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Baseball as Poetry

 

This past weekend was the opening of the 2011 Major League Baseball Season. I have been a fan of baseball from a very young age. Well, let me be a bit more precise. I have been a fan of Cincinnati Reds baseball from a very young age.

Now that doesn’t mean I can quote endless statistics of RBI’s and wins/loses and all that. All those stats just drain away the beauty of the sport. What being a fan means to me is I like and enjoy the game and I have a team I root for.

Football is too rough, even violent for me. And basketball goes too fast for my slow and simple brain to follow. Baseball is the perfect hot and humid, sit back with a cold drink, and enjoy a lazy summer day kind of sport.

Cincinnati Reds 1888

Today many people do not know that the team I root for, The Cincinnati Reds, are the oldest professional baseball team in the nation. For a complete history click the following link: Reds.

I vividly remember piling into the car with my parents and brothers for the hour or so drive from Dayton to Cincinnati to go to old Crosley Field (now sadly torn down) to see a baseball game. In those days I even had a favorite player, Ted Kluszewski.

The Crosley Field link has great photos of the field, even video, and highlights why baseball aficiandos loved this field so much.

Ted Kluszewski

For those not old enough to remember, Ted Kluszewski was a career .298 hitter, with 279 home runs, and 1028 RBI in 1718 games. In ten of his fifteen seasons Kluszewski walked (492) more often than he struck out (365).  Many pitchers preferred to walk him rather than throw him a ball he would hit out of the park. We used to ‘boo’ pitchers who did that. That was always great fun!!!

In 1955, Kluszewski hit 47 home runs while striking out only 40 times.

No player since him has hit 40 homers and struck out 40 or fewer times in the same season. Barry Bonds missed duplicating this feat by one strikeout in 2004. But even if Bonds had duplicated or exceeded this record, I would not have included him here. I do not count anyone in any sport who may have (read; probably illegally did) used steroids or drugs. I once cheered Bonds on when he played in Riverfront Stadium during a Reds game. That was before I learned of drugs.

Ted Kluszewski made history the old fashioned way. He earned it with sheer physical prowess. [All baseball stats from Wikipedia.]

The Reds have set so many records it is hard to highlight them all. So I am not even going to try. Instead I will highlight two of them.

Number One on my list is the Cincinnati Red’s 1976 season.  By this time the the team was known as The Big Red Machine. According to Wikipedia:

The Reds won their second consecutive National League West title in 1976 with a record of 102-60, 10 games ahead of the runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers.

They went on to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1976 National League Championship Series in three straight games, and then won their second consecutive World Series title in four straight games over the New York Yankees.

They were the third – and as of the end of the 2010 season, the last – National League team to achieve this distinction, and the first since the 1921-22 New York Giants.

But that was nothing compared to the 1990 season.

The Cincinnati Reds won the National League West division by five games and they set an NL record by staying in first place in the division for the entire season or “wire-to-wire.” This has been done only one other time in the National League in 1984 by the Detroit Tigers.  

In the 1990 Series the Oakland Athletics were the defending World Series champions, two-time defending American League champions, and favorites against the Reds for the World Series. Oakland had a great team and were formidable.

Nevertheless, the Reds swept the World Series that year in four straight games. The Reds went “wire to wire”  straight through the Series. that is: The Reds were first all year long and swept the World Series straight up, thus elevating baseball from just the American national pastime to baseball as poetry. 

And for those of you who prefer statistics to poetry plenty of records were set that year too. Again from Wikipedia: Reds outfielder Billy Hatcher set a World Series record with seven consecutive hits. In addition, Hatcher’s .750 batting average, (9 for 12), broke a mark for a four-game World Series that was previously set by Babe Ruth, .625 in 1928.

So it was with great joy that after many years of spirited if mediocre playing the Reds had a great opening day this year. From Reuter’s: “Trailing 6-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Ramon Hernandez blasted a three-run walk-off homer to steer his team to an unlikely 7-6 victory.”

There is joy in Mudville…..ah…..eh……I mean in Cincinnati today.

The Reds still have poetry in their genes. Go Reds!!!!

Featured Recipe   Roasted Peppers with Anchovies and Capers

This recipe can be served several different ways. It can be a side salad to any entrée or you can make an entire meal of this salad as I show it here today. Or if served on toast or bread it can be Bruschetta. Either way it is just super sweet and super delicious.

I do not have hard and fast ingredient amounts. I just kind of make it up as I go.

This is what you kinda-sorta, give or take, need for 3 people:

3-5 red and/or yellow peppers

1-2 small cloves garlic

1-2 anchovies

1-2 tablespoons capers

About 2-3 generous tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Go withs: Bread and butter.

This is what you do:

Broil or roast the red and yellow peppers. The modern and easier simple way to do this is to wash the peppers and cut in half. Remove the core, seeds, and membranes.

Place the peppers skin side up on an aluminum foil lined broiling rack or baking sheet.

Broil or roast (If roasting in the oven set the temperature for 450-500 degrees.) until they skins are really charred, about 20-30 minutes. It is this charring that makes these sweet jewels get even sweeter. So the blacker the better.

Remove them from the broiler or oven and immediately place in a large bowl and tightly cover with plastic wrap. Let the peppers steam until cool, even cold.

Remove the peppers from the bowl. Reserve any accumulated juices in the bowl. 

Then peel the skins off making sure you get all of the skin off. There are few things worse than eating a roasted pepper and biting into tough dry burnt and charred skin.

The skins come off quite easily. You can use your fingers to pull the skins off.

Cut the peppers into strips and place in the bowl with the reserved liquid.

Using a press add the garlic to the peppers.

Chop the anchovies really fine and add them to the bowl too.*

Add your capers too.

Add some olive oil, a and season with some salt and pepper.**

 

Gently mix everything together with a spatula.

Serve in any of the ways listed above or below.

*NOTE: I know a lot of people do not like anchovies. In this recipe they make the sweet peppers taste even sweeter. It is like adding sugar. I don’t know what that is. It just is. Trust me just this once, pretty please.

**NOTE: With both the salty anchovies and the salty capers you really don’t need a lot of extra salt. I use a teeny tiny bit.

Serve in any of the manners mentioned above or elaborated on below:

Serving suggestions:

Today I served as a kind of Mediterranean type meal salad. This was my main meal of the day. First I served it with some buttered bread. I also cleaned out my fridge. I added some cheese and I still had a bit of ham from the Ham/Pear sandwich last week, so I added that too. I also used up some olives, sun-dried tomatoes. I opened a can of artichokes that is nearing its expiration date. These “extras” would, of course, add an extra cost to the salad cost-out below.

This is a great salad to take to work too. You will be the envy of the lunch room when you bring out this salad instead of a boring old lettuce salad to work.

You can also serve this on toasted bread and make a Roasted Pepper Bruschetta. Just toast some crusty bread, brush it with a bit of olive oil and pile some peppers on top.

Bon Appetit!!!

Cost

3-5 red and/or yellow peppers        $1.00

1-2 small cloves garlic                    $0.05

1-2 anchovies                                $0.15

1-2 tablespoons capers                   $0.76

About 2-3 tablespoons olive oil        $0.36

Salt and pepper to taste

Total cost = $2.32
Cost per person (3) = $0.77

Quote of the Day

A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz. 

Humphrey Bogart

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