Saturday, April 29, 2006


We had the pleasure of going to a Cardinal's baseball game the other night and as usual, Bonny and I kept score in our homemade score books. The wife of the friends we were with mentioned that she would like to try keeping score so I told her I'd send her the files I use to make those score books. By the time I finished with the E-mail explaining my system of scoring, I decided I had enough information for another BLOG entry, so here goes...

First of all, why keep score? I do it simply to keep track of what has happened so I can enjoy the game more. By the time the batter comes up in the 8th inning, I don't remember what he did when he came up in the second and sixth. I also don't remember how many strike outs the pitcher has, how many ground balls he's induced, how many fly balls etc. etc. The score book gives me the tools to see the trends so I can better anticipate what may happen next or put plays in better context. I know people who don't want to keep score because it's a distraction to them. God love them, they keep all that information in their brains as the game progresses and I'm a jealous man, but for those of us who can't, a few stroke of the pencil can. When the kids were little, I taught them how to score almost from the "get-go". It helped them to keep their interest in the game longer, just as it helps me to focus today.

Here are the files I used for making my score books. You can go on the Internet for dozens of different score cards. Everyone wants to keep track of different information. Some want to keep track of balls and strikes; some keep track of where the ball are hit to. I've seen simple scorecards with "out" for any out, then "XB" for the hits and that is the extent of the scoring.

Most of the scoring systems are just small variations. I have my own and after you do this for a while, you will too. To me, there is the trade off of keeping track of what happened, but not keeping track of so much detail that you miss the action by writing instead of watching the ball game.

Here is my system:

Fielding positions:
1 - Pitcher
2 - catcher
3 - first baseman
4 - second baseman
5 - third baseman
6 - short stop
7 - left fielder
8 - center fielder
9 - right fielder

For each square, you record what each batter does at the plate.
1B -single
2B - double
3B - triple
HR - home run
BB - base on balls
IBB - intentional walk
HBP - hit by pitch
FC - fielder's choice
SF# - sacrifice fly out
SACB - sacrifice bunt
F# - fly out (# - position of fielder who made the out, i.e. F9 means the batter flew out to the right fielder)
L# - line drive out
P# - pop foul out (I use P for any foul ball caught for an out)
K - swinging strikeout (printed backwards for strikeout looking)
E# - advanced on error
DP - double play
! - great defensive play

running and pitching plays

SB - stolen base
CS - caught steeling
PB - pass ball
WP - wild pitch
BK - balk

I use the diamond method of keeping track of what the base runner does. I add one side of the diamond for each base the runner gains plus a "tick" at each base they stop at.

In the corners, I keep track of if the runners advance by anything other than batter's performance.

In the lower right hand corner, I add a dot for every run batted in.

In this picture of a single square, the opposition has just brought in a new pitcher, the batter hits a double driving in two runs, then steals third and scores on a wild pitch.

Unless it is a really big game, I don't bother adding up the totals. When I get home, I staple my ticket to that page for a keepsake. You may want to score a couple of games before you make a whole book.

So, that's it. If one reason you don't like baseball is because it is too slow, you're not paying attention to enough detail. Your score card will help you out.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Control Arms and AWD

Christena writes...
On the topic of cars, here's a question I've been curious about. I broke a control arm on the front driver's side or my car (a 96 audi A4, quattro). What is that? People mention the bearings, and make very sad noises when I say it's an all wheel drive. What does that have to do with anything?

Well Christina, I'm not familiar with the Audi Quattro but most cars have control arms in their suspension. Basically, a control arm is a bracket that pivots at both ends. Its purpose is to let two things, (say the body of the car and the wheels of the car) move in one axis (up and down) but not the other (side to side). From what I know, the most common problem with the control arm is the bushings at either end that wear out and have to be replaced. Sometimes, if you hit a major pot hole, the control arm will bend out of shape and the whole arm has to be replaced. When you say "people mention bearings" I would guess they are talking about bushings. Bearings are used on the axles and let the wheels spin around the axle with a minimal amount of wear. Of course, the '96 Audi A4 Quattro may have bearings in their control arms and their control arms may break so then I have no idea what is going on, which is standard operating procedure for me.

The reason that All-Wheel Drive makes a difference is that there are more parts and and a more complicated system. With the old system of rear wheel drive, we ask the front wheels to steer while we ask one of the rear wheels to drive. A very simple system. With front wheel drive, we are asking the front wheels to steer and one of those same wheels to drive. That becomes more complicated in the front end but simpler in the rear. When we move up to 4 wheel drive, we are asking one wheel in front to drive and one wheel in back to drive and both the front wheels to steer, but we have to decide when we need 4 wheel drive and when we need 2 wheel drive. Finally we have All-Wheel Drive, where we tell the car to figure it out by itself. If one wheel on either axle slips, the other is supposed to pick up the slack. If none are slipping, then we go back to the original one wheel to drive the car. In the mean time, the front wheels still have to steer. It is a great system, but it is very complicated. In a rear wheel drive you probably have direct access to the control arms and when you replace them, that is all you have to work on. With a modern all wheel drive, you may have the transmission, steering, or transfer case or any number of adjoining parts added to the equation. It would be akin to changing your underwear. If you were wearing a skirt, it may be a simple project. If you were wearing pants, it could get more complicated. If you have all wheel drive, you may be wearing pants, two pairs of socks, a snowsuit, hiking boots and snow shoes, AND you may have to take your pants off over your head before you can change your underwear, and that can get VERY complicated.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Brian writes...

Now tell me, Jim, what exactly is sidereal time, and how is it calculated?

Sidereal time is simply star time instead of sun time. One solar day is the time it takes for one spot on the Earth to rotate so the Sun is in the same place. That is, the time it takes from when the Sun is highest in the sky until it sets, rises, and is highest in the sky again. The 24 hour day that we all know and love. A sidereal day is the time it takes from when one star is highest in the sky until it sets, rises and is highest in the sky again. That day is approximately 23 h 56 min. The reason for this is the Earth is always moving around the Sun so as the Earth revolves, it is actually rotating a bit more than 360 degrees to complete a day. If you were to take that approximately 4 minute discrepancy between the two days, multiply it by 365, you will get 1460 minutes or approximately 24 hours. Well now, I have never thought of it before, but if you were to count the sidereal days in a year, it ought to come up to 366, as one sidereal day is lost with each revolution around the Sun!

Sidereal time is measured in hours but is called "Right Ascension". Zero hour (the sidereal international date line) starts in the horiscopic constellation of Pisces, where the Sun passes the celestial equator on the first day of spring. If you were to extend the longitude and latitude lines onto the sky, you would have Right Ascension (measured in hours and comparable to Longitude) and Declination (measured in degrees north or south of the equator comparable to latitude). If your local sidereal time is 14:00 (Sidereal uses 24 hours, not two sets of twelve), then any star on the 14 hr line would be highest in the sky at that moment.

Now how do you calculate that? That can get very complicated. How would you calculate regular time? Taking into consideration that actual Solar time has no time zones. It is slightly different for every mile you travel to the east or west. I will assume you don't want an exact formula but only want to know what it would be based upon. Basically, to find local sidereal time, you would use the 23 h 45 m day then add or subtract your longitude from Greenwich solar time. Or if you had a computer you could just go on the Internet and find one of many programs that will calculate it for you. If you have a planetarium program (WinStars is my favorite and it's free) you could just open the program to your location and time and see what the Right Ascension is directly south. Should you want to know the exact formula, Sky and Telescope still carries an old BASIC program "GMST.BAS" that would contain all the calculations.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Juan Franela writes:

Okay, I've got a better question: What are the cars in the original version of the film Mad Max, both the car that Max is given by the police chief and the cars labeled "Interceptor" (seen in the film's opening sequence)?

Also, I've always heard that the car in the film Phantasm is a rare bird. What is it and how many of them are out there?

To explain what Juan means by a better question... this past weekend, I finally had a chance to meet Juan in person. He used the opportunity for an instant "Ask Jim". He asked me what a "Hemi" is. I told him that was an easy one (and for anyone who would like a complete explanation be sure to see one of my early posts at "FLATHEADS TO HEMIS" He also asked me the key to a good marriage.

He later explains... ""Better" as in "better than the one I asked at Collinsfest", not better than any question about Mr. Dimaggio. Hope there was no confusion."

Well Juan, if the readers are confused (as many of them are) it has nothing to do with your question and everything to do with what kind of person reads "Ask Jim" in the first place.

As far as the Mad Max cars, I personally have never seen the movie but apparently they had quite a line up of cars. From what I can find, they made extensive use of Ford XB Falcon Coupes. These were production cars sold in Australia from December 1973 until August 1976. Now I was not familiar with this car. For we Americans who are familiar with the Ford Falcon, it would seem an unlikely car to use in a movie known for its muscle cars; however the Mustang was originally built on a Falcon platform. I am guessing that in Australia, they kept the Falcon name for the new muscle car while in America the Falcon moniker remained on the economy car. The car in the film had a standard 351 cubic inch V8 motor. You can see the lines are reminiscent of the Mustang.

The stolen interceptor driven by the Nightrider in the opening scenes is another production vehicle; it is a "HQ Holden Monaro", which was sold in Australia in the early 70's with a variety of motors including large capacity V8's. Again, I was unfamiliar with that car. Holden is an Australian division of General Motors and the HQ Monaro was a model built from 1972 to 1974.

The Phantasm movies featured a Plymouth Barracuda. The first film used a 440-six pack 'Cuda while the second used a Hemi 'Cuda. Okay, so I really don't know anything about muscle cars but I do know the 440 had Edelbrock hi-rise aluminum intakes cast for triple-deuce carburetion, Holley's best centerhung-float 2300 deuces, totaling 1,200 cfm. and the carbs were each equidistant from their respective ports, so no cylinders were in danger of going lean. This permitted center-carb jetting, which, if driven sanely (but who could?), might even have delivered passable gas mileage.

Okay... so I didn't know that either, nor do I have more than a rudimentary understanding what that means other than it was a big engine with a big (and complicated) carburetor. And the Hemi 'Cuda? Well... that was a Barracuda with the venerable Hemi engine. The original, real Hemi, not today's pent roof Hemi like motor.

I couldn't begin to tell you if those cars were somehow special or how many were made. I can tell you that all muscle cars, especially the 'Cuda, is very collectable. People go ga-ga for these things. If you ever scan the ads for classic cars, those muscle cars of the 70's carry a premium price.

So, Juan... You go from an easy question to answer to a tough question to answer. If, unlike myself, you happen to be a big muscle car fan and can enlighten us all on these vehicles, please feel free to share. It was a pleasure to meet you and your lovely wife and never forget the key to a happy marriage; Do what your told (preferably before she has to tell you to)!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

JOLTIN' JOE DIMAGGIO (and Jim's first baseball rant of the year)

Hey Jim! I can't believe it - BASEBALL has started! You must be excited, especially after watching the Cards romp the Phillies. Pujols is still God, Eckstein still has more hustle than Bishop Don Magic Juan, and Rolen hits a grand slam in his first game since last July! But the most impressive thing probably happened on the Phillies side - Rollins belting one down the first base line to extend his hitting streak to 37 games.

So tell me this - Do you think anyone will ever break DiMaggio's hitting streak? What kind of pressure did DiMaggio go through when he was in the thick of things? Where have all the cowboys gone?

So tell me Jim, what are you predictions for the Cardinals this season?

Let's start with Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak. 1941 must have been a good year for hitters. Two things happened that year. Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak and Ted Williams' .406 batting average (the last time anyone in the majors hit above .400). Many consider Joe's hitting streak a record that is unbeatable. That hitting streak started on May 15. The Yankees and Joe were both struggling. They had lost four games in a row and seven of their last nine; they were in fourth place, five and a half games behind the league-leading Cleveland Indians. On that day at Yankee Stadium, playing the Chicago White Sox, DiMaggio hit a first inning single off stocky left-hander Edgar Smith, but the Yankees lost again, 13-1.

Joe kept on hitting and the Yankees kept on winning. By the time 30 games had passed, people were paying close attention to Joe's streak. The modern era National league record was held by Rogers Horsnby who set the record of 33 consecutive games with a hit in 1922 with the Cardinals. That same year (another good year for hitting) George Sissler hit in 41 consecutive games for the St. Louis Browns to set a modern era major league record. The all time record had been set by "Wee" Willie Keeler. He "Hit'm where they aint" 44 consecutive games in 1897 for the old National League Baltimore Orioles. Keeler's record though, was aided by the fact that foul balls were not yet called strikes.

As Joe extended his streak, the pressure was growing. Though DiMaggio would say that the pressure was getting to him, his team mate, Lefty Gomez would later recall "To look at Joe you'd never think he had any pressure on him. I never saw a guy so calm. I wound up with the upset stomachs." Joe has always been considered one of the most graceful ballplayers ever. Think about the pressure that was on McGwire and Sosa in 1998. Roger Maris's hair started falling out in 1961 when he was on track to beat the home run record. For the home run record, you could miss a day or two or more without being out of contention. Hitting streaks are relentless. One game and it is over. You have to produce every day and every day brings more pressure. Joltin' Joe got few favors from the official score keepers. The thought at the time was he shouldn't break a record with a cheap hit so if there was any question as to whether it was a hit or not, the decision often was: it wasn't.

On July 17th, the Cleveland Indians put an end to Joe's streak. but what most people forget is after that one game without a hit, he went on to hit in 16 more straight games. A total of 71 games out of 72!

So, can that streak be broken? Absolutely. Is it likely in this era? No way. In this era, we worship the home run. Players concentrate on hitting for the fences. Some teams, especially in the American League, build their entire strategy on big hits. Get a man on base and drive him in, preferably with a homer. However, this is not a record that can't be broken. Cy Young's record of 511 wins will never be broken because there have been fundamental changes in the game that make it not unlikely but impossible. Who could imagine that anyone could ever beat Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played? In 1990, Cal Ripkin Jr. did that and extended that record to 2,632. At 162 games per year, that is 16 1/4 years of never missing a game. It can't be done! But it was.

As far as my prediction for this year's Cardinals, I have to agree with everyone else's prediction, and that is the Cards are good enough to take the Central division but not good enough to make it to the World Series. They're not as good as they were last year. Compared to 2004, their pitching is better but there batting and fielding is worse. Like every team this time of the year, there are a lot of question marks. Can Rolen stay healthy? Can Encarnacion produce? Can they find a second baseman? Can Rolen stay healthy? Can Izzy keep giving up hits and runs at his usual prodigious pace and still keep winning? Can Rolen stay healthy? Can the bullpen produce? Can Rolen stay healthy? I think one team in the National League to watch for this year is the Mets.

A bigger question in my mind is not the team but the ownership. Their quest seems to be to wring every last penny out of the St. Louis Stepford fans, before we just start losing interest. Already, it is tough to watch a game on TV unless you have cable. They left the best broadcast signal in the Midwest so they can make more money on the radio end. Not only is there a problem with the new station's signal (half the radios in my house pick up more static than station), but then they fired all the good sports people and replaced them with Howard Stern sports wannabees.* They have built us a new stadium with more high priced seats and fewer affordable seats. They promised us great vistas of the city skyline from the new ballpark (no more stadiums) and then got commitments from surrounding hotels, offices and parking garages to not let anyone watch the ball game from outside the park. They have dropped their payroll from sixth to eleventh in the majors while their ticket prices have rose to third behind the Redsox and Cubs (yes, it is cheaper to go to a Yankees game than a Cardinals game). I guess the question is: is Cardinal mania here to stay or is this just a bubble that could burst when enough fans get priced out of the market? Will people wake up one day and realize that it is just no fun anymore? Are the owners truly committed to a winner or only committed to making money. We should have a pretty good idea this year. If we find ourselves in contention this year (as we should) but are missing a piece or two to make a run for a world champ (which we probably are), will they be willing to buck up and pick up that piece later in the year to make things happen, or will they be content to know that they have already sold out all the tickets, and sit on their hands?

* My radio rant... The new sports personalities seem to be all about strong opinions rather than good opinions. After each game, the pair of jocks (Monty and Hadley?) will pick a topic and beat it to death. Should Pujols have run for home with one out, the game on the line, and a hit straight to the short stop? Well, of course, the answer is no, but they spent at least a half hour on the subject and used it to bait listeners to call in and argue about it. Not debate it but argue about it. The jocks are yelling at each other, they are yelling at the fans, the fans are yelling at them and all was based on a "yes he should - no he shouldn't" format. They clearly have the agenda of getting fans riled up so they will call the radio station and argue.

Back when the Olympics were on, I was listening to "Monty on Sports". Monty went on a spiel about how boring the Olympics were (of course they were directly competing with his air time). He said he didn't even know if the US still had men in the figure skating competitions but of course he watched the girls figure skating because they were hot. He then went on to tell us that the winning dog from the Westminster dog show had gotten loose at the airport and ran away. While searching for this dog, they found some feces that were consistent with the size dog that was lost so they thought he was still near the airport. He then went on for ten minutes (or longer, as I had turned off the radio at that point) talking about dog poop. This guy knows nothing about the Olympics, but knows much about dog poop. Is this what people are really looking for on sport talk radio?