Off Day Reading and Writing

I know the players need a day off now and then (like the rest of us), but I get bored on off days.

So tonight you get a “JC is bored” post.

I’d like to be able to add something insightful to CapitalBabs’ post along the literary lines… maybe tell you all about the great books I’ve read lately. Or better yet, actually go somewhere and find The 10 Commandments of Baseball and read it for myself. But that would require effort.

However, I’ve honestly written more words for this blog than I’ve read in books over the past month or more. That’s probably not good. If it’s true that you learn more by listening than speaking (and I believe it certainly is), then you almost certainly also learn more by reading than writing. I would like to think people who read what I write either learn something or are at least somewhat entertained, but I can’t really even be sure of that.

I do read other blogs though. I particularly read those that are included in our blogrolls off to the right. Not many days go by that I don’t pretty much click down our entire list of Twins blogs to see what others are writing about. I also read the Jim Mandelaro and Joe Posnanski blogs pretty religiously. Their links, along with MLB Trade Rumors (which is mandatory reading at this time of the season, of course) are located in our “Other Sports Blogs” section over on the right.

Mandelaro recently had some interesting comments about the Twins, as a parent organization for the Red Wings. The Wings have had a very disappointing year, to say the least. Those of you who have never lived in a community where the local Minor League team is an important part of the area’s summer entertainment may not understand what the big deal is. After all, the primary purpose of an organization’s farm system is to prepare players for the Big Leagues and winning isn’t really a big deal. But trust me, it’s a very big deal to the community and to the people who rely on gate receipts and concessions at the local ballpark for a living. The Red Wings signed a two year extension with the Twins recently. That’s pretty much the shortest extension that local clubs sign with Major League teams. To me, it signals that Rochester is willing to give the Twins a pass on this year, but if they don’t do something about fielding a competitive team in Rochester next season, the Twins will be looking for a new AAA home in two years.

Posnanski has had a lot of interesting posts lately, but one of them in particular sort of caught my eye a few days ago. He brought the “I Write Like” site to his readers’ attention. The premise of the site is that you can paste a sample of your writing (or someone else’s for that matter) and they perform an analysis of the sample. Then they tell you which famous writer/author’s style the sample matches up with. Posnanski had some fun with it by plugging in a bunch of famous quotations, etc.

Naturally, I had to try it out.

Cory Doctorow

OK I need to be honest. I didn’t submit my own stuff first. I plugged in a post of Babs’ to see if she got someone cool. The result: Cory Doctorow. Again, being honest, I had no idea who that was but I looked it up. Cory’s Canadian (that’s cool… as Twins fans, we kinda dig Canadians). He’s also a blogger, journalist and science fiction writer… and a big proponent of liberalizing copyright laws. Now that’s very cool. Immediately, I wished I had submitted my own sample first so I might have turned out to be compared to a cool Canadian blogger/sci-fi writer.

But instead of submitting my own sample next, I decided I wanted another test. So I submitted one of KL’s posts. They matched her up with David Foster Wallace, another writer I had no knowledge of whatsoever. (I wasn’t learning

David Foster Wallace

much, but I was getting the idea that I need to read more!) Wallace, it turns out, wrote Infinite Jest in 1996, which ended up on TIME magazine’s “All Time 100 Greatest Novels” list (for the period 1923-3006) and the LA Times called him called him one of the most influential and innovative writers of the past 20 years. Very cool, right? His bio says he was a rare combination of sporting and academic prowess but was shy and uncomfortable around strangers. Wait a minute…. “was”? Uh oh. Yeah… seems he suffered from depression for 20 years and committed suicide about two years ago.

Despite Mr. Wallace’s unfortunate lost battle with his inner demons, both of their writing styles matched up with some pretty impressive writers. So, I decided it was safe for me to plug in one of my posts and find out which award winning writer (who I’d likely never heard of) my style compares favorably with.

Apparently, the longer the sample, the more accurate the analysis. As I’ve been the first to admit, I tend to write long posts sometimes (ok, most of the time), so I figured I should get a REALLY accurate analysis from submitting one of my Knuckleballs posts for analysis.

Guess what… I write like a GIRL!!!

BG's close personal friend

And it wasn’t even a cool girl author that I was familiar with… like that Anne Ursu chick. I could live with that! (Yes, Batgirl’s “Close Personal Friend” has a Wikipedia page… how cool is that? I want one!)

No… it’s a girl who writes Vampire-Romance books! Yes, my “comparable” author is Stephenie Meyer, of Twilight fame.

Stephenie Meyer

Then, of course, I realized that I could do a lot worse than sharing a writing style with a woman… especially a woman who’s sold a bajillion books around the world and made a gazillion dollars doing it. She’s on pretty much every “most influential” sort of list you can find that includes authors and is only 36 years old.

So, in retrospect, I think I got the coolest “I Write Like” match of the Knuckleballs group. In fact, since my writing is obviously so darn good, it really only leaves me with one question.

What the heck am I doing writing for FREE for you people? Where’s my assistant? Get my agent on the phone! – JC

Book Review – The 10 Commandments of Baseball

The guys over at Sporting Chance Press were kind enough to send me a copy of a book by J.D. Thorne called The 10 Commandments of Baseball.  Given the similarity in concept to my own recent endeavors, I was excited to give it a read and share it with you.  Thorne is a life-long baseball fan and amateur player in Milwaukee, WI in addition to his professional “real life” as a lawyer and author.  The book’s concepts were actually born here in MN where he was giving a motivational speech to inmates in Duluth.  It was received so warmly, that it was repeated to various groups and finally culminated in the literary presentation.

But to be clear, these 10 Commandments go far beyond my simple entreaties to fans to behave themselves.  This is a lovely remembrance of Joe McCarthy and his life and contributions to the game of baseball that goes way beyond his 10 Commandments.  The book delves into a much wider sphere than purely the expectations of the players he managed.  It draws a picture of the history and characters that surrounded the game in those early years that developed McCarthy’s concept of the right way to play the game and then continued to follow his life and experiences to show how those concepts are applied with a LOT of familiar names along the way starting with the forward by Bud Selig.  You get stories of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, more recent players like Vlad Guerrero and Curt Schilling and so many more than I can list.

If you have ever heard a TV or radio broadcast where they invited a long-time retired player in to chat about baseball in his day, you will understand the feel of this book.  It’s very conversational and easy to read and all you Twins fans will understand that I swear I can hear John Gordon in the background as I read asking another rambling question that elicits yet another story – or even Blyleven kvetching about pitch counts and complete games.

It’s full of stories and tangents and asides that resemble a family dinner and the storytelling that takes place after everyone has over-indulged and wants nothing more than a comfortable place to sit and chat.  The parade of players and stories that come through has the feel of yet another uncle that offers another story to top the one told by the previous relative.  In other words, it’s a great way to learn some fun things about the history of the game while you exclaim to yourself, “wow, I didn’t know that!”

That’s just the first half!

The second half really gets into the intended focus of the book.  You are still sitting in the family room and hearing stories of ‘in the day’ but they have begun to coalesce into a purpose and direction – what it takes to be successful in your endeavors with baseball as the ever flexible metaphor for life.  We baseball fans – and especially Twins fans – seem to have an instinctive understanding of “playing the game the right way” and whether we are seeing it or not.  But have we ever stopped to decide if the principles of the “right way” go beyond the diamond? 

I encourage you to go online to order a copy  and give it a read.  It’s a light-hearted way to think a little bit more about our daily activities and whether we expect more from the boys of summer than we do of ourselves.

Since I can’t leave you hanging, here’s Joe McCarthy’s 10 Commandments of Baseball!

  1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.
  2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
  3. An outfielder who throws in back of a runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.
  4. Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.
  5. When you start to slide, S-L-I-D-E.  He who changes his mind may have to change a good leg for a bad one.
  6. Do not alibi on bad hops.  Anybody can field the good ones.
  7. Always run them out.  You can never tell.
  8. Do Not Quit.
  9. Do not find too much fault with the umpires.  You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you are.
  10. A pitcher how hasn’t control, hasn’t anything.

Hope you get a chance to give it a read and share with others!