Part of the charm of the greater Grateful Dead culture was that there was something for everyone. Like any good pastime there was some aspect of a Grateful Dead show to please everyone.
I often compare the sub-culture of Deadheads to baseball fans. There are those that go for the scene, the roar of the crowd or to see their heroes play. Others go for the party, the beer & hot dogs on the one hand or the recreational drugs and lightshow on the other.
Then there are the stat nerds which also exist in both cultures. Go to any ball game and you’ll see people with detailed score cards, recording every hit and at bat using their own custom shorthand.
There are stat nerds in Deadhead culture too. These are the people that can tell you the last time the band opened the second set with Saint of Circumstance or when they last played Red Rocks. There’s a special language of code to how they talk and a learned shorthand to normalize communication.
During the time when I saw the band, computers were not that widespread so a lot of the documentation was collected from memory and passed around on handwritten notes. Historic setlists were passed down as legend.
The photo above is something I found in a drawer as I was packing to move house. It’s a handwritten collection of every setlist from every concert the Grateful Dead played in 1985. Crib sheets like these were passed around like a folksy database of shared knowledge.
There’s endless detail in the notations that hint at a shared understanding of how a Grateful Dead setlist works. The capital “E” in the detail above ties Estimated Profit and Eyes of the World together as those two are often paired and segue seamlessly from one to the other. The “Gimmie Gimmie” scrawled above Gimme Some Lovin’ is a wink to the fact that Bob Weir was especially enthusiastic in his rendition of Spencer Davis that night.
All this was just to say that while the ever-connected phones in our pockets are wonderful for precision and recall, they don’t transmit knowledge and understanding as well as these folksy databases of handwritten notes. An illuminated manuscript from the medieval past, carefully hand-copied and embellished, is so much better at transmitting culture and passes on so much more than just the written word.
To listen to two Deadhead stat nerds get into the weeds, check out my post on Alex and JM Hart’s discussion about the evolution of Bob Weir’s playing style on Deadicated.
On June 12th, 1970 Dock Ellis, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates threw a no hitter against San Diego – while high on LSD. The story has so many twists and turns that make it even more incredible including one tidbit I only learned about later – Dock woke up the next day and didn’t even recall he pitched or threw a no-hitter.
Would you believe some yarn from a puckish ball player who claimed he “couldn’t pitch without pills” and was known to pull a leg or two (look up the curler incident)? Dunno. There is no footage of the game so any visual evidence has been lost to the sands of time. But it’s a great story and, as a comment on the YouTube video above notes that Dock’s entry in the box score would have been, “Ellis, D.”
Watch the video above to hear the story in his own words.
The story of the no-hitter was told by Ellis in an interview on NPR. That audio is used for the animation by cartoonist James Blagden above.
Game 7 in which the Chicago Cubs took the World Series for the first time in 108 years was one for history books. The back-and-forth battle had everyone on the edge of their seats nervously finishing off the rest of their halloween candy well into the night.
There were many amazing plays but it was this moment, caught on mike, that connected us with the players on a personal level. In this snippet of dugout banter the 27-year old Anthony Rizzo talks to 39-year old David Ross who is playing the final game of his career.
Rizzo: I can’t control myself right now. I’m trying my best.
Ross: It’s understandably so, buddy.
Rizzo: I’m emotional.
Ross: I hear ya.
Rizzo: I’m an emotional wreck.
Ross: Well, it’s only going to get worse. Just continue to breathe. That’s all you can do, buddy. It’s only gonna get worse.
Rizzo: I’m in a glass case of emotion right now.
Ross: Wait until the 9th with this three-run lead.
It’s not often that the Cubs make it to the post season so when they do, something’s gotta give. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student Ben Larson asks his professor if he could take a make up exam and the professor’s response is priceless.
“Like the Mets, the Athletics are the less popular team in a two-team region — less popular everywhere in that region, based on the data from Facebook. Again, winning the World Series matters. The Giants have won two of the last four. The A’s have won none of the last 24.”
I always knew that there are a lot of East Coast transplants in the Bay Area, 6% of them being Red Sox fans sounds about right.
I had a windfall a couple weeks ago when our neighbor ended up with extra tickets to a sky suite at the Oakland Colesium. We went with Tyler and the neighborhood boys to see the Yankees play the A’s. On the way back from getting cotton candy, a photo service vendor took a photo where I found the picture above. More photos from the game on my flickr set.
Check out this great video of a guy with autism who was invited to sing the national anthem at Fenway park. He gets a case of the nervous giggles halfway through and the crowd picks up and carries him the rest of the way.
Management forgot one small detail: drunk people get restless. More than 25,000 fans showed up for the event, most of them already tipsy at the gate. Among the more tame incidents was a woman who flashed the crowd from the on-deck circle, a father-son team mooning the players (good bonding experience, I guess) and fans jumping on the field to meet shake hands with the outfielders. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, the Indians tied the game, but never got a chance to win. Fans started throwing batteries, golf balls, cups and rocks onto the field and one even took the glove of the Rangers right fielder. As the player rushed into the stands to get his glove back, fans starting swarming the field to stop him and threw chairs to block his way.
Tyler’s T-Ball league teams are all named after real Major League teams. Tyler plays for the Washington Nationals who were most recently the Montreal Expos. Last weekend we all went to the beautiful SBC Park to see the real Washington Nationals play the San Francisco Giants. It was pouring down rain on our way in and everyone was wondering if the game would be called. As we waited for the light to change so we could cross the street to the stadium, I looked around and could see that this was a die hard crowd. They were going to this game even though it was raining and was predicted to rain through to the evening. They were there on the off chance that the game would be on. Folks were huddled under their umbrellas in grim determination and I began to wonder if this day at the ballpark was going to work out as planned.
As we waited, a station wagon rolled by in traffic with a young girl, maybe 9 or 10 years old, leaning out the window and waving her baseball glove madly and egging on the crowd, “Game On! Game On!” as if she could will the game to happen. You could see she couldn’t wait to see her SF Giants hit the field. And would you believe it, after a short delay, the grounds crew came out to pull the covering off the diamond to the roar of the crowd.
The game went into extra innings and came down to some questionable calls but by that time we had already gone. As you can see from the photo above, attention spans were waning and when the wind picked up in the fifth inning, it was time to duck out and head home.
The seats were great (thanks Andrew!) and the kids had a blast.