Baseball

Serge Melki via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/e85iBR

From the loyal dog to the house cat to the horse, domestication has bridged the gap between wild animals and humans. On today’s show, the evolutionary advantages of domestication, and how we got from wildcat to the purring kitten of a zillion video memes.

Then, from playing catch in the backyard to taking junior to his first ball game, baseball is a bonding tradition, and cliché, for many American men. We’ll look at the father-son relationship through the lens of baseball.

Courtesy of the Carson Entertainment Group / JohnnyCarson.com

The late night talk show monologue is one of few times TV audiences can still share a good laugh. On today’s show, we’ll talk to a seasoned comedy writer about the one time of day when power, rather than partisanship, is the punch line.

Then we’ll speak with an English professor who ditched his tweed jacket and elbow patches and joined a mixed martial arts gym to find out why men love to fight.

Plus, sabermetrics spawned a revolution in how baseball teams were built and inspired a blockbuster movie starring Brad Pitt, but does empirical analysis of baseball statistics still work today?

As Kansas City finds itself in its first World Series since 1985, its easy to think upon our own championship drought, which ended in 2004.  

It’s been a decade since Boston's boys of summer willed their way out of the American League Championship Series in unlikely fashion and finally put to bed the ghosts of Ruth, Dent, Buckner, Boone (and countless others).

Simon Shek via Flickr CC

During the Depression, the face of hunger was easy to spot: gaunt, worn, and hollow-eyed. Today’s malnourished are tougher to spot. We’ll get a close up of the new face of American hunger. Plus, over 46 million Americans are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The average daily benefit per person per day is four dollars. We’ll find out what living on a SNAP budget really looks like. And, how is America’s sweet tooth may be rooted in Prohibition?

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.


George Herman “Babe” Ruth made his major league debut this week 100 years ago (7/11/1914) with the Boston Red Sox. He had just 10 at-bats in 5 games that season, pitching four, and earning $2,500

10 years ago The Front Porch (NHPR’s nightly arts program until 2007) went to Conway, NH to speak with Julia Ruth Stevens, the Babe’s adopted daughter. Stevens spoke to NHPR’s John Walters about living with the most famous man in America, “we never thought about it when we were all at home. He was Daddy and we were just like any other family.”

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New Hampshire Fisher Cats public address announcer Alex Miniak has been called up to the big leagues.

Courtesy Iona College

It’s like Mickey Mantle’s grandson announcing he’ll be hitting home runs for the Dartmouth College baseball team. Or Julia Ruth Stevens, the daughter of New York Yankee icon Babe Ruth, agreeing to pay for a new baseball park in Derry.

  The New Hampshire Fisher Cats hold their home opener tonight in Manchester. It's the 10th season of a team that was originally supposed to be called The New Hampshire Primaries. That plan changed dramatically thanks to a group of vocal and mobilized Granite Staters. To remind us what happened, we talk with Vin Sylvia, the deputy managing editor for sports at the New Hampshire Union Leader. Ironically, the current name was selected through a democratic process not unlike the actual Primaries.


upenn.edu, Sergey Galyonkin, Phill Roussin & Ian Thomson via flickr Creative Commons

Facebook is making headlines once again with its two billion dollar acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus VR. Today on Word Of Mouth, a look into why the social network has put so much stock in virtual reality. And it’s opening day for the Red Sox as they take on the Baltimore Orioles today. Fans are hoping this year’s roster will bring them to the World Series again, but how much can we really predict at this point in the season? And are stats the final word?

Producer Zach Nugent has been scouring record stores for the best new music offerings in a new segment we're calling The Audio Orchard.

Then we talk with a National Geographic columnist who argues for lifelong love of  dinosaurs.

Finally, NHPR environmental reporter Sam Evans-Brown brings us the story of a UNH "pee bus" project. Urine, it turns out, can be pretty useful.

Listen to the whole show and click Read more for individual segments.

via benbradleejr.com

“The Kid”, “The Splendid Splinter”, “Teddy Ballgame”; Ted Williams went by a few nicknames while playing for the Boston Red Sox.  Maybe none so fitting as: “The Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived.”  Williams was the last player in the major leagues to achieve a batting average over .400--which he did in 1941–in his third season in the majors. Ted Williams was obsessed with hitting, taking meticulous care of his bats, and was often observed swinging or posing for a pitch, whether he had a bat in his hands or not.

Off the field, the measure of Ted Williams is not so easy to follow. A private and mercurial man, he was moody and prone to bouts of rage. He would blow up at the press, his teammates, and his family. Williams married three times and had three children, but struck out as a father or husband. Ben Bradlee Jr., former editor and reporter for the Boston Globe, spent ten years trying to find out exactly why Ted Williams was the way he was. He interviewed more than six hundred people who knew “The Kid” going all the way back to his childhood. Ben Bradlee Jr.’s new book is called “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams.”

NHPR / Michael Brindley

With the team one win away from a World Series victory, Red Sox fever has officially gripped the Granite State.

At a sports bar in Nashua, passionate fans not only get to root on their team – they also get to eat sandwiches named after Sox players past and present.

The Nashua Garden features sandwiches named after a slew of legendary Boston athletes.

In this audio postcard, we visit the Garden to learn what goes into each creation and talk with fans about their favorite lunchtime staples.

The menu:

Photo by: KarinaEmm

Mike Napoli’s three-run double in the first inning of last night’s World Series opener put the Red Sox on the path for an 8 to 1 drubbing of the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park.  The cardinals committed three costly errors and lost star right fielder  Carlos Beltran who injured himself running into Fenway’s unusually low right field wall -- while making a spectacular catch, that robbed David Ortiz of a grand slam.  That is just one of the quirks of Fenway, the old-school ball park that throbbed with sox fans last night. It’s one of few remaining fields in the nation that isn’t named for a bank, or a drink. Fenway has a personality--and a history--today’s sox fans sit in the same spot where even more raucous fans sat in in 1912, when Fenway Park opened its doors.

Glenn Stout tells the story of the idiosyncratic park’s construction, christening and enduring charm in the book “Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ball Park, A Championship Season, and Fenway’s Remarkable First Year”.  We spoke to him last year when the book came out...and pulled it from the archives today…a great day to celebrate Fenway Park .

Joe Shlabotnik via flickr Creative Commons

The Red Sox squeaked by the Tigers last night in Detroit, putting them one game closer to the World Series.  Although Boston and Detroit are two of the oldest franchises in Major League Baseball, this is the first time they’ve faced each other in the playoffs.  That could be due to the post season absence of one team Sox fans – and apparently the rest of the country -- love to hate… the New York Yankees. …this is only the second season in 19 years that the Bronx Bombers failed to make the playoffs. What are baseball fans today without their favorite targets of scorn? Brian Costa can help. He’s national baseball writer for the Wall Street Journal and creator of the “Major League Baseball Hate-Ability Index” – a tool for identifying which team to root against during this year’s baseball playoffs and  the World Series

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

The Red Sox faithful are holding their breath for a resurrection after a 26 game deficit behind the Yankees and a dismal .426 winning percentage last year. Yesterday, New Hampshire’s own Darren Garnick was in attendance at Fenway’s opening day, one face in a crowd of thousands hoping for a win under New Hampshire native – and new Red Sox skipper, Ben Cherington. Darren is a former business columnist and contributor to New Hampshire magazine and joins us today to discuss opening day, the Red Sox, and the New Hampshire fans who love them.

Rick Ganley

In Essex, Vermont there’s a scale replica of a famous baseball park. In fact, there are two. In 2000, Pat O’ Connor had the crazy idea to build a version of Boston’s famed Fenway Park in his backyard. The following year he began to hold Wiffle ball tournaments to raise money for various charities. Later, he built another field next door- Little Wrigley.  Fast forward to 2013, and those two fields host dozens of charity tournaments each year, and have helped to raise more than 2 million dollars.  And there’s talk of yet another field.

Waking Up the Ball Park

Mar 28, 2013
Rick Ganley / NHPR

Late season snow won't stop the New Hampshire Fisher Cats from 'working on the show'.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about Fenway Park. A century after it was built, fans still gush about this "lyric little bandbox," as John Updike called it. To guys like Ed Carpenter, Fenway is history and home, magic and mystique.

"I love this place," he says, tearing up. "I mean, it's not mortar and bricks and seats."

Carpenter first started coming to Fenway with his dad in 1949, when he was 6.

"We walked up this ramp right behind this home plate," he recalls. "I can still see everything was green, emerald green. It was love at first sight."

Baseball star Roger Clemens goes on trial for a second time Monday on charges that he lied to a congressional committee about using steroids and human growth hormone. His trial on perjury and obstruction charges last summer ended abruptly when prosecutors mistakenly showed the jury evidence that the judge had ruled inadmissible.

Clemens won a record seven Cy Young awards during his storied pitching career, but prosecutors contend that he used steroids and human growth hormone to prolong that career.

It was a sold out game on a pure Southern California day.

"Isn't this beautiful? Blue sky, not a cloud in the air, nice little breeze," said Maury Wills, who was the Dodgers shortstop in 1962. "It's warm Southern California."

Wills joined a bunch of his old teammates Tuesday to celebrate Dodger Stadium's 50th anniversary. It's also the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys. So they sang the national anthem after "Surfer Girl."

Baseball’s spring training is well under way in Florida and Arizona. While players work to make a spot for themselves and prepare for the start of the season, coaches, managers and scouts evaluate the talent they see on the fields; and they increasingly are using something called advanced defensive metrics.  John Dewan is the owner of Baseball Info Solutions, and one of the authors of The Fielding Bible- Volume 3.  The book is a compilation of defensive statistics.

Coaches and managers, as a group, have always been pretty straightforward types. We don't think of generals or preachers as humorists — and, after all, that's pretty much what coaches are, a hybrid of the military and the pulpit.

But at least in the past, there were always a fair complement of coaching characters: old cracker-barrel philosophers, feisty wise guys and even a few sardonic intellectuals.

Baseball practice has just begun at many high schools across the country, but this year, the game is different. The National Federation of State High School Associations has adopted a new standard for baseball bats that is expected to change the way the game is played.