I have been feeling very nostalgic this week, a baseball-related sense of nostalgia for a bygone age, because of Opening Day, I suppose. The strange thing, however, is that I've been feeling a sense of nostalgia for baseball in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it's odd to be nostalgic for a time in which pretty much everything to do with baseball was demonstrably worse.
Do you remember? Nobody went to games. In 1987, in the September heat of the pennant race, the Twins had 18 home games. They drew more than 30,000 fans just five times in that stretch. Most of the Twins games weren't on TV, especially if (like me) you lived in a town that didn't offer MSC; the Cubs, Braves, and Mets were all on more often than the Twins were. Fantasy baseball involved calculators and box scores; sabremetrics involved math and baseball cards. Most of the league's teams played in parks that were dilapidated wrecks or vaguely-converted football stadiums. Tarp machines ate Vince Coleman. Things weren't better.
Even so, you're just going to have to bear with me. Here goes: Cecil Fielder aiming for the roof at Tiger Stadium. Tiger Stadium in general. Harry Caray on TV. Skinny pitchers with non-ironic mustaches (Exhibit A: Doyle Alexander.) Pennants painted on the right field wall at the Metrodome. SkyDome, the blueprint of all future baseball stadiums. Rob Deer striking out a hundred thousand times every year and Mickey Tettleton's stupid batting stance. The Twins in the AL West, Milwaukee in the American League, and Bernie Brewer and his goofy slide into a beer mug. Baseball on WGN, the SuperStation, and WWOR. Ah, the memories.
I'd like to thank you for indulging me in this trip down memory lane. And now, on with the links:
*Spencer Hall must be the only writer who can connect "Mad Men", the back seat of his grandpa's car, and a discussion of concussions, liability, and the inherent risk of football.
*Francisco Liriano starts today for the Twins, and Steve Adams at Twinkie Town has three reasons that Liriano appears to be on track to turn it around from a bad 2011.
*Will Leitch says that Slap Shot - the greatest sports movie ever made, in my considered opinion - is great because it's also the most honest sports movie ever made.
*Minnesotan Steve Marsh writes a long article at Grantland about Ricky Rubio, his history, and his impact on Minnesota. Like a lot of people, I can't quite get enough of the "what might have been " game with Rubio. Why couldn't you stay healthy, Ricky? WHY COULDN'T YOUR SMILE PROTECT YOU? (/sobbing)
*The American soccer team missed out on qualifying for the Olympics. The Classical's Noah Davis takes a look at what this means for the future of USA soccer.
*And finally: My favorite thing to write every year is the Twins Season In Review, Way Too Early joke column. However, if you don't like the self-promotion, here's Spencer Hall writing about dogs and trying to make you cry.