The Screwball: Absurdly Intelligent Design

What if the new protective pitcher caps were shaped like Fort Sumter? (via Ted Kerwin)

What if the new protective pitcher caps were shaped like Fort Sumter? (via Ted Kerwin)

So Major League Baseball has finally approved protective caps for pitchers, eh? This is truly good news, not only because it gives me something to write about–and Lord knows I need something to write about, because if I didn’t have something to write about, what would you read?–but also because the caps just might prevent pitchers from suffering serious brain damage and thus entering the competitive field of hilarious baseball comedy writing.

But let’s get serious for a moment, shall we?

Compared to traditional caps, the protective caps are reportedly a half-inch thicker in front and an inch thicker near the temples, which ought to make worshipers happy, and weigh about four ounces more. That sounds like a decent design, I suppose.

But this is America–a.k.a. ’Murica!–where free enterprise turns private garages into the realms of midnight oil and grandiose delusions. So, with that in mind, how might I design the new protective caps?

Well, here’s how. First, upon receiving the requisition order, I impersonate the famously nearsighted Mr. Magoo, in part because bumping into furniture is surprisingly enjoyable but mostly because hilarity would ensue, which is what hilarity is supposed to do: ensue.

The result: a protective cap that looks, and possibly smells, like a protective cup. Made of hard plastic and perforated for ventilation, the cap is to be worn lengthwise, with the tapered end at the back of the head and the wider end covering the forehead, where it wards off concussions in the same way that a cup wards off late-blooming candidacies for the Vienna Boys Choir.

Sizes? Well, sizes run from Big Unit to Willie Bloomquist to Eddie Gaedel, the latter offering protection only against a high infield pop-up.

Following LASIK surgery, other designs will include:

– A protective cap shaped like Fort Sumter.
Pro: Two 10-inch muzzle-loading cannons on the bill of the cap
Con: Summer hours are now just 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

– A cap shaped like the fortified municipality of Valenca, Portugal.
Pro: Baroque military architecture
Con: Main entrance damaged during Napoleonic invasions

– A cap that features a gator-filled moat.
Pro: Moat
Con: Alligators, whose mating season is in late spring, and if you’ve ever seen gators mating–I know I have!–you know it’s kind of distracting.

– A cap that boasts a border fence.
Pro: Good place to scrawl graffiti
Cons: Armed vigilantes; tunnel networks

– A cap featuring a scarp and counterscarp.
Pro: Excellent protection
Con: It’s hard to find a good scarp man these days, let alone a good counterscarp man.

Ballpark Figures

You might have heard that the Braves are moving to a new ballpark. You might also have heard that since there isn’t actually a new ballpark yet, somebody has to design one. Can you imagine? Designing a ballpark?

Homestretch: The 1967 AL Pennant Race, Part 3
A tight race shows no signs of letting up.

Well, I can.

Light standards: Instead of using traditional incandescent lights, which, let’s be honest here, use quite a bit of unfashionable power, I’ll position 5,000 likeness of Keira Knightly, queen of the pale-faced luminaries, atop several steel poles. The bleached teeth of local anchormen might also be used.

Concourses: Instead of restrooms and kiosks–boooringgg–my concourses will serve the greater good by operating as Large Hadron Colliders, especially since Small Hadron Colliders are difficult (at best) to manage.

Left-field wall: Have traditional walls got you down? Me, too! They’re just so dull, with all their wall-like qualities and other assorted wallnesses. Instead, I’ll use an exact replica of the Berlin Wall, circa 1960. The best part? On the occasion of a wall-scraper, armed guards will demand that the leaping outfielder show his papers (PEH-purse). Replays will be conclusive.

Batter’s eye: Tired of that monochrome backdrop? Sick of that black or green thing? That’s makes two–no, three–of us. But fret not, you two. For my batter’s eye, I’ll gather 1,431 British Parliamentarians, all shouting, “Aye!” The only real downside–made worse by the fact that it will pass with unanimous support–is that we’ll soon have to spell it “Longouria.”

Right-field fence: For my fence, I’ll feature a shady dude whose pit bull is chained to a tree in a grassless right field and who hurries the outfielder inside with plans to purchase his stolen speakers for an agreed-upon price.

Center-field fencing: En garde!–at least until somebody puts an aye out.

Root, root, root

Well, you’ve seen that ESPN’s Keith Law has unveiled his annual ranking of all 30 farm systems. That’s pretty cool, because if there’s anything the world needs, it’s more rankings. For example, in a ranking of what the world needs, I myself, being a ranker of such things, would rank it this way:

No. 1: Rankings
No. 2 (tie): Food, Justin Bieber

More importantly, how might I rank the farms?

No. 1: Farms that get rain
No. 2: Farms that don’t

Exit Strategy

According to reports out of baseball land, Lance Berkman is retiring. As a fan of the Texas Rangers, I can tell you that this announcement arrives one year too late. But then again, I’m a bitter person who has no discernable interests other than (A) the Texas Rangers and (B) rankings.

No doubt, the retiring Berkman will craft a retirement speech for his retirement announcement, which I personally rank as the No. 1 thing for retirement announcements–the retirement speech, I mean.

It’s important, retirement-wise. Without it, retirement just wouldn’t be retirement. It would be more like a press conference in which grown men do not break down in tears while saying, “Sorry, sorry, I really didn’t mean for this to happen.”

So, how would I design my retirement speech upon my exit from baseball?

Here’s how.

“Um, I’m pretty sad to be retiring today. I mean it. Have you seen me play baseball? I really kind of peaked at the high-school level. What I’m saying here is that I can’t believe you let me play big-league baseball. And for three weeks!

“Didn’t you notice that I kept short-hopping the first baseman … from second base? Didn’t you see that when Justin Verlander threw that inside fastball, I ran away as if the fastball were the famous Hoba meteorite? And not only did I run away way as if it were the famous Hoba meteorite, I did so while saying 10 Hail Marys and five Our Fathers. And I’m not even Catholic!

“And was it not obvious that managers kept pinch-hitting for me, even in the first inning, and that a geranium–an actual geranium–once pinch-ran for me? And did you not see that I once wore an athletic cup on top of my head?

“Anyway, this has ranked pretty high on the list of jobs I’ve had, right below King of Brunei For A Day and just above Heidi Klum Massage Therapist.

“So in conclusion … thanks!”

Graven Images

It’s true: As a tribute to former infielder and DH Jim Thome, the Indians are planning to unveil a statue of the big slugger on August 2. According to reports, the statue will feature Thome performing his trademark bat-point, a gesture that pitchers must have considered the equivalent of having an M25 rocket launcher aimed directly at their foreheads. At least five of those pitchers probably surrendered, and 10 others likely gave up their wallets.

But that’s not your concern. Your concern is how I might design a statue.


Robin Ventura statue: What, you think I’m going to memorialize his trot around the bases on that game-winning grand slam single in the 1999 NLCS? If you think that, I’ll sculpt you being wrong. C’mon, you know exactly where Ventura will have his likeness: right there in Nolan Ryan’s left armpit, a contemporary and everlasting Malebolge, the last of Dante’s circles.

Nolan Ryan statue: See above.

Jonathan Villar statue: It isn’t often that big-league ballplayers practice amateur proctology with their snouts. But when the Astros infielder did exactly that last season on a face-first slide into Brandon Phillips’ lower intestine, he memorialized himself in a way that only a Rodinesque effort could suitably capture. And so I give you–wait for it–The Stinker.

Bill Buckner statue: Inspired by Pablo Picasso and the way he scored smokin’ hot mistresses on a regular and probably intimidating basis, Cubist sculptors emerged in the early 20th century to turn otherwise misshapen statues into afternoon trysts in the lady’s boudoir, the exchange rate at the time being one artwork for three well-turned ankles.

Their sculptures, which closely resembled the most geometric fever dreams of a woozy Castañeda, stood as many-sided representations of a single subject and thus provided the viewer any number of ways, from tame to fantastic, to interpret that subject.

And so I give you Mr. Buckner, simultaneously peering through his living-room blinds, exiting his back door in the dark of night, packing up a U-Haul for a cross-country move to Idaho and opening his mail in a hazmat suit.

Jose Molina statue: Um, that’s not a statue. That’s Molina.

Heir Apparel

Perhaps you’ve read, as I have, that the basketball collective known as the Nets will wear Brooklyn Dodgers-inspired jerseys during an upcoming NBA game. And perhaps you’ve asked, “How would this renaissance man”–meaning me, in case you’re wondering–“design such a jersey himself?”

Funny how things work out, because I have an answer for you.

Remember those White Sox unis from 1979? Of course you do. Even if you weren’t yet born–and if that is the case, kudos to you for attempting to wait it out–the ghastly shorts and ghastlier shirts are seared into your cerebral cortex via some sort of cruel osmosis.

In any case, my personal viewings of Naismithian exercise have availed me of the knowledge that Thunder dribbler Russell Westbrook is quite the clotheshorse, if by “clotheshorse” you mean someone who apparently dresses in the dark.

So, what better way to honor the ’79 White Sox and their heir apparent than to have the OKC guard and his none-too-pleased teammates wear Bermuda shorts and collared shirts on the court of public and (probably excoriating) opinion?

In an obliging move, we’ll start the game with a fashion tip-off.

Face of the Franchises

So now that Joba Chamberlain has absconded from the Grooming Nazis known otherwise as the New York Yankees, he has sprouted a facial growth known otherwise as a beard. I know what you’re thinking. But no, it’s too early for a margarita. Try a mimosa instead. What you should be thinking is precisely this: “If you were a pitcher, what sort of beard would you grow?”

If I’m a pitcher, here’s my beard: The right side is shaped like Adrian Beltre, the left like vintage Keith Hernandez, the middle like a mid-career Greg Maddux.

This is a very large beard, by the way.

Slogan Ear

It’s true. The Dodgers’ 2014 slogan is this: “Live. Breathe. Blue.”

It’s true, too, that I’ve designed other team slogans.

Rangers: “Live. Breathe. Choke.”

Angels: “Live. Wheeze. Cough. Seriously, Have You Seen This Smog?”

Rays: “Breathe, Damn It, Breathe! Jeez, Our Fanbase Is Old!”

Yankees: “Live And Let Live–Unless You Have A Beard, You Hippie.”


You saw that Chipper Jones became a sort of superhero by rescuing a snowbound Freddie Freeman on an all-terrain vehicle , didn’t you?

I call him ATV Man. But that’s just me. I’m a genius.

So now you’re wondering what sort of superheroes I might design.

Wonder no more.

Paul Goldschmidt is Ice Skate Man: Whenever he sees a fellow Arizonan suffering heat stroke in the middle of the desert in late August, he has a really hard time reaching that person because, you know … ice skates.

Justin Verlander is Rollerblade Man: Whenever he sees someone in any sort of distress, he immediately dons his rollerblades and speeds toward the victim, provided that the victim is located somewhere in the mid-to-late ’90s.

Jose Bautista is Riding Lawnmower Man: Given that the surface of the Rogers Centre is Astroturf, he really doesn’t have a whole lot to do.

Role Players

Now that you know Adam Dunn appeared in Dallas Buyers Clubyou do know that, don’t you?–you’re saying to yourself, “I’ll bet our esteemed mastermind has come up with similar pairings of player and movie.”

Needless to say, you are correct.

Dallas Pliers Club

In perhaps the third-most boring movie ever made–you have to admit, Far and Away and Empire were pretty dull, though I don’t know which is worse: listening to Cruise do brogue for two hours, or watching the Empire State Building for eight–Paul Konerko stars as a mild-mannered Dallas hardware salesman who, true to his calling, joins a pretty selective club.

Dallas Liars Club

In a departure from his usual turn as a no-nonsense straight shooter, Mark Teixeira stars as an area man who continues to insist that the acting in TNT’s Dallas is really pretty good, and that the Cowboys will win it all.

Dallas Jairs Club

In a career-defining role, Jair Jurrjens turns in a triple-duty performance as president, vice-president and treasurer of a social club whose recruitment coordinator is apparently too busy to do the job right. Two weeks after the club is renamed Dallas Jair Club, Jurrjens is sent to Triple-A Round Rock.

Shortly thereafter, the Dallas Club opens its doors.

Dallas Flyers Club

In this heartwarming tale of self-discovery, Derek Jeter stars as a formerly high-flying jetsetter who, having “lost his wings” in a horrifying groin accident, finds inner peace while handing out pizza flyers in a middle-class North Dallas neighborhood. Alex Rodriguez costars as Pizzeria Pete.

Dallas Whole Fryers Club

In this screwball comedy, Bartolo Colon stars as a lapsed Catholic who, in efforts to redeem himself by confessing to the whole of a Franciscan friar, mistakenly goes to work at a poultry-processing plant on Lone Star Drive.

Hilarity ensues.

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John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.
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I thought this was going to be an article about why the screwball was the perfect pitch.

I do not know what I skimmed through instead.

John Paschal
John Paschal

Well, chris, thank you for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment.

Incidentally, did you know that whenever anyone skims through one of my articles, I get a new WaveRunner? It’s true!


I, liek Chris, thought this post would be about screwballs. I did, however, enjoy what I just read. I still want to know about screwballs.

John Paschal
John Paschal

Paul, “The Screwball” is actually the name of the humor series I’ve written for THT for a few months now. Notice it’s not called “Mark Twain’s The Screwball.” But hey, I do my best with the gifts nature gave me.

Regarding your desire to know about the pitch itself, please look for next week’s article, “The Curveball Thrown Completely, Utterly, 100 Percent Wrong.”


Being a natural southpaw, had someone recognized I was throwing the curveball completely, utterly, 100 percent wrong, I would have had an opportunity to make a living throwing to 1-2 batters a week as a lefty specialist.

John Paschal
John Paschal


As an aside, I can tell you that in my younger years I owned a pretty wicked screwball. Perhaps to my detriment as a potential big leaguer, I could throw it only with a Wiffle ball.

Sadly, as the years went by, my brother learned to make adjustments. On the plus side, the same cannot be said of my grandmother.