The Punch and The Code

MLB, Texas Rangers 9 Comments »

OdorPunch

I am still baffled by the events of the eighth inning of Sunday’s game between the Blue Jays and Rangers in Arlington. Baffled. I am confounded by the punch, by the slide, by all the decisions made by managers and players, and by the power of the code.

While a lot of you are praising Rougned Odor and taking great joy in his haymaker to Joey Bautista’s jaw and vilifying Bautista as an arrogant such-and-such who got what he had coming, allow me to note that if the tables were turned, you’d be feeling just the opposite. I’ve never seen a punch like that in a baseball game. Never. Not like that. Wow. And, yes, as a Rangers fan, I really dislike Bautista. But if Odor were a Blue Jay and Bautista were a Ranger? Come on. As Seinfeld once famously observed, we’re all just rooting for laundry. Odor is more regularly criticized by baseball people as a dirty player than Bautista.

And please stop comparing this to Nolan Ryan’s handling of Robin Ventura in 1993. Nolan was a universally revered legend and hall of famer and widely-acclaimed good guy. Ventura was a young kid, a good kid, who made a terrible one-time mistake. This thing Sunday was between a couple of guys with shaky reputations and histories of being punks.

But, this post is about the power of the code, not the character of the two players or the violence in our popular sports that we Christians cheer and/or ignore.

In my rational brain, I want to believe Bush’s pitch that nailed Bautista in the side to start the eighth inning was an accident. My head keeps telling me there’s no way they put the tying run on base in the eighth inning. It was a bad pitch that got away from a nervous pitcher in a pressure situation in only his second MLB appearance. But my gut keeps saying it was a pitch with a purpose. It was intentional all the way. Bautista had upstaged the Rangers in that playoff game seven months ago, he had over-celebrated that three-run, series-clinching homer, and he still needed to pay. In front of the home fans. And this was the last chance.

That’s the power of the code.

You’ll go insane trying to figure out the code. The code in baseball says it’s not OK for you to flip a bat after a dramatic home run, but it’s quite fine and even expected that you’ll slide cleats up into a second baseman in retaliation for a supposed slight. It’s not cool to trot around the bases to show up a pitcher. It’s disrespectful. But it’s good and even expected that you’ll drill him with a 97-miles-per-hour fastball the next time he’s at the plate. It’s kooky, this code.

But that code is what compelled Rangers manager Jeff Banister to order the beaning and put the tying run on base in the eighth inning. The code is what prompted him to risk the win in order to send a message.

The code is also what caused Bautista to illegally slide into Odor.

Bautista knew that if he came in on Odor at second base with a slide that has been made illegal this year by Major League Baseball, it would result in an automatic double play and the inning and the scoring threat would be over. But he did it anyway. He was willing to risk the win in order to send a message. He knew what he was doing. Several times this year, games have ended on these automatic double plays after an illegal slide into second. It’s happened to the Astros twice. It’s been much debated and publicized. It’s already happened to Bautista this year in a game against Tampa Bay. He cost Toronto the game with an illegal slide. But he went ahead with it Sunday, knowing he would end the inning, in order to uphold the code.

This code is more important than the game. That baffles me.

I remember one night in ’02 or ’03 sitting next to Steve Busby in the Ballpark press box. He asked me if I was ready for Jay Gibbons to get it. Gibbons was an outfielder for the Orioles who had hit a homerun against Texas the year before and over-celebrated. Both dugouts cleared and exchanged the typical pushing and shoving and tough words. This night was the first game between the opponents since that dust-up the season before and Busby was preparing to talk about it during the post game show. He said both teams were anticipating it. It was going to happen.

Nothing happened that night. But it happened the following night. Gibbons got plunked. I can’t remember who did it. There was some pushing and chirping and then it was over. Score settled. Everybody was good.

That really opened my eyes to the power of the code. It’s weird. But it’s real and everybody understands the deal.

Odor took things to the next level in dramatic fashion Sunday. Bautista was planning to come hard at second base, exchange in one more round of pushes and shoves, both dugouts would clear, and it would be over. The scores would be settled. Everybody would be good. Well, it’s a little tricky sometimes deciding just when things are even.

The code is enforced within the rules during play in a football game; violence and retaliation are part of the game’s DNA. The code is enforced immediately on the very next face-off in hockey; nobody waits until the next period, much less the following season. There is no known code in basketball, no understood avenue for settling scores there. That’s why brawls in basketball games are viewed as horrible harbingers of the apocalypse. But in baseball, it’s there. It can take months, but it’s there. And managers and players will risk a win in an important game against a league rival in order to enforce it.

Peace,

Allan

Going to California

Lectureships, MLB No Comments »

I’m making my first trip to the annual Pepperdine Bible Lectures in Malibu, California to spend four days at the feet of some of our very best preachers and teachers in Churches of Christ and to hear and meet the legendary bishop N. T. Wright. More on Tom later…

Pepperdine1PetcoYou won’t be surprised that Greg and I took off from Amarillo a day early so we could fly into San Diego and take in a Padres game at Petco Park. As was our good fortune, the Padres are hosting the Colorado Rockies which means my friend Jerry Schemmel, the Rockies radio play-by-play voice, scored us some sweet (free!) seats right on top of the visiting dugout with all the Colorado players’ families. As expected, Greg and I both ate for the cycle and watched rookie sensation Trevor Story go oh-fer in a 2-1 San Diego win.

This morning we took our time getting to Malibu. We drove across the bridge over to Coronado Island, toured the Midway battleship and a couple of other sights and attractions around San Diego before downing a couple of spicy shrimp tacos and hitting “the five” up north to L.A.

Pepperdine2Plane
Pepperdine2Greg

 

N. T. Wright is giving the keynote this evening, teaching a couple of classes tomorrow and Thursday, and then meeting privately (sort of, I guess) with 24 ministers Thursday afternoon. Thanks to Mike Cope, Greg and I are going to be in that group of 24. I have no idea what we’re going to talk about or what’s going to happen. But just being in Wright’s presence for an hour will be a blessing and an honor.

Looking forward to catching up with lots of great friends this week, being inspired by some of our best speakers, and being further shaped by our Lord’s generous Spirit.

Peace,

Allan

The Great Game

MLB No Comments »

BaseballCartoon

It Finally Happened…

MLB No Comments »

…just as Abbott and Costello predicted.

Dance With Who Brung Ya

College Football, Foreign Missions, Legacy Church Family, MLB 2 Comments »

 

Darrell Royal, co-inventor of the Wishbone offense and two-time national championship coach of the Texas Longhorns, has died at age 88. During his 20 years as UT’s head football coach, Royal racked up a record of 167-47-5, including eleven Southwest Conference titles, ten Cotton Bowl wins, and undefeated national championship seasons in 1963 and 1969. I was ten years old when Royal stepped away from the sidelines to leave college football to the Barry Switzers of the world. So most of what I know about him I’ve only heard second and third hand or read in books or seen on TV. I did enjoy the great privilege of meeting Royal at a hospital fundraiser in Burnet back in 1993. I had my picture made with the winningest coach in Longhorns history and he autographed my invitation. A good friend, Larry Pate, framed the 3″x4″ card for me and it hangs on my office wall today.

Royal is remembered for his hard-nosed running attack and his disciplined defense. But he also gained a lot of attention with his folksy quotes and quips. Some of my favorites:

“Three things can happen when you throw the football, and two of ’em are bad.” ~on his unwillingness to install a sophisticated passing game at UT

“You dance with who brung ya.” ~on his refusal to give up on the Wishbone after a couple of tough losses in 1965

“Only angry people win football games.” ~on recruiting

“No, he’s not very fast, but maybe Elizabeth Taylor can’t sing.” ~while defending a backup running back against a reporter’s criticism

Click here for a link to a whole bunch of other Darrell Royal quotes. Click here for the Sports Illustrated article on Royal’s life before, during, and after UT. In honor of the coach, order something off the menu today that sounds like “triple option.”

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You might also be interested to know that the Houston Astros are going with a new logo and uniform design to mark their move to the American League. The new designs borrow quite liberally from the old historic ones — maybe only a die-hard fan could pick out the differences. But I like it. The orange star and the capitol “H” has always been cool. Someday, maybe during Spring Training in March, I’ll rant and rave about Houston moving to the AL West. It’s a travesty. It’s very nearly the abomination that leads to desolation. In the meantime, click here to watch a pretty cool video that highlights the Astros’ uni look from the old Colt .45 days of Larry Dierker, through the rainbow era of Ryan and Cruz, and the blue pinstripes of Bagwell and Biggio, to this brand new look worn by a bunch of players you and I have never heard of.

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Carrie-Anne and the girls and I made the short drive to Tulia Friday to eat Mexican food with our favorite Ukranian missionaries, David and Olivia and Caleb Nelson. David and Liv are on furlough from their seven year commitment in Kharkov, spending several weeks with the Martins in Lubbock where Liv is about to give birth to their second child. The little boy (Luke? Lucas? Lucious?) is due in a week and Olivia needed some chili rellenos. We had such a great visit with this wonderful family. It was such a joy to get caught up on all the Christians and all the seekers C-A and I met during our two week trip to Kharkov in 2010. Re-living Victoria’s baptism into Christ, remembering Alexander, getting caught up with Valery and Andrei; it was such a blessing. We laughed together and we prayed. We marveled at their victories and sympathized with their struggles. We giggled at the mention of fish-flavored potato chips and gagged at the memory of a tall frosty glass of Kafir. I taught Caleb how to flip Froot Loops from the handle of a teaspoon. And we vowed to play a few marathon Phase 10 games together here in Amarillo before they head to Fort Worth after the baby is born.

God is using the Nelsons in a very difficult place. He’s working through them to spread the great news of salvation in Christ Jesus. He’s empowering their whole team by his Holy Spirit to advance the eternal Kingdom. We feel so very blessed to be their friends.

God bless his Kingdom outposts in Ukraine. God bless David and Olivia Nelson and their precious children. May our Father’s will be done in their lives and in Kharkov just as it is in heaven.

Peace,

Allan

Anticipating Tulsa

Lectureships, MLB, NFL 1 Comment »

“When I prayed to make the Broncos better, I didn’t mean Peyton Manning!”

~Tim Tebow

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Carrie-Anne and I are headed up to Tulsa for our annual time of spiritual renewal and ministry rejuvenation. The Tulsa Workshop has long been a favorite destination for us. Every year we are encouraged, uplifted, inspired, equipped, empowered, enlightened, and educated. It’s in Tulsa where we sing our lungs out, we “amen” some of the best preachers in the faith, and we’re transformed. We grow in Tulsa. We change in Tulsa.

I’m approaching this year’s three day event with the same anticipation. I’m so privileged to sit with Terry Rush in his office at 6:30 Thursday morning; what encouraging thing will he say to me this time? I’m so blessed to call Rick Atchley a good friend; what valuable advice will he give me when I see him? My life is more meaningful for knowing Rick and Beverly Ross and their whole family; how will Josh challenge me this year?; how much of their broken hearts and enduring faith will Rick and Beverly reveal to inspire me?

How much of Jeff Walling’s sermons will I steal? Who am I going to run into that I haven’t seen in ten years? How hard will Randy Harris make me laugh? How long will Chris Moore’s beard be, and how many rubber bands will be holding it in place? How many tears will roll down my cheeks as Keith Lancaster leads us in “It Is Well With My Soul” while I realize that my sin — not in part, but the whole! — has been nailed to the cross?

I’ll get to see Dan Bouchelle for the first time since I took his old job at this wonderful church in Amarillo (hopefully, nobody’s told him yet that I referred to him in a sermon two weeks ago as Central’s interim preacher). I’ll get to sing praises to our God with my wife and with our old friends from Mesquite and with new friends we haven’t even met yet and with hundreds and hundreds of Christ’s redeemed. Is Marvin Phillips still alive?!? I’ll listen to Jay Guin and Don McLaughlin and Patrick Mead. I’ll come back with books and CDs and a refreshed understanding of my own salvation and a renewed enthusiasm for the mission to which our Father has called me. And we might run into Garth Brooks again at the Mexican food restaurant.

I love the Tulsa Workshop. I highly recommend it.

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My friend Jerry Schemmel, the play-by-play voice of the Colorado Rockies, has just released a brand new clothing line with a Bible-based theme. This is his baby: 1925 Sports — workout gear with logos inspired by 1 Corinthians 9:25. “…to get a crown that will last forever.”

Here’s the link. Check it out. Way to go, Jerry. Very cool. I know your schedule’s about to get really hectic. Enjoy the relative calm of the final two weeks of spring training. Someday, when you get out of baseball broadcasting to enter the full-time preaching ministry, we’ll talk about hectic. Have a great season.

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The above Tim Tebow joke was submitted earlier today by Josh Penn. Thanks, Josh. See you at the Warrior Dash next month.

Peace,

Allan