Hello everyone. This is just a simple invite to check out my new blog and maybe “follow” it if you like what you see. Baseball just isn’t the hip, happening thing right now and my frustrations seem to be amplified daily concerning the whole operation. I have an actual and real hatred towards Rob “Cheap Piece of Metal” Manfred and Oakland A’s owner John Fisher. It’s also doubtful that there will be any games at all this year as a result of the current strike, further sullying the enterprise.
The inspiration for a new blog loosely came from Mark over at the lovely RetroSimba. He started writing about (American) football and I thought, “Hey, I wanna do that!” So check it out if you want, and like it if you want. That’s about the gist of it. Have a nice day.
As I’m making my coffee in the morning my cat routinely comes into the kitchen and stands next to my legs to greet me, lightly brushing with his tail every so often. I pick up the little critter and set him on the bar to stroke his orange coat for a bit before giving him a few treats. After gobbling the morsels, he then runs outside on the deck to get some fresh air and to harass random chattering and angry squirrels simply trying to access their mythical, hidden cache. This is part of our routine, something that promotes health and wellness. It’s a great thing to be a wild and crazy guy, but we also need routines to settle our brain so the messy bugger is able to compute correctly. What is the significance of this? Nothing. Just another day…except today is Halloween!
I tried to watch a bit of the World Series last night, but it’s difficult to be attentive as I don’t have a dog in the race. No doubt, this has to be the most ‘Merica Fall Classic of all time as you have a crew of trash-can-banging cheaters from a state that instituted fascist abortion laws, essentially reverting humanity and women’s rights back to the Vatican of the 1300’s, (still up in the air if we can burn a hussy at the stake) or you can root with an assortment of redneck menagerie eating processed nacho cheese out of a pork barrel and periodically switching off on chanting the “tomahawk chop” with the bass intro to a shitty White Stripes song the whole goddamn game. On occasion my subconscious was discombobulated and I had to stop for a moment and assure myself that I was watching a baseball game and wasn’t mysteriously transported to a klan rally by aliens via Jewish space lasers. My friend overheard the chanting from the other room and said simply, “stupid,” and I just chuckled as I polished off my Budweiser and smashed the can against my forehead. I’m no paragon of virtue either, obviously, but it was a superb game in the end despite the psychic fallout–Braves won 3-2.
There was an article in some mainstream-newspaper-fish wrap where the hack stated that the rubes (the fans) must enjoy baseball in the present moment on grounds that the dissolute prima-donnas will be striking next year. “You must savor every inning as if it’s your last.” I thought, who gives a toss? I refuse to give in to the effete demands of millionaires and billionaires and their nihilist institution! In addition, my team will be a shit show next year anyway, and if I need my junkie fix I can always watch Japanese baseball (NPB) or go check out my local sandlot team. I heard the Austin Grackles are supposed to be pretty good, and they sport some sweet ball-caps. I guess you could say that I’m entering my end of the year, cynical “baseball sucks” neurosis routine until spring training starts again, this time without Bob Melvin for the first time in over a decade. No doubt, I’ll probably read a few books about players and seasons from the past over the winter and let out a prolonged sigh.
I got tix tonight to see John Carpenter’s original 1978 classic, Halloween, and I’m excited to see it on the big screen for the first time. It’s a typical slasher trope that teenagers are killed for having pre-marital sex, but one of the characters is strangled for casually thinking about banging her boyfriend on the way to pick him up in her 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Ain’t that the way it goes? Life sometimes just ain’t fair. I’ve also decided that I’m taking a break from this crusty ‘ol degenerate blog and wont see you guys again until April. Until then, stay well and warm, don’t eat all the kid’s candy, leave the “bag snatching” to the teens, and when you start seeing double it’s time to leave the bar.
I had no misguided delusions of this team winning the division at the beginning of the 2021 season. The past few days I have read various comments comparing Sergio Romo to a white flag, but you’ll see that I wrote on this very blog some months ago that I saw the Romo and Elvis Andrus acquisitions as a white flag with no implications of competing before a single ball was hurled or a single bat was swung.
It was simply lipstick on a pig.
It’s not practical for a team that is tip-toeing the paper-thin line between “good” and “average” to lose two All-Star caliber players (Marcus Semien, Liam Hendricks) and supplant them with two decrepit, below average players who are barely ML caliber. Who was relegated to pick up the slack? Because no one on this roster did–or was even capable–and the numbers to be replaced were insurmountable. The fact that either player stepped on the field wearing pajamas with Oakland stitched on the front was a middle-finger to the fans. A ruse. The same tired and time-honored baseball front office hoax of getting the fans interested by virtue of a recognized player who “did it in the past” rather than the ability to put up numbers for your team today–and the uneducated, fringe fans fall for it…every…single….time.
We as fans are supposed to “trust the process,” but where does a team go with a 29th ranked minor league system and zero ability to sign high profile free agents? Are we as Oakland fans to forever wish upon a star with the likes of Skye Bolt or a myriad of AAAA players? To dig through the trash to find somewhat capable players with obvious flaws and then leave it to management to disguise said flaws? Make no mistake about it, the contention window has closed with this current team, and with the threat of a move to Las Vegas imminent, these are times of high anxiety for fans of the green and gold. We are staring into the void of the baseball universe and having an existential crisis while the front office is trying to prove their craftiness by playing a glamorized version of Strat-O-Matic. Dare I say the Devil Rays have surpassed the A’s at their own game in this respect? A World Series appearance, the best record in the AL, and a stacked minor league system tells me…. hell yes.
Humbled and surpassed at our own Moneyball game as a billionaire con-man (John Fisher and his tasseled loafers can burn in hell) hiding behind the scenes uses the team, the city of Oakland, and MLB in order to extort and develop hundreds of acres of publicly owned land posing as a “stadium project.” In the end, this team we root for is just an asset for real estate development–the franchise itself is entirely immaterial to the bottom line.
These are disparaging times with no foreseeable reprieve.
I remember that day well. I had almost drown while surfing in the hidden cove. The waves took me under and I was thrashing around at the bottom and had no idea which way was up and which way was down. It didn’t matter, as I was being pummeled mercilessly and told myself not to panic or I’d start sucking in water. I suppose there are worse ways to die, but while it’s happening you are never really ready to concede no matter the aesthetic. It’s like a surprise birthday party in all the wrong ways.
There is nothing like the sensory pleasure of falling off a surfboard into the cold Southern California ocean as you tumble under the surface for what seems like an eternity and surface gasping for air. I was reborn as I violently broke the surface–blind luck and another bullet dodged in a moment of equal measure grandeur and folly. I dragged myself across the caramel-hued sand, chest heaving heavily and astonished to still be in one piece as the sky was making that brief transformation that comes every evening at twilight.
“Whats new, pussycat?” I asked, still gasping for air.
My girlfriend had brought the New York Times, a large umbrella, and a few adult beverages. She looked amazing in her bikini, and I was jealous of the sun glistening off her light-brown cocoa skin like a forbidden sanctum while my own pasty coating was sucking up skin cancer like a flophouse on future consignment. My lust was transparent. We were hanging out mere feet away from where Charlton Heston filmed the iconic scene with the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes. It was well known to locals, but you had to climb a small stack of sharp, craggy boulders to enter the VIP room.
“Did you know that most “friendships” are only reciprocal 53 percent of the time?” said the girl as she emerged from stray thoughts and tugged at her top–revealing quite more than a sliver of sun-kissed cleavage.
I sat for a minute quietly thinking about my own life and the relationships that had come and gone–always cutting deceptively dark and deep. I supposed that I had never seen any sort of friendship as “forever” because of my own abandonment by my father. Because of this thought, and the anxiety of the inevitable, perhaps I never put the time or the effort into friendships that I should have. I simply exhausted all avenues and then quietly moved on with little care. Shadows of the past. Funny how that happens–one minute you’re dying, and the next…disastrous self-scrutiny.
“Looks like your favorite player was traded,” she said.
“Those damn dirty apes,” I thought. They went and did the inevitable –so how could I be shocked or angry? “They’ll love him in New York for about, oh, 15 minutes.” (Gray was 15-16 over the lower part of 2 seasons before being exiled to Cincinnati for a package of hot dog buns)
Echoes of the past rumble through my head as I gazed upon the murderous waves crashing in deadly syncopation. I loved to tempt the laws of probability as a reaffirmation of existence. I dragged the surfboard slowly to the water and the previous thoughts disappeared as suddenly as they came. I didn’t like revisiting the past– and the way the waves were looking today, perhaps I didn’t have a future either.
Gary Trujillo: I watched that Field Of Dreams game, and it was really cool from an aesthetic standpoint… and what an ending! I’m not a big fan of the movie though, it’s way too cheesy for my tastes. My favorite baseball movie would have to be Bull Durham because the writing is smart, funny, romantic, sexy and raunchy. And Susan Sarandon! Meow.
I met BD writer Ron Shelton at the Burbank Library in 2010 and he was a cool guy. Jim Bouton (RIP) was there that day too as was Greg Goossen (RIP)
Brian Kingman: Yes! Bull Durman is more realistic and my favorite too. When I watched the movie I was interested to see who wrote it because it combined a high level of understanding of what it was like to play the game professionally, as well as an awesome job of capturing the personal interaction between teammates (Mostly Costner & Robbins) as well as what it is like to be a naive rookie or a seasoned pro. My favorite scene is when Costner tells the hitter what’s coming and he hits the home run off the bull. It so accurately depicted the feeling and interaction between an experienced catcher and rookie pitcher who thinks he is invincible.
I think almost every young pitcher has been in that situation. I remember the first time I faced Reggie Jackson, it was 0-2, no one on base and I shook off a curveball twice! because I WANTED TO ANNOUNCE MY PRESENCE WITH AUTHORITY.…..with a fastball of course. Well, that ball ended up 30 rows deep in the right-field stands. If the Durham bull had been there it might have knocked its head off! Jim Essian, my catcher came out to the mound with a smile that said, I told you so and said, “Now there’s something to remember.”
Anyway, Ron Shelton should be in Baseball’s HOF for writing (and directing) that movie!
Field Of Dreams is different. Less realistic and requires the suspension of disbelief. It would be awesome if old-time players could emerge from a cornfield! Not sure how many would be available or where it might happen. Maybe in a parallel universe there is a schedule of old-timers games for everyone that ever played. Like (the novel) The Wax Pack you could catch up with your favorite players. Unlike Wax Pack it wouldn’t matter if they were still living …well at least not in the here and now.
With everyone theoretically available, my list would be very long. I would like, of course, to meet Dolf Luque. August 24th was the 99th anniversary of his 20th loss – the last pitcher before me to lose 20 for a winning team. Jack Nabors, who suffered through a 1-20 season and of course Pud Galvin. I’d want to get Babe Ruth’s opinion on today’s homerun glut, but more importantly the highlights of his nightlife. I’d ask Rube Wadell why he chased fire trucks, and I would ask Casey Stengel to tell me all he knows about Billy Martin. I’d like to meet Anthony Young to hear his frustrations of losing 27 consecutive decisions. I would hope that the power of walking through the corn isn’t limited to just the diamond. I want to meet these guys in a bar so we can sit down and talk for hours. I know Babe would feel right at home. I also know that Luque and Stengel don’t like each other, and as the night wears on a plastered Billly Martin should appear to make things even more interesting.
“What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.” ― Werner Herzog
I’m walking down the street on a main boulevard near a donut shop with two unknown, genderless children. (?) I have been here before, in my waking life. It is the type of place where, if you’re not wearing absolute rags they think you have money and are a half-wit who can be taken advantage of. Suddenly, a large, heavily tattooed man grabs my arm as I pass. I swing around to confront the man when I find a gun that looks comically small in his massive, sweaty meathooks pointed directly at my face. I panic, and seemingly conscious that this is a dream, I bail out and am abruptly sucked away from this destitute reality and awaken on my bed in a darkened room.
There is a moment of pause and reflection before I stare at the time–4:30–and I’ll probably toss and turn for a few hours before slumbering again. My phone tells me that the Yomiuri Giants are playing the Chunichi Dragons, and it’s 1-0 in the 4th. I turn it on. These teams were playing baseball on the other side of the globe and battling for playoff position–a classic Japanese version of the Dodgers/Giants rivalry with both teams wearing the respective colors of the teams from the Golden State. Who was that tattooed man, and what does he represent? And the children? Too tired, and not in the mood for Freudian consideration, I watch for a few innings–the pace and play comforting me before finally awarded repose once again.
Although much of what I do here is the literary equivalent of digital fish wrap, I recently decided to go a different direction and did a cool and very interesting interview with Matt from Oakland A’s UK. I despise long intros, so I’ll let the interview do the talking…also, do yourself a favor and check out the link above if you get a chance! Enjoy.
1. Let’s start with the genesis of this love affair. How did you discover baseball in a football-obsessed country, and why did you choose the Oakland A’s as your favorite club?
In the late 1990s and early 2000s two MLB games per week were shown live on British TV in the early hours of the morning. As a big sports fan, I thought I would give baseball a shot and so I recorded a game and was hooked straight away, despite not having much of a clue what was going on at first. My first game was in mid-1998 so I lucked into the whole drama of the ‘Run for ‘61’ (slightly tarnished in retrospect!) that season and also quickly gained a healthy dislike of the Yankees due to them being annoyingly good in that period!
I thought it would be more fun to have a team to root for, but had no geographic or family reasons that might pick a team for me, other than not wanting to jump onto the bandwagon of the usual big-name teams. In the end, it came down to the colors. I come from a small city called Norwich and our soccer team plays in yellow and green, so when I saw the A’s green and gold caps that was as good a reason as any.
I’d say I’ve properly been following the A’s since 2005, as that was the first year when MLB.TV was really starting up and I was able to watch or listen to lots of games rather than just reading up about them online. 2005 really isn’t all that long ago, but the way MLB.TV has developed over the years since, and streaming in general, is pretty remarkable. Add on social media and wherever you are in the world you can now feel like part of the fan base. We’ve been incredibly lucky that so many A’s fans have been so welcoming towards us, both online and on visits to the Coliseum, and I think that speaks to the unique spirit that A’s fans have.
2. Considering the time change, you and your crew have to rise at ungodly hours to watch these games. How do you suffer through it?
We are 8 hours ahead of Pacific Time so day-games are our friend! A typical 12.37pm or 1.07pm start in Oakland is 8.37pm/9.07pm here in the UK, and that means most weeks there are at least 2 if not 3 games we can watch live at a convenient time.
The night-games are usually a 2.40am or 3.07am start for us. With the best will in the world, watching those live every day, combined with a full-time job and other commitments, often isn’t feasible. So we don’t tend to watch ‘working week’ night-games live and instead either just settle for watching the highlights or watch the game back ‘as live’ the following day. That’s been made easier over the past 18 months due to Covid lockdowns and the increase home-working where we can have it on in the background!
The other silver lining of the Covid period has been the wide adoption of Zoom calls as a way for us to watch games together despite living apart, in different parts of the UK and also friends out there in the States joining too. That helps to get us through late nights when the game is dragging on a bit.
3. Are you invested in the decision regarding the Oakland City Council and the A’s potentially leaving Oakland?
Definitely. We don’t come from a sporting culture of franchises and the very idea of picking up a team and moving it somewhere else is completely abhorrent to us whoever the team is, let alone the one we love. I know the A’s moved from Philadelphia and KC to get here, but the team has been in Oakland since 1968 so by now I think everyone has the right to consider the A’s as being Oakland’s team. I guess Fisher and Kaval see the Vegas flirting as standard business practice for US franchises, but it’s just the latest kick in the teeth for a fanbase that has been treated terribly for years and deserves so much better.
Clearly the Howard Terminal plan is complicated, but it feels like it has got further along the line than any other plan for a new ballpark in Oakland, so I view it all with cautious optimism. All of us in the AUK group would struggle to follow the team to a new location, especially one out of the Bay Area, so we all desperately hope that everything works out and Fisher and Kaval actually come good on their ‘Rooted In Oakland’ talk.
4. Who are your favorite players and most hated? (Any Jim Johnson hate would be appreciated)
Jim Johnson certainly is on the bad list, with Billy Butler being the other name that comes up most in our discussions of recent flops.
In terms of favorites, I think I loved everything about Coco Crisp, from his name to his batting stance, and he was a rare player who stuck around for quite a while. Cespedes was like a comet who shone with us briefly, but he felt like a star player when he was here, and one who genuinely seemed to enjoy being in Oakland.
Most recently, Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks were players you had to love because we saw their struggles and how hard they worked to become excellent players, and again both had a lot of respect for the A’s fan base. That made the past off-season really hard, but there are always new players to emerge or existing ones to step up. Right now, my vote would be for ‘the starting rotation’! I love the way that they clearly enjoy being in each other’s company and drive each other on. Here’s hoping they can keep performing as well as they have up to this point.
Here is a cover I “designed” for a little-known and now-defunct baseball magazine (this was around the time magazines were on the cusp of dying, but were still relevant to the average Luddite, tactile enthusiast, or collector of things) that never ran. The editors, or powers that be, said it was too abstract or artsy, but I didn’t care as they had already bestowed the 200 clams for the idea–no questions asked. In the end, I presumably decided that this working relationship probably wouldn’t progress my ideas or disciplines as a creator and in the process did some serious dampening on my ideas of the publishing world.
I met the founder/owner/head honcho for dinner one night in a Chinese restaurant, and all the other writers/designers/shit workers wore a suit jacket or tie of which I was obviously exempt. One of the wives asked the server if the rice was “the type with plastic in it.” I was dumbfounded until she explained to me that she had read somewhere that the Chinese put plastic in their rice. I was then assured that my meal would be less than hygienic once the cooks were informed of this deranged idea.
There is something about an ostentatious dinner party that is equivalent to watching the entire life cycle of a drowning house fly. This excursion was an example of wealth without inhibition, leading to projects done on a whim because someone had money to burn, and because of their ineptitude and lack of knowledge of the (dying) industry, their layman cracks were starting to show major gaps between ideal and actuality.
Insider jargon was being thrown around fast and furious, more or less centered around the male, mass media, basic-bitch sphere of cologne, beer, and cars–and the lines between fantasy and reality were laughably blurred. I decided in an instant to make the shittiest cover I could possibly throw together just to see if it would, by some miracle, get green-lighted. The “project” was a simple cut and paste that was done hastily in about a minute on my laptop while folding laundry…not bad work for a couple of Benjamin Franklins on a sleepy Saturday.
The A’s finally acquired some bullpen help in the form of Andrew Chafin, and the green and gold zealots were predictably overjoyed. Here are some of the complaints that A’s fans have relished this season: bullpen, bullpen, bullpen, Chapman can’t hit, bullpen, bullpen, Andrus can’t hit, bullpen, bullpen, John Fisher is the human equivalent of a festering boil, bullpen, bullpen, bullpen.
Chafin has the look that A’s fans embrace–that of the badass dad with a handlebar mustache and a beer belly that sometimes parties with his Hells Angels friends on the weekends. He conjures up visual memories of a favorite of this blog–Rod Beck, (RIP Shooter) and will hopefully bring a left-handed dominance that the Oakland ball club has desperately needed. This guy is like bringing water to someone who has been crawling around, lips cracked and sun-baked in the desert. Remember that scene with Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? Blondie can finally drink. Not to be greedy, but I would be ecstatic if we could also acquire a stick before the deadline, because this offense smells worse than diarrhea on a hot tin roof and doesn’t even remotely resemble a team of contention.
To everyone’s shock and surprise, yours truly was apparently persuasive enough to wrangle a few media credentials recently for a AAA game on a hot, sticky Saturday night in Round Rock, Texas. My baseball buddy (the female version, not the one that looks like Cheech) had a good laugh at this and was comparing me to the baseball writing equivalent of Hunter S. Thompson.
“They’re going to be wondering, who the hell is this guy affiliated with?” she said with a snicker, glaring at my cut-off jean shorts and general casual appearance that bordered on “depraved homeless guy” entangled with a little “divorced dad who stopped giving a shit” vibe–the only thing missing was the cigarette holder and flask of vodka in the breast pocket.
I assured her that this wasn’t the old-school baseball writing world of cigar-chomping old guys wearing Hawaiian shirts with an Olivetti typewriter tucked beneath their arm. No, my friend, these weren’t newspaper and media hacks who didn’t use nuance or subtext and who hadn’t read anything remotely literary since the ink on a copy of The Old Man and the Sea was fresh. These were modern, good ‘ol All American tech-savvy baseball promoters with hipster haircuts, toothy smiles and finely trimmed beards looking to climb the ladder in a billion-dollar industry by foisting fake opinions for clicks and sponsors.
“Wow, now you look even worse.”
All the internal hype was for naught. (This was, alas, the minor leagues) I was asked, indeed, what outfit I was with, but the overall Press Box atmosphere seemed sort of relaxed and lethargic as I put on an authoritative and seasoned air meant to mirror professionalism. A nice man, Leonard, answered a few questions, told us we couldn’t go into the TV room, and gave us some tickets for free tacos. There was a snack spread and we took a few bags of chips and soda and decided to go down and find a few empty seats on the first baseline with the rest of the fans: we needed that feeling of symbiosis that had been missing since our weakened empire unequivocally turned divisive politically, went mentally unhinged and rehearsed a zombie apocalypse drill. I was also told that under no circumstances could someone media affiliated receive the Nolan Ryan bobblehead giveaway that night. Well, shit.
Overall, it was a humid, syrupy, sweat-inducing pleasant time. The atmosphere was lively (the crowd sang “Deep In The Heart Of Texas” during the 7th inning stretch) and my new favorite player, Curtis Terry aka “Scary Terry” hit 2 massive dingers while my baseball buddy made a sugary mess eating a funnel cake. A major highlight was the hilarious stampede for dollar hot dogs when the “Hot Dog Batter” struck out in the bottom half of the 7th–a kindly older gentleman felt the need to wildly instruct everyone in our section of this fact while other fans returned triumphantly with ghastly amounts of their pink, mustard-laden prize…I love minor league baseball.
All it takes is one minor “insignificant” thing to enter labyrinthine corridors that lead to dreams, memories, and fantasies…and watching the 1988 ALCS Game 3 on youtube was the meager catalyst that jolted the brain and shook free a few locked away memories that slowly clambered to the surface. Memories of childhood often walk that fine line of the unholy hybrid of the fictional and the real, and the rusty time capsule had been jarred open rather coarsely with a crowbar whether I liked it or not. The antique contents were tender reminders of budding times when you accepted the mysteries of oneself because there was no mystery to contemplate, you just are.
Tim C. was a boy who lived in my neighborhood and I remember watching the 1988 ALCS at his house, although the details tend to get foggy like a faded photocopy. (One detail that isn’t foggy is the Red Sox holding a 5-0 lead that ended in an eventual 10-6 loss) We would get bored and go outside to toss the football and once even walked to the store to get a soda, ice cream sandwiches, and baseball cards. I remember there were a considerable amount of commercials for the upcoming presidential election between George Bush and Michael Dukakis, but we didn’t care in the slightest who won–someone would probably punch you in the stomach at that age if you dared to talk about such nonsense. Besides, there were bigger debates like–who was hotter: Samantha Fox or the red-headed vixen dry-humping two Jaguars in the Whitesnake video?
Tim’s parents were never around, (they were notorious barflies) so his house was a bit on the grungy side, and damned if I can remember him ever offering me anything to eat or drink. He was an early example of the vulgar inequities of life–with his family being dirt poor–but he was a good athlete and wasn’t averse to getting into a fistfight with older boys so he was almost admired around the neighborhood. For reasons that elude me, I also remember that he had a poster of Led Zepplin’s Houses Of The Holy in his room, and I would often stare at the cryptic image of naked, golden-haired children crawling around an apocalyptic landscape in wonderment. This image resonated and unearthed murky, neolithic repressed memories perhaps representing a past and an ancient life long forgotten in an odd feeling of soul transference. Silly, I know.
After elementary school, we sort of outgrew each other, as boys tend to do, and friends seem to be transitory as you cultivate life as a 13-year-old. Forever gone was the world of battered bicycles, black eyes, and skinned knees. We would give each other knowing glances in the hallway but were worlds apart as growing teenagers. Tim, being far more mature than I, was already into heavy metal and girls, and I was sort of still trying to figure things out at this vulnerable age, albeit awkwardly while wearing Bugle Boy jeans, multi-color fluorescent t-shirts, and listening to generic pop music on a transistor radio covered with stickers.
Tim died in a car accident not long after graduating high school–something I didn’t find out about until years after the incident as I had already moved 500 miles away from our tiny little culture(less) vacuum. The driver was drunk, killing his wife as well as 19-year-old passenger Tim–who left this cruel world forever as a teenager and absorbed into the soil that constitutes a past.