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An interview with Major League A*Holes

Is it common knowledge that Jose was a cuckold with his brother or is that just all in my head?

I hate most baseball podcasts if only because they usually re-hash things you already knew last week or act like fabricated shills for an organization that doesn’t give them one thin red dime for their efforts. The hyper-positivity is nauseating. I stumbled upon this podcast and fell in love instantly because of Ryan and Pete’s grittiness and ability to “tell it like it is” with character, integrity, and a sense of humor. Ladies, Gentlemen, and Non-Binary… I give you…Major League A*Holes.

1) Let’s start at the genesis of the operation. How did you guys meet, and why did you decide to do a baseball podcast?

Ryan: We started working together at a Chicago ad agency in 1998. I walked by Pete’s desk one day when he just blurted out “I can’t take it anymore, I have to go buy some AC/DC!” so I immediately thought we should be friends. We also had a mutual love of sports and started a fantasy hockey league with a spreadsheet and newspapers (pre-internet boom).

We started a fantasy baseball league in 2004 called Burnt Ivy after some fucker poured acid on a portion of the Wrigley Field ivy. My team name was Major League Assholes after President Bush 2 got caught calling a reporter that on a hot mic. We changed the league name to Major League Assholes the next year as it still is today.

In 2010, we got the idea to start an irreverent baseball blog covering Pete’s White Sox and my Tigers & Cubs. Ten years later we got lazy, stopped writing, and started a podcast instead because it was easier.

Pete: So Smitty and I met at work at a marketing agency in Chicago working on print ads for Sears… yes we’re fucking old. I was his manager, and I can tell you that he was a decent employee, now we’ve come full circle and he’s really my manager with our podcasts. (Laughs) We loved to talk about baseball and I don’t remember the exact event, maybe Smitty does, but it went like this. “If Carlos Zambrano ever does this, we will start a baseball blog.” It was something we had thought up because it was such ridiculous behavior. I think we made it ridiculous because we really don’t know anything about doing a baseball blog, so we kind of were like we want to do it, but were kind of nervous. Well, I think a year later Zambrano did said thing, we texted each other, and Major League Assholes was launched. We changed it shortly after to Major League A*Holes so we could have a consistent name on social media and advertise on T-shirts at baseball games.

2) What are your favorite teams and what players did you follow growing up?

Ryan: I grew up in Michigan as a Tigers fan. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was the first player I remember but he blew out his arm after a year so I couldn’t really follow him. But after that, the ‘84 Tigers were the shit and I got to watch Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker turn double plays for 20 years. By the way, BOTH should be in the fucking Hall of Fame, but I’ll spare you from that long-winded that tangent again…

After Tigers Stadium, Wrigley Field was the first major league ballpark I ever visited back in the mid-‘80s when I was 16. My aunt and uncle had season tickets in the upper deck down the first baseline. And I was hooked. Everything about Wrigley and Chicago, in general, was fucking awesome compared to the boring suburban landscape I was born into in mid-Michigan. From that day forward, my goals were to go to college and then get a job in Chicago. I moved to Chicago after I graduated from Central Michigan University in 1997, got a job, and eventually bought a condo a mile north of Wrigley Field in 2003.

I’d say my first favorite Cubs player was the Shooter, Rod Beck. If anyone tries to tell you Kenny Powers from East Bound & Down wasn’t based on him, they’re full of shit. Dude was fucking legendary — glorious mullet, terrifying fu manchu, sizeable gut, cool nickname, ominous presence on the mound, lived in a Winnebago, got fucked up with fans after games — he personified everything awesome about baseball in my mind.

Probably gave Eric Clapton a run for his money.

Pete: Born and raised on Chicago’s Southside, so I was birthed into White Sox-dom. I was even born at a hospital on Chicago’s Southside that was five minutes from Comiskey Park. My entire Italian side of the family grew-up in Bridgeport the neighborhood where the Sox play still to this day. The new stadium is just across the street from the original Comiskey Park. I have a shadowy memory of my first game in the mid-‘70s where Wilbur Wood, Tom Kelley, and Dick Allen signed a ball for me. My favorite teams outside of 2005, are 1983 and 1994 in that order. ‘83 had those sweet jerseys with Luzinski, Kittle, and Baines hitting roof shots. Then you had a coked-up Lamar Hoyt dominating batters, whatever it takes, right? I kid, I kid. So many characters on that team and Tony La Russa brought them together. Hopefully, he has an encore performance left. It was around the same time I was playing little league and was always on the Giants, every year. I loved the uniforms, so I started following the Giants the best I could back then. I was limited to appearances on network TV and newspapers. Not the best way to follow a team, but I did. Will “The Thrill” Clark was my favorite Giant growing-up. He looked like some guy you could hang out with that could crush the baseball. Of course, in the ’90s Barry Bonds became my favorite Giant and my hatred for Dusty Baker began. I was so excited when he ended up with the Cubs. I’m like he’s going to fuck up your pitching staff and fall short every year. Enjoy!

3) Talk a bit about the legendary Game 7 of the 2016 WS–where were you and how did you process it?

Ryan: As the t-shirt says, ‘The best game ever played was on a November Wednesday night in Cleveland.’ I was watching it at my place a mile north of Wrigley Field with a buddy of mine. He panicked and took off after Rajai Davis hit the home run to tie it in the 8th so I was left alone pacing laps around my small condo. The rain delay and isolation certainly didn’t help my fractured mental state. When they finally won it, I freaked out and didn’t know what to do so I just left and started walking down to Wrigley. My street and the entire neighborhood was completely packed with cars honking horns and people going nuts. The cops had built a perimeter around the stadium so I couldn’t get closer than across the street from it, but it was all good. I skipped work the next day and captured a lot of fun photos of the scene.

Pete: Game 7 is the game I wanted to end in a tie or never be played. I’m a White Sox fan watching the Indians play the Cubs. Fuck me. Anyway, I was happier with the outcome because, while the Cubs are intra-city rivals, they are not division foes and I couldn’t wait to see the frat party unfold with all the stupid shit that fan base would do. The average fan knows the ingredients of a can of Bud Light better than the starting line-up. It was also nice to see Jason Heyward earn his $21 million as a public speaker. Although, there have been some recent theories that it never happened or was blown out of proportion… I was watching the game at home with a bourbon. I shit you not, not living on the Southside you could walk into a bar and get a seat with no issues during the Cubs World Series. I went to our local tap house in Lemont, Pollyanna for Game 2, showed up around game time and the place only had two tables occupied, one by Cubs fans. It’s a pretty hard divide in some areas of Chicagoland.

4) What is going on with the trope of a Chicago sports fan either being a cigar-chomping fat ass or a drunk college bro?

Ryan: The former is a Southside stereotype perpetuated by the Super Fans SNL skit, but it’s pretty accurate. The latter is just Wrigleyville. I can’t imagine how much worse it’ll be once the world gets back to normal and the bros come out to party again. But that’s more of an issue outside the ballpark in Wrigleyville, the neighborhood bar scene around the stadium.

Pete: The cigar-chomping fat-asses are the post-50 crowd (shhhhh, I’m getting close). Those are normally tied back to Bears fans too. It’s been a thing here forever. The older crews love to eat a shit-ton of unhealthy food, that’s delicious, and smoke their cigars. Da Bears skit on SNL is dead-on. I have relatives like that. I would say the cigar-chomping fat-ass for baseball favors my beloved White Sox more than the Cubs, but there are a few in every crowd. Drunk college bro is pretty much a Wrigley thing. Millennials with disposable income going to day games during the week. The reason most Sox games are at night is they are the blue-collar team of Chicago, and they’d have even smaller crowds if they played day games. For the Cubs, a tourist attraction for their field, it doesn’t matter. It’s a white-collar team with tons of disposable income. It’s a party, and even though it took 17 years for me to attend my first Cubs game, which I sat behind a post, I can honestly say that a sunny day in the bleachers is a good time.

Toilets are overrated.

5) Are the Wrigley bleachers really as bad as everyone says they are? (drunk college kids puking everywhere and pissing on themselves)

Ryan: That’s more reputation than reality. It hasn’t been that bad for close to 15 years now, but it certainly was before ticket prices went thru the roof. No one wants to pay $100 to get into a game just to blackout or get kicked out. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all getting fucked up out there, but it’s not a puke/piss-fest.

Pete: Not anymore, the bleachers have changed throughout the years, it’s kind of funny. Originally, they were the cheapest ticket in the park and were the home of middle-aged Cub fans getting wasted during the day. That was the 60’s through the mid-’80s. Then the Cubs hired Harry Caray away from the White Sox and the frat party began. It was brilliant marketing by the Cubs. That’s one thing they became really good at back then, marketing a shit product, but filling the stands. They sold the beauty of the park along with the party atmosphere… “loveable losers”. Seriously, kudos to them. Especially because back then Wrigleyville was not the thriving bar scene it later turned into in the early 2000s. So yes, the ’90s and a lot of the 2000s the bleachers were a mess. No doubt about it, but then Theo came to town, made the bleachers the best seat in sports, raised the price to $50 a ticket average, and now it’s just fun. Yes, fans can be seen wasted, but that’s on both sides of town.

6) You guys do a segment on your show called “Asshole of the Week.” Who are the biggest assholes in MLB today and why?

Ryan: I’ve got to give that honor to Commissioner Rob Manfred. We just gave him our prestigious Asshole of the Year award for 2020 so he’s the reigning champ. His bad faith negations with the Players Association, leveraging the pandemic to dismantle the minor league system, which put a lot of people out of work just because he could, and his ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth makes him the biggest asshole in MLB today. I seriously question if he even likes baseball.

Pete: I’m giving it to Manfred hands down. I named him, Commissioner Palpatine because of his constant attempts at manipulation of the players and fans. His absolute power clauses in these agreements are so Star Wars prequels it’s not even funny. He only has his own interests and the owners’ interests in mind. He couldn’t care less about the players and fans, and I fear this will lead to a strike in 2022. I hope I’m wrong.

7) What do you see in the future for the podcast?

Ryan: It’s weird because we started the podcast just before COVID hit and it ended up being the perfect hobby to have when you can’t hang out or go to games. We haven’t even gone through a full season yet, but we’ve had so much to talk about starting with the Astros scandal, then all the bullshit negotiations to get the season started, the 60-game sprint, the White Sox rising, the Cubs imploding, the Tigers rebuilding, and the Giants doing whatever the fuck they’re doing.

But to answer your question, I think it might be fun to start doing some interviews to get a little broader perspective so it’s not just Pete and I barking at each other for an hour at a time. I’m also kicking around the idea of adding a 5th team that we start to cover extensively in addition to the Cubs, Sox, Tigers, and Giants. Hell, maybe Pete even has some ideas for the future… Stay tuned, mofos!

Pete: The great thing about Major League A*Holes is Smitty and I don’t take ourselves too seriously and we go with the flow. Sometimes we change the show on the fly because while we always have a preset outline, the conversation takes us in a different direction. I think the future of Major League A*Holes is anyone listening can be promised that we’ll always be trying new segments, we’ve already introduced two new staples this year; “askhole” and bad tweets. Askhole is we each ask either a completely assholish question about each other’s teams and bad tweets started out as Bob’s Bad Tweets dedicated to the disaster known as Bob Nightengale and already morphed into bad tweets by sports media personalities. We’re always going to be trying to make things better and more entertaining for everyone.

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John Fisher really, really, really sucks

 

 

He’s not dead!

In life, it’s best to go about it removed of preconceptions. Things tend to work out better that way. Besides purging potential disappointment…Ah, fuck it…welcome to the well-worn, mundane path of innocuous disagreement known as Hot Stove Baseball Talk. If this is a time when Oakland fans are supposed to stand back and admire “The Process” and the genius(es) behind it, then let’s face it, these are moves you imagine and contemplate while hammered at the bar with buddies. Of course, you laugh at the inadequacy, stupidity, and audacity the next day, if not in the present moment. But damned if this isn’t *ahem* reality, or as I like to call it–the “Moneyball Hangover” set in motion due to piss-poor ownership.

Do the “geniuses” ( Is Brad Pitt still part of this process? Inquiring minds want to know)
have deeper insight than I do? Do they feel the same deflation or laid-back apathy? Because the passage of time and the numbers on a page usually tell you the value of a player and his present capabilities. And hardly ever, if ever…lie. And as a fan, you can be caustic and cynical, but also supportive. I believe this is called tough love.

Elvis Andrus: The epitome of average with a career .702 OPS and that includes the younger, career-high years. (The sad thing is that the A’s would settle for that OPS, and for readers that aren’t complete geeks–those numbers would quantify as average–not special, and not a beautiful and unique snowflake.) Every time this guy takes hacks against a Rangers pitcher this season half of his salary would be paid by the team he was trying to hurt–a shocking sign of the absolute desperation to wash their hands of him, and since they are AL West rivals, confidence in the inability to perform against them 18 times. The press releases say he “smiles a lot” and “appears to have a good time.” Oh, goody! We got an old guy with back problems who can’t hit and smiles a lot. I’ll have to remember that next time I’m contemplating watching a game. “We’re getting our asses kicked, but at least ol’ blue suede shoes is out there smiling and having a good time. My mind is at ease now.” That may be fine for the casual fan, but give me a guy like Mark Ellis who never smiled.
silver lining: we needed a SS…nothing more. He’s a body. A very expensive body. D+

Adam Kolarek: He’s a pretty darn good LOOGY (google it) in an era when the LOOGY is dying because the higher strikeout rates soar, the less that exploiting lefty-versus-lefty matchups matters. (And this makes Kolarek especially vulnerable as a ground ball pitcher) Conspiracies aside, he averages less than an inning per appearance but can be a valuable late-inning asset in a tough situation with a left-handed bopper at the dish as they had a minuscule 0.34 WHIP against the guy. If this tall drink of water can give us 50 innings and an ERA a little above or below 3.50 I would consider this a win.
silver lining: shut down the lefties and send their ass to the bench shaking their heads B-

Sergio Romo: Here’s a situation of, “whatever happened to…?” and then you find out he’s a 37-year-old has-been who was dumped by the Marlins and the Twins and is currently doing Kenny Powers cosplay in the Mexican League….because he has risen from the baseball graveyard. At this point in time, he is undoubtedly a gas can as proven in the AL Wildcard last season when he destroyed the Twins chances in the 9th inning of Game 1, essentially giving the Asterisks the win and all the momentum they needed to take the series. Probably not thought of too fondly in Minnesota. This guy was also a prominent SF Giant during their fugazi dynasty, so the fans may not accept him (may even boo him mercilessly, just ask Jim Johnson) if he struggles right away because of provincial disputes.
silver lining: he’s known to have a really good slider and we needed a bullpen guy. I don’t know….apparently any guy. C-

The A’s are caught, once again, digging through the trash

Is there any more pitching in there? We need bullpen help.

I’m sitting on the toilet regretting last nights consuming of toxic sludge and listening to the Minutemen “Shit You Hear at Parties,” and it is 1 minute and 11 seconds of pure L.A. South Bay punk rock gold. Immediately after, I had an ex-girlfriend randomly text me to talk about this, that, or the other and I sort of had to stifle a chuckle. There was a time, long ago, that my sister had bought Tears for Fears tickets for just the two of us, and I couldn’t magically conjure a third ticket from the already sold-out show from thin air or my asshole so an argument and an unsubstantiated break-up ensued. (So much for “Sowing the Seeds of Love”) Pleasant reminiscing quickly turned to anger and I scatter-brained a quick click on the “block” button and let out a sigh. Disaster averted and personal level of Zen attainment unchallenged. Let’s check the news…shall we?

Nothing can gloss my eyes over quicker than billionaires arguing over revenue sharing and salary caps, yet I see that the Brokeland Pathetics continue to “piss in the ocean” and threw the fans into a fervor by acquiring pitcher Cole Irvin from the Phillies on layaway, (cash considerations) essentially doing their yearly dumpster diving and claiming to be cash poor, virtually homeless and small market. According to Forbes, owner John Fisher is currently worth $2.9 BILLION and thus is one of the richest owners in all of baseball. (Where’s Walter Haas when you need him?) As of this writing, the team currently sits $121 million under the luxury tax and has yet to sign a single free agent. This team is essentially banking on “Moneyball” rhetoric to pacify nitwit, short-sighted sports fans as close-fisted owners continue to profit off unprecedented increases in MLB revenues. In the end, sadly, my main concern and desperate priority concerning the A’s for the next decade isn’t winning, but their commitment to staying in Oakland.
As the world turns…

This Cole Irvin kid has had a terrible pro career but he absolutely tore up AAA for some team called the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. This leads to more confusion. Why would the Phillies give up on a guy that had an iota of talent for cash? And what exactly is an Iron Pig? In the end, we have become what Cubs fans used to be (without the idyllic ballpark): happily skipping to the yard to have a hotdog, beer, some sunshine, and a good time with the kids or grandpa, but ultimately having no delusions about a chance to win the “worthless piece of metal.” (Hello Rob Manfred!) It’s certainly disheartening when you see a young, fun, and razzle-dazzle “small market” team like the Padres signing big-time free agents, but that’s been the life of an A’s fan for the past 30 years or so. We are simply and inexorably the Ramen Noodles of pro sports, and Irvin settles nicely into that “cheap” and “organizational depth” category that the Oakland front office will happily pluck off the swap meet scrap heap. In the end, what do I know?… I’m just an ill-informed gasbag who is now stepping off his soapbox to happily one day put more money in the pockets of the grifters known as MLB. It’s a disgusting and hypocritical cycle and proves that the opinions of sports fans are often silly and redundant.

Vida? Is that you?

Wanna hear a cool song? Check out “Vida Blue” by Jimmy Bee

I know I have a predilection for visual art to be easy on the eye, but if it isn’t easy on the eye then at least it should be meaningful and thought-provoking. I tend to look at modern art the same way I look at a pop star: with tantalizing wonder, mild bemusement, and with a sense of ironic detachment. Despite my supposed bone of contention and love/hate relationship, the visual arts are a nice refresher for my mental highways and quite inspirational in my life on a daily basis. I adhere to that annoying cliche that makes art critics want to gouge their eyes out: I see art in everything.

The Orange Menace Plague has demonstrated the value of the visual arts, while also threatening it–education, entertainment, and escapism are just some of the benefits the arts have provided during these bleak and confusing times and we should do everything we can to give value to something infinitely more important than simple monetary worth. (all this was typed as “Do the Hustle” wafted serenely in the background. Can you ever mistake the first 3 seconds of that song for anything else? What a lovely, crappy song.)

One morning I was mindlessly scanning the internet (Help! I need a salve from doom surfing!) on a typical day of rampant cognitive dissonance when I stumbled upon this 1975 Topps Vida Blue oil painting manufactured by the artist John Kilduff. Kilduff is (well?) known for painting while doing acrobatics, like running on a treadmill or riding an exercise bike, during a public access show in Los Angeles. He is sort of seen as the punk rock version of Bob Ross and some critics have deemed the show “ironic performance art.” In my opinion, the best part about the show is that it lacks caller screening and a lot of bored stoners take advantage of this by making surly comments, cursing, accosting members of the show, and making derogatory comments about rival gangs.

Of course, this type of off-kilter, aberrant content was a calling card for the late-night drunken denizens of a city that took pride in its ability to mesh psychedelia and reality. It is the type of show that perfectly defines the human condition and would be one of the first things I’d choose if there was a mutual exchange of cultural artifacts with an alien species: you know…the ones that constructed the space laser/death star that created the forest fires in California.

You can buy the painting above for 340 dollars if that sort of thing floats your boat.

 

Ken Phelps is ready to rock your world

OK, Boomer.

“How do you trade Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps!?”–Frank Costanza, Seinfeld

Ken Phelps has the look of the quintessential “80’s dad,” and reminds me a bit of my cousin’s father, my uncle through marriage who was known to wear a beat-up, snap-backed San Francisco Giants baseball cap, and on special occasions a cowboy hat with a feather band not unlike a member of Charlie Daniel’s raucous honkey tonk band. Now, every time I see this archaic piece of Americana I can almost imagine the beer bottles breaking against the protective fence set before the band in some small, backwoods shithole in Texas not unlike the scene in the brilliant Patrick Swayze flick, Roadhouse.

I had been to his dad’s home on a few occasions and we would play Nintendo or try to quench our biological imperative and devilish curiosity by looking for his porn stash in the grease-caked garage. When bored of that, we would play baseball amongst the cow patties in the fields. (His father lived on a farm in a very rural area) My cousin would get a kick out of this idiot touching the electrical fence, giving me a sudden jolt, although I would balk at “pissing on it” to his dismay. I was always a bit saddened to disappoint his infectious and sophomoric sense of humor, but an electrified dong just didn’t sound appetizing.

When you take a look at the last 2 N.L. MVP’s (Bellinger and Yelich) you see a couple of guys you might partake in a doobie with at a keg party; they look nothing like
Phelps, who looks like he should be either dishing out benevolent fatherly words of wisdom while gutting a fish or arresting fratboys outside the kegger for possessing said mar-eee-wanna. He doesn’t look like he survived in the league on any sort of pure talent, just the ability to use “grown man strength” on the occasional fastball.

Phelps had only had 12 hits for the Oakland ballclub as he was an aging DH who was nearing the end of his career and had lost the only valuable asset he had–occasional power. Phelp’s baseball life was coming to an end as my pre-teen years were just beginning, and until now was relegated to a baseball card that was never really examined or loved and tossed into a box. Forgotten until unearthed.

It’s time to give 2020 a good, swift kick in the ass

An appropriate metaphor.

The specter of 2020 is almost over, and this baseball writing interloper must take pause and perhaps a deep breath in order to reflect. I’m going to refrain from giving you a redundant frame by frame analysis–as I’m assuming you haven’t reawakened from a coma–but I don’t think I’m reaching when I say that damn near half the population of the U.S. doesn’t care about logic, science, or even high-minded economic interests. (unless you’re raking in over 400,000 dollars a year) No, my friends, the major motivation was simply contempt. An eye opening and disturbing influx of psychotic persecution seemed to rule the day as high minded intellectuals scramble to try to figure out how to baby-sit/pacify the brains of the gullible as they are keenly aware that the singular vote of an idiot counts just as much as the singular well-informed in a demented and ironic twist of a democratic process that the former seems to disdain.

I have no light suggestions of benevolence as I am largely apolitical, and this is, alas, a simple baseball publication and I’ve largely tried to keep it just that. The World Series was a light-hearted escape from the madness and then Justin Turner pranced around the field in celebratory mode with a case of ‘Rona and kicked everyone in the nuts with a dose of reality. No Bueno. But if anyone understands how misguided any sense of certainty is, it would be a baseball fan. History will largely scoff and turn a blind eye to the suffering and trials of the pathetic humans and when all is said and done, it will still be there in black and white on the written page (paper?) Dodgers 2020 World Series Champions.

I’ll probably have a few stiff drinks tonight in full celebratory mode as my friends and I watch pop stars prance around in confetti and the newest rendition of Dick Clark feigns having a good time in Times Square with his cajones in full refrigeration. There will be Bloody Marys, Chateau Pink Gins, and of course, the lethal Velvet Hammer ready to sweet talk you into staying in bed on the first day of the year as you watch episodes of Three’s Company with ironic detachment and weep into your pillow at the inhumanity of it all. I will be properly blitzed and locked into my fucking groove as the crescendo happens, and 2020 will still be there to scoff, “too bad you’re not double-jointed so you could bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.”

 

 

R.I.P. Joe Morgan

I have an old cigar box where I stash my autographs, baseball cards, and other assorted bric-a-brac. Today I was looking through it for the first time in eons when I stumbled upon this Joe Morgan pin. I didn’t really get to watch Joe play, as he had retired before baseball was part of my stratosphere, but I know he was a fine second baseman and a damn good leader on some star-studded Cincinnati Reds teams in the 70’s. He was also a Hall of Famer, a label that hasn’t been treated kindly in this demoralizing year of 2020.

I suppose when people die an individual always reminisces and then takes the inevitable look at their own mortality and wonders: When is my time? Where do we go? Is it just nothingness? So here I am raising a glass for you, Joe. Let us all acknowledge the fact that no matter race, economic status, or popularity that we will all end up in the same place. And that enough should be reason alone for us to try to figure out how to end oppression and bigotry so we can all live a better life, and hopefully achieve a more peaceful existence on this spinning rock that we call home.

Bring on the Sox

R.I.P Eazy

When I think of the White Sox I immediately think of N.W.A., Bo Jackson, Bill Veeck, Charles Comiskey, goofy softball uniforms. Carlton Fisk, Disco Demolition Night, Frank Thomas, Shoeless Joe Jackson, “Black” Jack McDowell, Tony LaRussa (this one is confusing), and last but not least….a completely wasted, living and breathing trailer-park-cliche father and son materializing from the stands to beat the shit out of an umpire

There’s a largely uncelebrated and rich history on the South-Side of Chicago, but much like the Oakland A’s, they hone their craft on the more working-class (black) side of town with “derelict” followers, so they get very little national screen time or respect from anyone in the baseball world but the rabid fan base that supports them. They are considered the plucky little brother from a city that can hardly pull their eyes away from the bourgeois North-Side Cubs that are synonymous with a large fan base of drunken college kids lurking in the bleachers, throwing up on themselves (and others) and not even bothering to at least go to the restroom to urinate when they’re not harassing and hurling death-threats at an innocent, headphone and turtleneck-wearing nerd.

Alas, there is a wealth of young talent on this exciting Sox team that would surely be household names if they played for the Yankees, with the likes of Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, and Jose Abreau swinging the sticks, and Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease taking the hill for the Medias Blancas de Chicago. And in an abrupt topic change, I would also like to take this time to thank the Sox for letting us defraud and embarrass them in the Jeff Samardzija for Marcus Semien and Chris Bassitt trade. We didn’t care much for Jeff in the East Bay anyway. Ribbing aside, I have much respect for this team and their history and I am looking forward to an exciting, highly competitive series that should be a treat for all baseball fans.

Hot Dogs!!!

A hot dog amongst hot dogs.

There isn’t enough mustard in the world to cover Reggie Jackson.” –Darold Knowles, Oakland A’s, 1973

Once a year on the 4th of July weekend, the world focuses its curious attention to the freak-show known as Coney Island for the formerly Japanese-dominated, highly anticipated athletic event known as Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Half drunk crowds watch with glee as contestants literally stuff voluminous amounts of the mystery food down their throats like a starving 2-year-old child to the tune of a 10,000 dollar prize and accolades that only a B movie actor or 3rd rate hip hop artist could receive.

I attended this event with my bikini-clad girlfriend in the summer of 2006. She had short blond hair akin to Communist-loving Brigitte Nielsen of Rocky 3 fame and turned her nose up to the event. And I, like much of the crowd, was pleasantly buzzed and was absolutely tranquilized by the spectacle. It was a much more desirable choice than loitering on a dusty and windy East Coast beach while Eastern European chess players eyeballed the thin, blonde California girl who had been turning heads since she was a pre-teen growing up in a small town in the north side of the Golden State.

And in my hazy state on that sunny New York day, I started to wonder how eating hot dogs was a gluttonous spectacle, and “being” one in the baseball world was to be the same: an all-encompassing, excessive personality who craved attention and Reggie Jackson certainly was emblematic of this. The parallels were astounding. Like the hot dog eating affair, New Yorkers, who voraciously consumed gossip newspapers, had some sort of love/hate affair with NY Yankee Jackson: the “grotesque” that lovingly had a sprinkle of S&M around the edges. Pure, unadulterated spectacle display for a culture of ostentatious citizens that prides itself on having a vulgar personality and shoving mass quantities down its own throat for the sake of a story.

Pass the mustard.

 

Sometimes life is the Pitts

Card courtesy of whentoppshadballs.blogspot.com

Is hitting zero home runs in the big leagues like being a writer who was never published? Or is it about the experience? The tactile thrill of putting pen to paper and seeing jumbled thoughts form on the page in a cohesive unit without fan-fair, without a record of speech.

Done with love unrequited.

There is a collective, who? from the crowd and a lot of head-scratching. The pitcher sneers, why are you here? this refugee from the bush leagues. The player goes through automated motions before digging in, slicing dirt and skipping pebbles; stepping into the box without adulation. No one scurries from the beer line to watch your at-bat. Persona Non-Grata. No one writes about and examines your life and travels, quoting you endlessly. You are no Joe DiMaggio or Ernest Hemingway or any other black and white face on a postcard. 11 career base-hits. I’ve had more lovers than that. Every one categorized and resonated in my mind’s eye with a dying quail, a check-swing squib, a flare here and there, or a hotshot that juuuuust went foul. Our struggles happen concurrently with everyone else’s — and sometimes done with love unrequited.