July 1, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Black Lives Matter:
peaceful protests or mob violence?
One week ago on Wednesday, while visiting relatives in the Washington area, I decided to drive downtown and see the Black Lives Matter protests for myself. Little did I know that there had been some violent clashes on Tuesday, as a group of people tried to pull down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. That morning, police extended the barrier of security fences, so that now you can't even get within one block of Lafayette Park. That explained my puzzlement as to why most of the office buildings in that neighborhood had boarded up all the windows on the first floor.
Fortunately, the situation in Washington never got as bad as in Seattle, where days of rioting led to the establishment of an "autonomous zone" from which the police were denied access until today. It was an anarchist's dream come true. After weeks of indecision, city leaders in Seattle gave orders to remove the insurrectionists from their enclave. Here in Virginia, the state capital of Richmond has been under siege by rioters who have toppled Confederate monuments while the city government just fiddled. (Today the new state law allowing for removal of such statues went into effect, and they wasted no time.) Such acquiescence is mob violence is an absolute disgrace, but that's a topic for another day.
My other main sightseeing objective that day was to see the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial up close for the first time, but all the parking near the mall was closed in preparation for the July 4 celebrations. As we were driving along Independence Avenue, we encountered a caravan of vehicles carrying signs in support of immigrant rights. A truck full of protesters had a sign along the side with the iconic graffiti art of George Floyd, the black man who died in May after the police officer in Minneapolis (Derek Chauvin) pinned his neck to the street for over eight minutes. Future historians may regard that one episode as the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, unleashing a tidal wave of pent-up grievances among black people. The sign quoted Martin Luther King: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," highlighting the solidarity between the immigrant rights and Black Lives Matter movements. That protest caravan failed to get much press coverage, however.
The three of us entered the newly named "Black Lives Matter Plaza," which consists of the two blocks of 16th Street NW between K Street and H Street. The street has the words "Black Lives Matter" painted in huge yellow letters on the asphalt, and the sidewalks are lined with T-shirt vendors. I was merely a curious impartial observer, and didn't express any support or opposition to what was going on. There was no anger or hostility expressed by any of the hundred or so protesters that I saw. Likewise, the police were restrained and professional in enforcing the closed portion of 16th Street. Some of the signs held up by protesters were either harsh or rude, but that's fairly normal. After a while, we headed back home.
Black Lives Matter Plaza protesters, police (Washington, June 24)
To see more protest-related photos, click on these camera icons:
To see photos of the immigrant rights protest, click on these camera icons:
Links to those and other photos I took of Washington yesterday have also been placed on the Chronological photo gallery page.
The President's religion
It was exactly one month ago (June 1) that orders were given to clear protesters who had been occupying Lafayette Park from the vicinity of St. John's Episcopal Church so that President Trump could have a brief photo op in which he ostentatiously held up a Bible in front of the church. What was the point he was trying to make? The infamous show of shallow religiosity elicited sharp rebukes from the parish priests, from Bishop of the Diocese of Washington Mariann Edgar Budde, and even from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. If the President thought that little stunt would boost his popularity, he seems to have been greatly mistaken. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, later expressed regret for accompanying Trump on the stroll, as did Secretary of Defense Mike Esper. Even though President Trump actively courts the votes of Christian conservatives, as exemplified by his speech at Liberty University during the spring of 2016, he has generally refrained from overtly cloaking himself in religious symbols. For what it's worth, I was surprised to learn a year or so ago that President Trump considers himself a member of the Presbyterian Church.
St. Johns Church ||
McPherson statue ||
Laborers Intl. Union bldg. ||
Old Post Office (June 24) Click on the above camera icons to see each successive photo.
Who is "Black Lives Matter"?
As a rhetorical slogan, "Black Lives Matter" is brilliantly effective. The problem is that BLM is both an affirmation of a simple principle (with which almost everyone agrees) and a political movement tied to certain organizers (with which many people disagree). If you oppose the BLM movement, do you think that black lives do not matter? Of course not. But under our contemporary conditions bordering on hysteria, anyone who speaks out against BLM risks sharp hostility and/or ostracism.
In some ways like the Tea Party movement, which spawned a variety of organizations and associated websites, it is hard to pin down the identity of "Black Lives Matter." The most prominent website seems to be blacklivesmatter.com, through which donations are handled by actblue.com, which is a fundraising subunit of the Democratic Party; hat tip to Stacey Morris. The movement got started in 2013 after George Zimmerman, the self-styled neighborhood watch guy who killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, was acquitted of murder charges. As more such incidents took place in the years that followed, the movement gained strength. Quoting from that BLM website, here are the names and descritptions of the three co-founders:
- Patrisse Khan-Cullors is an artist, organizer, and freedom fighter from Los Angeles...
- Alicia Garza is an Oakland-based organizer, writer, public speaker, and freedom dreamer...
- Opal Tometi is a New York-based Nigerian-American writer, strategist, and community organizer...
The common thread uniting these leaders is a left-wing ideology that prioritizes forging political alliances with other causes such as LGBTQ, rather than pursuing reforms in police departments which are the crux of the problem that led to the current crisis. Indeed, Patrisse Khan-Cullors acknowledged that she and her comrades are "trained Marxists." (See the interview on youtube.com.) I also found blacklivesmatter.org, but that website has no clear organizational identity, just a series of video clips and a fund-raising portal.
I'm a person who has long been firmly committed to resisting the forces of polarization in this country, and I am leery of any peer pressure to join a putative "social justice" cause. Do I support vigorous reforms of police forces across the country and serious dialogue about racial issues? Absolutely, yes. Am I going to become "woke" about racism in America as portrayed by leftists and join their glorious March of Progress? No, thank you. For me, the golden standard is whether a given political leader or group serves to promote greater national unity and reconciliation, or brings about more divisiveness. Those who agitate on behalf of perceived grievances invariably do the latter. For me, failure to unequivocally condemn rampant street violence as utterly unjustified is a sign of moral bankruptcy, and the current situation puts moderate Democrats (especially Joe Biden) and civil rights leaders in a very tight spot. I am extremely skeptical of any movement with ties to extremist ideologies, and based on what I know, I fear that Black Lives Matter is liable to do more harm than good.
Black Lives Matter seems to have a parallel ideology to the 1619 Project, which got underway nearly a year ago in the New York Times Magazine as a scholarly and activist push to reshape how American history is taught and understood. That project will be the subject of a future blog post.
July 3, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Racism in pro sports: what to do?
Ever since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May, there has been a rising drum beat against all vestiges of racism in the world of sports. It so happens that the team in Minneapolis (the Twins) were moved there by an MLB franchise owner (Calvin Griffith) who harbored strong racist views, motivating his departure from Washington. While baseball declined in Our Nation's Capital during the 1950s and 1960s, football surged upward, thanks in large part to the efforts of George Preston Marshall, who bought the Boston Redskins and moved them to Washington in 1937.
There was a problem, however: Marshall espoused racist views as well, and refused to hire African American players, so the Redskins were the last NFL franchise to get a black player. It was for this reason that the statue of Marshall next to RFK Stadium (see below) was removed by D.C. workers earlier this month. It's sad and ironic because as the Redskins had become one of the NFL's premier franchises in the 1980s, a sense of pride and social harmony was restored in the D.C. area. But over the years the team's name began to bother more and more people, who took it as an ethnic slur. One might question why in the world a team would adopt a name with a derogatory meaning, but that's not even the point any more. It appears more and more likely that the Redskins will adopt a new name in the not-so-distant future. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians announced that they are looking seriously at changing the team's name; see mlb.com. They got rid of the grinning "Chief Wahoo" mascot after the 2018 season, and one would imagine the same is in store for the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs. Unlike other teams, the Indians had a valid reason for adopting that name: one of Cleveland's star players in the late 1890s, Louis Sockalexis, was a Native American.
And so, I would like to remind folks about the origins of the Redskins' name. The franchise was born in Boston in 1932, and since they played in Braves Field, home of the Boston Braves, they used their host team's name as their own. One year later they moved to nearby Fenway Park, which necessitated a new name to avoid an awkward situation. What name could retain a sense of identity with their founding and yet be compatible with their new hosts, the Boston Red Sox? The answer was fairly obvious: the Redskins. When Marshall bought the franchise and moved them to Washington four years later, they chose to keep the name.
So, what should the Redskins' new name be? Either the Braves or the Red Sox would make sense, but I think "Warriors" sounds better, since the first letters match the city's name. There ought to be some kind of continuity in team identity, as pro sports franchises invariably derive success from upholding a proud legacy. (When the NBA Washington Bullets changed their name to the "Wizards" in 1997, it kind of fell flat.) Redskins team owner Daniel Snyder will have to consult with D.C. government officials, because they have made clear that they will not accept a new stadium for that football team as long as it retains the current name.
The statue of longtime Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, in September 2018. This image is part of a larger panorama of RFK Stadium, seen in the background.
More web page updates
I have updated the Stadium names chronology page with several corrections and clarifications. The columns for the early decades (1910s-1040s) are now narrower because there were fewer name changes, and the columns for the later decades (190s-2010s) are wider because there have been more name changes lately. Also, I have updated the Stadium lists, Baseball chronology, annual and Stadium chronology, annual pages.
July 5, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Birding from January through March
In my continuing effort to get caught up on blogging about birding (and other subjects), here is another brief summary of my outdoor nature activities during the first three months of this year. As before, I merely list dates and places when noteworthy sightings were made; long-hand prose is used for field trips and other significant outings.
- Jan. 1: Bell's Lane -- Bald Eagles; mating pair!
- Jan. 11: Highland & Bath Counties -- Bald Eagles, Gr. White-fronted Geese
- Jan. 20: Bell's Lane -- Short-eared Owls, Northern Harrier
- Jan. 25: Mill Place & Bell's Lane -- Hooded Mergansers, Great Blue Heron, Northern Harrier
On Saturday, January 11, Allen Larner led the Augusta Bird Club's annual winter field trip to Highland County, and I was one of the three others who participated. Three Golden Eagles were seen early on, and two more later, as well as two Bald Eagles. It wasn't very active, though, so around noon we decided to head south from Monterrey. Soon after crossing into Bath County, a wide variety of ducks and geese were seen at a pond, most notably a pair of Greater White-fronted Geese. That species has rarely if ever been seen in Bath County. The final destination was Lake Moomaw, where a Common Loon, Horned Grebes, and several Red Bats were seen.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Hermit Thrush, Red-tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, American Kestrel, Ring-billed Gull, Common Mergansers, Horned Grebes, and (center), Greater White-fronted Geese. (Highland & Bath Counties, January 11)
Birding in February
February began and ended with sightings of Bald Eagles during excursions made by Jacqueline and me. At the nest in Swoope, the Bald Eagle nest presumably yielded one or two offspring. The only really significant bird outing was the Great Backyard Bird Count (on the 15th), when I finally got a decent photo of a Short-eared Owl, one of three I saw.
- Feb. 1: Swoope & Augusta Springs -- American Kestrel, Bald Eagle (at nest), Brown Creeper
- Feb. 4: Mill Place & Bell's Lane -- Red-tailed Hawk, E. Meadowlark, Hooded Mergansers
- Feb. 15: N. Staunton & Bell's Lane -- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Short-eared Owls
- Feb. 29: Potomac River at Rt. 301 bridge -- Bald Eagles
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Amer. Robin, Short-eared Owl, Amer. Crow, Carolina Chickadee, and in center, N. Cardinal. (Bell's Lane, February 15)
Birding in March
March started off with a real bang, as I was among a select group of birders invited to to a private residence where a Scott's Oriole had been seen for a few weeks. I was a bit skeptical, since that bird normally ranges in Mexico and Texas, but after a while, I saw the bird with my own eyes -- the first one ever for me! (See my Life bird list.) The bird feeders at the residence were busy with American Goldfinches, House Finches, various woodpeckers, and a Red-tailed Hawk overhead.
- Mar. 1: Swoope -- Scott's Oriole
- Mar. 6: Bell's Lane -- Northern Harriers, Short-eared Owls (also a Red Fox!)
- Mar. 9: Bell's Lane -- Tree Swallow*, E. Phoebe*, Brown-headed Cowbirds*
- Mar. 14: Murphy Deming Trail -- Red-shouldered Hawk, Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Mar. 20: Verona & Silver Lake/Dayton -- Blue-winged Teals, Lesser Scaups, Buffleheads
- Mar. 24: Bell's Lane -- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Mar. 25: Staunton -- Sharp-shinned Hawk
- Mar. 27: Cowbane Prairie, Stuarts Draft, & Staunton -- Sharp-shinned Hawk, C. Grackles*
- Mar. 28: Braley Pond (ABC) & Chimney Hollow -- Winter Wren, La. Waterthrush*, E. Phoebe*, BH Vireo*, Pine Warbler*
- Mar. 29: Madison Run, Bell's Lane -- Pine Warbler, La. Waterthrush,
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Downy Woodpecker, Scott's Oriole, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch and American Goldfinch. (Swoope, March 1)
As the month progressed, more early spring migrants arrived. I recorded three first-of-year birds on March 9 and several more toward the end of the month. On March 14 I made my first real hike along the Murphy Deming Trail in Fishersville, adjacent to the Murphy Deming School of Health, which is associated with Mary Baldwin University and Augusta Health. There is a new, rapidly growing community of condominiums at the top of the hill, with a very nice view of the area. I had a very good view of a Red-shouldered Hawk in a nearby tree, and I heard (but didn't see) an E. Towhee for the first time this year.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, E. Meadowlark, Belted Kingfisher, and Yellow-rumped Warbler. (Murphy Deming Trail, March 14)
On Saturday, March 28, I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Braley Pond, with two other participants. It was two weeks after the covid-19 emergency measures went into effect, and each person drove separately to the destination, adhering to the "social distancing" guidelines. The temperature was mild but skies were overcast with a hint of lingering mist. Right from the start, we heard two early-arriving migratory species singing near the parking area: Pine Warblers and Blue-headed Vireos. Also, two Eastern Phoebes were building a nest under the kiosk. After setting off on the trails, we saw Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Winter Wrens, Belted Kingfishers, and more Pine Warblers and Blue-headed Vireos as we hiked a short way upstream from the pond. We ended the trip with 20 species total, not including the Brown Creeper that Debbie Pugh saw after returning in the afternoon, and not including an early-arriving Louisiana Waterthrush at Chimney Hollow and other birds at Dowell's Draft. (Text from the article I wrote for the April bird club newsletter.)
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Phoebe, Winter Wren, Belted Kingfisher, Pine Warbler, and Blue-headed Vireo. (Braley Pond & Chimney Hollow, March 28)
One day later (Sunday the 29th) Jacqueline and I went hiking along the Madison Run road on the western edge of the Shenandoah National Park, and we saw two of the early migrants that I had seen the day before.
July 6, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Nationals to host Yankees in season opener
Believe it or not, major league baseball is on track to get underway in less than three weeks, and at last they have released the actual 2020 schedule. Until today the MLB.com website still had the same schedules that were in effect back in March, which was very strange. So, at 7:00 PM on Thursday July 23rd, the World Champion Washington Nationals (that sure sounds nice!) will have the honor of opening the 2020 season by hosting the New York Yankees. Later that evening the L.A. Dodgers will play the Giants. The games are set to be broadcast by ESPN, which is too bad for the many millions of fans who have "cut the cable" in recent years. If they were smart, they would co-broadcast it on ABC, which is owned by the same parent company, Disney. Presumably Max Scherzer will start for the Nationals, and I heard that Gerritt Cole might start for the Yankees, even though I thought he was among those who are "opting out" this year. It will be a strange and surreal, and yet very emotional and dramatic event.
Summer training (or retraining) began last week, under strict protocols such that only players who have tested negative for covid-19 are allowed into the stadium. In today's Washington Post, relief pitcher Sean Doolittle said he hoped to play when the season starts on July 23, but expressed concern about health and said he might opt out. "Sports are like the reward of a functioning society," he said, making it clear that he thinks this country is not handling the pandemic effectively enough. Dootlittle, who like Ryan Zimmerman graduated from the University of Virginia, has been known as a socially conscious players who is very attuned to workers rights and minority issues. Even though I very much want baseball to get underway, I don't blame the players for hesitating. For professional athletes, their bodies are their livelihoods, and damage to one's lungs could wreck a career.
I saw a report on ESPN.com that 38 MLB players have tested positive for covid-19, which is about 1.2% of all those tested, but it could be more. Two Nationals players have tested positive, but we don't know which ones yet. Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves is among those affected.
Barry Svrluga points out in Friday's Washington Post how strange it's going to be when baseball starts well after what would be the midpoint of the season: "It's going to get late early." On a wry note, he laments that with no fans in the stands, the Houston Astros will not have to endure the loud jeering by fans which everyone expected, and which would be richly-deserved.
The Astros cheating scandal
For the first three months of this year, while I was preoccupied with teaching duties, the big news story in baseball was the cheating scandal involving the Houston Astros. How soon we forget! (Quick rehash: for at least three years up through 2019, including their 2017 World Series championship, the Astros had been stealing signs from the catchers via a TV camera in center field of Minute Maid Park, and relaying the signs to somebody in the team clubhouse, so that the Astros batters would get a warning (clang, clang! with a garbage can lid) if the next pitch was going to be off-speed or not. That might explain why the Astros had the best win-loss record in home games in all of major league baseball last year, and why it seemed so remarkable that the Nationals overcame that record in the World Series. Reactions varied widely, from the cynically dismissive to the righteously outraged. Somehow or other before or during the World Series the Washington Nationals caught wind of what had been going on, and they evidently took the appropriate counter-measures. As one side-effect of the scandal, Manager Alex Cora, who played for the Astros while the cheating was going on, was released as manager of the Boston Red Sox.
So how big a deal was it, really? Back in March, senior Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell noted that Oriole Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken thinks the Astros aren't that much worse than many other teams, and that sly cheating in one form or another has been going on for a long time. Players are always going to bend the rules to get a competitive advantage, but what the Astros were doing was far beyond what's tolerable. It's too late to revoke their World Series title, but there should definitely be some asterisks in the record books. Those who said it was far worse than what Pete Rose did may have a point, and MLB officials will need to consider more thoroughly what sort of sanctions there should be.
Comiskey Park update
Since last year I had been meaning to make some minor corrections to the Comiskey Park diagrams, and finally got it done. While I was working on it, I came across a few puzzles and inconsistencies that I had to resolve. The support beams in the profile diagrams have been moved back a couple feet (one pixel), and such things as the size of the dugouts have been tweaked as well. I've concluded that the "real" distance to the foul poles for most of the years since 1934 was 347 feet, rather than 352 feet or 349 feet as it was sometimes reported. Photos indicate that the left foul pole was at the exact same position when the sign said "347" as when it said "352," and I think somebody goofed in the measurements back in the 1930s, and it never got corrected until 1986. I have compiled my own estimates of the actual outfield dimensions over the years, and I may include that information on that page.
The mail bag
Terry Wallace suggested a baseball-fever.com page as a nice diversion. It provides an annotated series of old photographs of the ballparks in which Babe Ruth hit home runs going 500 feet or more. He also pointed me to a page with all of Ed Burns' "Burns-Eye Views" stadium sketches from the late 1930s.
Angel Amezquita pointed out a glitch on the Turner Field page, so I fixed that and updated the rest of that page as well. Note that I am in the process of segregating the hard data and estimates for each stadium from my own subjective evaluations of them: the "Clem Criteria." I am also experimenting with putting the crude city "maps" that show the stadiums' approximate location in a separate section toward the bottom of each page.
Last fall, David Marshall asked me about doing a diagram of London (West Ham) Stadium where the Yankees and Red Sox played last year. So, I got restarted on that little project as well.
I've still got a boatload of other news items and tips from fans that I need to cover, so please be patient while I get caught up...
July 7, 2020 [LINK / comment]
New page: Globe Life Field!
NEW! At long last, I have finished preliminary work on a diagram for Globe Life Field, the new home of the Texas Rangers which is scheduled to open in a little over two weeks. As yet there are no separate diagram versions for the upper and lower decks, roof open vs. closed, etc., but I expect to do those in the next few days. I must say, it was every bit as challenging as I had imagined (or feared?) it would be, with four main decks arranged in a rather chaotic way so as to accommodate the retractable roof. But it was worth it, and I gained some appreciation for the stadium, which has interesting angles in the outfield wall and many interesting seating areas. For example, there is a very high (and small) third deck of seats overlooking left field. They could have lowered that deck by 10 or 20 feet, and I don't quite understand the point of making it so high. In right field there are two very large decks, evidently catering to lower-income fans who resist insane ticket prices. If so, it's a small step in the right direction. Bucky Nance, the guy who sent me the aerial photo of construction at Globe Life Park, expressed displeasure that public money is being used to create a luxury palace out of reach of common folk. Indeed, I remain deeply skeptical of the need to replace the Rangers' old home, Globe Life Park. It had major flaws, but it could have been improved, at least. According to the Rangers' website, the total cost of the project is about $1.2 billion, of which the city of Arlington will provide up to 50% of the funding. Seating capacity is about 40,300 -- about 8,000 less than the Rangers' old home Globe Life Park!
With two weeks to go before the baseball season (hopefully) starts, I figure I can get at least a couple more of the "top priority" diagram revisions completed by Opening Day, and the other two during the next couple weeks after that.
Snafus in MLB's covid-19 tests
Just when we were gaining confidence that this season would be saved after all, we learn that for some teams there are big delays in the tests for the covid-19 virus mandated by MLB. Both the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros canceled Monday's workouts because test results were not back yet. Monday's Washington Post describes the arduous process for getting results from the labs, which are evidently over-worked. Previously, I wondered why they needed four full weeks to prepare to play, since they had almost finished spring training when the quarantines went into effect across the nation in mid-March, but I guess there are limitations with health services.
That article mentions that the Braves' Nick Markakis has opted out of playing this year, in addition to David Price and Felix Hernandez, both former Cy Young winners. Angels superstar Mike Trout is on the fence, as is the Nationals' closer Sean Doolittle. Ryan Zimmerman, as noted before, was among the first to opt out. The photos accompanying the article show a guy picking up baseballs with rubber gloves, a grounds crew worker wearing a plastic face shield, etc. More signs that this "new normal" is going to make sporting life, and life in general, strange and awkward for the indefinite future...
Among other sports, Major League Soccer is getting underway, and both the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League are preparing to do so under extremely tight "bubble" arrangements, rather than using the teams' own arenas. For such contact sports, those extra precautions make sense. But what about football? Getting up close and personal with your opponent is the whole point of the game, and I really wonder if they can actually hold either college or pro football games this fall.
July 12, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Birding from April through June
With this post about the second three months of this year, I'm almost caught up on blogging about birding. Given that it covers the relatively recent past there is more long-hand prose (including text posted on Facebook) than in my last three birding blog posts: Aug.-Sept. 2019 on June 28, Oct.-Dec. 2019 on June 30, and Jan.-Mar. 2020 on July 5. The subsection for each month below begins with a summary list of my outings.
Birding in April
April marked the first full month since the covid-19 lockdown began, and there were no Augusta Bird Club field trips. (The April meeting and June picnic were canceled as well, of course.) Instead, most of us went on solo bird outings, or sometimes in pairs or very small groups, maintaining social distancing. The Shenandoah National Park was closed for the whole month, and other recreational facilities were closed or had restricted access as well. Being busy with teaching, most of my trips were modest in scope, in and around Staunton.
- Apr. 3: Mill Place, Bell's Lane -- Tree Swallows, N. Rough-winged Swallows*, Wood Ducks
- Apr. 4: Shen. Wetlands -- Brown Thrashers*, House Wren*; Cheese Shop -- Purple Martins*; Big Levels -- Pine Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo
- Apr. 7: Bell's Lane -- Am. Goldfinches, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet
- Apr. 11: Dowell's Draft -- Blue-gray Gnatcatcher*, Black-and-White Warbler*
- Apr. 16: Bell's Lane & Staunton H.S. -- Red-bellied Woodpecker, Chipping Sparrow, C. Grackle
- Apr. 17: Betsy Bell Hill & Front. Cult. Mus. -- Blue-headed Vireo, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
- Apr. 18: South River, Waynesboro -- Great Blue Heron, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Chimney Swifts*
- Apr. 19: Ramsey's Draft -- Blackburnian Warbler*, Black-throated Green Warbler*
- Apr. 22: Bell's Lane -- Green Heron*, Great Blue Heron, E. Meadowlark
- Apr. 23: Staunton -- Gray Catbird*
- Apr. 24: Bell's Lane -- Yellow-rumped Warblers, Brown Thrashers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, E. Phoebe
- Apr. 25: South of Staunton -- Baltimore Orioles & Orchard Oriole
* (asterisk) = my first sighting of the year
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Brown Thrasher, Blue-headed Vireo, Pine Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, Purple Martin, and in center, Belted Kingfisher. (Shen. Wetlands, Cheese Shop, & Big Levels, April 4)
On Saturday, April 11, Jacqueline and I hiked about four miles in the Dowell's Draft area, since Braley Pond had been shut down completely. (Only the picnic area was off limits when I led a field trip there on March 28.) We saw three of the early-arriving migrants from the bird club's March 28 field trip to Braley Pond, as well as two first-of-year birds: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Black-and-White Warbler. Several E. Towhees were heard, and one popped into view. Also seen: White-breasted Nuthatch, N. Flicker, and Downy Woodpecker.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Black-and-White Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Towhee, Blue-headed Vireo, and Pine Warbler. (Dowell's Draft, April 11)
On April 19 Jacqueline and I went to Ramsey's Draft, in western Augusta County. Not surprisingly, the picnic area was closed, but at least the trails were open. We hiked up Road Hollow Trail, and soon saw my first Black-throated Green Warblers of the year -- at least 5 or 6 of them! Blue-headed Vireos were all around, it seemed, and several Black-and-white and Pine Warblers made appearances as well. I also saw a distant Hairy Woodpecker, but the big highlight was a Blackburnian Warbler high in a tree top. The only photo I got was barely recognizable, unfortunately. On the way back to Staunton, Jacqueline spotted a Black Bear on the slope next to Route 250 -- the first one I've seen in almost two years! I stopped briefly at Chimney Hollow, but didn't see much other than a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Blackburnian Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Downy Woodpecker, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Black-and-White Warbler. (Road Hollow Trail & Ramsey's Draft, April 19)
On April 25 I went to a private home south of Staunton to see a Western Tanager that had been reported (only the third one ever in the Augusta County area!), but I apparently just missed it. As with the private home where the Scott's Oriole had been seen a few weeks earlier, the hostess was very friendly and gracious, but wanted to protect her privacy, so only a limited number of birders were able to enjoy it. I had great consolation prizes, however: Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, both the first ones of the year for me, and a wide variety of other birds.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Orchard Oriole (M), White-throated Sparrow, N. Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Towee, and Baltimore Oriole (M). (south of Staunton, April 25)
Birding in May
I really didn't want to miss the peak migration season, so I managed to do two significant birding trips during the first week of May. I had free time from May 13 on
- May 2: Rt. 610 / Blue Ridge -- Indigo Bunting*, American Redstarts*, Cerulean Warblers*, Ovenbirds*, Worm-eating Warbler*, Red-eyed Vireos*, Yellow-throated Vireo*
- May 7: Ridgeview Park -- Northern Parulas*, Common Yellowthroat*, Red-headed Woodpecker*, Yellow Warbler*
- May 10: Bell's Lane extended -- Great Crested Flycatcher*, Green Heron, Baltimore Oriole Common Yellowthroat (H), White-throated Sparrow (late!) in back yard
- May 12: N. Staunton -- Downy Woodpeckers juveniles being fed!
- May 13: N. Staunton -- Ruby-throated Hummingbird*; Bell's Lane -- Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo*
- May 15: Bell's Lane -- Orchard & Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Kingbird, Willow Flycatcher*, E. Kingbird, Green Heron
- May 16: Shen. Mtn. Trail -- Scarlet Tanager, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Bay-breasted Warblers*; Ramsey's Draft -- Northern Parula ##
- May 17: Natural Chimneys -- Rose-breasted Grosbeak*, Eastern Wood Pewee; Hearthstone Lake -- Hairy Woodpeckers; Elkhorn Lake -- American Redstarts
- May 18: Leonard's Pond -- Spotted Sandpipers; back yard -- Swainson's Thrush
- May 22: Bell's Lane -- Baltimore & Orchard Orioles, Cedar Waxwings. Back yard -- Swainson's Thrush, Warbling Vireo (heard)
- May 25: Augusta Springs -- Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore & Orchard Orioles, Canada Warbler*
- May 26: Bell's Lane -- Willow Flycatcher, Orchard Oriole
- May 28: Bell's Lane -- Orchard Oriole, E. Phoebe; back yard -- N. Flicker
- May 30: Cowbane Pasture -- Orchard Orioles, E. Kingbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Cedar Waxwings, Brown-headed Cowbirds
- May 31: Pocosin Cabin (SNP) -- Black-billed Cuckoo*, American Redstarts, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Hooded Warbler ##
* (asterisk) = my first sighting of the year
## = unofficial "field trip" with ABC members
On May 2 (on what would have been the "Big Spring Day" count, which was canceled) Ann Cline and I went birding along Route 610 and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The weather was sunny and cool, almost perfect. We saw numerous neotropical migrants, including seven first of the year species for me! We also heard Hooded Warblers and a Great Crested Flycatcher.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Pine Warbler, Indigo Bunting, American Redstarts, Ovenbird, Cerulean Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo,and (in center) Worm-eating Warbler. (Rt. 610 / Blue Ridge, May 2)
On May 7 I had to go to Fishersville, and I figured that since Waynesboro is close, I might as well go to Ridgeview Park. On the way there I saw a Red-shouldered Hawk on a wire being harassed by various smaller birds. Once at the park, near Serenity Garden I heard and saw Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Parulas*, Red-eyed Vireos, etc. Along the wooded trails there were several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Gray Catbirds, and a Common Yellowthroat*. As I was about to leave I was startled to see a Red-headed Woodpecker*, as well as a family of Canada Geese, several Cedar Waxwings, and a Yellow Warbler*.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-headed Woodpecker, Cedar Waxwings, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Canada Goose (baby), Red-eyed Vireo, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Yellow-rumped Warbler. (Fishersville, Ridgeview Park, May 7)
From May 12 and the next few days, we had a family of Downy Woodpeckers at our suet feeder, with the father feeding his new offspring. On the afternoon of May 13 I finally had some free time (grading duties were completed), and in northern Staunton I saw my first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the year! At Bell's Lane I saw an E. Phoebe, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Yellowthroat, and my first Yellow-billed Cuckoo of the year!
On May 15 at Bell's Lane, I heard a N. Parula and Yellow-rumped Warbler singing, but didn't see either one, but did see two Eastern Kingbirds making a nest just south of the Moore farm entrance, and a Willow Flycatcher (FOY!) was doing his "FITZ-bew" song nearby. Also notable: both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, both Great Blue and Green Herons, a loud Brown Thrasher, a Downy Woodpecker at a nest hole, and an E. Phoebe; most of those were by the beaver pond. I was also happy to see two bird club members whom I had not seen for two months: Allen Larner and Josephine King.
On May 16 Penny Warren, Ann Cline, and I went hiking along the Shenandoah Mountain trail south of the Confederate Breastworks, and it lived up to our high expectations. I finally saw my first Scarlet Tanager and Chestnut-sided Warbler of the year, and we were amazed to see a group of Bay-breasted Warblers (also FOY) in the tree tops! Later at Ramsey's Draft picnic area we saw a Northern Parula. On the way home I saw a Louisiana Waterthrush and two Wood Thrushes at Chimney Hollow. Altogether we saw nine warbler species total, and heard three others.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Northern Parula, American Goldfinch, Scarlet Tanager, Worm-eating Warbler, Wood Thrush, Bay-breasted Warbler, American Redstart, Blue-headed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, and (center) Black-throated Green Warbler and Chestnut-sided Warbler. (Shen. Mtn. Trail, Ramsey's Draft & Chimney Hollow, May 16)
The very next day, May 17, Penny, Ann, and I ventured into the mountain woods, and we had some very nice finds even though the overcast skies made it hard to see. Our first stop was Natural Chimneys, where we heard and eventually saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak* -- my first one of the year! An Eastern Wood Pewee* also came down to pose in a convenient position, while a Yellow-billed Cuckoo proved more elusive. Later at Hearthstone Lake (the road was still closed, to my annoyance) we saw or heard several Scarlet Tanagers, Ovenbirds, and Hooded Warblers. The highlight there was a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers bringing food to noisy babies inside the nest hole. Our final main stop was the entrance to Elkhorn Lake, which was extremely crowded! We heard several Blackburnian Warblers, Northern Parulas, Pine Warblers, but couldn't see much other than some American Redstarts. Penny showed us where she had seen some rare Yellow Lady Slippers, and that was a great photo op. All in all, though, it was quite a rewarding day.
On May 25 I went to Augusta Springs in hopes of seeing the Mourning Warbler that Vic Laubach saw yesterday, but no such luck. I did see my first Canada Warbler of the year, at least, but otherwise it was mostly what you would expect there during breeding season. Other than what is shown here, I also saw Ovenbirds, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, E. Wood Pewee, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cedar Waxwing, and an Eastern Phoebe at the parking lot kiosk, guarding its nest with at least one baby in it.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Pine Warbler, Orchard Oriole, Red-eyed Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch, and (center) Worm-eating Warbler. (Augusta Springs, May 25)
On May 31 Roz Holt, Penny Warren, Ann Cline, and I took advantage of the perfect weather with a trip to Pocosin Cabin in the recently-reopened Shenandoah National Park. We heard many different warblers, but other than the American Redstarts, they were hard to see. Highlights included Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (mating pair!), Least Flycatchers, E. Wood Pewees, and best of all, a Black-billed Cuckoo! It was spotted by Diane Lepkowski, whom with met along the way with Greg Moyers and another guy. On the way back we stopped at Madison Run, and were dumbfounded to hear an Eastern Whip-poor-will singing very close by! Unfortunately, we never did see it. We also saw a Great Crested Flycatcher there, and heard some Acadian Flycatchers and Louisiana Waterthrushes, as expected. It was a wonderful day!
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Black-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood Pewee, American Redstart, Hooded Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak (F), Least Flycatchers, and (center) Ovenbird. (Pocosin Cabin / Shen. Nat. Park, May 31)
Birding in June
I kept up my intensive pace of birding throughout June, with mostly good weather.
- June 1: Shen. Nat. Park: Hooded Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Pine Warbler
- June 3: Dowells Draft -- Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula, 9+ Ruffed Grouse!
- June 6: Elkhorn Lake, Puffenbarger Pond -- Blackburnian Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch
- June 8: Hightop Mountain (SNP) -- Acadian Flycatcher, Dark-eyed Junco, Yellow-throated Vireo
- June 10: Hearthstone Lake -- Wood Thrush, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-thr. Hummingbird ##
- June 12: Dowells Draft -- Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula, Scarlet Tanager #
- June 18: Bell's Lane -- Willow Flycatcher, Cedar Waxwings, Wood Ducks, Belted Kingfisher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
- June 20: Falls Hollow -- Hooded Warblers, Indigo Buntings, Black-throated Green Warbler
- June 26: Dowells Draft -- E. Wood Pewee, Scarlet Tanager, Cedar Waxwings, Wood Thrush
- June 27: Highland County -- House Wrens; Reddish Knob -- Chestnut-sided Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Green Warblers, Black-throated Blue Warbler*; Briery Branch Reservoir -- Northern Parula #
* (asterisk) = my first sighting of the year
# = attempted unofficial "field trip" (solo); ## = unofficial "field trip" with ABC members
On the first of June, Jacqueline and I took advantage of perfect weather with a drive along Skyline Drive in the recently-reopened Shenandoah National Park. We stopped at a few overlooks and went for a couple short walks, but that was enough to get some great looks at birds. Bird-wise, a Chestnut-sided Warbler was probably the highlight, but a Black Bear provided the biggest thrill. On the way back home we stopped at the Cheese Shop in Stuarts Draft, and I enjoyed watching the Purple Martins. Another wonderful day!
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Hooded Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Purple Martin (M), Pine Warbler, and in center Red-eyed Vireo. (Shen. Nat. Park, June 1)
On June 3 I explored the Dowell Draft trail, which had been on my "to-do" list for a long time. (Several of us have birded the fire road at Dowell Draft in the past.) I hiked about three miles each way, climbing about 900 feet in the process. There was quite a difference as you reach the (slightly) cooler higher elevations where Mountain Laurels thrive. Based on sound, I confirmed that there are Northern Parulas and Prairie Warblers in the low open areas once again, but never saw the latter. The expected warblers, etc. were seen along the trail, as well as some Yellow-billed Cuckoos, which I heard but didn't see. The big highlight was on my way back: a family of Ruffed Grouse right in front of me!! I heard strange squeals from the mother, and at least eight fledglings flying away from me. I was utterly enchanted!
On June 6: I explored a new area of Augusta County on the West Virginia border, Puffenbarger Pond. Gabriel Mapel had reported hearing Mourning Warblers there, but I did not. On the way I stopped at the road leading to Elkhorn Lake and saw the usual American Redstarts, Northern Parulas, Blackburnian Warbler, and heard a Hooded Warbler. The road leading to Puffenbarger Pond abounds with a variety of birds, as this montage attests: (Not pictured: Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.)
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-throated Green Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, Blackburnian Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, American Redstart. (Elkhorn Lake & Puffenbarger Pond, June 6)
On June 8 Jacqueline and I went for a vigorous hike to the top of Hightop Mountain in the Shenandoah National Park. We heard or saw most of the expected warblers, but none of the very vocal Cerulean Warblers actually made an appearance. Bird highlights included Yellow-throated Vireos, Acadian Flycatchers, and (at the summit) Dark-eyed Juncos.
On June 10 Tom Roberts and I went to the Hearthstone Lake area, and were greeted almost immediately near the map kiosk by a Wood Thrush that was singing and foraging for grubs. Soon thereafter we came upon a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched on top of the very same dead tree where it was seen repeatedly last year! (I assume it's the same individual.) Other highlights included a Pine Warbler, numerous Ovenbirds, E. Wood Pewees, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo! There were also two Eastern Phoebes and a nest at the same stream crossing where we saw one last year, but in the other culvert. Finally, we heard but did not see Acadian Flycatchers, Hooded Warblers, and Red-shouldered Hawks. I was glad to learn that Tilghman Road is now totally open, as the construction barriers have been removed! We drove to the "lake" behind the newly refurbished dam, but it is still empty for some reason.
On June 12, a delightfully cool morning, I returned to Dowell's Draft, and it didn't take long before I heard and saw a Northern Parula, probably the same one I saw there last week. It was the first of four that I saw or heard, and one of them was singing like a Cerulean Warbler, which had me confused until I actually saw it. There were several loud Acadian Flycatchers and Louisiana Waterthrushes, but neither made an appearance. Likewise for Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, but I saw one of them at least. Worm-eating Warblers, Ovenbirds, and Red-eyed Vireos were numerous and visually prominent. There were also a few Scarlet Tanagers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Eastern Wood Pewees along the way. A family of Tufted Titmice with a few fledglings was making lots of noise. Finally, I saw a Yellow-billed Cuckoo near a nest that may have been his/her own. I was disappointed not to hear the Prairie Warbler that was there last week, and didn't see the Ruffed Grouse either.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Northern Parula, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Scarlet Tanager, Black-and-white Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, Black-throated Green Warbler, and in center Worm-eating Warbler. (Dowells Draft, June 12)
June 20 was the date of a semi-formal field trip to Highland County which I had tried to organize, but the rainy forecast forced me to abandon those plans. Instead I hiked the Falls Hollow Trail, on Rt. 254 near Elliott Knob before you get to Augusta Springs. There were plenty of warblers and vireos, as expected, but none of the Black-throated Blue Warblers which I had hoped. The highlights were seeing two females: Hooded Warbler and Indigo Bunting. I heard several singing male Scarlet Tanagers, but none of them came down into view; I saw a probable female, though. The falls were a raging torrent thanks to the recent heavy rain.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Hooded Warbler (M), Black-throated Green Warbler (M), Black-and-white Warbler, Indigo Bunting (F), Ovenbird, Hooded Warbler (F), and in center, Blue-headed Vireo. (Falls Hollow trail, June 20)
But wait, there's more! I heard something strange out back about 9:00 that same evening, and it turned out to be a family of Screech Owls!!! My neighbor had a high-intensity lantern, which proved to be perfectly suited for this situation. This juvenile was being fed by one of its parents while perched on a tree limb.
Eastern Screech Owl. (north Staunton, June 20)
My final birding expedition in June (on the 27th) was to the Reddish Knob area at the northern tip of Augusta County. It was supposed to be a semi-formal field trip, but no one else showed up. For the first time, I took an indirect route to get there, via Highland County (where I rescued a Box Turtle in the middle of Rt. 614 and saw a pair of House Wrens at a nest in a dead tree) and West Virginia. While ascending the big mountain slope back toward Virginia, I observed a Pine Warbler at a clearing. Soon after reaching the "famous" (to birders) crossroads at the top, I saw some Chestnut-sided Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, and two young Dark-eyed Juncos. Hiking along the road toward Bother Knob, a beautiful cool alpine meadow lined with spruce trees, I saw Cedar Waxwings, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Redstarts, Common Yellowthroat. There wasn't much at the summit of Reddish Knob, but on my way back down I saw some Black-throated Green Warblers and my very first Black-throated Blue Warbler of the year -- finally! Then at the Briery Branch Reservoir I had a great view of a Northern Parula, marking my ninth (or perhaps tenth) warbler species of the day!
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Cedar Waxwing, Pine Warbler, and (center) Black-throated Green Warbler. (Reddish Knob & Briery Branch Res., June 27)
And that's that! More bird photos for this year, listed chronologically, can be found on the Wild Birds yearly page
July 15, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Globe Life Field update
I made good on my plans to finish all the versions of the Globe Life Field diagrams, and as you can imagine, it took quite a bit of doing. Late nights tweaking pixels on the computer screen over and over again like a zombie, until I finally got it right -- or pretty close, at least. For the last two days I thought I had it all done, but then I came across discrepancies that forced me to re-do major portions. For example, the angle of the bend in the grandstand just beyond the right field foul pole is much different than I had previously estimated, and this resulted in the size of the two right field decks "growing" by at least 20 feet. Now you can see how the retractable roof operates, and can compare the lower-level to the upper-level diagrams. Note that because there is virtually no overhang between the first and second decks, I did a second-deck diagram instead of a first-deck one. To compare the new, improved diagram version to what I presented last week, just roll your mouse over the thumbnail image above.
I have read some less than favorable reviews of Globe Life Field, but the negativity seems to stem from the high cost to the local taxpayers and the dubious necessity of building a new baseball palace when the "old" one was still in its prime. As I have said before, Globe Life Park (or whatever of the myriad other names it has been called over the years) was poorly designed (hardly any shade) and way too big, but it was serviceable and could have been improved. My impression of Globe Life Field (the new one), has improved as I have become acquainted with all the sundry details of how it is put together. The big brick support arches beyond left field are a major aesthetic feature, and I made a point to clarify that in my "exposed" (no roof) diagram version.
Nervous hopes for baseball
With only eight days before the 2020 baseball season starts, there are continuing indications of uncertainty and nervousness. In Canada, the government is trying to get Major League Baseball to adjust the Toronto Blue Jays' schedule to minimize the frequency of border crossings. At present, only essential travel from the U.S. into Canada is permitted, due to the coronavirus. I don't see how Canada's request can be reasonably accommodated. The Nats play the Blue Jays in Washington on July 27 and 28, followed by two games in Toronto.
The Washington Nationals are scheduled to play a practice game with the Philadelphia Phillies in D.C. this Saturday, followed by two games against the Orioles -- one in Baltimore and then one back home. That will do it for "summer training," and after taking Wednesday off to rest, the Nationals welcome the New York Yankees to Nationals Park on Thursday to open the 2020 season. Did I mention that's just eight days from now??!!
Several Nats players have been in quarantine because of possible contact with the coronavirus while visiting family members in Latin America; the most notable one is the young superstar slugger Juan Soto. Losing him would be a huge blow to the Nats' hopes for a repeat World Series title. Since Nats pitcher Joe Ross has opted out of the 2020 season, Erick Fedde is the presumed fifth man in the starting rotation. Like Ross, he has shown occasional great promise over the last few years, but has had control problems. (See today's Washington Post.)
July 16, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Hail to the (name to be announced later)?
As had been anticipated for the past few weeks, the Washington Redskins formally announced on Monday that they will no longer be called the Redskins. The news came ten days after the team began a formal review of the name issue on July 3. See the rather terse official announcement at redskins.com. The most likely replacement names are the "Warriors" or the "Red-tails" (referring to the World War II Tuskegee airmen), but "Pigskins" (referring to the vaunted offensive linemen of the 1980s known as the "Hogs") is another distant possibility. I suppose the team song "Hail to the Redskins" will be banned in the future, but it may depend on the new name.
It is important to note that majority franchise owner Dan Synder vowed several years ago that he would "NEVER" change the Redskins' name. His change of heart was quite obviously the result of financial pressure from corporations that do business with the Redskins, most notably Federal Express, which threatened to terminate the naming rights contract of what used to be called Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. (See below.) Unfortunately, these circumstances will taint any future efforts by the Washington NFL franchise to promote social justice causes. Of course, this will become much more significant if the National Football League season actually does take place this fall. Many high school and college teams are canceling much or all of their 2020 schedules, so NFL games this year are by no means certain. They only have six weeks to change uniforms, stadium logos, stationery, etc. Unlike baseball, the very nature of football involves constant, close physical contact with opponents, and the risk of a single player infecting two entire teams in the course of a single game may be too much to take.
Closeup of the southeast entrance to FedEx Field, in Landover, Maryland, with the Washington Redskins logo. (Sept. 28, 2014) To see the whole photo, click here.
To me it's obvious that the name "Redskins" was never intended as an insult, but it was not exactly a polite reference to the Native American population either. Most sport team names invoke tough or fearsome qualities, sometimes roguish in nature. The way I figure it, 14 of the 32 current NFL team names refer to human beings based on occupation, size, geographical region, history, ethnicity, etc. (including 2 that refer to Indians), another 14 are derived from animals (including 4 birds), and the remaining four are hard to classify: Bills, Browns, Jets, and Chargers. As for Major League Baseball, 19 of the 30 current team names seem to refer to human beings (if you include the Angels), 8 are derived from animals (including 3 birds), 2 refer to hosiery colors (Red Sox, White Sox), and the Rockies refer to a mountain range.
History of team name changes
All that got me to wondering how often pro sports team names have changed in the past, and the table below is what I came up with. To summarize the findings, twelve of the 31 name changes resulted from having moved to a new city, reflecting a desire to "start fresh" with a new identity. (Note that 6 of the 13 MLB franchise relocations since 1901 did not result in the name being changed; see the MLB franchises page. If you count the Athletics being called the "A's" during their early years in Oakland, that would be just 5 of the 13.) Five the the name changes are unknown to me. Two of the baseball team names (Highlanders and Astros) were based on the stadium they were playing in, and four of the football team names (Bears, Pirates, Redskins, and Jets) were related to the "host" MLB team with which they shared the facilities. Finally, team names reverted to old names seven times, most often after just a few years with a new name that didn't catch on. The two ambiguous cases are the Washington Senators/Nationals (1905-1955), when most people just stuck to the old name on an informal basis, and the Oakland Athletics/A's (1968-1986), the latter of which is merely an abbreviation of the former.
Other teams being targeted include the Cleveland Indians (who have already committed to changing their name), the Atlanta Braves, the Kansas City Chiefs, and believe it or not, the Texas Rangers! (Before the Civil War, the Rangers were responsible in part for rounding up escaped slaves.) As far as I can tell, the only other team name that was ever considered offensive was the Cincinnati Reds; during the Red Scare of the 1950s, being called a "red" was equivalent to being called a traitor. (Say, maybe the Redskins could simply be called the "Reds," without using any Native American symbols!) Any future name reversion appears highly unlikely with the Redskins, however.
Name changes of pro football and baseball teams
|City (or state)
|Reason for change
|Moved from Milwaukee.
|Moved from Baltimore to Hilltop Park.
|To honor star player Napoleon Lajoie.
|Nationals @ #
|Seeking fresh start after poor seasons.
|Moved down to Polo Grounds.
|In memory of Louis Sockalexis.
|Moved from Decatur, IL to Wrigley Field.
|Fans had to dodge trolleys.
|Moved from Braves Field to Fenway Park.
|Moved from Porstmouth, Ohio.
|To identify with steel workers.
|Reverted to old name.
|Reverted to old name.
|Reverted to old name.
|Reverted to earlier name; Red Scare?
|Moved from St. Louis.
|Nationals @ #
|Officially reverted to the original name.
|Reverted to original name.
|Moved from Washington to Twin Cities.
|Soon to share stadium with MLB Mets.
|Moved from Dallas.
|New stadium: the Astrodome.
|Moved from Kansas City.
|Moved from Seattle.
|Moved from Washington.
|Reverted to old name.
|Moved from Cleveland.
|Moved from Houston two years earlier.
|Moved from Montreal.
|Anti-racist public sentiment.
SOURCES: ESPN Information Please Sports Almanac, 1999, etc.
# : from sportsteamhistory.com
* (asterisk): This team name was later used by a different MLB or NFL franchise.
@ "Nationals" only appeared on Washington uniforms in 1905 and 1906, and "Senators" remained a widely-used name; the name was officially reverted in 1956.
NOTE: This table excludes the temporary mergers of some NFL teams during World War II.
July 16, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Spring and summer excursions
Well, it has been nearly a year (August 6, 2019) since my last blog post about travel, so let's get started. In reviewing the scenic photos I have taken over the past year, I am surprised at the evident lack of travel: there are no entries at all for the last four months of 2019, and only one photo for the first two months of this year. No doubt this reflected being busy with a new teaching job.
Ironically, it was when the covid-10 pandemic broke out in mid-March that I started to get around with more frequency. The pandemic forced me to abandon a hoped-for trip out west to visit my siblings this summer, so Jacqueline and I have been limited to a few day trips. On March 20 we drove up to the Harrisonburg area, the main purpose of which was to locate and photograph the Federal court house to show in my political science classes. (I had previously taken photos of such court houses in Charlottesville, Richmond, and Lynchburg.) To my surprise, I learned that the Federal court house in Harrisonburg also serves as the U.S. Post Office building. On our way up there, we stopped at the Cove Creek Arboretum in Bridgewater, hoping to see birds. No luck in that regard, but we did see a large mammal near the creek that I later determined was a Muskrat!
United States Post Office and Court House in Harrisonburg, on March 20.
On April 19 we went hiking and bird watching in the Ramseys Draft area, but the main highlight of the day was on our way home when Jacqueline spotted a Black Bear along the hillside. Good eye! So I did a U-turn, and got in position for a quick photograph of the bear, which was foraging on some of the few green plants that were available in the early spring.
Black Bear, obviously hungry, near Ramseys Draft on April 19.
During the latter part of May, after school was over, I got very busy with birding in the great outdoors. During one such trip in the mountains of northwestern Augusta County on May 17, Penny Warren led us to a place where she had seen some Yellow Lady Slippers, and that made for a nice photo opportunity.
Yellow Lady Slipper, west of Elkhorn Lake on May 17.
On both June 1 and 8, Jacqueline and I drove up to the Shenandoah National Park. The first time was just leisure viewing, but the second time was a strenuous hike to the top of Hightop Mountain, which provided great views with beautiful blue skies. The restrictions on business and personal activities due to the coronavirus has resulted in a sharp drop in motor vehicle emissions, giving us some of the best outdoor views in many years. Typically, the Shenandoah Valley is blanketed by a faint haze even on "clear" days, thanks largely to all the traffic Interstate 81.
View from near the summit of Hightop Mountain in Shenandoah National Park, on June 8. In the distance you can see the southern terminus of Massanutten "Mountain," which is actually a very long ridge.
On June 24 we drove up to the Washington area to visit with family members, and I persuaded them to visit downtown D.C., where there had been major protests involved with the "Black Lives Matter" movement. It was a very nice day, and I got lots of good photos of iconic buildings in Our Nation's Capital, some of which I will use for classes this fall. As I described in a blog post on July 1, we spent a while observing the protesters on "Black Lives Matter Plaza," as the portion of 16th Street NW just north of the White House and Lafayette Square has been renamed. Fortunately, there was no violence that day, and we felt safe.
The Botanical Gardens, and the U.S. Capitol beyond, in Washington on June 24.
Three days later, on June 27, I went on a solo birding expedition to the top of Reddish Knob, at the northern tip of Augusta County. Rather than the usual route via Briery Branch Road, however, I took a long indirect approach via eastern Highland County and going into Pendleton County, West Virginia. For the first time I visited the tiny town of Sugar Grove, and also took a look at the nearby Sugar Grove Navy communications center, which closed several years ago. It served as a crucial nexus during the Cold War, and it is eerie to see all those buildings and houses for military personnel devoid of any human presence.
The checkpoint at the Sugar Grove communication facility (between the town and the Navy base a couple miles to the north), on June 27.
Finally, Jacqueline and I drove to Richmond on July 9. Once again, I was curious about the "Black Lives Matter" protests, and wanted to see the one remaining monument on Monument Avenue: General Robert E. Lee. But first I wanted to visit some of the battlefields in the Richmond area for the first time. There was a military campaign in the spring of 1862, leading up to the "Seven Days Battle," culminating in the Battle of Cold Harbor northeast of Richmond. Two years later, following the Battles of Wilderness and Spotsylvania, the Union Army approached Richmond for a second time, and basically laid siege to the Confederate capital city (and nearby Petersburg) for ten months: June 1864 to April 1865. I thought Jacqueline would enjoy touring some of the historic plantation houses along the James River southeast of Richmond, but the three closest ones were all closed, so we gave up. We spent the afternoon in the Petersburg area, about 20 miles south of Richmond, eating at Captain Tom's seafood restaurant in Colonial Heights, looking at armored vehicles on display at Fort Lee (which will probably be renamed eventually), and touring the Petersburg battlefield. Then late in the day we spent an hour or so in Richmond itself, seeing the now-vacant monument pedestals that have been defaced by graffiti. The Lee equestrian statue is the "ground zero" of the protest movement, and no police were seen in that vicinity. I will post photos of all that in a separate blog about politics.
Gaines Mill battlefield, on July 9. The above photos, along with many others, can be seen on my Chronological (2020) photo gallery page.
July 18, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Summer practice games begin!
Earlier this evening, in MLB stadiums from coast to coast, the first practice games of this summer "retraining" camp got underway! Most teams are merely playing intrasquad games, however. In Washington, Max Scherzer quickly got banged up by the Philadelphia Phillies, who scored seven runs in the first two innings, including a three-run homer to the right side of center field by former Nat Bryce Harper. With no fans present due to the coronavirus, however, it was a rather surreal spectacle. Final score: 7-2.
Over the last couple weeks, some uncertainties in the rosters have been resolved, such as the good news that Juan Soto and Howie Kendrick have both been released from precautionary isolation and are available to play. Accordingly, I've updated that information on the Washington Nationals page.
Oakland's new ballpark: What now?
Just when the Oakland Athletics' long search for a way to get a new stadium built seemed near the finish line, this nasty plague has put everything on hold. In late May, ballparkdigest.com reported that the A's top communication executive, Catherine Aker, said "The timeline may be adjusted due to the COVID-19 pandemic." In light of expected financial constraints for the foreseeable future, there is a growing possibility that the A's will simply build a new stadium adjacent to their current home, Oakland Coliseum. That makes a lot of sense to me. The proposal to build a new stadium on the waterfront near downtown Oakland was never very convincing. By the way, there was a preliminary agreement in May of 2019 to rename the Athletics' aging home "RingCentral Coliseum," but a bribery scandal soon put ice water on that idea, and it was formally canceled last January. As far as I know, the name change never became official. Yet another sordid chapter in a long series of misbegotten naming rights fiascos -- not unlike the Texas Rangers' former home, Globe Life Park, or whatever you want to call it.
And so, since it has been a while since this topic came up, I thought it would be appropriate to present a chronology of the Athletics' prolonged efforts to build a new ballpark -- a litany of 14 years of business schemes that went sour. You can see a nice summary of the alternative site plans at oaklandfans.com.
November 9, 2006 : Athletics and Cisco reached a tentative stadium deal in Fremont.
January 17, 2007 : Athletics co-owner Lew Wolff pitched ballpark plan to Fremont City Council; fans from Oakland protest.
November 17, 2007 : Athletics submit plans for $1.8 billion "ballpark village" in Fremont.
April 24, 2008 : Co-owner Keith Wolff says new ballpark in Fremont may not open until 2012, or later.
December 9, 2008 : Lew Wolff now plans for a different site in Fremont, giving up on the "ballpark village" at Cisco Field."
January 15, 2009 : Athletics suggest alternate site in San Jose if Fremont proposal fails.
February 12, 2009 : Growing opposition to ballpark in Fremont, but there are big obstacles in San Jose too.
March 13, 2009 : Oakland mayor hopes A's stay in Oakland, but is vague about stadium funding.
November 28, 2009 : Ballpark support in Oakland dwindles, while San Jose prepares to decide on public funding.
February 5, 2010 : Rising hopes in Fremont for a stadium to be built on the site of the soon-to-be-closed Nummi automobile plant.
May 25, 2010 : San Jose Planning Commission's environmental impact statement raises the chances for a ballpark there.
December 7, 2011 : Decision time frame for ballpark in San Jose is being accelerated.
November 12, 2012 : MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is negotiating S.F Giants territorial rights in San Jose, as prelude to relocating the Athletics there.
July 29, 2013 : San Jose city council files federal lawsuit against Major League Baseball over territorial rights claimed by S.F. Giants.
August 29, 2016 (October 2015): U.S. Supreme Court rejected claim that MLB used monopoly powers to block relocation of A's to San Jose, killing that option.
December 1, 2018 : Athletics announce plans for new ballpark to be built adjacent to Howard Terminal Park near downtown Oakland.
March 20, 2019 : Oakland's future ballpark's tapered terraced park will have a rounded shape, rather than rectangular.
Cashman Field update
Remember when the Athletics were forced to postpone their home opener in 1996? Oakland Coliseum was still under reconstruction, anticipating the return of the Raiders after a 13-year stay in Los Angeles, so the Athletics were forced to play somewhere else for their first six home games. They chose a minor league ballpark in Las Vegas, Cashman Field. With that in mind, I updated said diagram with corrections in the grandstand depth and adding details such as lights, bullpens, and the lateral walkway. (Why such a trivial stadium? It was easy to do, and I was burned out after doing Globe Life Field.) To compare to the previous version (2006!), just click on the diagram image on that page. I also added an "exposed" version and a soccer version to account for the fact that it was converted to a soccer stadium last year after the Las Vegas 51s moved outside the city, changing their name to the "Aviators." Unfortunately, no minor league games are being played this year due to the coronavirus.
And where are the Raiders supposed to play this fall? That's right, the very same city that they forced their erstwhile baseball "house mates" to play in 24 years ago: Las Vegas! We'll find out soon enough whether the Las Vegas Raiders' new Allegiant Stadium (see raiders.com) and the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, just west Los Angeles (home of the L.A. Rams and Chargers; see therams.com) will in fact host games this fall, and if so, whether fans will be allowed to attend. (What a weird series of coincidences...) And to finish this discussion of football, let us note the end of Globe Life Park's (not Field!) brief service as a football stadium after the Texas Rangers left it. The brick behemoth in Arlington was reconfigured to accommodate the XFL Dallas Renegades earlier this year, but alas the XFL went bankrupt -- once again, due to the coronavirus. (Are you tired of that cliché yet?) I updated the Football use page with that information, plus the names "Allegiant Stadium" and the "SoFi Stadium."
Speaking of Globe Life Field (not Park!), an article at fivethirtyeight.com (which is mostly about political polls) about the Rangers' new home cited my little website as a source of information (the Stadium profiles page in particular), and I appreciated that.
July 22, 2020 [LINK / comment]
The 2010s: a decade of baseball in review
Since fate has robbed baseball fans of almost four months of expected enjoyment this year, it is perhaps fitting, on the eve of Opening Day 2020, to take a look backward. Soon we will be all caught up in the frenetic division races in this severely abbreviated season, and the recent past will fade from our eyes. And so, based on a compilation of records for the past ten years, I offer this review of the baseball during the decade that just finished, 2010-2019.
One can measure success in baseball (or almost any sport) by the winning record during the regular season, and then by how well the teams due in the postseason championship series. Usually teams that do well by one measure do well by the other measure as well, but the table below shows that there are many exceptions. The San Francisco Giants won three World Series during the decade (2010, 2012, and 2014), but their regular season record was barely above .500 overall. The New York Yankees (and until 2019, the Washington Nationals) were a lot like the Atlanta Braves of the early 2000s, routinely winning their division or at least a wild card spot, but not making it to the World Series. In contrast, the Kansas City Royals were well below .500 for the decade as a whole, and yet they won the American League pennant both times they qualified for the postseason: 2014 and 2015. Perhaps the most consistently good team was the Boston Red Sox, who won two World Series, and ranked #5 in regular season wins from 2010 to 2019.
Indeed, it may come as a surprise to some people that the Washington Nationals rank fourth among all major league teams in terms of total regular season game wins (879) during the 2010s. It would probably come as an even bigger surprise that, excluding the first two years (2010 and 2011), the Nationals won more regular season games (730) than any other major league team! From that perspective, the Nats' World Series victory in 2019 was long overdue. The Yankees came in second with 729 games over those eight years, 2012-2019. See the Washington Nationals page for more details, year by year.
|Regular season game wins
(810 = 50%)
|World Series wins
|World Series losses
|New York Yankees
|Los Angeles Dodgers
|St. Louis Cardinals
|Boston Red Sox
|Tampa Bay Rays
|Los Angeles Angels
|San Francisco Giants
|Toronto Blue Jays
|New York Mets
|Kansas City Royals
|Chicago White Sox
|San Diego Padres
|Miami (Florida) Marlins
SOURCE: Regular season wins (first column) from baseball-reference.com; other three columns are from the Postseason scores page on this website.
Setting aside all those numbers, which World Series of the past decade was most dramatic and/or memorable? I'm biased, of course, but I think most people would agree that the 2019 Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros contest would rank high in that regard. All seven games were won by the visiting team, and in three of the Nationals' four victories they came from behind. In part for historical reasons, most people would say that the Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians series of 2016 was the biggest. The Cubs had to win the last three games, two of them on the road, and the final one in extra innings on a freak rain delay that probably tipped the balance in their favor. It's a shame that one of those two long-suffering teams had to lose, just as it was a shame that the Houston Astros' 2017 victory will be forever tainted by that cheating scandal. Perhaps the biggest World Series disappointment was in 2011 when the Texas Rangers came within a hair's breadth of winning it all in Game 6 (in St. Louis), only to lose to the Cardinals in extra innings, and then losing Game 7 the next day. This was a year after the Rangers lost to the San Francisco Giants; back-to-back World Series losses are hard to take for teams that had never made it that far before.
As mentioned above, even though the Yankees had the winningest regular season record and reached the postseason more often than any other team from 2010 to 2019, they failed to win the American League pennant even once. Quite bizarrely, this was the first decade in almost a century that the Yankees failed to reach the World Series at all!
World Series wins
World Series losses
SOURCE: The Annual baseball chronology page on this website.
Ballpark changes in the 2010s
After a veritable explosion of new ballpark construction in the 1990s (10) and 2000s (12), it is no surprise that only three new MLB stadiums were built during the 2010s: Target Field (2010), Marlins Park (2012), and Truist Park, originally called SunTrust Park (2017). We already have one new stadium this decade (Globe Life Field), and one would think that both the Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays will get new stadiums by the year 2029. Maybe the L.A. Angels will get a new one as well.
In addition, the following ballparks underwent significant renovations or modifications during the 2010s: Dodger Stadium and Coors Field* (2014); Progressive Field* (2015); Wrigley Field (2015 and 2018); and Tropicana Field* (2019). These are listed on the Stadium chronology (annual) page. Those marked with asterisks (*) underwent major reducations in seating capacity, but only at Coors Field and Progressive Field did this entail upgrades in the facilities -- fancy social gathering places, etc. At Tropicana Field they just closed the upper deck in 2019, much like the upper deck of Oakland Coliseum was closed from 2006 through 2016.
Six MLB stadiums had their names change over the course of the decade, not counting the quick reversion of "O.co Coliseum" (2011 only) to its old name (Oakland Coliseum) in 2012. In 2010 Dolphin Stadium / Landshark Stadium became Sun Life Stadium; it was later renamed "Hard Rock Stadium" in 2016, but that was after the Marlins had departed. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington became Globe Life Park in 2014, U.S. Cellular Field became Guaranteed Rate Field in 2017, and Safeco Field and AT&T Park became (respectively) T-Mobile Park and Oracle Park in 2019. (SunTrust Park became Truist Park in January of this year, but that's not part of the last decade.)
Finally, three MLB stadiums were demolished during the past decade: Yankee Stadium (2010), Metrodome (2014), and Candlestick Park (2015). We are currently in the longest period (five years and counting) without any MLB stadiums being demolished since the late 1980s/early 1990s. The most likely next stadium to be demolished is RFK Stadium, perhaps as soon as next year.
T-Mobile Park tiny tweak
I recently saw an overhead aerial photo of a baseball diamond and empty seats in the Washington Post, and I assumed it was Nationals Park. But then I noticed some big differences and realized it had to be somewhere else. Eventually I deduced that it was T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field) in Seattle, but the curvature of the backstop did not conform to my Safeco Field diagrams, which were last updated in 2015. So, I did some photographic sleuthing, and soon determined that the distance behind home plate is about 52 feet, rather than the 56 feet that I had previously estimated. Is that a big deal? Yes!!! And so, I updated the diagrams on the Safeco Field / T-Mobile Park page, also rendering the dugouts a bit thinner than before and adding an entry portal; there were no other changes of note. (You can compare to the previous version by clicking on the diagram on that page, and for the time being you can can see the change in the backstop configuration by rolling over the thumbnail image above.) My estimate of foul territory at T-Mobile Park was reduced from 24,300 square feet to 23,900 square feet, a decrease of 400.
July 23, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Opening Day (Night) 2020 -- at last!
It was a rather surreal scene in Our Nation's Capital this evening, as the Washington Nationals hosted the New York Yankees in the first Major League Baseball game of the year before an unpacked (that is, empty) house. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the Center for Allergies and Infectious Diseases threw out the first pitch in what can only be described as pitiful style. For only the second time in history, the two starting pitchers on Opening "Day" had also faced each other in the previous year's World Series: Max Scherzer against Gerrit Cole, who pitched for the Houston Astros last year. As so often happens, Scherzer gave up a home run early in the game; this time Giancarlo Stanton smashed a ball way up into the Red Porch section, and the ball went an estimated 460 feet. In the bottom of the first, the Nats' Adam Eaton narrowed the gap with a solo home run to right field, but that was the Nationals' only hit in the rain-shortened game. Scherzer struck out 11 batters, showing he's the same fierce competitor he was last year. Final score: Yankees 4, Nats 1 after five innings of play. Attendance: zero.
Talk about a dispiriting note on which to begin the baseball season! About an hour before the first pitch, it was announced that the Nationals' young slugger Juan Soto had tested positive for covid-19. He shows no symptoms, however, and it is entirely possible that he will recover in time to play next month or September. Soto was replaced in the lineup by the young Andrew Stevenson. If the Nats can't get a top performer to fill that vacancy, they've got a tough road ahead of them. To qualify for active duty, MLB players must get two negative test results within a certain period of time.
Across the continent, the L.A. Dodgers are hosting the San Francisco Giants at this very moment. And that is what prompted me to do another series of diagram updates:
Dodger Stadium update
During the off-season, Dodger Stadium underwent yet another big renovation, this time involving the bleachers. The stairs in front of the bleachers were removed, and a table seating area was put into the gap between the fence and the bleachers. (After watching video replays of home runs by Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick when the Nationals played in Los Angeles during last year's NLDS, I could see that the gap is about ten feet wide, rather than seven or so feet wide as I had estimated before.) In the center of both the right- and left-side bleachers there are new open areas for mingling, and in back of the bleachers is a broad new plaza that provides access to the seats. It is similar to what the Royals did with Kaufmann Stadium in 2009. The last major renovation at Dodger Stadium took place in 2014, and I did a diagram update that December.
And so, I updated the Dodger Stadium page with a new diagram, along with a number of small tweaks. As usual, you can compare the new version to the preceding version by clicking on the image on that page.
Dodger Stadium was prominently featured in Naked Gun (1988), starring Leslie Nielson.
More web page updates
Since the Five Thirty Eight blog called attention to my Stadium profiles page, I figured I'd better bring it up to date with the Texas Rangers' new Globe Life Field, which formally opens for business tomorrow.
July 24, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Globe Life Field tweak
As so often happens early in the rendering process, I noticed a few small discrepancies between my diagrams for Globe Life Field and photographs, so I made the necessary corrections which can now be found on the Globe Life Field page. What changed? Glad you asked! There is now more overhang between the first and second decks in left field, and the rear rows of both of them are now vertically aligned. I realized that there are a few rows of seats behind the visitors bullpen in left center field, and the far extremities of that bullpen and the adjoining seating sections are angled, i.e. not perpendicular to the outfield fence. There is a small gap (about six feet) between the fence and the seats to the left of the bullpen in left field, and a tiny gap (about two feet) in the right side of right field. Finally, the upper level of seats in left field is about five feet higher than I estimated before. How did I deduce this? Photos clearly indicate that the concourse in back of those seats is on the same level as the upper concourse in the main grandstand, and the upper concourse in right field. No doubt there will be further corrections in the weeks and months to come, but I'm going to prioritize finishing the remaining stadium diagrams on my "to-do" list first.
As with my Dodger Stadium diagram update yesterday, I made those changes just in time for the grand opening of Globe Life Field this evening. The Texas Rangers will host the Colorado Rockies, and in fact they met the same team in an exhibition game at home earlier this month. I should give credit to Daniel Murphy, who hit a long home run to right field, and as I was watching the video of that blast, I noticed a few details (such as the tiny gap behind the right field fence) that helped me with the diagrams. So hats off to one of my favorite former Washington Nationals stars:
Blue Jays must migrate* south!
After the Canadian government declared that American baseball teams would not be allowed across the border to play games in Toronto, the Blue Jays organization spent several days frantically searching for an alternative site for home games. PNC Park in Pittsburgh? Nope. Their spring training field in Dunedin, Florida? Nope. Thankfully, they chose a much better site, Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York, which is only about 50 miles southeast of Toronto as the crow flies. (Did you know that crows are related to blue jays?) Anyway, that means I've got another MLB stadium diagram to do! Arghhh!! I stopped at that ballpark while en route to Toronto in 2015, when it was called "Coca Cola Field."
* Actually, Blue Jays are not a migratory species, but it seemed like a fitting theme for this news item.
Coca-Cola Field, now called "Sahlen Field," in July 2016. It will serve as the home of the Toronto Blue Jays for much or all of this baseball season.
Coping with covid-19
Yesterday's bleak news that Juan Soto has the coronavirus reminds us how hazardous sports or indeed any kind of work is these days. I heard that Braves slugger Freddie Freeman had an encouraging message to the fans that was shown at the beginning of the Dodgers-Giants game last night. I imagine that if there had been a live crowd at the Nats-Yankees game last night, Dr. Anthony Fauci would have received a huge standing ovation. As bleak as these times are, with many folks hanging on by their fingernails in keeping up with expenses, we really need something to be glad about. Baseball could play an enormous role in restoring this country's morale and perhaps even smoothing over the rough edges in the bitter political divisions among us. I don't begrudge those players who have "opted out" of the 2020 season, but those who do play deserve enormous credit to this nation. Speaking of which, Nats veteran Ryan Zimmerman said he is very eager to play in the 2021 season, which is good news for us long-time fans of his.
MLB supports BLM
Until I noticed the black letters "BLM" on the back of the pitchers mound in Nationals Park while watching the game last night, I didn't realize that "MLB" turned backwards makes "BLM," as in Black Lives Matter. All the players took a knee during the pre-game ceremonies, expressing support for the social justice movement. I'm sure it made Colin Kaepernick smile. Since so many baseball players are African-American, it's an appropriate gesture, and in light of the fact that baseball has been losing younger black fans over the past 20 or 30 years, it's probably long overdue. (I happen to think that one can support the ideals of racial equality without endorsing every part of the Black Lives Matter agenda.) Years ago, Major League Baseball went to great lengths to recognize the historical role of Jackie Robinson (#42!) in helping to integrate Our National Pastime, but more needs to be done to restore the place that baseball once had in urban communities across the country. The Washington Nationals have done a fine job with their baseball academy for young players in D.C., and I hope that other teams do similar things -- especially those in cities with a high proportion of African-American residents.
Credit, mail bag, etc.
Since I gave "credit" to Daniel Murphy above, I should also thank (on a more sincere note) Terry Wallace, Mike Zurawski, and my sister Connie for each bringing to my attention that my baseball diagram work was mentioned on the fivethirtyeight.com blog last week. (I noted that in passing on July 18.) Mike also sent me a link about the L.A. Angels plans for a massive commercial development around Angels Stadium (ballparkdigest.com) [possibly including a brand-new stadium], as well as a statement from the Oakland A's that they remain committed to the Howard Terminal site in downtown Oakland (sportico.com), notwithstanding uncertainties due to the coronavirus. I have been horribly negligent about keeping up with ballpark news that Mike has sent me over the last several months. But I'll do better!
In addition, Larry Freitas recently sent me a photo of Candlestick Park when the "Oakland" Raiders were playing there in either late 1960 or sometime in the fall of 1961. That is one of my high-priority projects. Finally, Patrick Quarry wrote to say how much he enjoys my website, which "is one of the reasons I became a civil engineer." Wow!
[Oops! I almost forgot, Bruce Orser wrote to ask if Giancarlo Stanton's home run into the Red Porch at Nationals Park last night really went 459 feet, as Statcast indicated. Bruce estimates it went 426 feet before landing on a table, and given that it was about 22-25 feet high at the time, it probably would have traveled another 20-30 feet or so. We both think Statcast probably overestimated just a tad.]
Thanks very much to all who took the time to write me. That's just a small sampling of the e-mail I've been meaning to answer, and there'll be more such acknowledgments soon. Thanks as always for your patience.
July 27, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Baseball 2020: the first weekend
For the first time in several decades (I think the headline said 66 years, but I couldn't find it), no major league baseball team has won their first three games of the season. On Saturday, nearly every team that had lost of Friday won, including the Nationals, who had lost on Thursday.
Among the surprises from the first weekend series, the Marlins prevailed over the Phillies, the Orioles bested the Red Sox, and the Giants pulled even with the Dodgers after losing the first two games. Two big-name pitchers were placed on the Injured List: Corey Kluber, now with the Texas Rangers, and Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros.
In Washington, Stephen Strasburg was supposed to pitch, but had a pinched nerve in his right hand, and Erick Fedde took his place. He exited the game with a 3-2 lead after four innings, so Tanner Rainey got credit for the win even though he only pitched one inning. Victor Robles had a huge day, with a two-run double in the second inning, and a two-run homer in the 4th inning. Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael A. Taylor also hit home runs later in the game, as the Nats won it easily, 9-2.
On Sunday, the Nats had a 2-0 lead going into the seventh inning, as Patrick Corbin was having a superb day with eight strikeouts and only two hits allowed. But Davey Martinez immediately yanked him after Gleyber Torres hit a solo home run even though Corbin had only thrown 75 pitches. Why such a short leash? The reliever, Will Harris, soon gave up a home run to Luke Voit, and the game was tied. An inning later Torres hit a bases-loaded RBI single to give the Yankees the lead, and the visitors held on to win, 3-2. It wasn't Sean Doolittle's best day on the mound, as the Nationals' bullpen crumpled in their first big test of the year. But the Nats could have done better offensively, wasting run-scoring opportunities in the final two innings.
Tonight the Nationals begin a four-game series against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, but the visitors will bat last as the "home team" in the latter two games, since Canada refused to allow American players across their border, forcing the Blue Jays to scramble to find an alternate venue. As mentioned last week, they will play most or all of the rest of their home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York this year. Time is needed to upgrade the lights and facilities there, so the first "home-away-from-home" game is set for August 11.
Marlins, Phillies postpone games
After several of their players tested positive for covid-19, the Miami Marlins were forced to postpone their game at home against the Baltimore Orioles today, pending further tests. Because those players were in Citizens Bank Park over the weekend, tonight's Philadelphia Phillies - New York Yankees game has been postponed as well. With a razor tight schedule, the possibility of playing at a later date cannot be guaranteed. MLB officials are having to constantly reassess the situation, and if more teams find themselves in such a situation, the 2020 baseball season may once again be put in jeopardy.
Postseason format: wi-i-ide open!
Last Thursday MLB announced the the format of the 2020 postseason, and as expected, it's a thinly-veiled attempt to make up for some of the revenue loss from canceling the first 102 games of the regular season. It begins with a first round series from September 29 through October 2, including the six division leaders, the second-place teams in each division, and four additional wild card teams. In other words, a majority of MLB teams (16 out of 30) will qualify for the postseason. It took me a while to figure out exactly how the matchups will be structured, but I think I've got it now. The higher-seeded team will host all three games of the first-round series, which means that four teams in each league will be guaranteed at least one postseason game at home, the same as has been the case since the postseason first included three division winners plus a wild card team in 1995. Division winners don't get a "bye," and it's entirely possible that a heavily-favored team could get eliminated by losing two of the first three games. That would suck. I sure hope MLB isn't plotting to continue such an expanded playoff format in the years to come. I despise the way other pro sports (especially the NBA and NHL) allow so many teams into their playoffs, causing their seasons to stretch well into the summer. (Both those leagues are about to begin their 2020 playoff seasons under tightly-restricted "bubble" arrangements.) Anyone who needs help understanding what's ahead (hopefully) for October baseball this year can see brackets for 2020 on the Postseason scores page. (I usually wait until the playoffs are about to begin before updating that page, but I figured that doing so early would serve a useful purpose this year.)
July 28, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Photo gallery additions: 2011
After returning from my most recent trip to Peru (!) three years ago, I created a new system for cataloguing my immense volume of online photographs, to make it easier to find old photos. Since then, I have periodically added new pages, going back year by year, and I have just done so for my 2011 photos. This was prompted by trying to locate the photo I had taken of the Robert E. Lee statue in the Virginia state capitol building, during a field trip to Richmond I led for CVCC students in February 2011. (The statue was recently removed at the behest of the Democratic leaders of the Virginia General Assembly.)
Robert E. Lee statue, in the Virginia state capitol building, Richmond (Feb. 22)
Jacqueline and I went on many nature outings during the year, wanting to get the most value from the Shenandoah National Park annual pass that we had purchased. The Nikon D40 digital SLR camera I was using at the time didn't have a telescopic zoom lens, so I didn't get many good bird photos until I bought my Canon PowerShot camera in January 2013. I did get some good nature shots, however, including this Black Bear, which was only about 25 feet away at the time (we were inside our car):
Black Bear, along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park (June 8)
The day after seeing a Washington Nationals baseball game with my friend Dave Givens on the Fourth of July (they beat the Cubs 5-4), I took the time to visit the Washington National Cathedral.
National Cathedral exterior, south side (Washington, July 5)
In early August I drove out to the Midwest, to visit my family in South Dakota and Kansas. Along the way, I stopped to take some photos in downtown Indianapolis, which I had never visited before. Of course, we went bird watching and sightseeing in various locations in South Dakota. I also saw baseball games in Sioux Falls, Kansas City, and toured Busch Stadium (III), home of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Indiana State Capitol (Aug. 5)
Sioux Falls Stadium, home of the Canaries (Aug. 13)
Kansas City skyline, fog (Aug. 17)
Back in Virginia, I took Jacqueline to Natural Bridge for the first time in several years. We enjoyed learning about history at the Indian village nearby, and visited a butterfly "zoo."
Natural Bridge, in Rockbridge County (Aug. 20)
In September, Jacqueline and I went to a Washington Nationals baseball game (they lost to the Marlins, 3-0), and on the way, we visited Arlington National Cemetery, where I saw John F. Kennedy's grave for the first time.
John F. Kennedy grave, Arlington National Cemetery (Sept. 16)
In October Jacqueline and I saw one of my favorite rock groups, Kansas. I had seen them once before, at the Capital Centre east of Washington, DC in the early 1980s. This time we were fortunate to get seats in the second row, and after the show, we got autographs from the band members. As recounted in my October 10, 2011 blog post, "Kansas totally rocks!"
Kansas in concert at James Madison University (Oct. 7)