December 2007

ESPN the Magazine

Big thanks to Charlie (a longtime reader of this blog) for giving me a heads-up about ESPN the Magazine. The current year-end issue has a 49-page feature called “ESPN 100: The Biggest Sports Stories of 2007.” Way at the back of this feature, on the third-to-last page, there’s a teeny list called “TOP-SELLING SPORTS BOOKS OF 2007.” If you look really closely at that teeny list, you’ll see a familiar name.

First, here’s the cover of the magazine…

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And now, a look at the page that contains the list (with my own red arrow drawn in)…

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Finally, here’s the list itself (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s in some pretty good company)…

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In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the full list of media for my book–or at least the full list of things that I’ve seen. I’m sure I’ve missed a few, so if you know about any others, please let me know.

Honesty, anyone?

This whole steroids mess keeps getting more disgusting. Want to know what’s making me sick now? Among ALL the players who have denied it, I have not heard ONE of them cite “honesty” as the reason. A-Rod said he never felt like he needed an edge. Justice said he was afraid of needles. Mariano said he was simply naive.

PinocchioGreat. So A-Rod WOULD have cheated if he weren’t as good, Justice WOULD have cheated if he weren’t a wimp, and Mariano WOULD have cheated if he weren’t clueless.

It’s unbelievable how little our culture values honesty. I used to see people in school cheat on tests like it was nothing. Am I allowed to point fingers at them now? Yeah, because I never cheated. I preferred to fail honestly than succeed dishonestly. In fact, I was SO concerned about being honest that one time while taking a geometry test in ninth grade, I happened to glance off to the side and see the answer that the kid next to me had written for one of the questions. I hadn’t answered that question yet, and I knew his answer was right, and it occurred to me that I MIGHT not have thought of it on my own, so I left it blank.

I realize there’s more to gain by cheating with steroids than by cheating on a high school test, but still. What the hell?! When am I going to hear a major league baseball player come out and say, “I never used steroids because I’m honest, because I don’t cheat, because I have integrity and respect for the game, and because drug-aided accomplishments are meaningless.”

SCRABBLE News

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Even though I haven’t played in a sanctioned SCRABBLE tournament since the turn of the millennium, I’m still a member of the National SCRABBLE Association (and yes, the word “SCRABBLE” is legally required to be written in all caps).
Way back in 1999, SCRABBLE News covered my baseball collection, and just the other day, I got the latest issue in the mail and was surprised to see this.

By the way, the little bearded guy on the cover is named Nigel Richards. He just won the world championship. Five years ago he nearly won the national championship but lost to a guy named Joel Sherman. I worked at that championship (as a paid intern) which was filmed for a documentary called “Word Wars.” Even if you don’t like SCRABBLE, you’ll enjoy this film. Watch it at once. You’ll see Nigel. You’ll see Joel (who’s a true character). You’ll see lots of wacky stuff. And if you look really closely, you’ll see me…toward the end…standing in the background.

The Mitchell Report

I woke up from a nightmare early this morning–my girlfriend and I were being chased by a bear–and I never fell back asleep…not because of the bear but because of the Mitchell Report. It’s officially messing with my head. The report is due out in a little over an hour as I sit here writing this. I’m scared. And angry. And sad. Scared that some of my childhood heroes will be named as cheaters. (Please, God, not Cal Ripken Jr.) Angry to think that while I was playing steroid-free during summer ball and my Mets tryout, other people likely had an illegal edge. Sad on behalf of Major League Baseball and humanity itself.

History is about to unfold before us. This report will be talked about for generations. Millions of fans might be alienated, but in the long run the sport will survive. It’s a beautiful game. The people in it right now might not be, but baseball will cleanse itself.

I’m tempted to start guessing which names will be on the list–no doubt there are bookies out there taking bets on this right now–but all I’m gonna do is get back into bed and pull the covers over my nose and turn on ESPN and brace myself.

I’d almost rather not watch the news coverage. I wish I didn’t have to update the steroids section in my book. I wish I never had to write a steroids section in the first place. And I’d rather not be blogging about this. But this is baseball and life and it can’t be avoided. Hopefully something good will come from all of this.

2007 Mets playoff tickets

I don’t mean to traumatize any Mets fans with this entry. I’m just sharing these because I think it’s cool from a collecting standpoint. (BIG thanks to Clif and Gail for passing them along.)

Here are unused tickets from the National League Division Series:

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Here are tickets from the National League Championship Series:

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And from the World Series:

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O’ what coulda been…

Updating my book

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Watching Baseball Smarter has been selling pretty well since it came out in March (thanks in part to the many people on this blog who’ve bought copies). For some reason, I’m not allowed to say how many copies have sold, but I can tell you that the book recently went into its 10th printing.

Anyway, that’s not the news.

THE NEWS is that I was just asked to update the book for the 2008 season–and I could really use everyone’s help. But before you all start telling me what I should change, there are a few things you should know:

1) The purpose of this update is NOT to add new sections or chapters or anecdotes. The purpose is simply to update the facts and stats that changed during the 2007 season.

2) Because it will cost Vintage (my publisher) a lot of money to make changes at this point, I’ve been asked not to change the length of any pages. More specifically, if I want to delete two words, I’m supposed to replace them with EXACTLY two words. This might seem strict and bizarre, but here’s the reason why: if I were to add one line in the middle of a page, it would bump down all the lines below it. The last line would then be forced to spill onto the following page and bump all of THOSE lines down.

3) The exception to No. 2 is if there’s blank space at the end of a page. If you have a copy of the book, go get it and turn to page 41. See all that blank space? If I wanted to add a whole paragraph about the Cy Young Award (which I don’t), it wouldn’t be a problem. Turn the page and check out the last line on 42. See how there’s an inch and a half of space after the word “them”? I can also play with space like that at the end of paragraphs. See how the first paragraph on page 43 has even more space at the end? I’d be able to add about 10 words to that paragraph, and it wouldn’t be a problem BECAUSE it wouldn’t bump down the other lines. Get it?

4) I made a few tweaks over the course of the season, but these tweaks didn’t start appearing until the third printing. How can you tell what printing you have? It’s easy. Turn to the copyright page, which is on the back of the title page. You’ll see “A VINTAGE ORIGINAL, MARCH 2007,” followed by the copyright and a little paragraph that begins with “All rights reserved.” At the bottom of the page, it’ll say “Printed in the United States of America” followed by a list of numbers in descending order. The smallest number indicates what printing you have. If you see all the numbers from 10 down to 1, congratulations, you are the proud owner of a First Edition. If you see the numbers “10 9 8 7 6 5,” that means you got the book when it was in its fifth printing. Turn to page 21. See the last line above the “EEPHUS” section? If you have an early edition of the book, it’ll say “Burleigh Grimes threw the last legal spitball in 1934.” If you have a later edition, it’ll say “Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes threw the last legal spitball in 1934.” I was able to make that addition because it didn’t bump the lines down. Anyway, the point is that if you have an early edition of the book, you might end up suggesting something that’s already been changed.

I’ve already combed through the entire book and made a list of all the things that need to be updated, as well as all the stuff that MIGHT need to be updated. I’ll admit it. I don’t know EVERYTHING that happened in baseball this past season, and that’s where YOU come in (if you’re up for the challenge). I’m not getting paid to update the book–hopefully it’ll help sell a few more copies–so obviously I can’t pay you. It’s just a labor of love, and if anyone wants to help out, that’d be awesome.

Here are the things I know should be updated:

MY BIO — Update my number of baseballs (to 3,277) and stadiums (to 42).
PAGE XIV — Update my number of stadiums.
PAGE 9 — Change “Devil Rays” to “Rays.”
PAGE 21 — Mention Dice-K in the “gyroball” section.
PAGE 42 — New title for Hank Aaron under his quote at the top. (Any suggestions?)
PAGE 101 — Update the number of Gold Gloves for Andruw, Pudge, and Maddux.
PAGE 133 — Update Bonds/Aaron in the last paragraph.
PAGES 142/143 — Use 2007 stats and update the commentary in the “you stink” section.
PAGE 165 — Fix the typo…yikes…9th line from the bottom.
PAGE 182 — Update the fact that Manny Ramirez is now the career playoff HR leader.
PAGE 184 — Update the last paragraph of the steroids section.
PAGE 238 — Update Rollins’ AB record and Bonds’ HR record.
PAGE 239 — Update stats (Howard Ks, Bonds career BB/IBB, Trevor career saves, etc.).

Here are the things that MIGHT need to be updated:

PAGE 3 — Average MLB annual salary still $2.9 million? What about meal money?
PAGE 7 — Minor league meal money and starting monthly salary?
PAGE 11 — Does the Grapefruit/Cactus League breakdown need to change?
PAGE 14 — Average MLB salary mentioned again.
PAGE 35 — Is the team record for consecutive games without a CG still 194?
PAGE 44 — Is Bob Buhl’s 0-for-70 slump still the single-season record?
PAGE 76 — Newer guys for the The Shift? (Prince, Dunn, Howard, Hafner, Morneau?)
PAGE 105 — Is 303 still the record for homers in one stadium in one season?
PAGE 106 — Footnote at bottom…any other balls that defied gravity?
PAGE 114 — Is $1,800 per month still the starting salary for minor league umps?
PAGE 122 — What IS the deal with instant replay in MLB? Official yet? If so, how?
PAGE 172 — Did Bobby Thomson recently/finally admit it?
PAGE 190 — What are some names that could replace Mike Mussina here?
PAGE 196 — New terms for the glossary? I have a bunch. Not sure if there’s space.
PAGE 239 — Less obvious stats? (GIDP, for example.) Which ones need an update?
PAGE 243 — Did the single-season holds record change this year?
PAGE 245 — Is Vernon still the all-time double play leader?
PAGE 246 — Who to add/delete from the “uniform numbers” section? (Add Peavy!)

So yeah, these are all the things I still need to research, and I might have missed some. If you have an answer/suggestion/opinion, please leave a comment and let me know. If you track down any info online, please copy and paste the link into the comments section so we can all double-check. If you don’t have an MLB.com account and can’t leave comments, send me an email at zack@zackhample.com…but I’d prefer comments so everyone can be involved. This is a lot of work, but I think it could be lots of fun.

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