Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tall Tales

For those of us on the Least Coast who went to bed Fri. nite before receiving the news from the Worst Coast, it was a bit alarming to learn Sat. morning that San Diego Padres pitcher Chris Young came this close ("this close!") to becoming the first 6-foot-10 right-handed pitcher in MLB history to hurl a no-hitter.
Well, since Pirate pinch-hitter Joe Randa foiled Young's no-no bid with a 2-run HR with one out in the top of the 9th, Randy Johnson remains the only 6-foot-10 pitcher in MLB history to hurl a no-hitter.

Of all people ... did anyone figure it would be the chronically-hittin'-.270something Joe Randa who would deprive Chris Young of his place in the record books?
Wasn't it only a year ago when Joe Randa was hittin' a robust .256 for the Pods during that memorable run to the '05 N.L. West flag?
You're damn right ... the same Joe Randa who was third in the N.L. in triples in '97; sixth in the A.L. in singles in '00; and second in the A.L. in sac flies in '02.
It's always about Joe Randa and his Randish Randesqueness.

But, before we turn this into the Tribute to Joe Randa, let's shift our focus back to 6-foot-10 Chris Young.
That kid is DAMN tall.
The thing is, last month, the Baltimore Sun published a feature story re: tall pitchers, localizing the piece by including 6-foot-7 Orioles hurler Daniel Cabrera.
Included with the text was a boxed graphic which highlighted assorted 6-foot-5-and-taller pitchers -- and it just so happened that Eppa Rixey was mentioned.
That's right ... the same Eppa Rixey which this Planet de-enshrined from Cooperstown less than two months ago.

Eppa Rixey ... one of the original Hall of Fame de-inductees.
Here's why: In the Sun piece, Eppa Rixey was described thusly: "Graceful lefty relied on changing speeds more than raw power."
It's important to note that Eppa Rixey pitched from 1912 thru 1933, so, unless the Sun article author (Childs Walker) is 95 years old and he was once an 11-year-old sittin' in the stands at Cincinnati's Crosley Field watchin' The Rixster during that memorable 25-13 season of 1922, then descriptions such as "graceful lefty," etc. require and/or demand attribution.

While sifting through these pages of "The Eppa Rixey Scouting Report" which is situated next to this keyboard, it says that Eppa Rixey threw a spitter (when he wasn't scuffing the ball with a hobnail he had hidden in his mitt) and that Eppa Rixey was a boozehound and an abuser of opium.
See what happens when we apply footnotes, ibid, bibliographies and the attribution that we were taught during the first few months of our freshman years in English 9A?
Childs Walker's romantic Eppa Rixey becomes the Haystack's drunk/junkie/cheatin' Eppa Rixey.

Bottom line: Eppa Rixey is NOT graceful just because Childs Walker says he was.
Now, if one of Eppa Rixey's two catchers from the '22 Redlegs (be it Bubbles Hargrave or Ivey Wingo) or another Redlegs pitcher from '22 (either Cactus Keck or 23-game loser Dolf Luque, take yer pick) described Eppa Rixey as graceful, then Childs Walker would be onto something.
America would probably also accept as validation of Eppa Rixey's grace and speed-changing acumen a by-lined article from an issue of "The Saturday Evening Post."

Anything short of that, though, is hearsay ... maybe even poppycock.
In other words ... B.S.
Or flat-out bunk.

Not that I-Never-Saw-Eppa-Rixey-Pitch Childs Walker is alone in glorification which may be fabrication. Recently, a Sports Illustrated cover story instructed America to "Remember His Name" in the block letters above the cover photo os above soldier Pat Tillman.
The story covered the usual bases of Tillman's bravery blended with wacky antics from his youth and early-age introspection, etc.
One of those backstories was this passage:
"He (Tillman) dusted himself off and, then ratcheted up the risk, more than once turning to a pal in the passenger seat as he drove 75 mph on the freeway, asking him to hold the wheel, then shimmying out the window and draping himself over the roof, only to reappear a few minutes later through the opposite window."

How do you feel about that, America? If Pat asked his friend to hold the wheel, then WHO kept his foot on the gas pedal? And, does the anecdote lose its impact if P-Till completed his out-the-driver's-side-window-and-in-through-the-opposite-window if the car is traveling at 43 MPH on a city street, rather than 75 MPH on the freeway?
Without atrtribution, it's a throwaway anecdote offered by a faceless entity.
The author (Gary Smith) might as well have "reported" that, when he was on the roof of the car, Tillman encountered a cougar and killed the animal by stabbing it to death with a ballpoint pen before watching an episode of "The Flintstones" while eating nachos before reappearing through the opposite window.
That's how many of us Americans completed the 75-mph shimmying/draping/reappearing function.

The pro-Tillman conglomerate will say that focusing on a footnote is to completely miss the point. But, by the same token, if Gary Smith either cannot or will not verify Tillman's freeway hijinks, then how is America supposed to reconcile conflicting reports of Tillman's death?
Pat Tillman: "Inexperienced Risk-Taking Soldier -- or America's Eternal Patriot?"

The way it stands, most of what we read/hear is so twisted with bias, it's not easy to know which is an embellished "A Million Little Pieces" and an ill-gotten "Game of Shadows."
Too many authors have taken too many liberties for far too long.
Which means that the text which appears in the Sun, S.I. and a few best-selling books isn't any more sacred than the words in a weblog.
With a lot of people playin' it fast n' loose with the facts, is it really any different than that commercial for Las Vegas wherein the guy is fibbing to every girl he meets?
"I'm a racecar driver. Formula Two, ummm ... Formula One."
It's true. Anything's possible (although maybe not probable) without verification or attribution.
Her: "You told my friend you were a lawyer."
Him: "Yeah ... in the off-season ..."

Or it's like when George told the Rosses that he had a place in the Hamptons and that he owned two horses.
Mr. Ross: "What are their names?"
George: "Snoopy ... and Prickly Pete."
By the way, that was either before or after George told Jerry that he once told a woman than he coined the phrase, "Pardon my French."
Sounds like a scam, doesn't it?

So, to answer your question, America ... yes, Childs Walker and Gary Smith are counting on the fact that you'll take them at their word. They're banking on the fact that you don't have an open mind and that you will not consult The Smoking Gun or the Drudge Report.

And they're praying that you never learn the truth about Eppa Rixey.
Like how he saved those three children from a burning orphanage.
While he was on parole for B&E in the drug store burglary.

Indeed, Eppa Rixey was a real paradox ...

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