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Sports

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 16

The Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired “Team With A Vision,” Tina Luce and Helen Forte.

The organizations I’ve chosen to highlight to this point, the O’Connell Valor Fund and the New England Spahtens’ “Rucksgiving,” are small organizations with no overhead spreading inspiration and good works by sheer force of individual volunteerism.  The MAB on the other hand is a larger organization, but the “Team With A Vision” program demonstrates what their mission is right down to the core – empowering those with disabilities to accomplish their goals.  It turns out, though, that the program does more than empower those with disabilities.

Team with a Vision pairs vision impaired runners with sighted partners to assist them in running road races, of specific note the Boston Marathon but other races as well.  The case stories are incredibly empowering.

Consider the case of Tina Luce.  She started running with a timer and a treadmill, and when paired with a sighted partner to run with her, she was able to complete a recent 10k. For Helen Forte, her partner, it gave the opportunity to make a difference.  It’s this pairing of needs and interests that creates such a powerful combination.  What could possibly be more powerful than enabling anothers’ independence to meet their goals?

I’m such a fan of programs and organizations that work in this way, giving back in equal measure to those the program is designed to assist and those who do the assisting; they enrich the lives of all who participate.


28 Days Of Inspiration – Day 13

The 2016 World Series

Of the major sports in the United States, baseball is arguably the most storied.  The championship series is clearly the oldest of the major championships. I’ve discussed in this blog before that for sports fans, even perhaps non-sports fans as well, history matters.  The 1903 World Series was the start of America’s love affair with the game, and we’ve been watching the storyline in a few different incarnations more or less since…you know, except for 1904…and 1994.

We watched in 2004 as the Boston Red Sox improbably beat the New York Yankees in 7-games to advance to the World Series after going down in the series 3-0 to win their first World Championship since 1918.  The next year, the Chicago White Sox won their first World Series since 1917…of course, they had the opportunity to win the 1919 World Series, but there was this little gambling scandal and all.

This of course left two franchises with a World Series drought: The Cleveland Indians and the team from the Northside of Chicago, the Cubs.

Now, the Indians had the opportunity in 1997, taking a little upstart team from Florida into extra innings in Game 7, but in the end lost their bid on an RBI single. AS an aside, I remember listening to that game driving home from the 1997 MLS Cup Championship game in Washington DC.  If the Red Sox couldn’t break their curse, the Indians shouldn’t be able to, and lo, they weren’t.

The Cubs have had an even more tortured history with the baseball championship.  The lore includes the curse of the billy goat, curing the teams’ chances in the 1945 World Series…where they haven’t been since.

So here we are – 2016.  68 years since the Cleveland Indians won the World Series; 108 years since the Cubs were World Champions.  By the end of this series, one of these historic franchises will have broken a curse, will accomplish something that most people alive today have never seen and may perhaps launch a new dynasty.  In 2003, if you had told me after the Red Sox got bounced from the ALCS, that they will win three times in the next ten years, I wouldn’t have believed it.

The amazing story and the guaranteed heartache the fans of one of these teams will feel, the guaranteed elation, the feeling that nothing will remotely come close just cannot be over-estimated.  I know – I’ve lived that feeling as a Red Sox fan.  Cleveland and Chicago are both 4 wins away from erasing generations of disappointment and despair.

THIS is what inspiration looks like to me as a sports fan.  Generations coming together.  The common connections within these cities.  The comradery felt – even if it’s for ten days or so – has no equal, and is understood by only a few.  It’s a disappointing season for Yankees fans if they don’t win it all.  For fans of one of these two teams, it will be adulation.  For fans of both of these teams, it will be a season to remember.

And that to me is inspiring.


Beware For I Run Fearless…

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On Saturday, I completed race 46 of my goal 46 in 2016.  The Ragnar Trail Run is a three loop trail race, completed with a team of 8 with each runner completing all three loops, and in this case it meant covering about 15 miles over the course of however long it takes one’s team to complete the circuit.  Except my team was short runners…and half way through, we had an injury.

My 15 miles became 24, 19 of which were run in the second 12 hours of the race.  It was a monstrous race.

I’m a street runner.  I’m an obstacle course fan.  Elevation gains and long distances arent my thing.  Coming down that last trail – the longest, highest elevation – running, running, running…almost unable to stop, with quads screaming to stop and yet not being able to – it was a feeling like I’ve never had, truly something alluding to what I have to believe hell must be like.  Being Ragnar, and being the last runner, as I came to the transition area to complete the race, my team joined me to cross the finish line together.  It was an amazing, awesome conclusion to the race, but a fantastic way to mark the completion of my 46 race goal.

These were folks I had met only for the race.  I didn’t know any of them.  Not one.  I responded to a Facebook post looking for team members.  Their only interest in me was that I was filling a slot that would have otherwise gone unfilled.

41337066_race_0-9710193401717151-originalAnd, yet, by the time we crossed the line together, this was their goal too.  It was important to them that they were a part of this for me.  I heard them talk with pride about the fact this was my 46th race on the year.  I kept the bib.  It was important to me, and it was important them.  That meant so much to me that over 28 hours,  we went from strangers to friends bonded by the completion of a goal.

It was a powerful experience; not just the completion of my original goal, but how these strangers came together to care about my goal.  Years from now, I will look back at 2016 and I will remember this experience fondly.

This year has helped me be fearless about setting goals.  Fearless of taking on unknown challenges.  Fearless about pushing myself for more, to be better, to compete in the unknown.  And this has made me powerful.  I’ve taken chances.  I’ve lept from safety and pulled the ripcord, not knowing where I would land.

I honestly thought it would be more difficult to accomplish than it was, but as I look back I realize I’ve relied upon my old friends, stepped out of my comfort zone and met new friends, and have joined strangers who have become friends.  It’s been a fantastic year and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds.

I met one person in March by happenstance who has become a solid race buddy.  I met another guy who responded to my call to join our Ragnar Relay team with whom I’ve now run a couple of other races and recorded our #Kill22 pushups together at the Providence City Hall. I jumped into a pool of ice water in the middle of February just because I was asked to, to raise money for a kids’ camp.

I feel incredibly powerful for having met my goal.  I feel incredibly blessed for having met so many wonderful people in my year of running.  I already know how ridiculously blessed I am for having such a fantastic peer group of old friends supporting me.  My family has been so loving and supportive.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  I’m living proof.

Beware I am fearless and therefore powerful.


Goals

On or about my most recent birthday, I committed to a plan to run in 46 events for each of my years.  Actually, it kind of evolved from 50 Events by Age 50 – meaning about 11 yearly because I was going to retroactively apply the handful of races I had done the year before…you know, just to make an even 5 year period and not because I had questions.

The idea wasn’t that there is some magic number, but rather that attaining that goal would require continuous, sustained commitment to fitness over a lengthy period of time…and that I really didn’t have enough T-Shirts so this seemed like a good way to get them.

Realizing, of course, that having a goal without actually having a plan, was a recipe for failure, I set about finding these events to run.

In the months previous, I had registered for several races in advance as doing so is generally cheaper and, frankly, I’m kind of cheap.  I signed up for the Rugged Maniac onsite of last years race at some ridiculous discount, and the Battle Frog sometime in October at an equally ridiculous discount – both of which I’d registered to run by myself, something I’d never EVER tried.  Sometime later, I registered for the Spartan Sprint, so I had the nascent beginnings of a “plan,” but only that.  I suppose it’s really helpful to WANT to do  what you’re planning.

My plan slowly grew – adding a “fun run” 5k in February run by a local running group, then a series of St. Patricks’ Day themed runs and my plan was hatched.  In fact, it was at this point that I began thinking “perhaps I could do a little better than 50-by-50.”

Now, I have to disclose at this point, that I’m not much of a runner.  I don’t particularly like running, I’m not really built for speed either.  What I do enjoy are obstacle races – hence, the reason the first three on my agenda were OCRs.  They’re physically and mentally demanding, and let’s face it, pretty damn badass.  Not everyone wants to do them, not everyone actually can do them so when you want to and can, you should.

There’s little by way of a secret as to why it became important to me to pick up this mantle on or about my birthday.  As one’s youth gets progressively distant, and the questions, doubts, perhaps even fears of middle-age come into the forefront, time ceases to be your friend.  If it’s going to happen, it needs to happen now.  I didn’t want to be that late middle-aged guy who has a few tweaks and dings, perhaps a spare tire, and high blood-pressure medications.  I didn’t want to be that senior who has to sit by a window watching others go about their activities of daily living.  We’re not here forever, and we’re only here once, so I want to be sure I’m physically able to do everything I want to do.

By February I had done 4; March 10; and April 16.  By this point, I’d registered for a couple of what I would consider epic challenges: A 200-mile Ragnar Relay, a Spartan Super, and quite possibly the most demanding Spartan Beast.  A marathon relay tossed in there, and some thoughts of a half-marathon as well, although that remains unscheduled.  Some weekends I would run 3 races: once I ran 2 5ks on Saturday and a 10k on Sunday, another weekend I ran a 5k and the Spartan Sprint on Saturday and ran Sprint a second time on Sunday.  This was as much an expression of my goal motivation as it was my sometimes extreme personality.

None of this happens, of course, without accountability and without a supportive peer group.  The people I went to high school with have been the most important influence toward working to this goal, holding me accountable – because they all have their individual goals as well – and, perhaps most importantly, refusing to allow those goals to keep me from achieving more: achieve one goal, define a new one.  I’m thankful I had the good sense to define my peer group wisely and I’m thankful I have such a strong bond with these men.

Today, I run race 38 on the year – a 5.5-mile, hillfest.  My 46 has grown now to a plan of 54 and half way through the year I’m left to redefine my goal further and to set new ones.  None of which could have happened without setting that initial goal getting me off the couch.  There is a lot of literature about goals and goal setting, not all of which I’ve found helpful in this journey.  For me, having a fitness goal was important, but I needed to bite off small chunks.  I needed to have a series of successes and demonstrate such a schedule was possible before I lept in.  Had I set a goal of 100 races for the year, I could imagine being here in Mid-July deciding I couldn’t make it.  For me, having a modest goal and building out worked wonders and I can’t imagine I’d have been better off for having a more audacious goal – I may have been worse off.  I know my personality and that’s made all the difference here.

I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished to this point, accomplished with the support of my friends and family, but I’m not done and nor is my plan done.  Without my initial simple goal, I’d have never have found out where I could go and the power of ones friends.  I’m incredibly fortunate.


Why is the World Series “Best of 7”

Today’s World Series – the World Championship of Baseball – is a given. Except for the truncated 1994 season, a championship series has been played between the National League and the American League since 1905, with the first series between the two leagues having been held in 1903. Over the 109 World Series; 105 have been a best-of-7 affair. What of those other 4-series and why are there 7-games in the series?

The first World Series in 1903 was a best of 9-game arrangement between the American League Champion Boston Americans (later the Boston Red Sox) and the “Pittsburg” (sic) Pirates. When the American League (and reigning “World Champion”) Boston Americans could not make an arrangement with the National League Champion New York Giants, the series was not played, as the series was only arranged between clubs. While popular culture points to the interpersonal squabbles between the Boston and New York franchises, there was also a real disagreement over what the rules should be for a World Series – and the reluctance of the Giants to give credence to their in-town rival the Highlanders, who had lead the American League through much of the season before Boston pulled out the best record on the last day of the season.

In the aftermath of the failure to play a series in 1904, both leagues adopted rules for a World Series to begin in 1905, thus removing the possibility a mutually beneficial and lucrative Championship Series would not be played because of animus between people or teams or because of an argument against poorly thought out rules. The rules for the 1905 season included a “best-of-7” World’s Championship Series.

Baseball had played a significant role in the American war effort and at the end of 1918 – a season truncated by the first World War – the good will Major League Baseball had was at a high point. As the largest professional sports league, a war wearied country looked to baseball for enjoyment. According to Richard C. Crepeau in Baseball: America’s Diamond Mind, baseball had experienced a renaissance of sorts during the war as people who had not yet been exposed to the game had been for the first time. These soldiers coming back to the states provided an increased demand for the game.

In the 15-or-so years between the National League representative New York Giants refusing to meet the Boston Americans in what would have been the second World Series, the National League was now not only firmly behind a series, but firmly behind a longer series. Before the winter meetings in 1918, the National League proposed a “best-of-9” series with the idea being to increase revenue and exposure of the game; that motion that was passed at the December, 1918 meetings for the 1919 season.

Under this expansion, the 1919-1921 World Series’ were “best-of-9” series. In that very next World Series,the “Black Sox scandal” erupted and charges of gambling and investigations embroiled baseball for several years thereafter. At the 1921 Major League meetings, while the National League voted to retain the best-of-9, the American League voted to return to a best-of-7 series. When placed in the context of the “black sox” scandal – with it’s squandering of public good will after the first world war and amidst charges the expansion was more about greed than the game – one can easily see how the new Commissioner of Baseball, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, saw fit to cast the deciding vote as one to return to 7 games.

It took Major League Baseball’s expansion and subsequent alignment into divisions in 1969 before there was another expansion of the post season – 50 years with the only post season play being the best-of-7 World Series and when it did expand the post-season, it was the playoffs that expanded, not the World Series; baseball had traded the guarantee of at least one more game in the World Series (to win a best of 9, you must win 5 games) for the guarantee of what was at the time 6-more playoff games – 3 in the American League, 3 in the National League in a best-of-5 League Championship series. The “LCS” is now a best-of-7 series, with an additional layer of playoffs before even that additional round.

Nota bene, while the scandal over performance enhancing drugs and the Mitchell report was beginning to wind down, the then current commissioner of Baseball Allan “Bud” Selig was considering an expansion of the World Series – a proposal presented by player agent Scott Boras – to a best-of-9 format, ostensibly to increase exposure (by playing two games at neutral sites) and, undoubtedly to increase revenue. History does have a tendency to repeat itself.

REFERENCE

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1904_World_Series

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/alltime/worldseries

http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=World_Series&page=chronology

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_kmtpi/is_200707/ai_n19334686

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=YrbYVcb7_xIC&oi=fnd&pg=
PR9&dq=%22Kennesaw+Mountain+Landis%22+world+series+1921&ots=
MFSV6hjUVH&sig=wM_JkVtfxZen_yZpd2xlTHnRpuE#PPA8,M1


2012 Boston Red Sox

2012  was an abominable season for the Boston Red Sox – 69 wins, the worst season since 1965 (a season in which the team lost 100 games).  That’s bad.  The 16th worst team in franchise history in winning percentage.  To put that in a little context, this is a franchise with 112 seasons of baseball in the record books – 86% of its seasons have been better.  The only other time the Sox had a worse record in a 162-game season was 1965, going 62-100.

This team gets a bit of a pass however because there have been some truly abhorrent teams in the franchise’s history – the 111-loss 1932 squad; the 107-loss 1926 team; and 105-game losers in 1906 and 1925.  And those were years in which 154-games made up a season.  Exceptionally bad teams, 1906 especially so considering two years previous they had won the American League and three years previous the World Series.

All of which said, let’s mitigate the mitigation: While over the existence of the franchise 86% of it’s seasons have been better,  its the worst season in the last 42% of its existence.  Of the 11-seasons in team history that were worse, 10 occurred in the first 50% of the teams history, from 1901-1956.  Only 2 have occurred in the second 50% of the teams history.

The first year manager of the 1965 squad, Billy Herman, got another year to manage.  The 1966 Sox managed to lose only 90-games – the same number as the 1964 team.  Despite the disappointing September of 2011, the Sox finished with a 90-72 record – a far higher perch from which to fall in one season.  Which makes the 2012 squad that much more disappointing.  Before the crash of September 2011, the Sox looked like a 100+ game winner.  First year manager Bobby Valentine was clearly not coming back for a second bite of the apple.

Going back, the closest drop of that magnitude I can see between two seasons is 1953 (84 wins) to 1954 (69 wins) and then into the 1940’s for an even worse set of contiguous season pairings – 1942 (93 wins) to 1943 (68 wins) unless you want to include the drop between 1946 (104 wins) and 1947 (83 wins).  What makes 1946 so remarkable, and what mitigates 1954 and 1943 somewhat, is that those were 154-game seasons, so the win/loss % is better for 1954 and 1943 than for 2012.

Very disappointing year indeed.

1932 43 111 0.279 64 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1926 46 107 0.300 44½ Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1925 47 105 0.309 49½ Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1906 49 105 0.318 45½ Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1927 51 103 0.331 59 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1930 52 102 0.337 50 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1928 57 96 0.372 43½ Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1929 58 96 0.376 48 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1965 62 100 0.382 40 Did not make playoffs 9th place in American League
1907 59 90 0.395 32½ Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1922 61 93 0.396 33 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1923 61 91 0.401 37 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League
1931 62 90 0.407 45 Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League
1960 65 89 0.422 32 Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1933 63 86 0.423 34½ Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
2012 69 93 0.426 26 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League East
1924 67 87 0.435 25 Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1966 72 90 0.444 26 Did not make playoffs 9th place in American League
1964 72 90 0.444 27 Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1943 68 84 0.447 29 Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1954 69 85 0.448 42 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1992 73 89 0.450 23 Did not make playoffs Last place in American League East
1945 71 83 0.461 17½ Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1994[d] 54 61 0.469 17 Playoffs cancelled. 5th place in American League East
1961 76 86 0.469 33 Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League
1920 72 81 0.470 25½ Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League
1963 76 85 0.472 28 Did not make playoffs 7th place in American League
1962 76 84 0.475 19 Did not make playoffs 8th place in American League
1997 78 84 0.481 20 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League East
1987 78 84 0.481 20 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League East
1983 78 84 0.481 20 Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League East
1936 74 80 0.481 28½ Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League
1919 66 71 0.481 20½ Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League
1959 75 79 0.487 19 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League
1921 75 79 0.487 23½ Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League
1908 75 79 0.487 15½ Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League
1993 80 82 0.493 15 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League East
1952 76 78 0.493 19 Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League
1985 81 81 0.500 18½ Did not make playoffs 6th place in American League East
1944 77 77 0.500 12 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1934 76 76 0.500 24 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
2001 82 79 0.509 13½ Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1911 78 75 0.509 24 Did not make playoffs Tied for 4th place in American League
1935 78 75 0.510 16 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1989 83 79 0.512 6 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1976 83 79 0.512 15½ Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1958 79 75 0.512 13 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1905 78 74 0.513 16 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1991 84 78 0.518 7 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1980 83 77 0.518 19 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League East
1974 84 78 0.518 7 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
2000 85 77 0.524 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1996 85 77 0.524 7 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1971 85 77 0.524 18 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1937 80 72 0.526 21 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League
1913 79 71 0.526 15½ Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1910 81 72 0.529 22½ Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
2006 86 76 0.530 11 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1984 86 76 0.530 18 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League East
1968 86 76 0.530 17 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1957 82 72 0.532 16 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1940 82 72 0.532 8 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1981[c] 59 49 0.535 Did not make playoffs 5th place in American League East
1970 87 75 0.537 21 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1969 87 75 0.537 22 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1947 83 71 0.538 14 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1990 88 74 0.543  — Lost ALCS to Oakland 1st place in American League East
1956 84 70 0.545 13 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1955 84 70 0.545 12 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
1941 84 70 0.545 17 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1972 85 70 0.548 ½ Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
2010 89 73 0.549 7 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1988 89 73 0.549  — Lost ALCS to Oakland 1st place in American League East
1982 89 73 0.549 6 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1973 89 73 0.549 8 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1953 84 69 0.549 16 Did not make playoffs 4th place in American League
2011 90 72 0.556 7 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
1902 77 60 0.562 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1951 87 67 0.564 11 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1998 92 70 0.567 22 Lost ALDS to Cleveland 2nd place in American League East (Wild card)
1967 92 70 0.567 Lost World Series to St. Louis 1st place in American League
1979 91 69 0.568 11½ Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League East
2002 93 69 0.574 10½ Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1999 94 68 0.580 4 Lost ALCS to New York 2nd place in American League East (Wild card)
1901 79 57 0.580 4 Did not make playoffs 2nd place, behind the Detroit Tigers
1909 88 63 0.582 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
2009 95 67 0.586 8 Lost ALDS to Los Angeles 2nd place in American League East (Wild Card)
2008 95 67 0.586 2 Lost ALCS to Tampa Bay 2nd place in American League East (Wild Card)
2005 95 67 0.586 —[e] Lost ALDS to Chicago 2nd place in American League East (Wild card)
2003 95 67 0.586 6 Lost ALCS to New York 2nd place in American League East (Wild card)
1939 89 62 0.589 17 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1986 95 66 0.590  — Lost World Series to New York 1st place in American League East
1916 91 63 0.590  — Won World Series 1st place in American League
1938 88 61 0.591 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
2007 96 66 0.592 Won World Series 1st place in American League East
1917 90 62 0.592 9 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1975 95 65 0.593  — Lost World Series to Cincinnati 1st place in American League East
1914 91 62 0.594 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1918 75 51 0.595  — Won World Series 1st place in American League
1995 86 58 0.597  — Lost ALDS to Cleveland 1st place in American League East
1977 97 64 0.602 Did not make playoffs Tied for 2nd place in American League East
2004 98 64 0.605 3 Won World Series 2nd place in American League East (Wild card)
1978 99 64 0.607 1 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League East
1950 94 60 0.610 4 Did not make playoffs 3rd place in American League
1942 93 59 0.611 9 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1904 95 59 0.616  — World Series canceled[b] 1st place in American League
1948 96 59 0.619 1 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1949 96 58 0.623 1 Did not make playoffs 2nd place in American League
1903 91 47 0.659  — Won World Series 1st place in American League
1915 101 50 0.668  — Won World Series 1st place in American League
1946 104 50 0.675  — Lost in World Series to St. Louis 1st place in American League
1912 105 47 0.690  — Won World Series 1st place in American League

The Intuition of Batting Average

One of the most intuitive aspects of the game of baseball is the concept of ‘Batting Average.’ It’s as simple and intuitive as the game itself: Number of Hits divided by the number of At-Bats. It’s a serviceable construct of measuring a batters’ hitting prowess.

One of the curious things about “batting average” is that while it’s quite possibly the most intuitive measurement in the game of baseball, and hence it was one of the first measurements of the game, it wasn’t created until baseball had been organized for almost two decades.

Harry Chadwick, a Britton who found himself enamored by early baseball in the 1850’s while he was covering cricket as a journalist.# Chadwick came to develop the first baseball box score and edited theThe Beadle Baseball Player the first baseball guide for public consumption.# He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938 by the veteran’s committee.

Growing up in the late 20th Century, batting average has always been that hits/at-bats ratio and has always been reported to the thousandths decimal place. It feels so completely intuitive and so perfect for the game. However, as intuitive as it may be, it relies on two other statistics which had to be developed first – “hits” and “at-bats.” The elemental nature of these statistics reveal how far the game has come, and how non-intuitive the measurements of the game are.

When the Batting Average was formally adopted in 1876, it took the form of the statistic we know today, however prior to being formally adopted, it was actually a measurement of the number of hits per game. Of course the definition of these elemental statistics have changed and have therefore influenced the measurement of a batting average: for instance, for a year in the late 1800’s, bases-on-balls were counted as hits and plate appearances, which had the effect of driving up batting averages for that year – many up near .500 – and it was discontinued for the following season.# Increase the number of hits to plate appearances using a 1:1 ratio and you’re going to increase batting average, even though it does not reflect the batter’s skill at hitting. The idea, however, was to measure what was going on at plate appearances. Of course, at the time, it took 5-balls to receive a base-on-balls and 4-strikes to strike out.#

Consider the work involved in building the game we know today, a game that is ever more statistically oriented – particularly with the advent of ever faster computers – and it just doesn’t seem as intuitive. The builders of baseball didn’t know what they should be measuring, but they knew the game could be quantified. That’s the intuitive part of the game – it can be quantified, but figuring out how or what to measure is the difficult part.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Chadwick_(writer) retrieved on 10/10/2010

http://www.ulib.niu.edu/badndp/chadwick_henry.html retrieved on 10/10/2010

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batting_average retrieved 10/10/2010

http://everything2.com/title/Evolution+of+pitching+rules retrieved 10/10/2010

http://www.cosmicbaseball.com/bstats17.html retrieved 10/10/2010


Why History Matters in Sport

In an age where “epic” has come to mean something quite clearly less than its formal definition – it now means a fantastic night out as opposed to a civilization defining moment – indicating a societal disconnect with the past, our professional sports constantly remind us of their respective histories and where the current day matches up. We look to ritual and history to compare our place in the world and to provide reassurance of lasting importance.

Lord Stanley’s Cup is the oldest trophy in North American sport, dating back to 1892, predating even the current National Hockey League (NHL) the league which awards it to its champion. The NHL markets it’s “Original Six” as the foundation of the league that today numbers 30 teams, in such far flung locations as Anaheim, California and Charlotte, North Carolina. The National Football League ensures we know just how many Super Bowls have been played by adding Roman numeral nomenclature to each game. The crests of MLB’s National League prominently displays the year “1876” as a reminder of its founding.

It becomes a means by which each game reassures us that they have a foundation and creates an expectation of its continued existence. The period of time to which the “Original Six” refers was a time of stability in the NHL, the longest period of stability in the league’s existence. No team folded, relocated, changed its name. With the expansion of the league in 1967, the landscape of the game changed ‘” the league doubled in size ‘” and by the early 1970s, some of those expansion teams began to move and financially struggle. There was a need to reassure the fan base that these transitions did not threaten the game. Note the NHL does not promote the actual age of the Stanley Cup ‘” far older than any of the “Original Six” teams – but promotes the league and the game through referencing the history of the franchises.

The Super Bowl did not begin to bear nomenclature until the third game, with the previous games retroactively numbered. The game itself was a championship between two rival leagues and it was not until a merger was planned that the number of these games would be significant – this was a game that would remain, so become invested in it. To this day, the Super Bowl represents the National Football League, a league with a history of team movement, bankruptcy, and failed franchises with little by way of stability. The “big game” is the history upon which the NFL predominantly relies although it protects its history where that history is important: When the Cleveland Browns pulled up stakes to move to Baltimore, the city kept the name “Browns” for a future incarnation of the team; Thanksgiving Day games are still played in Detroit and Dallas every year because that is where they have always been played, regardless of how good or bad either the Lions or Cowboys are. The Detroit Thanksgiving Day game reaches back to the founding of the league, demonstrating the importance of ritual and history.

Professional baseball in the United States needs little overt reference to history ‘” until the league expanded in the 1960’s, the two leagues remained stable over 60 years. There was no question the time honored game would remain. There is no overt reference to the number of World Series that have been played ‘” it’s always been a part of the American landscape. Almost to the point where the games history and ritual becomes a hindrance to modernization ‘” when the league announced a plan to include advertising for a Spider-Man movie on the bases in 2004, a controversy erupted. Nothing had ever been displayed on the bases themselves. The game itself is steeped in history.

We compare records, review historic trends, and measure our current players and teams against those which have come before. It doesn’t matter that two of the “Original Six” have won the Stanley Cup only once since 1993. What matters is that the framework and context is set such that we can refer to that history and to hold onto it. It matters that we can look back at the New England Patriots chasing a “perfect season” and compare their run to that of the 1972 Miami Dolphins. It matters that when we hunker down in mid-winter to watch the “Big Game” that there have been some 40-odd contests which have come before, because we know we’ll be right back here next year at about the same time.


Longest Names in Sport

According to the Social Security Administration, over the last 100-some odd years, the average first name has been 6-letters long. The top 500-websites have URL’s (the domain name) averaging 6-characters. 6, it would seem, is the magnetic north of what we consider the optimal length of name (although the average domain is 11-characters). So what is the average length of last name? Interestingly enough, despite having Social Security information since the 1930’s, an explosion of data captured from IT departments from registered users, and the hyperactive data collection of our search engines, there does not seem to be any official statistics on the US average of last name length.

According to a website that specializes in such information, the longest personal full name ever used “Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff,” which tops out at some 746-letters. It seems Mr. “Wolfe+585” was most notable for having had that name.

Sport is really my interest, not onomastics, and so after watching Clay Buccholz of the Boston Red Sox pitch to his catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and deciding that was likely one of the longest pairing of names between pitcher/catcher batteries, the question had to be asked — “What are the longest names in sport?”

“Salty,” as he is called, and William Van Landingham, former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, share the record for the longest names in Major League Baseball (NHL) history at 20-characters. Imagine a battery of Van Landingham and Saltalamacchia. In addition to the length of his full name, Van Landingham also has the distinction of being one half of the longest pairing of combined names of two starting pitchers in history with his opponent on May 29, 1996 Jason Isringhausen. Note Saltalamacchia’s first name is 6-letters: dead average. As an aside, the shortest name in MLB history is Ed Ott of the Pittsburgh Pirates and California Angels. Ott’s name is not a shortened form of “Edward,’ his given name is actually “Ed.’

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond of the New Jersey Devils holds the record for the longest name in the history of the National Hockey League (NHL) with 26-characters, also likely holding the record for the number of hyphens in one name as well. The National Football League’s (NFL) record holder also has 26-characters, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie of the Arizona Cardinals.

By far, the longest name belonging to a professional athlete is 49-characters. Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo. The giant from the Congo is 7’2” and when last he played National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball, he was also the oldest player at the time as well as the holder of the longest name. When one wonders if his name-length record will be broken, the answer is as clear as the pronouncement of the Denver Nuggets public address system – “Not in the house of Mutombo.” In other words, not very likely anytime soon.

Reference Material:

As of this publishing, there’s no answer for the question of average last name length on Quora:http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-average-length-of-last-names-in-the-United-States

Baby Names Length Stats: http://www.mymonthlycycles.com/babynamesl.jsp

Domain URL Length stats: http://media-monopoly.blogspot.com/2008/08/domain-name-length-of-top-500-websites.html and http://www.searchengineknowledge.com/domains/length.php

Wikipedia Family Name: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_name

Longest full name http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfe%2B585,_Senior andhttp://thelongestlistofthelongeststuffatthelongestdomainnameatlonglast.com/long42.html