Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-4-17

4/17/2008
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Top of the 1st
THE FIRST PITCH
The ceremonial first pitch in baseball has now become pretty close to an everyday occurrence. This honor used to be relegated to Opening Day and Presidents, but now it has become part and parcel of many games. And, of course, the competitive aspect the event has begun.

Last Saturday, for example, at Fenway, I watched Germany’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Frank Steinmeier, defy warnings from his counterpart Condoleezza Rice, throw the first pitch. Steinmeier was taking a break from meeting Secretary of State Rice in Washington, and speaking at Harvard University and MIT. Rice heard of Steinmeier’s plan and as always she showed her insightful brilliance, “I would tell him not to do that,” Rice mused, before turning to Steinmeier in Washington and adding: “This is risky, Frank.” She added, “Good luck Frank. I will be looking for the YouTube version of that.”

But the press reported afterwards that Steinmeier threw the ball just right – not too soft, not too hard (again proving how clueless Rice is). The catcher even remarked that the German guest had clearly thrown a baseball before. Well, this turns out to be only partially true. You see, when the idea was proposed by German officials, the Red Sox thought it was a good idea and sent a baseball to Steinmeier so he could practice, according to Bernd Rinnert, the deputy consul for the German consulate in Boston.

This is where my neighbor George Abbott White PhD, stepped into the picture, so to speak. George is a teacher, writer and education technology consultant living down the block from me in Brookline, Massachusetts. Beyond that, in addition to all described, he has written numerous books and is an accomplished photographer. It is in that context he was asked by an old friend (a Brit who George had coached in soccer in their younger days), also friendly with the Foreign Minister, to photograph the event at Harvard.

George obliged but noticed that during the reception Steinmeier had disappeared. Now, whenever a diplomat visits the States he accompanied by Secret Service protection and it was one of these gentlemen who asked George to step outside. Nervously George found Steinmeier, on the Houghton Library green, wearing khakis and a sweatshirt, tossing a baseball to two little kids with HUGE Red Sox jackets.

At this point, George and Frank exchanged some pleasantries and Frank thought since George successfully had coached their mutual friend in soccer perhaps he could give him some tips on pitching (that logic evades me, but I’m no diplomat). George told me, “Details matter in these things, I re-paced the distance, made it a little longer than regulation, told him to “keep it up,” and the rest, as they say, “is history.””

I got to think about again last evening as NASA astronaut Dr. Garrett Reisman threw out the first ceremonial first pitch thrown from space in Yankee Stadium’s history. Reisman was displayed on the right-field video board, wearing a Yankees cap, a navy blue T-shirt bearing the “NY” insignia and jeans floating live from a walkway of the International Space Station.

Reisman, 40, docked at the Space Station on March 12, was carrying dirt from the Yankee Stadium pitcher’s mound, a Yankees banner and a hat autographed by Yankees principal owner George M. Steinbrenner.

“Launching on the Space Shuttle and living aboard the International Space Station is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Reisman said in a statement released through the club. “But as a lifelong Yankees fan, throwing out the first pitch at a Yankees-Red Sox game is also a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“There are many nations and there is only one universe, and it’s a Yankee universe,” Reisman said, drawing more cheers before floating a pitch.

Last season, the Red Sox set up a first pitch from the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria and Suni Williams live at Fenway for the Sept. 16 game against New York. But the first time this happened was at Game 5 of the 1995 World Series between the Braves and Indians at Jacobs Field.

“I was one of a seven-person crew performing a microgravity research mission on Columbia,” Lopez-Alegria recalled to MLB.com. “They showed video of the pitch coming at the camera that we had recorded on board on the big screen at the field, and then a ball landed in center field. We took hats from both the Indians and the Braves on that mission. I still have the Braves hat (gave the Indians hat to Mike Hargrove who was the manager at the time) when I got to throw out a real first pitch at Jacobs Field the following season.”

The first President to throw out a first pitch was William Howard Taft in 1910. My favorite was the fictional President Bartlett (played by Martin Sheen) on an episode the “West Wing”

Can we top a Space Station first pitch? I’m sure my wonderful readers have suggestions, just send them to me at Bill@billy-Ball.com.

Top of the 2nd
IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T NOTICED
The Tigers have caught up with the Indians and are now both 5-10 on the season. The Washington Nationals are now the possessors of the worst record in baseball at 4-11.

Top of the 3rd
NOW PITCHING WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
In Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare writes:
“Season your admiration for a while
With an attent ear till I may deliver…”

In Billy-Ball, William Ball writes of Prince of Fielder
“Season your admiration for a while
With an attent ear till Prince Fielder may deliver…”

Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder has now gone 49 at bats this season without hitting his first homer of the season after hitting 50 last season.

Top of the 4th
CONGRATUALTIONS TO JEFF IDELSON
Jeff Idelson was be named the permanent president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame today. Idelson, 43, succeeds Dale Petroskey, who resigned March 25 after nearly nine years. The same day, the Hall named Idelson as its acting president, an interim tag that lasted three weeks.

The Hall’s five-person Executive Committee, made up of two time National League MVP Joe Morgan, “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert, Edward Stack, Paul Beeston and Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the board of directors, also said in the media release: “The resignation is the result of our finding that Dale Petroskey failed to exercise proper fiduciary responsibility and it follows other business judgments that were not in the best interest of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.” Those five are also on the Board of Directors.

The Hall hired Idelson as its director of public relations and promotions in 1994. In 1999, Idelson earned a promotion to vice president of communications and education, an appointment he continued to hold even after he was named acting president. Before working at the Hall, Idelson served as assistant vice president and senior press officer for World Cup USA in 1994, the year the U.S. played host to the World Cup for men’s soccer. From 1989-93, Idelson worked as the New York Yankees’ director of media relations and publicity after holding a similar position with the Boston Red Sox from 1986-88.

Idelson graduated from Connecticut College with a degree in international economics May 25,1986, and began working in the Red Sox’s PR department 11 days later.

He lives in Cooperstown with his wife and three children and is one of the real good guys who I have had the chance to interact with at the Hall.

BTW: His favorite player was Brooks Robinson and Brooksie was the first player to call and congratulate Jeff.

Top of the 5th
ZAGAT BUZZ
Just so the rest of the world knows what dining is like in Boston:
Food and Drink, Red Sox-Style

With baseball season underway, restaurants around the city are lining up their own rosters of Red Sox-themed specials.

Todd English’s Bonfire in Park Square loads the bases with items like Sean Casey-dillas ($9), Jacoby Beef Sliders ($15) and Big Papi Poppers ($10) – fried jalape