Category: Sports

Le match parfait de Dennis Martínez

Twenty two years ago today, Expos ace Dennis Martínez threw the 13th perfect game in Major League Baseball history, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 in LA. Here is the last half of the ninth, with Expos broadcasters Rodger Brulotte and Denis Casavant calling the play-by-play en français.

In a major league career that spanned 22 years, Martínez compiled a 245–193 record, and is one of a handful of pitchers to have won more than 100 games in both the American and National Leagues. There have been 10 perfect games since Martínez threw his, a statistical curiosity Contrarian has pondered herehere, and here.

H/T: David Horton


I saw 42 tonight. It’s the new movie about Jackie Robinson’s breakthrough with the 1946 Montreal Royals, and then with the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers as the first black player in modern Major League Baseball.

rickeyThe movie’s a bit cheesy, redeemed mainly by the glorious story it recounts, and by a wonderful performance from Harrison Ford as Dodger General Manager Branch Rickey—the man who spearheaded baseball’s integration.

There are some nice touches, as when Rickey picks Robinson’s bio out of a stack of Negro League player reports he’s considering.

“He’s a Methodist,” notes Rickey. “I’m a Methodist. God is a Methodist. It should work out well.”

jackie-robinson-montreal 3Growing up in a liberal family in a 1950s New York suburb, I was weaned  on Robinson’s story, and I rooted passionately for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But tonight I learned an obscure detail that had never registered with me.

In the summer of 1945, Robinson had just been released from World War II army service and was batting .381 for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League. On August 28, 1945, Rickey summoned him to a three-hour meeting in his Brooklyn office, where he taunted the 26-year-old player with racial epithets.

“You want someone tough enough to fight back?” asked Robinson.

“No,” said Rickey. “I want someone tough enough not to fight back.”

He signed the 26-year-old player to a contract with the Royals, a Dodger farm team.

On that same day, 300 miles to the northwest, in Children’s Hospital, Buffalo, NY, Flora Best Donham, 31, was cradling her fourth child, a day-old baby boy.

That would be me. You could say I was born the day before they integrated baseball.

Still random after all these years?

When Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox pitched a perfect game against the Seattle Mariners back in April, I wrote that the frequency of these exceedingly rare feats had ramped up dramatically over the last three decades.

Mathematicians argued that speedup was more apparent than real, a classic example of a Poisson distribution. This is the natural tendency for exceptionally rare but random events to bunch up in ways that appear non-random.

Humber’s flawless game was the 19th in modern baseball’s 112-year* history. Since April, there have been two more, including the 1-0 gem Félix Hernández of the Seattle Mariners pitched against the Tampa Bay Rays last night.

Here’s the latest chart:

True, there are more ballgames per year than there were 60 years ago—almost twice as many.

Still, from 1901 to 1960, there was only one perfect game every 15 years. From 1980 to Wednesday night, there was one every 2.36 years.

Random or not, there’s one thing I’m sure Félix Hernández can agree on:

Bayesian ball’s been bery bery good to me.

* Baseball is older than 112, but the rules were so different in the Nineteenth Century, most scholars date the modern era from 1900.

Olympic sailing through an Irish lens

My kind of Olympics commentary:

[Video link]

[UPDATE] Thanks to loyal reader JC for pointing out that this brilliant spoof is the work of Chris ‘The Viper’ Tordoff of the Hardy Bucks, an Irish mocumentary TV series akin to Nova Scotia’s Trailer Park Boys. It centres on five “scheming, drinking, work-shy procrastinators from fictitious ‘Castletown’ in County Mayo, Ireland.” Backstory here and here.

IrishCentral reports that the spoofed sailing commentary first appeared on Vimeo, but was taken down, either by Vimeo acting on its own or on a take-down demand from the International Olympic Committee. This provoked a profanity laden audio retort from The Viper.

Original H/T: BBH