Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Cheese Champions


So the great Luis Arraez is hurt, and cannot struggle to the plate for another at-bat for the Minnesota Twins.


It sez here that M. Arraez is looking to join the growing list of recent Cheese Champions in major-league baseball, along with the likes of Wade Boggs in 1986, when he sat out the last four games of the season to protect his batting title lead against Don Mattingly (something he had even said he would do, theoretically, in an interview a few years before—fake an injury and ride the pines).

Or Jose Reyes, who beat out a bunt hit in his very last game as a New York Met in 2011, thereby securing his batting title—and thereafter took himself out of the lineup.

How sweet!  

How very wonderful for all the fans now enjoying Minnesota's last meaningless games. Or those who bought tickets to what looked like Boston last four, showdown games against the Yankees in 1986.  Or Reyes' finale.

What exactly, I hear you ask, is a "cheese champion"?

Apparently, it was a term used by Manager Marse Joe McCarthy to keep Joe, Joe DiMaggio playing down the stretch in 1939.

On September 9th of that year, with only 19 games remaining, the Yankee Clipper was hitting .409—threatening to become (as it would turn out) one of just two men to hit .400 in a major-league season after the notorious, 1930 "Here's Your Barn Door, Take Your Whacks" season.

One problem: the Great DiMaggio was suffering from a bad eye infection. Should he at least taken a few days off to see if it cleared up?

After all, that 1939 team—held by many baseball historians to be the greatest that ever was—held a 17 1/2-game lead. Why not let DiMag get healthy, at least for the World Series?

NO! said Manager McCarthy. If you sit, he told his great star, but still finish over .400, they will call you a "cheese champion."

Well, who wanted to be called a cheese champion (outside of Wisconsin)?

DiMaggio who had already had one terrible run-in with the fans and the press in New York when he dared to ask for a little money after his incredible, 1937 season, acquiesced. He played with one eye occluded—a crazy risk for the Yankees to take, with such a great star—and played in all remaining, 19 games.  By the end of the season, his batting average had dropped to .381.

We've often heard tell of how Ted Williams insisted on playing the last two games of the 1941 season, even though he would have been—technically—a .400 hitter, had he just sat out. Instead, he went 6-8 in a doubleheader that meant exactly nothing, finishing at .406.

I know, I know. People like me tend to mythologize the good old days—which in many, many ways were not so good at all.  And NOBODY should feel obligated to play with an eye infection.

But there's a reason why these (badly, badly flawed) individuals became minor deities, and why people loved the old game, and the old way of playing.

It was not because they sat out to preserve official titles, or refused to throw to a great hitter because they didn't want their name in "the record books" (whatever that means in our electronic age).  

What's gone on with Aaron Judge this month has been disgraceful, an exercise in cynicism that is also an outright rip-off of the tens of thousands of fans who have come out to see something momentous.

Instead, what they got is yet another terrible exercise in cowardice and ass-covering. Baseball should be ashamed.  

Oh, and by the way? DiMaggio recovered enough from his eye infection to hit .313 in the World Series, where he led the Yanks to a sweep over the Reds.  Take a look at these old film clips—one of them adorably haimishe—that show DiMaggio knocking in the Series-clinching run, then racing around the bases to steal yet another run when Reds catcher Ernie Lombardi was knocked loopy.

That looked like baseball to me...




13bit said...

Bless you, Hoss, for being our conscience.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Or nag. Hey, it's a living. Or not.

13bit said...

Conscience = Nag

james said...

wonderful for all the fans now enjoying Minnesota's last meaningless games. Now its time to avail roller shutter londonfor more details.