Tag Archives: humor

Asterisks Beer Review While Vaxxed as F***

Bang. Bang.

I know the threat of the Oakland Athletics moving to a different city looms in the shadows, but it would be inconsequential to comment here until the Oakland City Council votes on the matter on July 20th. The readers of this blog already know my feelings concerning billionaire flim-flam artists and John Fisher is no exception. 

***

I finally got my second vaxx shot, so I commended my new precursor to freedom and the ending of covid-induced hibernation by buying a few beers and a new collectable Skeletor as my companion and I drove through the winding, craggy hills singing Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” at the top of our lungs. (Subsequently, I was confused by her public animosity of the Eagles, but love of a few choice Henley songs)  It’s scorching and humid and we are glistening as a result. There was an excursion to Taco Bell, a food I hadn’t eaten in well over a decade, and I felt as if  I was eating toxic sludge with notes of acidic regurgitation, but I needed sustenance before we went to a party bursting at the seams with a certain titular clique of Southern socialites. Not my cup of tea as a breezy West Coaster, although I was looking forward to imbibing on the Southern Belle, The Alabama Slammer, and The High Noon Old Fashion  which would perhaps loosen me up for the plethora of “ya’alls” and stiff posturing that would be heaved my way. How did I end up here?

“Did you ever notice that Donna Summer looks like Rick James without a mustache?” she said.

 ***

Are my readers tired of the pseudo-intellectual baseball pundit gibberish constantly shoved down their throats? Perhaps, but if you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, then baffle them with your bullshit regarding “pre-gaming” and cliche sports blog financed beer reviews– but color me naive as I have not received one thin red dime for my efforts here. 

And as I was standing in the store aisle, blankly staring, and confused by the dizzying array of choices, I  gave in and decided to try the Houston Asterisks sponsored Crawford Bock, and my immediate impression was that it reminded me of a sort of piss-infused Newcastle. I found it to be rather bland for an attempt at a bock, and about as safe and by the books as you can get without going the dreaded “light beer” path. This is an attempt at making baseball fans that are used to drinking traditional lifeless, stodgy beer feel sophisticated by drinking a trendy, “craft beer” when this is the farthest thing from it. It’s a damn good metaphor for their baseball team–style over substance and pure surface trickery. I felt in the end I was paying for the can with its retro-rainbow Nolan Ryan era motif more than anything, and in the tradition of the organization, felt cheated. Not Recommended. 

 

The First World Pit of Hell

She’s just a Nordstroms model, it wasn’t her fault.

I wasn’t close to my father, who was a rather opaque person. He wasn’t unkind — I mean, he didn’t have any malicious thoughts toward me, just a kind of a vague indifference. Eventually I started to feel the same, even forgetting for years at a time that he even existed. One day, out of tremendous boredom, I decided to stalk him on the internet, and there was only one thing: a news interviewer asking him why he thought the water in the port near his home was so green. He didn’t know, but remembered swimming in the muck as a small boy, thinking nothing of it. I instantly regretted this action.

Many hours later I was a little (majorly) tipsy and tired of swimming in the salty sea of regret and memories when I did what anybody in that situation does–I turned to internet consumer therapy. I have been a Nordstroms credit card holder for several years now and have always had good standing on my account, so I decided to buy brand new A’s cap since I had worn the same one since 2010. I spent nearly 30 minutes placing an order only for it to be canceled 5 minutes later. I then spent 30 minutes on the phone with an operator who decided I should re-start the entire process again. In conclusion, I decided to stick with the soiled, banged-up cap I’ve had since 2010. I had a guy spill an expensive, local, craft brewed, 15 dollar beer on it in Seattle trying to catch a foul ball in what could be called a mosh pit within a legion of outstretched hands, and you can’t replicate those types of lovely memories. (In the end, yours truly caught that ball)

Please accept our apology for the inconvenience.” At times that feels like a representation of what I feel about the world and how I’ve observed the mechanics of reality: but it was only a baseball cap they were speaking of. I decided to rate them 1 star, and thought it was amusing how we are constantly rating things on a five star scale, from movies, hotels, Uber drivers, Amazon gift cards, and even The Statue of Liberty. (How do you rate her?) This has just been one of those days. It feels like a game of MadLibs where you are sort of blindly filling in the blanks and hoping it makes sense in the end. There is a keen sense of raw honesty and ironic detachment filling me as the sun beats down like a goofy friend with a Peter Tosh record and some words of encouragement.

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.

Website

majorleagueaholes.com

Social

Twitter: @MajorLeagAholes

Insta: @majorleagueaholes

Facebook: @majorleagueaholes

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 Asterisks may have the can, but the A’s prove to be the garbage

“Baseball is visceral, tragic, and absurd with only fleeting moments of happiness; it may be the best representation of life.” –Adrian Cardenas

Sorry, baseball world. It was up to this ball-club to exact some sort of small revenge for the inadequacies against the universe and they failed. This was a demoralizing series, as the swingin’ dick Asterisks, in a perpetual climate of contradiction, proved that cheating without repercussion or self-reproach is the new American way of life. This approach is celebrated in the White House (and politics in general) and has trickled down into the muck of the baseball world as the catalysts bounce back and forth from “powerful” to “victim” at the drop of a hat or whenever it is convenient to benefit from said situation. When did we become a bunch of cowards? Even as a child I knew that when I did something terrible I felt remorse without trying to rub it in the victim’s face. That basic and humanistic concept is way over the heads of these “men.”

Am I being dramatic here? In the end, despite the unmitigated disaster, my friend (who doesn’t give a toss about baseball) and I toddled down to the local art museum after the game, (don’t judge, we wore masks and the tickets were very limited) and afterward, in the suburban slob tradition, we scarfed a bunch of fast food, coddled in blankets while embracing auteur status of gory B-grade camp/crap horror movies. (Only because there were no more Cobra Kai episodes after binge-watching the shit out of the first 2 seasons) Very sophisticated stuff. This led me to forget about millionaires prancing around in pajamas and playing with balls. Embracing the important things in life. And we all need that in these trying times of pandemics, assholes, liars, cheaters, and pricks that surround us every day lacking any sort of compassion, justice, or truth that ultimately corrupts their blackened hearts.

The Asterisks won this series fair and square and undoubtedly have a powerful lineup, but in the playoffs pitching is always the Prom Queen and they have a noticeable lack of it. (So did the A’s but that is another story) How good is this team? Perhaps they stumbled upon a “playoff hot streak” à la the 2019 Nationals. Ahh, except that team had– you guessed it–pitching. Their shit-smudge dream will inevitably end, although, regrettably not by our hands, and their classless fans will crawl back under the rocks from whence they came. Go Rays! or Yankees? (I can’t believe I actually said that) 2020 can you please burn in hell? Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to go put my head in a cheese grater while searching for early signs of senility.

“Bip” the player meets “Bip” the cat.

Around Fall 2001 I was moving in to a new place with my girlfriend at the time; she was 21, petite, had short red hair, a great sense of humor, loved to eat cheese and watch the X Files. We moved to a studio in a dodgy urban area, but it was ours and we loved it–we were young and still trying to understand the internal world of our hearts and minds among punk rock music, modern art, drugs and used furniture.

One night we were behind our apartment building taking out the trash when we saw a small gray and white cat running around. After chasing the little rascal around for a while, we caught it and decided to adopt him, but we couldn’t decide on a name.

“How about Bip?” I said.

Leon Joseph “Bip” Roberts hadn’t been in the league for a couple of seasons, but at the time was announcing for the local AAA Sacramento River Cats and this predicated the name. Besides, the player Bip was sort of smallish and an underdog who only hit 30 homers in his career. (One for the Oakland A’s!) The cat “Bip” was smallish and an underdog as well. The name stuck. Bip is probably gone now and the relationship is long over, as things tend to do, but the memories will always last.

No word yet as if Bip (the cat) has hit any homers in the Big Leagues.

Baseball card time travels.

As I pull this baseball card from the pile it takes me on a long forgotten trip back to the 1990’s and the bottomless pit of purgatory known as Jr. High School. Everyone was growing into themselves, girls were getting boobs, fashion was suddenly important, and guys were suddenly sporting the haircut that concocted the term “business in the front, party in the back.”

The mullet was a popular hairstyle in the early 90’s as it was worn by everyone from rock stars, movie stars, wrestlers and even baseball players. With the 90’s being the cultural dreg that it was, it seemed the perfect time for the white-trash aesthetic to finally be embraced by the mainstream. Celebrities who rocked the hairstyle included John Stamos, David Bowie, Billy Ray Cyrus and George Clooney. My cousin had his mullet for YEARS complete with an army style flat-top. I still give him shit for it to this day.

I remember a friend of mine from Jr. High, Michael,  would constantly run a comb through his dirty blond mullet while wearing his ever-present Guns N Roses t-shirt complete with naked girl on the back. (seems a bit extreme for a Jr. High kid today, seemed normal then before Generation X started having children and treating them like snowflakes.) Michael was sort of known as the dick of the neighborhood and would always try to steal other people’s “valuable” baseball cards. He lived in a ramshackle house, his mom was slutty with a new biker boyfriend every other week, and his baby sister always looked dirty with a bunch of dried food on her face. It was depressing. I soon outgrew baseball cards and Michael.

The 1990 Oakland A’s were no exception to the rule as Storm Davis and Jose Canseco had flowy, rockstar-esque mullets. Back up catcher Ron Hassey and second baseman Glenn Hubbard had their weird, curly, seemingly permed neck-fro’s. I’ve got to believe thet the most famous baseball mullet of all time goes to the great pitcher and ultimately most white-trashy looking player of all time…Randy Johnson.  Today’s players, being forever trendy yet always a step or two behind hip fashion sport the hairstyle in a “post-ironic” way; these including Nick Swisher and Tim Lincecum.

Junior High was a crazy, fucked up, depressing and confusing time for me. I got into my second fight (and third),  added the first girlfriend to my repertoire and discovered heavy metal, porn and keg parties. Thank you Storm Davis for bringing it back. I had almost forgotten.

Ben Sheets got me drunk.

 

ben sheets suds artOn January 26, 2010, Ben Sheets agreed to a one year, $10 million with an additional $2 million in incentives, contract with the Oakland Athletics. “Ok,” I thought, “he was hurt last year and this is his comeback.” I knew Ben was injury prone as he had just undergone Tommy John surgery the year before and sat out the entire 2009 season to rehab. It seemed at the time a high risk/reward signing, but I put it out of my mind because of the fact that I had other things to do. You see, it was my day off and I was supposed to meet a nice young lady for some beers and some games of pool at one of those newly opened, posh “gastropubs”. The date goes fine, we drink some nice brews, play some pool and I nod my head at all the crucial moments. Everything is going great until we step out on the back patio to smoke a joint… and then it hits me. Didn’t I see this guy pitch in the minor leagues? 

I can hear the readers screaming, “this guy is having a great time with this woman and he’s thinking about a fucking baseball player!” Well yes, I was, and even worse…I was thinking about the ex-girlfriend that had accompanied me to a baseball game. This is date suicide, I know, but bear with me–all of the thoughts below were fully compartmentalized within two minutes or so. (and it’s not as if it’s an epic, Homer-like story) That’s only about 3-4 head nods and a couple “mmm hmmm’s.”

It’s 1999. I had been wanting to go to a California League game for quite a while. Stockton, Ca. was the closest city to where I was living so it was the logical choice. The Stockton Ports were an (A) team for the Milwaukee Brewers, and I had a little rooting interest for the “Brew Crew;” I thought they were a scrappy, fun bunch. My girlfriend and I hop on the freeway and drive an half an hour south of Sacramento to the murderous, unemployed shit-heap known as Stockton.

Billy Hebert Field was in a sketchy neighborhood in the middle of a park. It was a bit old and had metal bleachers down the third/first base lines. The ballpark had opened in 1953, yet supposedly the land that was/is the field has been used for baseball since the late 19th century, and as legend says, the exact location where the poem “Casey at the bat” had taken place. We grab our beers and peanuts and sit on the third base line. The crowd is sparse, yet I’m enjoying myself.

billy hebert this one

Minor league games tend to have wacky promotions, yet this one was right out of the Bill Veeck hand book. The PA announcer tells the crowd that so and so from the opposing team would be the game’s “beer batter.” This meant that every time the batter in question struck out beer would be half off for 10 minutes. On the mound for the Ports that day was their newly signed “bonus baby,” Ben Sheets. Sheets proceeded to strike out the “beer batter” 4 times; and since there was barely a crowd, I would slowly walk to the concession stand and get a few beers for half off. The first few times were novelty, and then as the innings went by and the suds kicked in it became a sort of a right of passage and celebration of this young man’s talent. I was “three SHEETS to the wind” by the end of the game.

Times have changed. The Ports moved into a new, modern ballpark in 2005, leaving Billy Hebert unattended. They are now an affiliate of the Oakland A’s. Ben Sheets retired in 2012. He couldn’t shake off the injury bug that had hampered his career. I don’t speak to either woman anymore in this story. We had great times, yet that rolling stone keeps on moving. This isn’t a special story….it’s  just another baseball fan’s testament, and a story that will all too soon fade away.

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. 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.
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.

Coco is back!!!

coco crisp topps archivesForgive me for acting the role of a withered old man and opening this conversation by talking about the weather, but the days are getting noticeably cooler and downcast and I am embracing the respite from the sun. When the sky is cloudless with a light grey hue it tends to dismiss humans and their petty vocations because its less violent and talkative creatures need vital H20. It gives me the feeling of ennui that I embrace like a long forgotten friend who ignites and inspires my creative energies with truthful exuberance. I imagine it’s the same feeling of animated sprightliness and mischievousness that caused Phillies fans to boo Santa Claus. They claimed he was drunk, skinny and beardless and who can blame them?
There is a sushi restaurant less than a block away from my house that I like to patronize on occasion. Today I stopped in for a few .99 cent sake bombs and there was an interesting article in the newspaper (now printed with soy ink!) concerning stat guru Bill James. According to James and his own Pythagorean formula the A’s should be 7 games over .500. I’m not sure whether it was Billy Martin or Earl Weaver or every other manager in the history of baseball that said your team can only go as far as their bullpen; but whoever it was they were certainly correct as far as the 2015 Oakland A’s are concerned.
Coco Crisp returned from the D.L. on Monday accounting for 2 hits, all but doubling his season total and raising his average to .082. Although the aforementioned feat happened at the hands of a 9-2 drubbing by the Orioles, this seemed to be a special moment because of Senior Crisp’s injuries and dwindling ability to help this team. I would compare the moment he stepped into the box to a Rolling Stones concert–very expensive, way past its prime, and incipient of a moment that should be enjoyed presently because it will be over before you know it. Perhaps Mr. Jagger, he of the peacock candor, can tip his cap to that.