When Math and Superstition Meet

By David Everett Fisher

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People love podcasts. Like when people talked about books and then HBO Sunday night shows, people now talk about what podcasts they are listening to. People always get excited when I tell them I do a podcast. They ask me if it is true crime? Comedy? History lessons? I tell them it’s about baseball. They disappointingly say, “oh”.

Then they tell me why they don’t like baseball.

I get it, a lot of people don’t like baseball. People don’t like a lot of things, and after finding out I spend time and money making a podcast about baseball, they let me know they don’t like baseball.

I don’t know why people have to say it. I don’t feel like I should have to prove anything to anyone, but it gets hard when so many people have to put baseball down. I know baseball isn’t for everyone. 

Baseball isn’t like other sports. While all the other games are played with one team trying to score a goal on the other team within a time limit, baseball is a game of scoring runs before there are three outs. 

Time. Why are people such slaves to time? It drives your work schedule, your home life, getting cable and internet service, waiting for a drug dealer, or waiting for your name to be called at your favorite brunch spot. Baseball doesn’t know time, it only knows outs. When you love baseball, and it goes to extra innings, you are getting more baseball. There can’t be any ties, no sudden death, and if the visiting team gets the lead, the home team still gets a chance to tie it again, or win. 

The longest baseball game played was in 1981 between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings. The game went 33 innings and was delayed after the 32nd inning on April 18th at 4:07am and resumed on June 23rd where only the 33rd inning was played due to a bases loaded single ended the game 3-2 Pawtucket. Wade Boggs and Cal Ripkin Jr played int the 8 hour 25 minute game.

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The longest MLB game was only 8 hours and 6 minutes. It was between the Chicago White Sox being the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6 in the 25th inning.

This year was the longest post season game in modern history. The Los Angeles Dodgers was able to score the winning run in the bottom of the 18th inning. The game went 7 hours and 20 minutes. 

I am a big believer in chaos. There are powers that fight for structure, law, and understanding, but these things are unrealistic and boring. In baseball, anything can happen. A team can have a large lead until the 9th inning and then lose. On May 23rd, 1901 the Cleveland Indians were losing 13-5, but scored 9 runs at the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs to beat the Detroit Tigers 14-13.

There just isn’t any guarantee in baseball. A lot of front office people and fantasy baseball team owners use SABR-metrics to find out who is going to win, but when a hitter goes up to bat with a low batting average, you are sure that they won’t be clutch for you. a backup catcher with a .170 batting average went up to bat for the Colorado Rockies after a double switch in the 13th inning and hits an RBI single against Kyle Hendricks and later on being the winning run that sent Colorado to the NLCS. Tony Wolters did exactly what his stats said he couldn’t.

Baseball is where the math and science butt up against religion and superstition. SABR-metrics walk hand in hand with a guy who would wear a gold thong to help out of a slump in the case of Jason Giambi in 2008. A batter will study a pitcher’s film, listen to the scouting reports, do regular batting practice and after blasting one into the left field bleachers, will point to God before stepping on home plate.

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We try to focus on that fine line between the math and the superstition when we do our podcast. It is the story of that line. Because when the science and the religion meet on the diamond, it becomes art.

Baseball is a team sport, but each position is completely independent of each other. Each position guarding a range, each batter only able to do his part at bat, each pitch the pitcher throws can only be watched by everyone else until the ball is hit. As a player, you can only do your part. You back up your teammates, you talk to them, you chatter. When it’s your turn, you try to be a hero.

I can’t put into words really why I love baseball. I sometimes struggle with doing our podcast because I feel I’m not conveying how beautiful the sport is. It is a game that couldn’t have been made by any normal man, in fact they don’t really know who invented it. The game has no beginning. It is steeped in history, American history. Now we see it played with so much enthusiasm in Asia and South America. 

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I hope I convey the love I have for the game. I’m glad I get to share the mic with two other guys who love the game as much as I do. It’s more fun to talk about what I love than listen to someone tell me why they don’t like what I love.