Counting seams from 100 yards away… HOGWASH!

Baseball announcers
BobLee
July10/ 2017

Counting seams on a baseball from 100 yards away…

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“HOGWASH… They can’t…” That is the answer I always get when I ask “knowledgeable baseball people” how baseball announcers can call a pitch – every pitch – from a press box “a football field” away from Home Plate.

“A football field away” is 100 yards for those of you with degrees in “jock academics”.

There are 108 stitches on a baseball. Ted Williams and George Brett among baseballothers were reputed to be able to “count them” as they came at them at 90 mph from 60’6” away. I believe they could “see them” but not count them.

I realize that play-by-play guys and their sidekicks have TV monitors in front of them but I still don’t believe they can “call a pitch” before the sound of said pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt has reached their booth.

MAYBE a big looping Bert Blyleven curve a/k/a “an Uncle Charlie” versus a Hoyt Wilhelm knuckler… maybe. Or a knuckler or a change-up versus Nolan Ryan’s high heat… maybe.

Now days they want us to believe they can immediately detect “a two-seamer” versus “a cutter” versus “a backdoor slider”… from “a football field away”. Hogwash!

Is there any difference between “a cutter”… “a two-seamer”… and “a nickel defense”?  Was there a difference between Milli and Vanilli?  Are you sure?

Does it matter if they are “just guessing”? Not to me. Whether the batter hit it or what the ump called it is all that matters.

That said. Proclaiming “Mariano Rivera just threw a slider” is about as risky as saying “CNN just lied”. In his last ten years, Mariano only threw sliders. CNN is just as predictable these days.

“They” have to say something. If they are not pretending to “call pitches” they might wander aimlessly into remarking on the pulchritude of female fans ala Brent Musberger.

That leads immediately to sexual harassment charges and/or an Andy Warhol 15-minutes of fame for a skanky Florida State skank or an Alabama QB’s girlfriend.

No one has yet filed suit over confusing a “cutter” with a “two seamer”. But don’t bet it won’t happen someday.

I once had the honor of sitting with the legendary Clyde King as he scouted the KC Royals for his Yankees back in 1977. He was watching something about ten levels Clyde Kingdeeper than I was.

Clyde could predict pitches by how the pitcher’s forearm was turned as he held the ball in his glove… or how the catcher was positioned.  At least he said he could. ???

I have to fight hard to avoid becoming terminally jaded and cynical in these perilous times.  Truth in 2017 is whatever one wants it to be.

If I can’t believe Clyde King, I can’t believe anybody. Clyde King was Top Three “Finest Men in The History of Mankind”.  Clyde King passed away seven years ago.    Quite possibly that leaves nobody to believe since I don’t know the other two.

Did Cy Young throw “a two-seamer”? Cy Young pitched in 906 games over 22 yrs. He won 511 of them but… he never won “a Cy Young Award”.

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BobLee
  • Harper Cooper Reply
    4 months ago

    Remember Joe Garagiola? From the press box he called some pitches a radio ball. ” You could hear’em, but you couldn’t see’em”. That’s true for a catcher. Firsthand knowledge.

    • BobLee Reply
      4 months ago

      Sure… everyone over 50 remembers Joe. He made a good living making up “Yogi probably said” zingers. He and Yogi grew up together on The Hill in St. Louis.

  • Cuzzin.Bobby Reply
    4 months ago

    You did a great paragraph about Clyde. I believe what you said. He was also my hero, and probably one of the best friends I ever had. I understand Norma is still well at 93+/minus. Cuz

    • BobLee Reply
      4 months ago

      None finer that I’ve ever met. “CNR” here is “in Clyde’s league”. Its a very small league. 🙂

  • CNR Reply
    4 months ago

    Much wisdom in this column. Present day announcers are fooling fools. I recall a few years ago when we could no longer listen to “Red” Barber, Ernie Harwell, Waite Hoyt, Mel Allen, et al, we still had Vinnie. Vinnie was a protege of Barber’s.
    .
    You have hit the target regarding the SABRmaniacs. I joined SABR early as I firmly believed as a youngster that bases on balls should be part of batting stix. When they began to take themselves too seriously early and began “to eat the bones” I resigned.
    .
    Mr. Branch Rickey taught me ninety-five percent of everything I needed to know about baseball with the other five percent coming from Mr. Roth. Casey and Muggsy Weaver understood match-ups as well as anyone. Over analysis is as bad as over-coaching.
    .
    I met Mr.King when he came up to the Dodgers as a young man. I know for a fact that Mr. Rickey thought the world of him and the outstanding character he possessed. He played one year with my cousin who also spoke of Mr. King’s integrity often in later years.
    .

    I spent some valuable time with him in nineteen hundred and fifty-nine while he was a pitching coach for the Reds and I was coaching prep baseball in the city. We often spoke of his hometown and of UNC. Most of our talk was of our complete devotion to our faiths and putting it before and in everything in our lives. He and Bobby Richardson are what every man should be.
    .
    A few years later when I was driving to Kinston and New Bern to visit with Bill Bunting and his family, I stopped for a time in Goldsboro to visit. When I spoke to Mr. King regarding my mission, he told me good luck but not to be discouraged as it would be difficult to pry a youngster away from his roots in Carolina except to play baseball. He hoped I would not be disappointed. My reply pleased him when I said that I really enjoyed and loved the people of his home state.

    • BobLee Reply
      4 months ago

      You, my friend, would be one of the “Two others” I refer to in my remarks re: Clyde King.
      .
      You do know, of course, that only a sore shoulder prevented Clyde King from being on the mound rather than Ralph Branca when Bobby Thomson came to the plate on THAT fateful day…..

      • Doug Reply
        4 months ago

        It’s always a pleasure to learn something new when CNR visits. I’d love to hear some Dizzy Dean stories. I met Bobby Richardson eating breakfast in a hotel in Lynchburg,Va with Jerry Falwell. I believe he was interviewing for the baseball coaching job at Liberty. He was very gracious and humble in our short conversation. As a 10y/o kid he and any NY Yankee were heroes to the kids in my neighborhood.

        • BobLee Reply
          4 months ago

          Bobby is a VERY VERY Dear friend of “Albert’s”. I’ve met him once and surprised him. I knew who was the MVP of the 1960 “Mazeroski” Series – NYY versus Pirates. The MVP was BOBBY RICHARDSON. He won a Chevrolet from Sport Magazine.

          • Doug
            4 months ago

            I was 10. I remember like it was yesterday. Afternoon game. Dad picked me up at school and told me the Pirates won. I was devastated and cried. He was very patient and explained in a dad way that the world would continue. It is the only time I ever cried over a sporting event. Never came close again. And yes I remember BR was the MVP in the 1960 series. .367/12 RBI’s. Hard to strike out. I made myself a 2nd baseman because of him. Decent fielder, poor hitter. 20/10 vision. Never saw a seam.

          • BobLee
            4 months ago

            That 7th game was the only time I EVER faked illness to miss school. Watched every inning of a thrilling back/forth battle.

            Everyone remembers Maz HR, but key play was a Bill Virdon grounder to SS Tony Kubek in 8th inning that “hit a pebble” and hit Kubek in throat. Sure DP ball ends up with two Pirates on base ad a key run was scored.

      • CNR Reply
        4 months ago

        You’re right up there regarding the ’51 playoff game. Branca should never have been called in from the bullpen. Labine or Erskine were the logical choices as Branca had pitched too many pitches in either the day before or the day before that.

        Some have blamed Chuck Dressen, the manager for bringing him in. Not fair at all. Dressen asked the bullpen coach who was ready of the three he was using. His choice was Branca. When I was recruiting Steve Clevenger out of Anderson, Indiana in nineteen sixty-four, Carl Erskine told me it should have been either Labine or himself.

        Ralph Branca is one of the finest sportsmen ever to put on a uniform. I believe that Mr. King told you as much. All who played with him whom I have known told me as much.

        • BobLee Reply
          4 months ago

          Two of Mr. King’s dearest friends over his 60 years in Baseball were Ralph Branca and “Yogi”. All three are together again on that Great Ball Diamond in Heaven. One Helluva battery they make!

  • BobH Reply
    4 months ago

    Dammit, Bob!

    You’ve got me reading the sports page again after not having done so for more than 50 years. I stopped when athletics starting making more money in a season than the best neurosurgeon did in a lifetime. Now I have to check how the Cards did yesterday and how many games out they are (5-1/2 according to my local birdcage liner today).

    As for counting seams, I can do it without ever going to a game: There’s always 2 of ’em,

    • BobLee Reply
      4 months ago

      Bob, you have to dismiss that whole “how much $$$ they make” from your conscious mind. Drug KingPins still have them beat as do a few “Warlords”… and “famous rappers”.
      .
      Cards fans are Lynch-mob mad BUT if you had bet them back in March they would be tied with The Cubs at the break they would have taken that bet in a heartbeat… PLUS be nine games ahead of The Giants. Cardinal fans are bandwagoners just like all fans… sigh, sniff, sob.

      • CNR Reply
        4 months ago

        My Cubbie fan buddies, the real Cub fans who were raised on Cubs and Bears, did not gloat last year. I appreciated them and had eyes of dew when the Cubs finally won. They are the real fans who hated Harry and the schtick he brought from St. Louis via Oakland and the 35th and Shields neighborhood. One of them had moved from the South Side to Skokie after finishing college as an Illini. All of them knew that the Billy Goat stuff was made up. One of them mentioned to me that he feels somewhat like a fan of Ingo Johansson of Gothenburg, The Hammer of Thor. You’ll know what I mean. Here today and gone tomorrow.

        • BobLee Reply
          4 months ago

          The Legend of Ingemar will live forever… Right hand = Toonder / Left hand = Lightning.

          • Doug
            4 months ago

            If RBB had been calling the fight when Ingomar KO’d Floyd Patterson, he would have claimed. “low blow.”

  • Mayberry Jim Reply
    4 months ago

    It just does not seem right to me that an ugly word like “pulchritude ” would mean “beauty”, but then I had a really low verbal score so what do I know?

    • BobLee Reply
      4 months ago

      I agree. I don’t use it “in real life”. I can imagine Brent Musberger does however. If I recall, his incident with the Florida State skank caught him “speechless”. Everyone knew what he wanted to say but if he did say it, it was FINI for Ol’ Brent… visions of Jimmy The Greek flashed thru Brent’s mind. So he went to pulchritude or some such… again, a live mic can be more dangerous than a black mamba.

      • Mayberry Jim Reply
        4 months ago

        Well I’ll have to say that the Florida State skank might be a skank, but I’m pretty sure she would leave me speechless too. And I’m also pretty sure I would not be thinking “pulchritude”.

        • BobLee Reply
          4 months ago

          I believe her name was Jenn Sterger. She would later “make headlines” with Brett Favre over a genitalia picture Brett supposedly sent her. The mind reels where Jenn is today ???
          .
          I did radio play-by-play for high school basketball in Central Missouri in the early 70s. KLIK-KJFF “The Sports Voice of Jefferson City – The City By The River”. Sedalia playing Moberly at Moberly. An elbow is thrown under the Moberly basket and a VERY large AfAm woman – easily 300 lbs – roars out of the stands to protect “MY BABY!!”. CHAOS reigned in Moberly! I turned to my partner Marty Chitwood… “Looks like Mamma Bear is protecting her cub”. On the drive home we discussed the incident. My first thought had been “HOLY CRAP! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?” …. “pulchritude” was never an option.

          • Mayberry Jim
            4 months ago

            A Google search will allow you to unreel your mind, at least on that subject. Knowledge is power.

          • BobLee
            4 months ago

            “… engaged in Dec 2016 to career minor leaguer Cody Decker”. Note that Jenn had her implants removed several years ago to “escape the stereotype”. Google does not say where Cody & Jenn are “registered”. Likely Crate & Barrel and “Bed Bath & Beyond” I would assume.

          • Mayberry Jim
            4 months ago

            Adam & Eve in Chapel Hill?

  • Former96heel Reply
    4 months ago

    21st Century theater, right? One of my grandfathers had worked on the radio in one of the Tri-cities in TN when he was younger. To his dying day, he could thump a wallet on a table to make the sound of a pitch hitting the mitt. All he got over the cable was the batter by batter results, the rest was for him to make up and fill in…and fit all the ads in as well. If you had a long pause between transmissions, he may put in a series of foul balls or a manager conference on the mound. The details of who played and what their results would align with the newspaper description a day or two later. Very Bull Durham, but about seven levels deeper.
    .
    Do the regional TV guys still send a call out to Margie in Earth City, recovering from hip surgery, or is that too arcane for the current times?

    • BobLee Reply
      4 months ago

      Absolutely. They always have a “Ms Agnes Kravitz in St Charles” celebrating her 102 birthday today. “Agnes never misses a Cardinals game”. And some fella named “Herb or Oscar” is usually recuperating from surgery for something. “We wish Herb / Oscar a speedy recovery”. I LOVE THAT STUFF.
      .
      If they ever do away with that I’m done with’em. There is a reason Norman Rockwell used Baseball so much in his paintings. 🙂

  • WolfPack00 Reply
    4 months ago

    It wasn’t Spud Webb who could take a quarter of the top of a backboard and leave change. He was way too short but he could dunk at 5′-7″.

    It was David Thompson. And I saw him do it!

    • BobLee Reply
      4 months ago

      The original analogy described a Rucker League legend in Harlem named “Helicopter” Something in the early 60s

  • myowngrandpaw Reply
    4 months ago

    Is that the “Mad Hungarian’s” normal look? Still looks mad.
    .
    Clint Eastwood movie ahead of you. “Trouble with the Curve”.
    .
    It does not surprise me they can tell. With video, these announcers can tell how many times a pitcher will tug on the bill of his hat each inning. How many times a batter will re-velcro their batting gloves between each pitch.
    .
    What else do these announcers have to do as they travel calling games?
    .
    Same with golf. Thursday thru Sunday…golf golf golf.
    .
    I liked sports so much better when things weren’t so micro analyzed. In the old days the only analyzing was if Mickey and Billy would show up sober to the game.

    • BobLee Reply
      4 months ago

      Yes. That be Al Hrabosky. He still makes a good living “being Al Hrabosky” as well he should.
      .
      The subject of Baseball having statistics on EVERYTHING and every possible permutation of EVERYTHING is another whole column by itself. THANK YOU Bill James and Sabremetrics. I have declared WAR on WHIP.
      .
      I believe 87+% of those minute statistics are HOGWASH too. There is a LOT of HOGWASH in our world today.

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