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Baseball: Stranger Than Fiction

ANAHEIM, CA – MARCH 31: Logan Morrison #20 of the Seattle Mariners is tagged out at home by catcher Chris Iannetta #17 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the sixth inning during Opening Day at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on March 31, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Baseball: America’s pastime. Soccer holds the world sports stage in popularity. I know the NFL is bigger in the US but I still love baseball. I was lucky enough to see some of the greatest players in the history of the game. I was a little young for Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb; but not Willie Mays, Stan Musial or Sandy Koufax. The baseball Hall of Fame is packed with my boyhood heroes and teams.

Striking out Ruth and Gehrig Will Get You Banned From Baseball

In the 1930s, a 17 year-old pitcher by the name of Jackie Mitchell developed a devastating sinker pitch. Jackie was a next-door neighbor with Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance who took over pitching coach duties. In one game Mitchell struck out nine batters in a row. Touring with different teams Mitchell had the opportunity to pitch against both Ruth and Gehrig and struck them both out back to back. Ruth swung twice and missed and took a called third strike. Gehrig went down swinging on three consecutive sinkerball pitches. Neither batter touched the ball.

As you can imagine this did not sit well with the baseball higher ups. A 17-year old upstart striking out major league all-stars simply could not stand. So, Virnett Beatrice “Jackie” Mitchell, one of the first female professional baseball players in history, was banned from ever playing Minor or Major League baseball again by baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. What a spoilsport.

“They’ll Land A Man On The Moon Before He Hits A Home Run.”

Major League pitcher Gaylord Perry had a 22-year baseball career with eight teams, 314 wins, 3,534 strikeouts, and a 3.11 earned run average. Like most big league pitchers they get paid to pitch not to hit the ball and especially not the home run ball. Manager Alvin Dark remarked, “They’ll put a man on the moon before he hits a home run.” Dark was proven to be right — by about an hour.

On July 20, 1969, about an hour after Neil Armstrong was taking that “one giant leap for mankind,” Gaylord Perry hit his first round tripper.

Shake Hands After The Game? I Don’t Think So

Many athletes are superstitious. Some have odd rituals before games, eat certain foods, don’t wash socks, but there are some that really make you scratch your head. Every player is trying to get that edge on the competition — that one special thing that will make him or her just a little better when they take the field.

Which brings us to two major leaguers Moises Alou and Jorge Posada. Alou is a bona fide, six-time, all-star with over 300 homers in his 17-year career. So what do Alou and Posada do to improve their game? Both men don’t like to wear batting gloves so to improve their grip they urinate on their hands before batting. Supposedly, urine might actually make the hands softer but I guess if your brain thinks it helps you grip or swing then more power to you. I’ll stick with some Buffalo Wild Wings before the game.

Some Final Thoughts

Sport is a multibillion-dollar business. The NFL brings in about $9 billion followed by baseball at $7.2 billion, and the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and NSCAR auto racing add another $645.4 million collectively. But a warm sunny day at the ballpark just screams America to me. What’s your favorite sport?

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