Rest in Peace, Oscar Taveras

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I’m by no means a Cardinals fan, but I am a huge fan of talent; and I am an even bigger fan of young phenomenal talent.

When I got a text message from a friend while at dinner last night that Oscar Taveras was dead, I had to take a moment to read it several times. I didn’t want to believe it.

Oscar Taveras’s don’t die – they marvel us with their talent. They win Rookie of the Year awards. They hit .353 at a ridiculously young age. They play 15 years in the big leagues and we hate seeing them come to town to play our team because they spend a series filling the box score. The win championships and continue to build the legacy of one of the best organizations in the game.

They don’t pass at age 22; not on a night when they could have been playing in the World Series if the ball had bounced a bit differently.

It still doesn’t seem real to me. I can’t believe I’ll never get to buy a ticket and go watch the second coming of Vlad Guerrero play live. In a weird way, I was looking forward to Taveras torturing the Cincinnati Reds over the next ten years. He would have, too.

I’ll always remember where I was when Oscar did this in the rain the first time we got to witness his talent:

I’m sad to say I didn’t see his last big league hit on television, or his NLCS home run off Jean Machi. And unfortunately, I’ll remember forever where I was standing when I got the horrifying text that Oscar Taveras died, hoping somehow that there had been a mistake; and then learning that it was reality.

Rest in Peace, Primo. Like all things in life, this remarkable young talent had an expiration date. It doesn’t make it any easier to understand or deal with. I will forever go on wondering what this young man could have accomplished if things had not ended tragically, maybe more so than anyone I’ve ever followed in my three decades of loving baseball.

Bryce Harper’s last blast of 2014 was an epic, clutch, historic clout into McCovey Cove

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Game four of the NLDS, and Bryce Harper may have cemented his legend in baseball once and for all.

It was evident that Harper was still locked in from the early going, as he missed a home run to center in his first at bat by a narrow margin. In his second trip to the plate he doubled in the Nationals first run with a great at bat.

In his third at-bat, he took nasty Hunter Strickland into McCovey Cove to tie the game in epic fashion. It was a moment for the ages in postseason baseball.

Baseball can be beautiful, but sometimes it also has a way of showing us that the heroes die in the end. The Nationals would fall 3-2 to end their season.

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An Ode to the 2014 Washington Nationals

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Welp, that’s a wrap. For all intensive purposes, baseball season ended for us tonight a bit prematurely. In a matter of hours, two teams we love to watch completed the foursome of elimination in the League Division Series with the Cardinals getting past Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers and the Giants breaking the hearts of the Nationals out in the Bay Area.

I never dreamed when this postseason started that a World Series would exist without at least one of these two teams. It almost seems unfair – but it’s not. The Giants and Cardinals took the fight to these teams. They just went out and took it, with the help of a little more clutch hitting and better management.

I spent a TON of time watching Washington and Los Angeles this season. They were entertaining, yet flawed teams. Until the spring comes, I won’t see them again. If you want to see the remaining teams left in the playoffs, find and buy sports tickets to do so.

Bryce Harper nearly reaches McCovey Cove with second NLDS Moonshot

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After a hitless game in the 18-inning marathon on Saturday night, Bryce Harper woke up in San Francisco yesterday and decided he was coming to the park to send this to a game four.

Harper had an absolutely huge game, making two great defensive catches with the game on the line, drawing a walk that started the rally, and hitting of course his monstrous home run which was his third of his postseason.

To take a quote from Brandon Belt – that’s probably one of the hardest balls Harper has hit.

You have to love lowly Jean Machi pointing in the air for the ball to assist his outfielder as it heads toward McCovey Cove. Yeah, Jean. He’s got no chance for this.

So the Nationals live to fight at least one more day, 4-1. They survived Madison Bumgarner and one has to wonder if this series has swung and the Nationals have enough left in the tank to get it back to Washington. One thing is for sure – nothing gives the Nats a shot in the arm like a monster Harper bomb.

Your Saturday Baseball Post

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It’s the best day of the week, and there are two VERY big baseball games on today. With an ALCS of the friggin’ Royals and Orioles all but decided; only the Nationals and Dodgers can save us from a final four of boring teams.

So here’s to a little of the right kind of magic today. Because neither Washington or Los Angeles had any of that going yesterday. And let this open thread post be a reminder on this Saturday that if you hang around the park long enough, sometimes a little magic sprouts up out of nothing.

That’s still one of the best traditions baseball ever had and it came out of relatively nowhere. And then the Nationals organization decided to make it go kaputz. This was an awful idea, and if they know what’s good for them they’ll roll it out today in Washington.

Here’s to a great Saturday to you and yours. I know if you’re any type of regular checking out this blog you’ll catch some of the baseball action going on today. A legend could be born, dreams could die, the finality of playoff baseball is unparalleled anywhere else in sports.

Thank you for your continued support of Diamond Hoggers.

So yeah, that sucked.

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It was an unbelievable day of baseball – but the wrong kind of unbelievable. I’m not sure there’s been a more shocking, stunning day from start to finish in the history of the MLB postseason. Clayton Kershaw had one of the worst innings in baseball history today.

Capped off with another stunner in Anaheim, aided by a dominant outing from Yordano Ventura (pictured above, the world will know him now); today saw three home teams lose and a fourth come from a huge late deficit to beat an arguable favorite.

And not ONE single game has had the outcome we desired since the wildcard games took place at the beginning of the week. Not one. We wanted an LCS of Detroit/Anaheim and Los Angeles/Washington. All of those teams are in the hole or on the brink of elimination – Anaheim is done, Detroit could dig out of a two game hole we feel. And tomorrow, Los Angeles and Washington’s seasons are on the line.

New stars are being born right now. Eric Hosmer, Joe Panik, Yordano Ventura; these are just a few of the guys who are rising up in the world like a regular Tony Montana.

Tomorrow is a new day. Today once again showed how intense baseball can be, how cruel of a game it is, and that sometimes things simply aren’t going to go your way no matter how bad you want it.

Bryce Harper hits the biggest, most titanic home run of his career

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[Box Score]

Bryce Harper possibly hit the premiere home run of the postseason this afternoon. And the Nationals lost a heartbreaker, giving those rotten Giants from the left coast their ninth straight playoff victory. But damn it, Bryce Harper put on his eye black and brought his game to the park today.

And the Nats seemed so lifeless for much of the day. I had the thought that if they could just get a Bryce Harper home run; it would be the one thing that could ignite the crowd and the rest of the Nationals enough to get them back into the game while trailing 3-0. It needed to be something big, and something epic.

And man, they don’t get any bigger or epic than this one. The only way it could have been more out of The Natural is if it was to win a game. It came off a guy in Hunter Strickland who is a relative newcomer to the Major League level, and his stuff is absolutely filthy. He’s never been touched up like this before:

Harper turned on a 97 MPH fastball, and nearly hit it out of the stadium.

The Nationals would add an Asdrubal Cabrera home run to cut the deficit to it’s final resting spot of 3 to 2, but the titanic home run wasn’t enough to dig them out of the hole that their slumber caused.

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Still, anyone who tuned in today expecting to see Harper and Stephen Strasburg play the roles of the two leading Knights in the baseball Camelot that is the Nation’s capital got half of it (Harper also broke up Jake Peavy’s no-hitter the second time through the lineup).

Betting on Major League Baseball

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With the season already started there are certain to be plenty of novice punters exploring MLB betting for the first time. Here’s a quick introduction to the basics of baseball betting.

It’s probably safe to say that anyone reading this won’t take much convincing that baseball is the greatest spectator sport but for those of us who are partial to the odd wager it must also rank as one of the most engaging sports to bet on.

Today’s baseball games are not as wildly unpredictable as they used to be, which means betting on MLB is far safer. If you do your research properly and study the stats, serious and recreational punters alike can really turn a profit.

Always do your research

If you are new to the game there are sites out there offering tips, some you’ll have to pay for others give tips away for free. If you do go for a free service it’s a good idea to follow their picks for a while and get a feel for how accurate they are before you put any money down. If you want to go for a paid service you should look for reviews of the service on different sites.

While doing your research you can check out odds for all the MLB teams at Betfair.com and place a bet when you’re ready.

How to bet

One of the most popular ways to bet on MLB is handicapping or spread betting. This is where the favorite team (the team the bookmakers think is going to win) will be assigned a number of points they have to win by for you to win the bet.

However, in baseball handicapping is a little more involved than with other sports. The stats on offer from the official MLB site can seem daunting at first but if you want to succeed you need to get used to checking and most importantly understanding these.

For a beginner it can be hard to know which stats are worth looking at and which stats can be ignored. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands it’s a good idea to limit yourself to one team, although you should always be checking the opposition.

Stats to consider

Check out what type of pitchers are throwing and how your team does against each type, this can really affect the score.

When is the game being played, does your team typically play better at night or during the day, again, you’d be surprised how often teams favor one over the other.

The final thing to watch out for is your attachment to the team. Are they going to win or is that just wishful thinking on your part. Keep emotions out of your betting decision and you’ll be one step ahead

2014 MLB Playoff Predictions

NLDS:
Nationals over Giants (in three games)
Dodgers over Cardinals (in five games)

ALDS:
Angels over Royals (in four games)
Tigers over Orioles (in five games)

NLCS:
Nationals over Dodgers (in seven games)
Tigers over Angels (in six games)

WORLD SERIES:
Nationals over Tigers (six games)

Betting on Baseball

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In tonight’s version of Betting on Baseball, we attempt to dig ourselves out of a little hole using an elite team against a middling left-handed starting pitcher.

Baseball can be a game of emotion and adrenaline runs on a limited supply. If you watched that Royals victory the other day that put them in this game tonight, you know that they’ve used up about eight of their nine lives; and they could be feeling a bit of a hangover tonight after a highly emotional win in Kansas City in 12 innings.

Mike Trout is a Hall of Fame player, and I think he’ll do something to swing the pendulum in Anaheim’s favor at the Big A in his first career postseason game. It might be a phenomenal catch, or a clutch hit, or stealing a bag at a crucial point in the game.

The Angels know with a weak three man rotation of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Matt Shoemaker, they need this game out of their ace tonight because what follows is uncertainty.

I am going to side with SportsBookupdate.com and pick the Anaheim Angels -175 to win the game straight up. And as my boy Dave Cokin adds – this is not a bad spot to try manufacturing a -1 line, playing half the wager on the Angels money line and the other half gambling on the -1.5.

Gamble with confidence, and good luck!

The Real Reason There is a Poker Game Called Baseball

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Baseball and poker are arguably the two pastimes most associated with America. Both sports have grown alongside each other since the early 1900’s. Historian Jacques Barzun wrote that “whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”

Fifty years later, writer James McManus amended Barzun’s quote, replacing “baseball” with “poker” when discussing the growth of poker’s popularity. Both writers are indeed correct, but would have been more accurate if they had simply mentioned both sports.

Playing Baseball on the Felt

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Anyone who has played in poker home games has probably has come across a card game called Baseball. The game, which is almost never seen in casinos, creates a lot of action and earned its name due to some interesting rules.

Typically the game follows the normal Seven Card Stud High-Lo rules, with a few additions which can vary from game to game. 3s and 9s are wild, and if you are dealt a 4 face-up, you will receive an extra down card.

For those who follow traditional baseball, these numbers might sound familiar: 3 strikes for an out, 9 innings, and 4 balls for a walk. While these similarities are most likely the reason that the poker game Baseball got its name, there are many other connections between the two sports.

Coincidental Similarities

Some of the similarities between baseball and poker appear to be intentional, or at least a result of subconscious forces:

  • Baseball’s 2014 World Series Champions will be crowned in just a few weeks. One month later, poker will crown the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion in Las Vegas.
  • The typical poker table has nine players, just as a baseball team.
  • When training to become dealers, students are taught to “pitch” the cards.
  • Players “catch” cards and get “hit” by the deck.
  • Cards that are needed to give a player a winning hand and defeat their opponents are “outs.”
  • Both require patience, mental focus, and a great deal of practice in order to be successful.

A Natural Career Move for Many

With all that they have in common, it’s no surprise that the two games attract the same people. Players like Babe Ruth, Ricky Henderson, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriquez are all known as avid poker players.

Conversely, there are several professional poker players who have made the move from the baseball to the poker tables.

Chad Brown, who died from cancer earlier this year, was lucky enough have multiple career choices; baseball, acting, or poker. He moved from one to the next until he found his true calling at the poker table and had an incredible amount of success in the game he enjoyed up until his last few months.

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Eric Baldwin led his school to the 2005 NCAA National Championship in baseball, but upon completing his degree he decided to pursue a career in poker. He has earned several championship titles in poker including an elusive World Series of Poker bracelet.

However, one former baseball player that began to play poker seriously at the end stands above all of the others.

A “Bulldog” on the Mound and On the Felt

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Former Dodger Orel Hershiser is known for his competitive spirit. During his baseball career, this earned him a number of World Series victories and MVP Honors. At the poker tables, the same drive has earned him $90,000 in tournament winnings.

Hershiser said that poker “is something you can be competitive at while sitting down. As your body starts to fail you as an athlete, you find it hard to find places that can get your adrenaline flowing.”

Hershiser is primarily a cash game player, but his skills at the tournament table became evident during the NBC National Heads-Up Championship, where he surprised poker pros and poker fans alike by finishing in fifth place.

A Natural Name for the Game

By now, the reason why a poker game called Baseball exists should be fairly evident. The two great American pastimes are seemingly linked at the most basic of levels. In fact, not having a poker game called “Baseball” would be an aberration.

The connection between poker and baseball is perhaps as old as the two games themselves, and the similarities are seemingly endless. As Jackie Robinson once said:

“Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he’s losing; nobody wants you to quit when you’re ahead.”

The Royals Wildcard Comeback win was full of ridiculousness

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I lost a pile of money last night, and I still feel like I was on the right side. My gut told me the Oakland A’s would win last night and then move on to Anaheim to give the Angels all they could handle in the ALDS that begins tomorrow. The Royals simply would not die, winning a wild 9-8 ballgame in 12 innings that was an excellent display of how exciting the sport of baseball can be.

I underestimated the effect that all that team speed can have in a one-game and go home scenario. The Royals had seven different players steal bases. They were able to constantly apply pressure to the Athletics, even when they would reach base with an out via a walk or single; it would be just moments until that guy was in scoring position or thinking about stealing third.

After the Royals came back a few times, it became apparent that there was nothing the Athletics could throw at them to give them a ‘kill shot’. It sounds insane saying that about a baseball game, but if you watched how the game played out; the A’s seemingly had this game won two or three times, except for they didn’t.

It was an excellent game to kick off the 2014 playoffs, and I hope some people who say baseball is a slow game had their eyes on the Royals last night. It was their explosiveness, clutch-hitting, and sheer will to not be denied that gave them their first postseason win since 1985. It’s good for the game we all love.

And for the A’s…. well… bye. I don’t know if I could have handled an Oakland ALCS. This is one less boring team in the tournament we all have to worry about being forced to watch.

2014 BBA Awards Voting Post

As a member of the BBA (Baseball Blogger’s Alliance), we are required to vote on all awards for the 2014 MLB Season. Here are the categories we are voting on this year:

Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)
Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)
Goose Gossage Award (Reliever of the Year)
Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)
Stan Musial Award (MVP)

Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)

National League:
First Place Vote – Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh)
Second Place Vote- Don Mattingly (Los Angeles)
Third Place Vote – Matt Williams (Washington)

American League
First Place Vote – Mike Scioscia (Anaheim)
Second Place Vote – Ned Yost (Kansas City)
Third Place Vote – Brad Ausmus (Detroit)

Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year):

National League:
First Place Vote – Jacob deGrom (New York Mets)
Second Place Vote – Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati)
Third Place Vote – Ender Inciarte (Arizona)

American League:
First Place Vote –Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox)
Second Place Vote – Dellin Betances (New York Yankees)
Third Place Vote – George Springer (Houston)

Goose Gossage Award (Reliever of the year)

National League:
First Place Vote – Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati)
Second Place Vote – Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta)
Third Place Vote – Mark Melancon (Pittsburgh)

American League:
First Place Vote – Greg Holland (Kansas City)
Second Place Vote – Zach Britton (Baltimore)
Third Place Vote – Jake McGee (Tampa Bay)

Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young):

National League:
First Place Vote – Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles)
Second Place Vote –Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati)
Third Place Vote – Adam Wainwright (St. Louis)
Fourth Place Vote – Doug Fister (Washington)
Fifth Place Vote – Zack Greinke (Los Angeles)

American League:
First Place Vote – Felix Hernandez (Seattle)
Second Place Vote – Corey Kluber (Cleveland)
Third Place Vote – Max Scherzer (Detroit)
Fourth Place Vote – David Price (Detroit)
Fifth Place Vote – Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox)

Stan Musial Award (Most Valuable Player):

National League:
First Place Vote – Giancarlo Stanton (Miami)
Second Place Vote – Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh)
Third Place Vote – Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles)
Fourth Place Vote – Anthony Rendon (Washington)
Fifth Place Vote – Jonathan Lucroy (Milwaukee)
Sixth Place Vote – Carlos Gomez (Milwaukee)
Seventh Place Vote – Anthony Rizzo (Chicago Cubs)
Eighth Place Vote – Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles)
Ninth Place Vote – Josh Harrison (Pittsburgh)
Tenth Place Vote – Buster Posey (San Francisco)

American League:
First Place Vote – Mike Trout (Anaheim)
Second Place Vote – Alex Gordon (Kansas City)
Third Place Vote – Nelson Cruz (Baltimore)
Fourth Place Vote – Michael Brantley (Cleveland)
Fifth Place Vote – Josh Donaldson (Oakland)
Sixth Place Vote – Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox)
Seventh Place Vote – Jose Bautista (Toronto)
Eighth Place Vote – Adam Jones (Baltimore)
Ninth Place Vote – Miguel Cabrera (Detroit)
Tenth Place Vote – Jose Altuve (Houston)

The Big Donkey rides off into the sunset

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There are so few of guys over my history following the game that I feel like I had a real connection with – Adam Dunn was probably at the top of that totem pole of players. Probably my favorite player of my adult life retired today.

When I first got my drivers license, when Dunn was a 21-year old pup; I started driving myself two hours to games just to see him play. The first time I went to see him play he homered. When he poked his head out of the dugout that day we held a short conversation. It was meaningful to me because players at that point still seemed larger than life.

It seemed like he hit about 20 home runs when I was at the park. There were the memorable Opening Day blasts. The walk-off Grand slam off Bob Wickman. The night I saw him hit one out of the stadium off John Smoltz.

When I was in college I moved to Cincinnati and it was a treat because I could go to the ballpark when the Reds were home and see Dunn play. It was the summer of 2004 – and it’s what I consider to be Adam Dunn’s finest year in baseball. He hit 46 home runs that year and hit .266 with a .956 OPS. He was truly a dominating offensive presence at the age of 24 when there was little other reason to watch the Reds at night unless it was to see if Dunn dialed long distance on one.

There were countless off the field stories that I heard about Dunn that made me chuckle. We were around the same age – when I was in college Dunn was carousing in his own right in Cincinnati. From all accounts I heard, Dunn as a young player seemed like a fun loving, good, genuine dude who was well liked in the clubhouse and easy to root for. The Reds were abhorrent back in those days but you knew that a brighter day sat off in the distance. You knew we were on the way up. In a way; the Adam Dunn Reds era was a happier, simpler time.

I have argued with friends and family members about whether or not Adam Dunn is a good ballplayer. Whether his body of work is worthy of him being considered for greatness during a period of time. It’s useless to have these arguments the same way that arguing politics with someone on the other side is.

The fact of the matter is – I’ve always favored sluggers who could hit video-game style home runs and if a guy could do that, I care less about his glove. Adam Dunn was as true of a slugger as there ever was, he was the perfect player for me to fall in love with. He is hard to categorize or compare as Joe Posnanski did recently, because there is no other baseball atom just like Dunn ever before. One should stand back and appreciate his fabulous career for what it was as Jayson Stark recently did; because the fact of the matter is that Dunn was a very rare offensive weapon.

Career slugging of .490, career OPS of .854, reaching a .900 OPS in six seasons and coming very close in three others. He was a three true outcomes guy, and I loved it. He usually homered, walked, or struck out. Two out of three ain’t bad.

He was a tough Texan who I’m not sure ever really gave up dipping – I even saw him in with a lipper last night. A good old boy who just loved playing ball – he was chronicled in a 2002 Sports Illustrated article that displayed what a simple guy he was. I already liked what I saw from him his rookie year, but it was then I decided that Adam Dunn was my guy.  I tore the article out of my magazine and taped it on my dorm room wall. This was the guy I would hang my hat on. He didn’t let me down. One thing I really appreciated about Dunn following him closely is he seemed to always be in the lineup. I recall him one 90 degree Sunday early afternoon lumbering out of the clubhouse just before gametime. He had probably been out the night before until God knows when. I sure the Hell wouldn’t have played. He dunked his head into a cold tub for a few seconds, dried his face with a towel, and then grabbed his glove. That stuck with me.

Dunn was in the game a long time and took a lot of unreal pitchers deep (look at the names on this list of 462). Where there are guys who struggle against elite pitching and only shoot cripples, Dunn seemed to be just as likely to get a piece of the elite and struggle against the soft-tossing lefty. Without even looking I can tell you he dominated Roger Clemens and struggled against Oliver Perez.

Baseball is so much about tying eras together. There was no player that carried me through the end of high school, all of college, into my life as a young and full adult like Dunn did. I continued to root for him when he sadly moved on to several stops. Last night when Oakland blew the lead for the third and final time and the camera panned to a long-faced Dunner; I knew that was it. I knew that my guy was never going to appear in a postseason game and that’s a damn shame.

Maybe Dunn didn’t live up to everything he was supposed to be – in 2002 he hit .300 on the nose the first half of the season before he became only a pure slugger. He never would hit for much average or be a complete player. But Dunn had a great career and was a feared bat in the middle of every lineup he was in. When the big man came to the plate, you made sure you were paying attention. I think that speaks volumes about his ability.

His signed baseball will sit on my bedroom shelf for as long as I live and I will hold the memories he provided me with as a player very near and dear. They’re etched and burned into a special place in my memory. Thank you for that, Adam. Your career was vastly appreciated by this guy. You made me love following the game more and I always looked for your name in the box scores (when he began his career it was the newspaper, when he ended his career it was on an iPhone).

I’ll end it by going Chris Berman-ism on you all, with a saying I used to say a lot about the Donkey when he was in Cincinnati:

‘Cows come and cows go, but the Big Donkey lives on forever’.

Baseball