The Final Season: What’s In A Name?

Braves 6 – Phillies 2; CJ: 2-4, HR (10), RBI (43), 2 R

So, I love the Braves, if you hadn’t noticed. I write about them every day, literally. But… do I love their name? Is their name offensive? Random question, I know, but one that comes up from time to time when the sports world is light on controversies.

It’s not something I think about that often, but it’s a question I’ve contemplated in my fandom. For the most part, I just call them the Braves like I was calling them Sammy or Sara or Tommy or some other generic name. But it isn’t one. There’s stigma attached to their name and, in the past, people have called for them to change it.

I’m not sure what made me start thinking about them, but I was thinking about the Washington Redskins today, and my thoughts drifted to how incredibly insensitive their name is. Redskins. I’m pretty sure that was (and still is) a very derogatory name for Native Americans when this country was first being created. Red skins. Think about it. That’s pretty bad. Now think about some of the potential equivalents for other races. That’s really bad. If I was Native American, I would be offended, and probably would be every time I heard it. It would never loose that twinge of dissonance in my ear. Really sucks if any Native Americans are football fans, particularly Redskins fans.

I can also understand Cleveland Indians being offensive, given that it’s the incorrect label for the people that inhabited this land before the Europeans. It’s really just a reminder of early ignorance. If anything, we, as descendants of European settlers, should want to change it out of shame for our ineptitude. Yay, I landed in the West Indies! No, smarty pants, you didn’t.

I can also understand the concern with the Florida State Seminoles. Not the name, however. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Florida using the name Seminole after a group of people that lived in the area. It would be like being called the Texas Austinites or the Montreal Canadians. (Hey, what a second.) I think the issue is with their mascot, the outfit he wears, the painting of his face, the war cry, and all those very stereotypical things. Even if they are (and I doubt it) historically accurate, in that the Seminoles behaved somewhat in that way, it’s still offensive by disregarding the purpose for the ritual. It denies the rich heritage and meaning behind the actions. So, yes, I think it’s offensive.

However, I don’t think that way when I hear ‘Braves.’ And, no, I’m not just being a homer so hear me out. First, it’s commonly believed that they are referring to Native American warriors, but couldn’t they also be referring to anyone that goes ‘bravely’ into battle? Why just Native Americans? Just a thought, if also a bit of a stretch.

So, as we know where it came from, why is this particular name offensive? Maybe this one I would need explained to me by someone with far better knowledge on the subject, but from where I sit, calling a warrior a Brave isn’t a bad thing, nor a particularly derogatory one. The Springfield Nurses or Teachers or Fighters. Most of those are boring but you get the point. It’s a simple title for what they do, uet it’s a positive one. That’s all I’m saying.

I know in the past the Braves used to have an offensive mascot much like Florida State. I think they eventually went for a “friendlier” one that looked kind of like Mr. Met but with a feather on the back of his head – so, yeah, still racist. But now, I think they’ve scratched the majority of the stereotypical Native American references from the team, unlike Florida State.

They have left one key thing – the tomahawk and the ‘chop’ that goes with it. Those, I agree, offensive. Again, I doubt the tomahawk they use is historically accurate. Seems more like a carbon copy of something you saw in old West movies. And, as well, it’s devoid of all meaning and purpose, which I know it had when it was being used as an actual tool by the Native American population.

So there you have it. I think the name can stay because, relative to other names out there, I don’t believe it’s offensive. However, I would like to see the tomahawk and the chop fazed out, but I have a feeling that will be a long, long, long time coming. You’ll probably have to see the end of the Seminole down in Florida first before the Braves consider changing.

And I can also see why people of Native American heritage might find the name ‘Braves’ offensive. I don’t think I’d have a problem watching the Springfield Pasta Makers, but it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice.

The Final Season: The Story of Baseball

Atlanta 8 – Florida 2; CJ: 1-4, BB

One day, if I meet Ken Burns, I have to thank him. His documentary had a profound impact on my life. Truly. It first made me stop and take notice of baseball. Watching it as a kid, I believe, turned me from a passing fan into a full-blown lover of the sport. (And for that reason, I should probably also curse him. Because, boy, does baseball take away as much as it gives sometimes.)

I was 12 years old when it first came out, and I remember, to this day, sitting with my dad and watching it and being absolutely enthralled and mesmerized by it. And that says a lot, because (and you’ll know this if you’ve ever seen it) it’s not exactly an action-packed, thrill ride. But it was successful in keeping this 12-year-old girls attention.

I also remember my Dad being absolutely enthralled and mesmerized. And as I watched it with him, I found it created as many questions as it answered. I knew virtually nothing of the game at that time. I didn’t really know who Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays were. I had heard their names, but I don’t really know what they meant to the game. So after the five bit snippet would finish on each of them, I’d turn to my Dad to tell me more. Was Mickey Mantle really as great as they say? Did he really hit homeruns that far? What does it mean to be a switch hitter? What do they mean when they say “tragic figure”? You know, in rapid fire section like young kids do. And my Dad would answer all of them. It’s the first time I can really remember us talking about baseball. Sure, I sat and watched the previous three World Series with him, but this was the first time we just talked baseball, not just about the game we were watching.

If I’m honest, I didn’t talk much when I watched the first two NLCS’ with him. He gets kind of ornery when he watches sports. He’s the kind of guy that yells at the TV and curses at the refs. So when the Pirates were losing, it wasn’t talking time. It was sit and quietly cheer time.

But, as I didn’t really start following the regular season closely until I became enamored with Chipper in 1995, I wasn’t rushing to the TV to watch games yet and, thus, wasn’t filled with questions about baseball yet. Ken Burns’ documentary was the first time and that’s why I love it to this day.

I own it and watch it at random times. A few weeks ago, a storm rolled through and the power went out, so I whipped out my portable DVD player and stuck in Inning Eight. What eight? Just because it was the one I had stopped on my last time through.

And, if I’m even more honest, it often makes me a little weepy, mainly because of what the people he’s interviewing say. The ones that speak so reverentially about their own baseball heroes, as well as their memories of watching games. I know what they’re feeling when they talk like that now. I didn’t know that when I was 12. I couldn’t know that. And I imagine that nostalgic feeling will only grow stronger as time – and more baseball – continues to pass.

In fact, the interviews are one of the things I love most about the documentary. They have such an honest, genuine feel, as if they are just friends of Mr. Burns, and they are just sitting with him and having a frank discussion about baseball while cameras roll. It brings a certain level of authenticity to the piece.

After Ken Burns’ documentary, I remember I wanted to know everything about baseball. And about every other sport, too. So my grandparents bought me a subscription to Sports Illustrated, which I read cover-to-cover every week. At 12. And I read sports books, including Joe Namath’s autobiography.

Really what I wanted to know was the history of every sport. I’ve always loved history. I think knowing the history of something helps you understand and appreciate it, and I feel knowledge of history is an important connection to the past. That sense of being part of something bigger, I suppose. And I think Baseball sparked that in me. I honestly do. And I think it played a part in my developing a love for all history – political, economical, entertainment, you name it. I love knowing what came before.

I also love that I keep learning from the documentary. As I watch each installment now, I always get something else out of it, something I didn’t catch last time. Or maybe something I didn’t truly understand but now do. And it always makes me thing, ‘Man I love baseball.’ I don’t know if I can ever articulate why, but I do. It’s its own character in the drama that’s played out through it over the years.

The 10th installment was difficult to watch, only because it covered a lot of darker days in baseball, such as the steroids scandal, and remembering that just makes me feel sad. It also included the ’96 World Series. Being reminded of it, I literally had a physical reaction. I was shaking my head, tensing my muscles. I knew what was coming and yet it was as if my body was still trying to will it away. Painful it is to remember, really. I suppose that makes me silly, but it’s true. But it also reminded me of some of the great World Series and playoff series I’ve got to witness over the years. And the Red Sox winning. That was enjoyable to see.

But mostly it just reminded me how prominent a position baseball has in my life. A position I hope it never relinquishes. Man, I do love this game.

The Final Season: The Golden Era

Atlanta 2 – Washington 1; CJ: 0-2, RBI (42), BB

I love modern day baseball, but part of me wishes I had lived in a time when baseball was king, when it wasn’t considered boring or slow. When life moved at a pace that made the cadence of baseball seem normal. I wish I lived when people didn’t have to be reminded to stop for a second and take a breath, to stop and watch the pitch before going back to the strange, one-sided love affair they have with their cell phones.

When you could walk up to a hotel where you knew the Yankees were staying and ask the front desk clerk what room Babe Ruth was in – and he would tell you! And you could walk your young boys up to that room, knock on the door and Lou Gehrig would answer and call Ruth to the door so you all could shake his giant hand. (I stole that story from Ken Burns’ documentary on baseball, but I think it illustrates my point well.)

When baseball was popular but didn’t overstep its bounds. When every aspect of it wasn’t used to sling soap.

I guess this is the entry where I turn into a curmudgeon. Where I show my true age, which is 30 going on 60. And I know the past isn’t as rosy as it seems. It never is. But that doesn’t mean it still wasn’t better than what we have now as far as baseball. Now we have over paid, over hyped, and over pampered athletes that think too much of themselves. And games that won’t air locally because the local team didn’t sell enough tickets – tickets that cost, for a family of four, more money than a week’s worth of groceries.

Nope, I think I missed my era. I’ve written before about my propensity to get my news from the radio (good ol’ NPR). I also don’t have cable (that’s why I watch so many games at my Dad’s house), preferring to watch PBS while drinking tea. And I want to write books that are printed on paper. Heard of it? The point is, I’m an old soul.

So how great would it have been to be around when Joe DiMaggio and then Mickey Mantle were in their primes? When Willy Mays and Hank Aaron were young? That would have been my time. When life seems like it was simpler. When people weren’t available 24-7 via a mobile phone. Heck, when TV’s and planes weren’t a common part of life, and you weren’t looked at funny if you didn’t have one or had never been in one.

True, you didn’t live as long, but I’d accept that for the baseball because I really think it was the golden era for baseball. No huge scandals. Some of the truly best players ever were playing. Yeah, you had to live up mostly in the Northeast to see it, but listening on the radio was different, and normal, then. And, I suppose, you could also make a special trip every now and then.

It was a time when stadiums were new and big, not just bleachers stuck in the dirt. And when the game was over, you could walk on the field to get home. I feel like the player’s were worshipped by the kids and admired by the adults, but not obscenely so. I’m sure some of them had egos, but then they usually had to work during the offseason or spend time in the army fighting among average Joe’s. That, I imagine, was humbling.

It was a time when baseball was, without argument, the national pastime. I think I would have liked to live then. I’d been fine making my own way in the world, just like I do now. And even if I was treated as inferior, I would like to think in my mind I would have always known I was better than what they say.

Yeah, I would have liked to seen Mantle hit a towering homerun, his swing bringing that back knee to the ground. Or Ted Williams slap one into right for a base hit. Or Sandy Koufax dominant his opponents. That would be something to brag about.

The Final Season: The Beauty Queen and the Ballplayer

Atlanta 6 – Phillies 1; CJ: 2-4, R

The Braves signed Miguel Batista today to a minor league deal. Say what you will about it, pro or con for the team, I laughed when I saw it. Not because I don’t like the move. I laughed for an (almost) unrelated reason. I laughed because when I think of Miguel Batista, I think of one particular game he had against the Braves.

It was a couple (or a few) years ago, and the Braves were in Washington. They were supposed to face Stephen Strasburg, but Strasburg was having trouble “getting loose” while warming up in the bullpen (it actually wasn’t long before he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery), so they scratched him from the start. But the fans, who actually almost sold out Nationals Park, did so because they were expecting to see him Strasburg. So you can imagine they’re disappointment when, right before the game is about to start, it’s announced he won’t be pitching. Instead, they get… Miguel Batista, a veteran journeyman who now spends most of his life in the bullpen and can, obviously, make the spot start when needed. Not exactly a young, up-and-coming phenomenon. So it also shouldn’t surprise you that, when his name was announced, he was promptly booed. I felt a little bad for him. After all, it’s not his fault he’s not Strasburg.

And what did he do in response to those boos? He pitched five shutout innings and earned the win, proving again my theory that the Braves can make any pitcher on any given day look like Cy Young.

The ever plucky members of the media approached Batista after the game and asked him how he felt about getting booed. Side, yet relevant note: He’s apparently a really smart guy who likes to write poetry when he’s not pitching, so he was honest, observant, and realistic about the situation. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “I can understand why they would boo. They showed up expecting to see Miss Universe and instead they got Miss Iowa.” An apropos analogy I suppose. They did get something that might be considered inferior to what they were expecting.

Honestly, my initial reaction, when I read that was, “True, but poor Miss Iowa.” Well, apparently the current Miss Iowa, Katherine Connors, agreed with me because she immediately responded by calling out Batista for his quip, saying there was nothing wrong with seeing Miss Iowa. She was perfectly attractive and accomplished and, while she may not be Miss Universe, she was still worthy of respect. And I would agree with her. However, she also issued him a challenge, and I found that to not be so smart. She challenged him to walk down the runway in an evening gown as well as she could, something absolutely no one wants to see. Hence, the failed challenge.

But, to smooth the waters, the Nationals invited her to throw out the first pitch. Of course, when asked for comment again, Batista tried to back pedal, saying he didn’t mean Miss Iowa was unattractive or incapable. After all, he was comparing himself to Miss Iowa, and he considered himself a perfectly capable pitcher. According to him, he simply meant that, while the fans didn’t get what they wanted, they still got a perfectly good substitute. I suppose you could see things that way, but it really sounded to me like he was calling Miss Iowa inferior.

And I think she was right to get upset a bit, but I was glad to see she seemed to have more fun with it than not. Didn’t seem like she was trying to use it to get her 15 minutes of fame, either. Gloria Allred didn’t swoop down and try to sue Batista for defamation. Miss Iowa just felt slighted and wouldn’t take it without standing up for herself, if even just a little.

And the Braves were involved slightly, so I thought it relevant. After all, if the Nationals were facing the Diamondbacks at the time, maybe the Nationals coaches let Strasburg throw a couple innings. Probably not though.

But these, these silly little, quirky stories. These are a big part of why I love baseball. Welcome to Atlanta, Batista.

The Final Season: The Trade Deadline

Atlanta 4 – Florida 3; CJ: 1-5

Ichiro, no!!!! No, no, no! Why them? Why the Evil Empire? And why leave Seattle? It seemed like they were so good to you there and that the fans really loved you. But it sounds like you really wanted to leave, maybe to get a chance at a World Series ring. I just hope you won’t take it personally when I say, I used to like you but now, considering the team play for, I don’t. (Well, maybe I just like you less. But why the Yankees???)

Anyway, this Ichiro business got me thinking about the trade deadline, that time honored tradition in baseball where the analysts go crazy with speculation while they spend endless hours “working the phones” to deliver us what may or may not be important news. Do we really care the Reds traded their third best pitching prospect for another left-handed reliever? I guess if you’re a Reds fan you do.

Really the speculation is more over the big guys, like Zach Greinke this year, whom we know has a contract set to expire at the end of the year, and the team he’s with likely won’t resign him, so the team figures they’ll try to get something for nothing and give him up a few months earlier to a team that thinks he can help them in their playoff push and is willing to part with a marginal prospect or two – follow me? (Although, with Greinke, the *latest* I hear is that the Brewers do want to keep him and are trying to put together an extension. Look at me. I’m like a real

insider.)

Then, once the trade is complete, the guy ends up being a “boon” or a “bust.” He either helps them or he doesn’t, and the General Manager either looks like an idiot or a genius for putting the whole thing together.

The whole thing strikes me as odd that people, as a species, seem to have to wait until the last minute to get anything done. I don’t get it. You want to wait until the very last possible second to see if you really need to make the move or not. Will your right fielder pull out of his season long slump so you don’t have to replace him? Will your team win a few more games and change from buyer to seller? Long term, do the answers to those questions matter? Don’t we all really know who the real prize players and the real title contenders are? (Damn Yankees!)

However, the trade deadline usually seems to disprove the whole “early bird gets the worm” theory and that maybe it is best to wait because the early bird is really getting all the fattest, dumbest worms, and the late worm gets the bestest, smartest ones. You know, smart because they didn’t come out of the ground while all the birds were around. (I know, it’s a convoluted metaphor at best.) Or not. Sometimes the trades don’t work out, and you’ve ended up with the fattest worm that managed to dress itself up and look like it was the best. (Ok, enough with the worms.)

So the deadline is looming and Atlanta seems to have made an offer for Cub’s pitcher Ryan Dempster, which makes sense as a two-year-old could tell their starting pitching had been…inconsistent this season. And Dempster, being the veteran he is, has a chance to say yes or no to the trade, and he’s apparently taking his time to make the decision. Here’s hoping, if it does go through, it’s a boom and not a bust.

By far, though, the most interesting part of the trade deadline is realized a year or two later when you see how all the no-name prospects panned out. For all Braves fans out there, there’s the classic John Smoltz from the Tigers for Doyle Alexander. Thank you, Detroit. Fred McGriff also came to Atlanta in a lopsided trade. Other great, non-Brave related trades include Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio, among others. (Ya, you know – Broglio.) Mark McGwire for nobody. I guess the best is Babe Ruth to the Yankees, setting off the great curse of the Bambino that the Red Sox finally exorcised in 2004.

My least favorite as a Braves fan is when Atlanta traded for Mark Teixiera and gave up Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (there’s a last name) to the Rangers. That one’s making Atlanta look pretty bad. I mean, ALL of those guys are playing and contributing now. Man.

Anyway, I love the trade deadline. It makes analysts and owners and managers momentarily turn into some sort of evil bond villain trying to take over the World Series. “We could do this and then we could do this and then this, and then we will have the perfect team!” It usually doesn’t quite work out that way, but it’s still entertaining. And most fans appreciate it, as do the players. Makes everybody think your team’s management cares about winning when they try to make the team better.

And here’s hoping Frank Wren, General Manager of the Braves does, and doesn’t pull a move where I later utter, ‘Well, hindsight is 20/20.’ In the meantime, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and hope the stuff he throws at the wall sticks.

The Final Season: Baseball Pranks

Marlins 2 – Braves 1; CJ: 1-4, RBI (41)

Tough day for the Braves, so let’s talk about something fun: pranks. Many baseball players are said to be masters at pulling off pranks, if only because they have so much time to sit around and think them up between teeth-picking and ball-scratching sessions. (I know, I know. I’m sure those cups are very uncomfortable.)

Baseball pranks. I bet I only know of a small fraction of them, and I imagine that’s because they’re the only ones that can be written or spoken about. Let’s see… there’s sticking lit matches in someone’s shoes, sticking a gum bubble on their hat, or really just sticking anything on another player, be it gum or candy related or some sort of sign. Seen them all. There’s the shaving-cream filled towel in the face during the victorious postgame interview.

There’s the kind of pranks you pull on people who don’t know much about baseball, such as a young, eager-to-please bat boy. A player might tell him to get the keys to the batter’s box or to find him a box of curveballs. Hopefully the unsuspecting do-gooder takes it well when they learn they’ve been fooled.

There’s also, of course, making rookies do all sorts of wonderfully degrading things. Chipper’s apparent rookie hazing consisted of parading through the Montreal airport in a clown suit. Actually, making rookies dress up seems to be common. A couple years ago, relief pitcher Kris Medlen carried the cutest little My-Little-Pony backpack full of equipment to the bullpen. Sooo cute.

In Ball Four, author and relief pitcher Jim Bouton had his shoes nailed to the floor. That’s a good one, although it didn’t seem so funny at the time. I’ve heard of not so nice spices and things being added to jock straps. The creativity can be quiet impressive.

One of the more elaborate pranks I’ve heard of happened a few years ago and involved practically the entire Philadelphia Phillies organization. The target was one of their pitchers, Kyle Kendrick, and he was told he had been traded to a team in Japan. They gave him an official looking letter and everything. His face, when they gave him that letter, priceless. He looked like he had to focus all the energy he had on reading it. Actually, to be honest, it looked like he didn’t know how to read and was trying to figure it out right then, but he likely just wanted to make sure he really understood what he was reading. I remember seeing video of it, and when they finally told him, his teammates were of course going crazy with laughter, but he just stood there, stunned. Good prank, good prank.

In a different vain, yet still related, you hear of players losing bets and having to do something elaborate to pay up, like wearing or doing something different. Usually in the dugout I’ve seen it. Although, and I can’t remember who, but I do remember one guy doing a postgame interview in a strange get-up because his college’s football team had lost to one of his teammates.

Often times it seems like baseball players live in their own world, but it’s also a world that seems like a lot of fun. Stressful, full of pressure, constant competition, and measurements of success versus failure that have to be tiresome. But when things are going well, it has to be a lot of fun, being a part of that camaraderie of a team.

I’m sure not all teammates get along. I believe them when they say they get to be as close as a family, and who loves every member of their family all the time? They’d have to get that close, spending more time with each other than their families during the season. And if a couple people aren’t getting along, what better way to break the ice than through some hijinks?

And that’s what I think pranks are all about. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: baseball is a marathon. It’s a long season, and it’s got to get low at times. Those stretches of long nights and few wins. Those stretches are when teams need pranksters. Need people to crack jokes and keep things light, so the team can laugh and relax and have fun playing baseball.

I suppose there’s a time and a place for pranks. If it was up to me I’d say anytime, anywhere, but if, at times, they have to focus on playing, that’s cool. But to those players coming up with new, hilarious pranks, I say keep at it.

The Final Season: The Prettiest Sight In Baseball

Nationals 9 – Braves 2; CJ: 2-4

I often hear announcers say, ‘That’s the prettiest sight in baseball’ during broadcasts. Common reasons for this expression are a well-turned double play, an amazing diving catch, the barehanded pick-up and throw for an out, or the towering homerun. I once heard an announcer say he thought a triple was. I thought that was an interesting choice, given they’re so rare.

Of course, it’s just a buzz phrase, a way to fill time, but it got me thinking what I might consider the prettiest sight in baseball. I decided, well, first off, that I wouldn’t say any of those things. I would say, after a lot of thought and considering all the options, that there is nothing prettier in baseball than a well thrown curve ball. The kind where the bottom just drops out. The kind where it’ there, then it’s not.

Now, before I proceed, I must warn you I’m going to get a little sappy and poetic, but it’s the truth to me. The best part is the fluidity of movement that comes with a good curveball. The soft line it draws. It doesn’t jerk to the right or left like a slider or cut fastball. It doesn’t “screw” around. It doesn’t overpower like a fastball, the ultimate display of sheer, brute force in baseball. It just curves. It isn’t slight when it’s good, but it’s sweeping. Not sharp. There’s a softness to a good curve.

The funny part to me is that the beginning and the end of a curve, the pitcher’s motion and the batters reaction, aren’t that pretty. They’re quite violent or awkward. Some people might argue with me, but I don’t find the pitcher’s motion to be that graceful. I don’t discount it for being a display of force. The movements of, say, a fighter jet can be quite graceful. But it’s jerky and… compartmentalized, and the transition between each “compartment” is not fluid. They don’t seem to be part of the same motion. The step from front to side, the planting of the back foot followed by the front being shot forward .The arm motion whipping around with a quick, snapping feel to it, followed by, often times, what looks like a pitcher’s follow through sending him falling off the mound.

But once the ball is released, a ballet dance begins between the ball and the air. (Seriously!) Some might say the ball cuts through the air, but I disagree because cutting would imply the ball is somehow trying to separate itself from the air around it. Free itself from this substance that is impeding its movement. But it’s much more of an interaction with the two entities working together. A curve ball is nothing without the air around it. The ball moves with the air, allowing itself to be pushed and turned and manipulated so that it can achieve its ultimate purpose, and that jerky movement of the pitcher is meant solely to begin the manipulation of the air. After all, the pressure placed on the ball at the optimal points of a pitchers delivery influences the way the ball moves with the air. Therefore, the air inhabiting that space between the pitcher’s mound and the batter’s box at that particular moment becomes relevant. Important. Noticed. A symbiotic relationship, for that fraction of a second, is created. The two meet and move with another, turning, spinning, co-existing. As a fan, you see it, enjoying the back and forth, and then suddenly, yet not alarmingly, the ball drops, as if its dance partner has just vanished. (I warned you this would get sappy!)

It is a thing of beauty to see that giant arch, and the end solidifies the beauty, even if, like I said, that portion is not particularly attractive. The hitter often swings and misses wildly, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (to steal an amazing line). He looks off balance and clueless, as he is completely fooled. For whatever reason, hitters can’t seem to lay off it. Perhaps because, when it comes at them, it’s up in the zone, so they swing with his all his strength, only to see the catcher snag it inches about the ground. Or if a batter doesn’t swing at a good curveball, he often jerks back as his knees buckle and his eyes fill with fear as the ball sails towards him, ready to hit him. But it doesn’t. It lands innocently in the catcher’s glove. That reaction, however ugly, makes the pitch that much lovelier to me. It brings a smile to my face. Who can help but laugh at a fool? Of, the other common reaction, the deer-in-headlights, statue look. The hitter freezes, unable to move, as if to say, ‘I have no chance here, so I’ll just stand here and wait for the next one.’

And this entire scene lasts only a second, an unbelievably small portion of time in which to perform an entire ballet, but it’s done hundreds of times a day during the season. Some much better than others, of course. And the result of an ugly curve, the one that refuses to dance or does so poorly, is often quite cringe worthy. But if it’s done right, that big, sweeping curve has got to be the prettiest sight in baseball.