Play Ball! - It was fourteen degrees Fahrenheit this morning according to the outdoor thermometer on my patio. I have a rule about such temperatures: I am in favor of...
1 week ago
That's science in a nutshell. If the data is good, it will hold up to scrutiny. If the methods are good, the data is trustworthy. Transparency and openness lead to progress. This is exactly the opposite of politics, where lies and half-truths are the meat-and-potatoes of campaigning. Where secrecy, denial, and re-writing history are the essential skills candidates master. Where visceral responses are more important than analysis and where being brainy is a handicap. Screw politics and learn to think like a scientist!When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn't know what we'd find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.
As the dominant strain of modernism increasingly assumed quasi-official status in the postwar period, artists working in popular forms, who were beneath the notice of serious intellectuals (except as they fell under the general heading of mass culture), found themselves freer to maintain a critical stance vis-à-vis the Cold War state. (p221)I love it! It's from a book called America Noir: underground writers and filmmakers of the Postwar Era, by, you guessed it, a college professor. His name is David Cochran. I realize the above passage isn't too difficult, no big words and only one foreign phrase, but in tone and style it is wholly academic. You certainly couldn't say "popular American artists began to criticize American culture during the Cold War." That would lack the flair and polish the audience for such a book expects. I don't mean to pick on Prof. Cochran, after all, he's a noir-man like me. And it's a good book--the stories of the various artists (from Jim Thompson to Rod Serling) are interesting and enjoyable. And Cochran is capable of some real gems--here's his take on the brilliant Charles Willeford:
I like that. Academic study of noir is a little dry for everyday reading, I know, but I've a passion for the subject. Nothing comes close to Eddie Muller's magnificent Dark City: the lost world of film noir, but that's an unfair comparison. Mr. Muller's book is strictly about movies, is for a popular audience, and is filled with vintage photos. And it is as intelligent as it is entertaining. But Prof. Cochran's book has its place on the shelf--I certainly learned a lot and was pointed in some new directions.In a string of pulp paperbacks published in the fifties and sixties, Willeford created a world in which the predatory cannibalism of American capitalism provides the model for all human relations, in which the American success ethic mercilessly casts aside all who are unable or unwilling to compete, and in which the innate human appreciation of artistic beauty is cruelly distorted by the exigencies of mass culture. (p40)
After consulting his notes on opponents, Marichal had concluded that Houston players were getting a preview of the coming pitch by reading his grip. Abandoning his high leg kick, he hid the ball, brought his hands together belt high and pivoted quickly.McCovey wound up making a play on the fence late in the game to get an out and help preserve Marichal's no-hitter. Warren Spahn had the same attitude. Here's more from Kaplan:
"I don't pitch the hitter the same way from season to season," said Spahn, who could remember pitches he'd thrown 15 years prior. "Why? Well, I think hard about hitters and try to think the way they think. So there's always the possibility that the hitter may have given considerable thought to the way I pitched him in the previous year and he might be looking forward to those pitches next year."A little later in the same chapter:
Like Spahn, Marichal had an extensive mental book on hitters' weaknesses. "This is a guessing game," he said. "I'm always trying to guess what the hitters are guessing. I haven't gotten any better, only smarter."On July 2nd of the same 1963 season, Spahn and Marichal would pitch a 16-inning 1-0 game in San Francisco that Willie Mays would end with a home run. Spahn was pitching for the Milwaukee Braves (now Atlanta), the club he had come up with when they were still in Boston. That game is the subject of Kaplan's book, but it's really about two men, two ballplayers from different backgrounds and different generations. Their personal histories and their accomplishments on and off the field are interwoven throughout the account of the great pitching duel. Spahn was 42, and just about at the end, while Marichal was 25 and just beginning his exceptional run of great seasons (familiar to every Giants fan). Warren Spahn, the winningest left-hander in baseball history, died in 2003 aged 82. His son Greg supplies the forward for the book.
For four hours, 10 minutes, and 16 innings, all through the night of July 2, 1963, and into July 3, Warren Spahn and Juan Marichal slugged it out like a veteran boxer and a young contender.That's what they call a "hook" in the book trade. It worked for me, of course, being baseball fan and a Giants junkie. I was contacted a few weeks ago by some nice folks at Triumph Books asking if I would be interested in a "review copy" of Mr. Kaplan's The Greatest Game Ever Pitched: Juan Marichal, Warren Spahn, and the Pitching Duel of the Century. Let's see: free book, Juan Marichal, Candlestick Park, Warren Spahn, SF Giants, baseball history . . . uh, sure, OK. Like I was going to say "no." Funny thing, I don't read a lot of baseball books. I mean, I don't actually read The Baseball Encyclopedia (I have the 7th ed.) even though I've spent a lot of time in my life with that book on my lap. (Nowadays I peruse Baseball-Reference.com.) I did read David Halberstam's Summer of '49 and October 1964, both of which were excellent. And W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe remains a favorite (the film version is a bit heavy-handed for my taste--Mr. Costner is far better in Bull Durham and has much better co-stars). I couldn't watch Ken Burns' Baseball, it kept putting me to sleep. Despite the fact that I'm a Giants baseball fanatic and follow the major leagues pretty closely, I'm actually not all that qualified to write a review of a baseball book. I just don't consume that many of them! I'm much better with 40s and 50s noir or post-modern SF. Alas, duty calls!