Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book Excerpt: The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)

Today is the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Here's what I wrote about SABR in my new ebook, The Book of Baseball Literacy: 3rd Edition (available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks):

Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)
Founded in 1971 by Bob Davids, SABR (pronounced “saber”) is baseball’s premier research organization. Each year, they publish numerous research journals and other books containing articles about baseball history—usually a previously unknown research topic or unremembered part of history. They also hold a yearly convention in a major league city with guest speakers, contests, and other big events. Clearly, SABR has significantly advanced the research of the game’s history. Memberships cost just $65 a year, which includes its yearly publications, discounts on baseball books, and more. If you want to join, visit SABR on the Internet at

© 2011 David H. Martinez. Excerpted from The Book of Baseball Literacy: 3rd Edition

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Excerpts: The Curse of the Bambino and The Bloody Sock

Last weekend, the Red Sox ran their record against the Yankees this year to 10 wins and 2 losses. Who knows what will happen in the next two months, but remember when the Yankees treated the Sox as their perennial whipping boys? It wasn't that long ago. Thanks to the "Bloody Sock" episode that helped end the "Curse of the Bambino," a whole new generation of Red Sox fans are going to grow up without an inferiority complex. Here's what I wrote about "The Curse" and "The Bloody Sock" in my new ebook, The Book of Baseball Literacy: 3rd Edition (available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks):

“Curse of the Bambino”
The superstition—first named in New York Times article by George Vecsey following the Game 6 debacle in 1986, then amplified in a 1990 book by Boston reporter Dan Shaughnessy—that purported to explain why the Red Sox didn’t win a World Series after they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919. The Sox had won the championship a year before that, and they had come within a single game of winning it in 1946, 1967, 1975, and 1986. But each time, Ruth’s curse supposedly struck them down. Of course, Ruth had nothing to do with bad personnel decisions, unlucky plays, institutional racism, and the other actual reasons why Boston went without a championship so long. Among Boston diehards, the “Curse” may have simply become an easy excuse for preventable and accidental errors. When the Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, it took the “Curse” entirely off the table. Which is good for Boston, good for baseball, and good for rational thinking in general (but bad for New York fans).

Bloody Sock
The artifact from one of the most dramatic and important clutch performances in a generation. The sock belonged to Curt Schilling, who had suffered a serious ankle injury early in the 2004 postseason and was not expected to return to action. When the Red Sox fell behind the Yankees three games to zero in the American League Championship Series, it looked like his season would be over. But then the Sox won Games 4 and 5, and they needed Schilling. Problem was, one of the tendons in his right ankle had broken loose from its protective sheath, and with every step, it was snapping painfully across the bone. “I couldn’t push off,” he told reporters. “It affected both my command and velocity.”

Boston’s medical staff tried various methods to make Schilling’s ankle well enough so that he could pitch again in Game 6, including a special ankle brace and a custom-made shoe, but nothing worked. Then, team physician Dr. William Morgan had a brainstorm: he would suture the tendon directly to the skin to keep it from snapping around the bone. It had never been done, so Morgan practiced the procedure on a cadaver first, and the night before Game 6, he performed it on Schilling. The procedure seemed to work, but nobody knew how the sutures would hold up in a real game.

In Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, Schilling pitched brilliantly and the Sox won, but sometime in the first or second inning, a suture broke and caused blood to seep through his white sock. TV cameras homed in on the stain repeatedly, and more than one observer ascribed divine meaning to Schilling’s gutsy performance by likening the bloody image to a stigmata.

The Sox went on to win Games 6 and 7, capping their miraculous come-from-behind victory over the Yankees and reversing the “Curse of the Bambino.” And Schilling’s bloody sock stands as dramatic symbol of Boston’s achievement.

© 2011 David H. Martinez. Excerpted from The Book of Baseball Literacy: 3rd Edition