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Soup of This Day #64: Spent The Whole Night Breaking All The Rules

September 11, 2011

Bilingual Quebec Supermarket sign
A bilingual sign in a Quebec Supermarket. Note the lack of tacos – Photo: Public Domain, 2010. Image cropped by Longworth.

In my younger student days my life was remarkable uncluttered and clear cut. Take my drinking for example – I rarely had to make calculations about how much I could safely consume because a. I could drink a lot and b. I almost always ran out of the necessary money before I reached an unhealthy point anyway. Consequently, while I was often drunk, it was never to the point of passing out or paralysis. I don’t remember doing too much that I sincerely regretted and I’m quite confident in that call because I never had a morning where I couldn’t recall the events of the night before. Or at least, that’s how I remember it.

A night that involved some minor regret occurred early on in the 90’s, when I shared a flat with my brother. I’d staggered home after a night on the sauce and was hungry. Unfortunately the uncluttered nature of my life also meant that my food stocks were permanently low, possibly because I spent most of the little funds available on booze and music. This meant that I had some mince, peanut paste, Vegemite, sour cream, taco shells, capers, bourbon, vodka and brandy. All of these ingredients seemed viable to me although in hindsight this was mostly if consumed by themselves. Still, I’d had a skin full and in my fuzzy mind the ingredients were begging to be combined in a new and exciting dish that I shall hereby refer to as ‘Flaming Tacos’.

‘Flaming Tacos’ work likes this: Marinate mince in bourbon. Stir in peanut paste and add vegemite for seasoning. Liberally sprinkle with capers and then fold through sour cream. Briefly wonder if it matters if sour cream is past use by date but only momentarily as hell, it’s sour anyway. Take sauce off heat and spoon generously into taco shells. Stick in oven that has not been preheated. Wait 1-2 minutes impatiently and then extract tacos from cool oven and douse in brandy. Use lighter to ignite tacos. Put tacos out using oven mitt and then consume. Eat 3.25 of said tacos until sobering up to realisation that they taste pretty awful. Rush to bathroom, gargle with vodka and suffused with warm glow resolve to buy proper food at next available opportunity.

It’s astonishing that I was single at this time in my life.

Anyway, the point of this story is that not all things go together well, even if they are quite good by themselves. Which leads us into British baseball.

British baseball (aka Welsh baseball) is almost certainly nothing like what you know as baseball. I can say this because it’s a specific sport nowadays largely limited to play in South Wales and on Merseyside. Yep. They play it in Liverpool. 1 of the 4 remaining clubs in England is actually called Anfield. With it’s heritage grounded in 1 of baseball’s founding influences, Rounders, it’s more like a combination of Cricket and baseball. It takes these 2 great sports and… well… pretty much does for them what I did for tacos that drunken night.

That might sound overly critical. In my defence I’d like to point out that in British baseball you need to bat with your foot in contact with a peg in the ground. If you lose contact with the peg you have to run anyway and if you happen to make it the fielding team gets a run. If legitimate then you get a run for each base you touch. With your hand. Which is ok because the base is a post. You can overrun the base but immediately afterwards you must turn to the right. Should you turn to the left you can be given out. The bowler (pitcher) must deliver to the batter underarm but to a fielder via overarm, otherwise he/she will be pelted with honeydew melons. Or something.

I could go on. Instead I’ll leave you to check out these instructional YouTube efforts. Part 1 covers the basics. Part 2 further muddies the waters. At the end the voice-over encourages anyone to get involved. Who knows maybe you’ll make the international scene. With 1 of 2 teams. Wales or England. To inspire yourself check out this from the 1980 international between these (only) 2 stalwarts of the game. A small correction to the commentary. Wright doesn’t sommersault to make the catch or indeed dive. He lunges for the ball and then falls over. Not the same thing.

Don’t get me wrong – It is possible to combine good things to make something really good. To prove this I’d like to direct you to Canada.

I like Canada. I like the English bits and the French contributions too. The landscapes are almost ridiculously astonishing and the people seem to be really quite nice. And they don’t play British baseball, instead playing regular baseball. They even have their own MLB team, the Toronto Blue Jays, for the most part a charmingly inoffensive outfit who take the game seriously enough to have won 2 World Series but not so rudely as to have won more. C’est la vie.

My respect for Canada was tested this week past as the Jays hosted the Red Sox in a 4 game stand at the Rogers Centre. Game 1 was a pitcher’s duel, with Beckett starting for the Sox. He allowed 3 hits and no runs across 3.2 innings before spraining his ankle. Aceves then came to the mound and he topped his starter’s numbers, going 3.2 innings for just the 1 hit and no runs. He was in turn followed by Bard (1.2, 0 and 0) and Papelbon (1.0, 1 and 0). Wheeler was last, going 0.2 innings for 1 hit and 1 run. If you’ve added up correctly you’ll have worked out that the 1 run from Wheeler came in the bottom of the 11th and that unfortunately means a walkoff for the Jays. 1-0 it finished.

In Game 2 with Lester starting the Sox bats had a chance to fire back. In the 1st a Gonzalez (again) RBI double, a Big Papi RBI single, a Scutaro RBI single and a Crawf RBI double made it 4-0 before Lester had even got going. In the 2nd, a Gonzalez (again) RBI single and a Youkilis RBI double made it 6-0. In the 3rd, Salty belted home 2 to make it 8-0. Then, in the 4th, a Big Papi RBI double, a Scutaro RBI double and a McDonald RBI single made it 11-0. Scutaro then banked 2 more via a RBI double in the 5th and it was 13-0. At this point the Sox rested a chunk of the offence plus Lester and the only remaining score was a Reddick solo blast in the 8th. It finished 14-0 to the Sox and Lester improved to 15 and 6.

Game 3 started the same way as the previous outing, with the Sox off to a flyer. After Youk was hit by a pitch scoring 1 a Scutaro RBI single tacked on 2 more for a 3-0 lead. The Jays however pulled back 5 over the 1st 3 innings and starter Wakefield, seeking win 200 at the 8th attempt looked on shaky ground. In the 4th the bats rallied around a Reddick RBI double and an Ellsbry 3 run blast. Ortiz padded the 2 run lead further in the 5th with a solo shot and Wake could sit down happy with a 8-5 lead, safe in the knowledge that the Sox bullpen would… ummmm… give up 1 in the 7th and then 5 in the 8th (Bard). A Gonzalez (again) solo shot and a Scutaro RBI single gave hope in the 9th but it was for naught. A 11-10 loss and God’s favourite knuckleballer is probably wondering why his bullpen doesn’t like him no more.

Game 4 then was a chance to make it a split series. Or at least it would have been if the Jays hadn’t led 5-0 into the 7th. Miller was ineffective and even though an Ellsbury RBI double, and a 2 run Scutaro RBI single in the 7th pulled it back to 5-3 that was as close as it got. The Jays pinched 2 more and a Tek solo shot in the 9th added a highlight for Sox fans but it finished 7-4 to the Canadians. That they won the series 3-1 in spite of the Sox outscoring them 28-19 is indicative of the vulnerability of a pitching lineup weakened by injuries.

Maybe they can seek advice from former Liverpool striker John Toshack. The Welshman was brought to Liverpool FC by the legendary manager Bill Shankly in 1970 and racked up a number of honours in spite of his own injury plagued career. In 1978 he transferred to Welsh outfit Swansea City and was still there in 1981 when Bill Shankly died. By a fitting coincidence Swansea City traveled to Anfield the following Saturday. During the minute’s silence Toshack took off his Swansea tracksuit top to reveal a Liverpool shirt worn in homage.

None of this is why the Sox should talk to Toshack though.

They should because of the high number of hit batters (78, 9 more than 2nd placed Toronto) that the rotation has been responsible for this season. You see, in British baseball, a game that Toshack played in his youth, if you hit the batter, then the batter is confusingly given out.

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