Sunday, August 12, 2007


Keelhauling (from Dutch kielhalen; "to drag along the keel") was a severe form of corporal punishment meted out to sailors at sea.

The sailor was tied to a rope that looped beneath the vessel, thrown overboard on one side of the ship, and dragged under the ship's keel to the other side. As the hull was often covered in barnacles and other marine growth, this could result in lacerations and other injuries. This generally happened if the offender was pulled quickly. If pulled slowly, his weight might lower him sufficiently to miss the barnacles but might result in his drowning. If the rope snapped, the Captain could conclude that the punishment was not done properly and order it carried out again.1

I love stories like this:

St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Rick Ankiel:

[...]In 2000, during Ankiel’s rookie season with the St. Louis Cardinals, the young left-hander struck out 194 batters in 175 innings. His fastball topped out in the mid-90 mph range, complemented by a curve that had the aerodynamic action of a Whiffle ball.

Then it all came undone, against Atlanta, in Game 1 of a 2000 NL Division Series. Taking a 6-0 lead into the top of the third, Ankiel became the first major-leaguer in 110 years to throw five wild pitches in an inning.[...]

Whatever the cause, Ankiel never again resembled the pitcher who won 11 games as a rookie. Ineffective in six 2001 starts, he was sent to the minor leagues for a change of scenery, then called back at the end of the season. Then his elbow went bad, requiring surgery that sidelined him for most of two seasons.

When he threw only three strikes in a 23-pitch spring training “scrimmage” in 2005, Ankiel was put on waivers. No takers. Then came the epiphany: A rare NL pitcher capable of working counts at the plate with an idea of driving the ball, he would seek his destiny with a bat.

The conversion was not unprecedented. Babe Ruth famously changed positions. So did Stan Musial, who won 17 games in the low minors before a sore shoulder changed his career trajectory.

Ankiel isn’t Ruth or Musial, but he’s only two years into his experiment – he missed 2006 with a knee injury – and his power swing is intriguing enough to suspect he’ll be called up by the Cardinals in September.[...]2

Not September... August:

[...]He got a standing ovation before his first at-bat. Not unexpected, but still pretty cool. San Diego's starter, though, was Chris Young, the 6-10 righthander who leads the majors in ERA and has held opponents to a .184 batting average this year. Ankiel popped up on an 0-1 pitch to shortstop Khalil Greene in his first at-bat. He struck out looking in his second at-bat, swinging in his third. Just one good swing in those three trips to the plate, a fastball he fouled straight back, the kind he just missed squaring up.[...]

Then, wow.

Just, wow.

With the Cards up, 2-0, and two on and two out in the seventh inning, Ankiel stepped to the plate against Doug Brocail. First base was open, but no way the Padres were scared of pitching to Ankiel. Then, with one flick of the bat, a nice, easy, balanced swing, he sent a fly ball screaming toward the right field stands. I thought the same thing everyone in the stadium thought: "No way he just did that ..."

But the ball landed over the wall, 384 feet from home plate, and Ankiel pumped his fist as he sprinted around the bases with the Cardinals ahead, 5-0. Holy cow.

Welcome back, Rick. 3

And today:
Pitcher-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel homered twice and drove in three runs to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-1 victory Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ankiel, who also scored three times, hit the first pitch he saw over the right-field fence in the first and seventh innings, giving him three home runs since he was called up Thursday from Class AAA Memphis. 4

I even hope Rick Ankiel does well against the Brewers the rest of this season, as long as the Brewers win.

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