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Reggie Jackson and his place in the cosmos of my mind.

reggie jax2Say what you want about Mr. Jackson and his brash attitude and high strikeout rates, yet without my grandfathers’ fondness for the man I would have never found my love for the game of baseball and the Oakland Athletics.

This page before you would have never existed.

To me Reggie was ALWAYS a legend, and a mystifying one at that since he was retiring just as I was learning to love and appreciate the game. He was a Ruthian figure; and honored by someone who I loved– which made me open my eyes to try to figure out just what made this guy so special.

When my grandfather died I watched from a distance, sadly, as his children argued and bickered over his possessions. I decided then, because of their behavior, that I didn’t need an earthly remembrance of this man who was the biggest father-figure in my life. A couple of months later my grandmother came to me and handed me an autographed Reggie Jackson ball. I knew it well as it had once had the most prominent spot in the case where he kept his baseball memorabilia. It was the gem of the collection.

“I saved this for you,” she said. “grandpa would have wanted you to have it.”

I love when the baseball existentialists come together to sing their anthems of praise about the serene rhythms and mystic qualities of the game. It gives me a warm feeling. And as much as I love and adore the game, sometimes I feel as if these are all illusions because of a time and an innocence that I miss and cherish — and that I’ll never see again.

Summer is here….and the A’s stink.

A's fan depths of hell

Some random hipster representing my own personal hell.

The California summer heat wave is about to begin; and long-time readers of this blog know that in the past I have complained about my own lack of air-conditioning because of the fact that I live in a 1940’s Los Angeles-style bungalow. My living room bakes my brain to the point of running out of curses and heat metaphors. Perspiration drips down my back as I stare at the wall like a lunatic in a daze.
This situation is not incongruous to the happy-go-lucky children that I see on the television–enjoying summer, running around frantically with friends , drinking Kool Aid and tumbling down water slides while staring at girls in bikinis. I drink a dozen ice-cold Coronas (no where near Wade Boggs’ record of 64 beers on one flight) before sleep and intoxication throws me into a dream state of delirium. I dream of a distinguished-looking woman opening her mouth slowly to reveal something white on her tongue.
It’s yogurt.

This Freudian heat wave intermingling with the Oakland A’s current status as basement dwellers has made the beginning of summer seem like Dante’s Inferno; specifically the first circle: limbo.

The team has terrible starting pitching, terrible defense, and with Josh Reddick and Khris Davis sidelined by injuries–a terrible lineup. That is the furthest you can be for a recipe of success. Chris Coghlan was such a stinker that he was traded back to the Cubs. Jesse Hahn couldn’t retire a little leaguer. Yonder Alonso couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. Billy Butler smells worse than a shipping crate filled with skunks having a farting contest.

The ‘Fro gives the week in review.

A's jonesy

My buddy, Jonesy chillin’ and listening to Prince.

We’re all excited
But we don’t know why
Maybe it’s ’cause
We’re all gonna die
And when we do
What’s it all for
You better live now
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door
–Prince “Let’s get crazy”

It was truly a sad day when Prince died last week. In an era of cookie cutter, soul-less music he stood out as a mega-talented musician with magical song writing ability. Like every other human being I saw his death as a chance to reminisce about a moment, long forgotten, in my own life. The memories came rushing through, synapses released, and suddenly I remembered the first time I had seen a Prince video–it was in 1984 and I was nine years old and playing with a few cousins at my grandparents house. All of the sudden “When Doves Cry” came on the television and it was as if the world had stopped and my tiny brain was shattered. I had never seen anyone so ethereal and androgynous. He was calling the world “cold” and criticizing his parents as fallible human beings. I was instantly infatuated and intrigued by this new possibility of undermining expectations. Prince was something different, something refreshing in an era of faux reggae, (The Police) misogynist “cock rock,” and Phil Collins-esque waiting room music. A friend once told me that the movie “Purple Rain” scared the shit out of him when he was a small child. That is pure genius as far as I’m concerned. R.I.P. Purple One.
COGHLANThe A’s sweep of the Yankees last week was beautiful but the moment was a bit sweeter because of the fact that the Bronx Bomber’s telecasters had the pretension to call the Athletics a AAA team. I thought it particularly funny because of the fact that the Yankees lineup isn’t all that impressive and quite a few couldn’t even start over the regular players in Oakland. New Yorkers have been delusional about the Yankees for quite some time and seeing them as contenders this season is a bit laughable in its tedium. They drank the proverbial Kool-Aid.  Most people root for laundry but Yankees fans root for dissipated ghosts. Chris Coghlan hit a two run jack in the 8th inning in game 3 giving the A’s a 6-3 lead and all but insuring an A’s sweep. The cameras then panned to a kid about 8 years old crying in the stands. I am not one to enjoy seeing kids cry but this bratty Millennial (or whatever the hell kids are called these days) was crying because his delusions were being destroyed. Seemed fitting for a Yankees fan…here’s to hoping they have many terrible seasons ahead and the fans keep crying because of their own self-imposed importance.

Goose Gossage proves the term “douche bag” has no age limit.

goose douchbagDear Goose:
I’m going to make this short and sweet. Are you kidding me? Dude, you were a CLOSER, arguably one of the most over-rated positions in the sports world. The starting pitchers of the early 20th century are rolling over in their graves with laughter–in their day a reliever was a scrub who couldn’t start and barely got into the game. They also would have called you a “punk” because of your facial hair. You know who invented your position? Statisticians–or “nerds” as you so eloquently called them.
You are in the Hall of Fame for 3 reasons:
A) you were a Yankee (ugh…probably the main reason as you only have to be really good instead of great if you spent most of your career in pinstripes.)
B) You had a handlebar mustache and a dumb nickname.
C) The closer position and statistics hadn’t been established yet. There are guys with almost double the saves that you compliled in a career who aren’t in the HOF and will never get in. You were simply in the right place at the right time.
Jose Batista’s batflip: This was one of the most iconic homeruns in ML history in a ALDS game 5. It put the BlueJays ahead and had (possibly) put an end to a very emotionally charged game that would put Toronto in the ALCS. Topps decided that it was so important that they immortalized it on a baseball card. It was an exciting moment. Jose Bautista is one of the most exciting sluggers in the game. Excitment brings in fans. Fans bring in money. Money is the bottom line. Bautista is in the entertainment industry, not the “raise your kids for you” or “act like you want me to act” industry. I doubt many fans were going to games or sitting in front of the tube clamoring for you to hold a 3 run lead in the 9th in order to pad your bogus statistics while sitting on your ass the whole game. Now that’s entertainment!
This blog is tired of arguing the bat flip and its racist connotations. Latin players do it all the time and it isn’t a big deal; it’s just as ingrained in their culture as live bands and vuvazelas. Latin players are more pervasive in baseball than ever before so they are going to bring their culture with them. Japan, a traditionally rigid country, embraces the bat flip. Baseball culture changes with the world and the world has always changed, physically and theoretically. Perhaps there is a racial component to some of your criticism, perhaps not, but I do know one thing: you would have been one of the players that refused to play with Jackie Robinson because that would mean embracing change.
To put it simply….you are a punk.

Ex-marine uncovers reptilian aliens who turn out to be A’s fans.

alien A's fan

Ubbesk seems harmless enough.

Ex-marine Kyle Odom was arrested on Tuesday after shooting a prominent preacher twelve times in Idaho after claiming that the padre was in cahoots with reptilian aliens from Mars that have been here “long before us” have technology “millions of years ahead of ours.” These aliens had been harassing him for about two years after he contacted one during a meditation session. These hyper-sexual, paranoid aliens rule the Earth and have made President Obama their sex slave — a species of “amphibian-humanoids” that include dozens of U.S. politicians.

“The Martians came to Earth here before humans, live underground and bred humans so they can walk among us,” Odom wrote.

This blog was contacted by Ubbesk, the supposed leader of the alien species who wanted things to be cleared up.

“We have never contacted this man, Ubbesk said, and I have 4 witnesses that can tell you I was at a spring training game in Mesa on the day I supposedly contacted Mr. Odom.”

Ubbesk then went on to say that he has high hopes for the team this season and he is highly disappointed in the play of Billy Butler.

“The guy is a disgrace to the human species…I will never figure out why humans feel the need to consume so much pre-packaged crap.”

 

Hippy Harry and his Oakland A’s Spring Training report.

hippy harry cardHarry was one of those flower children from the 60’s who hitch-hiked to Height and Ashbury from an Iowa cornfield and never left. The pull of drugs, sex, music and the radical politics of the time were an overwhelming factor for someone who loved people and having a good time. He met a girl named Darlene who was 19, had long blonde hair and was so with it that she could quote Karl Marx and roll a doobie at the same time. Harry and Darlene were on and off for about 5 years until she split with a Hells Angel from Lodi. This turn of event was an eye-opener for Harry and he realized that sub-cultures consummating into capitalistic entities do what they normally do–die off. Charles Manson hadn’t helped matters much with his shenanigans in Los Angeles and the hippies of the 60’s that had survived drugs and prison were blossoming into tax-paying citizens and looking for something else to do. So was Harry.
Harry eventually moved to the much cheaper Oakland side of the Bay and got a square job working at a Co-op grocery store. He also started going to baseball games at the Oakland Coliseum in the 70’s and the timing was perfect to mold him into a life long A’s fan. The A’s won 3 straight World Series and had great players like Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando. He liked that these guys were brash, outspoken and had long hair and afros. These were his guys.
Harry is now 67 and lives in Petaluma, California in his “Château Relaxo.” I recently sent him to check out the A’s and the Royals during a Spring Training game in Mesa. Here is his report:
Mesa is an uncultured bubble community with no sense of inspiration–it is flat, hot, dusty and the only thing to do is eat, get drunk or cook meth. I checked into my hotel and decided to eat at “Connie’s” the diner next door. Now I know why I never see dead animals on the roads, they’re all in the restaurants. Talk about the heat. The damn pool water gets as hot as the outside temps. I met a sweet Mexican girl named Lola who was going to the game the next day. We drank rum, listened to the Eagles and talked for most of the night. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and promised to buy me a beer if she saw me the next day. You’d be surprised how easy it is to find someone like me in a crowd of only 5,000 people.
The next day I was a tad bit hung over, yet giddy as I took a couple of puffs off the pipe and downed a few beers in the parking lot. My Prius was gasping for air. Hohokam stadium is a smallish park that seats about 10,000 and has a majestic view of the sky. I live in a part of California that is so lush with greenery and downcast that anything wide open and infinite like this is a bit strange, yet it was pleasant. I have been an A’s fan for the better part of 40 years and had never been to Spring Training. Bucket list.
The vibe and weather were very relaxing and the mixture of baseball, sun and the night before had me falling into a sort of meditative slumber, and then I would jolt awake during every crack of the bat. I imagine it would have been quite hilarious from an outsiders perspective. Around the 4th inning I felt someone shaking me from behind. It was Lola. We went and had a few beers while walking around the stadium. She was a beautiful brown-skinned girl from the 70’s that came from a traditional Catholic family and didn’t look a lick like her age. She had strength, wisdom and a beautiful smile.
Oh, yeah. The A’s won 6-4 as my favorite player Stephen Vogt went yard twice. This vacation was turning out to be quite nice. That is all from my Spring Training report. Harry over and out.

“Campy” Campaneris proves that so called reality isn’t always truth.

campy psychedelicWhen people try to figure out what to believe and explain why they do, they don’t spend much time thinking about the fundamental nature of truth, knowledge, or reality. As Shakespeare said, ‘there’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’. Truth is difficult to define because as soon as you think you have it pinned down, some case or counterexample immediately shows deficiencies.

Bert “Campy” Campaneris is largely heralded in the baseball community for being the first player in modern baseball history to play all 9 positions in one game on September 8th, 1965. The feat was admired so much that comedian Will Ferrell even tried his own bombastic and barely funny version in Spring Training last year.

Now here’s where things get tricky: if Campaneris hadn’t “achieved” this feat the Athletics would have won the game that they eventually lost 5-4 in 13 innings. One run scored when Campy dropped a fly ball in right field, another scored when he pitched the 8th inning, and yet another scored when the smallish (5’10, 160) player was crashed into at the plate leading to another run and the D.L. for 5 days. If this accomplished anything in my mind it certainly wasn’t admiration from a baseball standpoint. It begs the questions: What is real? What is true? And is the reality of the world different from how we perceive and experience it in our minds?

The Philadelphia Athletics and their hunchbacked mascot.

louis van zelst

Louis Van Zelst

Louis Van Zelst was born in 1895 and was disfigured, the result of an early childhood fall. However, while Van Zelst grew to have a humpback, he was never particularly self-conscious about it, and willingly served as a mascot for a few teams at the University of Pennsylvania.

The University of Pennsylvania happened to share a city with the Philadelphia Athletics, and Van Zelst came to know some of the team’s players and its manager, Connie Mack. Van Zelst approached Mack in 1909 saying he was lucky, and after giving him a tryout, Mack was sufficiently superstitious to believe him and bring him on in an official capacity.

Van Zelst began as the Athletics’ bat boy in 1910, and while the team had been good the year before, in 1910 it won the World Series, and Van Zelst was paid a substantial bonus. The Athletics would then win the World Series again in 1911 and again in 1913, before losing in 1914. Still, Van Zelst had four Series appearances and three championships to his name as a mascot, which is about as good as it gets.

In the day-to-day, Van Zelst was on hand for pretty much every home game and many road games. Prior to each game, players would walk over and rub his humpback for good luck. Such practices were not rare in those days. They stemmed from the rather out-of-control belief in superstitions which resulted in midgets, humpbacks and other unfortunates joining the ranks of youngsters in the dugouts of major league baseball teams. In Baseball: The Golden Age, Harold Seymour explains that “Lefthanders, hunchbacks and cross-eyed people were all considered (lucky). …Touching a hunchback was popularly believed to bring good luck…. Brownie Burke, a midget to whom Gary Herrmann took a fancy was in uniform daily with the Cincinnati Reds.” There are countless other examples from Ty Cobb’s unfortunate black boy mascot Li’l Rastus to Babe Ruth’s not-so-unfortunate Little Ray Kelly. Indeed, the crosstown Phillies would soon match the A’s with a hunchback mascot of their own. Van Zelst was popular with both Athletics players and visitors, and was even invited to second baseman Eddie Collins’ wedding. At one point Mack tried to send him out to coach first base before the umpire told him to return to the dugout.

Unfortunately, Van Zelst fell ill after the 1914 season and soon died of kidney disease. After advancing to the World Series with Van Zelst in 1914, the Athletics finished in last place in 1915, the first of seven consecutive years they’d finish in the basement.

The ‘Fro takes in a minor league game.

braden

Get off my mound!

I’m zipping at 80 MPH down the I-5 freeway from Sacramento to Stockton on a 2 lane asphalt road littered with tomatoes and dead possum. The smell of cow manure is thick and constant, as it tends to be in California’s Central Valley, and I am on my way to Banner Island Ballpark, home of the Oakland A’s single A affiliate, The Stockton Ports. I had contacted the Ports a week earlier and their representatives were kind enough to give me a free ticket directly behind home plate complete with media credentials. The mixture of early evening and broad anticipation were beautiful, and the sun was burning into my windshield as I daydreamed about life on a farm while they passed by in bunches like failed dreams and time.

Stockton is a city that has dealt with civic bankruptcy, gang-related crime and drugs; and like many other California cities during tough economic times Banner Island Ballpark is incipient of the city’s attempt at downtown revitalization and a catalyst for civic change. Built in 2005 and seating 5,200 the ballpark is a quaint and intimate gem sitting on the waterfront. I was impressed by the amount of fans waiting patiently for the gates to open an hour before the game, many wearing Athletics gear. The fans were lively and animated, a few old ladies were scoring the game and there was even an older gentleman sporting a handlebar mustache with a plastic megaphone heckling the opposing team. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed minor league baseball and was absolutely enthralled by the passion these fans were showing–I half expected Susan Sarandon to waddle by in a tight dress with a sexy Carolina accent and a copy of Walt Whitman tucked beneath her arm.

The past: Dallas “Perfect Game” Braden is somewhat of a legend in Oakland because of his perfect game on Mother’s Day in 2010, but the Stockton native is an absolute God here. The man with 209 (the Stockton area code) tattooed jacobon his stomach had his number retired by the Ports this year and is a dominate presence around the park. I think it’s a shame that his career was cut short due to a “shredded” rotator cuff as he was a solid pitcher and a gamer who once confronted A-Rod for walking on “his” mound. Today he is a talking head for ESPN and the MLB Network and I enjoy him on that platform as well.

The future: Jacob Nottingham, one of two players acquired in the recent Scott Kazmir deal with Houston looks like an absolute stud at 6’3, 227 and despite his baby face has the look of a future big leaguer. (I have read scouting reports comparing him to Mike Piazza) It’s been said that the 20-year-old needs to work on his catching fundamentals but I saw no obvious weaknesses as he seemed in control of the game and the synchronicity with his pitcher, Matt Stalcup, equaled a one hitter through six innings. Nottingham stepped into the box in the first inning and the P.A. announcer told the crowd that everyone in my section would win a free In N’ Out (a California hamburger chain) double–double burger if he, indeed, hit a double. The next pitch was ripped down the third base line for a stand up double and free dinner for me and everyone else on the way home. Thanks, Jacob. You have a new fan here…and will always be known as “Double Double” from here on out as far as The ‘Fro is concerned.

Final score: Stockton Ports 4 Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 0.

A story about another humid summer night.

kidwradio460

“Look at everything. Don’t close your eyes to the world around you. Look and become curious and interested in what you see.” –John Cage

bassitt

Chris “Hound” Bassitt is still looking for his first win in an Oakland uniform.

I am sitting on a friend’s second story balcony on a humid 95 degree evening listening to the A’s play the Indians on my tiny little portable radio. She lives in a sort of “urban” environment, so I enjoy watching the hobos, tweakers, weirdos, wackos, dog walkers, college students, yuppies, drunks and working class mothers that are usually shuffling by my metal, eagle perch..day after day. An impenetrable mass of prejudices, clichés and trite remarks.
First Inning: Rookie Chris Bassitt gives up 3 runs in the first inning on an error and a Carlos Santana blast to deep center. (Has any musician lost so much credibility so fast in the history of music?) Josh Reddick gives the fans in attendance and listening across the airwaves a small semblance of respect with his RBI double effectively erasing the goose egg and making our desperate fandom seem incipient of a team that could possibly throw a monkey wrench in another team’s plans. The people continue shuffling by, sometimes even looking up and making eye contact with me. An overwhelming feeling envelops me– all of our lives are tedious and pointless and I feel justified as I’m listening to a game that consists of silly boys swinging wood and touching balls.
Bottom 4th: An old man with a cast, wife beater and a mouth that he literally and seemingly can’t close like a gaping, jagged, and putrid cave calls out to a woman who lives in the building. She is in her early 40’s and dresses quite strange– all her clothes seem to be thrifted, yet she mishmashes them together in a way that would put a young fashionista to shame; always changing her clothes multiple times daily. She also walks with her right hand in the air with a sort of aristocratic delicacy, as if holding a tiny cup of tea. Brett Lawrie (who probably wears wife beaters as well.) is doubled off of second to end the inning. The radio continues to crackle over the hum of life and observation.
clunkyTop 6th: a group of drunk, reveling young people stroll by with a girl exclaiming,
“I’ve waited 21 years for this!”
The girls are wearing giant, clunky high-heels that seem to be all the rage these days. They can barely walk in them and it seems as if every synapse in their still maturing/intoxicated brains are working overtime during every excruciating step. Chris Bassitt gets out of a jam and is pitching very well.
Top 8th: A mulatto girl with a blond mohawk is talking to the 300 pound fat man who sits in his car for hours blasting house music (a genre of electronic dance music) and staring at his cell phone. The fat man is very meticulous about parallel parking as this simple task always takes over a minute each time. The A’s make a pitching change…R.J. Alvarez, another recent AAA cannon fodder call-up who gets a pop-up on a bunt attempt. 3 drunken girls stumble by with the one in the clunky shoes in the middle being held up by the other 2.
Bottom 9th: Carlos Carrasco twirls a complete game 2 hitter as he gets Josh Reddick to ground out in a moment of anti-climax. The A’s went down quickly and orderly in a game that lasts only 2 hours and 15 minutes which proves the dog days are already here with 2 months left in the season. A girl pees in a bush as her boyfriend looks on, while the man who rides the cruiser bike with classic rock pouring out of a ghetto blaster dangling precariously from his handlebars rides by. I wonder why he is always shirtless.
Final Score: Indians 3, Athletics 1