Archive for Feast Days

The Feast of Brumley the Long-Lived

Very few Feast Days take place during the actual baseball season.  The reasons for this are obscure and hidden from the masses, but from the underground are sometimes heard mutterings of “logistics”.

Life: Mike Brumley was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to wear silly clothing and provide a backdrop for the greatness of others. Brumley contains multitudes: he is known for being the least valuable member of the rookie class of 1987, producing below replacement level in eight of his nine major league seasons. He played seven positions and was above-average at none of them. His career underscored the truth that there is virtue in the absence of strength, and that there is tenacity in existence.  Said existence marches onward as a first base coach for the Seattle Mariners, combining advice for young inattentive people with a propensity for squinting.

Spiritual Exercise: Consider the Taoist philosophy of uselessness, as evidenced in the words of the Chuang-tzu: “Mountain trees are their own enemies, and the leaping fire is the cause of its own quenching. Cinnamon is edible, therefore the cinnamon tree is cut down. Ch’i oil is useful, therefore the ch’i tree is gashed.” The gnarled oak, meanwhile, is good for nothing, and thus it survives. Was Brumley’s success in life, such as it is, the direct result of his own obscurity?  To carry the metaphor a step further: is Mike Brumley a political animal?

A Prayer For Mike Brumley

Mike Brumley!
You lent Ken Griffey, Sr. your bat
As Unferth lent his sword to Beowulf,
Rendering yourself a footnote
To a footnote in history.
You are the patron saint of beat writers.

In your spare time, you lend credence
To the hoary old adage
That those who can’t do, teach.
Many of those who witnessed your early work
Swore to each other that someday,
You would spend your evenings telling runners
How many outs there are.

There are two outs,
You whisper into the night air.
There are two outs.
Run on anything.

The Feast of Willie the Greatest

Remember Feast Days? They’re back. At least for one glorious Friday afternoon, when we rightfully celebrate.

Please remember: I’m no poet. I’m no Carson Cistulli.

Willie the Greatest

Life: Willie friggin’ Mays. Fourth all-time with 163.2 WAR. One of only five baseball players to eclipse the 150 WAR-mark. In center field, Mays flew.

Spiritual Exercise: Mays twice hit 50 home runs in a season; 51 in 1955, and 52, 10 years later, in 1965. Even time appreciated Willie Howard Mays, Jr.

A Prayer for Willie Mays:

Before my time,
Came Willie Mays.
A student of baseball history,
I learned: GOAT.
Willie Mays!
Before “The Catch,”
Before the home runs,
The MVP and World Series trophies,
Mays, a rookie in 1951, hitless in his first 12 Major League at-bats.
Lucky 13: a home run.
Against Warren Spahn, no less.
He’d hit 659 more, 17 more off Spahn.
Willie Mays!
New York, San Francisco, and back to New York.
A Giant, in baseball and in life.
Walk through AT&T Park
and look for Ted Williams’ words on the wall:
“They invented the All-Star game for Willie Mays.”
It’s true,
They did.
Eighty-years old today,
but forever just a Kid.
Say Hey!

Image courtesy

The Feast of Tristram the So Good

Today’s exercise in unconscionable blasphemy asks you to believe the not-very-but-still-sorta believable.

Tristram the So Good

Life: It’s very possible that even intelligent fans are unaware that only six position players ever have out-WARed Tris Speaker, they (i.e. the six) being Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Honus Wagner. Over 22 years, Speaker slashed .345/.428/.500 (for a 158 wRC+, the 11th-best career figure ever, and one shared by Mark McGwire and Stan Musial) while playing an above-average center field for the larger part of his career.

Spiritual Exercise: Speaker was the first player to steal 50 bases and hit 50 doubles in a season — and the only player besides Craig Biggio to ever do that thing. Ask yourself: what’s something you have done that only one person in the next hundred years is likely to duplicate? Ask yourself, also: was that certain thing entirely legal?

A Prayer for Tris Speaker

Tris Speaker!
Like a female
Russian tennis player,
I’m just vaguely
aware that you exist
but pleasantly surprised
by your talents.

Unlike with those
same Russians, however,
I’ve never once
found myself
secretly grateful
to whomever designed
your outfit.

The Feast of Reggie the Other

Our feast-day series continues today with:

Reggie the Other

Life: Reggie Smith is one of the better players the modern fan maybe hasn’t heard of. While possessing no standout tool, Smith hit enough and walked enough and fielded enough over the course of his 17-year career to accumulate a 71.8 WAR — i.e. more than Duke Snider, Yogi Berra, Craig Biggio, and a number of other famous and good players. Unfortunately, owing perhaps to the lack of one or two exceptional seasons, Smith received less fanfare than his body of work perhaps deserved, never finishing better than fourth in the MVP chase and surviving just one year of the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame voting. It’s possible that the presence of the considerably more famous Reggie Jackson, whose career spanned almost the same exact timeframe as Smith’s, had some influence over Smith’s relative obscurity.

Spiritual Exercise: It’s likely that Smith received little attention in awards-voting because he failed to reach notable, albeit largely meaningless, milestones with any sort of frequency, scoring 100 runs just twice in his career (109 in 1970 and 104 in 1977) and recording 100 RBIs only once (with exactly 100 in 1974). Nevertheless, he was quite productive — probably more productive than certain players who achieved these aforementioned milestones.

Ask yourself: is it better to be excellent in relative obscurity, or mediocre but considered great? (Note: while there’s no wrong answer, per se, believing the latter will make you an insufferable bridge partner.)

A Prayer for Reggie Smith

Reggie Smith!
With your given name,
it was predetermined:
you would either be
a talented athlete
or personal gentleman’s
gentleman. Congrats
on totally fulfilling
your destiny!

The Feast of Incaviglia the Polysyllabic

NotGraphs continues to spread the good news, via its critically acclaimed feast-day series.

Incaviglia the Polysyllabic

Life: Baseball fans will remember Incaviglia as a hirsute, impossibly sweaty, and — as he entered his 30s — replacement-level power hitter. Fans of college baseball, however, likely know him as The Greatest Hitter Ever. In three seasons at Oklahoma State, he amassed a (still) record 100 home runs*, hitting an (also still) record 48 in his junior year alone. Entering the draft, Incaviglia demanded to forego the minor leagues entirely and eventually landed with the Texas Rangers, for whom he hit 30 homers and slashed .250/.320/.463 (108 wRC+) in his rookie (age-22) season. Unfortunately, his approach at the plate failed to develop any further and, though he ended his career with 206 home runs, finished with just a 12.2 WAR over parts of 12 seasons. In 1999, Baseball America named Incaviglia the College Player of the Century.

*Making this record more significant is the fact that, while four-year players are eligible, Incaviglia left OSU after his third year there.

Spiritual Exercise: While Incaviglia, as a 22-year-old, was certainly capable of not failing in the majors, we can also probably take for granted that he would have benefited, at some level, from a certain amount of minor-league service time. Was it his responsibility to recognize this, or his organization’s? When, generally, is it best to recognize — or alternatively, ignore — one’s limits?

A Prayer for Pete Incaviglia

“Get your meathooks off of her,”
is something I’d yell at you
only after a great deal
of nervous introspection
and probably liquor.

The Feast of Rusty Staub, Grand Orange

Today’s feast day requires no money down and even less commitment.

Rusty Staub, Grand Orange

Life: While never expressly a superstar, Daniel Joseph “Rusty” Staub was a consistently above-average player for the better part of his 23 seasons in the majors, slashing .279/.362/.431 (122 wRC+) for his career and posting a 56.6 WAR. Staub had the distinction of spending his early years with not one, but two, expansion teams — joining the Houston Colt .45’s, as a 19-year-old, in their second year of existence, and then the Montreal Expos in their inaugural season. Though generally liked wherever he went, it was by Expo fans that he was truly embraced. Dubbed “Le Grand Orange,” Staub made no little effort to learn the French language with some depth. His number 10 was retired by the Montreal Expos in 1993.

Spiritual Exercise: As you watch baseball games this season, mentally note all of the instances in which a broadcaster says of an ex-player “there’s not a nicer guy in baseball” or “he’s the nicest guy.” Ask yourself: “Is that guy talking about Rusty Staub?” If no, then he (i.e. that broadcaster guy) is very possibly lying.

A Prayer for Rusty Staub

French, the Rusty Way
is the easiet way to learn
what has been called by dignitaries
and assorted neighbor children,
“the hardest language to speak
while drinking milk.”

Visiting Paris
and need to talk filthy
about Edith Piaf?

French, the Rusty Way!

Someone gazing lustily
at your brand new

French, the Rusty Way!

Just woke up in North Africa
entirely sans pants?!?

French, the Rusty Way!

French, the Rusty Way
is conceptually perfect
and bigger than all of us.
It’s effective as hell
but makes some guys
ambidextrous on accident.

Buy French, the Rusty Way
this instant and raise
your confidence by fifty!

Buy French, the Rusty Way
and divide all your sorrows
by zero!

The Feast of Brian Jordan, Run Saver

Like the better films of Woody Allen and/or a gun that shoots knives, today’s feast day is aimed simultaneously at the heart and the head.

Brian Jordan, Run Saver

Life: Along with Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, Brian Jordan was a notable two-sport athlete of the late 20th century. Unlike Jackson and Sanders, however, Jordan’s major league career was both long and successful. Over 15 years, he slashed .282/.333/.455 (105 wRC+), with his best years coming in St. Louis and Atlanta. More notable, though, are Jordan’s fielding exploits: per TotalZone, Jordan ranks 26th all time with 148.0 runs saved above average. All told, Jordan accumulated a 33.3 WAR for his career — or about four wins for every 650 plate appearances.

Spiritual Exercise: Do with your soul what Brian Jordan is doing with his entire body in the image below. Repeat until excellent.

A Prayer for Brian Jordan

Brian Jordan!

In your cameo appearance on daytime drama The Young and the Restless you played a sensitive urban police chief who, looking out over a city full of ceaseless toil and pain, weeps a lone, plaintive tear.

During your slightly longer appearance in the right fields of baseball’s National League, you saved more runs than almost any player ever — never once crying, so far as anyone knows.

Now, you’ve been given the role of a lifetime — as the subject of a feast in a canon of fake saints! The distinction, you’ll admit, is impressive. A piece of advice, though: don’t just rest on your laurels. Being merely a wreath fashioned from a shrub of the same name, they’d be crushed under the weight of someone your size.

The Feast of Cy the Very Ohioan

After a brief furlough for rest and relaxation, the feast-day celebrations return today with some combination of pomp and circumstance.

Cy the Very Ohioan

Life: While even the most casual of baseball fans will be familiar with Denton True “Cy” Young by virtue of the eponymous award given annually to each of the league’s (the American and National League’s, that is) best pitchers, it might come as a surprise to many that Young, himself, was not particularly dominant, only ever leading the league in ERA+ twice (1892 and 1901) over the span of a 22-year career. Rather, what distinguises Young from other pitchers is his control (leading the league in BB/9 for 13 seasons) and his unparalleled durability, a trait that enabled him to set records — in games started (814), complete games (749), innings pitched (7356.0), wins (511), and losses (316) — that still exist today. Born and raised on a farm in Gilmore, Ohio, Young returned to Ohio in 1912 (after retiring), where he lived and worked on his farm until his death in 1955.

Spiritual Exercise: Read the poem “Monday” by Primo Levi. Conjure in your mind a man for whom, instead of sadness, mindless repetition brings comfort and joy. Does the man resemble Cy Young? (If not, you’re likely doing this wrong.)

Read the rest of this entry »

The Three-Day Feast of Mr. Dick Allen

Today’s feast-day celebration is three, three, three feasts in one!

Mr. Dick Allen

The Feast of Dick Allen is actually a three-day long celebration — this year, beginning on Wednesday, March 9 and continuing through sundown on Friday, March 11 — and marks the transition from the offseason and its attendant horrors to the optimism that mid-March brings, with its promise of spring and baseball and magic numbers in the mid-hundreds.

The feast is recognized (by those who can make it) in the form of a ritual pilgrimage to the desert — which, of course, explains the timing for Team FanGraphs’ descent upon Phoenix, Arizona (and accounts for the absence of a Feast Day post yesterday, when the author was in transit to same arid city).

Of those who’re unable to perform said pilgrimage, understanding is requested for the lack of content at the Amalgamated Blogs of Team FanGraphs.

Life: NotGraphs is committed to remembering the life of Dick Allen.

Spiritual Exercise: Use the three days of Dick Allen’s feast as an opportunity to shed the previous year of baseball and to prepare yourself — mentally, physically, mentally again — for the season ahead. Time permitting, learn how to juggle and smoke at the same time.

A Prayer for Dick Allen

Dick Allen!
For most of
your career
you were
misunderstood —
like me when
I’m trying
to place
an order
at the drive thru
and the guy
on the other end
can’t hear
because he
hates my being

or when I ask
if the tequila
is 100% agave
and it turns out
to be only, like,
95% agave
or something.

I read somewhere
for example
that the media
characterized you
as selfish,
even as you were
starting a charity
that helped
inner-city kids
get all the
they needed
that’s unfair.

For me,
Whatever the color
of your beanbag
or religion
of your domestic
everyone needs
to learn
cooperation —

like that one
episode of
Punky Brewster
where everyone
gets stuck in a
and then learns

The Feast of Richard the Scourged

You can neither stop nor contain our feast-day celebration series, which continues right now with…

Richard the Scourged

Life: From 1976 to 1980, J.R. Richard was an excellent pitcher and, from 1978 through the middle of 1980, was the best starter in all the majors, leading all starting pitchers in K/9 (9.7, better than Nolan Ryan‘s 8.9) and FIP (2.28) over that stretch. However, on July 30, 1980, Richard suffered a stroke and collapsed while playing a game of catch before an Astros game. He was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery to remove a life-threatening blood clot in his neck, but never pitched in the majors again. After his professional baseball career ended, Richard became involved in unsuccessful business deals and went through two divorces, which led to him being homeless and destitute in 1994. Richard later found God and now lives indoors.

Spiritual Exercise: German polymath Gottfried Leibniz and Texan polymath Kris Kristofferson have both suggested that this is “the best of all possible worlds.” If that is the case, how ought we to understand the case of J.R. Richard? Or the proliferation of something called “Celebrity Apprentice”?

A Prayer for J.R. Richard

I have problems like
what’s the synonym for
delicious meal, again?
while you have problems like
instead of a doctor
a falcon accidentally
is performing my
important surgery.
I have problems like
please sign this petition
to help protect
the Oxford comma
in society
while you have problems like
that’s not a cork-type
bulletin board,
it’s the fragilest part
of my human psychology.
I have problems like
this shirt doesn’t wick away
moisture as advertised
while you have problems like
arterial thoracic outlet
gone wild.
I have problems like
wherever your heart is
that’s your treasure
while you have problems like
wherever your heart is
that’s your treasure also.

Biographical assistance courtesy of the Wikipedias.