Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘baseball

Latest Interview, Health Update…and Baseball?

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Folks, the book promotion efforts continue apace.

So, here’s my question: Have you met me yet?

(No, I’m not just being snarky, here.)

If you haven’t, or if you’d like to know more, and haven’t seen this interview, please go forthwith to Goodreads.

Why?

It might intrigue you. It might keep you motivated.

Or if nothing else, it’ll answer a question I’ve been asked over and over again regarding my newest novel: why did I set the story of CHANGING FACES in Nebraska, of all places?

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?
A: I lived in Nebraska for three years when I went to graduate school. I felt the heat, I saw the vivid colors of the sunsets and sunrises, I felt the scorching cold, and I knew exactly how to describe it.

It’s hard to explain, otherwise, but I’ll do my best.

If you’ve experienced something, that helps you to describe it. And I experienced Nebraska. I even met some LGBT people in Lincoln, when I lived there; there weren’t many, but there were some, and most of them, at the time (this being the late 1990s/early 2000s) did not want to call attention to themselves. The goal at that point was for civil unions to be accepted in various churches, and there were many disagreements about this.

So, it was important to me to set this story in Nebraska. These are two people who could live anywhere. They have talent in music, they are creative, they are honest, they love each other. But one of them is transgender and gender-fluid, and yet their love is like anyone else’s, and their communication problems are like anyone else’s, too.

It’s important that society as a whole comes to realize that people are people, and regardless of gender expression or sexuality, they are deserving of love and happiness and care. Whatever form that love and happiness takes (providing it’s consensual, preferably monogamous, and with people who are adult so they can make their own choices and take their own risks) ultimately does not matter.

Only the love matters. And that’s why I set this story in Nebraska in the first place, because it showcases just how much times have changed…and yet, remained the same.

Want to know more? Please go to the interview and take a look!

Now, as far as the health update goes…I continue to improve. I am a bit low on energy, but I wrote a new guest blog (for author Adriana Kraft and her readership, that will be posted Sunday if all goes well), I even worked a little bit on my fiction, and I’m starting to feel more like my normal self.

(Just in time for Friday, eh?)

I don’t plan on throwing any wild parties any time soon, mind, but I at least can write some again and I’m grateful for it.

Otherwise, I wanted to talk a little bit about baseball, as we’re nearly up to spring. (Hey, don’t correct me. I know it’s a few weeks, yet.)

One thing I noticed, recently, is that major league baseball has changed their way of indicating an intentional walk. Before, a manager had to call for it, but the pitcher had to actually throw the four balls (very wide of the strike zone) before the runner could take first base. This occasionally would result in a wild pitch or passed ball, but most of the time was a fairly routine deal.

Now, MLB is going to do it differently. The manager will somehow indicate that he wants an intentional walk, and the batter will go take first base. The pitcher will not have to throw the four balls, wide of the mark or otherwise.

What do I think of this? I don’t like it at all. I think it’s silly. I think it’s stupid.

And the reason they gave for it? They want to speed the game up.

(I don’t see that as being a particularly speedy thing, mind, but whatever.)

To my mind, the only legitimate basis for this rule-change is to save the pitcher unnecessary wear and tear on his arm. If, over time, this actually works, and a few pitchers here and there won’t hurt themselves, I might actually — someday — begrudgingly, of course, be willing to entertain this.

But for the moment, I think it’s stupid, nonsensical, and wrong.

What do you all think, baseball fans? Does this rule-change make any sense to you? (And if they really want to improve the pace of the game, why don’t they stop guys from getting out of the batter’s box over and over again during the same at-bat? Wouldn’t that be a lot more conducive to getting the speed down than merely eliminating the four pitches from the intentional walk?)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

March 3, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Just Reviewed “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty” at SBR

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Folks, I wanted to point your attention toward my latest book review of Charles Leerhsen’s TY COBB: A Terrible Beauty, which is up right now over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always).

Now, why am I so proud of this review?

I think it has to do with two things. One, Mr. Leerhsen’s baseball scholarship is superb. And two, I was pleased to realize, after reading Leerhsen’s  book, that Cobb was not at all the virulent racist he’d been portrayed to be.

See, all of the stuff I thought I knew about Cobb was wrong — well, except for the actual baseball facts. (I knew Cobb hit .367 as a lifetime batting average, for example, and was the all-time hits leader until Pete Rose moved past him in the mid-1980s.)

Basically, Ty Cobb, since his death in 1961, has been the victim of a shoddy narrative. Apparently his “biographer” Al Stump was no such thing; instead, Stump invented the wildest flights of fancy about Cobb, figuring that as there was almost no film or still pictures or even radio accounts of Cobb’s play, Stump could do as he liked and no one would be the wiser.

Besides, monsters sell. So Stump made Cobb a monster.

Leerhsen proved just how fallacious Stump’s account actually was by going back and reading all of the various newspaper reports, which were readily available in the archives. (Thank goodness for archives, eh?) Stump made so many erroneous assumptions that it’s hard to believe Stump didn’t know what he was writing was dead wrong; in fact, Cobb himself was in the midst of a lawsuit at the time of his death, because he’d gotten wind of what Stump was about to do to him in the guise of Cobb’s “autobiography” (which was ghost-written by Stump), and wanted no part of it.

The most egregious fallacy of Stump’s was to paint Cobb as a racist. Cobb was anything but — in fact, according to Leerhsen, Cobb used to sit in the dugout with players like Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige during Negro League games, and famously remarked that “The Negro (ballplayer) should be accepted, and not grudgingly but wholeheartedly.” And Cobb was a big fan of Roy Campanella’s, plus he enjoyed Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson.

And as far as being a mean, nasty, vicious old cuss — well, how mean, vicious and nasty could Ty Cobb have been if he was willing to help the young Joe DiMaggio out when Joe D. signed with the Yankees? (Cobb understood baseball contracts, and young Joe didn’t.) How mean was Cobb when he helped Campanella and his family out after “Campy” became paralyzed? And how vicious was Cobb when, after his playing days were over and he had nothing at all to gain by it, he and Babe Ruth became fast friends?

Leerhsen has dozens of stories about Cobb, and very few of them depict anything close to the man Stump portrayed (and Tommy Lee Jones later masterfully acted in the movie version, Cobb).

While Cobb was a difficult man to know — he was prickly, quick to anger, and settled things with his fists more than once — he was not a monster.

Instead, Cobb appears to be the victim of one of the worst narrative frames in the history of all narrative-framing.

So do, please, read my review of Charles Leerhsen’s book TY COBB: A Terrible Beauty. Then please, if you have any interest whatsoever in early 1900s to the “Roaring Twenties” Americana, baseball history, or just want to find out what’s actually the truth about Ty Cobb, go read his masterful book for yourself.

My story “Baseball, Werewolves and Me” Included in Halloween 2014 Edition of Twilight Times E-Zine

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Happy Halloween, folks!

Since it is Halloween, the time of tricks and/or treats, what say you to a little bit of both?

I’m discussing my story,  “Baseball, Werewolves and Me,” of course, as it’s included in the Halloween edition of the Twilight Times e-zine. It’s absolutely free to read, so in that sense it’s definitely a treat. But there’s at least a little bit of trickery in play, partly due to the nature of the story itself.

Arletta James is a psychic, and a good one. She’s also a huge baseball fan. So when “Madame Arletta” is asked to help Hank Rayne, manager of the Brooklyn Knights, some pointers to try to get the Knights out of their twelve-game losing streak, Arletta agrees. (Of course, she is getting paid good money to do this, as Arletta is not a fool.) Once she talks with Hank Rayne, she realizes something else — something much worse — is going on that’s caused the Knights to go into a tailspin. Will Arletta figure this out, or won’t she? And what does her husband Fergus — a werewolf — have to do with it all?

Baseball, Werewolves and Me” is a fun story that readers should enjoy, especially as it’s about a subject that usually does not get covered overmuch in urban fantasy: baseball.

And who doesn’t like a free story? Especially when it’s Halloween?

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 31, 2014 at 2:11 am

Milwaukee Brewers 9-Game Winning Streak Comes to an End

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All good things must come to an end . . . something every baseball fan knows, most particularly a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers like yours truly.

You see, over the past two weeks, the Brewers had won nine games straight up until last night’s contest against the St. Louis Cardinals (which the Brewers lost by a score of 4-0). After my blog post bemoaning the Brewers’ lack of hitting in their opening series against the Atlanta Braves, the Brewers started to hit.

Better yet, Brewers pitchers kept pitching at the same high level as they had during that opening series.

And every baseball fan knows that when a single team has both good pitching and good hitting, that particular team is likely to win more games than it loses.

But a nine-game winning streak takes more than just good pitching and good hitting, welcome though those are. It also takes good defense — which, to the Brewers credit, they’ve mostly had — and a goodly bit of luck, besides. Without all of that, you don’t win nine games in a row.

So what will happen next to the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers, now that their first winning streak is over?

Well, there’s an old truism that states you’re never as good as you think you are (with the corollary, of course, that you’re also never as bad as you think you are, either). This is the main reason I don’t expect the Brewers to win ten out of every twelve games for the rest of the season — well, that, and the fact that the best team of the modern era, winning-percentage wise, won approximately seven games out of ten (that team, of course, being the 1954 Cleveland Indians and their gaudy 111-43 record in a 154-game season).

And in the past twenty years, only two teams have approached the level of the Indians’ past success — those two teams being the 2001 Seattle Mariners (116-46), and the 1998 New York Yankees (114-48).

So no, I don’t think the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers are likely to reach such dizzying heights.

But I do think they are likely to make the playoffs, providing Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez stay healthy.

Anyway, it’s been fun watching them play so well . . . and for the record, the main reason I didn’t talk too much about the Brewers during their nine-game winning streak was because as a true-blue diehard baseball fan, I really didn’t want to jinx my favorite team.

Realistically, I know that nothing I say matters. The Brewers are going to go out there and play the same way regardless. But I still didn’t want to jinx them . . . make of that what you will.

Jeff Passan Owes Baseball Fans an Apology

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What is wrong with Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan?

Passan wrote yet another column condemning Ryan Braun this past Sunday, despite this new column being at least the fourth such column in the past month.  This seems excessive under the circumstances, as a number of other baseball players, including Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres, and Jhonny Peralta of the Cleveland Indians are also suspended, while Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees continues to play pending his upcoming appeal of a lengthy, 211-game suspension.

Anyway, Passan’s newest column on Braun cited an ESPN report that said Braun had supposedly lobbied fellow MLB players prior to his successful appeal regarding the reportedly high level of testosterone in his urine sample.  ESPN’s slant was that Braun was perhaps looking for support from his fellow players as Braun was prepared to lose his hearing.  According to ESPN’s original report, Braun supposedly told several unnamed players that the urine specimen collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr., was both a “Cubs fan” and an “anti-Semite.”  But when Braun unexpectedly won, that lobbying wasn’t needed.

However, Passan’s column as initially reported said that Braun had told specific big-name players such as Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies and Joey Votto these very same allegations.  (The inference in both columns, of course, was that Braun had said that Laurenzi, Jr., had it in for Braun.)  And because Passan’s column named these names, it made this particular report sound that much more compelling.

Then came the reports here and here that stated that neither Tulowitzki nor Votto had spoken with Braun about this particular matter.  And that Braun had most emphatically not slandered the urine collector in any way as far as either one of them knew.

So, what should you do as a writer when something this big blows up in your face?  Most people would print a retraction and an additional article saying, in effect, “Sorry.  I/we screwed up, and it won’t happen again if we can help it.”

But that’s not exactly what Passan did here, though he did back off a few of the worst of the allegations against Braun:

ESPN.com first reported that Braun had reached out to fellow players. While Yahoo! Sports previously reported Braun had contacted Joey Votto and Troy Tulowitzki, on Monday they denied having any conversations with Braun about test collector Dino Laurenzi Jr.  (emphasis mine — BC)

Note that this slight backing off seems to be blaming ESPN’s initial report, which is silly at best because it wasn’t ESPN who named Tulowitzki and Votto as being among the players Braun had supposedly reached out to for support — it was Jeff Passan himself.

Worse yet, other reports are still being written that are going off the original source material, including this one from UT-San Diego, which was written one short day ago.

Look.  I understand why Passan felt the need to write his column, at least in part.  ESPN had put out a report.  Yahoo wanted to have its own story.  Passan wrote it because, quite frankly, he cannot abide Ryan Braun (he’s previously called Braun a “cockroach”) and Passan, being a baseball writer who fully understands what’s going on with regards to the 2013 suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use, was probably the best person to write this particular column.

Where Passan erred was when he decided to name Tulowitzki and Votto without getting quotes from them on the record.  Both players are among the biggest names in baseball; Tulowitzki came in second to Braun in the 2007 Rookie of the Year Award, while Votto won the Most Valuable Player award in 2010.

So when Passan named them without quotes, he had to know that fallout was possible.  Yet for some strange reason, that didn’t seem to bother him at all.

Why?

What Passan did wasn’t a small error.  Instead, this was a big, fat, huge error considering Passan’s name, his reputation, and the fact that he has thousands upon thousands of people reading his columns every single day.  That’s why whatever Passan ends up reporting on any given day needs to be above reproach.

Passan screwed up by naming two players who apparently had absolutely no contact with Braun whatsoever regarding this issue without checking his sources and making sure they were unimpeachable.  And thus far, Passan has failed to offer one shred of reasoning as to why he, Jeff Passan, did this at all, when Passan had to know they would both be asked about these allegations . . . especially considering that Passan obviously had no idea what these men were going to say.

If Jeff Passan didn’t realize that these two men were going to deny these allegations, much less in the heartfelt way both men picked to do so — Tulowitzki and Votto are known as straight shooters — why on Earth did he print such inflammatory allegations?

While the slight clarification currently in the Yahoo Sports article by Passan (referenced above) is better than nothing, it is extremely puzzling that Passan would not print an apology under these circumstances.

Because really and truly, Passan owes all baseball fans an apology.  His report regarding Braun’s apparent slander was inflammatory.  He couldn’t back it up — in fact, it was roundly denied by two of the people Passan sourced in his original column as supposedly being upset and offended by Braun’s reported remarks — and then, he only had the wit to partly backtrack and blame ESPN instead for ESPN’s initial report?

I’m sorry.  That does not cut it.

Writers must have integrity.  Honesty.  Believability.  And be able to tell a fair and accurate story, especially when it comes to nonfiction sports writing and current events . . . otherwise, the writer in question has nothing at all.

We all know this, as writers.  Which is why most writers would’ve apologized for making a mistake of this magnitude immediately.

Otherwise, why would you want to trust us, or believe that we’re giving you the best information possible on any given day?

Whenever we fail, as writers, we must own up to it.

I don’t care if there are one thousand people in baseball who think exactly what Jeff Passan reported . . . if Passan hadn’t named names, he’d be in the clear.  But he did, he was wrong, and he should apologize.  Profusely.

And if he refuses to apologize, I have only one more question for you: Why on Earth should we believe anything else Jeff Passan ever says?

———–

**Note: Both the ESPN report and the column written by Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports have been updated to reflect the record that both Tulowitzki and Votto have denied these specific allegations.  ESPN’s report quite properly credits Passan’s Yahoo sports column for making those direct allegations.