I believe … this game is grand

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – I believe in reasonably quick, well-pitched ballgames, and long motorcycle rides without traffic….

I believe that DiMaggio was the most graceful player,  that Hank, Willie and Teddy Ballgame were the best all-around hitters since babe Ruth, and that Ruth undoubtedly had the greatest body of work but a body that, well … I’ll admit to wondering if that body would work quite the same in a later period against the greatest competition. I know, I know, sacrilege, right?…

I believe that Walter “Big Train” Johnson was the greatest pitcher of the four-man rotation era, and that Maddux and Clemens were the best in the five-man rotation period since, but I don’t know if Clemens belongs in same sentence as Mad Dog because I just don’t feel confident he wasn’t helped a lot for the second half of his career. Same for Barry, whom I believe was the greatest hitter of the past 30 or more years, but wouldn’t even have sniffed Hank’s record without lab help.

And I also believe that if Barry had never done ‘roids he would still have been a more-than-95-percent first-ballot Hall of Famer, because he was the best player for a few years before he became a giant-headed power-hitting machine….

"Mad Dog" Maddux

“Mad Dog” Maddux

I believe that Kevin Brown, at Candlestick in June 1997,  threw the best of the five no-hitters I’ve covered as a beat writer, even better than Randy Johnson’s perfect game at Turner Field. And I believe that Brown’s ‘96 season with the Marlins – 1.89 ERA, 215 ERA+. 0.944 WHIP — was as dominant as any in the 20 seasons that I’ve covered ball, even if he won no Cy Young Award for it…

I still believe Brian McCann has a 35-homer season in him as long as he’s playing half his games at Yankee stadium.  He’s not old, works hard, and that sweet swing….

I believe the Hall of Fame voting system is not broken, but that some boneheaded voters do their best to expose flaws….

I believe that Sabermetrics are vital, but that so are scouts and the eye test. Yes, roll your eyes, if you must. And I believe strongly that those who dismiss performance anxiety and the lack of same in some players have a blind spot at least as large as the one that those who dismiss WAR and BABIP have…

I believe that American athletes are crazy not to consider baseball over football given head injuries, career longevity, guaranteed salaries, etc….

I believe that a lot of players want to play in cities far away from home, not closer to it. I believe you can figure out one of the reasons why….

I believe that Alex Fernandez’s one-hitter in below-freezing temps at Wrigley Field was more impressive than a couple of the no-hitters I’ve see, and that Fernandez was in the small group of players I consider the next-toughest I’ve covered. The toughest? John Smoltz, no question….

I believe that I’ll never see a home run as long as the one “Big Cat” (Galarraga) hit off Kevin Brown (529 feet at Miami) or the one that “Big Mac” (McGwire) hit off Livan Hernandez at old Busch Stadium (I think they said it was his longest ever, something like 540 feet)….

Speaking of Livan, I believe that I’ll never understand how the then-Marlins rookie could be the one who better exploited Eric Gregg’s ridiculously wide strike zone that day in Miami, and not the guy he was pitching against who was known for being the king of location and stretching the zone, Maddux….

And I believe that for about three hours on a spring day, or a summer afternoon or evening, or a crisp fall day or night, there is no better place to be than the ballpark, watching a game. Even if Mickey Mouse comes on the field like he just did before the one that’s about to start here today….

It’s that time again, folks. All is right. Let’s play ball.

Braves lineup vs. Mets

  1. Eric Young Jr. CF
  2. Jace Peterson SS
  3. Freddie Freeman 1B
  4. Jonny Gomes DH
  5. A.J. Pierzysnki C
  6. Chris Johnson 3B
  7. Alberto Callaspo 2B
  8. Zoilo Almonte RF
  9. Cedric Hunter LF

• Listen to this one by a wonderful songwriter and a major baseball fan, Chuck Brodsky.

“Letters in the Dirt” by Chuck Brodsky 

Chuck Brodsky

Chuck Brodsky

Me & you, we never booed Richie Allen
I never understood why people did
He hit a homer every time he stepped up to the plate
That’s what I remember as a kid

Richie in the field out there by first base
The target of some mighty foul words
With his shoes he’d scrawl between the pitched
“B-O-O” in great big letters in the dirt

Philly fans, they’ve been known to get nasty
When Joe must go, they’ll run him out of town
I saw Santa get hit by a snowball
And then get hit again when he was down

Me & you, we never booed Richie Allen
Even if he did sometimes strike out
I was too young to read the papers
To know what all that booing was about

That big collapse of ‘64 was ugly
They blew a lead of 6 and one-half games with 12 to play
Some might say their fans were justifiably angry
World Series tickets printed up in vain

Philly fans, they’ve been known to get nasty
When Joe must go, they’ll run him out of town
I saw Santa get hit by a snowball
And then get hit again when he was down

Going back to old Connie Mack Stadium
You teaching me the rules of the game
We root-root-rooted for the home team
Thhose other people shoulda been ashamed

This was before the days of the million dollar contracts
Before the days of the artificial grass
He stood a bit outside the lines which made him fair game for those times
Richie Allen never kissed a white man’s ass

Me & you, we never booed Richie Allen
No, we’d pound our mitts & we’d yell, “We want a hit”
How could they call a guy a bum after he’d just hit a home run?
That didn’t make any sense to a kid

Now I’ve since found out all these days later
Now I know alot more than I did
And if back then you knew, Daddy, why all those other people booed…
Thanks for letting me have my heroes as a kid


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