The N.J. Botanical Garden consists of 96 acres within Ringwood State Park in the Ramapo Mountains. It was originally the estate of New York stockbroker Clarence Lewis who built the manor house (Skylands Manor) and grounds in the 1920’s. It was purchased by the state in 1966.
The gardens are open year round and are free of charge. They are maintained by volunteers.
The Lenape were the original inhabitants of the northern New Jersey area where I live. They were the original inhabitants of all of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, New York City and parts of Long Island and the Hudson Valley. You’ve heard the story of Manhattan Island being bought from its native inhabitants for trinkets. It’s deals like that, along with fraudulent promises of hunting and use rights that forced the Lenape off their land. Wars, including inter-tribal warfare, and smallpox further decimated the tribes. Most of the survivors ended up in Oklahoma, Canada, Ohio and Wisconsin.
The Lenape would hardly recognize what has become Essex County, N.J. It is the second most densely populated county in the most densely populated state in the country. Overall it is the 15th most densely populated county in the U.S. Yet it also was the first county in the country to create a county park system. The Essex County Park Commission was created in 1895 and its first task was creating the nation’s first county park, Branch Brook Park in Newark. As would be the case with several future Essex County Parks, Branch Brook was designed by the Olmstead Organization.
Considering the profile of this county, you might be surprised to learn that it’s the home of a 36-mile hiking trail that looks like an upside down “U” across the county map. Its name is the Lenape Trail. While that is a tribute to the Lenape, the pathways have nothing to do with anything the original inhabitants did. However, it has everything to do with the Essex County Park system. It connects 18 parks in 11 different towns, starting in Newark and ending in Millburn. Seventy percent of the trail goes through woodlands or parks while the other 30% runs along roadways. To do it start to finish would take almost six hours.
Al Kent, a former park commissioner in neighboring Morris County, began the blazing of the trail (always in yellow blazes) in 1976. He was affiliated with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, the Sierra Club and the New Jersey Environmental Lobby. He finished up the original iteration of the trail in 1979.
My dog and I did not do it start to finish. These photos are from several trips to different parts of the trail and are from winter and spring.
From Here to Here
Branch Brook Park (Newark)
Brookdale Park (Bloomfield and Montclair)
While most of the trail goes through preserved woodlands or well-manicured parks, it also goes through busy intersections like this one in Bloomfield:
Or along quiet residential streets like this one:
Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, Mountainside Park (Montclair)
Mills Reservation (Montclair and Cedar Grove)
Hilltop Reservation (Cedar Grove, North Caldwell, Verona)
Verona Park (Verona)
Eagle Rock Reservation (West Orange, Montclair and Verona)
South Mountain Reservation (Maplewood, Millburn and West Orange)
Quiet as It’s Kept, Whitney Museum of American Art
“We organized this Biennial to reflect these precarious and improvised times,” say the curators of the current exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The Biennial has been a regular feature at the Whitney since 1932. Exhibiting works that have been completed in the previous two years, the Biennial is considered a snapshot of the state of art in America.
This year’s exhibit is delayed one year due to COVID. The theme “Quiet as It’s Kept” is, according to the curators, a “phrase typically said prior to something–often obvious–that should be kept secret.” How that relates to the works that I saw on display escapes me.
Nonetheless, the Biennial is always an innovative and dynamic exhibition and this year’s event is no exception. I thought the wide diversity of mediums on display was particularly noteworthy. Here’s a few of what for me were the highlights.
Installations (works I didn’t know how to categorize)
As this series of blog posts about baseball’s dumbest plays shows, it is not just about dusting off the archives of baseball’s long history. If you watch enough games it is only a matter of time before you encounter a head-scratchingly dumb bit of baserunning or an inexplicable bit of misjudgement in the field.
In fact, it was only last year that we witnessed what some observers have called the dumbest play in major league history. This video speaks for itself. Stay tuned for the reaction of the Cubs bench after the play.
It was the top of the third inning. The visiting Cubs had a 1-0 lead with a runner on second with two outs when Javy Baez hit the fateful ground ball to third. The Cubs would go on to win the game 5-3. One could make the case that this was a harbinger of what was to come for the Pittsburghers who would end up being one of only two National League teams to lose 100 games and finished dead last in the National League Central Division.
Writing in Golf Digest (off all places), Alex Myers offered this assessment: “Will (Craig) was responsible for the dumbest play in Major League Baseball history. This is not an exaggeration. You’d have to go to a tee ball game to find something dumber. And even then, this might still be the dumbest play you’d see.”
Interviewed by AP baseball writer Will Graves, Pirates manager Derek Shelton tried to break down what he saw: “We have to make sure we get the force. That’s just where it’s at. I mean if Baez runs all the way back home or runs into their dugout or runs down to the Strip District we can walk down and touch first.”
Graves called it “40 seconds of madness that will likely follow Baez and Craig no matter where their careers take them.”
Craig agreed: “”I guess I’m going to be on the blooper reels for the rest of my life.” His analysis: “It all boils down to me losing my brain for a second.”
Shelton assured reporters that you don’t cut a player just because he makes a mistake. But a week later, that’s exactly what they did, in baseball parlance, designating Craig for assignment. He ended up on the Pirates Indianapolis minor league team.
Will Craig had been an All-American third baseman at Wake Forest. That led to him being drafted in the first round in 2016 by the Pirates. He made his major league debut in August of 2020, playing one game and going 0-4.
In 2021 he got into 18 games, batting .217 in 60 at bats. Shortly after he was relegated to Indianapolis, he headed to Korea looking for a reset on his career. He signed with the Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO. He hit .248 in Korea, with 6 home runs. They chose not to resign him.
I have been a lifelong baseball fan, but I admit there are times the game can be a bit slow. From my schoolboy days as a player I can remember how long the innings seemed when you are out in the field and no balls ever come your way. So it is not surprising to find that sometimes a ballplayer’s mind wanders a bit while he standing out in the sunshine doing…nothing.
Do you think that happens to major leaguers? Do they start thinking about where they’re going after the game or what they’re going to do at the end of a long road trip? Surely we expect them to at least keep track of how many outs there are, and e en if they do temporarily lose the plot there’s always the teammates holding up one or two fingers. And that’s not to mention the modern baseball stadiums’ 360 degree signage that makes the number of outs in an inning clearly visible even if you’re buried in a long line at a hot dog stand.
We don’t know what Chicago Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley was thinking on the night of June 12, 2009, that caused him to lose track of how many outs there were with the MInnesota Twins batting in the top of the 8th inning. But knowing what would transpire later in life it’s not likely that he was distracted by warm thoughts about his wife.
“In an inter-league game against the visiting Minnesota Twins, Bradley had already had a bad day by the seventh inning, losing a fly ball in the sun that led to a run for the Twins.
“In the eighth inning, with two men on base, Bradley camped himself under a routine fly ball and caught it, flipping the ball into the bleachers and posing for a picture.
“However, there was only one problem. There was only one out at the time. The lead runner was sent home on the stupid mental mistake.”
Bradley was always something of a loose cannon. During the 2004 season, he sauntered up to the plate, started arguing with the home plate umpire and got himself ejected. At first he walked calmly back to his dugout, but then threw a bag of several dozen baseballs out onto the field and followed that up by throwing some of them into the stands. Later that season, a Dodgers fan threw a water bottle at him after he had lost a fly ball in the lights. Bradley picked up the bottle and headed to the stands, throwing it right back. He was restrained by one of the umpires who then ejected him. He was suspended for the rest of the season (it was September) and ordered to go to anger management counseling.
Despite incidents like this Bradley fashioned an 11 year MLB career. He played for eight different teams. He was a guy prone to wearing out his welcome. But he was a .271 lifetime hitter and was talented enough that there always was another team willing to give him a go.
After that game against Minnesota, the next day AP story had this to say:
“The Cubs’ Milton Bradley wasn’t so beloved by the home fans even though his two-run double in the sixth off Slowey halved what had been a 4-0 deficit.
“In the seventh, he lost Jason Kubel’s pop-up in the sun for a single and got a late jump while failing to catch Michael Cuddyer’s RBI bloop double for a 5-3 Twins lead and then it got worse.
“With Nick Punto on third, Harris on first and one out in the eighth inning, Bradley caught Mauer’s flyball and, thinking the inning was over, posed for several seconds before throwing the baseball into the seats. As Punto scored easily on the sacrifice fly to make it 6-3, Harris was awarded third base on Bradley’s error as boos cascaded down from every section of the ballpark.”
And what did Bradley have to say for himself: “That’s life. These people have high expectations. I have high expectations for myself. I never made a mistake like that (losing track of the outs) in my life. Sue me.”
The Twins won that game 7-4. Bradley was nearing the end of his career. The Cubs traded him to Seattle at the end of 2009 season. He lasted until early in the 2011 season when the Mariners cut him loose.
Things didn’t go substantially better for Bradley after his playing days. In 2013, he was convicted of nine counts of physically attacking and threatening his wife as well as several other charges and was sentenced to 32 months in prison. He got out, remarried and in 2018 he pleaded no contest to charges of spousal battery. This time he was sentenced to 36 months of probation and 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling. No word on how that worked out.
Major League Baseball teams have a bench full of coaches. There’s always a hitting coach and a pitching coach. There’s a bench coach, who I assume is the guy who takes over if the head man blows a gasket and gets ejected. There’s a specialist to coach first base and another to coach third. Out in the outfield is a bullpen coach. But having done the research for this series of the dumbest plays in baseball, I have to think it might be a good idea to trade in one of these guys for a baserunning coach.
While so many of the gaffes I’ve been describing involve bad baserunning. there is one that stands out above all the others. It happened on May 27, 2003 in a game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Francisco Giants.
Ruben Rivera was on his fifth major league team at that time. The cousin of legendary Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, the Panamanian was signed by the Yankees in 1990. Five years later Baseball America labelled him the number two prospect in baseball. He made his debut as a September call-up with the Yankees that same year. San Francisco was the last stop in an 8-year major league career.
Rivera did not make much of an impression with the Giants that year. That is until the May 27 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The game was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth. The Giants sent up a pitch hittter Andres Galarraga who reached on an error. They then sent Rivera to first base to pinch run for Galarraga.
AP baseball writer Ben Walker describes what then ensued:
“Ruben Rivera got so lost on the bases, even fans at Pacific Bell Park tried to point him in the right direction. His misadventure was blooper tape material, for sure. And he could afford to laugh about it later, too, because his team won.
“Rivera was running as Marquis Grissom hit a high fly that right fielder David Dellucci misjudged, and the ball landed for an error.
“Rivera had already made it to second base, but retreated once he thought the ball would be caught. When it wasn’t, he reversed course again and took off for third.
“Only one problem: While scrambling, Rivera missed second base and wound up on the infield grass.
“At that point, many fans in the crowd were standing, pointing at the skipped bag.
“So Rivera went back, retouched second and headed for third. The relay from second baseman Junior Spivey was in plenty of time to get Rivera at third, but the ball skipped away for another error.
“When the ball rolled loose, Rivera bumped into third baseman Alex Cintron and sped home.
“Arizona shortstop Tony Womack recovered and threw to the plate, and Rivera was easily tagged out.”
Giants announcer Jon Miller called it “the worst baserunning in the history of the game.” Here’s his call:
After that adventure on the bases, Rivera only played in one more major league game. He was released by the Giants a week later. At the time he had 50 at bats and was hitting .180. Rivera resumed his career in Mexico where he played until he retired in 2019. He also played for the Panama team in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009.