The Beginning

Sports were invented in Cincinnati in 1869. That year player-manager Harry Wright assembled the first professional baseball club, the Red Stockings, and matched them against the top teams in the nation. They won 58 games, tied one, and lost none. Big crowds trekked out to the ballparks and parade grounds to see them. Each fan paid 50 cents, and by the end of the season, the ’69 Red Stockings had performed in front of 200,000 people. Thousands more read about them in the burgeoning sports pages. Others complained about the players’ salaries. The modern spectator was born.…

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Cue the Aged

I am in my early 30s and still want to compete athletically. What sport offers me the best chance? It depends on what you mean by sport. If you consider a combination into the corner pocket athleticism, then you’re in luck. An Ohio University professor would have you take up billiards. As part of his groundbreaking psychological research in the 1950s, Prof. Harvey C. Lehman found that billiards masters are, on average, a few months past their 34th birthday. World-class players are almost a year and a half older than that by the time they are breaking…

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The Beautiful Calculations of Synchronized Swimming

Some sports make immediate sense. Like running. We can easily imagine how certain sports came to be: A caveman leaps across a stream, and the long jump is born. Escaping a hungry lion, an African narrowly clears a high branch before rolling into a small cave, and there you have the first high jump. Two cavalry units meet in a fierce battle of keep-away, thus inventing polo. But other sports do not mimic natural activities that your average homo sapien might take up on his own — sports (like basketball and cricket) where the rules, fine points,…

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Sounding the National Pasttime

Since baseball’s beginnings, sound has been important. Outfielders listen for a sharp crack or a dull thunk to help them get a jump on the ball. Coaches listen to how a fastball hits a catcher’s mitt to see if a pitcher has his best stuff. Recently, science has begun to explain how players use their hearing to do what they do. For example, a centerfielder cannot visually tell the difference of a bloop over second base and a blast to the warning track. Instead he listens. On the forefront of baseball acoustics is Dr. Daniel Russell, a…

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 World Cup-ology

Everyone from financial analysts to geographers has weighed in on the 2006 World Cup. Some offer small insights related to their particular disciplines, others elaborate predictions based on rigorous, though admittedly non-sports related, analysis. All seem driven by a deep desire to shoehorn their professional expertise into some aspect of the tournament. The investment banking giant Goldman Sachs offers one of the better options with its annual report ‘The World Cup and Economics.’ The 57-page report offers an economic overview of each nation with a team in the tournament along with some soccer analysis. Additional soccer commentary…

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Who caught the highest pop up ever?

If you asked catcher Joe Sprinz he would likely admit he wasn’t too excited after winning the honor in 1939. As a publicity stunt for the defunct minor league San Francisco Seals team, Sprinz caught a ball let loose from a blimp floating 800 feet above. The force of the ball slammed his mitt back into his face smashing at least four teeth and breaking his jaw, according to an account of the feat. Sprinz’s catch came a year after a couple of players managed to hang onto baseballs dropped 700 feet from a Cleveland skyscraper. A…

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T.O.: My Hero

Recently Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens claimed he was misquoted in his new autobiography, ‘T.O.’ The controversy surrounded the phrase “nothing short of heroic,” which was used in the book to describe T.O.‘s comeback from injury before the 2005 Superbowl. T.O. said that he would not have used that phrase, and that his co-author (who is also his agent’s brother) Jason Rosenhaus must have written that hyperbolic nonsense (a claim T.O. later qualified and re-qualified). But let’s not judge the book (which is excerpted on AOL) by one phrase. ‘T.O.’ is a compelling little tale that jumps…

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Need to know the difference between bocce and petanque?

Need to know the difference between bocce and petanque? Ask The Modern Spectator research staff. What World Cup Team Has the Most Foreign Born Players? Of Algeria’s 23 players, 17 were born in France. I discuss borders and the French in The Wall Street Journal. What is the world’s worst soccer team? by Austin Kelley I compiled the worst records in World Cup qualifying over on WSJ. Who was the lowest draft pick to become NBA’s Rookie of the Year? The Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose, who won this year’s Rookie of the Year award, was the first overall pick in…

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The British Open

Floyd Landis may be returning to America after winning the Tour de France, but the Omnivore remains in Europe this week to take a belated look at the British Open. Launched with eight players in 1860, the Open is steeped in golf history like no other major tournament. What other championship has run through two trophies? That’s right. Before the Claret Jug trophy was introduced in 1873, tournament champions won the right to wear the “Challenge Belt.” Here’s an overview of Royal Liverpool’s Holylake course. Built in 1869 on the racecourse of the Liverpool Hunt Club, the…

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The Tour de France

We’ve gotten a late start on the Tour de France here at the Spectator. To catch up, we’re providing a compendium of cycling links, beginning with a Tour primer and a look at the 21 individual stages. MSNBC also has a nice slide show running through some highlights and capturing bits of the Tour seldom seen—sometimes for good reason. There are two main storylines so far. The first is the blood-doping scandal that sent some of the top contenders fleeing their Strasbourg hotels before the Tour’s July 1st start. Next, the apparent man to beat this Tour,…

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