But I don’t want to sound naïve about the sanctity of the game. Baseball was tainted by cheating before 1919, it has been since, and will probably continue to be in one way or another.

When the Houston Astros cheating story first broke I was of the mind that:

1. The rule book does not say anything about using electronic devices to steal signs (my 2017 version doesn’t anyway).
2. Every team could do the same thing the Astros did if they felt like it. 3. On the subject of “unwritten rules” I argued to a friend that “the rule book doesn’t ban the use of flamethrowers to retire a baserunner but I’m pretty sure you can’t do it.”

When I really let it sink in what was going on with the Astros, I realized I did not want the game to be allowed to become “the Digital Pastime.” I already can’t stand the idea of robot umpires, and I don’t want every batter of every game knowing what pitch is coming. There are already too many home runs, and many baseball lovers have not fully moved past the steroids scandal of the 1990s and early 2000s.

We found out not too long ago that one of the most sacred moments in baseball history – Bobby Thomson’s home run that won the 1951 National League pennant, known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” – was a result of the use of an electronic device similar to the one the Astros are suspected of using. So again, there has been shady activity down the ages in baseball. But the Houston Astros, though unprecedentedly orchestrated in their efforts to cheat, also chose to do it at a time when social media made it impossible for some evidence to go unnoticed by the watchful eyes of fans taking it upon themselves to sound the alarm. A video blogger/podcaster called Jomboy, for one, was pointing out suspicious incidents months ago. Different teams had apparently been trying to bring certain incidents to the attention of Commissioner Rob Manfred for a while already before the story blew up last week.

In a video by another such watchdog an idea was proposed which blew my mind:

What if ONLY the pitcher and the catcher are allowed to use buzzers? The catcher would send his sign to the pitcher by pressing a button on a device he has, and the pitcher would receive one or two or three buzzes depending on the pitch the catcher wants served up.

Could work, but it is troublesome for two reasons:

1. A catcher’s pitch-calling can be complex when you consider not only is he calling what pitch but he is calling for slow or fast pitches, as well as high, low, inside and outside pitches.

2. It would totally eliminate a part of the game which is not only totally legal, but one of the most cerebral part of the game. Base runners stealing signs from second base without the use of electronics or cameras, but with the player’s own eyes.

When a baserunner reaches second base, it is perfectly legal for him to watch the catcher’s signs and match them up with what pitch is then thrown. He can then signal to his teammate at bat about what pitch is coming. He can go back to his dugout after the inning and tell the whole team what signs the opponents are using.

Of course nothing can be done with that information unless you have a runner on second to relay the signs. But there are a ton of other ways to tell what pitch is coming which are also perfectly legal. All that is required is a team of ballplayers using their brains. If you’re a batter and there are no baserunners, the opposing infielders know their catcher’s signs. They know what pitch is coming. They know they need to move either to the left or right depending on whether the pitch is going to be inside or outside. They know to move back or in depending on whether the pitch is going to be low or high. That generally will predict to which side the batter will hit, and whether he’ll hit a ground ball or a fly ball.

It is not a perfect science but it is fairly predictable and it is legal. Nobody has to risk million dollar contracts to do it. Nobody has to put the integrity of the game at risk to do it.

All of this is very sad to me, as a fan. I could go on and on about my feelings about it. I’ve been counting down to Opening Day since well before Christmas. I look forward to warm day in the sun at the ballpark with my wife. You go through the turnstile and head inside, up the ramp, among the crowds of fans wearing the same hat as you. You get to your section and as you turn to take your seat, you suddenly see that wide expanse of green grass in the outfield, contrasting with the brown dirt. You see the towering levels of grandstands in the outfield. You settle in and all your cares seem to go away as you wait for the National Anthem, and the umpire yelling “Play ball!”

I still look forward to a day at the ballpark. I still love our game.

On the Subject of Perseverance – The Minnesota Vikings and Your Blog

I am a Minnesota boy, but I do not live and die by the success and failure of the Minnesota Vikings. I can’t remember the last time I referred to the team as “we”. But I do like to see them win.

In my life, I have watched the Vikings get within a game of the Super Bowl only to lose five times. Three of those games came down to the very end. That would take a lot out of most fans.

As a kid watching with my dad and my older brother, I saw them lose the Conference Championship on a last-second dropped pass against the Washington Redskins.

In Community College I sat with my three roommates and watched them lose to the Atlanta Falcons when kicker Gary Anderson who’d not missed a kick all season…missed a kick.

Two years later I was alone when they took on the New York Giants for the title. At some point early in the game I drifted off to sleep, waking up to find the Vikings down 41-0 late in the game, which is how it ended.

In 2010, I probably mortified my wife the way I paced around the living room as they lost a gut-wrenching back and forth game against the New Orleans Saints.

In 2018 my wife would not even stay in the room with me when the Vikings took on the Philadelphia Eagles for the championship. Which was probably good because they got spanked almost as bad as they had against the Giants.

So yeah…0-for-5. They are actually 0-for-6 in NFC Championships all-time. They lost another one before my time. And they have made the Super Bowl four times. Also before I was around. Oh, guess what. They lost all of those too.

For now, they are a team known for these “failures.” I don’t know how far they will go in this year’s playoffs but I do know that when they do finally win the Super Bowl, these six conference championship games, and four Super Bowl appearances will suddenly loom large in their legend. They will become recognized as part of the team’s “tradition of excellence.”

So I guess what I’m getting at is if you are blogging and it doesn’t seem like it is getting anywhere, it will. I know this. This is the fourth blog I’ve started and I remember wondering when it was going to take off.

And then it would take off.

Maybe all the Minnesota Vikings’ timely losing didn’t get to me too much because I have never been a die-hard fan. In that case, it did me good to be a bit detached. When it comes to marketing your business, though I suppose a little detachment is healthy, you certainly should care what happens a lot more than you do about your favorite football team.

It will take off. But even before it does, the people who are really looking for the content you put out are going to find it if it’s done right. That’s where I come in as your freelance writer.

After they find you, your audience will expand so that people who didn’t even know they were looking for you, will find you. And when they do, you’ll have an entire “tradition of excellence”, a history of great work ready for them to discover.

So let’s get to work.

Favorite Baseball Moments of My Lifetime.

Baseball history is a treasure trove of stories that will be retold down the ages. Since the advent of film of course, many of them have been captured for all time. We, the fans, can watch them over and over, and create our own stories about them. Especially if we were there to see it, or were watching it on TV when it happened, we can add our own personal take one what the event meant to us as fans.

The following is a list of some of my favorite moments, all of which occurred during my lifetime, many of which I actually saw on TV. I could not possibly put them in order of anything resembling least to most memorable. I will not try, though some are obviously bigger than others:

1. Boston Red Sox, 2004 ALCS: The Red Sox overcame the “Curse of the Bambino” by winning their first World Series in 86 years in 2004, but it wasn’t that moment that I will always remember from that season. It was the moment they finished off a 4-3 ALCS win over the Yankees to put them in the Fall Classic to begin with. Not only had the Red Sox suffered countless heartbreaks at the hands of the Yankees over the years (including just the year before) but in 2004, they were down three games to zero before going on a stunning, and unprecedented run of four straight wins to clinch that ALCS. Game 3 had been particularly brutal for the Sox, falling 19-8. I’ve always been interested in how that score gives a subtle nudge to “1918” the last time the Red Sox had won the World Series, not to mention that the whole “curse” began when the Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, so it was appropriate that they went through New York to break the curse.

2. Chicago Cubs, 2016 World Series: When the Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians to win their first World Series in 108 years, I did not miss a moment of the Series. Even when Game 7 went until about 1 a.m. and I had to work the next day, I stuck with it. The Cubs had been up 6-3 but blew the lead in the 8th inning. Not only did the game go extra innings but to add to the drama, there was a rain delay before the final frame. They put up two runs in the top of the tenth for an 8-6 lead, but gave up a run in the bottom half, and had a runner on with two outs. One swing could have taken it all away. But Michael Martinez grounded out to Kris Bryant to give the Cubs and all their “Please, just once in my lifetime!” fans the celebration they’d been waiting for since before World War I. What I will always remember about this moment was the replay in slow motion. Seeing that this was his chance to be an immortal hero if only in Chicago, Bryant’s face suddenly beams in a big grin as the grounder rolls his way, and only gets bigger as he fields it and tosses to Rizzo at first base. By the time the ball was in Rizzo’s glove, all-out child-like euphoria had erupted on Bryant’s face. Moments like these are why they play the game to begin with, I think.

3. Gene Larkin wins the 1991 World Series: I am a Minnesota boy and a Twins fan, so the last time the Twins won the World Series has a special place in my heart. I have vivid memories of my brother taking control of my wheelchair and pushing me around the house as we both screamed with glee after Larkin, kind of a no-name utility player for the Twins at the time, became an immortal in Minnesota when he knocked a single into the outfield to bring Dan Gladden, and the World Series trophy home.

4. Kirby Puckett’s catch and HR in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series: Okay so this is two things but kind of like I can’t rank these in order of memorable-ness, I can’t even separate these two in any way. Can’t do it. Kirby Puckett was every Minnesota boy’s favorite player during his tenure with the Twins. I first heard his name in 1986 and became a fan during their run at the championship in 1987, but in the 1991 World Series with the Twins on the verge of falling to the Atlanta Braves (at the Metrodome even!) Puck took matters into his own hands. First he made a leaping catch to rob Ron Gant of probably a double that would have put two runs in scoring position if not driven in a run. Then he ended game six with a home run off Charlie Leibrandt that tied the series at three games apiece. I’m watching it right now, and getting chills hearing Jack Buck announce “We will see you…tomorrow night!?” as the ball sailed over the fence.

5. Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series-winning walk-off home run: I am a Twins fan, but really when it comes down to it I am a baseball fan. I treasure those moments that you might only see once in your life time. I re-live this one every October. When The Toronto Bluejays outfielder Joe Carter hit his World Series-winning home run off Phillies closer Mitch Williams, he did something that nobody had done since Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates did it in 1960, and nobody has done since. The sheer joy of Joe Carter in this moment makes it absolutely timeless. Side note, it was probably one of the loudest moments in baseball history. Once again, chills. The Toronto Skydome was known to be the echo chamber of Major League Baseball.

6. 1989 World Series Earthquake: In 1989, the entire World Series was played in the earthquake-prone San Francisco Bay Area when the Giants faced the Oakland Athletics. Just before Game 3, the camera began to shake, then the broadcast went in and out, then the screen went blank. Then there was a graphic that simply said “World Series” on the screen for several minutes while the audio feed came back and announcer Al Michaels tried to figure out what to do next. This was an odd one because I don’t remember whether the video came back eventually or if they just went off the air. Obviously there was no game that night, but one of the enduring images I have of the event, I think came from a Sports Illustrated cover from the aftermath, with Giants pitcher Kelly Downs carrying a kid to safety. It was one of those moments when we realize that the game doesn’t really matter as much as we might think it does. The kind of moment when these athletes, these superstars, become human once again.

Image result for Kelly Downs earthquake

7. George Brett’s Pine Tar Bat Flip-out: George Brett played ball with a fire that we hadn’t seen since Pete Rose in his younger days, and we wouldn’t see again, arguably, until Bryce Harper came along. The game mattered to him. This is probably why he came the closest to finishing a full season with an average anywhere near .400 in a very long time. So whether there was too much pine tar on his bat or not that day in 1983, Brett vehemently felt there was not, obviously, or he was really putting in an Oscar-winning performance in his protest. Either way, that fire in his belly that brought him screaming out of the dugout to argue with the umpire was the same fire he played with all those years that made him a legend. Plus I just like watching players flip out, I guess.

8. Nolan Ryan vs. Robin Ventura: This, simply put, is just the funniest moment in the history of baseball for me. Robin Ventura of the White Sox was 26 years old at the time. Nolan Ryan of the Texas Rangers, was a living legend, 20 years Ventura’s senior, and a couple of months away from retirement. He had nothing to lose, didn’t give a damn, and he certainly wasn’t going to take any crap from any punk kid. So when he hit Ventura with a pitch, and Ventura charged the mound, Ryan took the opportunity to teach the kid a valuable lesson by putting him in a headlock and rearranging his face for him.

9. Armando Gallaraga’s non-perfect game: It is hard to call this a favorite, because it was really unfortunate. Gallaraga of the Detroit Tigers was one out away from a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians in 2010, when he got the 27th batter to hit a grounder to the right side. Gallaraga covered first base and took the throw seemingly in time, stepped on the bag, and began to put his hands up in triumph when he realized the umpire Jim Joyce called the batter safe. Detroit manager Jim Leyland came out to issue a fiery rebuke of the call. But it was too late. It goes down in history as a one hitter. Jim Joyce took the protests from coaches, players and fans with grace, and the next day he tearfully met Gallaraga on the field face to face when he took the lineup cards from each team. It was inspiring to see how he owned up to his error, but equally inspiring to see how Gallaraga took it in stride even while so many others could not accept that what was done was done even after the game was over.

What are some of your favorite baseball moments that you’ve witnessed in your lifetime?