Tag Archives: baseball writing

It’s almost time for grown men to play with balls and grip some hard wood

“Sports are like the reward for a functioning society.” –Sean Doolittle, Nationals

My choice for 2020 Covid A.L. MVP

Is there any reason why we, as a barely functioning society descending into chaos, deserve this “reward?” My feelings heading into the 2020 baseball season are an equal mixture of pure wonder, curiosity and the fetishization of a shit show. 60 games during a pandemic doesn’t really prove anything and is akin to a beer league or a wiffle ball tournament, and I believe that’s where the “wonder and curiosity” stems from. The “shit show” on the other hand should be fairly explanatory to any purist with a semi-open mind, as the winner of the World Series of Corona will be seen in hindsight as *Asterisk Champions (although slightly more legitimate than the Astros nefarious and refutable crown, but this time Manfred will supply a keg for the after party)

There will be cardboard cutouts in the stands and guys wearing masks sans spitting and licking with piped in crowd noise to simulate a good time; and why not throw a few drunk guys in the bleachers for maximum “realness?” How wonderfully psychedelic! How absolutely kitsch! Do we get pizza and snow cones after the game too? And I think we should all take a moment to thank whatever god we worship that at least one tradition–cup readjustment–isn’t going anywhere. Although ass slapping might still be up in the air because there still isn’t any proof the virus does or doesn’t spread through swamp-ass. Perhaps the players can celebrate with a slight nod and half-smile, akin to seeing your ex-girlfriend in a public setting as your current lover stands there, oblivious to the fact.

There is trepidation because of the naked truth that a few players (namely pitchers) that aren’t physically or emotionally ready will be absolutely GOD AWFUL and will single-handedly take away their team’s chances depending on how many times they trudge to the hill. One dreadful closer or set up man (think Jim Johnson in 2014) and your season is kaput, over, doneski, ancient history, yesterday’s news, finito. As you may or may not know, hitting is traditionally ahead of pitching for the first few months of any season. This means there will be many games that will be high scoring, good ol’ fashion “western shootouts” with pitchers in the interview room being quoted through gritted teeth, “I just couldn’t get my breaking shit over.” Remember that debacle in London last year? Get used to it, because there are going to be quite a few fireworks shooting off with the spark drizzle ready to inflame any random dumpster in the general area.

Hot button issues aside, athletes are not deities that are fundamentally different from us, but human beings that live in time and space. It will be interesting to see how they handle the psychological pressure of competition blended with mortality. Both will grip the continual psyche of all of the players in one way or another as the pelota flies out of the yard and the cash registers sing “God Bless America” while grandma quietly gives up the ghost in the next room.

I’ve got the spirit of Milton Bradley running through me, and baseball sucks right now

This is “Tar Man” from “The Return of the Living Dead,” the greatest zombie movie of all time. You can thank me later.

In lieu of baseball, I’ve been watching a lot of movies; and you’d be surprised by how many flicks there are about nuns possessed by the devil, nazi zombies, and undead sharks. There is even a film, I kid you not, titled “Killer Sofa,” with the protagonist being a piece of furniture with a mean streak. MLB should take note, especially in modern day, about how many diversions are available to a slack-jawed couch potato like me. I’m a hardcore baseball fan in the average age range of your typical MLB consumer and even I don’t care if baseball comes back in 2020. Something is very wrong here. They say Rob Manfred is a lawyer but does that title still have any meaning after the frontal lobotomy?

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The Red Sox recently released a statement confirming that some of their deplorable fan base uses racial slurs, which was a great first step in race relations, but doesn’t racism begin at home? The Sox didn’t sign their first black free agent until 1992 (!) and still to this day have NEVER had a black manager. If your fans are a “reflection of larger systemic issues that as an organization we need to address,” than why don’t you start with yourselves and whatever dumb ass policies that you adhered to before June of 2020? My guess is that they were too busy stealing signs to even give a shit…the whole “storied franchise” can burn in hell with now deceased, noted philanthropist (but only if you’re white) and former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey for all I care.

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It’s recently come to my attention that some of the “gatekeepers” of baseball writing don’t take kindly to my presence in the grandiose and accolade-laden world of baseball blogging. (insert heavy eye roll here) I’m apparently a pariah among these very same anachronistic baseball writers who learned their trade either by replicating newspaper hacks or idealistic, fluffy poets who want to lovingly reminisce about the “good old days” (ok, Boomer) and never saw the game from a critical perspective. These same writers, who I assume to be literary experts, are compelled to criticize but still can’t pull their eyes away from lil ol’ me. In the end it’s just a pissing contest in which I never wanted to be involved. I started this project for simple enjoyment and to connect with fans of a singular baseball team, not to compare and contrast book deals, MLB connections and dick size. (which I would win anyway because most of you are old, shriveled up fart bags.)

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–Support black owned businesses always, and not just during June 2020.

–Read black authors always, and not just nonfiction books about racism.

–Oh my gosh, please just wear a dang mask.

Victor French and the A’s cap in the pantheon of popular culture.

French’s beat-up, snap-backed “dad hat,” may be the most famous Athletics cap of all time.

As a child who grew up in the seventies, I’m flabbergasted at the degree of generational differences in health, medicine, food, safety, and general well-being of children. We had no internet, cell phones, computers or video games…but let’s get down to the brass tacks about something really important that we did have…television.

Highway to Heaven was a television show that ran from 1984-1989. At that time, I was just coming into my own as an imaginative, shy, and loner pre-teen who hadn’t even learned how to bop his bologna yet. Television was sort of a meditative time for me as I didn’t watch it very often, (we entertained ourselves through peer interaction and physical activity.) and one of my favorite shows was Highway to Heaven.

The synopsis of the show was that Michael Landon (right) is an angel sent down to earth to help the downtrodden and oppressed.  The angel picks up a scuzzy-looking human partner along the way (Victor French, left) to help him out and generally be his driver and to give cynical advice. (these two were also co-stars on the insanely popular, Little House on the Prairie, a show that confused and baffled me as a small child while watching it with my aunt.) French was rarely seen without his old, beat-up A’s cap on the show, and I remember thinking that it was so strange that an A’s fan would be helping an angel. As in, the (then) California Angels, who are the A’s divisional rival. The show was sappy and didn’t stop shoving life lessons at you, in turn, a squeaky clean inspirational series that doesn’t tend to get much airplay anymore in a TV world clogged with police beat-downs, reality shows, and Kardashians. Landon’s angel wants us to believe in the goodness of people. Most of the episodes dipped into a rich, creamy schmaltz which was pretty good stuff for a young idiot in the 1980s.

French was a heavy smoker who died in 1989 at 54 of lung cancer. The two were close, and when French died Landon was so devastated that he stopped producing the show. Landon died in 1991 of pancreatic cancer, a sad day in Hollywood as he was seen as one of the more charming and good-hearted actors in a world of phonies and narcissists.

 

Mark Ellis retires…The Fro mournes.

ellisMark Ellis quietly retired last week as one of the best defensive second baseman of all time. (5th best all time fielding percentage.) Mark not only was a solid player on both sides of the ball, but he was refreshing as a stoic gamer in an era of clowns and sideshow men who hang on because of beards, salaries, tattoos, bobble heads and other assorted bric-a-brac.  Mark was a real throw-back with a refreshing demeanor…play the game well without the nonsense.

I first encountered Mark in 2001. I was living in Sacramento at the time and the AAA River Cats were brand-spanking-new and the talk of the town. I, being a Oakland fan, thought I was dreaming as I lived mere blocks from their newly opened ballpark. I would walk or bike to the games after work more often than not with my girlfriend at the time, and he was one of our favorite players.

One of my favorite ballpark moments happened with Ellis–a simple moment, yet mere months before he was traded and never to be seen in an Athletics uniform again. It was Opening Day 2011 at the Coliseum. My girlfriend and I had long since taken separate paths…and I was by the dugout when I saw Mark and gave him but he sharpest nod as I threw him a baseball with all the zeal I could from 30 feet away. He caught it with one hand, signed it, and as fast as he has received it he fired it back to me as I caught it with one hand as well in a quickly forgotten moment of Zen mastery. The triangle was complete.

It’s easy to choose your baseball heroes…yet sometimes the universe chooses them for you in an act of randomness, justification, existentialism, stupefied vocation or something unspoken and equally nonsensical. Mine just happened to be one of the greatest second baseman of all time.