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August 30, 2006

Some Funny Things Happened on the Way to the Cellar

Something familiar,
Something peculiar,
Something for everyone:
A baseball game tonight!

(There is a connection: Larry Gelbart, who wrote A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, worked as a writer/producer on MASH with Ken Levine, who was briefly an announcer on the Mariners broadcasts.)

When someone interviews for a job in Engineering Excellence, they usually have to do a "demo teach". This is where they prepare a short instructional lesson of some sort and then teach it to a class of current EE people, who take turns listening attentively, asking dumb questions, and throwing things at each other, all in the name of judging how the interviewee would do in front of a real class of Microsoft people.

Yesterday there was a demo teach about how to keep score at a baseball game, which is evidently a popular demo teach topic (the bowline knot is the other). One of the questions someone asked was "Why in the heck would you ever keep score?" (he was faking; he admitted later that he keeps score at every game he goes to). By coincidence, yesterday evening we went to the Mariners game and I of course kept score, which allows me to relay some more detail on the many appealing and appalling things that happened there. To wit:

  • The most memorable thing, unfortunately, was Rafael Soriano getting hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero. Soriano is one of the hardest pitchers around and Guerrero is one of the hardest hitters around. The quick summary I saw in an ESPN report ("Scary moment in the 8th, Soriano hit by a line drive from Guerrero, he was taken to the hospital for tests") doesn't begin to capture what it was like to be there: the sickening noice that the ball made when it hit, Soriano collapsing on the ground with his head in his hands, the slow gathering of the players around him, the paramedic making a closed fist gesture to the dugout (what does that mean), the stretcher arriving, Soriano being slowly driven out the outfield gate, followed quickly by an ambulance siren, the jarringly familiar sight of Sean Green warming up afterwards. Luckily it seems that Soriano is doing okay.
  • During the 15-minute delay while they were working on Soriano, two kids came down and sat in the seats right behind us. This is common late in the game and normally I don't care, but they were making jokes about Soriano being hurt which I didn't care for my kids to hear. So I pointed them out to Jerry the seat attendant and he proceeded to evict them with some relish (he had evidently kicked them out earlier as well, which I was unaware of). Jerry didn't just ask them to leave but actually walked off with them, and from the length of time I was gone I assume he deposited them somewhere beyond the Pale. The look they gave when he first approached them was a classic Beavis & Butthead "Who us?" expression (they actually froze still, as if that would prevent them from being noticed).
  • Since I have earlier written on the arcane skill of properly distributing balls into the crowd after the final out of an inning, I am happy to say that although Richie Sexson can barely hit his weight, he has gotten much better at souvenir allocation. No more panicky tosses from the coach's box. He does a good job of moving the ball around, and if there are too many kids crowding the bottom of the aisle, he tosses it over them.
  • Related to that, we had two of our kids there and we were looking to get a ball for them, as always. The first inning ended in a strikeout, but the second inning was a groundout. We are on high alert once there are two outs ("Put the peanuts down. PUT THE PEANUTS DOWN!!") and send the kids down the instant it looks like a play will be made that results in the final putout being made by someone who enters the dugout in front of us (that list being, more-or-less, the first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, and left fielder). So we sent down both kids and there was only one other kid there. Sexson threw the ball to our 11-year-old son; it was a bit of a wild throw and bounced off his glove and landed in someone's lap, but they gave it to him since he was the intended recipient.
  • Of course the precending annoyed our 7-year-old greatly, but he kept trying. And lo and behold in the 5th inning the final putout was made by Lopez at second. So we sent him down (a bit late actually) and he elbowed is way into good position while I watched from the aisle higher up. The aisle by this time was very crowded in these situations, no doubt inspired by our earlier successful ball get, so Lopez decided to flip it high and dang if it wasn't coming towards me and a bit to my right, it was an empty row and I was able to reach over and get it (a nice backhanded grab if I do say so myself). A couple of (annoying) people around were agitating that I should give it to some kid who had really been nowhere near making the catch, but luckily his mom told them to shoo and I was able to give it to my own child. So now they were both happy.
  • And then between those two events they were throwing t-shirts into the crowd between innings and my wife made a nice catch on one of those.
  • The Mariners led off with two home runs (Ichiro and Snelling) and then Beltre hit a shot that hit the yellow line at the top of the fence, but stayed in. I gathered from something I heard on the postgame show that 3 homers to start a game would have been an AL record. This was off of Angels rookie phenom Jered Weaver. Come to think of it, the Angels later had back-to-back home runs off of Jarrod Washburn. First time both teams have gone back-to-back off pitchers with different spellings of the same name? Must contact Elias.
  • Kenji Johjima managed to reach based on an error in 3 consecutive at-bats. He also made an error in the field.
  • The following play happened twice, in the 3rd and 5th innings: Broussard on third, Johjima on first, batter hits a sharp grounder, Broussard gets caught in a rundown off third, gets tagged out by the catcher, Johjima winds up on third, batter winds up on second.
  • After Snelling hit 2 homers, they intentionally walked Ichiro to get to him. Bases loaded, two outs, he already has two circuit clouts (as they used to call them)...but cancel the Disney Movie of the Week because he grounded out.

After Soriano got hurt, the Mariners used Sean Green for one batter (a single), then George Sherrill for one batter (a double), before finally bringing in J.J. Putz for a strikeout and fly ball, then a perfect ninth for the 6-4 win.

Something erratic,
Something dramatic,
Something for everyone:
A baseball game tonight!

Posted by AdamBa at August 30, 2006 03:17 PM

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Adam knows this story, but maybe someone else will find it interesting. Speaking of scoring, reminds me of the very first game I ever went to, age 9, in 1946. My father bought score cards for each of us and explained that you must always keep score; it concentrates your attention on the game (it does too). So he showed me his method and I have used it ever since and taught it to my kids. But what I found most interesting is that when I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, they had two early scorecards on display. One was from a Philadelphia sportswriter and I was able to read that perfectly (both my father and I were born and raised in Philly) and other was by a New York sportswriter and I could not understand that at all. They were both based on a system completely different from that printed on the scorecards you buy. They both consider the four corners of the box to represent the four bases, but beyond that, they were almost totally dissimilar. So there are scorekeeping dialects. Who knew?

Posted by: marble chair at August 31, 2006 10:45 AM

(For those readers who are unaware, Marble Chair == Michael Barr == my father).

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at August 31, 2006 12:20 PM