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Welcome to Hey Bill, where Bill answers questions from his subscribers almost every day. Visitors can read the most recent Hey Bill's on this page.  Subscribers can ask Bill a question directly and also view our archive of questions and answers.

 

The fifteen most recent questions are listed here and will change almost every day.

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15 Most Recent Questions

"Aside from not blasting out music at 90 decibels during every break where we might want to talk to the person next to us"  
 
This is one of my peeves, if not a pet peeve.  There are filling stations now where you can't peacefully pump your gas without advertisements and show business "news updates" videos being blasted at you from a screen on the pump.    
 
"Blast" seems to be the appropriate choice of verbs for this assault.  And dammit, get off my lawn.
Asked by: wilbur

Answered: 2/24/2017
 Well. . .the filling stations are irrelevant.    But the noise at games in this area (Allen Fieldhouse and Kaufman Stadium) is way too loud, and still getting louder.   I think we are headed toward legislation TELLING public-venue operators that they can't set the noise at a level that damages people's hearing.   You wouldn't think you would have to tell people something like that.  

 

Back in the seventies at Dodger Stadium, so many people were playing their transistor radios, you didn't need to have one to hear Vin Scully broadcasting the game while you watched. Now if I try to listen to the broadcast on the MLB app to find out about an on field injury or some other confusing item, I am lucky if I can hear it over the stadium noise.  
 
Once or twice a year it seems like I have to explain catcher's interference to whoever I am with. Usually it is some play where they ask what happened, and I say it must have been catcher's interference because I think that is the only way for the batter to take first base after hitting a foul ball.....
Asked by: sroney

Answered: 2/24/2017
 Thanks. 

 

I've gotten to announce football games here on the reservation for a few years now.  Basketball is the Navajo's 'big' sport, so as the announcer, I probably said more than I was used to in-stadium announcers saying.  I used to attend all University of Florida games and you'd hear "Taylor carries for 6 yards" and that's it.    
 
So, due to my audience, I'd specify the down and distance between plays, I'd try to specify what type of play just happened "toss sweep by Nez gains 4 yards" something like that.  "Yazzie gains 12 yards on slant route, pass from James," things like that.  
 
It's all about your audience, no?
Asked by: jollydodger

Answered: 2/24/2017
 Works for me.   Thanks. 

 

Re: Referees. I covered a lot of high-school basketball for a newspaper when I was a wee lad, and I distinctly remember being earshot within one veteran referee who'd tell players in firm but not-loud tone early in the game whether they were being too aggressive on defense. ("Number 25, you need to back off a bit with the body ... that's better.") Once he'd established the parameters, he'd blow the whistle and be consistent about what was expected the rest of the game. Coaches apparently loved him, and that may have been the reason. I'm not sure whether the ref's approach was common; I thought I'd throw it out there and see.
Asked by: rwarn17588

Answered: 2/24/2017
 Thanks. 

 

About 12 years ago I attended a baseball game in Japan, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and the Seibu Lions.  It was an amazing experience, but the scoreboard was all in Japanese characters, and I don't recall any of the batters or pitchers being announced.  At least in the US you'll get "now batting, #8, the shortstop, Cal Ripken."  None of that in the Japanese game I saw.  Sitting in the cheap seats I couldn't really make out names on jerseys.  The only player I was sure was participating was Tony Batista, because of his unusual batting stance.  That's one time I would really have appreciated a bit more information.  
 
I imagine my experience was not totally unlike MLB prior to maybe 1925, when there were no names or numbers on jerseys, no modern scoreboards, and no modern PA systems.  
Asked by: jwilt

Answered: 2/24/2017
 Good thought.   Thanks.  

 

Not following the game?  Here's an idea from rugby union.  If you ever watch an international rugby game, the referee has a microphone so that viewers can hear what he's saying.  Even better, a rugby referee's job is almost halfway to coaching: he lets accidental little fouls go, but he keeps shouting at players to get onside or whatever.  A question: should baseball/basketball officials be miked up (and banned from swearing)?  I know, it's a ridiculous idea, but presumably it was ridiculous in rugby once.
Asked by: PeteRidges

Answered: 2/24/2017
 Well. . .I like the idea of telling players to stop doing things, rather than just automatically blowing a whistle.   

 

As to the idea of a PA announcer explaining developments in a baseball game, as suggested by Mr. Gill . . . based on my very limited recent exposure to live football games, I'd say "please Lord . . . no."  At Stanford football games, where the home fans seem barely aware of the game progress anyway, they have a hugely loud announcer screaming . . . "that's a FIVE YARD GAIN for the Cardinal .  . . and ANOTHER STANFORD FIRST DOWN-OWN-OWN."  I'll take the nice quiet modern baseball scoreboard flashing E-1, FC, RBI . . . silently.  My two cents anyway.  
Asked by: tkoegel

Answered: 2/24/2017
 I'll give you your two cents, but you have to come to Lawrence to collect.  

 

>In Vietnam, they had deferments for people in college.<  
 
Let's go down memory lane. The draft age in the 1960s was legally 18-26 if no deferments were issued. Almost no one was drafted at age 18 because the odds were good the draftee would still be in high school. 
 
Asked by: Aquinas

Answered: 2/24/2017
 That's not my memory.   I knew lots of people who were drafted at 18.   I graduated from high school at 17.   Martin Jim, who I went to high school with, was drafted at 18.   You can find his name on the Vietnam Memorial.   

 

Aside from not blasting out music at 90 decibels during every break where we might want to talk to the person next to us, it seems to me that there's an easy way teams could improve the game experience for paying customers: Why don't they use the PA to explain things that happen on the field, the way the NFL does? When an NL team makes a double switch, for instance, the PA should tell people that the new left fielder will bat in the pitcher's spot, and the pitcher will bat third. I've been to games with casual fans who have no idea what's happening at times like that, and it wouldn't take more than 5 seconds for the announcer to explain. They could do the same when a balk is called, or a batter gets to first on catcher's interference, or any kind of unusual situation, rather than letting 50 percent of the crowd sit there wondering what happened. Do you agree? (And if so, can you use your enormous clout to get this change instituted in both leagues before the season starts?)  
 
Asked by: BobGill

Answered: 2/24/2017
 I don't know that I have often been bothered by a lack of understanding what was happening on the field.   My nephew, now deceased, was at the Pine Tar Game, rooting for the Royals in Yankee Stadium, when Brett hit the home run but was (at the time) called out.   He said he had NO idea what was happening.  The PA announcer didn't explain anything; it was just Brett hit the home run, there was a big fight on the field, the runs came off the board, and people left. 
 
At Wrigley in the old days (1980s) I had a lot of trouble following the game.   The PA announcer made few announcements, and there weren't any boards or anything; if you missed the announcement of who the new pitcher was you were shit outta luck, pardon the expression.   But with those exceptions. . .well, there's a lot of information floating around.    In the last 20 years I don't know that I have ever felt I needed more information.   

 

I happened to be re-reading Nick Pileggi's great book WISEGUY, from which they made the movie GOODFELLAS (not so great in my opinion) and came across the name of Jimmy Sweeney, the BC point-shaver you mentioned the other day, whom Henry Hill (Ray Liotta in the movie) had some dealings with. What do you think of WISEGUY? In addition to admiring Pileggi's writing, I find it much more accurate than the film (which went for melodrama) to the 1970s, to the sordid neighborhoods it takes place in (I grew up in a Mafia stronghold), and to the nature of the criminals it describes, as well as to the nature of the crimes they committed.
Asked by: Steven Goldleaf

Answered: 2/24/2017
 I just vaguely remember the book.   I think I did read it, or read part of it.    Was that the book that was excerpted by Sports Illustrated?   

 

RE the Bellhorn answer, 2nd part - thanks for the nuanced explanation about the current state of understanding of batting average on the field. in fairness to those folks, it is tough to watch .195 every damn day, and traditionally a .195 hitter is on his way out of the majors. So, it seems that the on-field personnel, having accepted the body of evidence that batting average can be overrated, are having trouble differentiating between what variation and attrition are in this new environment? (I.e. they are still trying to understand how certain newly-valuable skill sets tend to mature and age). How long might it take for this area of ignorance take to work itself out?
Asked by: Henry F.

Answered: 2/23/2017
Ignorance is never defeated; it merely transitions into new forms.   

 

re the Bellhorn answer: What is it about coming to Boston? I've heard "you never know how a player will handle New York," but Boston? Do you mean the same stuff like about coming to New York? Didn't know anything like that....
Asked by: MarisFan61

Answered: 2/22/2017
 The media in Boston can be very, very, rough.. .not as LARGE as New York, but rougher.   Like Philadelphia in that sense.   Also, the fan base is very, very intense about the Red Sox.   Everything gets magnified.   

 

Hey Bill,  
What would a do-over career for Mark Bellhorn look like? Great player in a few years who suffered from his management and other tough luck.  
Thanks,
Asked by: Henry F.

Answered: 2/22/2017
 A do-over career for him might run in any of 50 different directions.   I'll tell you. . .one reason we got him was that he was a Boston native.   Theo always worried A LOT about how players would handle coming to Boston.   We figured Bellhorn might be comfortable in Boston and understand it because he was from Boston. 
 
The tyranny of batting average is still with us, because a lot of the field staff still really doesn't get it.   The thing about a low-average, high-secondary average player like Bellhorn is, people can get the idea that if he hits .250 it's OK because he has walks and power and defense, and the combination is OK.   People get that.    But where it gets you is that if a guy is a .250 hitter/good secondary offensive skills (like Bellhorn), he isn't going to hit .250 every month; he is going to hit .300 one  month and .200 the next--just like the .300 hitter is going to hit .250 one month and .350 the next.   The high-average hitter; people don't worry about the .250 months; they take those in stride.  But when the Bellhorn type has a month when he hits .195, they just can't handle it.   That's where you lose those guys.   And it still happens; we haven't moved past that.  

 

There is an interesting article in the spring issue of "Military History Quarterly". In 1966, needing more men for Vietnam, Robert McNamara decided instead of reducing student deferments or calling up reserves, to lower the standards for military admission. Working on a suggestion by Moynihan that people could be raised out of poverty by teaching skills and discipline in the military where schools had failed,  Project 100,000 ultimately brought in some 354,000 "second class fellows" thru various campaigns despite military opposition to being "schools for dummies".  
    Guess what. It failed. Some 5,478 died in the military despite initial plans to keep them in support. 180,000 ended up being discharged with less than honorable discharges. The anticipated post military earning power in higher wages didn't happen. Unlike draft resisters, nobody lobbied for them to get medical attention or other military benefits. McNamara never apologized for his Project 100,000 blunder
Asked by: ZachSmith

Answered: 2/22/2017
 I don't know anything about it.   I would guess there is some academic expert somewhere claiming that it was a great success.   

 

Yes, the president has to make a speech in North Dakota.  But what if it was short and unifying?
Asked by: raincheck

Answered: 2/22/2017
 Would be a step forward.   A bigger step forward, to me, would be if he just said "To hell with it; I'm not doing that.   I'm not doing the White House correspondents dinner.   I'm not inviting the World Champions to the white house.   I'm not doing the 50-state tour.   You don't like it; don't vote for me."  

 

 
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