November 10, 2011 [LINK / comment]

Nats' catcher Wilson Ramos is kidnapped in Venezuela

There was a news report last night that Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped at gunpoint while at his home in Valencia, Venezuela. Today it was learned that police found the kidnappers' automobile abandonded in a nearby town a few hours later. There is no word of any ransom demands, but of course, such demands hardly ever becomes public. See and Ramos was playing for the Tigres de Aragua in Venezuela's Winter League. (See the Latin American leagues page.)

Ramos was one of the most-improved players in the Nationals roster this year, and to the surprise of many people, became the first-string catcher by the end of May, largely replacing Pudge Rodriguez. Those are big shoes to fill. His biggest feat of the 2011 season was hitting a three-run game-winning home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against the visiting Seattle Mariners on June 21; see my June 23 post.

Anyone who has travelled in Latin America knows that kidnapping is a serious problem in some areas, and tourists need to take extra precautions. There was a movie starring Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan vividly dramatizing the issue, Proof of Life (2000). Definitely not for the faint of heart. (See It's really a shame that the growing lawlessness in Venezuela had to strike an innocent victim like Wilson. He is not only a fine athlete with great promise, he is devoted to community service and (as reported on ABC News this evening) has a reputation for taking extra time to sign autographs for fans. Prayers go out for a quick return of Wilson to safety.

Birth of the curve ball

Here is an item of historical curosity brought to my attention by a historian colleague of mine, Matthew Poteat. According to research cited by the North Carolina Civil War 150 blog, the curve ball was invented in North Carolina during Civil War. I wonder when and where the knuckle ball, slider, and even the spit ball were invented?

Corrected page link

In my November 5 blog post, I originally had a bad link to the Washington Nationals page, so I have corrected it. Sorry about that.