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John Means Finds Ways & Introducing YIBBA + TCM Tips

For those of us who get irritated if not downright incensed by the prevalence of new-fangled statistics in baseball today - launch angles, exit velocities, spin rates - the game itself still nourishes us.  

 

John Means' no-hitter against the Mariners last week is a case in point. Oriole fans like yours truly are looking for any rays of light these days. 

 

Means' 113-pitch gem against the Mariners last Wed afternoon May 5 sure provided it.  It was not a fluke even if the Mariners are not a good offensive team. 

 

Means has been pitching very well since the end of last season.  But he had never gone beyond the seventh inning in his career or thrown more than 101 pitches.  He even said after the game that getting into the eighth inning was a big thrill. 

 

Means makes his first start against the resurgent Mets at CitiField this coming Tues May 11.  I'll be there with an in-person report next time around.

 

Am crossing fingers that Means doesn't think he has to pitch a gem every time out.  So boo to Oriole broadcaster Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, the last Bird to throw a no-hitter back in 1969.

 

Palmer has been talking too much about how Means' life will be changed and he'll know that anytime he's out on the mound he can do it again.

 

Happily, Means seems like a refreshingly grounded young man. Raised in Olathe, Kansas near Kansas City, he was an eleventh-round draft choice out of West Viriginia U. He never expected this kind of success but I think he can handle it with firm humility.

 

Everything he has said publicly indicates he knows baseball is a game by game, batter by batter, and pitch by pitch operation.  Never get caught up in the big picture of the forest or else the trees will crash around you. 

 

Tyler Kepner had a lovely lede in discussing Means' achievement in the Friday May 7 New York Times. "Throwing a no-hitter, one could say, is like lassoing the moon."        

 

The thought stayed with me when watching "The Right Stuff" on TV on Saturday night.

"Punch a hole in the sky!" Barbara Hershey tells Sam Shepard just before he goes out to break the sound barrier.  

 

Hershey was playing the wife of Chuck Yaeger, played by Shepard. The film holds up well - Philip Kaufman's 1983 adaptation of Tom Wolfe's classic book about the first bunch of astronauts. Clips of Bill Dana as Jose Jiminez, the first Hispanic astronaut, are shown from Ed Sullivan's show.  

 

(I remember Dana from the Steve Allen Show. "What are you going to do in outer space all by yourself?"

"I plan to cry a lot.")

 

Tyler Kepner is on a roll.  When Albert Pujols was suddenly released by the Angels last week, he remembered what Pujols told him four years ago:  "You don't retire. The game retires you."

 

He is at least 41 years old and a shadow of his former self. I realize it is very hard for an athlete to admit when it is time to hang up one's spikes. But how many more record-breaking GIDPs does Pujols need to get the message?  

 

I also wish Miguel Cabrera of the lowly Tigers would also decide to retire. He seems likely to fall short of his goal of 3000 hits, being 124 shy after the rainout on May 9.

 

Unfortunately, neither Angels owner Arte Moreno nor Detroit's Ilitch family worked out a deal where each player could have retired gracefully by the end of the year. And feted for their undoubtedly Hall of Fame careers.

 

Meanwhile, the Yankees have righted their ship with improved starting pitching and just enough hitting.  They are two over .500 after games of May 9.  

 

For those wondering how their longtime starter Masahiro Tanaka is doing in Japan, he pitched seven innings in his latest effort even if it was a loss. Tanaka is back pitching for the Rakuten Eagles, his first pro team that he joined as a teenager before he signed with the Yankees in 2014.  

 

The last stats I saw had his record at 2-2 with 3 walks, 20 strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA. Amazingly, he is not yet 34 so he obviously feels he has a lot more left in the tank.  

 

Jun Ogawa, a devoted fan and student of Japanese baseball, reported the news to me about Tanaka's last outing.  You will hear more from Jun in the weeks ahead.  

 

While working in the computer field in LA in the late 20th century, Jun became a devoted fan of the Dodgers. Like most Dodger followers, he is concerned about their current slump.

 

They started 13-2 but astonishingly, the defending world champions have not won back-to-back games since Apr 16-17.  They are barely above .500 as I post.

 

Blake Treinen is currently the only reliable reliver. The loss of young phenom Dustin May to TJ surgery and the extended absence of former MVP Cody Bellinger have not helped. The Dodger individual offensive stats don't look bad but the elixir of winning has certainly been missing.

 

Still a long way to go and no team is running away with anything anywhere in this MLB season. So sit back and enjoy the unpredictable drama of baseball.  So I say YIBBA (Yours In Baseball Before Analytics).  

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A follower of YIBBA believes that starting pitchers should want to go deep into games - it doesn't have to be a possible no-hitter for a pitcher to expect to reach the 100-pitch mark.  Why not make 120 the outer edge?  Why not enforce penalties against pitchers and hitters who dawdle before each pitch?

 

What is today doesn't have to be tomorrow. So I say loud and clear, YIBBA, YIBBA, YIBBA!

 

Before I go, what would be this blog without a few TCM reminders:

M May 10 10p Norma Shearer in "Marie Antoinette" 1938

 

W May 12 915a Katherine Hepburn documentary

 

Sa May 15 12N "The Set-Up" great boxing movie with Robert Ryan 1949

  8p "The Big Heat" 1953 Fritz Lang directs Glenn Ford-Gloria Grahame, odd allies fighting gangsters 

 12M The return of Noir Alley with "Touch of Evil" 1953 Orson Welles directs, stars w. Janet Leigh/Charlton Heston

 

Coming Tues May 18 8p "Fatso" 1980  Anne Bancroft directs and stars with Dom DeLuise in dieting spoof

 

Wed May 19 6p "They Live By Night" 1948  Nicholas Ray's gripping tale of young Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell on the run from the law

 

8p "Judgment at Nuremberg" 1961  Stanley Kramer's 3-hour drama with Spencer Tracy/Richard Widmark/Marlene Dietrich

 

Th May 20 8:15a  "Fireman's Ball" 1967 one of Milos Forman's last films before he fled Czechosloakia

  930a "Operation Madball" 1957 with Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs

 

Fri May 21 1030p Samuel Fuller's "Crimson Kimono" 1959 with James Shigeta/Victoria Shaw

 

And always remember:  Take it easy but take it!   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Memory of Don Sutton + TCM Tips for Late January

On January 19th, on the eve of President Biden's inauguration, baseball lost its ninth Hall of Famer since April when Don Sutton, 75, died of cancer in Rancho Mirage, California.

 
In a 23-year career, Sutton posted a 324-256 won-lost record with a 3.26 ERA.

He threw 178 complete games with 58 shutouts. 

 
His walk-strikeout ratio was solid, 1343:3574. Innings pitched ratio to hits were less impressive, 5282:4692. He won 15 games or more in 15 seasons, including one 20-win season.

 
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998 during his fifth year of eligibility.  

There are some remarkable similarities in the careers of Sutton and Gaylord Perry, elected in 1976, and not just because both were accused of doctoring the baseball.  

 
In a 22-year career, culminating in a 1976 enshrinement in Cooperstown, Gaylord went 314-265 with a 3.10 ERA and an impressive BB-K ratio: 1379-3534. Hits-IP not as impressive 5351:4938.  303 CG astounding, 53 shutouts. 

 
Sutton made his post-career mark as an able announcer for the Atlanta Braves.

I once had a nice conversation with him about his pennant-winning victory over Jim Palmer and the Orioles in the final game of the 1982 season. 

 
I told him that I was sitting in the outfield nosebleed sections of Baltimore Memorial Stadium.  I saw him and Palmer and Sutton shake hands before they warmed up in their separate bullpens.  

 
Sutton remembered that handshake and asked if I had a photo of it.  Unfortunately I did not, but I'm happy that the moment formed a baseball memory that has lingered for us both.


Check out "To A Hall of Famer, Pitching Was an 'Easy Job," Tyler Kepner's very moving remembrance of Sutton in the January 21 New York Times. He never forgot how hard his father worked to support the family in the Florida panhandle. 

 
This coming Tuesday January 26th the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the results of this year's voting for enshrinement in Cooperstown.  It is possible that no new members will be elected to join Derek Jeter and Larry Walker and Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller.  They were voted in last year but the induction was delayed because of the pandemic. 

 

Before I leave, here are some TCM viewing tips, the old movie station that has kept me grounded during the Trump years and I expect will do the same in the future. 

 

Sat January 23 at noon - "Black Legion" 1937 - Humphrey Bogart as a Detroit

auto worker who misses on a promotion and joins a nativist group.  Still relevant for obvious reasons.

 
8p "Out of the Past" 1947 - this week's "Essential", a classic noir with Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer directed by Jacques Tourneur.

 

12M - repeated Sun on 10A - "Born to Kill" 1947  Lawrence Tierney who takes Noir savagery to new heights/meaning lows.  Claire Trevor hangs on for dear life. With Walter Slezak as a private detective.

 
Wed Jan 27 145p "Trouble Along the Way" 1953 John Wayne as small town football coach trying to save a church.  With Donna Reed and Charles Coburn. The film where the oft-used phrase actually comes from, "Winning is the only thing".

 
Th Jan 28 8p "The Heiress" 1949 based on a Henry James story with unforgettable performances by Olivia DeHavilland and Montgomery Clift

 
Fr Jan 29 8p "Citizen Kane" 1941 I don't think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread - forgive hoary metaphor - but it certainly was influential.  

 
S Jan 30 8p "The Music Man" 1962 this week's "Essential" with Robert Preston and Paul Ford as the bedraggled Mayor of the town - not longer after his memorable take as Colonel Hall trying to deal with Phil Silvers' Ernie Bilko

 
Su Jan 31 midnight repeated at 10A  "The Killers" 1964 with Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes, directed by Don Siegel.  Past Noir's heyday but sure looks appealing. 

 
Unifying the country may be impossible and not particularly desirable as long as one minority is armed and dangerous. After the events of January 6th we can't say that with assurance.  

 

Let's just be glad that Trump was a one-term President and that an adult is now in charge or at least tries to make governing for all the people again a possibility,  one of his Biden's and my favorite words. 

 

That's all now.  Always remember: Take it easy but take it! 

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