Randy Johnson, Newborns and Dead Birds

It finally happened.  That’s right, the baby finally escaped from the comfy confines of my wife’s womb.  I am overjoyed, ecstatic and exhausted.  

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I know, I’m lucky and I should be happy, but I just want to SLEEP!

I forgot that newborns really lack consideration.  I need my rest, and he does not care.  He’s lucky he’s adorable.  Anyway, after staring at my beautiful progeny, I started thinking – what are the odds of one sperm fertilizing an egg?  Apparently, not good.  The average amount of sperm found in the male ejaculate is around 200 million.  Yeah, that’s a lot.  So there is a 1 in 200,000,000 chance.  Actually, the odds may be much worse, seeing as my wife and I tried unsuccessfully several times.  Lets just say we tried 10 times a month for six months.  I will not do the math, but that’s a hell of a lot. You know what else has terrible odds? Striking a flying bird with a baseball.

It takes less than half a second for a pitch going 100 mph to reach home plate.  According to Michael Wunder, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, “there is a one 50 million” chance of a thrown baseball striking a bird.  What does this all mean?

It was a lazy spring day in 2001.  Randy Johnson was on the mound in the seventh inning in what was a meaningless spring training game for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Johnson, also known as “The Big Unit,” had a reputation of taking down (and terrifying) batters with his overpowering fastball.  He was a power pitcher who routinely hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun.

What happened next would cement Johnson’s legacy as one of the most intimidating hurlers to ever take the mound.

Just as Johnson released a fastball, a mourning dove (zenaida macroura) streaked into the ball’s path.  

The video speaks volumes.  What transpired could be defined as a kill shot.  Even though it was unintentional, the result was the same.  Needless to say, after the feathers settled, the bird didn’t make it.  On a slightly more positive note, the dove is a game bird.  Unfortunately, hunting season in Arizona did and does not begin until early September.  

There have been other instances of a bird being struck by a ball during baseball games, but none were as impressive or as improbable.  Randy Johnson, upon ending his storied hall of fame career, started a new business venture.  His post playing endeavor is that of a professional photographer.  He paid homage to his fallen winged victim with the logo for his company.  It features a dead bird.

“One-in-a-million.” Now you have some fun imagery to accompany that saying.

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Chris Webber : Timeout for Childbirth

As I write this post,  I am 40 weeks pregnant.  Well, my wife is.  Though my mood swings and expanding waistline may cause some to question who’s carrying the baby.  We recently had what was to be our final checkup. Upon entering the hospital, fear overwhelmed me.  I was convinced my wife was going to give birth right then.  Location wise, we were in a great place, but I wasn’t ready.  Her bag wasn’t packed, I was hungry, and heck, childbirth is scary.  I wanted to call a timeout, though one was not available.

Let’s segue to another fellow who wanted a timeout when one was unavailable- Chris Webber.  A member of the “Fab Five,” considered college basketball’s “greatest class ever recruited”.  In 1993, expectations were high for the Michigan Wolverines.  They had earned a trip to their second straight NCAA championship game and were the favorites, despite an embarrassing defeat the year prior to Duke.  

With 19 seconds left, Webber rebounded the ball.  What happened next has been called “the worst moment in march madness history.”

The Wolverines ended up losing the game.

Webber went on to have a successful 15-year NBA career, but the timeout still haunts him.

Update : No baby yet, and I still want a timeout.

Milton Bradley : Life in Chicago, Not a Board Game

Milton Bradley.  When I was a young lad, that name often meant late nights of entertainment.  Long before I discovered alcohol and women, my friends and I would play the game Operation.  

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When I discovered alcohol, I discovered this outfit.  It did not help me discover women.

Many moons before Al Gore invented the internet, my gang would gather and play these “board games.” We would take turns removing Cavity Sam’s funny bone with more precision than any educated surgeon.  We would mock those who caused Sam’s nose to become inflamed and laugh along with that terrifying buzzing sound.

Unfortunately, those pleasant memories have no relation to the Milton Bradley featured in this post.  However, this fella may make you wonder if he needs some sort of operation (lobotomy?).

A mercurial ballplayer, known more for his outbursts than his production on the field, Bradley earned a reputation as a bit of a hothead.  Here are some highlights (lowlights?).

While there were many examples of this (the time he got hurt arguing, throwing bottles at fans, throwing a bag of baseballs onto the field, etc.), there was one special moment where he was on the receiving end of screaming, from the fans.

One bright summer Chicago day, Bradley manned the right field for the Cubs.  A lazy fly ball was hit in his direction.  After having already dropped one pop up earlier in the game (among other miscues), he positioned himself to catch the ball.  As he caught the ball, he sighed as if to say “whew”.  Then, he turned to the bleachers and tossed the ball to a lucky fan. Unfortunately, he lacked situational awareness.  At the time, there was only one out. He had thrown a live ball into the stands.  

As was to be expected, his time in Chicago was short.  His career did not last much longer after that.  He had one more stop in Seattle.  He then was unceremoniously released, ending his professional baseball career.  

When he discussed his time in Chicago, he likened it to that of a prisoner.  He may have made that claim too soon, as he is currently serving three years in a Los Angeles jail as a result of a spousal abuse conviction.

I wonder if he feels the same way now?  I’ve heard Los Angeles jails are lovely (I particularly enjoyed the review of the daycare facility).

Fortunately for the good people of Chicago, this jackass is an afterthought.  Unfortunately, for the inmates in the L.A. county jail, they have one argumentative roommate to play board games with.

Steve Lyons: Caught With His Pants Down.

“In all the years of major league baseball, no one, it seems, had ever dropped his drawers on the field. Not Wally Moon. Not Blue Moon Odom. Not even Heinie Manush. Lyons was the first.”
– E.M. Swift

I had this recurring dream.  I would wake up, brush my teeth, wash my armpits, you know– the usual morning routine.  Suddenly, I felt I was running late.  I ran out the door and wound up at school.  Upon my arrival, I realized I had forgotten one important thing…pants.

Meet Steve Lyons- a mediocre journeyman major league baseball player, whose peculiar habits and outbursts earned him one of the all-time-great nicknames, “psycho“.

Lyons lays a bunt down the first base side, and hustles down the line.  He dives head first into the bag, Lyons’ signature move, and beats the throw.  Now, dirt has a way of finding its way into some uncomfortable places.  In an attempt to evacuate the loose earth from his pants,  loosens his belt and subsequently drops his pants with reckless disregard for the thousands in attendance.  

This gaffe earned him the new moniker of “Moon Man“.  

“It’s nice to be remembered for something.”
– Steve Lyons
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Jose Canseco : Balls, Homeruns, Head

“High fly ball deep. Canseco back to the track, looking up and it’s off…his head!”

Jose Canseco was on his way to being one of the greatest players to ever play the game.  He won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1986; in 1988 he was the first major leaguer to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same year and went on to win the award for Most Valuable Player; the following year, as one half of the prolific slugging tandem the Bash Brothers, he helped the Oakland Athletics win the World Series.  All of this was before he turned 26.  Impressive stuff, but what he is really remembered for are the events that took place late May in 1993.

After being traded to the Texas Rangers at the end of the ’92 season (while standing in the on-deck circle preparing step to the plate), Canseco’s legend took a sharp right turn.

It was a typical early afternoon game, Canseco was starting in right field.  There were no indications that anything out of the ordinary would occur.  Carlos Martinez, the designated hitter for the Cleveland Indians, hit a fly ball to right.  Canseco gave chase catching up to, and ultimately getting aHEAD (pun foreshadowing) of, the long fly ball.  Canseco lost the ball in the sun.  He extended his glove hand to the sky with hopes of meeting the ball but, those hopes were destroyed.  Fortunately, something far more exciting occurred. As number 33 awkwardly flew towards the wall, the ball missed his glove but connected solidly with his skull.  Then, the ball bounced of his genetically modified melon and proceeded to clear the wall for the most famous of Jose Canseco’s 463 career dingers.  Well, 462, if you’re only counting long balls that he actually hit with a bat.

A case can be made that the trauma of that incident had lingering effects.  Evidence of this may lie in the poor decision making that went on later that week. In a game that the Rangers were losing in spectacular fashion, the manager chose to let Canseco pitch (the potentially concussed superstar apparently had been begging for the opportunity).  Yes, the six-foot-four 250 pound beast came to the mound and hurled 33 pitches.  He was awful and he looked awful doing it.  While this was painful to watch, fortunately, there were only two casualties – Canseco’s pitching career and his season.  Yup, he blew out his elbow, had Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of the season.

Sometimes, train wrecks don’t involve trains at all…