The Baseball Codes

Michael Talks about the Codes

Lowell Cohn is not your ordinary newspaper writer – he has a PhD. in English Literature and has been an instructor at the world-famous Stanford Creative Writing Program, and he has won numerous national awards for his work.

So, when Lowell says nice things about the book, we proudly blush — and encourage you to read his kind words. He liked it so much, he not only wrote his Sunday column on the subject, he also posted an interview with Michael in his blog, The Cohn Zone.

The article can be found here: Sunday Column

The blog can be found here: The Cohn Zone

The book can be found everywhere — on line, or at your local bookseller. Support local folks if you can.


Bud Selig

Our Newest Reader

Authors get a small number of books to give away — most go to family, obviously.

Today, in Scottsdale, I gave away a book to someone who is decidedly not family, but who asked for a copy.

Unwritten rule: You do not refuse a request from the Commissioner of Baseball.


Rookie Hazing

Rookie Treatment Prevails, Even if You’re Not Quite a Ballplayer

Today’s ball boy for the Kansas City Royals in their game against the Rangers was Olukorede Aiyegbusi, the second-round draft pick of Major League Soccer’s Kansas City Wizards. Aiyegbusi, from England by way of North Carolina University, was victimized by a pair of classic rookie hazes.

First, he was asked for the key to the batter’s box, which, to judge by those watching him look for it, was apparently left in the bullpen behind the left-field fence.

Once the game was under way, home plate umpire Chris Tiller told Aiyegbusi, “These guys can’t seem to throw a curveball today; would you please go get a box of curveballs?” Where Aiyegbusi went to look for it is still unclear.

– Michael

Bryce Harper, Dusty Baker, Passing Rules Down

Bryce Harper, 17-yr. Old Phenom, Learns One of the Unwritten Rules

Our good friend and colleague, Jeff Fletcher, has written a wonderful piece for AOL Fanhouse on Bryce Harper, the 17-year old who dropped out of high school in Las Vegas, took the GED and enrolled in a community college to prepare for the June draft.

There’s even a part about the unwritten rules, that comes near the end of the story.

Another issue Harper will need to address this year is gaining some maturity. (College of Southern Nevada coach Tim) Chambers said Harper has some “bad body language” and occasionally does and says things on the field that he shouldn’t. Last fall he started to go to first on a pitch he thought was ball four, but it was called a strike. Next pitch, he hit a home run. After reaching the dugout, he said to one of the coaches, loud enough for the opponents to hear: “They should have walked me.”

Next time up, Harper got plunked.

“Those little things, he’s still learning,” Chambers said. “He didn’t mean to show them up. He was just giggling to our coach.”

Chambers is one of the unsung heroes of the game — the guys who teach young players the right way to play, before they reach the level of competition where playing the wrong way can be hazardous to their health.

Here what Dusty Baker told us on the subject of taking younger players under your tutelage and “paying it forward” :

“That’s how the game perpetuates itself, and I was always told,  well I wasn’t told this, I kind of made this up myself, but I tell people I was told it, to make it sound better, because I’m not some great philosopher, but – I honestly believe that what you learn in this game  is not yours to possess, but yours to pass on.  I believe, whether it is equipment, knowledge, or philosophy, that’s the only way the game shall carry on.  There’s not enough passing on now.  . . .  I urge my older guys to spend time with the young dudes so the game will continue when I’m gone and they are gone.  I believe that you have to talk, communicate, and pass on what was given to you. You can’t harbor it, you can’t run off to the woods and keep it for yourself, because it isn’t yours to keep.”

– Michael

The Baseball Codes

Some Codes Transcend Baseball

I have always been fascinated by the fact that the island of Hispaniola includes the Dominican Republic, where nearly all major league shortstops are born; and Haiti, the first nation in the Western Hemisphere to throw off the chains of slavery, but a nation that has never produced a single major league baseball player.

And it won’t for quite a while longer.  More than 50 percent of the population of Port au Prince was under the age of 13 just one week ago.  The city, and by extension the nation, has lost a significant part of an entire generation.  We’re all about how baseball is a metaphor for life, and I would like to encourage all our readers to do whatever you can to help out — right now, when the need is greatest and your ability to affect it is still high.

If you’re not the donating type, maybe you’d like an experience of a lifetime — the San Francisco Giants and their players have teamed up to offer some amazing opportunities on the team Web site, as a fund-raiser for Haitian Relief.

Three auctions will be on-going for a week:

  • Batting practice off a Giants’ starting pitcher
  • 30 minutes of hitting instruction with Pablo Sandoval
  • A private meeting with Tim Lincecum

Find out more, here. If you’re the donating type, the Red Cross is working hard in Haiti; the Salvation Army has been there for years before the disaster, and Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) was there before the quake, but all three of their hospitals were reduced to rubble in the quake.  Major League Baseball is giving via UNICEF.  All offer a way to give.

In our family, in addition to money, we’ve given our son, who is a member of the Marine Expeditionary Unit that will land Sunday morning and spend four to six months helping those who had virtually nothing, and lost even that this week. Give until it hurts just a little, even in these times.  You’ll feel better, and you will have exercised a little justified retaliation of your own, against poverty and misery — your own private brushback pitch.

– Michael

Mark McGwire

Mark McGwire Says He Wishes He’d ‘Never Played in the Steroid Age.’ It Probably Wouldn’t Have Mattered, Mark

Mark McGwire, here hitting one of nearly 700 career homers, wishes he'd not played during the steroid era.

Now that Mark McGwire has performed his highly public act of contrition in front of all of America (or at least, those discerning enough to watch the MLB Channel in early January), there’s again a public discussion, if not outcry, over the steroid era, and whether it has tainted the record book forever.

Probably not.  It’s certainly not the first time baseball players have been proponents of “better living through chemistry.”

Two anecdotes we weren’t able to get into the book serve to illustrate how pervasive the use of amphetamines–a.k.a “uppers,” “greenies” and “beans”–were in the “Era Just Before The Steroid Era, Except it Leaked Into the Steroid Era” :

We talked to a successful pitcher, who not only used greenies on a fairly regular basis, but it was their use that helped him decide when to quit the game.  “I realized one day that I was actually afraid, fearful of taking the field without at least two greenies under my belt,” he told us. “That’s when I knew it was time to get out–while I still had some sanity.”

But even getting out didn’t solve the problem for everyone.  At the 2007 All Star Game festivities in San Francisco, one easily-recognized former MVP came into the locker room, walked into the training room and erupted, yelling,  “Where the hell is the bowl of beans?”

The player was adamant that he was not going to “go out on that field in front of people” without “beaning up,” and he was clearly serious about the matter.

It’s noteworthy that he was talking about taking the field for the Celebrity Softball Game, and that he’d already been retired from the game for a number of years.

As the players say, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”

– Michael