Monday, April 27, 2009
For those of you who may have missed it--and MLB.com made YouTube take the clip down, so it's not that easy to find--check out Jacoby Ellsbury's straight steal of home during Sunday night's 4-1 Red Sox win over the Yankees. It came in the fifth inning of a tight 2-1 game, with the bases full, two outs, and J.D. Drew at bat. Drew hits fifth in the Sox lineup, and if Ellsbury had been out he'd have been a goat of colossal proportions.
As it was, the steal of home ignited the crowd and his teammates, and put pitcher Andy Petitte so out of sorts he then threw an inside fastball to Drew--who'd looked terrible striking out on breaking balls his first two at-bats--that Drew hammered into right field to drive in the final run of the game. It was the Sox tenth straight win, and completed a three game sweep of the arch-rival Yankees. It's only April, but they all count. And they count double against the Yanks.
....Ellsbury's straight steal of home was the first by the historically lead-footed Sox since 1994, when Billy Hatcher did it. Stealing home is a rare thing on any team these days, and its one more reason Ellsbury is my favorite player. The guy's electric, he's humble, he flies (10 stolen bases already), he runs everything out, and he's got a great smile and a great glove. He's the first full-blooded Navajo in the major leagues. Women hold up signs asking him to marry them. Fathers hold up signs asking him to marry their daughters. The guy's having fun.
... A theft of home is the second most exciting play in baseball--I'd rank the inside the park home run first--and it's almost never done anymore. In the very first pro baseball game I ever saw--I must have been about eight--I watched Roberto Clemente steal home against the hapless Cubs. It's also the last time I ever saw a straight steal of home in person, and I remember it to this day: the surprise, the sudden burst of speed, the pitcher's slow-motion delivery home, the sense of unreality-- What's he doing?!--and the air going out of Wrigley Field, and the Cubs, when Clemente was called safe. It's baseball's equivalent of a bitch slap. For the defense, it's an embarrassing play.
...The most famous theft of home of all time was probably when Jackie Robinson stole home in the opening game of the 1955 World Series against the Yankees. To this day Yanks catcher Yogi Berra swears he was out, but Berra's in the minority on that one. Then again, no one was in a better position to know. In all, Robinson stole home 19 times in his career, an amazing total, but not as amazing as the record holder: Ty Cobb, who stole home 50 times!! Why the play has virtually disappeared from modern baseball is unclear to me, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with players not wanting to get hurt. Face it, it takes a lot of courage to run directly into a man holding a bat, a catcher, and a pitcher armed with a ball. The great thing about Ellsbury's play--and it was his first straight steal of home since high school--was he did it while a left-handed batter was at the plate. So the catcher, Jorge Posada, should have had a clear view of what was going on. Petitte, a lefty, was in a full windup, his back to Ellsbury. And the Yanks third baseman was playing over near the shortstop hole. So Ellsbury had a huge lead. Still, the element of surprise was the key factor, and it absolutely turned the momentum of the game. Sox fans stood and clapped until Ellsbury came out of the dugout to take a curtain call.
....Faithful followers of this blog will recall that eight days ago my queen bee emerged from her cage. That's a good time for the beekeeper to go back into the hive and make sure she's doing her job, which is to lay thousands and thousands of eggs in neat and disciplined patterns. So my neighbor, Kate McCandless, and I lit up the smoker and donned our suits and prepared to enter the hive. That is me on the right, loins girded. Kate looks quite a bit more stylish in her new white suit, and more relaxed, which was impressive, since it was her first foray into a living hive. Later that day we would install her first package of bees, and she's a natural. It's quite important you move slowly and show no signs of nervousness or fear. That only agitates the hive.
....After blowing a little smoke in to calm the fellas down, I pulled out one of the centermost frames to inspect it. The bees were relatively relaxed in their labors, which is the first thing you look for: a contented hive. Contented hives tend to have functioning queens.
...What I was looking for was evidence of brood, which at this point looks a little like a droplet of milky dishwashing liquid at the bottom or one of the hexagonal cells. The difficulty was seeing into the cells with thousands of bees happily walking over them, depositing pollen into them, and regurgitating nectar into them. But I caught enough glimpses of the milky brood to be convinced that things were proceeding as they should have been. After carefully replacing the first frame, we removed a second and found the queen, which was marked with a big green dot on her back. She was merrily scurrying across the cells. I was hoping she might lay an egg or two for us, but she was a shy monarch and wasn't about to perform on demand. So I very, very carefully replaced that frame so as not to accidentally squish her, and closed up the hive. I'll check it again in another ten days or so to make sure that she is laying in sufficient quantities to keep the hive healthy and strong. Worker bees only live five or six weeks, so she has to reproduce entire generations several times over the course of a summer.
....But she has all the looks of a winner to me. I think I'll call her Miss Ellsbury.
Posted by E.M. Swift at 5:36 PM