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A Baseball State of Mind

March 3, 2012

Spring training has started.

The St. Louis Cardinals are the reigning World Series champions.

The Kansas City Royals get to showcase their beautiful ballpark and wonderful city at the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.

It’s official: I’m giddy for baseball season.

Baseballs on display at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

One of the best parts about baseball season is talking about baseball season. The upcoming season. Last season. A season you remember for reasons good or bad. Favorite players. All-time lineups. The game’s greats.

Yep, there’s something fun about talkin’ baseball.

In today’s technological world, sometimes “talkin’ baseball” actually involves “Tweetin’ baseball.” Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of being involved in a Twitter-based conversation with Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, along with a few other baseball-happy Twitter users.

The conversation started with a question: You’ve got first pick in the draft and Negro Leagues greats Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell are available; who do you take and why?

Of course, everyone involved in the conversation had their own ideas.

Mr. Kendrick, also known as @nlbmprez — an absolute must-follow if you’re a Twitter-using baseball fan, by the way — suggested that, if pitching truly does win championships, you have to take Paige. With his durability and skill on the mound, Paige’s status as one of the game’s all-time great pitchers cannot be questioned.

Another of the conversationalists chose Gibson because he’s a home-run-hitting, RBI machine. Kansas City Monarchs legendary Buck O’Neil once suggested Gibson was the Negro League’s version of Babe Ruth (and perhaps, a better and more disciplined overall hitter).

Bell, for me, is the choice because of his speed. Growing up a Cardinals fan in the 1980s, speed was something to be appreciated. Willie McGee (my all-time favorite player), Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith — those guys could motor. Bell, I think, had a different gear.

From what I’ve read about Bell, he wasn’t just a speedster, but a well-rounded player who could hit for average, extend base hits, steal bases and cover ground in the outfield like no other.

Some of the stories about Bell’s speed probably are exaggerated; I particularly enjoy the one about Bell hitting a ball passed the pitcher, then getting called out after being hit by that same batted ball as he slid into second base.

Sure, it’s probably just talk. But that’s part of what makes baseball so great.

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