April 21, 2017
A Murder of Orioles, Unsolicited Career Advice, and the Best Deja Vu
The Orioles First Base Depth Chart
By: Matt Sussman
Jackie Price and Alternate Careers
By: Mary Craig
In his 13-year professional baseball career, Jackie Price delighted fans with unusual applications of his skills. He routinely captivated audiences by taking BP while hanging upside down, simultaneously throwing a fastball and a curveball, launching snakes out of his bat, and simultaneously throwing balls to 3 different catchers. Other, less practical tricks included using slingshots to launch baseballs out of the stadium and catching fly balls while driving a Jeep.
Though these antics brought him notoriety, they also spelled the end of his short-lived major league career. Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck had been a fan of Price for several months, and in 1946, he signed Price as pre-game entertainment. Much to the chagrin of manager Lou Boudreau, Price also appeared in 7 games that season and looked to have a greater role in 1947. However, during a spring training train ride with the Cleveland Indians from LA to San Diego, Jackie Price let loose several of his pet snakes in the dining car, terrifying fellow travelers. Though not out of the norm for Price, who frequently featured snakes in his routines, Cleveland’s manager Lou Boudreau did not take kindly to the incident, cutting Price from the team.
This firing allowed Price to focus on his act, and over the next twelve years, he toured the country with it, performing before both professional and amateur games under the title “The Clown Prince of Baseball,” which he had effectively wrested from Al Schacht and Max Patkin. The combination of trickery and actual baseball skills catapulted Price to pre-game entertainment stardom and earned him upwards of $20,000 annually (or, in today’s terms, 166 bitcoin), eclipsing his total earnings as a player.
In light of Price’s success post-playing career, it might be useful to look at the possible futures of current major leaguers:
Mike Trout: Meteorologist
It’s obviously his true passion, and nobody has ever faulted a weatherman for his lack of personality.
Jon Gray: Professional Ghostbuster
Like above, this one is all too self-explanatory. And there’s no better time to exterminate this country of its ghosts.
Andrew Benintendi: Ren McCormack in a (re)remake of Footloose
He’s got the hair, he’s got the eyes, and he’s got the dance moves. Who cares if he can’t sing or act.
Colby Rasmus: Member of the Amish community
Look, I know the beard is now gone, but the memory of it persists, in much the same way the Amish have persisted for centuries.
Trevor Bauer: Enrique Iglesias’s backup singer
I don’t know whether Bauer can sing, and I don’t particularly care to find out. But he should be around somebody who can empathize with his lowest moment.
Adam Rosales: Private Investigator
He has been in the majors for 10 years, and I have no recollection of him. He is the perfectly nondescript white guy, the quintessential Milford Man, if you will. He will never give himself away to his suspect.
Weird, Welcome Baseball
By: Annie Maroon
As a teenager, I had a few years’ run of bad fortune on February 17. One year I fought with a friend in gym class when she called me (harshly, but fairly) on my eighth-grade tendency to treat my every misfortune like the end of the world. Another year I got badly sick. I still have friends who warn me to be careful on February 17. Similarly, I slowly noticed that October 13 was always a good day for me - pleasant, unmarked by conflict. I don’t remember any major joys or successes in my life on any October 13, but even now, I instinctively feel confident as it approaches.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are equally star-crossed: somehow, they always play extra innings in their first series of the season. The vague sense of déjà vu first struck as they dueled with the Red Sox for 11 scoreless on April 5. After watching Boston’s Sandy Leon do what folk heroes do against Antonio Bastardo to end the game in the 12th, I then had the particular joy of having Baseball-Reference confirm my gut feeling.
For four straight years now, and six of the last eight, the Pirates have not only played extras in their opening series, they’ve done it in the second game of the season. “Baseball just literally happened everywhere, and at one point I started fist-pumping because Starling Marte got a hit in the sixteenth inning and I accidentally punched myself in the head,” is a sentence I typed shortly after watching the second game of 2014 in its entirety. (That night they beat the Cubs 4-3. The game took almost six hours and saw a man named Stolmy Pimentel hit for himself in the fourteenth, then get the win as a relief pitcher.)
In 2015, they needed a two-and-a-half-hour rain delay and eleven innings for Joey Votto to drive in the deciding run. In 2016, all that happened between Opening Day and game two was that I was briefly hospitalized with a nasty virus. So on April 5, I sat at my kitchen table, squinting at my computer screen through a dehydration headache as Jordy Mercer walked off against Seth Maness in the twelfth. And then, this year, after seven dazzling innings from Chris Sale and Jameson Taillon, it was Leon’s turn, inevitable as Votto and Mercer before him.
In the typical parlance, a baseball statistic is “useful” if it can be predictive; this is why using RBI or pitcher wins in analysis is silly. This fun fact about the Pirates, then, is absolutely useless. Maybe the Pirates will go to extra innings in their second game of 2018, and Adam Frazier will hit a walk-off homer off of Neftali Feliz in the thirteenth as I peer at them from my couch, mostly asleep. Maybe they won’t. But if they do, it will awaken some sense of rhythm in me, a feeling that the seasons are passing the way they should. This kind of groove, once worn into the surface of life, lingers. It doesn’t mean anything, except that it feels like it does; it suggests nothing, except all the other rooms where I’ve watched late-night baseball get weird, a constant in mercurial early-April weather.
Matt Sussman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @suss2hyphens