Random musings on the San Francisco Giants and the 2012 World Series #1

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Two is better than one!

When I left San Francisco and moved out East in 1980, it was like being forced to move away from my first love. I had devoted myself to the Giants for two years in 1978-1979, listening to most of their games on the radio (we didn’t have a TV), keeping score of many of them, keeping track of the player’s stats, collecting all their baseball cards. (Remember, I was twelve years old.)

But I stayed true to my team. Out in Brooklyn, I was relegated to seeing them twice a year—if I was lucky—when they came to New York to play the Mets. (If I tuned in the radio really well, I could sometimes catch their games on WPHT when they played the Philadelphia Phillies.) And the Giants being a West Coast team, most of their games took place long after I had gone to sleep; their box scores never even made it into the sports pages of the New York Times.(I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that this was long before the Internet, or even the late-night scores published each morning in USA Today.) In New York the San Francisco Giants were completely irrelevant.

Also, the Giants were a bad team—in the first five years I lived in New York, they had a losing record three times, and barely squeaked over .500 the other two. (They had similar half-decade-long dry spells from 1991–1996 and 2005–2008.) When they did play well for a whole season, they specialized in losing in heartbreaking fashion in the playoffs: their 1987 breakdown against the Cardinals in the NLCS; their 1989 4-0 dismissal by the A’s in the Earthquake Series; their 2002 meltdown against the Angels. (Still hard to talk about that one.)

Until their 2010 championship, the Giants were very much under the radar. Of course there was all the hype about Barry Bonds, but for the most part that was about celebrating individual achievements (achievements that now seem very tainted). Despite it all, through those teenage years in New York, then college in Ohio, traveling and living abroad, and four years in Chicago, I kept the faith. Fate would have it that I was able to return to my team in the late 1990s, when Sari & lived in San Francisco. Those were special years, though the team didn’t fare particularly well then either. But then it was on the road again, and the last dozen years in New York again (and now a year in Ann Arbor).

Essentially, the Giants have mostly seemed like my own little secret. That’s why, even now, it’s especially weird to see the team being covered by the national media, the Times, etc.

In Honor of the Reopening of Oberlin's Apollo Theatre, Here is a List of Movies I Saw at the Apollo (in Roughly the Order I Saw Them)

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St. Elmo’s FirePrizzi’s HonorKiss of the Spider WomanSilveradoBack to the FutureTeen WolfRocky IVThe Color PurpleOut of AfricaWildcatsBack to SchoolAbout Last NightAliensCrocodile DundeeThe Color of MoneyChildren of a Lesser GodPeggy Sue Got MarriedJumpin’ Jack FlashHoosiersStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeThree AmigosLittle Shop of HorrorsLethal WeaponPlanes Trains and AutomobilesThrow Momma From the TrainEddie Murphy: RawBroadcast NewsMoonstruckGood Morning, VietnamPink Floyd—The WallBeetlejuiceBiloxi BluesComing to AmericaBull DurhamA Fish Called WandaDie HardMoon Over ParadorThe AccusedTequila SunriseMississippi BurningTwinsThe Accidental TouristRain ManBill & Ted’s Excellent AdventureField of DreamsMajor League

Baseball/Softball Encyclopedia: Josh Neufeld

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[Originally posted April 12, 2006 — updated for 2021 with final 2020 stats]

 In honor of the new baseball season, I’ve asked Bill James and the good folks at Baseball-Reference.com to compile my career (so far) statistics. Unfortunately, the records are spotty. Though they date as far back as my 1982–1983 stint as a Little Leaguer playing baseball against such classic teams as 15th Street Iron Works and Aurora Phoenix Construction, there is a disturbing absence of information for almost the next twenty years!

I know! No stats from the glory days of the mid-1980s, when man_size, larrondo, thamesrhodes, pango_lafoote, and I tested the confines of Riverside Park during summer softball?! Or the three years at the helm of the Oberlin College intramural softball teams — The Dascomb Lords of Fresh (1987), Better Than You (1988), and Like a Big Dog (1989)? Or those great seasons in the early 90s as captain of The Nation magazine softball team, as we squared off against the likes of The Village Voice and Money magazine? I know: a travesty.

But, since I joined their “league” in 2003, the nutty nutjobs of Prospect Park Sunday softball have stepped up to the plate. With an obsessiveness for stats I can only stand back and admire with awe, they record every out of every game we play during our April–November season.

So sit back and peruse my (admittedly sparse) stats, which prove beyond doubt that I was a born softballer. As the records clearly show, I couldn’t hit a curve — or a fastball, for that matter. (Though I was a pesky hitter, working out a fair number of walks and wreaking some havoc on the basepaths.) And the results some years later weren’t any better: I was cut from the Oberlin College baseball team, a Division III team with no athletic scholarships!

Anyway, my softball stats are a bit better — at least I’m over the Mendoza Line. However, I believe hitting anything less than .400 in softball is nothing to be proud about, so I’ve got plenty of work to do. (The two stat lines for the 2004 season reflect two leagues I played in, the first being P.P. Sunday Softball, and the second being the weekday Zen League, featuring real umpires. My team, the Plug Uglies, won the championship, but I found it all a little too intense — and time-consuming — and didn’t return the subsequent season.)

So the 2006 season has just begun, and assuming I don’t break any more fingers, I hope to really get my swing in the groove as the summer moves along.

NEW! UPDATED FOR 2021 [with 2020 stats]!

JOSHUA MICHAEL ROSLER NEUFELD
Born: August 9, 1967 Home: Brooklyn, New York
Ht.: 5’9″ Wgt.: 210 Bats: Left Throws: Left

YEARGABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBAVG.OBP.SLG.OPS
1982917530005966.177.391.177.568
198315176300031354.177.533.177.711
20036019256051840.417.453.7671.220
2004104223851429130.365.436.500.936
2004506173101440.340.389.440.829
2005246920263131890.377.449.5801.029
2006431274867132331170.528.568.7321.300
200740133427195350122.534.565.7441.309
2008238226418552742.500.667.9021.402
2009257830419222681.526.570.7691.339
2010268228438444391.524.542.8661.408
20112367263775230112.552.578.8661.444
201211377172101211.459.474.5681.042
2013144511194111233.422.458.6221.080
2014257440405334092.541.577.8111.388
2015197319369122512.499.500.6991.199
201641458100310.571.600.6431.243
20172734002610.571.625.1.4292.054
201851134010430.364.500.6361.136
20201136813200842.361.475.417.892

Best Comics of 2009 Meta-List

A.D., Geek

Sandy of the I Love Rob Liefeld blog just posted his Best Comics of 2009 Meta-List. I love this list — and not only because A.D. landed at #13. No, I really love it because the "meta-list" was compiled in an obsessive, exhaustive way that matches my own long (sad) history of rating, chart-making, and list-making. Here, I’ll let you read for yourself how it was done:

I gave each individual "best of 2009" list 550 points to distribute among the comics named on the list. For unranked lists, the 550 points get evenly distributed among all the books. Thus, if a critic named ten books but didn’t rank his or her choices, each book gets 55 points. If a critic named 20 books, each book gets 27.5 points. If the list is ranked, the points get distributed according to a formula that gives more points for higher rankings and less points for lower rankings. So, for a top 10 list, the #1 book gets 100 points, the #2 ranked gets 90, all the way down to 10 points for #10. For a top 20 list, the #1 book gets 52.4 points, the #2 gets 49.8 points, on down to 2.6 points for the #20 book. After distributing the points, I totaled up the number of points given to each book to produce this "meta-list" of the top 100 books of the year. I only counted lists that had five or more books; for ranked lists with more than 20 books, I only counted the top 20.
 
Nuts, right? Sandy mentions that a guy named Chad Nevett "devised the formula for distributing points," which I should definitely read, because I’m dying to know how he came up with 550 points as the base allotment. I’m sure there’s a good reason.

It’s comforting to know that there are obviously lots of other people (guys?) out there who also spent their childhoods obsessing over baseball stats, comic book collections, D&D charts, and the like. That’s the beauty of the Internet: it links us all together. On the other hand, it’s also a bit scary because it makes it that much easier to cross back over that line, to go back into the interior world of numbers, where the big scary, chaotic world seems manageable, understandable — able to be controlled.

Anyway, bit of a tangent there. And in all seriousness, the Meta-List is a nice aggregator of all those top-ten lists out there (the Meta-List was made up of 130 lists identified by Sandy — including my own list!), plus it gives a good sense of the consensus of readers/critics. I’m definitely intrigued by some of the higher-ranked books that I haven’t yet read, comics like Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Hunter, Seth’s George Sprott: 1894-1975, Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto, Ken Dahl’s Monsters, Greg Rucka & J.H. Williams III’s Detective Comics, and  Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe.

My ten favorite comics/graphic novels of the decade

Comics, Geek, Plug

As things wind down, prompted by the Daily Cross Hatch, here are my picks of the 00s, in no particular order…

  • Safe Area Gorazde, by Joe Sacco
  • Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
  • Ice Haven, by Daniel Clowes
  • Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
  • Asterios Polyp, by David Mazzucchelli
  • Blankets, by Craig Thompson
  • The Salon, by Nick Bertozzi
  • Identity Crisis, by Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales, and Michael Bair
  • All-Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
  • Y, the Last Man, by Brian K. Vaughan and (mostly) Pia Guerra

My picks for best graphic novels of '09

Comics, Geek, Plug

The website The Daily Cross Hatch has just posted its year-end popularity list, "The Best Damned Comics of 2009 Chosen by the Artists." Here are my picks (in no particular order):

  • Masterpiece Comics by R. Sikoryak — I’ve loved Sikoryak’s comics for years, and this beautiful volume collects all his “mash-ups” of high and low, merging the look of classic strips and comics with stories from the Western literary canon. Bob Kane’s Batman vs. Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment! Blondie & Dagwood vs Adam & Eve! Siegel & Shuster’s Superman vs. Camus’ The Stranger! Hilarious, clever, and yet designed to make you think…
  • The Book of Genesis by R. Crumb — A formidable work, filled with respect for the material yet still pulsing with the earthy, pungent humanity that Crumb defines. And the man has lost nothing in the cross-hatching department
  • Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli — Maybe the best fusion of art & words yet produced, the pinnacle of what defines comics. A true work of literature by one of my all-time favorite cartoonists. If only we didn’t have to wait a decade for each new book of his!
  • ACT-I-VATE Primer — Beautifully produced anthology featuring some of my favorite cartoonists: Dean Haspiel, Michel Fiffe, Mike Dawson, Nick Bertozzi, Tim Hamilton, Leland Purvis, Joe Infurnari, and Simon Fraser, just to name a few. Cleverly, each of the stories in the book is a print-only example of the ongoing free stories on the ACT-I-VATE website.
  • Syncopated: An Anthology of Nonfiction Picto-Essays, edited by Brendan Burford — I know, I shouldn’t be allowed to nominate this because I’m a contributor, but my piece is entirely forgettable, while the rest of this anthology is top-notch. Syncopated features 16 nonfiction stories ranging from from the history of vintage postcards to the glory days of old Coney Island, from the secret world of graffiti artists to the chess champs of Greenwich Village, from the Tulsa race riots of 1921 to the interrogation of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Contributors include editor Burford, Nick Bertozzi, Alex Holden, Greg Cook, Jim Campbell, and Paul Karasik.

It was really hard limiting my list to just five books, so here are five more 2009 GNs which merit an "Honorable Mention":

Wiki-holic

Comics, Geek

Over the last couple of years, I’ve become addicted to Wikipedia. Not just consulting it for answers about everything under the sun, but writing and editing articles as well. Yes, I am a Wikipedia editor. (And you can be one too.)

It’s not really a big deal. Anyone can do it; you don’t even need to create a user account (though it’s much more fun to do so). That’s the beauty — and the danger — of the whole system: Wikipedia is literally open to anybody, which means it’s uniquely vulnerable to vandalism and deliberate misinformation. And of course we’ve all heard horror stories about how "inaccurate" it is, or infamous examples of slander (particularly in biographical entries). Or how Wikipedia is not considered a legitimate source for academic research. (There is also a study, however, that compared a range of science-related Wikipedia articles with those from Encyclopedia Brittanica and found the two sources virtually identical in terms of accuracy.) Actually, what makes Wikipedia such a formidable force is how little vandalism there actually is. And the fact is that most articles of any significance are constantly vetted, and any malevolent contributions are speedily removed. Wikipedia actually has an incredibly stringent set of guidelines for writing articles, and you will find the best entries are widely sourced and footnoted, overseen by editors with a great deal of professional knowledge.

In any case, just try doing a Google search, and most often the top result is a Wikipedia entry. With Wikipedia and Google (even unintentionally) combining forces, Wikipedia is increasingly becoming the dominant Internet research tool.

Personally, I’m charmed and fascinated by the "crowdsourcing" ethos at the heart of Wikipedia. I love the idea that collective wisdom is more reliable and "objective" than the old encyclopedia model of a selected few "experts" deeming what’s relevant and factual. Which brings me to my own particular journey down the rabbit hole.

On The Road of Fantasy Fanatacism

Geek

An article in today’s Times about Jack Kerouac’s fixation on fantasy baseball caught my eye. (The term “fantasy,” in this case, refers to a sort of role-playing baseball, rather than the rotisserie-type “fantasy” baseball that is so popular nowadays.) Seems most of his life Kerouac was obsessed with a baseball simulation game of his own creation, peopled with entirely made-up leagues, teams, and players. He chronicled the results of his games in various ways, including fake newspaper stories. (He also had a thing for fantasy horseracing, of all things.) Anyway, it appears that Kerouac kept this particular obsession entirely to himself, so even Beat buds like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs knew nothing of it. I find it fascinating that the celebrated author of On The Road and The Dharma Bums had this secret life… as a nerd.

When I was a kid of about eleven or twelve years old, right when I really got into Dungeons & Dragons, I also really got into baseball (specifically the San Francisco Giants, as I lived in Frisco at the time). One of the things that drew me to both pursuits was their almost religious reliance on statistics: constitution values, batting average, hit points, earned run average, armor class, slugging percentage, saving throw — this way of measuring the world made sense to me. (A shrink would probably say it was my way of imposing a sense of order on what had been a fairly rootless, chaotic life up to that point.)