All-Star break survival guide: 13 ways to handle two days without major league baseball
The two days after the All-Star Game are the only dead spot on the Major League Baseball calendar during the regular season. For some, it’s a welcome chance to take a breather from the daily grind, but if you’re a baseball junkie who just has to get that fix somehow, I can offer you a baker’s dozen ideas for how to survive until the regular season resumes on Friday evening.
1. Watch the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday night. It doesn’t have the allure or the history of MLB’s All-Star Game, nor do the bulk of the players have the promise of those featured in last Sunday’s Futures Game, but if you watched the latter, you couldn’t possibly have gotten enough of speedster Billy Hamilton (who will start for the International League), even with that rules-defying late-inning pinch-running appearance. It’s stretching the point to suggest that you’re dying to see what Omir Santos (IL catcher now in the Indians’ organization) has been up to lately, but you can check in on Jarred Cosart (Pacific Coast League starting pitcher from the Astros), who’s still basking in the afterglow of his spectacular major league debut. Michael Wacha (PCL pitcher and Cardinals phenom) will be there, as will Tuffy Gosewisch! If you can’t cash in enough frequent flyer miles to get to Reno by 7:05 pm Mountain Time, you can watch online via MiLB.tv.
2. Revisit some of the greatest games via the MLB.com Classic channel on YouTube: It’s not nearly as complete an archive as you might prefer, but MLB has stashed dozens of no-hitters and perfect games, All-Star Games, League Championship Series, and World Series classics on their YouTube channel in their entirety, and they’re all free. Check out Tom Seaver’s 1978 no-hitter, David Cone’s 1999 perfect game, the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park with its Ted Williams tribute, Game 7s of the 1952, 1965, 1986 and 1991 World Series, and so much more.
3. Start a Hall of Fame argument with a friend: Wanna check in on the progress of Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera toward Cooperstown, debate the merits of Willie Mays versus Mickey Mantle or Edgar Martinez versus David Ortiz, or see how Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine measure up head to head? While no one methodology is the final word on who deserves a plaque, I’m quite proud of my own JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) system, which compares each player’s career and peak values to those of enshrined players at their position. The scores are now on virtually every player page on Baseball-Reference.com, with sortable position-by-position rankings as well. If you need a user’s guide on where to find it at B-Ref, see here, if you want a more thorough overview of the method to my madness, read here and if you can’t wait until December to re-examine the slate of candidates on the BBWAA ballot, see here.
4. Plunder the SI Vault: From the debut issue in August 1954 to ones from earlier this month, every issue is online, available for article-by-article reading and page-by-page visual browsing. Search for features on your favorite players or skim through iconic cover shots. Revisit Hank Aaron’s record-setting 715th homer, George Plimpton’s April Fool’s classic, “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch” or the 2009 issue that introduced Bryce Harper to the world. Here’s a random favorite of mine: “The Secret Life of Rocky Perone”, a 1979 piece by Eight Men out author Eliot Asinof on a 36-year-old who adopted an assumed identity and faked his way into a game for the Walla Walla Padres.
5. Rummage through The Stacks Recently, Deadspin gave my pal (and occasional SI contributor) Alex Belth his own forum to highlight classic magazine articles, most (but not all) devoted to sports. Here’s a link to the baseball archives, with entries such as John Updike’s classic New Yorker piece “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” on Ted Williams’ farewell, and Red Smith’s “Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff”, devoted to Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” with one of the great ledes ever set onto paper:
Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.
6. Buy the Red Smith anthology: The Library of America just published American Pastimes: The Very Best of Red Smith, a 560-page anthology edited by former SI contributor Dan Okrent, compiling the cream of the crop of 800-word columns from a man worthy of the title “America’s Greatest Sportswriter.”
7. Download a classic book: While nothing can replicate the feel of settling down with a weighty hardcover or dog-eared paperback, thousands of baseball classics are just a few clicks away, and they won’t clutter up your home or empty your wallet. A company called Open Road Media put out a library of a dozen classics such as Roger Angell’s The Summer Game, Jimmy Breslin’s Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game, Robert Creamer’s Babe: The Legend Comes to Life and David Halberstam’s October 1964, all for just a few bucks from the usual online channels (disclosure: I received promotional versions of select titles back in spring).
8. Get loopy on GIFs: From the spectacular to the silly, those short loops can be addictive fun. A few favorites: Yu Darvish’s pitch selection, Miguel Cabrera’s plate coverage, Manny Machado’s uncanny glovework, Yoenis Cespedes’ Home Run Derby bat flip, Shane Victorino’s messy outfielding, Delmon Young’s failed juggling act and the daily gathering of great and goofy goodness by Chad Moriyama at MLB GIFs.
9. Party like it’s 1977: Thanks to the magic of the 1978 Topps set — my first as a collector, one that took me 10 years to complete and one that Cliff Corcoran and I agree is the greatest of our lifetimes — my baseball consciousness begins in 1977, though it really wasn’t until the following year that I was able to read a box score or follow the division races. Even so, few seasons from the distant past are easier to relive than 1977, because Major League Baseball Productions has compiled the first season of This Week In Baseball into a two-disc collection that provides six and a half hours worth of weekly highlights narrated by the legendary Mel Allen. The footage isn’t exactly crystal clear, but the garish uniforms, bushy mustaches, ridiculous bullpen carts and highlights of Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Joe Morgan, Jim Palmer and Eddie Murray make it worthwhile. Order from Amazon and get the set overnight, or go iTunes and start watching ASAP. Here’s a taste:
10. Watch Knuckleball: While I’m on the subject of iTunes, the best baseball documentary I’ve seen in recent years is Knuckleball, which chronicles R.A. Dickey’s rise to prominence, Tim Wakefield’s final moments of glory and the unique brotherhood of the fluttering pitch. The bond shared between those two pitchers and retired knuckleballers such as Jim Bouton, Tom Candiotti, Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro and Wilbur Wood is a touching and fascinating one. You can rent or buy the movie here.
11. Dig Matt Harvey’s sense of humor: Even in New York — and even from certain Mets fans, apparently — the NL All-Star team’s starter doesn’t have quite the recognition he deserves. If you haven’t seen it yet (or even if you have, and just want to enjoy it again), check out this hilarious clip from Late Night With Jimmy Fallon:
12. Re-view the most stirring moment from Tuesday night: Mariano Rivera’s entry into the game may have come in the eighth inning instead of the ninth, but the spontaneous decision of the AL squad to let him take the field solo and bask in the spotlight as he began his final All-Star appearance was a thing to behold. As someone fortunate enough to cover the game from the press box after watching virtually all of his Yankee career, I’m not too jaded to admit that I got goosebumps and a bit of a lump in my throat. I only wish that Fox had captured the overhead shot of the otherwise (virtually) empty field to which he entered as well as the rest of the tableau, a sight to which those in attendance at Citi Field were treated. Still, this video with players from both dugouts joining the crowd in giving him a standing ovation is pretty great:
13. Go outside and play catch: Sure, it’s probably hot and humid where you are, but I have it on good authority that the Tigers need a closer, and you don’t stand a chance of getting the call from Jim Leyland unless your arm is in shape.