A Deafinitive View Of… Ted Williams

 

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Photo Ref used. I tried to capture his self-assuredness. 

 

I never got to see Ted Williams hit in person. He retired after the 1960 season, 12 years before I even entered the world. I’ve only seen old black and white footage of him, including his final game, the one that John Updike famously chronicled in his timeless piece, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.”

Williams and Boston made up, after a time.  He came back to Fenway, that “lyric little bandbox”, for the ’99 All-Star Game, where the older legend rode in on a cart to home plate, where he was given a hero’s welcome. This time, the god did answer his letters, waving to the crowd, lapping up both the adoration of those in the stands and those players, many of whom were superstars in their own right, who surrounded him, eager as young kids to shake his hand and get a few words of wisdom from the man that people called Teddy Ballgame.

When it came to hitting, there were few that were as thorough in their approach to the art of putting a bat squarely on a ball that had been thrown at high velocity from 60 feet 6 inches away in his direction. He literally wrote a book on the topic, one that many future baseball players used as their own bible. Many would go to church and read the Bible to learn the Word of God. They’d read Williams’ book to soak in the Word of Ted.  It’d be interesting to have been able to hear him sermonize about the Steroid Era. I think he’d scoff at those who juiced up. He might have withdrawn his kind words for Mark McGwire.

Watching him hit in those videos… it’s something to behold. He has such sure balance at the plate. His interpretation of the strike zone was near textbook and if he argued with an umpire about a call, he darn well had a good reason to do so. One of the favorite arguments among baseball fans… or all sports fans… is to debate whether an athlete from an earlier era could compete today. Some might scoff at the caliber of pitching during the time that Williams played. Those players were not known for their devotion to exercise. I think that Williams was a special case. If a young Ted Williams could be placed in 2017, I think he’d handle himself fine.

He died three years later after that All-Star appearance, though he did outlive Joe DiMaggio, one of his chief baseball rivals, who died that Spring. Teddy Ballgame’s in cryogenic storage, where he hopes that one day, science will be able to revive him. Like the videos and pictures and the drawings, like the one I did above, forever capture him in his youth, he’s now in the same state as when he died. There will be no decomposition. Maybe one day… he will be brought back to life and he’ll be able to regale a new generation of people about what life was like when he played ball and tell them his hitting theories.

I’m Back

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Cable says, “No wisecracks about how long it’s been since the last update.

Yep. I’m back. Yes, I know that’s what 8 billion other bloggers write when they return from a hiatus. Then they do three new posts and quit because it’s so darn exhausting writing every day.

Well, while I’d love to be able to say that I’m going to keep this up – I have every intention of being diligent with this site and other ideas that I have… which are many – I have to just do it, otherwise those earlier words will just ring hollow. Then archaeologists will dig up this blog post thousand of years from now… provided that the Earth isn’t an irradiated wasteland thanks to a certain orange-skinned person. “Why did he stop? He was SO good.”

OK, maybe I flatter myself just a bit. Anyways. I took some time off because I wanted to focus on my artwork and make it really good. I was looking at the old gallery when I was uploading the Brolin/Cable drawing and I was like “I thought THOSE were good?” I’ll probably be saying that about this piece in about a year or so- I’ll want to spit on it when I look at it.

So… the journey begins anew. I feel the need to do another drawing now. So, I’m going to go answer the siren call of my pencils and sketchbook. I’ll talk to you all next time.

David Wright

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Photo ref used from Google image search.

It appears that the East Coast, particularly the Northeast corridor managed to make the snow gods very, very angry. Boston’s buried under snow and New York has dodged the meteorological bullet that hit Massachusetts. The temperatures have been hovering in the 20s and low 30s for over a week and football just ended. For those of us who are neither diehard basketball nor hockey fans, this represents the most dull time of sports year.

That’s why I’m going to be doing these posts hopefully daily until the Mets and the rest of baseball report to Spring Training. Today’s entry is  David Wright, who I hope finally gets back on track, powerwise. His homer totals have been in a decline, with his hitting all of 8 homers in 2014. He also had 586 plate appearances. The question is… does he need to adjust his swing to possibly be able to reach those higher totals? Right now I think his swing is too long.

Hear me out… I’m far from being a professional hitting coach and Kevin Long might tell me to kick rocks were he to read this blog (hey, anything’s possible.. he might do a vanity Google search and bam… here he is). I also know that an injury hurt him last year… one that required surgery. The thing is… his power has gone down each year. He always seems to start off each year hitting opposite field homers and then by the time the dog days of August and September come around, his homers also disappeared (though playing for a consistently sub-.500 team has to be draining). There are some who might point to his September 2010 stats where he hit 7 homers… to that I say, he ain’t 28 anymore.

I’m hearing that he’s healthy after the surgery (though that always seems to be the case for Spring Training stories. The “Oh, I’m in the best shape of my life” comments, that kind of thing), and I hope that he gets even better protection with Michael Cuddyer in the lineup. The question is.. are we hoping for a Wright who may never come back? Every season, we hope to see the 30-homer player… the guy who made that incredible barehanded catch and drove in over 100 runs each season and each year, that hasn’t happened.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the biggest David Wright fans out there. I’d love for him to mash 30 homers and help lead this team back to their winning days. The last few years though have made me hesitant, but then again, this is the time of year that Hope Springs Eternal. Here’s hoping that I’m eating crow in late October. Nobody sic Kevin Long on me.

Lucas Duda

If Duda doesn't hit like he did in 2014, the rest of the lineup suffers. (Photo ref used for drawing)

If Duda doesn’t hit like he did in 2014, the rest of the lineup suffers. (Photo ref used for drawing)

OK, I’m going to get back on track with the Mets posts/drawings, especially now that we’re a month away from players reporting to Spring Training. It’s a snowy/rainy/wintry mess kind of day here in New York and the thought of baseball starting up again cheers me up immensely. I’ve already done Terry Collins and Travis d’Arnaud.

As for Duda, I was uncertain about him at first last year, especially when there was that whole “Should they start Ike Davis or Duda?” controversy at the beginning of Spring Training and neither of them helped the front office make an early decision by both getting hurt and not being able to grab the job. Eventually, the team saw enough of Davis sulking back to the dugout after striking out yet again and traded him, which gave the job to the hulking 28-year-old Californian.

The results were quite pleasant, with his hitting 30 homers a pleasant offensive output for a team that had only three (THREE) hitters even break double digits in home runs. His only black mark was his .180 batting average against lefthanders, a mark that is going to have to improve if he’s to get over 600 at-bats.

While he’s not able to do the catch-a-foul-ball-and-tumble-into-the-dugout feat that Davis seemed to make routine, he made 7 errors last season for a .994 fielding percentage… which is pretty good for someone who has quite a few fielding chances. I think it was the fact that he wasn’t worried that he was going to be yanked for Davis at any given time that allowed him to be more comfortable with the glove.

I think he’s really feeling good now and if new hitting coach Kevin Long can help him like he’s done with Curtis Granderson, then opposing pitchers might fear this batting order even more.

Why am I not completely sold yet? I remember Davis having a 30+ homer year once, but if Duda does solve lefties more, then we could see a 40+homer season… regardless of where the Citi Field fences are. Here’s hoping.

Boyd Crowder Take Two

Now I feel better. Photo ref used from Google Image Search.

Now I feel better. Photo ref used from Google Image Search.

I recently did a post about Justified’s Boyd Crowder, along with a drawing. There were a few minutes where I thought the drawing was good… and then I came to my senses. I’m keeping that entry up, since I need to own my art mistakes, but I thought it necessary to do another one to wash the bad taste from my mouth.

Art Mullen

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With Justified kicking off its final season tonight, I thought I’d take a look at Raylan Givens’ nearly-deceased boss, Art Mullen (played by Nick Searcy). The gruff, often-sarcastic Chief Marshal tried to be the father figure that Raylan had sorely lacked due to having been raised by a real shitheel in Arlo Givens. Problem was, Raylan often fought back against authority, probably due to his childhood… and when you’re a lawman, bucking the system often winds in badly for both the person doing it and the one in charge too.

It came to a head when Art was investigating the death of mob hitman Nicky Augustine, who was riddled with bullets by his former compadres while Raylan walked away. Augustine was far from an angel worth being lamented, even by a Mrs. Augustine — hell, he even shot Stephen Tobolowsky’s corrupt FBI agent in the head. That was a moment that even rendered the normally sassy Wynn Duffy into speechless mode. (Side tangent: I bet Bill Murray wished he’d had his character do that in Groundhog Day. “Phil? Phil! It’s me, Ned Ryers– BLAM!” “I Got You Babe…”)

Art tried everything he could with Raylan, but eventually even he had to show that he had enough of the cowboy act and began shutting him out. Those days of protecting him were long gone and now Raylan has a new boss in Rachel Brooks, who will likely not come close to tolerating anything he does, despite their having worked quite a few cases together in the past.

When it comes to Art, I have two really vivid memories of him. One’s really funny and the other’s really scary. I’ll start off with the scary one. It came when he had someone bad tied down in a chair. The chief acted like a bad ass and just whaled on the guy, knocking him back. It showed that he had not gotten soft while sitting in an office overseeing the Marshals. He could get down and dirty.

The funny: It was when he was chasing a bank robbery suspect who was nearly the same age as he was… and was using a portable oxygen tank. It was the slowest foot race in the history of television, with both men winding up having to get their breath back at the end of it. Just the way the two actors sold it had me nearly rolling on the floor with laughter when it was happening.

OK, OK. I lied. There were three scenes. This one was all dialogue, when Art was in the diner last season, talking with the mob enforcer Elias Marcos (who was played by Alan Tudyk to near-perfection). It was such a fantastic combination of great dialogue and great acting. There was always the underlying threat there might be a shootout in that diner and it made me impressed how cold-blooded Art could be.

So, what is going to happen to the former chief this season? I hope he comes back several times to rip Raylan a new one after he screws up again… this time in his war against his former friend now enemy Boyd Crowder. It’ll feel emptier if that doesn’t happen.

Boyd Crowder

Boyd... Take 2

My second attempt with this photo ref – I think I managed to not make him look like a mummy this time.

The last season of Justified is almost underway and we’re going to be saying farewell to some pretty cool characters – Raylan Givens, Boyd Crowder, Ava Crowder. Art Mullen, Rachel Brooks and Tim Gutterson to name a few. I’ll be drawing them as the season goes by – I’ve already covered Raylan and now Boyd is next. I wanted to write about these two before the actual premiere since they are the most integral part of the show.. with Ava a close third, but I’ll get to her later this week.

I’ll admit it… I wasn’t crazy about Boyd during the first season, even with the way it ended, with them having an uneasy alliance.  It was the second season, the one with Maggs Bennett that got me hooked on Boyd and the show. What really got me liking Boyd was when he was trying to go on the straight and narrow for a while and he learned that there was going to be a plot against him: You wanna be in this business, you gotta know your ABC’s – Always Be Cool. It was then that he went from a sometimes blowhard with a really good vocabulary to someone who I always had fun watching on screen.

The thing was.. Boyd wasn’t even supposed to survive the first episode. Elmore Leonard’s short story, “Fire In The Hole”, the basis for the whole show, had him laying there on the floor in the Crowder household, dying of a gun shot. The show runners loved what Walton Goggins was doing with the role and… Get Me Rewrite.

What also impressed me is that while Boyd is certainly cunning, he’s not all-knowing. There were times on the show that his silver tongue deserted him and he also knew that while he was a big fish in the Harlan crime pool, there were sharks that could eat him whole in the outside world. He’s come close to getting the world in the palm of his hand only to have it slip out of his grasp. He can never get that big break that would allow him to live a life of peace with his fiance Ava. Now Ava has turned on him – though not 100% willingly – to be a C.I. for Raylan.

I was a total newbie to Goggins’ work too – I hadn’t watched The Shield – a mistake that I rectified on Amazon Prime streaming. It was also weird seeing his turn on Sons of Anarchy, but he’s cemented himself as one of the better actors on television.

I don’t know how this season is going to go.. it’s going to get ugly between Raylan and Boyd and there’s probably a very good chance that this time, there’s going to be no saving him from any bullets shot out of the marshal’s gun. There’s always the possibility that he uses up another of his nine lives… though he may have run through all of them through the course of the show.

Either way, I look forward to what he does post-Justified.