Dents, Dings, Scars, and Things

Every dent, every ding tells a story. I grew up watching the Boston Red Sox on television, and by the time I was 14 years old, I finally had the opportunity to see them play in Fenway Park for the first time. My friend’s dad ran a grocery chain and had tickets from the Coke distributor – my very first game was witnessed two rows back from the visitor’s dugout on the third base line. Those seats are now worth some $85+ dollars. Back in 1984, not so much.

It was the first time I had seen Fenway and the wall up close. The “Green Monster” has dents in it covering decades of baseball games. With each dent, a story is born. The story of each is lost to time, but each one has a story. There’s the September 2, 2001 game at which I sat in the right field bleachers where at the bottom of the 9th inning and 2 out, a perfect game was broken up with a line drive off the wall. To the best of my knowledge, no one ever marked the dent made by Carl Everett’s line drive.

There is no telling what each dent means, but those stories are there.

The same is true in any work of human art, any random encounter one may have. A visit to the Museum reveals a world of story. Certainly, there are visitors who go to see Rodin’s statues and gaze upon the inherent beauty of the man’s work. I, however, wonder what must’ve been going through the artists’ mind and how he controlled his hand in the creation of his work. To know another human’s hands has touched upon a piece of stone, of clay, and scultped a work of art. What was the context, what was the motivation that fed through that artist’s hands to create such a work?

A glance upon the bumper of any random car. A scrape, a dent, a ding. The car next to you held together with duct tape. There’s a story if you’re willing to accept it. The man at the convenience store who can’t find the additional change or the sight of the faded tattoo on his arm. There is a story to each of those things.

The scar from a channel of stitches on the body of a person who has undergone surgery. Certainly, there’s a story to be told if you’re willing to hear it.

Listening is one of the hardest tasks we as humans as asked to do, those who can internalize and appreciate the story behind the marks upon others, understand what it may be like being in the shoes of another.

The world is full of similar examples. Take a look at the car next to you tomorrow morning. Who is driving it? Where are they going? What is the story behind the vanity license plate?

Take a few minutes to observe that which comes from without. There may be great treasure awaiting you.

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The Unheralded Unassisted Triple Play

Though relatively unheralded in baseball lore, the unassisted triple play (UTP) is a far more rare occurrence than the perfect game. There have been 23-perfect games in the history of professional baseball – and as anyone who was paying attention to the 2010 baseball season, we know Armando Gallaraga of the Detroit Tigers was hosed of a perfect game on an umpires’ untimely gaff. There have actually been several more games that could in theory be perfect games, but by a 1991 rules redefinition they were written out of the records books. A 12-inning perfect game was wiped out by a 13th inning meltdown in 1959, for instance, as was a 1995 perfect game being thrown by Pedro Martinez only to have the lead off hitter in the 10th inning bring it down.

However there have only been 15-unassisted triple plays in baseball history. Consider this: for the number of possible opportunities for this to occur – generally 17 or 18 times a game multiplied by the 2430 MLB games a year – and you begin to see how truly rare a feat this is. In theory, there would be 4860 opportunities (number of games multiplied by the two pitchers on either side) to throw a perfect game every year, but there would be somewhere in the vicinity of 43,000 innings a year for there to be an unassisted triple play to be executed.

The first unassisted triple play recorded in the history books was having been executed on May 8, 1878 by Paul Hines, but there is some controversy as to whether or not Hines could have executed the “unassisted” portion of the “unassisted triple play” by virtue of where the runners were on the basepaths and how the play is actually described, but under modern rules it would not have been credited as such, and is not included in the list of UTP’s.

And as rare an event as the unassisted triple play is, not unlike the statistical glitch that was the 2010 baseball season for perfect games, they seem to come in clumps. 6 of the first 7 unassisted triple plays occurred in the 1920’s – 2 each in 1923 and 1927 – and the last 5 have occurred in the last decade – there was some 41-years between that last on in 1927 and the next one in 1968 and 24-years before the next one after that. The two 1927 unassisted triple played actually occurred on consecutive days, by two Boston players – one each for the Red Sox and the cross town Braves.

Of the 15-UTP’s, two have happened for the Boston Red Sox and two have happened for thePhiladelphia Phillies – not surprisingly since these are two of the oldest teams in professional baseball. What is somewhat surprising is that two other ancient teams – the Cincinnati Reds, the oldest team in baseball, and the New York Yankees – have never had one executed on their behalf, while one of the newest teams in baseball, the Colorado Rockies, have and only one has happened in the World Series. Most surprising to me is that the World Series UTP did not involve the Yankees, the most prolific representative in the World Series.

NHL’s Original Six

Anyone familiar with the National Hockey League (NHL) knows the “Original Six:” The Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. These 6-franchises are the legacy of the “original” NHL teams before the league doubled in size in 1967 to 12-teams.

Growing up, I had the opportunity to watch the last two active players from the “Original Six” era play –Wayne Cashman and Rogie Vachon – but I missed watching the last player in the NHL until 1967 who played for an NHL team that was not part of the “Original Six,” Ken Mosdell. How could someone have played for an NHL team that was not part of the “Original Six” before the league expanded from the Original Six?

With not so much research, one finds that far from being the “original” six, the NHL began in 1917 with 4-teams only two of which – the Montreal Canadiens, and the Toronto Maple Leafs ‘- remain. The only other member of the “Original Six” with a claim to the mantle of “original” is the Boston Bruins, founded in 1924 as the first US based NHL team and the only other team in existence when the NHL became the only league competing for the Stanley Cup. The remaining members of the “Original Six,” the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings – were formed in 1926 as “expansion teams.” Further, while the name “Ottawa Senators” may sound familiar to modern day NHL fans, the team eventually became the St. Louis Eagles before ceasing operations.

As it happens, then, the “Original Six” turns out to be a matter of a bit of marketing and truly only differentiates between the wave of modern-era expansion teams and the teams that comprised the NHL for the quarter century between 1942 and 1967: Like so much in life, the definition of the word “original” depends on one’s starting point. The “Original Four” were the Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, Toronto Arenas, and the Ottawa Senators. A fifth team, the Quebec Bulldogs, was technically a member of the league, but did not compete until 1919 and The Arenas were a “temporary” team created by the owners of the Toronto arena to replace still another team as ownership of that team was in dispute.

For 25-years from the founding of the league, it was in flux with teams folding, moving, withdrawing from competition, forming, and even cancelling competition for the Stanley Cup due to a flu outbreak; From 1917-1942, the league expanded and contracted due to economic forces of the Great Depression and the outbreak of World War II. In this era, the league ranged in size from a low of 3-teams when the Montreal Wanderers withdrew, to a high of 10-teams from 1926-1932.

By 1942, the “Original Six” were the remaining teams, and represented a much different league than that which began operation out of the demise of the National Hockey Association (NHA). For the second 25-years of the NHL’s existence, this stable of teams remained constant and became the basis of the expansion of the league. While not wholly inaccurate – after all, the league is not calling this group “Charter Members” only “Original Members.”

Consider this for a moment: that temporary team without even a proper name, the Toronto Arenas, won the Stanley Cup in the NHL’s first season and evolved into the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is interesting then, that the team created to fill a void, became the first champion and one of the two oldest franchises in the modern league.

Perhaps more interesting is that the NHL itself was created as a temporary solution while the National Hockey Association (NHA) sorted out its business dealings. In the meantime, it has grown into a 30-team league and a history just a few years shy of a century ‘” a longevity surpassed only by the two leagues of Major League Baseball.

REFERENCES:

Do Original Six teams still matter in the NHL: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/columns/story?id=2773591
Toronto Arenas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_Arenas

Original Six: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_Six
History of the National Hockey League (1917-1942):http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_National_Hockey_League_(1917%E2%80%931942)
NHL Expansion History: http://www.rauzulusstreet.com/hockey/nhlhistory/nhlhistory.html