Saturday, April 30, 2011

Baseball Book Draft - Round 3

Jason - The Great American Novel by Philip Roth: Phillip Roth makes me think and makes me laugh. The Ruppert Mundys are like the first sabermetrician's dream with the thought that goes into an optimized lineup, though we know today that lineup changes don't make a big difference on wins through a season, don't we?

Mark - Ball Four by Jim Bouton: I read it in the 1980s, the time of my own rebellion. Okay, I wasn't really a rebel, and I don't think that Bouton's book was, either. The book was a bit outspoken, a bit crass, it opened my eyes to what was happening in baseball. Bowls of uppers to keep the players going? Rampant womanizing? Hangovers? It didn't mirror my life at all. Which is why I think I like it. A gritty, grimy story told in a likeable fashion. I'm assuming that several of the players mentioned didn't care for the book at all and I know that Commissioner Kuhn wasn't keen on it, but I liked it.

Jon - Dollar Sign on the Muscle by Kevin Kerrane: Probably the best book on scouting there is. Kerrane, a professor at the University of Delaware, took an indepth look at the Philadelphia Phillies front-office and scouting department during the early eighties. He was given an inordinate amount of exposure to the workings of a front office, something usually kept very hidden.

Baseball Book Draft - Round 2

Jon - The Celebrant by Eric Rolfe Greenberg: Too soon for a fiction pick? I don't think so. Sticking with the Deadball Era New York Giants, this novel about a devout fan of Christy Mathewson's really captures the sense of Matty's popularity and the role of baseball and baseball players during that time. I loved it and it is another book that I should think about re-reading soon.

Mark - A Donald Honig Reader by Donald Honig: This is a bit of a cheat, because it is more than two books in one. A Donald Honig Reader is actually a collection of two of his books (Baseball When the Grass Was Real and Baseball Between the Lines) and excerpts from two others (The October Heroes and The Man in the Dugout). From memory I couldn't differentiate the collection of the two books so they merge somewhere in the middle.

This selection is very similar to Jason's first round pick of the Ritter book. Interviews with players. When Bob Feller passed away at the end of last year I pulled the Reader from the bookshelf and reread his entry.

Complex baseball from a simpler time.

Jason - The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn: I picked The Boys of Summer because, like The Glory of Their Times it is a book capturing former players through interviews. It's been a while since I've read it, but thinking of Billy Cox in a Pennsylvania bar, makes it feel like I read it yesterday.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Baseball Book Draft - Round 1

Well, I was hoping that there were some people lurking who would want to turn this into more of a draft but it was just Jason, Mark and I. So three "teams" it is. We're going to do eight rounds, serpentine style. Jason has the first pick overall, followed by Mark and then me.

Who are we and why do our opinions on baseball books matter? Here you go, in our own words, Jason's in the third person because he's awesome like Rickey:

Jason - Jason as a reader, will read about anything. He still enjoys arguing with Jon about the validity of Audrey Niffengger's "Time Traveler's Wife," mostly to hear Jon's rants (my note: worst book ever). Last night he got to go to a PenUSA reading of "The Pale King" by David Foster Wallace and while in the audience, used his Kindle app to start reading "My Man Jeeves," by P.G. Wodehouse. His favorite team is the St. Louis Cardinals, though the first team he remembers loving was the Dodgers teams of Garvey, Lopes, Cey and Russell and later historically, "The Boys of Summer."

Mark (of Mark's Ephemera and Old Knoxville Baseball) - I rediscovered my hidden infatuation with all things baseball a few years ago. My earliest memories of the sport go back to the late 1960s when my father took my brother and I to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox. Baseball cards came and went until the late 1980s when Orel Hershiser and the Dodgers caught my eye. Books have always been a good part of my life, so I try to incorporate a healthy balance of them into my reading schedule.

Me - I read a lot. I like baseball. I own lots of books about baseball and no, I have not read them all. I have built a research library (with the occasional Dave Winfield book purchase) because that's what I like to do.

Without further ado, round one:

Jason - Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter: (I didn't get much of a writeup from Jason on this one. Perhaps he'll add his thoughts in the comments).

Mark - A False Spring by Pat Jordan: Published in 1975 I did not discover this glimpse into his life until 30 plus years later. It is a look at his time in the minors. There is a wonderful passage in which he describes a meal that the players eat while in the south. Brilliant prose. I learned that baseball books are not all about the stars, the records, and history remembered.

Jon - John McGraw by Charles Alexander: I keep telling myself I need to re-read this one because everything else I have read of Alexander's (Tris Speaker, Rogers Hornsby and Our Game) has been a little lackluster. I found John McGraw to be well-researched and well-written and it really opened me up to the possibilities of not only good baseball books, but also good non-fiction (this was when I was coming out of the somewhat typical "I haven't read anything for fun in four years because I've been in college", years. It inspired me to be more of a baseball researcher and more of a reader.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Moonwalking with Einstein

When I first saw that Joshua Foer had written a book, my initial reaction was, "Why not ride the coattails of big brother?" I've loved Jonathan Safron Foer's two novels and thought his non-fiction work on vegetarianism was good, too.

But it turned out I was just ignorant of what Joshua Foer has accomplished as a journalist. He is a mighty fine writer, in his own way just as talented as Jonathan. He also seems somehow less serious yet more driven. Maybe I'm reading into things too much. Or basing things too much, in part, on Colbert Report interviews.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Joshua Foer
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jonathan Safran Foer
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

The interview with Colbert explains the book pretty well. Foer (from here on out, any mention of Foer by me is Joshua) is investigating memory competitors and finds that none of them are gifted in any unusual way. That is, their brains aren't any different from yours or mine. What is different is that they have trained themselves using techniques so that their memory is extremely well-developed.

Foer begins training with a memory expert from England and over the course of a year develops his skills enough that he becomes the U.S. Memory Champion. The book largely is about his journey with sidebars into the science of the brain and memory.

To me, there was a big question over whether or not the effort is worth it. The tricks used to improve memory take a lot of work and Foer finds that for all his ability to memorize lists of digits or decks of playing cards, none of his work helps him with things like remembering where he put his keys.

I'll wrap up with two things I particularly found interesting. One was a technique called the memory palace that is the primary device used by competitive memory experts. It was developed way back in ancient Greece. The idea is that you take a place with which you are very familiar, like your home or childhood home. Then, when you have a list of things to memorize, you picture each item in a strange circumstance in a spot of the home and then you tour your home in your memory. For example, say you have a grocery list. The first item is tomatoes. You picture a gorilla on your mailbox juggling tomatoes. The next item is ground meat. Maybe you picture a car made out of ground meat parked in your driveway. The example Foer gave that still sticks with me is cottage cheese. His example is picturing Claudia Schiffer soaking in a tub of cottage cheese. In my example here, Claudia and the vat are in the doorway of my home. Keep going through your home and your list is complete.

It seems counterintuitive at first that such a technique should work. Because now you are memorizing not only cottage cheese, but a hot tub, Claudia Schiffer and the door to your home. But the outrageous image coupled with something familiar works as a trigger point and helps you remember.

The other noteworthy thing to me is that Foer works with Dr. Anders Ericsson of Florida State. Dr. Ericsson is an expert on experts. He has been in the news recently as media attention has been given to Dan McLaughlin. McLaughlin has been putting a theory of Ericsson's, that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert, to test. McLaughlin had never played golf and has been working to put in the hours to become a professional golfer. I find it pretty fascinating and have added McLaughlin's blog to my reader. Ericsson's theory also received a lot of attention in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers.

I mentioned recently about deliberate practice and how I need to be more deliberate in my exercising. Although I have a goal (the marathon), it is a short-term goal and so I haven't been working at with a real plan in mind. I've been thinking a lot about what I want to achieve after the marathon and don't have an answer. You really need to have a goal in order to deliberately pursue it. So we'll see what comes in the future.

If you couldn't tell based on the length of this review, I really loved Foer's book. I definitely recommend it to everyone.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dave Winfield, Baseball in Japan and Shopping for Books in York, PA

Something I've wanted to do since I moved here a few years ago has been to go to the York Paper Fair. This event is held twice a year and is supposed to be a large number of dealers in books and ephemera. Being held in central Pennsylvania, I've always hoped and expected that I would be able to find local baseball items there and if I happen across some baseball books, too, well, wouldn't that be a shame?

My schedule and memory have always prevented me from going. Either I forget when it is or when I remember, I already have something conflicting. This past weekend, though, I was finally able to make it. On top of it, the York Emporium, who I think puts on the show, was wrapping up a three day sale on that Saturday. Paper fair AND discount used books. Surely a day of awesomeness was in store.

Awesome disappointment was what was in store for me at the Paper Fair. What a bizarre show. The entryway was almost entirely used records. Phonograph records, not old business records or something like that. Vinyl, not paper. The one notable exception was a guy dealing in vintage men's magazines.

Those kinds of magazines seemed to be a predominate feature of the show. That and sci-fi paperbacks. Then you had oddball specializations. One guy had religious texts. Another dealt only in Civil War era books. There was someone who specialized in Fraktur. One that dealt in vintage homosexual literature. Baseball specialists? Zero. What baseball items I found were almost entirely booklets issued in newspapers or by gas stations which you could pick up on eBay for a few bucks if you had the inclination or spend triple that at this show.

No baseball cards, no programs, no books, no photos, no postcards that I could find. It was almost like they went out of the way not to appeal to me. Wanting to get something, I rooted around in this bin one dealer had that was filled primarily with old membership cards from random organizations. There were some oddball things here and there and as I was sifting, I saw a guy in catcher's gear. Pulled it out and saw the player had dark skin. Given the apparent age of the card, I thought it might be something from the Negro Leagues. Flipped it over and the text was in German. Here it is:

It was a few bucks so I grabbed it. Turns out it is part of a set that a German margarine manufacturer, Sanella, issued in the 1930's. This is one of just two baseball cards in the set. The other is Babe Ruth which goes for $75-100. My card goes for right around what I paid for it. Something different. I like it.

Then it was on to the York Emporium. I was overwhelmed when I was there last time but now I knew where everything was which made my visit a little shorter. Sticking with the Japanese theme, I found a book I had passed on last year. It was 60% off so I snatched it up this time around.

I'm normally a lot more particular on condition but it turns out this isn't an easy book to find in better condition and the price was fantastic. I picked up five other books, including three on Dave Winfield:

Anytime you can buy three books on a Hall of Famer for six bucks, I think you have to do it. Instant Winfield collection. They had the paperback revised edition of Dropping the Ball there and I was sorely tempted to get it just to get four Winfield books but I was being goofy enough as it was.

All in all, nothing really remarkable. Didn't spend much which is always a good thing, especially when getting nothing really remarkable. I won't do the York Paper Fair again but I will visit the York Emporium again. Check it out if you're ever in York.

And if you've read the Winfield books or any other baseball books, make sure you join us this weekend for the fantasy baseball book draft. It'll be fun.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stealing an idea from Joe Posnanski - Fantasy Book Draft

Joe Posnanski and Mike Schur had a fantasy draft today on Joe Posnanski's podcast where they each took turns drafting their five favorite baseball books of all-time. I know I have baseball fans and readers and baseball readers on this site and thought it would be fun to expand the idea beyond just two people.

What I thought I'd do is this. If you want in, leave a comment saying so. At the end of the week, I'll create a "draft order" and then over the weekend those who are in will engage in a draft. Just check in and when it's your turn, leave your pick and a brief description why.

The difference between this and just asking you to list your five favorite picks for instance is that people drafting before you might take your book. You might think Moneyball is the third best baseball book but if someone takes it in the first round, you'll have to choose a different book. Hopefully we'll get a few people who want to do this and we'll put together a nice list of baseball books.

I hope you take part.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Moby Duck

I have to hand it to Donovan Hahn. If you're going to take the title of your book from the wandering, tangential, verbose, similarly named book of Herman Melville's, you ought to live up to it. He does. Not in the sense that Hahn's work is a classic. In the sense that it is sprawling, rambling, and filled with words that you wouldn't ever use yourself.

Moby Duck is about Hahn's search to understand more about a shipment of bathtub toy that were spilled by a cargo ship during a storm in the early 1990's. Years later, some of those toys began washing up in all sorts of places around the world and it piqued Hahn's interest. This book talks about every aspect of the incident that you could possibly think of.

You learn about cargo ships, ocean currents, the Arctic, toymaking in China, beachcombing, trash, boots, flotation devices, seasickness, being a father, and so much more. No stone is left unturned, no thought left unwritten. If I thought T.C. Boyle was bad about using big words, well, I think even he would need a dictionary to get through Moby Duck.

And it's not just big words. Hahn uses big sentences and I don't understand why. I tried to think why someone would do such a thing. Is it to show off? Who is your target audience when you write that way and why doesn't your editor do something about it? I don't know. It bugged me. No, you don't have to dumb down your book, but I think some people might give up or get frustrated when they're coming across a word every other page that they don't recognize.

For all my complaining, though, I did enjoy the book. It was different and it was thorough. The thoroughness slowed things down at times as Hahn went off to pursue some line of thought I couldn't care less about but, like Melville, he eventually came back to the crux of the story.

It's interesting enough that I would recommend it to folks. It'll probably take some time to read but in the end, I think you'll find it worthwhile.

Training Update: After a day off yesterday (details forthcoming), I headed off to bed early and got a solid nine hours sleep. Woke up feeling rested and energized and thought I would give a half-marathon a shot.

DID IT!!!!

One hour, thirty-two minutes and forty-seven seconds. I felt good and think I could have actually finished the marathon given enough time to do it today (and wanting to wait until the challenge in May).

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

It's not often that I write an author. As a matter of fact, it has only happened once (not counting baseball related correspondence with baseball authors). I sent Aimee Bender an e-mail after reading her first novel, An Invisible Sign of My Own. That book was really different, about a young woman with an odd relationship with numbers. I could sort of relate as I have my own thing with numbers, nothing similar to the main character in that book, and I liked that someone was able to capture the unusual workings of such a person's mind. So I snapped off a quick thank you and received a nice reply back.

I wont be writing her again after reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Not because the book wasn't good. It was fantastic. Just because, that's why.

Once again, Bender's book focuses on a young girl. The book jumps forward in time and by the end, the girl, Rose, is in her twenties. She is nine years old at the beginning. Why? Because that is when she discovers that she can taste the feelings of people in the food they make. Her mother makes a lemon cake and when Rose tries it, she finds that she can taste the sadness of her mother in it.

Growing up, she tries to avoid homemade food because of her unwillingness to taste emotion. She relies on processed foods as much as possible and somehow manages to hide her "gift" from everyone but her brother's best friend.

Part of the reason she is able to hide her ability is that her family is a tad dysfunctional. Her brother is aloof, and as he gets older, he vanishes for periods of time. Rose's father is a lawyer who provides for his family but seems to do little else. The mother we know is sad. She also seems to lack focus in her life until she starts working at a carpentry co-op.

As the book progresses through Rose's narration, we naturally find out more about all the characters and the secrets that some of them possess. A lot of what is exposed comes from her being able to tell things from food. Some of it is told to her. Some of it seems to come from nowhere. This last bit can be a bit annoying at times if you stop to think about why on earth she would know such things. I wasn't bothered by it much. The ending has good and bad twists. Unexpected to say the least. In terms of a plot, I don't know that there's much of one. Just the life of an unusual girl and her messed up family.

I do know that despite being in the middle of several other books, I put them all on hold to plow through this one. I loved it. It's my favorite work of fiction that I have read this year. It's not for everybody nor is her other book. I would even hazard a guess that if we polled everyone who has or does read it, more will not like it than those who will and I can understand that. Sure enough, on Amazon right now, there are 115 4 or 5-star reviews compared to 112 reviews of three stars or less.

If you're not sure whether to take a gamble on it, keep in mind that Bender's writing is very crisp and concise. My eleven-year old son is just about done reading it and he's enjoyed it, too. Not calling it the best novel he's read this year but he does like it. That's how clear the writing is. The book moves along. I'd say take a shot. If it grabs you early on, I expect you'll finish it and like it. You won't read anything like it.

Oh, just as a P.S. aside, one of the things that struck me about Bender back when I first read her was that she is/was part of a writing group in L.A. Two of the other members of that writing group are/were Glen David Gold, author of one of my all-time favorites, Carter Beats the Devil, and Gold's wife, Alice Sebold, author of several books including The Lovely Bones. That's some fine company to be keeping.

Training Update:I'm a mess. Today was the first time I rowed since last Thursday's ten miler. In between then and now I had to leave work early one day because of a splitting headache and I've had a bizarre twitch in my right eye since the headache. I think it's all stress related. Regardless, it's annoying.

What did I do my first day back? Rowed too hard, what else? Did just short of a half hour at faster than 3:00 marathon speed and, surprise, got tired. So what did I do then? Put in two hard intervals. And they were amazing. I did a 2:30 interval and then a 300 meter one. Why that long? I don't know. A little longer than your normal intervals of 2:00 and 250. Very little rest between the three rows. Where does that leave me? If I was tired from the long row, what business did I have smoking those two intervals? I don't know. I think I'm just fat and strong and that enables me to do what I do and not be able to what I can't. Deep thoughts.

Today's row made this month the month I rowed the most this season. Not too surprising since the last two weeks ranked 1 and 3 on the weekly chart. I don't know if I'm any better or any closer to rowing a marathon. I know I haven't lost weight. I hope to be writing more on the concept of deliberate practice sometime, hopefully next week. My practice is far from deliberate which would account for my feeling like I'm spinning my wheels. I think I am better. The intervals today speak to that. Just have a long way to go.

When the Killing's Done trailer

I received an e-mail the other day from Bloomsbury, the publisher of T.C. Boyle's book When the Killing's Done, which I reviewed in my previous post. They told me they had created a book trailer and asked if I would be kind enough to include it in my review of the book. I checked it out and thought it was pretty good. I think it captures the feel of the book, especially the conflict between the two main characters, albeit focusing primarily on one scene. The actors who play the characters look pretty close to how I visualized them as I read it. I liked it.

I'm not sure how I feel about book trailers in general, though. In a way they feel gimmicky to me, as if the visualization has to be created to get people to actually read the book and visualize the story on their own. What are your thoughts? Have you seen many book trailers? Did they make you more or less likely to read the book?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When the Killing's Done

T.C. Boyle is one of my favorite writers. It feels like I've been saying things are my favorite lately (Morley, LCD Soundsystem's Home and now Boyle) but it's true. I don't throw around superlatives. If I say something is my favorite, it's definitely in the 90th percentile of whatever it is I'm talking about or better.

Getting back to Boyle, he has an amazing way with words, being able to really capture the essence of a point in time, often with multiple senses, without bogging down the story or making it feel overbearing. He also does a great job with character development and dialogue. His works, though fiction, seem real. His novel about Frank Lloyd Wright, The Women, is my favorite book of his I have read.

When the Killing's Done is typical Boyle. The story takes place around the Channel Islands off of California. Alma Takesue is a National Park Service biologist who is out to eradicate invasive wildlife from the islands. Dave LaJoy is an owner of a chain of successful electronic retail stores who has issues with Alma killing off animals of any kind. He heads an organization called For the Protection of Animals that tries a variety of techniques to stop Alma from going through with her plans.

Although Alma and Dave are the main characters, there are also a number of secondary characters, the most notable being Dave's girlfriend Anise. The reader is taken into the past and learns about Alma's mother and grandmother as well as Anise's mother. These little forays help in the understanding of the characters and their motivations. The narration of the story also jumps around from character to character presenting the viewpoints of each character and making it unclear as to who is the good guy and who is not.

While Boyle paints pretty literary pictures, there are some negatives with this book. First, it is extremely stressful. The antagonism between Alma and Dave is obvious and incessant. They think of each other so much, they should be lovers instead of enemies. Both are committed to saving the environment, each in their own way. The way Boyle depicts their reasoning, it makes it difficult to determine who is right on an issue and who is wrong, or even if there is a right or wrong. The ending has a twist that even throws another entire viewpoint into the discussion; does either side even matter?

Another potential negative for some people is Boyle's vocabulary. I always learn new words reading his books and this one seemed better than most. I wasn't running off to look up new words as frequently as I did with other works of his. But it's like they say, why use a big word when a diminutive one will do?

Finally, and maybe it is just me, I really hate reading about smells. I think my sense of smell is my least developed sense and maybe that's why I get irked reading about smells. For better or worse, Boyle writes about smells.

A well-told story with great writing and developed characters outweigh the negatives. Of the Boyle books I've read, I'd probably put it third, behind The Women and Wild Child. The Women is very hefty and not a book that is a casual read. Wild Child is a collection of short stories, a format that Boyle excels at, but one that is different from a novel. So that makes this book a good one to pick up if you're looking for an introduction to Boyle's work.

Training Update: Life has seriously been getting in the way. I was on the rower for a brief moment this morning, the first since my ten miler, and I just wasn't feeling it. Tomorrow isn't looking too good unless I try to squeeze in a quick row in the morning before I get ready for work. Right now I'm hoping to get in a long row Thursday after work before my son's ballgame. Too much juggling at the moment but I am getting some other things done so there's that.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Christopher Morley

I've professed before how Christopher Morley is one of my favorite authors. Although he wrote for a long period of time in the early 20th Century, he is largely forgotten now which is too bad. The things I have read of his, I've really liked. He was a lover of books and seemed like a very interesting person.

While I have read some of his works, I hadn't really realized how prolific and diverse a writer he was until reading Christopher Morley. This is a literary criticism of Morley done by Mark Wallach and Jon Bracker. I picked it up when I visited the York Emporium last year.

Morley was a novelist, an essayist, and, what he probably associated himself with the most, a poet. Wallach and Bracker cover all his works, provide examples of them, talk about Morley's life at the time he wrote them, and do it all in a way that I found quite fascinating. It was like a Morley tasting menu. There was a smattering of this and that. It wasn't all literary criticism which I would have found boring. It wasn't all biography. It was just a little of each. I would have liked more of both which is why I'll rate this one star but it was good. I wish more books were done like this. Maybe there are and they are just too scholarly to be something you come across but I've not seen many like this.

There's no picture because it is long out of print and, naturally, of limited interest. I say naturally. I shouldn't be that way. One of the books I'm reading right now is a collection of essays on books. One of the essays includes a list of the 100 best novels by someone notable (I'm in a library right now and not at home so I can't check. I'll note it when I finish the book and review it) and Morley is on the list which was originally published in 1928.

A lot of Morley's work is public domain now so check him out. He's on Project Gutenberg and I'm sure other things of his can be found online.

Training Update: I got to thinking about my unwillingness to be on the rower for a long period of time and the reasons behind it. I came to believe that it was because I was getting tired. If I'm getting tired after half an hour, how will I ever make three hours? Then I got to thinking, "Why am I so concerned with completing a marathon in less than three hours? Isn't that putting the cart before the horse?". In order to finish a marathon in under three hours, you have to finish a marathon. There is no B without A. Something called conditional probability or something. I'm no statistician. What do I know?

So after work tonight I hopped on the rower and set off at a relaxing pace. And I kept going and going and going. As I kept going I thought I'd shoot for ten miles. As I approached an hour, I was feeling pretty tired and started in with my mind games. Maybe I'll stop at an hour. Maybe I'll stop at a third of a marathon. Then something quite pleasant happened.

Greg Amundson is my Crossfit hero/motivation/inspiration. The guy is just awesome and a fount of positivity. He has trained a lot of military and was a former member of the Santa Monica SWAT Team. He tells the story about how he was going through a grueling multiple-day training with some military guys. Everyone was completely gassed, bent over, breathing hard, suffering. The fellow leading the training said to the Commanding Officer "Sir, pick a few of your men to do the next exercise". The CO straightens up, pulls his shoulders back, exhales and says, "Don't worry, boys, I've got this one". He proceeds to run off to do the workout. His men look at one another and race off after him.

Greg uses this as an example of the body/mind union rather than the mind/body union. Typically we think of the mind leading the body (I know I do). Greg thinks the body can also lead the mind. The CO in the story was just as beat as everyone else. But by changing his body position from hunched over, breathing hard, staring at the ground to one of being upright, shoulders back, breathing deeply, he was able to convince himself he could continue and also inspired his men to do the same.

So there I was on the rower. I figured I had fifteen minutes to go to reach ten miles. I am tired. I am breathing hard. The song changes on my iPod. It's LCD Soundsystem's Home:

I LOVE this song. It makes me happy. It makes me dance and sing. It's why I recently added it to my rowing playlist. It's also eight minutes long. "By the time this song is over, I'll complete over half of what I have left". I sit up a little more. And then I start singing. Why not? I'm breathing hard anyway. Why not breathe hard and use my vocal chords too? How much more taxing could that be? It's not an opera. All of a sudden I'm rowing better. I'm more relaxed. I actually got faster and carried it all the way to the end.

So ten miles. Just over 35% of a marathon. Two days ago I didn't think I could possibly be on a rower that long. Now I'm pretty sure I can.

And what of my pace? How badly did I destroy it? My marathon pace would have been under 3:07.

Oh, and today's row was my longest since I rowed a half marathon on October 9, 2008.

Quite pleased with myself today and thank you all for your continued encouragement.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Morning knowledge

I haven't been up long this morning and I have learned two very important things I never knew before.

First, the word "peidei" in Portuguese means "farted". The word is pronounced "Pay day". There's a certain charm in passing gas and yelling "PAY DAY!!!!".

Second, Max Scherzer, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers is heterochromic. "What does that mean?", says Blogger's spell check. It means he has two different colored eyes.

Photo courtesy of

Two new words, one sciencey, one Portuguese. And no, sciencey isn't a word. But Portuguese is spelled with two u's.

Training update:Busy few days but I've been getting my rows in. The indoor rowing season runs from May 1 - April 30 so this is the last month of the season. I've already rowed more meters this month than any other but one this season. I have to say that I grow less and less enthused about spending three hours on the rower to do a marathon. I also have to say that I grow less and less enthused about being fat and grow despondent when I think about how long it will take to drop it. What a miserable process. Weight gain is so much more easier and enjoyable. Then all this leads to me being less and less enthused about my stupid brain. STOP THINKING, BRAIN! Who cares about your enthusiasm? Then I get worried that I'm thinking about my brain thinking and wonder who's brain is thinking about my brain if it isn't my brain doing the thinking? Who knew that being overweight and rowing could be so existential? Apparently my brain did.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Help me complete my 2008 Upper Deck X Exponential Sets

If you can believe it, I need one card each from the 2008 Upper Deck X Exponential Sets X, X2 and X3.

I need:
X-DL Derrek Lee
X2-GS Grady Sizemore
X3-AP Albert Pujols

If you have any of these to trade, please leave me a note in the comments. Thanks.

Training Update: I came home from work yesterday and was absolutely exhausted. It was a very taxing week. I got on the rower and was just feeling too wiped out to do anything. Had dinner and went to bed around 8 PM.

Put in a good workout today, though. Goofy intervals - 4min, 2min, 1min, 2min, 4min with alternating 3min and 30sec rest. Went outside and did 10 shoulder press x 135, 15 front squats x 185 and 15 push presses x 115. I was pleased with my row and the weight was a nice change in that it was on the lighter side.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Brushing Back Jim Crow

I've been working hard on my paper/presentation for the Cooperstown Symposium. My talk is on the integration of the minor leagues and there is already a seminal work on that topic in the baseball literature. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't reinventing the wheel with my work and so read this book. Fortunately, my objectives differ from those of Adelson's work. Bruce Adelson's Brushing Back Jim Crow is a really well done scholarly work on minor league integration. Adelson progresses chronologically and cites some important moments in integration. He relies a lot on interviews and I honestly think he spends more time discussing non-baseball civil rights issues.

I'm torn on how I feel about his approach. On the one hand, it's important to know what was going on in society in general during this time, particularly in the South. But then again, this is a baseball book and I would have liked to have learned more than just anecdotes from a handful of players. The anecdotes were interesting and often moving but it often felt like two separate books were going on and they weren't joined real well.

I'm nitpicking a bit. It's a great book and very informative. I doubt my contribution will be as encompassing (I do expect to vastly increase the amount of available information). Part of the reason I expect to increase the amount of information is because Adelson keeps his secret. No footnotes or endnotes which is extremely irritating. You don't know when the interviews he cites take place. You sometimes don't know what issues of what newspaper he uses. The book also lacks an index which is truly a pain. As someone doing research on the subject, you really hope that the premier work on the topic would give you something concrete. Not the case.

Definitely a good read for all you baseball fans out there and an easy, affordable acquisition for those of you who collect.

Training Update: Rowed for almost a half hour at marathon pace.

Tim Collins Update: Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the only decent writer on there (not exactly true, Mixed Martial Arts writer Kevin Iole writes well, too), did a really nice piece on Collins today.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More Tim Collins

I got all excited on Monday when Ned Yost let Tim Collins pitch the final three innings of a game against the Angels. Collins allowed two hits and struck out five batters, earning the win when Matt Treanor (obligatory mention that Treanor is married to professional volleyball player Misty May) hit a walkoff homer in the thirteenth. I thought "Hey, Ned Yost realizes that Tim Collins is not just a LOOGY, he's a dominant reliever with the stamina to be used over long stretches". Tim Collins, throwback to the Goose Gossage era, that's what I was hoping.

But then Collins pitched today and only faced two batters, allowing an inherited runner to score on a Juan Pierre (how embarrassing) double before getting Gordon Beckham to bounce back to him to end the sixth. When the seventh came around, new reliever. Alas.

Collins is currently the youngest player in the major leagues. Not bad for an undrafted pitcher. I hope that Ned uses him appropriately.

Training update: Quite a day for me. Work, then a job interview. Left the interview and had a brutal headache which I didn't shake until evening. Had to take my son to baseball practice. Could not find headache free time to workout.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars

The time had come for me to re-read Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy From Mars. I first read this book when I was nine years old and as an adult, I tend to go back and read it every two or three years. I've always enjoyed the story and it holds up pretty well, even after all these years. It's also sort of been influential. There is a minor character in the novel, The Mad Guru, whose name I adopted as my online presence.

The story is told by Leonard Neeble, a short, portly kid with glasses whose family has just moved to the neighborhood of West Kangaroo Park. He attends Bat Masterson Junior High School where all the kids seem to be tall, tan and don't wear glasses. Leonard doesn't fit in and struggles with school as a result.

One day a new kid starts school there, Alan Mendelsohn, who is also "uncool". Mendelsohn is from the Bronx and the two become friends.

Leonard starts to see a psychiatrist who recommends he takes some time off from school. Alan starts a riot which results in him being suspended. The pair use their time off from school to go into Hogboro to look for comic books. They encounter Samuel Klugarsh, a purveyor of books on the occult. He convinces the boys to purchase a course in mind control. They take the course home and learn how to control the actions of others. The only thing they seem to be able to get anyone to do, though, is to make them take off their hats and rub their bellies (with an occasional dance).

Bored, they return to Klugarsh and trade the course in for one on Hyperstellar Archeology, which involves the study of lost civilizations like Atlantis and Waka-Waka. The course comes with Yojimbo's Japanese-English Dictionary and seems like complete nonsense. It tells how there are chickens as smart as Einstein and that packaged pudding can be turned into a deadly explosive with the addition of an unnamed substance found in most households. The pair make fun of the course until it mentions them by name, saying one day they will read about the lost civilizations.

They meet up with Klugarsh at the Bermuda Triangle Chili Parlor where a member of a biker gang there having chili exposes himself as none other than Clarence Yojimbo, a Venusian man and author of the aforementioned Dictionary. He tells them that Klugarsh has everything mixed up and gives them the true key to reaching "lost civilizations", one of which they travel to and save from a trio of Nafsulian pirates.

I love this story. It's a lot of fun and very clever. The original isn't easy to find. But Pinkwater released a book of five of his novels, including Alan Mendelsohn, which is what I read. I did not read all of the stories in there. I find Pinkwater to be uneven in his writings. The Last Guru, which is in Five Novels, also is good. I couldn't finish Slaves of Spiegel and didn't feel like reading the other two stories in Five Novels. My other favorite Pinkwater title is Lizard Music. Not quite as enjoyable as Alan Mendelsohn but a good one, nonetheless.

Some of you might recognize Pinkwater as he sometimes appears on National Public Radio as a commentator. He still writes children's novels. If you're looking for something off the beaten path for youngsters, check him out.

Training update: Nice easy day today. It was mild and raining, too, my favorite kind of weather. Short quick workout. Went out to the barn, opened up all the doors so I could listen to and feel the rain come down and have the wind blow through. Did a quick leg warmup and then knocked out 30 reps of 225 pound back squats. Nice burn in the quads. Quick cool down and strolled back to the house in the rain. If working out were this easy and enjoyable, everyone would do it.

The moral of the story today is utilize your environment to your advantage. Knowing it was a quick workout, I wanted to get it done in the morning while it was raining. If I had waited until the afternoon, it might have stopped raining. When you're enjoying the pitter patter of rain, it makes the weight less noticeable.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Happy Birthday Hall of Famer Tommy Herr

Today is a very important day in baseball history. It was on this day 55 years ago that the legendary secondbaseman Tommy Herr was born.

When discussing the greatest second basemen of all-time, it's pretty easy to rattle off those who were elite: Morgan, Hornsby, Herr, Lajoie, Collins. Yet for some reason, Herr has yet to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. At least not yet.

While we're thinking of things, think of the best single seasons by a hitter. For most of you, Tommy Herr's 1985 season probably comes to mind. Yankee fans will make a case for Babe Ruth's 1927 season. Red Sox fans will put forward the 1941 season of Ted Williams. Barry Bonds' 2001 season will enter the minds of the young whippersnappers.

Herr's 1985 season is clearly the best, though. Only six players have had seasons where the player knocked in 100 runs and stole 30 bases while hitting fewer than ten home runs. Perhaps you've heard of them: Honus Wagner, Sam Mertes, Sam Crawford, Ty Cobb, George Sisler and Sherry Magee. All of the other guys accomplished the feat in or around the Deadball Era when no one hit home runs. From 1922, when Sisler had his season, until Herr's season, no one else was able to pull it off and no one has since.

But one season does not a Hall of Fame career make, you may say. Very true. Did you know that Tommy Herr is the only player to ever lead his league in sacrifice flies twice while hitting more sac flies than home runs? Amazing. He did that in both 1985 and 1987.

Herr was quietly a great player. He was one of the better defensive second basemen of his era. Outside of sacrifice flies, he never led his league in any stats. To look at his seasons independently, you may begin to think to yourself "Hmmmmm.....I think Herr is a marginal candidate, at best, for the Hall of Fame".

Ah, but when you aggregate those stats, those quiet run-of-the-mill seasons, you begin to see that Tommy Herr rightly belongs aside Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Christy Mathewson.

Only one dozen second basemen in the history of the game have amassed 1400 games played at second base, 250 doubles, 150 stolen bases, a .270 career batting
average, and had at least twenty percent of their hits go for extra bases. It reads like a who's who of the game:

Eddie Collins, Hall of Fame
Frank Frisch, Hall of Fame
Charlie Gehringer, Hall of Fame
Nap Lajoie, Hall of Fame
Bid McPhee, Hall of Fame
Joe Morgan, Hall of Fame
Ryne Sandberg, Hall of Fame
Roberto Alomar, Hall of Fame
Craig Biggio, Future Hall of Famer
Larry Doyle, guy who probably should be in the Hall of Fame
Del Pratt, fluke

The final name on the list? Tommy Herr. Not Rogers Hornsby. Not Bobby Doerr. Not Nellie Fox. Not Johnny Evers. Tommy Herr.

It's time for the Hall of Fame to right the wrong and put Tommy Herr where he belongs, on a plaque in Cooperstown. In the meantime, happy birthday, Tommy. Some of us appreciate your greatness.

Training update: Today was a met-con day; power over time. I warmed up with a row and then did the rowing workout. Eight intervals of 20 seconds with ten seconds rest in between. Let me tell you, ten seconds feels like zero seconds. Historically, I fall apart with this workout, usually turning the fifth interval into a leisurely stroll to get my wind back. Not today. I powered through all the intervals and set a "speed/power record" for myself. On the first interval, I touched 1:25 for a 500m pace. That's the fastest I've ever rowed. Granted it was for a heartbeat but still, it was a nice accomplishment.

My distances for the intervals were 110, 103, 101, 99, 98, 98, 98 and 97. Can easily see that I was crushing the first one and then fatigue set in but you'll also see that the fifth interval, usually my recovery interval, was no such thing. I was quite proud of my row.

It was out to the barn then for the remainder of the workout. I was supposed to do as many rounds as possible in five minutes of five reps of 155 pound clean and jerk followed by ten pushups. After a minute rest it was as many rounds in five minutes of 5 kettle bell snatches with each hand followed by five burpee pullups. I could only manage two rounds of each in each five minute span. My weight lifting ability has vanished. I was beat and really breathing hard. But since it was so pretty out this morning I jumped rope for a few minutes before I went back inside. I like jumping rope.

No moral today. I'm glad tomorrow is a day without rowing.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

These are a few of my favorite baseball things #3 - Photos

My favorite era of baseball history is the Deadball Era (1901-1920). Everything about the time fascinates me. The players, the way the game was played, the importance of baseball in communities, the development of the minor leagues, the Federal League, the lack of home runs, the strategy, the uniforms, the music. I could go on and on. It's just an awesome era. So of course my favorite things relate to that era.

I showcased my Cobb print last month. In addition to that, I have three Deadball era photos on the walls of my library.

The most recently acquired one comes from, surprise, my ex-wife. She got it for me for Christmas. Once again, let this be a lesson to everyone. Amicable divorces are the way to go.

This is a picture of the 1909 White Oak Cotton Mill baseball team from Greensboro, North Carolina. My ex spent much of her life in Greensboro and picked this up for me when she was visiting her parents. For a long time, the White Oak Mill was the largest denim mill in the world.

Many companies of the era had their own ballclubs. This photo was taken as part of a series of photos involving mill life at White Oak. It's a cool old photo.
I've mentioned the next one before when I talked about my Addie Joss presentation at the Hall of Fame. I couldn't get a good photo of my copy. The lighting in the room put too much glare and I'm not much of a photographer. Here's a picture of it I found online, though.

You can read the post to see some of the neat things about the photo I like.

The last photo I got when I was at the Hall. One of the perks of interning there was the opportunity to purchase copies of photos from the archives at deep discounts. Some of the other interns went wild and bought entire zounds of photos. Me, I only wanted one. The rights for this photo belong to the Hall so I'm not showing it in it's entirety and I kept the photo low quality with glare and everything for the same reason. I think you can see enough to see how awesome it is. It's a studio photo of the great Christy Mathewson.

Matty was an amazing ballplayer and human being. For you readers out there, you should check out the best work of baseball fiction in my opinion, Eric Rolfe Greenberg's The Celebrant. I might have to get a re-read of it in here. I also need to read a few biographies of his I have that I haven't gotten to yet. Too many books, so little time.

There you have it. Now you have seen everything (or parts of everything) that hang on the walls of my library with the exception of one item, a plate commemorating the 50th anniversary of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. I might put that up at some point. Haven't thought things out that far yet.

Training update: I didn't want to but I rowed a half hour at marathon pace. For a sub-three hour marathon, I need to knock out 1407 meters every six minutes. My splits for this row - 1420, 1423, 1419, 1415, 1416. Any guess why I love rowing so much (hint: one of my splits is a prime number and the standard deviation of my splits is 3.2 meters.)?

This row highlights one of my few athletic strengths and the reason why I think I'm capable of busting out a marathon right now. I call it my pack horse mentality. You can load up a pack horse and he'll just go all day, slogging away until he reaches the destination. I was the same way when I biked. I felt like I could flick on this internal switch and my legs could keep going forever no matter how hard I was breathing, how long I had been biking, how much I didn't want to be on a bike. I'm getting there with rowing. It's a little harder since you use your whole body but if I get in that zone, look out. I can go for awhile.

Today's moral is it's a good thing to use your blog for moral support. I have received e-mails from folks and comments from my good friend Transfixed Ingress encouraging me and wishing me well. Thank you all. If not for you, I am certain I wouldn't have rowed today because I really wasn't feeling it. But I had a good row and I did a lot of post-row stretching and I feel good. This row's for you.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The incredible week of Jack Flater and the 1908 Williamsport Millionaires

We don't see many doubleheaders nowadays, at least in the professional ranks. The thirty teams in the major leagues played seventeen doubleheaders between them last season, none of them scheduled. The Athletics and Angels are scheduled to play a doubleheader in May this season, the first scheduled pair of games in a decade. All the other doubleheaders during that time have been regularly scheduled single games with a made-up rained out game added on. Even these are a rarity with million dollar fields having excellent drainage, skilled grounds crews and tarps to protect the turf.

When a team plays a doubleheader, there is an opportunity to put a gap in the standings in the span of a single day. One team sweeping both games of a doubleheader from another gives the winning team two full games on the loser in the standings. So a doubleheader sweep is a big deal.

If a doubleheader sweep is a big deal, sweeping four doubleheaders is really something (even if they aren't all against the same opponent). Eight wins in four days will help your standing in the standings considerably.

But what if all those doubleheader sweeps came in a single week? For the Williamsport Millionaires, they did. Even more incredible, especially when compared to how pitchers are used in present day games, the Millionaires' pitcher Jack Flater won one of each pair of those doubleheaders that week.

Williamsport's run began at home on Monday, August 3rd, 1908 against Johnstown. The league did not play baseball on Sundays and Williamsport had split a doubleheader with Reading on Saturday. Because there were no stadium lights, the Tri-State League often scheduled second games of doubleheaders to go just seven innings, assuming that it might be tough to complete nine by nightfall.

Williamsport took the first game in a decisive fashion as Happy Townsend hurled a five hit shutout and a 4-0 victory. Ollie Britton got the start for the Millionaires in the second game. Britton got roughed up in the fifth inning, allowing three runs and surrendering the lead to the Johnnies. Manager Harry Wolverton yanked Britton and replaced him with Jack Flater in an effort to halt the damage since only two innings were scheduled to remain. Flater entered with two outs and got the final out. Williamsport tied the game in the bottom of the seventh. With the game tied and still plenty of light, the game went into extra innings. Flater stayed in to pitch and tossed five shutout innings. Williamsport scored in the bottom of the tenth to take the second game 5-4 and make a winner of Flater.

There was no rest for the weary the next day as Williamsport and Johnstown played another doubleheader. Jack Warhop, the league's leader in victories in 1908 with 29, began the day with another shutout of the Johnnies. Warhop only gave up two singles to Johnstown as his teammates scored a trio of runs for a 3-0 win. The start in the second game was given to Jack Flater. Flater was a little shaky, perhaps tired, and allowed a couple of runs to score on a fleet of singles in the first three innings. Johnstown's Patrick Murphy was even more tired. Murphy started and completed the first game of the doubleheader and then started the second game. He struggled mightily, hitting two batters, throwing three wild pitches, giving up eight hits and seven runs before finally being yanked in the third inning down 7-2. Rain began to fall and when the bottom of the fifth inning came with Williamsport still winning by the same margin, the game was declared official. Williamsport had created a four game difference in the standings between themselves and Johnstown in just two days.

The rain kept Williamsport from playing their scheduled game against Altoona on Wednesday so they made the game up on Thursday as a doubleheader. Hap Townsend took the hill in the first game. Behind centerfielder Birdie Cree, Williamsport took an early lead. Altoona fought back and tied the game in the seventh inning. Cree, who finished third in the league in batting average in 1908, laced his fourth single of the game in the bottom of the ninth and came around to score the winning run, Cree's third of the game, giving Williamsport a 6-5 victory. It wouldn't be a Williamsport doubleheader without a shutout and yes, Jack Flater threw it in the second game. Altoona managed just three singles against Flater and the Millionaires won the seven inning second game, 2-0.

Friday brought more rain and another make-up date. Altoona and Williamsport faced each other in a Saturday doubleheader. Jack Warhop easily won the first game 4-2 and Jack Flater got a ton of run support in the second game as Williamsport crushed Altoona 13-2. Cree, Dave Shean and Tom O'Hara all scored three runs a piece in the second game.

When the week began, Williamsport was 54-33 and held a two game lead over Harrisburg in the standings. At week's end, the margin had climbed to 6.5 games.

Birdie Cree was the big hero on offense, going 11 for 24 over the course of the week, being held hitless in just one game.

Jack Flater was 4-0, giving up four runs in 24.1 innings. He allowed just sixteen hits and walked only two men, striking out seven.

Harrisburg would close the gap over the remainder of the season but never catch Willamsport. At the conclusion of the season, Flater joined the Philadelphia Athletics, pitching in five games for his only major league stint. Jack Warhop and Birdie Cree both went to the New York Highlanders where they both stayed until 1915. Harry Wolverton would manage them both in 1912.

Dave Shean also went to the major leagues at the end of the season, getting some time in with the Phillies after being an Athletic in 1906. Shean played off and on in the majors through 1919.

Hap Townsend pitched one more season with Williamsport then hung it up. Tom O'Hara and Ollie Britton both played for Williamsport in 1909 as well.

Because of the era and the limited major league experience for many of these players, it isn't always easy to track down information on these guys. For example, Jack Flater's player file at the Hall of Fame consists of his death certificate and a note with a contact address for his daughter, likely there for some time and no longer valid. One of my objectives in researching the Tri-State League is finding out more about the guys who played in it or at the very least giving them some exposure beyond what you'd find on Baseball Reference. Given that we're talking about a league that lasted eleven years, there's a lot of information. But I'm enjoying it and hopefully you enjoyed reading a little about the league as well.

Training update: This is going to take some adjusting. Did a morning row less than twelve hours after the evening workout. It was to be five minute intervals but by the second interval, my hamstrings felt like a store brand gelatin based dessert (no commercialism here). I ended up stopping before completion. I ended up with over 4K rowed. I then added 50 pushups for good measure.

Today's moral is know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run. This won't make you the coward of the county. Of course, it's not going to give you a killer body and so Ruby might take her love to town. Because she's like that, you know.

All Kenny Rogers songs aside, I'm easing into this by necessity. Injury won't get me where I want to be. Overtraining and exhaustion won't get me where I want to be. I need to adjust down to get up to speed. If my hammys aren't firing, overcompensating with my back is not going to help me in the least.

It's like my primary karate instructor used to say. You have two objectives. Work hard today and come back tomorrow. I worked hard. I was sweating and breathing hard and working my muscles. Because I knew when to stop, I'll be back tomorrow.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Intro -The incredible week of Jack Flater and the 1908 Williamsport Millionaires

Sorry that I haven't been posting much as of late. I've been working on a few baseball projects. I'm finishing up a biography of Clarence Kraft, a fellow who had just three at bats in the major leagues (all for the 1914 Miracle Braves), but was more noteworthy in baseball circles primarily for his being an early home run hitter. That biography will be appearing in a book by SABR on the Braves which should be released next year.

I've also been working on my presentation that I will be making in Cooperstown in June. That's coming along nicely.

My other project, the one that captivates me the most, is a history of the Tri-State League. The Tri-State League (this particular one, there have been a few Tri-State Leagues) existed from 1904-1914 in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. It started off as an independent league but grew so powerful that the National Association was forced to bring it in the fold where the league became a Class B League, roughly the equivalent of AA nowadays. From 1907-1910, the league produced a large number of players who went on to the major leagues including Hall of Famers Frank "Home Run" Baker and Stan Coveleski.

This league fascinates me for so many reasons. The early hook was that it was a league local to me. Lancaster, a town I live right outside of, had a team in the league for most its existence. My birthplace, Altoona, had another. As I've researched the league, I've found lots of things to captivate me and push me onward. My intent is to start sharing some of these items.

At the Boiling Out Conference in Arkansas last year, I presented a talk on the 1907 Harrisburg Senators, a Tri-State team that reeled off an 18 game winning streak (just shy of 15% of the games they played over the course of the season) and still ended up finishing second in the league.

The team they lost to was the one that excites me the most, the Williamsport Millionaires. From the beginning, the Millionaires were the strongest team in the league. In 1904, they finished second, won the championship in 1905, finished second again in 1906, took the title in 1907 and 1908, then had two more winning seasons before the team folded after the 1910 season. Of those teams, I'm fond of the 1908 team. Tomorrow I'll be writing about an amazing run they had in August of 1908 and the role Jack Flater played in that run.

On days where I write about other things, I'm going to conclude the post with my progress on becoming an endurance athlete. I weighed myself for the first time in a long time and I have definitely let myself go. I am at 289 pounds. My first workout was largely off the rower. I warmed up with a 2500 meter row. Then out to the barn for the first time in a while (I am so sick and tired of winter) to work out.

This was a night workout, my first in forever. I have tried to do morning workouts as much as possible but it's not always feasible. Need to make use of the PM.

I started with deadlifts: 5x315, 3x335, 3x345, 3x365, 1x385. Then a dozen vertical jumps, unmeasured. Then hollow rocks and supermen, thirty each.

Now, you might question how this has anything to do with endurance sports. It's core development and some leg work. All part of the plan. I just happened to start with a day with no rowing outside of my warmup.

I'm trying to feel positive about this. I hadn't lifted in two, maybe three months. And if there's another almost 290 pound, almost 40 year old man out in the freezing cold working on his vertical jump, well, he's clearly insane. So on the one hand, I don't think that's too bad of a workout. But back in the peak era mentioned yesterday, I was around 260 body weight and pulling 485 on the deadlift. It doesn't feel like that long ago even though it is. I'm trying to focus on where I am and where I'm going instead of where I've been.

The moral of this story, though, is if you're trying to be fit...going broke, attending grad school full-time, working full-time, being a single Dad, and fighting self-confidence battles is NOT the way to go about doing so. Aren't you glad I told you that?