And so it begins … What “it” is is a thing to determine the Base-and-Ball Cultural Alphabet. And what is that? Allow me to explain …
On occasion, I read this book to my young spawn. It assigns players, based on surname, to each letter of the alphabet. Some of the choices are … curious to the point of suggesting malice aforethought. I shall not pursue civil litigation. This is because I mostly enjoy the book. What I shall do, however, is expand the pool of eligibles to include not only players but also baseball humans of other persuasions, things related to our fair game, ideas, notions both fleeting and timeless, and so on. I do this in the service of, as you might guess, assembling The Base-and-Ball Cultural Alphabet. For that, I need your help, page viewers.
We start with the letter “A.” Below, I will list the 10 candidates for election, and I will also briefly regale you with tales of him, her or it. Voting is enabled and, much like regular applications of imported cologne, encouraged.
Who or what will represent the letter “A” in The Base-and-Ball Cultural Alphabet? That’s up to you, muscled readers …
The Candidates for A
Aaron, Hank – The long-time home run champ who remains, in certain ways, God of Offensive Counting Stats. Received racist letters.
Alexander, Grover Cleveland – As good at pitching as he was at drinking. Greatest epileptic in baseball history. Face was once likened to “raw meat.”
All-Star Game – Midsummer hootenanny of men who are good at baseball. It counts. It is democratic in the sense that a Gilded-Age alderman’s election was democratic, which is to say not really.
Allen, Dick – Hero of these pages and should absolutely be in the Hall of Fame. Has a NotGraphs category named in his honor. Smoked in the dugout, which kind of seems as ancient a practice as medicinal leeches.
American League – Formed in 1901 by Ban Johnson. Distinguished itself from the senior circuit in part by taking a cue from the demised American Association and allowing beer sales. Doing so may or may not have saved the world. For these efforts, the fledgling AL was occasionally referred to as the “Beer Ball League,” which should be the name of everything ever. Of late, there’s also the DH, about which some people have some opinions.
Anderson, Sparky – Looked exactly like a baseball manager and, fittingly, was one. A very good one. Was born with close-cropped gray hair and an etched visage.
Anson, Cap – Great hitter and manager and superstar of the game’s antediluvian days. Also an accomplished racist. Wasn’t alive long enough to write racists letters to Hank Aaron, but if he were he probably would’ve at least considered doing so. Had 3,000 hits and then later did not have 3,000 hits.
Asterisk – A thing that, in the baseball world, does not actually exist but that people still talk about at length. Much like griffins or open-mindedness. People talk a lot about griffins, right? The asterisk has never been applied to anything in baseball and never will be. We will still talk about it. It embodies a desire for context but only certain kinds of selectively applied context, which can be viewed, it turns out, as a lack of context. Asterisk. This: *.
At-Bat – Subset of the plate appearance. Things — important things, things fundamental to the sport that binds — happen during an at-bat. Remove the hyphen and you can use it as something other than a noun, which is neat.
Artificial Turf – Born, like the Republic itself, in the Astrodome in 1966. Artificial turf is still with us. Some would say too much with us. These days, it looks more like actual grass than billiard felt of yore, which is kind of disappointing, really.
Now to the Diebold machine. Write-in candidates welcome!