Korean Baseball Organization First Pitches

Rhythmic gymnast Shin Soo-ji throwing out the first pitch in July 2013 started a fad.
Rhythmic gymnast Shin Soo-ji throwing out the first pitch in July 2013 started a fad.

This is not an event in Korea put together by BaseballHQ. It seems that in Korea throwing out the first pitch to a ballgame has become an entertainment and marketing opportunity.

Over at Slate, they asked a connoisseur of Korean baseball to provide some video of the most entertaining first pitches. You’ll have to click through the links to watch most of them at YouTube, but it’s worth it.

Read the story, find the links here.

ASK ROTOMAN: A pitcher smuggled out of Cuba

Dear Rotoman:

I’m not sure if this falls into the scope of the questions you answer, but I was talking with a friend last night about baseball history and he brought up a pitcher who had been smuggled out of cuba by his manager after he was attacked with some kind of weapon. I remember reading about that somewhere, but can’t remember the player’s name and can’t find it anywhere! Do you have any idea?

“History Buff”

Van Lingle Mungo was a rough and rowdy pitcher, mostly for the Brooklyn Dodgers, from 1931 to 1945.

The quote that is always used to address his temper is from Casey Stengal: “”Mungo and I get along fine. I just tell him I won’t stand for no nonsense, and then I duck”

At the Baseball Almanac I found this telling of the story of Mungo on a date in Havana:

The following story about Van Mungo appeared in The Herring Design Quarterlies, “Once, when the Dodgers were training in Cuba, his friends really saved him. Seems Van Lingle Mungo became enamored with a nightclub dancer by the name of Gonzalez, and she liked him pretty well, too. Her husband caught them in the clutches, and Mungo punched him in the eye. Señor Gonzalez returned with a butcher knife. That’s when a Dodgers executive by the name of Babe Hamberger hid Mungo in a laundry cart. He got his pitcher out of a major jam and down to the wharf where a seaplane was waiting. Mungo hid while his bags were loaded. Then Hamberger yelled, and Mungo sprinted for the plane, leaping aboard with the police hot on his heels.”

Bill James, in the Historical Baseball Abstract, lists Mungo as a drinking man in 1930s baseball, and that’s all.

But Mungo has been immortalized, of a sort, by David Frishberg, who wrote a song called “Van Lingle Mungo.” It’s a jazzy piece, well worth a listen, and while you do head over to Baseball Almanac and read about Frishberg’s one meeting with Mungo.


HELP, need to keep 5. c.davis, m.sano, d.gordon, f. lindor, k.bryant, b.harper, c.dickerson, m.harvey, g.cole 10team 5×5.

Play this, then:

Keep Bryce Harper, your best player. 1.

Keep Matt Harvey, your best pitcher. 2.

Keep Dee Gordon, your best steals middle infielder. 3.

Keep Chris Davis, your best homer hitter. 4.

Don’t keep Miguel Sano. He’s not as valuable as Bryant.

Don’t keep Corey Dickerson. He’s left Colorado and is not entirely clear of the injury shadow.

Which leaves you with Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant and Gerrit Cole.

Don’t keep Lindor because, like Sano, he’s not as valuable as Bryant.

Don’t keep Cole because you would rather have four elite hitters and one elite pitcher than three and two.

Keep Bryant. 5.


Rotisserie Culture 101

Bruce Buschel usually precedes each American Dream League auction with a benediction, but this year, in honor of our Easter Sunday kickoff, he and Larry Fine sang lyrics they wrote to the melody (sort of) of Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade. I missed the very beginning, alas, but you’ll get the idea.

Just A Bit Outside Link: Tom Emanski and the Wild World of Baseball Instructionals

No, that’s not the title of a long shaggy-dog story by Erik Malinowski posted today at Rob Neyer’s new Fox-affiliated baseball site.

The actual title is Pitchman: How Tom Emanski Changed the Sport of Baseball–And Then Disappeared.

This is not a good title. It’s debatable how much Emanski changed the game of baseball. The telling of the tale shows him to be more of an a striver who ended up in the right place at the right time who happened on a good idea than a visionary who saw something and decided to make it better. But that’s quibbling.

lldvdbox-webI have my own part of this history. In 1986, while Emanski was coming up with the idea of making baseball instructional videos, a baseball coach from Oswego New York and I were–thanks to a video producer named Richard Stadin, who thought this was a good idea, and we were the guys to do it–creating Little League’s Official How to Play Baseball Video. (You can buy it (or learn more) by clicking the box.)

Shot over the course of a week in Union New Jersey, with consulting help from NBC’s baseball director John Gonzalez, and deft production from NBC sports producer David Stern, our Little League instructional was a good-sized hit. Rave reviews in newspapers across the country, the Village Voice loved it, an A grade in Entertainment Weekly and apparently decent sales, led to a tie-in book, which Ted and I wrote for Doubleday, called the Official Little League How to Play Baseball Book.

I don’t know the video sales numbers, but I do know the book sold more than 100,000 copies, and was still selling thousands of copies a year before falling out of print a few years ago. We’re trying now to get it back into stores, and as an e-book. But enough about me.

Malinowski doesn’t nail the story. He never does speak with the modern day Emanski, and clearly never has enough info to make a true mystery about what made this baseball obsessive disappear. Illness? Certainly not shyness, but is he a tax cheat? Does he harbor some dark secret? Or is he just tired and happy to move on? Malinowski has nothing but conjecture, which isn’t very satisfying.

He also fails to do the math to show just how much money Emanski may have made out of his enterprise, which seems like a material part of the mystery (if there actually is a real mystery, apart from his subject’s withdrawal from public life).

Malinowski talks about the Baseball World camp, which was charging kids $100 per week for individualized baseball instruction using video.  That doesn’t sound like  a big money maker, even running full time from April to September each year. And when the video really started selling, they shut the camps down. Money might have been made, but Ermanski didn’t get rich on Baseball World camps.

He also talks about the videos, which were sold via direct marketing on ESPN from 1997 to 2007. But a reality check on the math says ESPN got $10 of the $30 list price. A telemarketing company would no doubt charge a few dollars to process each sale. A credit card company would take a cut. VHS and DVD production and packaging might cost a few dollars per piece, unless the quantities were high (and if they are then the storage costs for inventory would chew into the profits). Plus, there are shipping costs.

It sounds like the productions were bare-bones, so there were no doubt profits to be made, but it’s hard to see how Emanski made $76 Million, as one folktale the story cites implies. If he were clearing $10 a tape, which is possible, Ermanski would have to have sold more than 7 million tapes to have pre-tax profits of $76 million. That doesn’t seem plausible, but then, who knows?

Malinowski does say that the commercial ran more than 50,000 times, which sounds like a lot. But if they sold 100 videos per showing they would only get to 5 million videos, and 100 per showing would be a crazy number for a commercial dumped into time slots when ESPN wasn’t selling real commercial inventory. But, of course I don’t really know.

And still, despite the thinness of parts, I enjoyed the story. Ermanski’s is a tale like many on the periphery of baseball, of the love for the game, of a devotion to getting something done, with all the quirks that come along with the personal approach.

And it’s full of resonance. The section where real players are quoted calling mistakes Ermanskis is lovely, connecting the bigger world to this quirky story. Maybe not 5 million tapes, but the meme is out there if Dustin Pedroia is on it.

So it doesn’t matter a great deal that Malinowski doesn’t nail it. Maybe it wasn’t all the story he imagined, at first. Or maybe Ermanski has chosen exile rather than expose himself to the price his past exploits might exact, and his past is fiercely protected.

Maybe that’s why the Crime Dog seems to have wiped his hands of him. (You have to check out the story just to watch the video of McGriff’s commercial pitching the videos.) Whatever. Here’s a window on baseball culture, maybe not the last word, but many other words opening up the broad swaths of something, and suggesting where maybe more of the story lies.


Brock Holt: Play of the Year?

This was June 17, 2014. Jonny Gomes loses the ball and stands helplessly in left field. Brock Holt, playing center field for the first time ever at any professional level, takes off when the ball is hit and ends up making a diving catch in deep left center, a mile from where he started. That’s Holt on the right side of the frame, running before the camera zooms in. Amazing.

Click image to see animated GIF.


Matrix TV: Coming to your baseball game soon

The tennis tour is adding an array of super high definition cameras to its arenas to enable a replay technology that is something out of the Matrix. Time stops, the player and ball freezes, and we can fly through the scene, inspecting all the pieces in mind-blowing stillness. Like a scene out of Nicholson Baker’s novel, Fermata.

The story ran at Slate, where a video shows FreeD, as they call it, in action. Consider that this is clearly just the beginning of the implementation of such technology, the baby steps as it were. The possibilities are mindboggling.

Screenshot 2014-03-14 14.11.49