September 14, 2018 [LINK / comment]
Ebbets Field BIG update!
I took a brief diversion from my planned diagram updates to do Ebbets Field, legendary former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I paid a visit to that location two years ago, and included some of the photos I took on that page. For the first time, there are diagrams of the upper and lower decks, showing where the support beams, grandstand "creases," and entry portals were. As with other stadiums, those architectural "benchmarks" proved very useful in getting other parts of the diagram just right. The ramps are shown in the new lower-deck diagram (note in particular the ones in the northwest and northeast corners), the press box behind home plate is shown in the new second-deck diagram, and the light towers are shown for the first time in the later (1938 and 1948) diagram variants. Believe it or not, this is the first Ebbets Field update since 2006!
Perhaps the most notable change was the slight widening (about one degree) of the overall grandstand angle compared to my earlier diagrams. That resulted in a slight counter-clockwise rotation of the other two sides (left field and right field) relative to the diamond. I used the exterior dimensions along each street that were shown in an old street map/diagram, and applied trigonometry to determine the main grandstand angle, which is (or was) almost exactly 70 degrees.
There are many small changes as well, mostly stemming from "discoveries" I made while peering at photos in the various books I have, as well as some photos available online. Often, such discoveries ended up forcing me to make some rather significant changes. For example, I realized that there were about two exposed rows of seats along the left field side from 1932 to 1947, contrary to my earlier estimation that the outfield wall was perfectly aligned with the front edge of the upper deck and the roof all the way from the left field corner to the right side of center field. It was in fact that way (zero exposed rows of seats) in center field, but not to the left of the bend. The big clue which led to that discovery was that, prior to the addition of new seating rows in 1948, the bend in the outfield wall did not align with the "crease" in the grandstand when viewed from a low angle behind home plate. From 1948 on, they did align, which means that they must have added about three more rows of seats in the center field area than they did in the left field area. That in turn accounts for some of the apparent inconsistencies in dimensions to various parts of the outfield between the 1932-1947 period and the 1948-1957 period.
Another discovery was that the crease in the lower deck near the left field foul pole was about 20 feet closer the home plate than was the crease in the upper deck. For a long time I simply assumed that the upper and lower decks coincided vertically, not having seen any clear photos of that area indicating otherwise, and then I noticed in the detailed seating diagram showing that there were several more rows of seats in the portion of the grandstand wrapping around the left field corner. Another detail is only hinted at in the diagrams: about ten feet above the concourse in back of the lower deck there was an elevated concourse to which the ramps led, and from which the catwalks to the upper deck originated. (Wrigley Field has a similar arrangement.) I have seen old photos with "standing room only" fans crammed onto that elevated concourse.
As I was making what I thought would be the finishing touches on those diagrams, I made yet another discovery. For example, an excellent color photo that appears on page 195 of the excellent book The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 (edited by John Thorn, 2007) reveals that (for the last decade of its history) there were two sets of lateral walkways exposed to the sunlight, with three rows and five rows in front, respectively. To avoid undue clutter, I only included the forward such walkway (located where the front of the grandstand had been until 1947) in the 1948 diagram; all three such walkways are properly depicted on the lower-deck diagram.
There are probably a few other juicy details and discoveries that I have neglected, in which case I will mention them in a later blog post. Finally, I added football diagram since Ebbets Field was the home of a pro football team called the Brooklyn Dodgers, and added it to the Football use page.
Nats sweep the Phillies
The Nationals kept up the momentum after that encouraging come-from-behind win against the Phillies on Tuesday, with a convincing 5-1 win on Wednesday. Stephen Strasburg had a superb seven-inning outing, backed up by home runs by Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Juan Soto. The Phillies ace Aaron Nola, who is in contention for the NL Cy Young Award, was roughed up early by the Nats. It was the Nationals' sixth series sweep (3 or 4 games) of the season, but the first one since May. That right there says a lot about how this season has gone for the Nats. They were briefly only a half game behind the Phillies in the NL East race, but what happened next spoiled their hopes of moving into second place.
Cubs edge the Nats
Interrupting the road trip to finish the four-game series against the Cubs last weekend (which had been rudely interrupted more than once by inclement weather), the Nats played a hard-fought duel on Thursday afternoon, and came up just a little short. In his first outing in more than a year (after recovering from arm surgery), Joe Ross did just fine on the mound, giving up two runs over five innings. The Nats tied it 3-3 in the eighth inning, and could have won it in the ninth if Bryce Harper had gotten a hit. "Doctor" Sean Doolittle pitched in the ninth and tenth innings, which was probably a mistake since he only recently returned from the disabled list. His command wasn't what it usually is, and in the top of the tenth, he gave up what turned out to be the game-winning RBI hit (a weird bunt that got past Ryan Zimmerman), and the Cubs won it, 4-3.
Clash of (rookie) titans in Atlanta!
Notwithstanding the approach of Hurricane Florence, the Braves welcomed the Nats to Atlanta tonight, and the showdown between rival Rookie of the Year contenders Juan Soto and Ronaldo Acuña more than lived up to expectations. The Nats took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second, sparked by a double hit by Ryan Zimmerman. But the Braves came right back to tie it, thanks to a two-run "Texas League" bloop single by Ronaldo Acuña. Juan Soto homered while Ronaldo Acuña hit a triple, a double, and two singles. Wilmer Difo got two RBIs, on a double and a sac fly, but Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper failed to get hits in clutch situations late in the game. The Braves tacked three more runs on in the eighth, two charged to Jimmy Cordero and one to the often-shaky Sammy Solis. That 10-5 loss put the Nationals 9 1/2 games behind the Braves, back down to .500 (74-74), essentially ending their last faint hopes of making it to the postseason.
Max Scherzer almost got out of the second-inning jam, but that showdown with pitcher Kevin Gausman, who kept fouling off pitches and finally drew a walk to load the bases before Acuña's RBI single, started to wear him down early. Scherzer only lasted four innings, giving up six runs, the worst outing of the year for him. He did get six strikeouts at least, bringing his season total up to 277. It seems more than likely that his previous game (see below) undermined his readiness to pitch well tonight. With three more probable starts, he is still in position to reach 300.
Nats' complete-game shutouts
In his previous outing (September 8, against the Cubs), Max Scherzer pitched a full nine innings for the second time this year (the only National pitcher to do so), even though there was no shutout or no-hitter on the line. The Nats had a 10-1 lead after seven, so the decision to leave him in was probably to give him a chance to ramp up his strikeout total in the quest for the magic 300 number. (The closest he has come in his career was 284 in 2016.) He did get 11 K's that night, reaching 271 for the year, but at a cost of two extra runs by the Cubs, thus raising his ERA just a tad. Max had a complete-game shutout this year, on April 9 (Nats 2, Braves 0), reminding me of my August 15, 2013 blog post that tabulated Nats' complete-game shutouts, and my long-deferred plans to put a more complete such table on the Washington Nationals page. Well, I finally did it! Two pitchers have thrown four complete-game shutouts while with the Nats: Max Scherzer (with two no-hitters) and Jordan Zimmermann (with one no-hitter). Nats pitchers threw three complete-game shutouts in each of three consecutive years: 2013, 2014, and 2015, but only two since then, oddly. They threw exactly one such game in six of their first eight years (2005-2012), the exceptions being 2007 and 2008. It's odd that they didn't achieve any such games in 2016, one of their best years otherwise.
Jayson Werth gets due honor
Between the two games with the Cubs in Nationals Park last Saturday (September 8), the Nationals honored their former star slugger Jayson Werth, who announced his retirement in midseason after a stint in the minors with the Seattle Mariners organization. His name was the first of a Nationals player (as opposed to Senators or Expos) to be added to the Nationals Park "Ring of Honor," the de facto Hall of Fame for former Washington and Montreal baseball players. I would have loved to have been there, but the rainy forecast made that too much of a risky proposition. But I paid rapt attention to the ceremony and to the video replays of Jayson's biggest moments with the Nats.
It was in early December 2010 that the Nationals acquired free agent Jayson Werth, who had played a few years with the Phillies after beginning his career with the L.A. Dodgers. It was one of General Manager Mike Rizzo's biggest roster coups up to that point, and it signified a big turning point in the franchise's history. The Nats made a huge leap from 69-93 (.426) in 2010 to 80-81 (.497) in 2011, and of course one year later came their breakout year when they first won the NL East division title with a 98-64 (.605) record. Without a doubt, the biggest triumph in his career with the Nats came on October 11, 2012, when he hit a ninth-inning walk-off home run to save the Nats and send the NLDS to Game 5. (Let's ignore that for the moment.) I happened to be present for a similar game-changing home run by Jayson about a month earlier, on September 8, 2012:
In one of his interviews, I was pleasantly surprised when Jayson said his second proudest moment was when he hit a double in the bottom of the 12th inning to beat the Cubs and win the series June 15, 2016. That series was a big showdown with Cubs, who were likewise serious postseason contenders that year. Perhaps as memorable as the double itself was when he blurted out "Holy $#!+" in the postgame interview with Dan Kolko, who was often the butt of Jayson's gibes. He had been getting lots of criticism for underperforming and for getting too old, and his exultation is easily understandable. Jayson is perhaps not the best role model for young kids, and he showed off his roguish impulses when he was arrested for driving over 100 MPH on the Capital Beltway in August 2014. (He actually spent a few days in jail in early 2015.) But sometimes those qualities are needed in sports, where leadership plays a big role in inspiring players to do their best.
Thank you, Jayson!
You will NOT be forgotten in Nats Town!!!