Mudville Magazine: The Voice of Baseball


Remove pistol. Aim into barrel. Shoot fish.

Such is the modus operendi for sportswriters this season. As usual, speculation from the pundits is a triumph of redundancy—columnists around the country seem eager to repeat the clichéd possibility of a Twins-Expos World Series. This notion is about as interesting as sitting through another Kevin Costner baseball flick. Montreal barely stands a chance of making it to the Fall Classic, and if they did, would it even be interesting? Do we really think that Bud Selig's going to be sitting in some dark corner, gnashing his teeth, cursing the heroic Twins? The idea of playing in front of the hushed crowds of French-speaking Canadians doesn't particularly thrill us. And yet, sportswriters seem to think that this would be a the funniest thing since "Major League" charmed their socks off a few years back.

We'd like to remind our readers that prior to the sinister whispers of contraction, we thought that shaving a team or two off the league was a good idea.. Lest we not forget, prior to '02 many were those who grumbled about the watering down of the majors. Expansion was used as an excuse for everything from the rise in home runs, to the need to remove the anti-trust exemption, and over to the injustice of the electoral college. Here in Mudville, we're firmly behind the notion of contraction. Simply put, there are too many teams in the league—in fact, we believe there are precisely two too many.

The Twins aren't one of these teams. Contracting the Twins is a good idea only to Bud Selig and his loan shark, Carl Pohlad. Frustrated over the collective intelligence of the frugal state of Minnesota, Pohlad and company keep muttering threat after empty threat, to move the team to Las Vegas or North Carolina and now just to can the whole thing altogether. There is no logical reason to remove the Twins, except to benefit Carl Pohlad.

So who should get the axe? To begin with, let's set some ground rules:

First: no team should be removed that has played in a World Series. Admittance into the fall classic makes a team worthy of a higher status—for playing in a championship often cements a team to its community. When the Diamondbacks won, much was written about the fact that it was Arizona's first pro championship—the same went with Denver and their Superbowl victory. Fans talk and reminisce about championship seasons through the generations. In Detroit, people still talk about the '68 World Series and what it meant to the city, and in the fair state of Minneapolis, the Twins '87 and '91 series victories are spoken of with reverence. Contracting a team that has engaged in a Series would be utterly cruel and in the worst interest of the sport. Sadly, this probably is not a deterring argument for our enlightened ownership cabal.

Second: in no way, shape, or form, should an original franchise get the axe. Consider the Twins—their Minnesota history dates back over forty years. However, before the move, the Washington Senators date back to the beginning of the American League. Removal of the Twins would eliminate the team of Kirby Puckett, Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and even the distant Movietone memories of Walter Johnson, the affable losers in "Damn Yankees", and the great doormats of the American league. Kill the Twins and you send a terrible message to baseball fans: namely, that nothing whatsoever is sacred to the owners, and no team is safe from movement or sale. For a sport already facing a possible strike, and with a fan base growing more and more jaded, this would be suicide.

Finally: keep the teams with newer stadiums. OK, so we hate how the league keeps blackmailing cities into coughing up their milk monies, but if the deed's done, let's keep the place occupied. Imagine the horror a city would face having erected one of these giant pleasure palaces only to see it vacated? Sadly, for this reason we also believe that Tampa Bay should remain solvent. Yes, their dome is the worst, built when domes, like K-cars, were considered a good idea. But the city of St. Petersburg has been screwed over so many times, they deserve a team. And we believe that if they actually fielded a winner, the city would respond, as Seattle did with the Mariners.

So who to contract? Of course, we firmly believe that the Montreal Expos should go. They stink, their logo stinks, their stadium stinks and their city, beautiful though it may be, does not enjoy baseball. Put your head on the block, Expos, you're going down.

Fine. That's one. But there's another. By our reasoning, we've eliminated Tampa Bay, Florida, the Twins and most of the rest of the expansions. All except one.

The Anaheim Angels.

That's right, the Angels. Bland as the suburb they curiously named themselves after, the star-struck Anaheim Angels have never been more than a mercenary team, unable to buy a winner. They play in a lousy park whose lease was up in 2001, with a history that's only interesting for their horrible exit from the '86 playoffs (resulting in a great World Series, and, later, a horrible murder-suicide). To make this deal even sweeter, consider that even Disney's sick of this team and ready to cash out. Plus, since most Southern Californians consider themselves Dodger fans, and since the good Gene Autry has since passed on, removal of this team would be as (relatively) painless as the extraction of the Expos.

So there you have it: The Expos. The Angels. Together they epitomized baseball at its most bland and uninteresting. Euthanizing these teams is a humane gesture—sort of like putting down a lame horse. No one likes to do it, but deep down inside, you know it's for the best.


Mother Nature gave her testimony in behalf of the Twins Metrodome the other day, giving us yet another cloudy, forty-degree day while the Yankees dispatched the Twins in seventy degree comfort. Don't forget, this is the same place that so disturbed St. Louis and Atlanta in the '87 and '91 World Series that they couldn't win a game, and draws over 20,000 when winter makes its last dying gasps during the regular season. Sometimes, even the dome has its own special charm. Like Oscar's trash can.

What good is baseball in Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Kansas City? Already those three teams—to name but a few—can pretty much write off their season. Will they grow into a better team? Can we look for signs of improvement?
Consider this story from our dear, close friend, the Buddha: a monk was sitting quietly, listening to a baseball game on the radio, when his master stole up and whacked him across the skull. The monk jumped up in anger. "Whadja do that for?" he shouted. With a sly grin, the master responded, "Since none of these things exists, and all is Emptiness, where does your anger come from?"

OK, so that bit of esoteric nonsense may only help out a bit. But maybe Gene Benson stated it a bit better—everyone knows how to win. Baseball teaches you how to lose.

Perhaps this is one of the great lessons of the sport. Everyone talks about its emphasis on failure: yah, yah, even a .400 hitter fails 60% of the time. But for those teams swamped in last place by May, sometimes its good to just take a deep breath and think of the big picture. It's only a game, after all. Endure. And, in a few years, when the 'Rays and the Royals meet in the playoffs, won't you feel smug for following them all these years. Patience is a virtue. And besides, all is emptiness, all is emptiness…

Speaking of Tampa Bay
, we sincerely encourage them not to improve. In fact, we hope that they will become much worse. The addition of some belligerents on the team would be helpful, and maybe a few horrible blundering fools, the new Marv Throneberry. Right now, the modern record for losses is the Mets woeful 42-120 record. Think you can beat that Devil Rays?

Viva the National League! Why, it looks as though anyone can take the pennant over thar! Pittsburg, Cincinnati, St. Louis—why, we bet even Houston and the Cubs make a run for the crown of the Dollar Store Division.

And what about the East? Philly's only four games out. Could the Expos take it? Pray that doesn't happen. How 'bout them Marlins. Or the Mets? Anyone but the Braves—they're about as interesting as Al Gore debating fuel-efficiency.
Even the west's usual triumverate of Arizona, San Fran and Los Angeles is more interesting than what we're seeing in the American League. Boston v. New York? Seattle v. Oakland? Why bother to change a bland formula?


Attention young lovers: beware when introduce your current paramour to your favorite sport. While baseball is the greatest game, the gem of all pastimes, it is still an acquired taste. Take these tips to heart:

First, don't haul the date to a baseball game right away. Start with TV, or even better, radio. Understand that fidgetyness is a part of baseball for the uninitiated. During the dull spots—e.g., pitching changes—you can change the channel, or admire or loved one. And radio possesess such a lovely charm, and encourages making out besides.
Remember: do not shriek at the first gmae, TV, radio, or otherwise. And beware of statistics. Nothing cools the romance like an explanation of Earned Run Average.

Be patient with questions—if you like the sport, and your lover likes you, they'll want to get to know this mysterious person by asking questions about squeeze plays. Even a simple question—like what is the yellow pole at eitehr end of the field—were really, truly, something that you yourself did not know at one time.

Hot dogs are really not great date food. Sometimes, in a baseball movie, a quirky date will end up sharing hot dogs. This is nothing more than a blantant lie. Like Doritos, red hots leave your breath smelling, how shall we say—foul as a dog's breath after a snack of dumpster stew. Add a beer to the mix and you may wonder why she's leaning so far to the other edge of her seat.

Then again, if she's willing to kiss you through all that, there's some real lovin' there.


Bill Veeck


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