Leo the Lip, Arky Vaughan, And A Holdout Called Frenchy

70 years ago this month, the Brooklyn Dodgers found themselves fantastically inconvenienced by a European tiff known as World War II. Rather than travel south for spring training, they went north, and not very far, to the upstate resort known as Bear Mountain. It was cold, it was stressful, it was baseball.

On March 21, 1944, as the Nazis occupied Hungary, the Japanese pushed into India, and the Allies assaulted the ruined Italian hamlet of Cassino, manager Leo Durocher watched the snow, and dreamed of Florida. In deference to the army's need for trains, the sternly patriotic commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis had decreed that no club would travel south for spring training. And so, for the second time, Durocher's Brooklyn Dodgers wintered at the Bear Mountain Inn in New York, where the fires were warm, the steaks were thick and the practice fields were covered in eight inches of fresh powder.

They could work around the snow. While other teams shivered, West Point allowed the Dodgers to use its massive field house whenever the cadets weren't drilling. Durocher's problem was his infield, which had been so savaged by the draft that Branch Rickey had suggested his manager play second base or shortstop. Although ostensibly a player-manager, the Dodgers' skipper hadn't played a full season since 1938. His knees were bad, his bat was slow and he had acorns in his elbow.

If you're asking, "What the hell do you mean, acorns in his elbow?" then you have something in common with the sporting public of 1944. To find out what the hell Leo's talking about, click here, to be taken on to Sports on Earth.

The Silly Baseball Tournament That Made My March

Mentioned in the article, the famous leg kick of Sadaharu Oh.

I fried my brain this month watching international baseball. I found myself cheering for men in a hideous USA jersey, only slightly wishing that American national teams would go back to the way they dressed in the '50s, and leave navy blue to rot. When the US got eliminated, I cheered for anybody else I could find. (And loudly—on Sunday night, I found myself yelling at Japanese men on my TV, "Come on! String a few hits together!" then muttering my traditional, affectionate, "fucking bastards." When I love a sports team, that's how I show I care. When I love a person, I'm much nicer.) So, as I do, I wrote about it—once again, for The Classical

Before the rest of the people—who and how many remain unclear—who cared about Team USA learned it, every Mets fan knew it couldn't last. David Wright was on the big stage again, for the first time since Adam Wainwright's curveball to Carlos Beltran began its fateful, unhittable break in 2006, and he was playing like an Avenger. Square-jawed, muscle-bound, tongue stuck out like bush league bowler, Wright kept coming to bat in high-pressure situations, and kept delivering—none more fantastically than the grand slam that sent the United States into the second round. Articles were referring to Wright, the Mets' captain, as Captain America. Mets fans knew what was coming next.
For a long, happy moment, it seemed the last star of Flushing was about to do the impossible: get American fans interested in baseball's would-be World Cup. But because every superhero needs a weakness, Wright was playing hurt. For the entirety of the Classic, he had been nursing a rib injury: a lingering soreness that pained him not in play, but while he was sleeping and "just lounging around." When Wright was recalled to Camp Wilpon in Port St. Lucie on Friday of last week, the Mets medical staff—doubtless through a state-of-the-art application of leeches and a scientific bleeding regimen—decided that Wright should be encased in bubble wrap until after the start of the regular season. Wright's back has been an ongoing concern ever since he and Ike Davis ran into each other in 2011—an all time Metsian play—and Captain Flushing must not get hurt again. Mets fans always think the end is near. This time it happened to be true.

Have no fear, the rest of it isn't about the Mets. And unlike the article I posted below, which the Internet hated, people seemed to like this one. Good thing. It was hard, and I didn't get paid. Don't tell anybody—I'll watch baseball for free.

Why It's Okay To Like The Zany Old Spice Game

Transient

In honor of the majestic accomplishment that is "Dikembe Mutombo’s 4 1/2 Weeks To Save The World,” I typed up a few hundred words on why it's okay to enjoy something like that, even though it's nothing more than very clever advertising.

The short answer? It's okay to like stuff that's clever.

The Old Spice commercials, going back to the Bruce Campbell campaign from five or so years ago, heralded an unprecedented weirdening (my word! Don’t use it!) of mainstream ad campaigns. Their ads are spare, strange and designed to be shared—a formula that lots of brands have tried to emulate and none have managed to get right. Imitations of this kind of zaniness usually fall short either because they aren’t weird enough, or lack a charismatic spokesman like Bruce/Fabio/Old Spice Guy.
(A rare exception—those creepy fucking Sprite commercials, which are way too goddamned weird.)
I love these Old Spice ads because they are the kind of thing I should fucking hate. I despise corporate pandering, because no matter how charming a company pretends to be, there’s simply nothing cool about corporations. If a marketing campaign manages to make me forget that for a moment, I tend to have an extreme backlash to it. How dare you amuse me?! How dare you make me forget the essential sinisterness of your business practices?!

You could keep reading that, or you could just go play this delightful game. Don't stop until you get to the Twinkie song. Seriously.