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November 30, 2011

The Lineup Card

BP Holiday Gift Guide

by Baseball Prospectus

1) Inspirational 8x10s
There's nothing more important during the holiday season than making sure your gifts help their recipients feel good about themselves.  Is a family member having trouble at work? Get him or her an 8x10 photo of Yuniesky Betancourt to hang in their office, so they can look at it each morning and think, "At least I do my job better than that guy." Has a friend's love life gone sour?  Get him an 8x10 photo of the 2011 Seattle Mariners, so he can go to bed each night thinking, "At least I'm scoring more than those guys." Or, if someone you know has made some poor choices lately, an 8x10 of Mike Scioscia and Jeff Mathis will remind them that it could be worse. Just remember, it's the thought that counts. —Daniel Rathman

2) “Napoli” Poster
It might seem hard to shop for a man of my taste and hygiene, but there is a wide array of splendid presents with which you may express your love to me. I presume you won't waste your time or mine on any cheap souvenirs, so I'll skip straight to the upper-end merchandise. I would like a baseball autographed by Israeli President Shimon Peres (my third-favorite President of Israel!), along with Yitzhak Rabin and Jordanian King Hussein ($10,000). I would like a shipment of 50,520 baseballs ($65,000). I would like a hand-made replica of Busch Stadium, autographed by Cardinals greats including Willie McGee (signed on his birthday!), Tim McCarver (hard to get!), Stan Musial (HOF), Tom Pagnozzi (Tom Pagnozzi) and Fredbird. This is $150,000, but thank you in advance, I appreciate your generosity.  I would like a pendant shaped like a baseball glove and ball, entirely covered with diamonds ($36,500—an 80 percent savings), and I would also like a baseball autographed by Larry Hisle that costs $27,365.75, which seems like a lot but a) it has been marked down, and b) it is "an exceptionally nice ball and autograph." But if you can't get any of these for me, I will settle for the poster that flashes briefly in the background during the movie Mean Streets. I don't know where it would be for sale, but I want it so badly:

Sam Miller

3) Personal Gold Glove Award

Think of all the Rafael Palmeiro jokes you can make with this thing. That’s worth at least $15. —R.J. Anderson

4) "Sandlot Peanuts"
Gifts should always be about fun, and nothing says "baseball and fun" more than Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang on the diamond. "Sandlot Peanuts" is the single best collection of baseball-themed Peanutsstrips ever published. At 9.5-by-11 inches, it's the perfect size for a book of comic strips, allowing for six daily strips to be printed on a single page. The Sunday strips are in full-color and are given a full-page each. The hard-covered classic was printed in 1977, so Charlie Brown's entire career statistics can't be found in its pages, but the best baseball strips are all included. In fact, it's worth the purchase just for Snoopy's two-week race against Hank Aaron for Babe Ruth's record. If you love Peanuts and baseball, this is the best possible gift you can find. —Larry Granillo

5) JUGS Gun App


"DROID DOES" is a phrase that has become common-place in our vocabulary, but there's something Droid doesn't do… and that something is my Holiday wish for 2011. My Holiday wish for the year for someone to create a working, smartphone-based JUGS Gun. Smartphones can surf the Internet (visit www.baseballprospectus.com), scan a barcode in a store, play music 1,000 different ways, keep us in touch with social media (http://twitter.com/#!/baseballpro), or even track our position on the planet to the foot. Why not give us the ability to track the speed of a Justin Verlander pitch from the rightfield grandstands?

OK, fine… maybe it's a stretch to expect a handheld smartphone app to be able to give an accurate speed reading from 300+ feet away. However, the practical use of such an app would be immeasurable to amateur coaches, parents, those fans fortunate enough to have homeplate seats, and, of course, the scouts themselves, for whom the original JUGS Guns were adapted for. Maybe not this year, but one holiday season, we'll all find this app available in our smartphone marketplaces.  Happy Holidays… Opening Day 2012 is just around the corner.—Adam Tower

6) The United States Constitution on a Baseball

So you’re looking for a gift for this holiday season and you missed out on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and whatever other gimmicks people have created for you to spend money this month? Clearly, if you’re reading this site, you love baseball. If you love baseball and also want to show one of your loved ones how much of an American patriot you are, you can’t go wrong with the United States Constitution on a baseball as your holiday gift this year. It comes with “We the people” written specifically across the sweet spot so you can put it on your desk, and people who walk by will know you not only love America’s pastime but also the founding document for its government. Were it not for Article III creating the court system, including the Supreme Court, MLB would not have been able to achieve its antitrust victory in the early 20th Century that has aided in exploding profits ever since. Even Canadians will be clamoring for the U.S. Constitution baseball this holiday season, so why not pick up the gift that’s perfect for everyone on your list? —Sam Tydings

7) Robertson’s Book of Firsts: Who Did What for the First Time
Most of you come to this site for your baseball fix, of course, but I’ve had more than enough interaction with BP readers to know that many of you are polymaths. Thusly, my holiday gift recommendation is Robertson’s Book of Firsts: Who Did What for the First Time, a compendium of arcane knowledge 50 years in the making. Author Patrick Robertson, a former chairman of the Ephemera Society, has spent most of his life researching and compiling this comprehensive list of the first occurrence of most anything you can think of, both worldwide and (often) in the United States. I received a copy as a birthday present from my wife, and after spending a few minutes scanning its contents, it’s rarely been out of my presence, as bite-sized nuggets of information make for a healthy snack at any time of the day. It covers a bit of baseball, mentioning (among other things) that the first diamond in a public park was built in Chicago’s Washington Park in 1887, but there are fascinating stories everywhere. Just thumbing through random pages, you’ll learn:

  • The first use of an airplane on active military service involved two French aviators, Rene Simon and Roland Garros (yes, that Roland Garros), who flew sorties from El Paso on behalf of the Mexican government to spy on Pancho Villa’s rebel forces, dropping oranges and cigarettes along the way to deter ground fire.
  • The first anesthetic used for a surgical operation occurred when Dr. Crawford Long—who had been persuaded by youngsters in Jefferson, Georgia to let them try ether as a recreational drug, joined in, and learned firsthand about its deadening effects—anesthetized and successfully removed a cyst from the neck of a student named James Venable on March 30, 1842.
  • The first chewing gum manufactured from chicle was produced in 1871 when a local photographer working with General Santa Anna (yes, that Santa Anna)—who had retired to Staten Island and brought with him a load of sapodilla in an aborted attempt to get rich manufacturing chicle into tires—witnessed the former Mexican president habitually chewing the stuff and decided to market it as gum.

If that’s the sort of thing that delights you, I can’t recommend this book enough, either for you or for like-minded history geeks. —Ken Funck

8) Fantasy Baseball Championship Ring

I can tell you from first-hand experience: nothing says "I'm a badass" more than a fantasy baseball championship ring.  Before I girlfriended up, when I didn't go with the slam dunk "Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?," my go-to line at the bar was always "I'm a professional fantasy baseball player." A veritable chick magnet, a fantasy baseball championship ring makes the perfect gift for any single guy. He might not be an actual professional, but he has my permission to use my line and my name, just in case the girl does a quick smartphone Google search to verify the claim. —Derek Carty

9) The Bill James Baseball Abstract, 1986
As the resident Grinch at Baseball Prospectus, gift-giving isn't exactly my specialty.  Though after again listening to the VersaEmerge cover of “You're a Mean Once, Mr. Grinch”, some Whos may be getting albums this Christmas. Of course, a long lifetime being a Grinch coincides more with a me-centered perspective of gifting, so I'll stick to what I'd like to get instead.  (The Baseball Prospectus address is on the Masthead and my favorite color is Grinch Green, of course.  Please no seasick crocodiles, however.)

My first thought when I heard that Dave Pease and Ben Lindbergh were compiling a “Best of BP” book was that it would make a great Holiday gift (or two).  For me, books are for reading, not collecting, and I treat them roughly, reading while on the go, or in bed, or, well, you get the idea. So a collection of thought-provoking articles, some of which would require multiple reads to comprehend, sounded great.  Yet a book which is now “collectible” would probably be most likely to melt my Grinch-heart: The Bill James Baseball Abstract, 1986

Until 1985, I hadn't been a baseball fanatic.  Sure, I enjoyed playing and going to the occasional Cubs game or minor-league game in Springfield, IL, but I really loved math and numbers and programming. Discovering simulation baseball (thanks, Strat-O-Matic) started opening my eyes to the way math and baseball interacted, but not until reading the 1986 Abstract was I hooked. To say that I couldn't put the book down might be understating the impact it had on me. I would read and re-read sections, letting tales such as the battle between Georges Brett and Bell in the playoffs stir my blood.  And this for someone who didn't even know the American League existed before 1986. And while we may look back now and see headings such as, “Record before and after All-Star break” and “vs RHP/LHP”, and take those for granted, these numbers weren't publicly available prior to the abstract.  The obvious question here, of course, is why I would need another copy.  The short answer is that I lost the first, and it's somewhat hard to rationalize spending on such an old book, but that's what makes it a great gift concept.

As with all gifting, the premise is that the giver know the givee well enough to hit the spot. Many would mock the gift of a 26-year-old book (paperback, at that!) over a trip to fantasy camp, or a particular piece of memorabilia, or tickets to a game, or other—certainly more exciting than an old book—ideas. But there are as many different passions as there are people, and here's hoping that all the Whos receive gifts aligned with these passions this holiday season... at least until the Grinch can sneak into Whoville and steal them!  "Stink, Stank, Stunk!" —Rob McQuown

13 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
The BP Broadside: Bobb... (11/30)
<< Previous Column
The Lineup Card: 10 Pi... (11/28)
Next Column >>
The Lineup Card: 9 Mem... (12/14)
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The BP First Take: Thu... (12/01)

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