April 4, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Opening Day(s) in America, 2016!
It was snowing or raining in several northeastern states today, forcing a postponement of games in New York (Bronx) and Cleveland, but most of the country had pleasant spring-like weather for the official start of the 2016 baseball season. For six teams, yesterday was Opening Day, or Opening Night, in the case of the Mets and Royals. It was the first time ever that the two pennant winners from the previous year faced each other in the first game of the season. The Royals used their base-running pluck and clutch hitting to overcome Matt Harvey's superb pitching, winning 4-3. Today, the Dodgers and Giants each won by lopsided proportions, with scores of 15-0 (L.A. over S.D.) and 12-3 (S.F. over Milwaukee). Right now, the Cubs are in the process of doing the same thing to the Angels, and likewise the home team is losing.
Nats win in (one) extra inning
The Washington Nationals began this year on the road in Atlanta, where the skies were clear blue. It seemed a good omen in the first inning when 2015 National League MVP Bryce Harper homered after a long at-bat (during which Anthony Rendon was caught trying to steal second), the fourth time Harper has hit a home run on Opening Day. He did so twice on April 1, 2013 (when the Nats beat the Marlins) and once on April 6, 2015 (when the Mets beat the Nats). In both of those games, the only Nationals' runs scored were those (solo) homers by Harper. But in today's game, other Nats got RBIs as well, most notably Daniel Murphy.
It was a tense, evenly matched game in which the Nats' ace Max Scherzer allowed only three hits over seven innings, but two of those hits were solo homers. The Braves took a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning, as relief pitcher(s) Felipe Rivero loaded the bases and Shawn Kelley walked in a run without throwing a strike. Next! But in the top of the ninth, the Nats got some clutch hits, including a single by Wilson Ramos and a perfect bunt single by Danny Espinosa to load the bases with no outs. They only scored one run, but that at least put the game into extra innings. In the top of the tenth inning, Ryan Zimmerman reached second base on a throwing error by the shortstop, and Daniel Murphy (who had already hit a solo homer in the fourth inning) hit a clutch RBI double, which ended up deciding the game. Nats 4, Braves 3.
It was a nice debut for Dusty Baker as the Nationals' manager. After a day of rest, the Nats and Braves will play again on Wednesday, after which the Nats return home to D.C. for a weekend series against the Miami Marlins. There's a fair chance that I might see one of those games, which would be the earliest MLB game that I have seen since the Nats' inaugural game (in Philadelphia) on April 4, 2005 -- exactly eleven years ago today!
Today's game was the final Opening Day at Turner Field, which has been the home of the Braves since 1997. Next year the Atlanta team moves to the northern suburbs, making SunTrust Park as their home.
On Friday and Saturday, the Nats hosted exhibition games against the Minnesota Twins at Nationals Park. In the first at-bat of Saturday game, the Twins' Brian Dozier hit a home run off Joe Ross, but in the bottom of the inning, Ryan Zimmerman replied by crushing a two-run homer deep into the left field seats. That was fun to watch! The rest of the game was back-and-forth, and the Nats avoided a loss when rookie Chris Heisy homered in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, 8-8. (That may have been the deciding factor in the Nats' front office deciding to keep Heisy on the 25-man roster.) There was no reason to play extra innings, so the Nats ended spring training with a phenomenal 19-4-4 record. Yes, four ties!
Sportsman's Park update
And they said it could never be done! After interminable struggles to reconcile conflicting evidence, I finally updated the Sportsman's Park page with dynamic diagram for the first time. As usual, it now features a lower-deck and an upper-deck variant, in fact two upper-deck variants. The support beams and entry portals are now shown, along with details in the bullpens, the center field hedges, light towers, etc. One of those diagram variants (1902) doesn't really belong with the others, because it predates the era of concrete-and-steel stadiums, which began in 1909, more or less. (That is my general cutoff point for deciding which stadiums to include or exclude.) But because some parts of the original grandstand and bleachers of Sportsman's Park continued to be used until the expansion of 1926, I thought it would be appropriate to include the 1902 variant, even thought the diamond was oriented much differently. In the common usage of Robert Lowry and other SABR experts, the ballpark which existed from 1909 to 1966 is called "Sportsman's Park IV," and the 1902-1908 ballpark is called "Sportsman's Park III."
To get the stadium diagrams as accurate as possible, I relied upon the excellent book by Ron Selter, Ballparks of the Deadball Era: A Comprehensive Study of Their Dimensions, Configurations, and Effects on Batting, 1901-1919 (Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Co., 2008). I had the pleasure to meet Mr. Selter at the 2009 SABR convention in Washington, and I am deeply impressed by his extensive research and methodical approach. I disagree with some of his conclusions, but can't fault him for his painstaking research efforts.
Are these new diagrams perfect? Absolutely not! The question marks in the early diagram variants call attention to parts of the ballpark that remain in doubt, such as the exact position of the curved pavilion that existed in left field in 1909 and 1910. (It had been the main grandstand from 1902 until 1908.) But they are much more accurate than before, "close enough for government work," as they often say in Washington. I found the photo gallery assembled by Kevin McCann at St. Louis Today [part of the Post-Dispatch newspaper] to be extremely useful. (Thanks to Bruce Orser for that link.) It's hard to find photos from the early (pre-1926) era of Sportsman's Park.
I paid a visit to the former site of Sportsman's Park (a.k.a. Busch Stadium) in August 2011, just prior to taking a tour of Busch Stadium (III). In conjunction with the 2009 All-Star Game, played in St. Louis, Hall of Famer Lou Brock was at a dedication ceremony for a youth baseball field next to the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club, which occupies the land where Sportsmans Park once stood. The St. Louis Cardinals pledged to help fund that worthy project. See St. Louis Post-Dispatch; hat tip to Rod Nelson.
The sign marking the site of Sportsmans Park on the Boys & Girls Club building; photo taken in August 2011.
Late updates noticed
I owe belated gratitude to Mark Komp, who noticed my recent update to the Baker Bowl diagrams, and reminded me that he had provided me with photographic evidence more than a decade ago (Ouch!) to show that the backstop was a very sharp curve, almost a corner. As he rightly stated, "Baker Bowl isn't on or near the top of many people's list of interesting old stadia, although it certainly has a rich history that deserves to be better known." Like Sportsman's Park, it had been a full ten years since the last diagram update! Some time this summer, I should finally get the rest of the diagrams done ... Believe it, or not!
Watch out for that bat!
One of these days, the distractions caused by cell phones and similar mobile devices are going to cause a real tragedy. In case you haven't done so already, take a look a the video of the man who saves an oblivious youth who is too busy fiddling with his smart phone to notice that a bat was hurtling toward his face: NPR.org.
April 5, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Wisconsin badgers front-runners
After another week overflowing with disgusting "verbal diarrhea" from the leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump, along with reports that the leading Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, may soon be questioned by the FBI, voters in both Wisconsin party races went against the grain, strongly favoring the number two candidates: Rafael "Ted" Cruz and Bernie Sanders. As a result, the chances that there will be a contested convention on the Republican side have risen significantly, and the prospects for such a scenario on the Democratic side are slightly greater than before. No one doubts that there is profound angst among voters in both parties, and huge distrust of both parties' "establishment" leaders.
Wisconsin primary election, preliminary results
As mainstream Republicans become more petrified at the mere thought of Donald Trump becoming their party's nominee, the candidacy of Ted Cruz has been greatly rejuvenated. Only a few weeks ago, Cruz was languishing with few electoral victories to boast. But more and more commentators have relegated the third-place candidate John Kasich (who still lags behind Marco Rubio in total delegates) to "also ran" status, preferring Cruz as the only viable alternative. To me, that's a shame. There is talk of a compromise candidate from outside the current field, focusing on Wisconsin's own Paul Ryan as the proverbial savior on a white horse. But Trump has already threatened violence if he is denied the nomination, and any such initiative would surely meet with screams of outrage from the party's "Base." That's what you get for years of pandering to "low-education voters," whom Trump proudly welcomes. The whole idea of a convention is to choose a candidate that is most acceptable to the greatest number of party members. It is not supposed to automatically confer nomination upon whichever candidate is the number one choice of more voters than any other.
At present, many Trump supporters refuse to accept Cruz as the GOP nominee, and vice versa. Are those sentiments rock solid, or merely transitory? Obviously, many people (including me) abhor the mere thought of Donald Trump as president, and wouldn't even consider voting for him in November.
I'll explore possible solutions to this bitter conundrum in the near future, but I readily acknowledge that chances for unifying the party are virtually zero. Of course party leaders such as Reince Priebus, as well as the candidates and leading members of Congress pay lip service to party unity, but Donald Trump has pretty much killed that.
New page: Decision 2016
Since this primary election season is unusually dramatic and unpredictable, I decided to create a new Web page with the state-by-state delegate counts, including the preliminary Wisconsin results tonight: Decision 2016: The Race to the White House!. I computed the totals based on the individual state data, and also show the "reported" totals, which include delegates who were unbound by candidates who dropped out, etc.
April 5, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Spring brings winged things
The weather turned chilly today, but it was still sunny and therefore a good opportunity for me to get a bit of exercise and check out the birds at Bell's Lane. On my way there, I spotted a pair of Flickers excavating a nest hole along a street corner in Staunton. Perfect photo op! Except for the Bald Eagle (which we saw on Sunday), the rest of the birds in this montage were seen today:
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Bald Eagle, in Swoope (April 3), Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Blue-winged Teal (F), American Goldfinch (M), and Northern Flickers (M & F).
I also saw a pair of Brown Thrashers and a few Northern Shovelers, plus a few unidentified ducks, perhaps Gadwalls.
Eagle nest web cam
Speaking of Bald Eagles, Jacqueline has been fascinated by the web cam of the Bald Eagle nest located in the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. You can see it for yourself at eagles.org. Two baby eaglets hatched about a week to ten days ago, and both are growing rapidly. The parents have been named "Mr. President" and "First Lady."
A few weeks ago, I agreed to serve as the newsletter editor for the Augusta Bird Club, a responsibility that meshes fairly well with my existing responsibilities as Web master, but which will no doubt occupy much precious time. I distributed electronic versions last week, and mailed out the hard copies on Saturday. The latest edition of the newsletter can be seen at augustabirdclub.org.
April 7, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nats show pop and spunk, but ...
The Washington Nationals have shown a lot of promise in the first three games, and Dusty Baker's feisty, go-get-em spirit may be a big part of that. Daniel Murphy is already proving his worth, coming within a couple feet of a grand slam to right field in the bottom of the first inning in the first official game at Nationals Park this afternoon, but he had to settle for a three-run triple. That made up for the awful first inning pitched by Tanner Roark, when the Miami Marlins scored three runs. He gave up another run in the third inning (after a rain delay of nearly an hour and a half), and was charged with the loss. Bryce Harper hit his second homer of the year, but it wasn't enough. Marlins 6, Nats 4.
In the Wednesday afternoon game, Stephen Strasburg pitched very well, going six innings before Matt den Dekker pinch hit for him in the top of the seventh. Den Dekker had just been called up from the minors after Ben Revere was put on the disabled list. He flew into Atlanta, arrived at Turner Field during the fifth inning, and barely had time to tie his shoelaces when he was up to bat. Ryan Zimmerman had just scored from second base on a hard ground ball hit by Wilson Ramos to the shortstop. Danny Espinosa walked, and then den Dekker smashed a double to the 390 foot mark in right-center field, batting in two runs and putting the Nats ahead for good. Wow! Final score: 3-1.
It's too early to draw any conclusions from just three games, but Wilson Ramos, Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, and the others mentioned above are all hitting pretty well so far. In Atlanta, the Nats came back to win twice, but back home in D.C. today (and tonight) they wasted some run-scoring opportunities. Jayson Werth and Michael Taylor have yet to get a hit, but they have put good wood on the ball more than once.
Random page updates
I updated the text and data on a few pages, including Coors Field and Stadium statistics. I'll be doing a lot of that in the next few days, trying to get all the page formatting consistent at last.
March Madness 2016
I heard that there was a big basketball game on Monday evening, while I was occupied with other things. (!) Villanova beat North Carolina to take the 2016 Men's NCAA championship. Until the Final Four, actually, I was paying a fair amount of attention to the "March Madness" playoffs this year. Why? Well, the University of Virginia Cavaliers made it all the way to the Elite Eight before being upset in the final minutes by Syracuse. D'oh! Malcolm Brogdon had a spectacular final year, and will probably be drafted into the NBA. He "was named the Atlantic Coast Conference's 2016 Player of the Year and its Defensive Player of the Year -- the first player ever to earn both honors in the same season." (See virginia.edu.) Another top player, Anthony Gill is graduating this year, but London Perrantes and Marial Shayok should be back for Virginia in the 2016-2017 season.
South Dakota triumphs!
Speaking of basketball, how many of you were watching CBS Sports Network (not the CBS broadcast network) last Saturday afternoon? Well, if you did, you witnessed a rare and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime event: a sporting event being televised live from the DakotaDome in beautiful Vermillion, South Dakota! (That's where I grew up.) What's more, the home team University of South Dakota Lady Coyotes won the Women's National Invitational Tournament championship, defeating the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles by a score of 71-65. And the crowd went wild! Official attendance was 7,415. (See womensnit.com.)
It was an especially memorable occasion, because it was the last time that basketball will be played at the DakotaDome. A new basketball-sized arena is being built on the south side of the DakotaDome, and is expected to open some time next fall.
Congratulations, Lady Coyotes!
So, of course I had to update the DakotaDome diagrams (for the first time since 2010), adding two new variants that show how the roof was upgraded in 2001 from a flimsy air-supported "pillow" (like the Metrodome) to a solid dome supported by steel girders. The diagrams now show the entry portals, and other details are rendered more accurately than before. Also, I added a couple more photos to that page.
April 11, 2016 [LINK / comment]
St. Louis Browns autographs
Our time on this planet is of limited duration, and often all that is left to keep memories of us alive after we are gone are an engraved tombstone or perhaps a few scattered pieces of paper. I was originally going to include this family story when I updated the Sportsmans Park page and diagrams earlier this month, but there was too much else going on at the time. So, a few years ago, my Dad showed me his album of celebrity autographs, of which he was extremely proud, including a page with virtually the entire 1945 St. Louis Browns team. I'm pretty sure my father's first major league game was in the 1944 World Series, all six games of which were played in Sportsmans Park. (The Cardinals won, of course.) These autographs would have been one year later, in 1945. That was indeed impressive, even though I wasn't familiar with the names on it. So I took the time to go through my 2003 Sport Encyclopedia: Baseball book to track down when those players actually spent time in the majors. The ones I could not identify (with questions marks) were presumably coaches.
In particular, my Dad remembered meeting Don Gutteridge, who visited some big social event in Salina, Kansas in the late 1940s, when my father was a military cadet there. Frankly, I'm sorry to say that I really didn't know anything about him, but from my Dad's perspective, Don Gutteridge was a big hero. You can see his lifetime stats and biography at baseball-reference.com. In twelve years of major league baseball (1936-1948), virtually all with the St. Louis Cardinals or Browns, Gutteridge had 39 home runs, 391 RBIs, and a .256 batting average. He died on September 7, 2008 at the age of 96.
|Luke Sewell (Mgr.)
|George Caster (P)
|Jack Jakucki (P)
|Weldon West (P)
|Zack Taylor (C)
|Earl Jones (P)
|Bob Muncrief (P)
I'll be traveling home to see my father in South Dakota later today, perhaps the last time I'll get to talk to him. This blog post is a modest (partial) tribute to my Dad, and to the basic idea that baseball memories must be kept alive!
And, Go Cubs, Go!
The Pythagorean Theorem
As the casual observer might guess from visiting this Web site, one of my best subjects in high school was geometry, and that proved useful in my recent struggles to finish the Sportsman's Park diagram updates. Here's why: The reported dimensions for left field, center field, and right field changed a few times between 1926 and 1939, even though the seating sections (left field bleachers and right field covered pavilions) were already completed by 1926. Unless the foul poles moved at some point (which seems unlikely, given that they were aligned exactly at the ends of the upper-deck grandstands), the only thing that could account for dimension changes wold be a shift in the location of home plate. Appllying the Pythagorean Theorem, which states that the square of the length of the hypotenuse in a right triangle is equal to the square of the lengths of the two sides, we can be sure that any change in the left field distance would have to be compensated by an opposite change in the right field distance, and vice versa. The changes reported in Lowry's Green Cathedrals (based in part on contemporary newspaper accounts, from what I can tell) simply do not add up. So I have concluded that there were no changes in outfield dimensions from 1926 until Sportsman's Park was retired in 1966.
For more such fun, see the Outfield trigonometry page.
One week down, 25 more to go
The first week of baseball has seen a fierce fight for the lead in the National League Central and West Divisions, but oddly enough, the St. Louis Cardinals are not yet in the mix. The Chicago Cubs are living up to their sky-high expectations so far, with a 5-1 record, tied with the Cincinatti Reds for the NL Central lead. Unfortunately, the Cubs' star rookier slugger from last year, Kyle Schwarber, tore a knee ligament in a freak collision with teammate Dexter Fowler last Thursday, and will be out for the rest of the year. That's a bad break, but the Cubs still have plenty of reserve power.
It looked like the Atlanta Braves and the Minnesota Twins were finally going to get their first wins of the year yesterday afternoon, but they were overcome in the late innings by (respectively) the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals. So now the Braves are now 0-5, and the Twins are 0-6. Ouch!
After a planned day of rest on Friday and a game that was "chilled out" (!) on Saturday, the Washington Nationals finally overcame the Miami Marlins in a fine pitchers' duel. Joe Ross went seven full innings and only giving up one run, while Jayson Werth and Clint Robinson got clinch RBI hits in the bottom of the seventh to tip the game in the Nats' favor. Bryce Harper hit his 99th and 100th career doubles, one of which probably would have been his 100th career home run if it hadn't been for the cool, windy conditions. Final score: Nats 4, Marlins 2.
Tonight the Nationals welcome the Atlanta Braves to Washington, with Max Scherzer (who settled for a no-decision on Opening Day) facing Bud Norris, who pitched surprisingly against the Nats well last week. It seems like a lopsided matchup, but you never know...
Braves to host game at Fort Bragg
As part of the Independence Day ceremonies honoring America's armed forces, on July 3 the "Atlanta" Braves will set up camp at a new baseball stadium at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It will be a real game, not just an exhibition: "This is not a drill!" The Braves will be the home team, and the Miamia Marlins will be the visitors. See MLB.com. Another new diagram, eventually?
More on Ichiro? Not.
Speaking of the Marlins, their outfielder Ichiro Suzuki probably won't get a chance to break the 3,000-hit level this year, contrary to what I wrote on March 25. He has only had one at-bat this year (MLB.com), and is expected to sit on the bench for the foreseeable future. His batting average plummeted last year, and since consistent hitting was his main claim to fame during his career, he is frankly of much less use to the Marlins or to any other MLB team. Nevertheless, I hope somebody gives him an fighting chance to make history.
Baseball in Montreal?
Two of the exhibition games played two weekends ago took place in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, a.k.a. "The Big Owe." I watched on TV for a while as the Red Sox took on the Toronto Blue Jays, and it was nice to see so many fans present. That of course brought up the possibility that Montreal might get an MLB team again one of these years, and the Tampa Bay Rays are one leading candidates for relocation. The issues of stadium funding, ownership, and fan support were discussed recently at foxsports.com: "the time is ripe."
April 18, 2016 [LINK / comment]
R.I.P. Alan L. Clem (1929-2016)
My father, Alan L. Clem, passed away one week ago -- Monday, April 11 -- while I was traveling west in hopes of getting a chance to talk to him one last time. It was a sudden, unexpected health emergency. Five days later, I gave the eulogy for him at funeral services held in St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Vermillion, South Dakota. The manuscript is shown below. As befitting a man of his great stature, there was a huge turnout at both the visitation on Friday evening and the funeral itself on Saturday morning. I'm still stunned and disoriented by it all, finding it hard to believe that Dad is no longer with us.
An article written by Carson Walker (University of South Dakota Media Relations), based in part on an interview he did with my brother Chris and me, appeared in the Yankton Press and Dakotan and the USD.edu Web site. The Sioux Falls Argus Leader took that same article and severely edited it, wrongly attributing to me words spoken by Chris.
Dear Old Dad, in a typical relaxed, cheerful mood. (Dec. 26, 2013) This photo was used in a newspaper salutation to Dad which my siblings and I put in the Vermillion Plain Talk on the occasion of his 85th birthday, just over two years ago.
Eulogy for Alan L. Clem
When I was trying to make up my mind in the late 1980s whether to stay in the government or go for a Ph.D., my dad told me that in the academic profession you can be the "captain of your soul." Those words really captured my imagination. Quite frankly, I was tired of being the "galley slave of my soul," and so decided once and for all to make my mark on the world by following in my father's footsteps. And the rest, as they say, is political science.
Looking back, that conversation with Dad sheds light on something very special and profound that he left behind as his legacy to our family, and thereby to American society: He instilled in each of us five children -- Dan, John, Connie, Chris, and me -- a strong inner "moral compass" to guide our choices in life. If there is one common characteristic shared by us five siblings, it is a fierce disinclination to fit in and go along with the rest of the crowd. When it comes to conventional ways of thinking and acting, we are all stubborn nonconformists. Modest appearances aside, we are "unconquerable."
Much has been written about Dad's innumerable career achievements, of which we Clems are of course all very proud. Not everybody gets to grow up with a Dad who often appeared on TV, and was widely regarded as an esteemed authority figure. But there are many aspects of his personal life that few people outside the family know very well, things that molded his sterling character and pushed him to achieve greatness in a way that would not immediately grab attention. Dad's life as a cadet at St. John's Military School imbued him with solid character traits, including self-discipline and studiousness. But there were also moments of loneliness and anxiety which he learned to remedy by reading classic literature and nurturing a vivid imagination.
At the University of Nebraska, Dad's combination of athletic prowess and literary talent came into full fruition. He played on the varsity baseball team, and for many years one of the family treasures was Dad's old-style baseball glove with the huge heel and small fingers. I wish I knew what happened to that glove. Dad was active socially at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, and became editor of the Daily Nebraskan. Words cannot express the depth of his passion for his alma mater. Last summer he and I took a drive down to Lincoln, where he showed me Memorial Stadium, home of the Cornhuskers, the ATO house, and other familiar places from those days. He really enjoyed that.
After working in advertising for a while, Dad took a job in Washington, DC. Without a doubt, the day Dad first saw a fetching young woman from North Carolina named Mary Louise Burke was one that was divinely ordained. Dad spotted her across the hall in a Capitol Hill office building where they both worked, and soon began courting her, even though he did not yet own an automobile. In October 1953 they took a train west to Salina, Kansas, where they were married. My grandfather, Col. the Rev. Remey Leland Clem, officiated in the services.
A couple years later, I arrived on the scene, and from what I am told, I was giving impassioned speeches through the front window by the time I was two. Then came Chris, and then came Connie, and then came the day when Dad announced we were going to move from the Washington area to a faraway place called Vermillion. There was a television drama series at the time called "The Millionaire," and I naturally concluded that we were all going to be millionaires. Not quite.
Indeed, life was often hard growing up on the northern plains, but we managed to survive the years of drinking powdered milk and sleeping in a dank basement with concrete floors. Two more boys arrived in the mid-1960s, John and Dan. They were lots of fun to play with, and we the proverbial "one big happy family." In spite of Dad's busy schedule running the Governmental Research Bureau at the University of South Dakota, he found time to come watch my brother Chris and me play little league baseball. One of the most thrilling moments of my young life was when Dad took us to see his beloved Chicago Cubs play the Pittsburgh Pirates in historic Wrigley Field in 1963. We got to see Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Roberto Clemente, among others.
Later on, Dad taught Chris and me how to swing a golf club, patiently explaining the importance of a proper grip, a proper stance, and the proper shifting of weight. Chris had a junior-sized five iron, and I had a junior-sized seven iron. Golf absorbed nearly all of our athletic energy through our teen years, and Chris in particular excelled at it. Later on, John and Dan learned to play golf as well. Meanwhile, our sister Connie embarked on a different athletic path, becoming a champion swimmer with many medals and trophies to her credit.
One of the smartest investments our frugal father ever made was a set of World Book encyclopedias. We kids literally devoured those books! Well, no, we figuratively devoured them. Dad was always annoyed by bad grammar, usage, and punctuation, making sure that his children learned proper English. In that regard, I should mention that for years he complained about the sign on the small park in our neighborhood, using an apostrophe in the name "Bluffs," where it did not belong. When I was visiting around Christmas time a few months ago, we decided to finally do something about it, so we spoke to one of the officials in City Hall, and lo and behold, the correction was made. Trivial or not, fixing that typo was deeply satisfying for Dad.
Mary Clem, our "sainted mother," was always the light in Dad's life that kept him active in the local social circuit. 902 Valley View Drive was the scene of many a party for the university crowd, thanks mainly to Mom. For us kids, that meant being exiled to the basement while the adults whooped it up upstairs. But we understood the importance of such events.
By the time I was a teenager, Dad stimulated my interest in political analysis, especially political geography, and I vividly remember his night analyses being broadcast on local television stations. In 1972 I was helping phone in the election results to NBC, and used the opportunity to witness the concession speech of George McGovern, the Democratic candidate for president. About 25 years later, I introduced myself to McGovern at the University of Virginia, and he asked me to send fond greetings to Dad. The warm praises of Dad expressed by former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, former Sen. Larry Pressler, and other distinguished figures are a testament to what a great impact he had on their lives, and by extension, on America as a whole. The rock-solid, morally upright Dakota character is evident in those people, and in hundreds of other former students of Dad's. God willing, the same propagation of scholarly virtue for which Alan Clem was renowned will carry forward in future generation of Clems.
After Mom passed away, Dad become less involved in social affairs, deriving most of his pleasure from family and fellow church members. I made a point to visit Dad at least once or twice a year, and every single minute with him was a sheer joy. He is so pleasant, so friendly, so amusing, and so interesting. I was looking forward to spending more years enjoying his company, but God had other plans. I am at least grateful that I had the opportunity to take Dad on a cross-country road trip in June of 2014, driving south to Texas and then west to New Mexico, to the home of his sister Connie and brother-in-law Bill, who recently passed away. That trip was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, as well as being a special occasion for a reunion among dear family members.
In the 1990s, while I was slogging my way through the insane labyrinth that is graduate school, Dad offered me another piece of advice that was fitting and well received: Ad astra per aspera. That means "To the stars through difficulties," and is the state motto of Kansas, where he grew up. As Dad departs from this earthly realm and charts his soul's course into the afterlife, it is worth remembering that all the pain and suffering we endure in life is but a preparation for what lies beyond. Farewell, Dad. As that Vera Miles song from World War II went, "We'll meet again."
by Andrew G. Clem
April 21, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nationals start the season red hot
You can never tell for sure whether a team's performance in spring training is a sign of how well they will play in the regular season, but so far the Washington Nationals are doing just as well as they were last month. While I was out of town (see note at bottom), the Nationals swept the Atlanta Braves in Washington four games straight, and then on the road they took two of three from the Phillies. In Miami, they lost the first game to the Marlins, 6-1, as Tanner Roark had another shaky outing. But the Nats came roaring back on Tuesday, with a team record four (4) home runs in the seventh inning, one of which was a grand slam by Bryce Harper -- his second of the year, and indeed the second of his career! Aside from that one inning, it was a great pitchers' duel. Final score, 7-0. The Nats beat the Marlins 3-1 on Wednesday, and started this afternoon's game one an auspcious note, with yet another Bryce Harper home run (his eighth of the year!) in the first inning. But Max Scherzer was uncharacteristically sloppy on the mound, and gave up three runs in the first inning, and two more after that. Fish 5, Nats 1.
At this rate (8 homers in 15 games), Bryce Harper will hit 86 home runs this year! He shares the home run lead in the majors with Trevor Story of the Rockies, but he has six more RBIs (22) than anyone else. Hot, hot, hot! His .320 batting average is pretty darned good as well. Other Nats worthy of mention are Daniel Murphy, who has an average of .404, and Wilson Ramos, who is batting .314 so far.
With an 11-4 record, this the Nationals have equalled the mark they set in the first 15 games of the 2012 season, but it is the first time that they have won nine of their first ten games. (They won seven of their first ten games in 2012, 2013, and 2014.) The following table (similar to one I posted on April 17, 2012, which showed the first twelve games) compares the Nationals' record during the first [ TEN ]
twelve games for each of their first seven seasons in Washington [thus far] with their cumulative percentage for the year. It's only a rough correlation, but there is a definite pattern:
|First ten games (W-L)
|Season total (%)
Go Cubs, Go!
In [Cincinnati] this evening, the Cubs crushed the Reds, 16-0, as Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter. It was the largest margin of victory in a no-hitter in a major league game in over 130 years. Kris Bryant hit two home runs, one of which was a grand slam. See MLB.com. The Cubs and Nationals have been neck-and-neck in the race for the highest winning percentage in the majors, and since the Nats lost today, the Cubs (12-4) are ahead once again. It makes me wonder if there might be some "divine intervention" going on.
The recent lack of baseball blogging was due to the passing away of my father, Alan L. "Cub" Clem, an avid Cubs fan his whole life. At about the same time he died last week, on April 11, the Cubs were on the verge of losing in a no-hitter in their home opener against the Reds, which would have been a disgrace. And then, as if by miracle, they came back after the seventh inning stretch to win the game, 5-3. Coincidence? I wrote and delivered a eulogy for my Dad last Saturday, and posted it on my blog for everybody to read on Monday. "Wait till next year"? It may just be that this year IS next year!
Sister Connie, Dear Old Dad, and Yours Truly watching a Cubs-Rockies game at Coors Field, on August 9, 2009. (Photo previously shown on August 22, 2009.)
April 21, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Flying out to So. Dak. (& back)
One of my dear departed Dad's favorite movies was Flying Down to Rio (1933), in which Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers danced together on screen for the first time. Hence the title above. I didn't have much time to prepare for this trip, and didn't even bring my Canon camera. Given my Dad's medical emergency, photography was not one of my priorities. But I was fortunate to have mostly clear skies for most of the trip, including the westbound and eastbound flights. That is how I was able to get surprisingly good photos from my iPod Touch. I was especially excited to get this photo of Massanutten Mountain, hoping to show it to my Dad, since he often asked me to explain the geography of the Shenandoah Valley region. But alas, he passed away right about the same time as I took that photo...
The southern tip of Massanutten Mountain, with the South Fork of the Shenandoah River below. (April 11)
On my second full day in South Dakota, I persuaded my brother Chris to take a slight detour in Sioux Falls so that I could see Augustana University. I had probably been there before, on a debate trip most likely, but my recollection was vague. Lighting conditions were perfect for photos, as you can see:
Augustana University East Hall, Old Main Building. (April 13)
In the afternoon, we paid some visits to University of South Dakota, among the many arrangements that had to be done in preparation for my Dad's funeral.
University of South Dakota - Old Main Building. (April 13)
On Thursday night, Jacqueline arrived to join me, bringing the Canon camera, which was of great use in the indoor photos during the visitation (Friday evening) and the funeral (Saturday morning).
Flowers from Tom Brokaw, with a funny note. (April 16)
On the way back east on Sunday, I took many aerial photos of various cities, as well as O'Hare Airport in Chicago and Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia, where I photographed several jet airliners, including the new Airbus A380 double-deck jumbo jet. It is HUGE!!! As the turboprop plane I was in crossed the Blue Ridge near the end of the trip, I was startled to see a large forest fire, which burned for several days.
Rocky Mount forest fire, south of Elkton. (April 17)
The above photos are merely a sample; the complete set of photos from my trip can be seen at the new April 2016 photo gallery.
April 23, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Field trip to Augusta Springs
Ed and Nancy Lawler led a very successful (though underattended) Augusta Bird Club field trip to Augusta Springs today, accompanied by just Jo King and me. Nancy heard a Louisiana Waterthrush as soon as we got out of the car, and we found it shortly thereafter, along with several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Those were only two of the seven (7) first-of-year bird sightings for me; here is the complete FOY list:
- Louisiana Waterthrush
- Blue-gray Gnatcatchers
- Eastern Kingbird
- Yellow-throated Vireo
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Worm-eating Warbler
Other notable sightings included several Bluebirds, Towhees, Goldfinches, a Raven, a Downy Woodpecker, and most of the other usual birds. I also spotted a Swamp Sparrow, I believe the first one I had seen since the winter of 2014-2015. (They head north in the summer.) I also heard but did not see a Red-eyed Vireo, a Blue-headed Vireo, a Pine Warbler, and an Eastern Phoebe. We had to hurry back to the car as it started to rain at 11:00, just when the forecast had said it would. On the way back to Staunton we stopped to see the Bald Eagle nest in Swoope, and saw two big juveniles in it, and one adult in a nearby tree.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Louisiana Waterthrush, Worm-eating Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird (M), Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Ovenbird. (April 23, 2016)
Other bird sightings
At Sweet Briar College yesterday I saw my first Yellow Warbler of the year, and saw my first Chimney Swifts of the year the week before that.
On Tuesday I hiked around Montgomery Hall Park after unloading stuff at the recycling center, but didn't see any new spring arrivals. Likewise on Bell's Lane later in the afternoon, it was relatively uneventful.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: White-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird (F), Brown-headed Cowbird (M). (April 19, 2016)
The above montages, as well as individual photos of most of the birds shown therein, can bee seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
April 26, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Nats can't win 'em all
After a memorable weekend in which the Washington Nationals swept the Minnesota Twins, the "D.C. 9" couldn't quite beat the visiting Philadelphia Phillies tonight. For the second game in a row, Max Scherzer gave up a home run in the first inning, a disturbing sign. Even though the Nats put together a nice rally in the fifth inning to tie the game 3-3, the Phillies tacked on another run in the seventh and won it. So now the Nats are "only" 14-5, rather than 15-4.
On Friday night the Twins came to town, and Gio Gonzalez had another solid outing, giving up only two runs in six innings. The Nats took an early lead (7-0 after three innings), as Jayson Werth homered and Jose Lobaton had three RBIs. Nats 8, Twins 4.
On Saturday afternoon, Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run single in the first inning, and neither team scored any runs after that. Tanner Roark was spectacular on the mound, throwing 15 strikeouts over seven innings. It was the third-highest strikeout total in Nationals history. (Max Scherzer threw 17 once, and 16 once.)
The third and final game on Sunday was a wild one, with Stephen Strasburg only gave up one run until the eighth inning, when Bryan Dozier hit a three-run homer. Ouch! The Nats scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth, and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, who should step up to the plate but Bryce Harper!? With the game on the line, he rose to the occasion and smashed a ball over the center field fence, making the score 4-4. (That put him back into the lead in the majors, with nine home runs.) Yusmeiro Petit did splendidly as a long reliever, pitching from the 11th until the 15th inning. That's when the Twins finally got to him, taking a one-run lead. In the bottom of that inning Danny Espinosa drew a walk, and then stole second base. With the bench all but empty, Manager Dusty Baker had the pitcher Oliver Perez go to bat for the first time since 2010. Then, to the surprise of everyone on the field and in the stands, Perez put down a perfect bunt toward third base, and the catcher threw the ball over the first baseman's head, allowing Espinosa to score the tying run. Un-be-lievable!!! In the bottom of the 16th inning, Chris Heisey had a long at-bat with one out, and finally smashed the ball over the left field bullpen, thereby winning the game in a most bizarre fashion. Nats 6, Twins 5. It was the Nationals' first walk-off homer of the year.
Marlins Park changes
I noticed during the series at Marlins Park last week that the center field fence has been moved in significantly, making it a little less friendly to pitchers but still very daunting for batters. In fact, both Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman took advantage of the shorter distance by hitting homers into the new shrubs that have been planted in the intervening space. And so, I made that small adjustment, with new separate diagrams for 2012 and 2016. Those diagrams haven't been updated otherwise since 2012, so it's possible further corrections will be needed in the months to come.
April 28, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Phillies sweep the Nationals
After winning eight straight home games this month, the Washington Nationals fell flat against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, losing all three games in the series. Unlike the Tuesday game, both the Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon games featured superb outings by the starting pitchers. Yesterday Gio Gonzalez allowed only one earned run over six-plus innings, and today Tanner Roark only allowed two hits in seven full innings. In today's game, the Phillies scored all three of their runs in the ninth inning immediately after Bryce Harper struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, while Daniel Murphy crushed two balls to deep right field that would have been home runs were it not for the chilly, wet weather. Instead, they were just long outs, so his batting average has now dropped below the .400 mark. The final score of both games was 3-0. So much for home field advantage...
This marks the first time since last August that the Nats have been shut out in two consecutive games, and the first time that has happened at home since 2007, back when they played in RFK Stadium. Here is the complete list:
|Aug. 27-28, 2005
|May 16-17, 2006
|May 29-30, 2007
|May 31-June 1, 2008
|July 26-27, 2008
|Aug. 8-9, 2008
|July 17-18, 2010
|May 18-19, 2011
|June 3-4, 2011
|Aug. 11-12, 2015
|Apr. 27-28, 2016
And on that disappointing note, the Nationals embark on a brutal ten-day road trip, facing (in order) the St. Louis Cardinals, the Kansas City Royals, and the Chicago Cubs. Meanwhile, the New York Mets have won nine of their last ten games and are now only a half game behind the Nats in the NL East race.
Speaking of the Cubs, I would be remiss not to mention their lopsided 16-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds one week ago, April 21. Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter, backed by five Chicago home runs, including two from Kris Bryant. Somebody up in heaven got a big smile from that one... The Cubs are now 16-5, which is the best record in all of baseball. The second-best team right now is on the other side of Chicago -- yes, the White Sox, who are 16-7! Hmmm....
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium tweak
I made a few minor enhancement to the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium diagrams, with the "ribbed" section dividers in the roof now displayed, and more detail in the bullpens. Perhaps it's not even worth considering an update.
This was motivated in part by my ongoing (agonizingly prolonged) work on updating the Angel (Anaheim) Stadium diagrams, as that one likewise features prominent "ribs" between each section on top of the roof. Other such stadiums:
April 30, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Trump & Clinton take commanding leads
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton followed up their victories in the New York primary elections last week with decisive wins in five other mid-Atlantic states this past Tuesday. In all five states, Trump won by a wide margin, while Hillary won in four of them. Bernie Sanders won Rhode Island. Thus, after a momentary pause in Wisconsin earlier in the month, the front-runners have regained the momentum they had recently lost to "Ted" Cruz and Bernie Sanders.
As of now (see politico.com), Hillary Clinton has 2,165 delagates, and Bernie Sanders has 1,357. She is so close to the 2,383 mark she can almost taste it. Bernie has begun laying off staff workers, and has shifted his rhetoric from seeking outright victory to merely getting his way with the Democratic platform. In other words, for all intents and purposes, it's all over on the Democratic side. I updated the Decision 2016 page with the latest delegate totals.
As for the Republicans, Trump now has 996 delegates, far more than "Ted" Cruz's total of 565. That puts Trump within close range of getting the 1237 delegates he needs to claim a first-ballot automatic victory. In response, John Kasich and Cruz announced they will cooperate by not competing against each other in the upcoming primaries. Cruz will in effect run head-to-head against Trump in Indiana (election day is this Tuesday, May 3), while Kasich will do likewise in Oregon (May 17) and Washington (May 24). Whether this arrangement lasts that long is another matter. (According to Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post, the deal is already dead.) Rumors suggest that more Republican "establishment" figures are facing up to Trump as the "presumptive nominee." Nevertheless, hopes for a contested convention are not dead yet. It may come down the very last big state primary election, in California on June 7.
Here's an irony: Trump frequently complains that the delegate selection process is "rigged" against him, but the latest primary elections indicate the opposite is true. In all five states, John Kasich won at least 20 percent of the vote, but he only was awarded five delegates, in Rhode Island. In fact, the system is "rigged," but it's rigged in favor of the front-runner: Trump!
The other day, Kasich said he was going to make a special announcement, leading people to expect he was withdrawing from the race, and then after a pause for dramatic effect, he said he would remain a candidate. Good for him! Does he have a realistic chance of winning? Of course not! For those of us who worked for years in the trenches for the GOP, always putting the party ahead of self, only to be spit on and cast aside by a gang of thugs, it is a great tonic to see a courageous Republican leader. Kasich stared cold, hard reality in the face, and yet remains determined to give the voters a real choice!
Campaign signs for the presidential races and (at bottom) for the Staunton City Council or School Board.
Thoughts on Facebook
On his Facebook page, Bruce Bartlett often proclaims support for Donald Trump, but merely as a way to hasten the demise of the Republican Party. Prior to the Virginia primary on March 1, I explained why I resisted voting with such a extremely consequentionalist (indeed cynical) rationale:
I think it's probably too late to save the GOP, so strategic voting such as Bruce suggests is not likely to make a difference. Those in the center-right who still cling to hope are begging others to vote for Rubio as the only one who can stop Trump, but I plan to vote for the only remaining candidate whom I could respect as president: Kasich. Call it a futile protest vote.
On Ryan Setliff's page, I took exception to the suggestion that the Republican Party should identify itself with right-wing populism:
Historically, the Republican Party was never identified with "hard right populism," [as Ryan Setliff advocates] and the push to make it that has understandably met with some resistance by the "RINOs." (Ironic!) It is not neoconservatives who define the dwindling core of old-timers, but rather a commitment to free markets, international engagement (a middle course between unilateral interventionism vs. isolationism), and fiscal responsibility. Personally, I favor an amicable divorce, in hopes of cooperation in future years.
Humor the best medicine
On Jimmy Kimmel's show, they did a great parody of the movie and Broadway play The Producers, in which a couple of sleazy political operatives concoct what they think is a bogus presidential campaign for Donald Trump, taking advantage of gullible elderly donors, and then the whole scam goes south when Trump ends up winning. See vox.com. Truth is stranger than fiction?
April 30, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Migration season reaches peak
I wasn't even planning to go out today (too exhausted from school work!), but when I saw the e-mail alert from Greg Moyer about a Golden-winged Warbler at Cook's Creek Arboretum in Bridgewater, I just couldn't resist. So I hit the road and drove north. I didn't see that species, unfortunately but there were plenty of other warblers to make the trip worthwhile; see list below. It was a truly spectacular "fallout" of neotropical migrants, perhaps aided (ironically) by the gloomy weather. Many thanks to Greg!
While at Cook's Creek, I had nice chats with two prominent local birders, Ken Hinkle and Ken Ranke.
- Cape May Warbler *
- Black-throated Green Warbler (FOS)
- Palm Warbler (FOS)
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Yellow Warbler
- Blue-headed Vireo
- RC Kinglet
- Spotted Sandpiper (FOS)
- American Goldfinches
- White-crowned Sparrows
- Plus many Robins, Grackles, etc.
* I saw my first Cape May Warbler of the year (from a distance) at Betsy Bell Hill on Tuesday. Later that day I saw my first Grasshopper Sparrow of the year on Bell's Lane.
Cape May Warbler (male), at Cook's Creek Arboretum, in Bridgewater today.
Last Sunday afternoon, I heard a familiar high-pitched song in the back yard, and sure enough I soon spotted a Yellow-rumped Warbler in the bushes. Then I saw a small yellowish bird taking quick baths in a stream, and managed to get closeup photos of a Yellow-throated Vireo. Finally, I saw what I thought was a female House Finch, but the photos I took proved that it was a Pine Siskin. Not bad day!
Oddly, I had rarely seen Yellow-throated Vireos, much less gotten good photographs of one, until about a year ago, when I saw one at Sweet Briar College and later at Natural Chimneys. They seem to be more common than they used to be.
Yellow-throated Vireo, in Staunton, April 24.
Other photos from today and recently can be seen at: Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
Monthly links this year:
Culture & Travel
Science & Technology
January 10, 2016 ~ Cooperstown calls Griffey, Piazza
January 17, 2016 ~ ABC field trip to Highland (& Bath!) County
January 21, 2016 ~ R.I.P. Glenn Frey
January 26, 2016 ~ Sweet Briar College is saved!
January 31, 2016 ~ Presidential campaign begins
February 6, 2016 ~ Fall bird migration season 2015
February 20, 2016 ~ Life bird: Virginia Rail!
February 21, 2016 ~ 2016 primaries: populists propel polarization
March 10, 2016 ~ Yes, another Wrigley Field update!
March 26, 2016 ~ Trump triumphs, Republican Party implodes
April 4, 2016 ~ Opening Day(s) in America, 2016! (& Sportsman's Park update)
April 18, 2016 ~ R.I.P. Alan L. Clem
April 21, 2016 ~ Flying out to So. Dak. (& back)
April 30, 2016 ~ Trump & Clinton take commanding leads
April 30, 2016 ~ Migration season reaches peak
May 7, 2016 ~ Trump secures victory; Sanders fights on
May 21, 2016 ~ ABC field trip to Reddish Knob
June 7, 2016 ~ ABC field trip to Highland County
June 9, 2016 ~ FOD [first-of-decade] Prothonotary Warblers!
June 14, 2016 ~ Birding on Hite Hollow Road
June 16, 2016 ~ Holy $#!+ -- Nationals win big showdown with Cubs
July 1, 2016 ~ Nationals sweep the Mets, widen NL East lead
July 3, 2016 ~ Kentucky Warblers, and more!
July 8, 2016 ~ Soras breeding in the Valley!
July 13, 2016 ~ Redistricting reform movement is growing
July 16, 2016 ~ The Nationals' starting rotation
August 5, 2016 ~ New page: Stadium profiles!
August 7, 2016 ~ Magical mushroom tour*
September 7, 2016 ~ To the northeast: Baseball road trip, 2016
September 18, 2016 ~ East by Northeast: Big city scenery travelogue
September 25, 2016 ~ Nationals win National League East Division
September 27, 2016 ~ Lucky! 13 warblers on Betsy Bell Hill
October 2, 2016 ~ Nationals' regular season ends on a high note
October 5, 2016 ~ Shenandoah National Park birding (II)
October 14, 2016 ~ Nationals flinch, Dodgers advance to NLCS
October 14, 2016 ~ Shenandoah National Park getaway
October 16, 2016 ~ World War II aircraft show (II)
October 25, 2016 ~ Holy cow: Cubs beat Dodgers, win NL pennant!
November 3, 2016 ~ The Cubs win the World Series!!!
November 4, 2016 ~ New month arrives, & new birds too
November 6, 2016 ~ Campaign 2016 grinds to a nasty, ugly end