Tag Archives: books

Billy and The Mick.

billyThe air is getting more crisp in the mornings and I’m looking forward to Fall and sweaters and hot coffee in the early AM hours. I walked the dog in the wet air, and after peeing in his preferred spots I came home, made my girlfriend a bagel with cream cheese and then sat down for some light reading. I found this to be a rather funny excerpt from the current book on the “devour list,”Billy Martin’s 1987 book, Billyball:

…Mickey Mantle and I were in (the club) and sitting across the room was Elizabeth Taylor. She was with Michael Todd, who was her husband at the time, and Rock Hudson. Ed Wynne came over and asked if Mickey and I would pose for a picture with the three of them. I said we’d be glad to.

oTTo_Watson

Perhaps The Mick was on to something.

We went over and Ed makes the introductions all around, and let me tell you, I looked at Elizabeth Taylor’s face and it was like looking at the face of an angel. Her features were perfect. She was simply lovely, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. I just couldn’t believe a woman could be that beautiful. And she was wearing a low-cut dress. Oh, my God, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

So Ed introduces us and she’s very nice and sweet although I’m not even sure she knew who we were. And we pose for pictures and that was it, the whole thing took no more than a few minutes. Now Mickey and I return to our table and I just can’t get over how beautiful Elizabeth Taylor is. I’m talking a mile a minute.

“Mickey”, I said, “Did you see that face? Did you you ever see such a face? That is the most beautiful face I have ever seen in my life.”

“I ain’t seen her face,” Mickey said. “but did you see them tits?”

The incomparable Coco Crisp

coco

Joe from the Shlabotnik Report made this custom “baseball card” just for The Fro! Thanks, Joe. You can check out his site here…http://shlabotnikreport.wordpress.com/

In some ways, the home run is like the bright colors in a modern painting. They immediately attract attention, and for those not schooled in viewing modern art, they may overshadow other more subtle tones that are of equal or greater interest. But for those who appreciate the variety of baseball strategies and skills, the home run is not required. And importantly, the walk is not inherently disappointing. The walk opens up new tensions, new aesthetic possibilities, new kinds of drama, new story lines.   — R. Scott Kretchmar

Coco Crisp was the singular player that made my mother fall in love with baseball. What makes it an interesting, even head-scratching affair was that she was in her 50’s when this happened. (A testament to his likability and edge of your seat playing style.) Perhaps it was his strange batting stance– bat held high and chin resting firmly on shoulder in an almost exaggerated motion. Or maybe it was simply because he always had a smile on his face and looked like he was actually having fun out there. (Hello, Mark Ellis!) She loved the tension in the ballpark when he was on the bag and eagerly awaited the eventual stolen base attempt. (surprisingly, he has only led the league once, with 49 swipes in 2011.) “He’s like a little flea!” she would exclaim.

As much as I love home runs, for me the most exciting plays in baseball are the triple, the stolen base and the bench clearing brawl. And as Coco could conceivably achieve 2 of these 3 in any game, he became one of my favorite players as well. (I digress– Crisp did actually charge the mound as a member of the Red Sox. James Shields had come up too far and inside buzzing Coco’s “junk.” Crisp ran at Shields at full speed, side-stepping a wild, girly haymaker before throwing one of his own. He was eventually tackled which gave current teammate Jonny Gomes the opportunity to pummel the now incapacitated Crisp. After the fracas Crisp had a smile on his face whereas Shields looked like he was going to cry.)

Matt Chapman will now buy lunch for his future teammates that will make considerably less dough.

The Athletics newest “bonus baby.”

I usually don’t pay much attention to the MLB draft. By the time most of these guys even sniff the Majors I will probably be a different person physically, financially, mentally and perhaps even mortally. But, in this day and age it’s practically impossible not to hear some sort of information, and that’s exactly what happened as I was sipping a Corona and seeping in a hot tub. The media was lauding this as Bud Selig’s last draft (his desperation to go down in history was all but sealed when he became the first commissioner to unveil his own statue; a horrifically tacky move. I can’t imagine that sour-faced racist Kenesaw Mountain Landis doing such a thing….and really, did anyone in the history of man self-aggrandize themselves more?) when the Athletics drafted a kid out of Cal State Fullerton with the 25th pick.

“Holy Shit”, I thought, “I went to high school right across the street.”

That’s right…Fullerton, California.

( as the pot smoke clears….cue dream/reminiscent music)

I was sitting in class one day when the surfer kid with long, blonde flowing hair told me about a free concert at the college. (We had many “deep” conversations about how the Keanu Reeves movie, Point Break had bastardized surfing culture, and he knew I was highly involved in the local punk scene which consisted in playing in bands, setting up shows, putting out fanzines, making out, committing petty crimes, talking shit, and hanging out.)

“Dude, it’s Firehose….you remember Mike Watt right? The fucking Minutemen!”

Yep. We got some homeless guy to buy us beer, skipped school and saw an awesome show. (all before Matt Chapman was born in 1993!)

Obligatory ‘Fro scouting report: Mr. Chapman was undrafted out of high school, but seemingly grew into himself in college. Scout.com’s National Baseball Analyst Kiley McDaniel had this to say about Chapman in a recent scouting report: “I loved his infield and batting practice for Team USA, flashing huge raw power….. along with a plus-plus arm that some call an 80 and has hit the upper 90’s on the mound, though he’s thrown just a handful of innings in the last few years. Chapman is at least an average third baseman, so the only question is the bat. His performances haven’t been terrible, but he basically hasn’t shown the ability to hit and hit for power at the same time at any point in his career.”

The Athletics, always thinking ahead, know that this guy can be converted into a pitcher if he can’t hit professional pitching. He sees himself as a hard-nosed, scrappy player and that will always be of value in the Oakland system. I am going to give this pick a B minus….and now I am going back to the hot tub. Cheers.

 

 

This topic has been beatin’ to death

                                                                                Dock_Ellis

I had no idea Dock Ellis played for the Athletics. Of course, it was before my time; and I’m sure a lot of other nerds didn’t know as well since Doc only spent two forgettable months with the Oakland club in 1977, posting a 1-5 record with a 9.69 ERA. Legend has it that it was his job to jot down the pitching charts in those pre-computer, pre-Steve Jobs days. (It was probably before Jobs had even gotten laid; he was 22.) Doc didn’t think too highly of this position and subsequently burned the charts in the locker room. He was eventually traded to Texas that same season.

Unless you’ve been on the moon the past few years or so, Dock recently received minor fame for pitching a no-hitter while on LSD for the Pirates in 1970, (I wont bore you with the details) reminding me of my own experimentation as a young man. I grew up in California; land of the hippie dress, recycled bottles, veganism, the breathtaking sea view, the rich yuppie asshole and the meth epidemic. It was almost a right of passage to smoke a bowlpsychedelic out of your “righteous” hand-blown glass pipe and listen to the fucking Eagles, man.  I had a friend who took a couple of doses one cheery night. He tried to fight my neighbors, who he had never met, and then laid down to enjoy the musical stylings of Santana for the next 8 hours….nonstop.

Do I have my doubts about Ellis’ claim? Perhaps. But then again this is definitely THE most fucked up sport; (besides cricket) the sport where players can get mind-fucked and get their tiny capitalistic self esteem shattered within mere moments. Perhaps ol’ Dock was cruising on tolerance, muscle memory and racial strife. These motherfuckers were CRUISING on “greenies” half the time anyway, and the world was “changing”. (which begs the question…did the hippies “save” physics?)

What I found is that the counterculture owes many of its ideals, and particularly its understanding of how media shapes people, to a generation earlier that really came to life during World War II. In the ’60s psychedelic counterculture boomed. People surrounded themselves with psychedelic media – videos, art, installations – thinking that it would turn them into a different kind of person, perhaps make them more personally satisfied and psychologically fulfilled. Culturally and ideologically, much of this came from the previous decades and was not a spontaneous counter-cultural emergence, but now it had a more visual representation. Isn’t this everything to a homo sapien? And does this absolutely validate Neitzsche’s “God is dead?” or was it just visual representation of “God’s” majesty? Was “She” on Ellis’ side on that fateful day of June 12, 1970, guiding his no doubt methamphetamine laced arm to victory? Who knows? Who cares? This is that point in time when you nut up….you chose a team, a wife, a house, whether or not to kill yourself, maybe a job…and your fundamental questions eventually come up with their own self satisfied conclusions. Alas, this is just some random dumb shit baseball blog. I don’t have answers. All I have are questions and a fake baseball card. Happy Memorial Day… R.I.P. Wendell James Crosby

 

Mitchell Page R.I.P. (1951-2011)

pageSame old song…
Just a drop of water in an endless sea…
All we do,
Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

–Kansas

One day in 2002, I was checking out the Oaks Card Room in Emeryville, Ca. (Named after the Oakland Oaks of the old Pacific Coast baseball league) This is a unspectacular place in an even more unspectacular neighborhood. It’s a card club that’s open 24 hours and is characterized with a lot of sketchy derelicts , thugs, degenerate gamblers and damn-near homeless geezers throwing away their retirement funds. This is the type of place where employees have been mugged early in the morning by broke losers who are angry enough to pull a knife on you. At night, people have been shot by patrons who lost money and want more. Their unofficial slogan should be: Don’t walk in to play cards and end up going home with crabs!

The Oaks Card Room is the last place you would expect to see someone who played with the A’s from 77–83 and had acquired the nickname “Swingin’ Rage;” when in walks Mitchell Page.page Most of the folks knew who he was, as they were all A’s fans. He eventually ended up playing stud poker at the table I was at. The dealer was a big fan of his, and when Paige sat down the dealer blurted out “Mitchell Page!” Page proceeded to win a big pot and busted some monstrous looking Hells Angel who left in a pissed off state. When Page racked in his chips he looked around at everyone at the table and said, “I don’t need the money.” I bought Page a 7 and 7, (this was before he checked into an alcohol treatment facility in 2004) and talked to him a bit about his days playing with the A’s and his beef with Charlie Finley. I had to leave, and after shaking his hand he gave me a bit of advice about the joint next time I came back:

“Dont try to beat the 1-2 – you have to get lucky to win.  Almost every hand will go to the river and most of the table will stay in on their draws despite your raises and the probabilites of their hands hitting.  Focus on 6-12 or 100 max for making money and 1-2 if you have time to kill.  Good Luck and don’t play 2-7.” And with that, that was the first and last time I ever saw the man. R.I.P.

Jason Kendall’s new book, “Throwback.”

kendall St. Martins Press was apparently impressed enough by this blog to send me an advanced copy of Jason Kendall‘s new book, Throwback. (The book officially comes out May 13…thank you Michael for the copy.) Mr. Kendall has been called a lot of things in his playing career–tough, gritty, a man’s man, an asshole; and even got some flack in the media in 2010 for his divorce proceedings and subsequent accusations of abuse and addiction to adderal by his ex-wife. He  allegedly destroyed his birthday cake in 2009 with the same bat he used to get his 2,000th hit! Some Pirates fans to this day have no love for the man because of his rookie hazing with fellow player Brian Giles and overall nastiness to the media. As a Oakland fan, I can attest that I had nothing but love for his game. He WAS a gritty, tough guy; sure. But that is what we admire in a town like Oakland that prides itself on its blue-collar, working class roots and take no prisoners attitude. Jason sums it up perfectly with this statement:

“…and for all you fans that thought I was an asshole, you were right; but I still respect you for loving the game.”

That is fucking GOLD right there.

The book is basically baseball 101. I expected a lot of cheap shots and shit kicking, yet there is very little of that here. There is, however, a lot of nuances or as I like to call it, ambrosia, that some of the younger players should read up on and even take to heart.  Jason gets as pissed off as I do when someone misses the cut-off man. I love that shit. He analyzes and spews his opinions on everything from managers, pitch counts, bullpen committees, how younger players are sissies and EVERY baseball situation you could possibly imagine. Let me tell you something…if you think you know shit– you don’t.

Here are some of the highlights/insights:

Joe Blanton changed speeds better than anyone he ever caught.

fight

John “mouth breather” Lackey getting served.

John Lackey called him a “motherfucker” when he charged him on the mound.

Kendall’s thoughts: “You get in a fight in baseball? You might kick somebody’s ass, you might get the shit kicked out of you, but it just takes that one time to show that you’ll fight back. You get drilled at the plate and you think something is wrong with that? Go to the mound. You do that and word gets around that this kid will fight back.”

“I’ve charged the mound a couple of times, and I’ve been asked if I had a game plan: What was I planning to do once I got out there?

Easy–kick the shit out of somebody.”

The best bullpen he ever saw was in Houston with Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner.

Gary Sheffield knocked the crap out of him at home plate causing a concussion. (this later led to an episode of Sheffield slapping his helmet at the plate leading to Sheff getting his eye cut and some people would say his ass kicked.)

C.C. Sabathia is one of the greatest pitchers ever.

Hecklers: “Screw me? Screw you! I’ll kick your ass!

I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to REALLY get into the ins and outs of the game. Very highly recommended…and I’ll leave you with this excerpt from the book: “Do not touch our stuff…If I walked into the locker room and found a reporter or clubhouse visitor by my locker and they had my glove on–especially my gamer– I’d probably knock him out. That’s me; but to be honest with you, 99.9 percent of all ballplayers feel the same way. If somebody was in my locker, I don’t know if I’d start the game because I’d be in jail; that’s my shit. Don’t touch my stuff…Even ballplayers don’t touch each others stuff without an invitation. That’s my locker: I’ve got my cell phone, keys, pictures of my kids in there. I’ve never seen anyone in my locker which is good; because that’s fighting shit. 

 

 

 

Gods never answer letters

game “saved” by a clown?

” Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”       Nietzsche

I recently read John Updike’s short story entitled “1960: hub fans bid kid adieu;” a glorified monument to Ted Williams’ final game at Fenway park.  The long and wordy piece was impressive  in its literary and authoritarian tone, reminding me of my own inadequacies when it comes to the English language, but also reminding me that the reader shouldn’t be bored out of their minds while the writer achieves some sort of mental jerk-off.  Story finally completed and compartmentalized, one line stuck out like a huge pair of bosoms in the crowded bleachers; “Gods never answer letters.”

Jose Canseco was a god to me as a freckle faced, no girlfriend -having  Jr. high schooler;  he was the young, handsome baseball phenom, an Oakland A’s outfielder with unlimited potential, a muscular slugger with mythical power. After retiring, he wrote a book, “Juiced,” that rocked the baseball world, outing several superstar big leaguers as steroid users, or “juicers.” (The best part of the book being Canseco telling A-Rod that he ” hated him” after Mr. Yankee tried numerous times to fuck his wife)  After a long and tiresome “sting operation” by the powers that be in the MLB kingdom (pathetically, i may add, as they knew this behavior was happening but thought home runs would bring the pissed off  fans back after the strike of ’94.) they installed a new, more thorough way of testing players, all but eliminating steroid use in baseball and lowering home run totals dramatically. MLB needed a scapegoat, and they got it.  Canseco was universally seen as a pariah for writing the book which all but astounded me for 2 reasons. 1) he was “cleaning up the game” single-handedly, (or at least bringing media attention to it) and 2) making some bread while he was doing it which seems to follow the age-old baseball adage of making money unethically and in a clownish manner at all costs no matter what the cost. Here we had a someone ready to speak out and debunk the myth of a “tighter wound ball” and baseball fans (mostly working class may i add) were siding with the  money hungry, uber-capitalists that disrespected the hallowed home run totals for a quick buck at MLB. (reminding me of the controversy and backlash Jim Bouton received after his 1970 book, “Ball Four” was released. I had a chance to meet him, he is a wonderful man and I absolutely adore that book.)

Canseco continued his “career” playing for virtually peanuts for the Yuma Scorpions of the North American League in 2011, was banned in 2012  from playing with a Mexican team, the Quintana Roo Tigers for using testosterone; and finally  in April, was signed by the Worchester Tornadoes of the Canadian/ American Association of Professional Baseball.  Reading the latter story made me feel as if  Canseco was a sad specimen, holding on to his youth and past glory; but also a bit of admiration because of his love for the game that keeps us all clicking the turnstiles no matter how uninterested the players are with our historical musings and passionate regional rivalries. I suppose then, I owe Mr. Updike a posthumous apology, as his admired, single statement above jolted these feelings lose and vehemently  spread upon the page before you. It also reminded me of a fan letter I had written to Canseco in 2011, hoping that he would answer because of his bush league status. Hoping that perhaps he was humbled and ready to give something back to the fans that had enjoyed him as a player, author, cheater and jackass. Alas…. Gods never answer letters.