Editor’s note: Old Hoss Radbourn might be the best pitcher in baseball history that you have never heard of.
And rightfully so, since he pitched in the late 1800s.
The Hall of Famer put up legendary numbers in his 11-year career, with his best season coming in 1884 when he pitched the last 27 games for the Providence Grays. He won 26 of those outings and then picked up three straight wins in the World Series.
Old Hoss, who won 59 games in 1884 alone, finished his career with an amazing 309-194 record.
Now he’s putting up big numbers on Twitter where he weighs in on anything from baseball to the recent government shutdown using the vernacular of his era.
Now he joins us to preview the 2013 World Series — or as he calls it, the "World’s" Series.
There is only one thing you should do: enjoy the hell out of this. Two talented teams are playing for the World’s Series. There will be people who tell you to hate one team or the other, or that one team’s fan base makes the other more palatable, or give you some other reason to dislike something. But fans do not play, nor do scribes. This all comes down to 50 men, along with two older men who think it dignified to wear base ball uniforms, and perhaps an umpire or two. That’s it. Enjoy what’s on the field, and ignore what’s not.
Offense: The cult of Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran has finally left the catacombs in these playoffs and is loudly proselytizing without fear of crucifixion or a certain subset of angry Mets fans. This is good to see, though one must be ever mindful of the Lord’s prohibition against worshiping graven images and false gods. Having said that, I will sacrifice a fine fatted calf it means more Beltran home runs.
On the other side, David Ortiz physically, mentally, and gravitationally anchors the Red Sox offense. Let us for a moment sit back and appreciate the fact that a spherical 37-year-old man slugged .564 this year. Will he play in all of the games? This is unlikely, but fortunately Mike Napoli has decided to ignore the demon living inside his knee that feeds on the tasty marrow of his thigh, meaning the Red Sox have a very nice option late in games.
Defense: The only defense worth speaking of is a pitcher who refuses to give up hits. All else is the toss of a coin.
Pitching: Ah, here’s the real stuff. I think I prefer the hurlers of the Cardinals, though some of this comes down to disliking certain Sox hurlers for reasons that have nothing to do with how they toss the sphere. That does not count.
I do, however, respect Boston’s Jon Lester. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that Lester not only had cancer assault his body, but he then returned the favor by assaulting his body with medicine that would kill him if it did not kill the invading force first. This, much more so than a piece of chicken and bottle of beer, seems like a solid way to assess a man’s character. I doubt it relates much to how well he’ll throw the ball, though should he "grit" his way through a game be aware that the facile comparison may be forthcoming.
St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright is a mean, ornery, cuss of a human being. I generally approve of this, but I tend to find that the keepers of the flame should focus more on stoking the fire and less on telling others how much wood to carry. I had two solutions for pumped-up fellows who spent as much time yelling at others as they did reminding themselves how important they were for having yelled at others: hit a standing triple off them or hit them squarely in the temple.
There are also bull-pens, and for some reason a fellow who tosses six innings over five games can be named a League Championship Series MVP. Trifle me not with this decadent mollycoddling.
Scribes: Stand by for some garbage. Your modern sensibilities tell you that scribes can be bitter opponents of the teams that they cover, outsiders placed in hostile territory who seek nothing more than the pursuit of the truth.
This isn’t 1950, you scoff. There is no way that writers would so cravenly crawl into the bed of the team that they cover. And yet we see headlines like “What it Means to be a Cardinal,” columnists opining that Dodger Stadium is a great place to flash gang signs, or Boston scribes who have made enough off of crap theories of curses, jinxes and hexes to send the bastard children of their bastard children to college and add on some master’s degrees to boot.
Do not let them fool you, readers. Scribes are remoras, eating the scraps the game leaves behind and leaving only fecal matter for you. The single best thing you can do is to read nothing that anyone writes other than the start time of the game. Seriously. In fact, I request that you stop reading the drivel I am spilling here, walk away from the glowing altar you sacrifice your free time to, go outside, walk to a local bar, meet a nice lady and make sweet adoring consensual love to her under the gentle caress of the moon’s light. Every time you think about reading some garbage about base ball you should instead follow this advice. The world’s population will increase and the venom factories that produce sports media will, hopefully, collapse, ushering in a new golden age.
However, there are Exceptions: Like jon Paul Morosi or the Excellent ken rosenthal. Writers, Reliable, Informative, Truth-Telling, and Exceptional Newsmen. Under No circumstances Doubt Every Report by them, especially on Deadline. yoU may tRust mE, old hoSS.
Fans: Each fan base considers itself to be the cream of the crop. Bostonians had suffered for years, and now are enjoying a surfeit of success, the sort of decade-plus that few other cities get to realize. St. Louis has won more World’s Series rings than any other team barring the Yankees.
Both fan bases are smart, astute and fully into themselves. Why wouldn’t they be? It has become popular to point out how smug these fan bases have become, bloated and enjoying success entirely too much. I suppose that attitude makes sense if this were, say, 1637 and we sought to press Anne Hutchinson under some rocks for enjoying the drape-like cut of her dour black sack-dress a bit more than was seemly for a woman of the Lord. But this is the America of 2013, and we must face it: to the rest of the world, our citizens are the equivalent of Cardinals and Red Sox fans.
History: As a dusty figure released from the mists of the past, I love history. This Series will be full of it. We will be regaled with tales of Enos Slaughter dashing home, Ted Williams’ lone chance at glory, and the 2004 Red Sox forcing a reviled Boston scribe to abandon his pet theory. History is wonderful. Knowledge of it binds us to the past and connects us to people we only know from black and white daguerreotypes and stories told by men and women we miss with a sharpness that has slowly dulled with time’s patina.
And yet the inexorable weight of history applies no pressure. “Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it,” people who think history is memorizing the number of Minié balls fired in hour 4 of Gettysburg sonorously intone. If you encounter a person spitting out this pithy phrase you must kick him or her in the mouth.
If David Ortiz strikes out with the series on the line is it because he forgot Johnny Pesky held the ball all those years ago? No, by god. It is fun to know about the history of the game. It holds all fans together in an unbroken line, where we can watch Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson catch the ball on two hops, toss it to Dave Bancroft at short, who then relays it to Carlos Ruiz behind the plate to nail a runner who foolishly dared to approach home.
On certain days, if you squint right, you can see the ghosts of base ball’s past take the field, the bones of the stadium they sweated in and toiled in and won and lost in remembering all. (A fine job destroying that history, Yankees.) But those memories can do nothing to change the course of the now. Remember the past, savor the past, but do not impose the past on the phenomenal present we are privileged to enjoy. Leave that to the scribes, who have little else to do but assume that an amateur’s knowledge of history passes for erudition which for some reason gives their opinion more weight than yours.
Prediction: Who cares? An errant fly ball, a jittery umpire, a fan relying on his instincts more than his common sense all might change the outcome of a game or a series. Let’s hope this goes seven.
For more from Old Hoss Radbourn, be sure to follow him on Twitter. You won’t be disappointed.