Andrew Clem home

May 2023
(all categories)

Monthly archives
(all categories)

May 7, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Interleague games: way too many!?

In addition to the big rule changes discussed last week, MLB also made a historic alteration in the basic scheduling framework this year. (I briefly mentioned that on March 24.) As indicated on the Baseball Chronology / annual page, interleague games were introduced in 1997. I opined on this topic way back on May 23, 2005, and on November 19, 2011, when it was announced that the Houston Astros would move to the American League. To probe into this question further, broke down the Washington Nationals' 2023 schedule by division and league, and I assume that the other 29 teams are very similar in terms of total numbers. In brief, teams are playing about 26 fewer games with divisional rivals this year, while playing about that many additional games with teams from the other league. Until this year, teams basically played two short series (four games total) with their regional or intracity rivals, and one series (three or four games) with all the teams from one of the three divisions in the other league, those divisions rotating from year to year. It all amounts to a major dilution of league and division identity.

In one of the peculiarities of their schedule this year, the Washington Nationals interleague games: way too many Last year the Nationals played 20 interleague games: 16 against AL West teams and four against their regional rivals (?) in Baltimore. This year, in contrast, the Nats are playing a total of 46 games against American League teams: 3 each against all AL teams except Baltimore, with whom they play four games once again. Those 26 additional AL games are mostly being offset by playing fewer games against NL East Division. Last year the Nationals played 76 games against their divisional rivals, whereas this year it's only 52. It is very strange that the Nats thus far have only played one series each with the Braves and the Mets, and none at all with either the Phillies or the Marlins! In my mind, this severely undermines the whole idea of divisions being constituted as clusters of teams that compete most strenuously with each other.

Washington Nationals 2023:
Number of games per team & division
Opponent At home games
Away games Total games
Atlanta Braves (NL-E) 7 6 13
New York Mets (NL-E) 6 7 13
Miami Marlins (NL-E) 7 6 13
Philadelphia Phillies (NL-E) 6 7 13
Pittsburgh Pirates (NL-C) 3 4 7
Chicago Cubs (NL-C) 4 3 7
St. Louis Cardinals (NL-C) 3 3 6
Cincinnati Reds (NL-C) 4 3 7
Milwaukee Brewers (NL-C) 3 3 6
Colorado Rockies (NL-W) 3 4 7
San Diego Padres (NL-W) 3 3 6
Los Angeles Dodgers (NL-W) 3 3 6
Arizona Diamondbacks (NL-W) 3 3 6
San Francisco Giants (NL-W) 3 3 6
Baltimore Orioles (AL-E) 2 2 4
Boston Red Sox (AL-E) 3 0 3
New York Yankees (AL-E) 0 3 3
Toronto Blue Jays (AL-E) 0 3 3
Tampa Bay Rays (AL-E) 3 0 3
Chicago White Sox (AL-C) 3 0 3
Cleveland Guardians (AL-C) 3 0 3
Minnesota Twins (AL-C) 0 3 3
Kansas City Royals (AL-C) 0 3 3
Detroit Tigers (AL-C) 3 0 3
Los Angeles Angels (AL-W) 0 3 3
Houston Astros (AL-W) 0 3 3
Seattle Mariners (AL-W) 0 3 3
Texas Rangers (AL-W) 3 0 3
Oakland Athletics (AL-W) 3 0 3
TOTALS 81 81 162

Nationals continue to improve

After losing the first game of the series against the Chicago Cubs on May Day, the Washington Nationals came back and beat the Cubs in the next three games to win their third series of the last four they had played. On Tuesday, young shortstop C.J. Abrams went 3 for 3, batting in the go-ahead run in the 7th inning. Alex Call then doubled in two insurance runs, as the Nats won, 4-1. On Wednesday Jake Irvin was called up from the minors to pitch in his first MLB game, replacing Chad Kuhl, who went on the injured list. Irvin more than surpassed expectations, giving up just one run in 4 1/3 innings. In the 7th inning Lane Thomas tripled, and C.J. Abrams immediately batted him in, and that's how the Nationals edged the Cubs, 2-1. On Thursday (an afternoon game), Lane Thomas hit a 3-run homer in the 2nd inning, while Patrick Corbin pitched his best game in years, giving up just 3 hits over 7-plus innings. Two runs were charged to him when his replacement, Hunter Harvey, blew the save opportunity. It was 3-3 in the bottom of the 9th inning when leadoff batter Alex Call swung at the first pitch and planted that ball just inside the left field foul pole for the Nats' first walk-off home run of the year! smile That was a real "feel-good" moment for the Nats, redeeming the superlative pitching effort of Patrick Corbin, so of course it has been recorded on the Washington Nationals BIG moments page.

Then the Nats took a long jet flight to Phoenix, Arizona, without a day of rest. The Diamondbacks won the first game (on Friday) 3-1, as the 1st-inning solo home run by Luis Garcia failed to spark the other players. On Saturday, the Nationals fell behind 6-2 after the home team scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning, and there wasn't much to hope for. In the top of the 9th Keibert Ruiz hit a leadoff homer, but the next two batters were out. Then came a walk, a single, and a 2-run single by Ildemaro Vargas to bring the Nats to within one run. The next batter was Lane Thomas who homered to give the Nats a 7-6 lead. Amazing!!! But on the first pitch in the bottom of the 9th inning, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a home run into the first row of seats in left-center field. The Nats challenged on the grounds of fan interference, but were denied. Closing pitcher Kyle Finnegan thereby blew the save, but even worse than that, he then loaded the bases on a single and two walks, and then walked in the winning run. After the Nats' 5-run rally in the top of the 9th, that 8-7 loss (which signified a series loss) was a real kick in the gut. frown

So how would the Nationals respond to such adversity? Today's game (Sunday) was similar to the previous two, a close back-and-forth affair until the 5th inning. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. homered (for a second time) in the bottom of the 5th, giving the D-Backs a 7-3 lead. The Nats narrowed the gap in the 7th and 8th innings, and in the top of the 9th, Joey Meneses knocked a 3-run homer to left field to give the Nats the lead. It was eerily similar to the situation the day before, and everyone wondered if the Nats would hold on. Not surprisingly, Manager Dave Martinez sent Hunter Harvey to the mound, rather than the tired (and probably shaken up) Kyle Finnegan. Harvey walked one batter, but the D-Backs failed to score, and Nats indeed held on to win, 9-8. WHEW!!! smile

Those last two games have been recorded on the afore-mentioned Washington Nationals BIG moments page, in the section for 9th-inning lead changes. The Sunday game was the first "happy ending" in that section since Sept. 22, 2020.

So, the Nationals are now 14-20 for the season, above the .400 "threshold of respectability" and only a game and a half behind the NL East 4th-place Philadelphia Phillies. Bryce Harper recently was activitated ahead of schedule, after getting Tommy John surgery in the off-season. He still can't throw, however, so for the next several weeks at least, he will be serving as the designated hitter. the Mets and Marlins have fallen under .500 in recent days, while the division-leading Braves beat the Baltimore Orioles in two out of three games in a huge matchup over the weekend. World Series preview? The Tampa Bay Rays are still far above everybody else (28-7, .800) in the major leagues, but as we all know, high regular-season percentages do not always translate into postseason success. The Yankees are actually in last place, reflecting the fact that Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Josh Donaldson have spent a good part of this season on the injured list. Judge's injury was more recent and less severe, and he should be back soon.

Major League Baseball in Mexico!

One week ago today, the San Diego Padres played two games against the San Francisco Giants in the semi-new (2019) home of the Mexico City Diablos Rojos (Red Devils), Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú. The Padres won both games, by scores of 16-11 and 6-4. Reflecting the high elevation (over 7,000 feet) there were, respectively, 11 and 4 home runs hit in those two games. Among those who homered were former Nationals Juan Soto and Nelson Cruz.

This, of course, means that I will have to create a diagram of Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú, probably after I finally get around to the other "promotional" (non-emergency neutral) stadiums on my to-do list. Distance markers indicate dimensions of 332 feet to each foul pole, and 410 feet to center field -- significantly less than in hitter-friendly Coors Field, which is 2,000 feet lower. In the mean time, I have updated the Foro Sol and Anomalous stadiums pages with the new information. I made some formatting changes on the latter page to make it easier to read.

May 9, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Catching up??: Birding last September

September 2, Madison Run: I hiked up the Furnace Mountain trail, which veers right (south) from Madison Run, enjoying some nice sunlit views of the Shenandoah Valley as I climbed higher. There weren't many birds in the higher elevations, but I did see some good ones as I returned to the bottom.

Birds 2022 Sep 2

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Scarlet Tanager (molting male), Eastern Wood Pewee, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, American Goldfinch, Acadian Flycatcher, and Ovenbird. (Madison Run, Sept. 2)

September 7, Betsy Bell Hill: I saw a variety of migrating birds, most notably a possible Blue-winged Warbler that was obscured by the leaves, and view of a the underside of a possible Swainson's Warbler, which would have been a life bird for me. Mediocre sunlight didn't help. Others included Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, and a female Scarlet Tanager.

September 10, Bother Knob: I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip, and we hiked about two miles north from "Crossbill crossroads," at the top of the mountain ridge that defines the West Virginia state line. [This is north of Reddish Knob, which has been the destination of past ABC field trips, but I had never been there before.] We saw a number of Cedar Waxwings, Dark-eyed Juncos, Eastern Towhees, etc. As we trudged along a road full of mud puddles, in a veritable "enchanted forest" full of Northern Hemlock and Fraser Fir trees, we encountered more "hot spots," with a variety of warblers, and best of all, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. [We came close to Bother Knob, but the path to the top was more circuitous than I had expected; maybe next time.] On the return leg of the hike we spotted more warblers, while a Bald Eagle and a Red-shouldered Hawk soared up above. Altogether we tallied about 30 species.

Birds 2022 Sep 10

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Cedar Waxwing, Rose-breasted Grosbeak (F), American Redstart (F/J), Dark-eyed Junco, possible Cape May Warbler, Bald Eagle, Black-throated Blue Warbler (M), Red-shouldered Hawk, and Black-and-white Warbler. (near Bother Knob, Sept. 10)

September 11, Bother Knob: The very next day I stopped at Leonard's Pond in Rockingham County, and was surprised to see a pair of Sanderlings, which frequent Atlantic beaches in the colder months.

Birds 2022 Sep 10

Sanderlings (Leonard's Pond, Sept. 11)

September 12, Bell's Lane: The very next day (Monday) I joined an Augusta Bird Club field trip led by Penny Warren. While we were looking at an American Redstart in the bushes, Eric Pritchett, the chief meteorologist at WVIR Channel 29 in Charlottesville, jogged past (as he often does on Bell's Lane) and asked what we were looking at. I told him, and later submitted the photo to Channel 29, and while doing the weather one day later, he showed that Redstart photo during the weather segment. That was a great bit of publicity for our club!

Birds 2022 Sep 12

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-tailed Hawk, American Redstart (F/J), Brown Thrasher, House Finch (F), American Kestrel, and in center, Northern Flicker (M). (Bell's Lane, Sept. 12)

September 17, Blue Ridge Parkway: I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip in search of migrants, and we had a fair amount of success. This event was in conjunction with the annual Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch open house, at the Afton Inn.

Birds 2022 Sep 17

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler (F/J), Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Northern Parula, Swainson's Thrush, Eastern Wood Pewee, and in center, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Scarlet Tanager (F). (Blue Ridge Pkwy, Sept. 17)

September 19, Montgomery Hall Park: A casual walk through the woodland trail paid off with two great migrant sightings: Magnolia Warbler and White-eyed Vireo, and several others as well.

Birds 2022 Sep 19

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart (M), White-eyed Vireo, Red-tailed Hawk, House Wren, American Redstart (F/J), and at left center, Black-and-white Warbler. (Montgomery Hall Park, Sept. 19)

September 21, Bell's Lane: I saw my first Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Yellow-rumped Warbler of the fall season, and had nice views of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwings, etc.

September 23, Weymouth Woods, North Carolina: Jacqueline and I took a weekend trip to see the Farm Aid concert in Raleigh, NC, and on the morning of that event we spent a couple hours in a pine forest that has been preserved as a natural habitat. (It's not far from world-famous Pinehurt Country Club.) I was hoping to see the rare Red-cockaded Woodpecker, a species that is unique in building its nest in live pine trees rather than dead or decaying ones. I'm pretty sure I heard it, but I never did see it. I did see several Pine Warblers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Eastern Towhees, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Jacqueline really enjoyed that forest, and was impressed by the huge pine cones, so we bought some Weymouth Woods souvenir apparel.

As usual, the above photo montages, including some closeup images and additional photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological photo gallery page.

May 11, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Baseball ticket prices, way back when

As Major League baseball franchises struggle to maintain customer loyalty in the face of rising payroll expenses, many fans have balked (!) at the insane cost of passing through the turnstiles these days. Then there's the cost of a beer and a hot dog! While doing a bit of research today, I was thumbing through my copy of Kessler's ("Smooth As Silk!") 1967 Baseball Fan's Guide, and noticed that it listed the ticket prices for each of the 20 MLB stadiums then in operation. I thought it might be of interest to baseball fans. They are listed here in the same order as in the booklet, with ten National League teams followed by ten American League teams. (I remember back in the 1960s reading my father's copies of those fan guides, and bought myself one on eBay a few years ago.)

To me it is striking how consistent the prices are from one city to the next. (Exception: Why did the Atlanta Braves charge so much?) To get a more realistic idea of the cost of seeing a baseball game back then relative to the overall cost of living, you should multiply those ticket prices by eight. According to my 2022 World Almanac, the Consumer Price Index in 1965 was 31.5 (1982-84 = 100), compared to 258.8 in 2020.

In summary, I know it's unrealistic to expect any major across-the-board reduction in ticket prices. Most MLB teams have various special deals, such as setting aside a few hundred cheap seats (e.g. $5.00 at National Park, I think) for fans who arrive early and get in line. That approximates the "good old days" when many if not most tickets were sold as "general admission": go to the appropriate sections and get the best seat you can find! At the very least, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred should push the 30 franchises to expand general admission ticketing, and fill some of those empty seats. Reducing the number of ticket price categories and getting rid of "dynamic pricing" or whatever they call it, would also help! Economic prospects just aren't what they were 20 or 30 years ago when most current MLB stadiums were built, and with a shrinking middle class, ticket sales are bound to keep slumping. It's just a shame that most newer MLB stadiums don't even offer bleacher seating. That is a significant defect in Nationals Park, IMHO.

1967 MLB ticket prices
Stadium Team Box seats Reserved Grandstand Bleachers
/ Gen. Adm.
Atlanta Stadium Atlanta Braves $5.00 $3.50 $2.00 $1.00
Wrigley Field Chicago Cubs $3.50 ($3.00) $1.50 $1.00
Crosley Field Cincinnati Reds $3.00 $2.50 $1.50 $1.00
Astrodome Houston Astros $3.50 $2.50 $1.50 -
Dodger Stadium Los Angeles Dodgers $3.50 $2.50 $1.50 $1.50
Shea Stadium New York Mets $3.50 $2.50 $1.50 -
Connie Mack Stadium Philadelphia Phillies $3.25 $2.25 $1.50 $1.00
Forbes Field Pittsburgh Pirates $3.25 $2.75 $1.50 $1.00
Busch Stadium St. Louis Cardinals $3.50 $2.50 $1.50 $1.00
Candlestick Park San Francisco Giants $3.50 $2.50 $1.50 $0.90
Memorial Stadium Baltimore Orioles $3.20 (($2.00)) $1.20 $0.75
Fenway Park Boston Red Sox $3.00 $2.25 $1.50 $1.00
Anaheim Stadium California Angels ($3.50) $2.50 $1.50 -
Comiskey Park Chicago White Sox $3.25 $2.15 $1.50 $0.75
Cleveland Stadium Cleveland Indians $3.00 $2.50 $1.50 $0.75
Tiger Stadium Detroit Tigers $3.00 $2.50 $1.50 $1.00
Municipal Stadium Kansas City Athletics $3.00 $2.50 $1.50 -
Metropolitan Stadium Minnesota Twins $3.00 $2.50 $1.50 -
Yankee Stadium New York Yankees $3.50 $2.50 $1.50 $0.75
D.C. Stadium Washington Senators $3.00 $2.50 $1.50 -

SOURCE: Kessler 1967 Baseball Fan's Guide, published by Pearson Productions Inc., New York, NY

NOTE: Parentheses ( ) indicate multiple ticket prices within this category.

Underlines denote new stadiums, i.e., those built in the 1960s.

Nationals slay the Giants

After escaping Phoenix with a win to avert being swept, the Washington Nationals headed to San Francisco to face a Giants team that is somewhere in the middle of the pack. On Monday, Jake Irwin followed up his splendid debut performance last week by going 6 1/3 innings without giving up a run. It was his first career win! The Nats stunned the hosts by scoring five runs on seven hits in the first inning, and that was all they needed. Anthony DeSclafani was uncharacteristically drubbed, as his ERA rose to 2.80. On Tuesday, an error by the Nats' young shortstop C.J. Abrams in the first inning made things difficult for Patrick Corbin, who still only allowed two earned runs over six innings (a quality start), but he didn't get much run support. Final score: 4-1. Yesterday the Nats staged four-run rallies in both the 2nd and 3rd innings, building an almost insurmountable lead. Second-string catcher Riley Adams hit a 3-run homer, and Lane Thomas hit a solo homer later in the game. The Giants closed the gap in the last two innings, but fell well short, 11-6. Thus the Nationals won their fourth series out of their last six.

So now the Nationals are "threatening to crawl out of the cellar" (as Bob Uecker used to say), with a quite respectable 11-16 record. The hitting and pitching numbers tell an interesting story: the Nats rank 8th (tied) in the majors with a team batting average of .258, but are 29th in home runs (24) and 26th in RBIs (143). In a year when most teams are stealing more bases thanks to the new rules, the Nats rank 27th with just 20. The younger players are getting lots of hits, but they are far too prone to leave runners on base in those clutch situations. They need more discipline! As for pitching, the Nats rank 18th in terms of ERA (4.44), but that number is likely to improve. Patrick Corbin has been doing much better, while Jake Irvin may find himself as a regular member of the rotation, even if Chad Kuhl returns soon. (By the way, the Washington Post recently had a story by Barry Svrluga about Kuhl's wife, who is dealing with breast cancer, and those kind of troubles must be putting a lot of pressure on Kuhl. They have a young son named Hudson. If you are in a generous mood, go to

After resting up today, the Nationals will welcome the New York Mets to Nationals Park on Friday night. The last I checked, the Mets haven't decided who will pitch any of the games in this four-game series. Max Scherzer was suspended a couple weeks ago for using a sticky substance on the ball. Was he really culpable, or was it one of those "gray area" situations that are hard to judge?

Miscellaneous items

In other news, the Pittsburgh Pirates have suddenly fallen on hard times after their best first month in many, many years. They have only won one game in the last ten, but are still (just barely) clinging to first place in the NL Central Division because the Milwaukee Brewers have a 2-8 record in their last ten games. Meanwhile, the 3rd-place Chicago Cubs have a 3-7 record; it's as if nobody wants to take first place in that division!

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves remain dominant atop the NL East while the L.A. Dodgers have surged past the Diamondbacks to take 1st place in the NL West. (You'll never guess who is pitching in the Dodgers' bullpen now: none other than the famously ineffective former Nat reliever Wander Suero!)

In the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays lost two of three games to the Orioles in Baltimore, and their lead in the AL East is now down to just 5 1/2 games -- even though their win-loss record is an astronomical 29-8!!! Attendance is up only slightly at Tropicana Park, and it's a shame that the Rays don't get much more fan support. In the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers continue to climb toward the top, taking second place from the Cleveland Guardians. How long can the Minnesota Twins keep the lead? In the AL West, the Texas Rangers have a 22-14 record, enjoying 3-game lead over the Angels and the Astros. Lots of nice surprises in this year's pennant races!

R.I.P. Vida Blue & Dick Groat

Former Oakland Athletics pitching sensation Vida Blue passed away on May 6, a couple months short of his 73rd birthday. He was with the A's from 1969 through 1977, during the glory days when they won three consecutive World Series titles. He later played with the San Francisco Giants (two separate stints) and the Kansas City Royals. His career won-loss records was 209-161, and he threw 2,175 strikeouts and finished his career with a 3.26 ERA. In the Washington Post, Candace Buckner wrote that Blue (who was born in Mansfield, Louisiana) gave everything he had to the sport of baseball, but was never given enough appreciation in return. The latter years of his career were shortened by drug use, apparently.

Long-time Pittsburgh Pirate shortstop Dick Groat passed away on April 27 at the age of 92. He was with the Pirates from 1952 through 1962, except for military service in 1953 and 1954 during the Korean War [and aftermath]. He also played in the National Basketball Association for two years, one of only 13 men to play at the top pro level in both sports! His last three years in baseball were with the St. Louis Cardinals. He amassed 2,138 hits and a batting average of .286 during his 12 years in big league baseball.

At some point I will gather my newspaper clippings and at least make mention of other baseball greats who have passed away since last year.

Incommunicado again

Long-time fans of this website are well aware of my conflicting obligations, and how that affects my ability to keep up with baseball news and to respond to public inquiries. That doesn't excuse my lack of communication, but hopefully explains it. I am starting to get caught up with email messages today. Thanks for your understanding. Now that the spring semester is officially over, I am devoting top priority to updating diagrams and blogging about baseball in general!

By the way, someone asked me about getting my Rogers Center diagrams updated, and I responded by saying I just haven't seen good enough photos of the revamped outfield to do so accurately. If anybody has been there lately, and can help me out in that regard (especially closeup photos taken from near the respective foul poles), I would really appreciate it.

[UPDATE: Multiple spelling errors have been corrected.]

May 13, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Catching up?!: Birding last October

October 3, Bell's Lane: I was hoping for a warbler fallout after the rains from Hurricane Ian, in vain as it turned out, but the surprise sightings that I *did* have more than made up for the disappointment. Along the middle stretch just north of the sharp bend was a group of White-crowned Sparrows, my first ones of the season. Local resident Carolyn Ford was passing by and told me about a Bald Eagle on her property. Not only that, but a first-of-season Northern Harrier that was being chased by a Red-tailed Hawk!

Birds 2022 Oct 3

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Northern Harrier, Great Blue Heron, Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-crowned Sparrow, Blue-headed Vireo, Bald Eagle, and in center, Red-tailed Hawk and Eastern Phoebe. (Bell's Lane, Oct. 3)

October 7, Augusta Springs: As expected, I saw my first Yellow-rumped Warblers as well as White-throated Sparrow of the season. Several Ruby-crowned Kinglets were flitting about, but no other warblers were in evidence. The other highlights were a group of Red-breasted Nuthatches and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo which quickly flew away.

October 9, Bell's Lane: I saw my first Palm Warbler of the season, as well as a Northern Harrier on Carolyn Ford's property. Carolyn waved at me from a distance, so I went to see what it was about, and she told me there was an injured Common Nighthawk along her driveway. We called the Virginia Wildlife Center in Waynesboro to get instructions, and she took it to there the next morning. We later learned, however, that its wing was irreparably broken and had to be euthanized. Very sad.

Birds 2022 Oct 9

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Common Nighthawk, Palm Warbler, and Northern Harrier. (Bell's Lane, Oct. 9)

October 12, north Staunton and Bell's Lane: Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers drew my attention to the trees out back this morning, and before you knew it, I saw my first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of the season! Along Bell's Lane late in the afternoon, there were quite a few birds, including my first Golden-crowned Kinglets of the season!.

Birds 2022 Oct 12

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and in center, Eastern Phoebe. (north Staunton & Bell's Lane, Oct. 12)

October 15, Augusta Springs & Swoope: I led a very successful ABC field trip, as we encountered interesting birds almost from the very beginning. Thanks to Kristin Fuoco (who presented the program at our club's September meeting) and her friend Javier, we saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in a big sycamore tree. Later we saw groups of Red-breasted Nuthatches at two different locations, just where I said we might expect them. Later on, Wendy & Jim Hill (new members of the club) joined me on a drive through Swoope, and near the intersection of North Mountain Road and Scott-Christian Road we encountered a spectacular array of warblers: Palm (15+), Yellow-rumped (2+), and Pine.

Birds 2022 Oct 15

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Palm Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Blue-headed Vireo, Red-tailed Hawk, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, and in center, Rose-breasted Grosbeak. (Augusta Springs & Swoope, Oct. 15)

October 22, Shenandoah National Park : Jacqueline and I went for a drive through the to see the fall foliage yesterday, stopping to hike briefly at Pocosin Cabin and Hawksbill Mountain. Highlights included a Blue-headed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Dark-eyed Juncos. Up above were a Red-tailed Hawk and a Red-shouldered Hawk, as well as a Common Raven that expressed hostility to the raptors.

October 23, Swoope: I went back to the same hot spot along North Mountain Road in Swoope where we had stopped eight days earlier, and was surprised to see a lone Magnolia Warbler foraging in the weeds. Very late migrant! In the distance I spotted a young Red-headed Woodpecker, frantically moving about. Ruby-crowned Kinglets, White-throated Sparrows, and were conspicuous as well.

Birds 2022 Oct 23

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Eastern Phoebe, Pine Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, White-throated Sparrow, and in center, Magnolia Warbler. (Swoope, Oct. 23)

October 29, Fishersville : In the afternoon went for a casual walk on the trail behind the Murphy-Deming Nursing School. While pursuing an Eastern Towhee in the bushes, I had a brief view of an American Woodcock flying away, with the characteristic twittering sound. It was the first of that species I had seen for well over a year at least! Attempts to lure it back into the open proved to be futile. I also saw at least a dozen Cedar Waxwings as well as a few Red-breasted Nuthatches.

As usual, the above photo montages, including some closeup images and additional photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological photo gallery page.

May 15, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Nationals split series with Mets

The Washington Nationals had a chance to overtake the New York Mets in the standings during this weekend's 4-game series, but could only manage to win two of those games. On Friday the Nats took an early 2-run lead, but starting pitcher Mackenzie Gore only lasted 4 innings as his pitch count soared. In the top of the 6th inning the Mets loaded the bases, and on a 3-2 pitch with two outs, Francisco Lindor batted in three runs on a single to right-center field. A better throw from center fielder Alex Call would have held the runner at third base, but the Mets took the lead and kept it. Final score: Mets 3, Nats 2. On Saturday afternoon the Nats again took an early lead thanks to another RBI single by Joey Meneses, but the rain got worse and worse, so the game was suspended during the top of the 3rd inning. After play was resumed early Sunday afternoon, a solo home run by C.J. Abrams in the 7th inning proved to be the deciding play, and the final score was the reverse of Friday: Nats 3, Mets 2. Former National and future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer took the mound in the second game on Sunday, and believe it or not he was getting beat by the Nats' rookie pitcher Jake Irvin until the 5th inning. That's when Irvin started to lose control and gave up multiple hits; relief pitcher Mason Thompson gave up even more hits, and before you knew it, the Mets had scored 8 runs. That's all they would need in the 8-2 victory over the home team.

Max Scherzer missed a few games earlier this month because of tightness in his back muscles, and I suspected that he may have postponed his recovery in order to be able to pitch in Nationals Park, where he was bound to get a warm welcome. (Bryce Harper and Juan Soto, not so much.) As mentioned previously, Scherzer was ejected during a game against the Dodgers on April 19 and later given a [10]-game suspension for using a sticky substance. MLB announced there would be more stringent scrutiny of such sneaky tactics prior to the 2021 season. Scherzer insisted that he was only using the rosin bag.

Today's game pitted two pitchers with lousy 1-5 records against each other: Patrick Corbin and David Peterson. Corbin showed that his recent improvement is a very real thing, going 6 full innings and only giving up 2 runs. Once again Joey Meneses got an RBI in the 1st inning, this time on a double, the first of 3 doubles he hit. Combined with a single (also an RBI), Meneses went 4 for 5 today, raising his batting average to an even .300!!! He is definitely the slugger that Nats fans were hoping he would be this year, but thus far he has only had two home runs. Later in the game, young shorttop C.J. Abrams homered once again, and the Nats won the series finale by a whopping 10-3 margin. Their record has risen to 18-23 (.439), hot on the heels of the Mets, Phillies, and Marlins. It is worth pointing out that at about this time four years ago, the Nats had a record of 19-31, and then rebounded in historical fashion to make it to the postseason and win the World Series. Expectations for this "rebuilding" team are obviously much lower than for the 2019 Nats, but anything is possible!

Are you ready for some football?

In non-baseball sports news, the XFL championship game took place Saturday night in San Antonio's Alamodome. The heavily-favored D.C. Defenders (11-1 record) failed to live up to their name, letting the Arlington Renegades (5-6) score multiple times and take a big lead in the first half. The "Defenders" mounted a counteroffensive in the second half, but kept making blunders, and the final score was 32 to 20. So much for Washington's hopes of winning its first football championship since the 1992 Super Bowl!

Actually, this news item is related to baseball because the Arlington Renegades make their home in Choctaw Stadium, which is the new name of the reconfigured version of the former home of the Texas Rangers, Globe Life Park. (They began playing in their new retractable-roof facility Globe Life Field in July 2020, but that was during the pandemic when no fans were allowed.) I should also mention that the Alamodome has hosted a few MLB exhibition games, and one of these days I'll probably get around to doing a diagram for it, just as I did for the Superdome, which has a similar MLB history. But wait! There's another stadium used by an XFL team in which MLB games have been used in the past: Cashman Field, in Las Vegas, Nevada! (The Oakland Athletics used it briefly in April 1996, while construction on the "Mount Davis" expansion of Oakland Coliseum was completed.)

The original XFL played for just one year (2001) before going out of business, and was resurrected in 2020 by professional wrestling promoter Vince McMahon. Just then, covid-19 struck, and the "new" XFL went bankrupt just like its predecessor. After some legal and financial wrangling, movie actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson led a group that acquired the XFL, and play began last year. Maybe it will actually last this time.

Believe it or not, there is yet another professional football league in opration this year: the United States Football League, USFL. There are also eight teams with nominal "home" cities, but in fact, all of the games are being played in one of two venues: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio and at the new (2021) Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama. It replaced the old Legion Field, where rival universities Alabama ("Crimson Tide") and Auburn ("Tigers") used to play their annual "Iron Bowl." In fact, most of Alabama's big games were played at Legion Field until Bryant-Denny Stadium (on the main campus in Tuscaloosa) was expanded to a capacity of 70,000 in 1989. There is another connection to baseball: Alabama used the minor league Rickwood Field as its home stadium 1912 to 1927! (I heard a rumor that MLB might hold a nostalgia-oriented game at Rickwood Field some day. If so, it would be similar to the "Field of Dreams" games in Dyersville, Iowa, which will not be held this year.)

How about some hockey, then?

Baseball season revs up into high gear just as the postseasons for the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League enter their middle phases. I have only the vaguest clue as to who is competing in these interminable playoffs this year, but I do know that the Washington Capitals were eliminated from contention a few days after I saw them play on April 2. Believe it or not, it was my very first time inside Capital One Arena, which used to be called Verizon Center. I was glad to see their star player Alex Ovechkin for the first time, but the home team was soundly defeated by the visiting New York Rangers, 5-2. It is worth noting that the Capitals won the Stanley Cup championship in 2018, just one year before the Nationals won the World Series. Various Capitals and Nationals players (including Ryan Zimmerman) made a point of attending each others' games in those glory years, creating mutually beneficial good vibes.

Capital One Arena hockey lower

Capital One Arena, from the lower level, before the April 2, 2023 hockey game between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers.

Alex Ovechkin, others at net

Alex Ovechkin (right) and others at net, during the April 2 game against the Rangers.

May 19, 2023 [LINK / comment]

(Catching up): Birding last November

November 3, Bell's Lane: I had some decent views of a Red-tailed Hawk and a Great Blue Heron, but the highlights came toward the end, when I spotted some rare Rusty Blackbirds among all the American Robins and European Starlings (just north of the "beaver pond"), as well as a huge flock (2,000+) of Common Grackles and a lone Northern Harrier (adult male) as dusk was about to fall.

November 4, Montgomery Hall Park: I was startled to see a coyote! It was stalking the woods uphill from where they dump waste wood. I did at least see a Hermit Thrush, plus a few sparrows, etc. Near the kiosk on Bell's Lane I glimpsed some Yellow-rumped Warblers. Back home a young Sharp-shinned (or Cooper's?) Hawk was feasting on an unfortunate squirrel.

Birds 2022 Nov 4

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Hermit Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker, juvenile Sharp-shinned (or Cooper's) Hawk, and White-breasted Nuthatch. (Montgomery Hall Park, Bell's Lane, & N. Staunton, Nov. 4)

November 5, Braley Pond: Jacqueline and I went hiking in the Braley Pond area today, a major change of plans after we encountered a mass of fog and drizzle along the Blue Ridge. The weather was better, but still partly cloudy for most of the time. Once again, there were a number of Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches present, as well as Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and various woodpeckers. The big highlights were a Hermit Thrush hiding in a bush and an American Woodcock (my second one over the past seven days!) that flushed from just a few feet in front of us. As usual, my efforts to locate it did not pan out. Rather oddly, I didn't see any kinglets or Fox Sparrows.

November 7, Bell's Lane: It was a beautiful morning and I had nice views of various birds. Late in the afternoon I returned in hopes of seeing a Norther Harrier (at the usual place), and my efforts were soon rewarded!

Birds 2022 Nov 7

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Eastern Bluebird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (M), Norther Harrier, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Towhee, and Downy Woodpecker. (Bell's Lane, Nov. 9)

November 12, Dowell's Draft trail: I missed the club's field trip to Swoope, and instead went my own way, eventually getting lucky with some nice closeup views. I saw my first Brown Creepers and first Winter Wren of the season, along with several others. I also glimpsed a Pileated Woodpecker and a Hermit Thrush, and I'm pretty sure I heard the "smack" call of a Fox Sparrow, but never did see it, unfortunately.

Birds 2022 Nov 12

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Dark-eyed Junco, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Winter Wren. (Dowell's Draft, Nov. 12)

November 19, Elkhorn Lake and Braley Pond: I went hiking mainly to get exercise. Not surprisingly, given the frigid temperatures, I saw hardly anything other than some Juncos and a Red-shouldered Hawk in that area. At the lake I saw several Scaups (not sure which), Hooded Mergansers, and Buffleheads. No Bald Eagles near the nest, however. Near the intersection where the restroom is located were two Winter Wrens.

November 24, Bell's Lane: A vigorous walk in the afternoon proved very fruitful, as I had spectacular views of Northern Harriers and a Red-tailed Hawk flying overhead!

Birds 2022 Nov 24

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Northern Harrier (F/J), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Harrier (M), White-throated Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawk, and Carolina Wren. (Bell's Lane, Nov. 24)

November 26, Swoope: I finally saw my first Savannah Sparrow of the season, on top of a fence post. A Northern Harrier and some American Kestrels were patrolling the area east of the post office. I had good luck along the private road that extends west from the Boy Scout camp toward the mountains. There I saw a boatload of songbirds, including Cedar Waxwings, American Goldfinches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Brown Creepers, as well as woodpeckers, etc. etc.

November 28, Bell's Lane: Among the highlights on the ABC field trip led by Penny Warren were American Coots and Double-crested Cormorants, both first-of-season for me. We also saw some distant Ring-necked Ducks and a Pied-billed Grebe, and some folks had a great closeup view of a Red-tailed Hawk.

Birds 2022 Nov 28

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Eastern Bluebird, American Coot, Double-crested Cormorant, Northern Harrier (M), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (M), and Red-shouldered Hawk. (Bell's Lane, Nov. 28)

As usual, the above photo montages, including some closeup images and additional photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological photo gallery page.

May 22, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Nats bounce back from bitter blow

Just when the Washington Nationals were emerging from the doldrums and showing a spark of hope for a respectable season, everything fell apart. In their first game in Miami against the Marlins last Tuesday, their starting pitcher Josiah Gray had another fine outing, only giving up two runs (one earned) over seven full innings. Once again, however, his team failed to provide him with much run support until the top of the 8th when they staged a 3-run rally to take a 4-2 lead. The bottom of the 9th inning, Hunter Harvey got the first two batters out, and had an 0-2 count on Garrett Cooper. A win was all but secured with 99.9% probability, but Cooper somehow managed to hit a double. Then on a 1-2 count Luis Arraez singled to make the score 4-3. Nats fans grew a little edgy as Jorge Soler stepped up to the plate. Harvey got him to a full count, but the fourth pitch that was called ball 3 was actually inside the strike zone, according to the radio announcers, as well as the MLB pitch track log. That bad call gave Soler the chance he needed: he smashed the sixth pitch all the way into "The Clevelander" club area beyond the left field fence. And that's how the Nats lost the game in a most heartbreaking way, 5-4. frown

On Wednesday the Nats took an early 2-0 lead as Corey Dickerson (filling in as designated hitter for Joey Meneses, who was on paternity leave) homered in his first at bat after six weeks on the injured list. But in the 4th inning Jorge Soler hit a 2-run homer once again, and the Marlins held on to win it, 4-3. And on Thursday, the Nats rallied with 2 runs in the top of the 8th inning, but Keibert Ruiz grounded into a double play, and the Nats blew their chance to at least tie the game. Final score: 5-3, as the Marlins swept the Nationals in the games straight. It was only the second series sweep loss for the Nats this year, and the first was in similar circumstances, as that other team from Florida rallied with 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to win the game on April 4.

On Friday, the Detroit Tigers arrived at Nationals Park, and rookie pitcher Jake Irvin gave up a home run to the very first batter, Jake McKinstry. By the time Irvin was replaced in the 3rd inning, the Tigers were ahead 6-0. By the middle of the 6th inning it was 8-0, and it's hard to imagine how dismal the atmosphere must have been in the Nats dugout. But then a miracle happened: in both the 6th and 7th innings the Nats scored three runs, and in both cases a runner was left on second base. (In the 7th inning, three consecutive outs followed a double by Alex Call.) It was a respectable final score (8-6), but it easily could have been one of their biggest comebacks ever. On Saturday Patrick Corbin gave up a 2-run homer in the first inning, but he held the line for the next five innings while his team mates came through at the plate, and he earned his third win of the season. That was the fourth straight quality start for Corbin, who now has a lower ERA (4.47) than the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Sandy Alcantara of the Marlins (5.05) -- believe it or not!! In yesterday's game, Josiah Gray had poor control and gave up 6 walks, but just barely got out of multiple jams so that he could make it through five innings with his team ahead. Home runs by Riley Adams and Ildemaro Vargas (both second-stringers) and a 4-for-5 day for Jeimer Candelario assured the Nats win, 6-4. That gave the Nationals their third series win of the month, against two series losses and one series tie (2-2).

Today the Nats get to rest and prepare for the San Diego Padres, who will begin a three-game series in Washington tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how the fans in D.C. react to Juan Soto, who has recently improved (8 HRs, .248 average) after a dismal first month. Two of the New Nats (Joey Meneses and Lane Thomas) have a batting average in the .290s range, and Thomas has hit 6 home runs.

While we're on the subject of former Nats players, I should mention Phillie slugger Kyle Schwarber's first-inning grand slam against the visiting Chicago Cubs on Sunday. His batting average is only .174, however, and his team mate Trea Turner (also an ex-Nat) is only batting [.257]. Bryce Harper is slowly improving after his long recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Forbes Field update!!??

Have you ever read the book Moby Dick? Me neither. But I do know that it is about a whaling ship captain who becomes so obsessed with vanquishing this one particular whale that it totally consumes his life by the end. It's a classic tragedy, a "cautionary tale" about setting unrealistically high goals in life.

Forbes Field is my Moby Dick. It is (or was) an exquisite ballpark with nice aesthetic adornments (such as patterned brick exterior) and numerous quirks in the layout. It deserves the very best. In spite of the fact that hundreds of articles and a number of books have been written about it over the year, my quest to render it with the appropriate accuracy and detail has repeatedly fallen short. Every time I get close to solving the big riddle, some new piece of evidence (or lack of crucial evidence) confounds my endeavor to complete a set of historical diagrams for it. (The same kind of problems have plagued me with Griffith Stadium, from the same era of "classical" ballparks, holding me back there.) Instead, I keep opting for the "path of least resistance," updating the diagrams of stadiums for which there is more supporting evidence or fewer mysterious quirks to unravel. In recent months (especially the last couple weeks) I have concentrated on revamping ALL my diagrams with a larger image size so that big stadiums (e.g. Yankee, Candlestick) won't have to be "truncated" to fit within the standard 500 W x 480 H pixel dimensions. This "new standard" (600 W x 600 H) will also leave more room around the periphery for the side-view profiles, all (or nearly all) of which will eventually be mutually commensurable, so that you can compare the profiles as well as the top-view diagram of the stadium itself.

Forbes Field

Well, yesterday I decided that enough is enough, and that my yearning for a high degree of accuracy was unfairly depriving fans of this site from seeing the "work in progress." Accordingly, I swallowed my pride and posted a set of updated (but still flawed) diagrams on the Forbes Field page, labeled "2022," which is when I did the most recent tweaks to it. The "new" 1909 diagram now shows the original left field wall, before the Pirates acquired additional land in 1911. In additional, all the diagrams from 1911 forward show that the left field was angled inward slightly, not perpendicular to the left field foul line as I once thought. Those diagrams feature some of the newer detail enhancements that nearly all pages now include, such as entry portals in the bleachers and bullpen pitching rubbers and home plates, but not others. There are as yet no separate diagrams for the first deck or second deck without the roof. Please bear in mind that those diagrams do NOT reflect what is probably the biggest insight I have gained in recent years, which is that the diamond at Forbes Field was originally symmetrical with respect to the two main wings of the grandstand, and that the semi-final configuration dating from 1925 was actually "tilted" slightly. Taking care of that proved to be just too much in light of all the other things on my plate.

As an example of the extreme delay in getting this thing done, one critical piece of evidence can be found at, but that link is several years old. Anyway, hat tips to both Bruce Orser and Mark London for that. Mark is the sponsor of that page,and I owe a big debt of gratitude to him for his patience and understanding. I will most assuredly finish this task and present a more accurate rendering of Forbes Field within the next few months! (Or else...)

Globe Life Field

Many thanks to Terry Wallace for sharing the photo he recently took at Globe Life Field. It shows very clearly the oddly "interrupted" upper deck on the first base side, where one of the big rails that holds the retractable roof sections is located. Like Marlins Park and T-Mobile Park, which also have retractable roofs, Globe Life Field is way too big to render within the standard diagram dimensions, and the new standard will make it much easier to see that stadium in its entirety.

May 22, 2023 [LINK / comment]

(Catchup up): Birding last December

December 3, Montgomery Hall Park : The big highlight that afternoon was a Hermit Thrush that posed for me in a bush only about 15 feet away. The Winter Wren kept chattering loudly, but it mostly stayed hidden in the thickets. A few woodpeckers, including a Hairy, rounded out the notable sightings of the day..

December 4, Lake Shenandoah: I found out from Facebook (rather than the shenvalbirds email group, which seems to have expired) about an extremely rare MacGillivray's Warbler east of Harrisonburg, in Rockingham County. About a half hour after I arrived (11:00?) I had a brief closeup view of the bird at the end of a trail about 1/4 mile west of the lake, and that it was where I spent most of my time looking. Special thanks to Kurt Hoffman, from Monroe County, WV, for alerting those of us who were over there to the bird's new location in the reeds along the south edge of the lake. Finally, just before 2:00 it popped into view again, and I managed to get two quick photos. It was my first-ever MacGillivray's Warbler, only the third one ever seen in Virginia! The bright yellow and green colors are dazzling, and quite unexpected in winter. The bird was seen again for the next few weeks, but not after late December. This species breeds in higher elevations in the northwest USA and Canada, so it is presumably used to harsh conditions, but one wonders how it could survive a hard freeze.

MacGillivray's Warbler

MacGillivray's Warbler (Lake Shenandoah, Dec. 4)

December 10, Lake Shenandoah: After a bit of shopping in Harrisonburg, Jacqueline and I stopped briefly at Lake Shenandoah, but my hopes of seeing the MacGillivray's Warbler again did not pan out. As a consolation prize, I was amazed to see two Great Egrets, which should have been hundreds of miles to the south and/or east by then!

Birds 2022 Dec 10

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Great Blue Heron, White-throated Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird (F), Great Egret, and Eastern Bluebird. (Lake Shenandoah, Dec. 4)

December 19, Verona: On the way back from Blue Ridge Community College, I stopped at the pond behind Hardee's, and saw a dozen or so Hooded Mergansers, among other birds. Further along Mill Place Parkway there was a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks that seemed to be getting to know each other. Along Bell's Lane I saw another Red-shouldered Hawk, being harassed by an American Kestrel, as well as a "gray ghost" male Northern Harrier.

Birds 2022 Dec 19

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Great Blue Heron, Northern Harrier (M), Red-shouldered Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Hooded Mergansers (F & M), and at left center, American Kestrel (F). (Verona & Bell's Lane, Dec. 19)

December 25, Waynesboro: On Christmas Jacqueline and I took a drive toward Waynesboro, and I spotted the very same Trumpeter Swan that visits the pond every year: tag # P-61! On the way back I did a short walk along the Murphy-Deming trail, and spotted some Yellow-rumped Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Across Rt. 250 from the Shell station in Fishersville, the resident Red-shouldered Hawk perched along a power line was looking for a late lunch.

December 29, Bell's Lane: After several fruitless late-afternoon visits to the upland pastures to which the Short-eared Owls return almost every winter, I decided to stay around for a while after sunset, and finally succeeded in spotting one. About 5:25 Mike Smith (from Elkton) drew my attention to a low-flying raptor, and I soon identified the rounded wing tips, markings, and large head size to positively identify TWO such owls -- my first ones of the season! In the same field (at the entrance to Carolyn Ford's farm) we had also seen ten or so Eastern Meadowlarks, somewhat of a surprise.

December 30, Braley Pond : For my last bird outing of the year, I went hiking along Braley Pond, in the foothills of western Augusta County. Other than Red-breasted Nuthatches (numerous once again), there weren't any winter birds of note until I reached the farthest point of my hike, about a half mile beyond the western end of the lake. That is when I heard and then saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in a distant tree. I'm amazed I was able to get a decent photo of him, providing a suitable ending to another year of birding.

Birds 2022 Dec 30

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (M), Red-breasted Nuthatch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee. and White-breasted Nuthatches. (Braley Pond, Dec. 30)

As usual, the above photo montages, including some closeup images and additional photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological photo gallery page.

May 23, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Stadium capacity changes, 2023

Are you ready for some number crunching? Just like two years ago (April 30, 2021), I have compiled the current-year seating capacity figures for each of the 30 MLB stadiums and calculated changes in capacity compared to 2021. (I'll have to check to see whether there were any significant changes last year.) The three stadiums whose capacity changed by at least 1,000 (Rogers Centre, Busch Stadium III, and Great American Ballpark) are highlighted in yellow. Coors Field surged into second place ahead of Rogers Centre, reflecting the latter stadium's revamped outfield seating. A sizeable part of the second deck near the two foul poles was removed. Nationals Park has just barely surpassed Wrigley Field, while Minute Maid Park has dropped two steps, and now trails Comerica Park. Otherwise, the seating capacity rankings are almost the same as two years ago.

Stadium name
(current & recent)
2023 capacity2021-2023
nominal change
Dodger Stadium56,0000
Coors Field50,144-301
Rogers Centre 49,282-4,224
Chase Field48,359-327
T-Mobile Park47,9290
Yankee Stadium II47,3090
Oakland Coliseum46,8470
Oriole Park at Camden Yards45,791-180
Angel Stadium45,5170
Busch Stadium III44,494-1,000
Great American Ballpark43,891+1,572
Citizens Bank Park42,901+109
Citi FIeld42,136+214
Oracle Park41,9150
American Family Field (ex-Miller Park)41,700-200
Nationals Park41,376+37
Wrigley Field41,363-286
Truist Park (ex-SunTrust)41,149+65
Comerica Park41,0830
Minute Maid Park41,000-168
Guaranteed Rate Field (ex-U.S. Cellular)40,241-374
PETCO Park40,22213
Globe Life Field40,000-300
PNC Park38,753+6
Target Field38,5440
Kauffman Stadium38,427+524
Fenway Park37,7550
LoanDepot Park (ex-Marlins Park)37,446+704
Progressive Field34,7880
Tropicana Field25,025+25

SOURCE: Box scores published in the Washington Post.
Sometimes, reductions in stadiums' seating capacity are announced without any seats really being taken out. Most notably, Tropicana Field's 1998 capacity was 45,000, but it has been reduced sharply several times in the years since then, by closing the upper deck, etc. The same used to be true of Oakland Coliseum, but it now includes virtually all the baseball-suitable seats.

One might question why the capacity of Oriole Park at Camden Yards has remained the same (45,791) ever since 2011 even though they tore out a big chunk of the left field grandstand last year. (See April 17, 2022.) When I revamp all of the stadium pages this summer I will include the current (2023) capacity figures. My general practice is to ignore the minor year-to-year changes, often using figures rounded off to the nearest thousand. As the table above shows, that is exactly what some teams have done.

I read that this past weekend saw the biggest total attendance for MLB games before June since 2017 (, which is a very good sign. Games played from Friday through Sunday drew 1,518,016 fans through the turnstiles, compared to 1,550,987 from April 7-9, 2017. Now that the U.S. government and the World Health Organization have officially declared an end to the covid-19 "emergency," there's really no reason for fans to shy away from ballgames.

NOTE: While I do my best to get accustomed to the rapid-fire stadium name changes from year to year, in the table above I have retained (in parentheses) the old names of three stadiums whose names are probably less familiar to most people. On the other hand, not even the Oakland Athletics bother to update their website with the new name of Oakland Coliseum, "Ring Central Coliseum." Whatever Ring Central is, they wasted their stadium naming rights money. The Athletics' lease there expires after next season, and they could relocate to Las Vegas by 2025. Also, I decided to emphatically repudiate the silly capitalization of what was called "Marlins Park" until two years ago: "loanDepot" has a lower-case L (which looks like an I) and an upper-case D. Instead, I shall henceforth refer to it in proper English: LoanDepot Park!

I should mention that the stadium capacity numbers will be used the soon-to-be-updated Baseball cities page, which compares metropolitan area population, stadium size, and attendance.

Soto returns to D.C.

The Nats' prodigal son Juan Soto returned to his former home in Nationals Park this evening, and got the last laugh when he hit a long home run (441 feet) to center field in the 7th inning. The Nats had hit back-to-back home runs off Yu Darvish in the 5th inning (by C.J. Abrams and Lane Thomas, respectively) to tie the game 3-3, but then relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez gave up four runs over the two innings he pitched, including the homer by Soto and then a two-run homer by Jake Cronenworth. It looked like the ball hit the top of the padding before rolling back onto the field, but the video review folks said it cleared the fence. Oh well. That opened up a four-run lead, which proved to be too much to overcome. Final score: Padres 7, Nats 4.

The Nats (now with a 20-28 record) began that series just one game behind the Padres in the overall National League standings, and they still have a chance to pull even if they win the next two games. It's an interesting situation, given that Soto left the Nationals (or made it clear that he wanted to be traded) last year because of his eagerness to play on team contending for the postseason. Oops! This year the Padres are going nowhere fast, while the Nationals are headed upward. In today's Washington Post, Barry Svrluga raises the possibility that the Nationals might want to invite Soto back with a long-term contract after he becomes a free agent following the 2024 season. Hmmm.....

Elsewhere in the majors

Believe it or not, all five teams in the American League East Division now have a better record than the first-place team in the AL Central Division, the Minnesota Twins (25-24)! The New York Yankees have rebounded from a miserable first month, and after winning their 5th game in a row are now in third place at .600 (30-20). The team they beat, the Baltimore Orioles, are in 2nd place, only 3 games behind the first place Tampa Bay Rays. The last place Toronto Blue Jays beat the Rays 20-1 tonight, with 9 runs coming in the 9th inning off position players who were filling in as relief pitchers to give the bullpen some rest. Maybe the Rays' historically-good first two months can't be sustained for the whole season after all. Meanwhile, the 4th place Boston Red Sox are a half game ahead of the Blue Jays.

Urban eye candy

One of the ongoing enhancements to the stadium pages is a photographic "montage" showing some of the iconic scenes from each of the respective cities. (Or at least the ones I have visited.) I really like this one from Kansas City on the Kauffman Stadium page :

Kansas City

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The Jazz Museum / Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Union Station, the World War I memorial tower, and the downtown skyline as seen from that tower.

May 24, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Mass shootings in the U.S.: What can we do?

One year ago today, 21 innocent people (19 children and two teachers) were murdered in cold blood in the small town of Uvalde, Texas. Today's lead story in the Washington Post focused on whether enough law enforcement authorities were held properly accountable for the delayed response. It's fairly obvious that multiple people utterly failed in their responsibilities, and it is likely that some lives could have been saved by a more effective policing, but that diverts attention from the more fundamental problem, which is the ongoing breakdown of civilized norms in American society.

As every year passes, we become more tolerant of sociopathic behavior and self-indulgent egomania. Young people are being brought up (if that word is even applicable, as two-parent families become the exception rather than the norm) to disregard basic social norms of modesty and self-restraint. Instead, they are conditioned to flaunt their identity in an orgy of bragging and insults toward various outcast subgroups. Social media is amplifying the worst tendencies that are latent in all of us, leading to the formation of extremist cults, widespread feelings of misery and depression, and even suicide. The dirty little secret of America in the early 21st Century is that our social institutions have not developed the means to cope with and repress the evil side-effects of technological progress.

Indeed, modern public policy in the U.S. often seems to make things worse by subsidizing day care for young kids so that the mother can work on a full-time job. (The very fact that so many people complain that day care is "too expensive" is itself an indication that society deprecates the social value of bringing up children.) Such policies undermine the vital role of parents in fostering healthy attitudes in youth, who end up absorbing the norms and values of their peers -- often very destructive ones. But questions about how to reform social policy and how to rebuild a culture that values good parenting will have to wait until another day. The point is that, right now, we as a society are engaged in a massive exercise of denial with regard to the plain fact that vicious, hateful, murderous feelings are on an inexorable rise, and that we are virtually at war with our own selves.

Here is what I wrote in a comment responding favorably to a Facebook post about Uvalde by Alex Knepper two days after the massacre, May 26, 2022:

I got so sick of the predictable, stale partisan rhetoric that gets recirculated every time there's a mass shooting in this country that I included a verse about that in a song I wrote, "Better Left Unsaid." The massacre in Uvalde, Texas sheds light on two related problems: the extreme psychological duress afflicting many if not most younger people these days, especially among boys who didn't have a full-time father during their formative years, and (to a lesser extent) the increasing polarization of our society, which makes consensus on needed policy reform on such areas as regulating gun purchases. People on both sides tend to just ignore what the other side thinks and says, and nothing gets done. But the main problem is not easy access to guns, it's the (literally) demonic thoughts and attitudes that have infected our society in recent decades. Anyone who is serious about stopping gun violence must address the cultural origins of all the hate and anger in our midst. We are a sick society, and for real healing to take place, contemporary norms and assumptions need to be challenged.

One side effect of all these mass shootings is that many of us tend to become desensitized to the problem, as if the next such horrific act is almost as inevitable as a storm front. Whenever an especially bad mass shooting takes place, the Washington Post lists the names of all the victims of such crimes, as a apt reminder that each and every one of those people was a unique inividual human being who was loved by others and was a vital part of our social fabric. In the Uvalde massacre, the young victims all had several decades of life to look forward to. Trying to discern lessons from the raw statistics on mass killings, as people such as me are prone to do, should not detract from the fundamental horror that confronts us -- whether we choose to recognize it or not.

In my political science classes for the past year, I have been presenting the following map (or preliminary versions of it) as a way to get a handle on the magnitude of the problem of mass killings, and how their occurrence varies from one part of the country to another. Some people try to make political hay out of mass killings, but they seem to happen in "red" and "blue" states without discrimination.

Mass shootings by state

In order to draw something substantial from the above graphic portrayal of mass shootings, here is a listing with places that will be immediately familiar to almost everyone.

The worst mass shootings in America
Date Location Number of fatal victims
Apr 20, 1999 Littleton, CO : Columbine High School 13
Apr 16, 2007 Blacksburg, VA : Virginia Tech campus 32
Dec 14, 2012 Newton, CT : Sandy Hook Elem. School 26
Jun 12, 2016 Orlando, FL : Pulse nightclub 49
Oct 1, 2017 Las Vegas, NV : strip (outdoor concert) 58
Nov 5, 2017 Sutherland Springs, TX : First Baptist Church 25
Aug 3, 2019 El Paso, TX : WalMart 23
May 24, 2022 Uvalde, TX : elementary school 21

SOURCE: Washington Post (editorials) Nov. 17, 2018 and May 21, 2022; May 8, 2023

The emphasis I have placed on the under-acknowledged sociological deformities in the United States should serve to caution against the notion that tighter restrictions on the sale or ownership of firearms will necessarily do much good. I don't oppose such restrictions, but this is a case of the proverbial "horse being out of the barn," and there is already such a glut of firearms in our country that anyone with a computer and access to the "Dark Web" can get hold of just about whatever weapons he (or she) wants. (I mention "she" because, even though virtually all mass shooters are men, there was a case of a female mass shooter in Kentucky earlier this year.)

President Biden marked the anniversary of the Uvalde massacre today by repeating his call for a ban of "AR-15 firearms and assault weapons." ( But even if it were politically feasible, would such a ban really change things that much? Until the president addresses the dimension of disposition (hateful yearnings) as well as the means of committing violence, we aren't likely to get very far. As a preface to the conclusion here, it is worthwhile spelling out exactly what the Constitution says about the right to bear arms. I am constantly amazed by how many people are either ignorant about this, or just don't care.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

To sum it all up, the key to addressing the problem of mass shootings in America is forging a new consensus that balances the constitutional right to bear arms with the needs of public safety. That means circumventing the entrenched factions that currently hold sway in both the Republican and Democratic Parties, repeatedly blocking reform efforts. Those who would just as soon repeal or ignore the 2nd Amendment in order to enact their preferred measures are not doing anybody a favor. And neither are the 2nd Amendment absolutists who refuse to acknowledge that all rights are subject to various practical and legal limits. Once we get past the essential task of agreeing to abide by consitutional guidelines, we can begin to formulate appropriate (much stiffer) regulations to drastically reduce the accessibility of dangerous weapons to malevolent individuals.

There are provisions in the Constitution by which Congress can regulate state militias, and this provides an opening for measures such as beefing up a national registry of gun owners. Gun ownership should be at least implicitly tied to an obligation to serve the local community in case of disaster; that's what a "militia" is all about. If someone is in the National Guard (the formal "militia") or is retired from the armed forces, he or she should have relatively easy access to automatic weapons. As for other people seeking such weapons, they should have to pass a rigorous series of tests (marksmanship as well as psychological screening) in order to qualify. To deal with the "horse out of the barn" problem, there should be a comprehensive system by which all sales and transfers of weapons from one person to another are recorded in a national database, and any violation of such requirement should be severely penalized, including jail time. There should be bounties for people who "snitch" on unlawful weapons transfers by gangs and extremist groups. (The existence of such extremist groups in America is one of the biggest obstacles to fully implementing such reforms, but that merely illustrates the need for undertaking such measures.) Perhaps those who own multiple firearms could become subject to a tax that would fund greater Federal efforts to oversee gun possession. Will some people object to such efforts? Of course. But as long as the core of the 2nd Amendment is firmly upheld, there is no reason for law-abiding citizens to fear such regulation.

Obviously, no laws will ever prevent all acts of evil from being committed by sociopathic men (and boys), but we can at least get ourselves on a course of gradually reducing them. In conjunction with social action -- including religious action -- at the community level aimed at combatting murderous dispositions, we can begin to restore a semblance of civil society. We really can make things better if only we set aside our prejudiced attitudes about gun ownership.

Monthly links this year:
(all categories)

Category archives:
(all years)

That year's
blog highlights