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Fielder Most Foul

By: Meg Rowley

In the fifth inning of last Thursday’s Indians game, Carlos Santana caught back-to-back pop outs in almost the exact same spot in foul territory to retire Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo. The broadcast booth joked that Santana should just stay there for the next batter, only remind us that he couldn’t even if he wanted to. Rule 5.02 of the Official MLB Rules states, “When the ball is put in play at the start of, or during a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be on fair territory.” The booth seemed surprised that this required specific mention. The obvious strategic disadvantages of stationing a fielder in foul territory seem as if they ought to provide disincentive enough without getting the law involved. But imagine some kook wanted to try something new; where would be the most disconcerting places a manager could station a fielder in foul territory? Three possible answers:

The Lurker

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Do you ever stop and think about how amazing it is that anyone ever hits a baseball? It’s incredible. I don’t know that there is any greater proof that we are inherently self-loathing than the fact that we created a fun game we teach to children centered around trying to hit a baseball. Imagine the worst starter in baseball; let’s call him Jered Weaver. If I tried to hit Jered Weaver’s fastball, I’d probably strike out swinging at least 25 times before I made contact. Maybe 50 times. Maybe 100! I couldn’t do it. Jered Weaver is bad, and he throws to actual baseball players, and even they fail against him. Now imagine trying to hit a baseball while some guy stands five feet behind you. Not an ump or a catcher, but a lurker. You can feel his presence. What’s he doing back there? Is he making bunny ears? After two pitches, you’d be convinced he was either trying to embarrass you publicly, or plot your murder. You’re trying to do this hard thing of hitting a baseball, and now sadly, you must outmaneuver an assassin.

Peripheral Vision

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The obvious play is to shift around and make faces and be a distraction in the batter’s peripheral vision, but that’s obvious. Pedestrian. It implies a silly game; are you some cheap photographer with a plastic toy, unsuccessfully trying to get a toddler to smile, or are you a ball player? No, the move is to stand perfectly still, glove held aloft, poised to field the ball, while staring directly at the hitter. You’re gonna pop out. You’re gonna pop out here right to me, and everyone is going to see it. Assuming failure is really quite devastating. Striking out seems almost dignified compared to that.

Predictable Obstacles

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This guy wouldn’t be able to interfere with you getting to first base; there’s a rule against that. You’re fine. But he’s an obstacle. You’re going to have to outrun him. You’re going to have to avoid his feet. You have to do geometry. You really shouldn’t fall down. He’s a predictable obstacle, and he must be overcome. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the anticipation of being tired is worse than actually being tired.

None of it would work of course, but they must have been worried there was a way it could they hadn’t anticipated. Otherwise I’m not sure why they’d choose to be narcs.


You Can’t Script This

By: James Fegan

The following transpired on 24 June 2017, in the city of St. Paul:


As the announcer clearly states here, you cannot write a script of 45-year-old Kevin Millar hitting a home run in his cameo at bat with the independent league St. Paul Saints. It is impossible and special sessions were immediately held to pass laws banning attempts to do so. We can only search for existing scripts for a possible fit.

Toy Story 3 (2010)

WOODY: [Chatter Telephone rings. Woody picks up phone] Hello?
CHATTER TELEPHONE: You shouldn't have come back, cowboy. They've cracked down hard since you left. More guards, more patrols… You and your friends ain't ever getting out of here now.
WOODY: I made it out once.
CHATTER TELEPHONE: You got LUCKY once. Want my advice? Keep your heads down, you'll survive.
WOODY: Yeah, for how long?
CHATTER TELEPHONE: I've been here years, they'll never break me. There's only one way toys leave this place.

[45-year-old Kevin Millar hits a home run in his cameo at bat with the independent league St. Paul Saints]

CHATTER TELEPHONE: Poor fella. Trash truck comes at dawn, then it's off to the dump.

Predator (1987)

BILLY: I'm scared, Poncho.
PONCHO: Bullshit. You ain't afraid of no man.
BILLY: There's something out there waiting for us, and it ain't no man. We're all gonna die.

[45-year-old Kevin Millar hits a home run in his cameo at bat with the independent league St. Paul Saints]

Batman Begins (2005)

ALFRED PENNYWORTH: Are you coming back to Gotham for long, sir?
BRUCE WAYNE: As long as it takes. I'm gonna show the people of Gotham their city doesn't belong to the criminals and the corrupt.
ALFRED: In the depression, your father nearly bankrupted Wayne Enterprises combating poverty. He believed that his example could inspire the wealthy of Gotham to save their city.
BRUCE: Did it?
ALFRED: In a way. Their murder shocked the wealthy and the powerful into action.
BRUCE: People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I'm flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol… as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.
ALFRED: What symbol?
BRUCE: Something elemental, something terrifying.

[45-year-old Kevin Millar hits a home run in his cameo at bat with the independent league St. Paul Saints]

The Big Chill (1983)

SAM: [Enters a room where Nick is up late watching TV] What's this?
NICK: I'm not sure.
SAM: What's it about?
NICK: I don't know.
SAM: [Shakes his head, pats Nick on the shoulder, then sits in a nearby chair] Who's that?

[45-year-old Kevin Millar hits a home run in his cameo at bat with the independent league St. Paul Saints]

NICK: I think the guy in the hat did something terrible.


The Hits Keep Coming

By Holly M. Wendt

© John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, June 18, Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph’s hit streak peaked at 14 games, the likes of which haven’t been seen for a Phillies first baseman since Ty Wigginton in 2012. In a season marked most significantly by a lack of positive significance, Joseph’s 2017 streak was notable for having taken place in a period during which the team won only three of those 14 games.

During Ty Wigginton’s 2012 spell in Philadelphia, his penultimate season, he hit .235 over 125 games for the 81-81 club. His 14-game hit streak actually involved 18 games in which he played, which complicates the “streak.” On April 16, Wigginton entered the game in the eighth inning but recorded no at-bats. On April 18, 22, and 29, he was playing third base, so they’re not counted at all, even though he went hitless on the 29th. That’s a lot of qualifiers for a rather insignificant statistic, one of those things notable only for the fact that baseball counts such things. Wigginton’s Philadelphia streak wasn’t even his longest; in 2008, he strung together 15 games for the Houston Astros.

Inspired by the ephemera, though, I decided to take a tour of hit streaks by Phillies first basemen and discovered Pete Rose’s name, unsurprisingly, three times in the top 10, holding second place with a streak of 23 games in 1979, behind Willie Montanez’s 24-game streak in 1974. Both of them played first base exclusively during those periods.

How far did I have to go before finding Ryan Howard and John Kruk, the most iconic denizens of Philadelphia’s third position in my lifetime? Ryan Howard also held a 14-game streak, in 2006, and a 13-game run in 2008, where he joined Kruk’s 1991 instance of the same and the best in his career.

The most interesting name and circumstance on the list, by far, belong to Chicken Hawks (given name Nelson Louis Hawks). In Hawks’s 14-year baseball career, he played only two seasons in the major leagues: one in 1921 with the New York Yankees, and one in 1925 with the Phillies. As a member of the Yankees, Hawks was a teammate of Babe Ruth, who also played first base for two games in that season. But Hawks himself appeared in only 41 games total for the Yankees, none of which was at first, working instead in left and center field. In Philadelphia, Hawks tallied a 19-game hit streak at first—20 games, if we allow a pinch-hit appearance into the mix, but we won’t, to be fair to Ty Wigginton. Hawks had a good year for the Phillies, hitting .322 over 105 games, but 1926 found him playing for the AA Newark Bears in the International League, and he never returned to Major League Baseball.

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Chicken Hawks (photo via Wikipedia)

None of these bits of Phillies history puts anyone in mind of Joe DiMaggio, or even George Sisler, who holds the record for first basemen, with a 41-game streak in his 1922 MVP season for the St. Louis Browns. Jimmy Rollins holds the record for the most consecutive games with a hit by a Phillie at any position, 38 of them garnered across 2005 and 2006, and it’s been more than ten years since any Phillie cracked 20 in a row. But even in a season like this one in Philadelphia, when the celebratory markers are few and far between, the simpler pleasures of trivia and enumeration—and names like Chicken Hawks—remain.