Tag Archives: oakland a’s

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 lying, sniveling cheaters known as The Asterisks

What a series. I aged about 10 years and definitely acquired a few gray hairs. At times I was sweating like a whore in church, and at other moments I didn’t know what to do besides pace and stare at my fingernails. It wasn’t lost on me that this series started exactly one day after the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox scandal. Did the baseball gods still care? This club hadn’t won an elimination game since game 7 of the 1973 World Series-that is-never in my lifetime. The Sox had a vivid fashion sense, were known for “Cadillac-ing it,” had the best pure hitter in the league, and the probable MVP. That being said– let’s dive right in, shall we? (To be frank: I absolutely despise series recaps on blogs. They are humdrum and as dull as dishwater. I know…what a hypocrite.)

Game 1: The gods certainly must have stifled a chuckle when the front office (or Melvin?) decided to start LH pitcher Jesus “Jesus Lizard” Luzardo in game 1, garnering a snarky response from Tim Anderson whose Sox were 14-0 against such freaks of nature.  And rightly so, as after the (predictable) loss it was almost a universal feeling from the fan base, with torch and pitchforks, that it was time for Bob Melvin and Billy Beane to make their exodus. The power of frustration compels me! Sox 4 A’s 1

Game2: Chris Bassitt my be the best pitcher in the A.L., and he proved it by shutting down the powerful Sox lineup, saving the season, and maybe Melvin’s managerial career in the green and gold. Mark Canha made an incredible catch in LF giving all the old coots LSD flashbacks of Joe Rudi in the1972 WS and essentially saving the game. Dallas Keuchel couldn’t get out of the 4th, the South-Siders tried to make a late-inning comeback, even loading the bases in the 9th before being shut down by Jake Diekman. A’s 5 Sox 3

Game 3: A HUGE 4 run 4th inning erased a 3-0 deficit and an absolute feeling of deflation and the “here we go again” sentiment that the fans were universally experiencing. This game could be forgotten as the playoffs mature, but for now it is one of the biggest wins I’ve had the pleasure of watching. It really could have gone either way as both teams left a lot of ducks on the pond in big situation after big situation before a 5.5 hole stinger by Chad “Swiss Army Knife” Pinder scored two runs and cemented the eventual final. Sox manager and hot head Rick Renteria made some baffling pitching decisions, playing “3-D chess” and pulling his starter in the 1st after 2/3 of an inning and using SIX pitchers to get the first 12 outs. A classic case of over-thinking, and now the fan base wants him strung up. What a strange managerial flip-flop. In the end, it wasn’t our problem as it was the Elephant’s first series win since 2006 and gives us an invite to Dodger Stadium to exact sweet revenge on the Asterisks. A’s 6 Sox 4

“I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” shortstop Carlos Correa said. “But what are they going to say now?” I know what I would say: you won a “Wild Card” 3 game series and haven’t accomplished jack shit. Your pitching is weak. Quit playing the victim. My inner Joe Biden wanted to say, “Will you shut up, man?” If this team was a living annex of your personality, you would cheat on your wife and then return home to blame it on some other shmuck with an unapologetic smirk. Classic blame-shifting. It’s the Oakland A’s and every other fan in the baseball world vs. The Asterisks, and they need to be humbled in the worst kind of way. “Bang a Gong,” as Marc Bolan famously sang, and not a trash can. A’s in 4. 

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.

 

A baseball player no longer

In 2012 Adrian Cardenas was a 24-year-old Chicago Cubbie, had 11 career hits, and publicly decided to quit baseball to drape himself in more intellectual pursuits. He wrote about his decision eloquently in a piece for The New Yorker garnering admiration from some and dismay from others. “With every semester that passed, I loved school more than I loved baseball, and eventually I knew I had to choose one over the other,” Cardenas wrote. Never wavering, Adrian went on to major in philosophy and creative writing at NYU and eventually obtained a master of fine arts degree.

Although Cardenas never played in an Oakland uniform, he was a top 10 prospect at one time, and I remember watching him quite often in the summer of 2011 with the AAA Sacramento RiverCats. I stumbled across his film, El Artesano (The Artisan) a few days ago, and found it to be quite touching with dazzling cinematography and an artistic touch without pretension. In a world of disposable media, I found myself reflecting on the short film even a few days after watching it. If you have 12 minutes of time I would like to petition you to click on the link below:

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2020/08/25/el-artesano-the-artisan/

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.

A’s defeat Asterisks under surreal, Dali-esque sky

“People talk about escapism as if it’s a bad thing…Once you’ve escaped, once you come back, the world is not the same as when you left it. You come back to it with skills, weapons, knowledge you didn’t have before. Then you are better equipped to deal with your current reality.”–Neil Gaiman

By now everyone has heard about the tragic fires in California, which have been said to be the worst in recorded history of the state. These fires have given the sky a surrealistic orange hue, giving anyone who already had anxiety about the trials of modern-day an almost apocalyptic view on the vile calamities we now face as Americans in 2020. Our souls are in purgatory crying out for mercy…from ignorance, racism, destruction, greed, loneliness, economic uncertainties, pandemics, and a certain orange creature who leads the influx of oblivious humanity.

I thought it to be in the tradition of the Surrealist, and conjured in my mind the following Salvador Dali quote: “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” These shackles were indeed broken and destroyed above the Coliseum on a tepid Wednesday night as solid objects transmogrified and clocks melted.

I needed a moment of escapism….even for three hours and change, with a few gin and tonics as my only company. One of the sponsors, strangely enough, was called Planet Orange, a Bay Area eco-friendly pest control. What in the world is happening? Announcers Glen Keiper and Dallas Braden made a comment that this would be the first MLB game played on Mars. (Or Tatooine?) In the end, the good guys defeat the Asterisks in a highly contested fistfight, 3-2 as the bats awaken from their slumber in the later innings and the ‘Stros closer brings a bucket of gasoline with him to the mound. All seems normal and exciting for the moment. All is well in the world and there is consolation, if only for a very short moment.