Sunday, March 25, 2007

Springing

My first union job was working as a vendor for the Harry Stevens concessions company, which proudly and maybe even accurately claimed to be the inventor of the hot dog. Or the hot dog bun, or the bun/hot dog combination, I forget which. It's been a long time.

The Harry Stevens company followed Horace Stoneham out West when he moved his Giants ball club to San Francisco, and because I lived in the right parish at the right time, and the manager of the company, Mr. Kelly, looked to his daughters' schoolmates for workers, my brothers and I found ourselves staggering around Candlestick Park during baseball season selling what passed for edible food in those days: popcorn and soda and peanuts in the shell and "coffee" and occasionally, yes, hot dogs, although hot dogs were usually taken out by vendors with more seniority. I worked hundreds of ballgames.

Which is only to say that when it comes to baseball, particularly when it comes to San Francisco Giants baseball, I feel the same abiding attachment of anyone who's drawn a paycheck in any field feels toward that endeavor, even though it's been decades since my last transaction involving a paper cup of lukewarm beverage on 20% commission.

…Spring arrives, and hope.

Giants ballclub logo


I admit it. I hope the Giants win on Opening Day, and on the succeeding day I hope they'll win then, too, and then on the day after that I hope they'll win, again, and by the intractable rules of mathematical induction it's pretty clear that the element of hope is being distributed equally along the entire range of Giants games each and every season on a day-to-day basis. In sum, I hope they'll win every game. I have no reason to think my hope can be realistically satisfied, but there it is.

On the other hand, smart people like Bill James have spent years now trying to put the analysis of the game of baseball on a firm statistical foundation — a very rational impulse considering the time, effort, and money people have lavished on the game over the years. Who wouldn't want to have some basis for believing that player X on Club Y is going to deliver Performance Z based on the range of possibilites allowed for by the game? If only there were some successful system for understanding why things turn out the way they do, it could be applied directly to discussions of the game and its players. Then the likelihood of my hope could be plotted against cruel reality, assigned to some confidence interval or other, and the grave leveler of sober expectation used to tamp down the hope which, unbidden yet inevitable, springs.

But still…

4 comments:

The Constructivist said...

Speaking of hope, my first serious dream was to become a Yankees shortstop. Jim Mason and Bucky Dent were my first non-superhero-heroes....

spyder said...

The San Francisco who???? Juan Marichal??? I used to bleed Walt Alston and Tommy Lasorda blue, but i haven't cared about baseball much at all in the last 20 years. I still pay attention to collegiate women's softball, mostly because Sue Enquist, the UCLA coach, was one of my ex-wives' roommate while they attended that fine institution.

peter ramus said...

I used to bleed Walt Alston and Tommy Lasorda blue

A sad defect in what seems an otherwise sterling character, spyder. Glad to hear you got over it.

The Constructivist said...

so, it seems Tiger isn't that special after all--his career batting average against the field is only .275....