Tag Archives: writing

R.I.P. Lew Krausse. Old twirler for the K.C./Oakland A’s

“I went to three Royals games this year, but when I go there I come home and I dream about it for two weeks. And my dream is crazy. It’s that I am going to pitch, but I can’t find my hat or my glove and that I lost one of my shoes. I never throw a ball in a dream. I went to see a shrink about it, and that dream was defined to mean that I left the game before I was mentally prepared. I left because of an injury, rather than for a lack of ability. It’s a dream of frustration.” –Lew Krausse

I was saddened to hear of Lew Krausse dying last week, and it gave me the initiative to look into the ol’ cigar box to retrieve a creased and beat-up autographed 1969 baseball card of the legendary twirler. Lew had played and retired long before I was born, but I had read about and enjoyed his exploits in the various books published about Charlie Finley’s Kansas City/Oakland A’s. In another random and very odd twist, I was invited by an unnamed source in the Athletics organization (send me more free stuff!) to watch his Livestream funeral service (Feb. 24) on Vimeo. I’m not sure if I’ll partake in that quite yet, but it would be nice to honor the man in his final send-off.

Here are some facts about the pitcher:
–Lew was one of the first “bonus babies” in pro sports, signing at that time for a record $125,000 bonus by A’s owner, Charley Finley.
— pitched a 3 hit shutout against the LA Angels in his ML debut at the age of 18. (!!!)
— A legendary drinker who would give Wade Boggs and Mickey Mantle a run for their money, Lew shot off a handgun from the window of his hotel room in KC and kicked down a hotel room door in Anaheim.
— Starting pitcher for the Oakland A’s in their inaugural game in 1969, and also did the same for the first Milwaukee Brewers game in history.

For anyone interested, you can watch Lew pitch 3 innings of relief against the Red Sox in 1969 on Youtube. (relieving Jim Nash and earning the save. Reggie Jackson also hits a homer in this game.)
And In an added bonus, Lew also singles off the Green Monster with Yaz taking the carom and holding the runner. Link: A’s/Red Sox 6/15/1969. 

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 that sticky-page endeavor got boring we would play baseball among the cow patties and various livestock 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 whereas 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 in any event.

When you take a look at the last 2 N.L. MVP’s (Bellinger and Yelich) you see a couple of baby-faced guys who you might partake in a doobie with at a keg party; they bear no resemblance to Phelps, who looks like he should be either dishing out benevolent fatherly words of wisdom while gutting a fish, flashing ass crack while under the hood of a classic car, or arresting fratboys outside the aformentioned kegger for possessing a bag of recently purchased purple kush strain of 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 mislocated 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 (until being sold to the Cleveland Indians for a bag of nickels) 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 thus far was relegated to a baseball card that was never really examined or loved and tossed into a box. Forgotten until unearthed.

RIP Tommy Lasorda

Lasorda pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1956, a lifetime before the SlimFast commercials.

Like most non-Dodgers fans, I was hard wired to detest Tommy Lasorda growing up–specifically because his Dodgers defeated the ’88 Oakland ball-club for the World Series title, a team that was the (still) adored childhood entry point for my current baseball obsession. Tommy and his Dodgers introduced me to the heartbreak that only baseball could bring and in turn dulls your hardball spirit each year with consecutive disappointment– a vital learning lesson on this mortal coil that you must shake off the dark moments, realize pain is a part of life and proceed with an open mind and an open heart while you deal with it and get on with it.

Of course, as I got older I had learned to appreciate the larger than life paisan as a great ambassador with a wicked tongue and a great baseball mind. Often interesting was how he crafted the masterful friction between his foul-mouthed, devil-may-care, volatile attitude and the tenderness (although Dave Kingman and Kurt Bevacqua may disagree) he offered his players and adoring fans. We came to love this Italian boy weaned from a hard-scrabbled existence and a distant and foreign era in hardball history, a time when sports figures weren’t concerned with the avatar of virtuousness so much as when they could sneak in a beer or three.

In the Summer of 2014 I was attending Dodgers games quite often as I lived fairly close to Dodger Stadium. One day my girlfriend’s brother–who had on a lark brought binoculars–pointed out that Lasorda was in his typical seat behind home plate dozing off. We checked on him every inning or so out of humorous curiosity and, sure enough, Tommy was still in slumber with nary a stir even with a rise in excitement from the crowd. From then on when we attended a game we would bet a hotdog or a beer on what inning Lasorda would decide to visit slumber land with the smart bet being most often than not the 5th.

RIP, Skip.

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.”

Hot Dogs, Mustard, and Mr. October

The Dalai Lama walks up to a hot dog vendor and says, “Make me one with everything.” Heyoooo!

“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 on 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 drunken crowds watch with glee and mouth-foaming fervor as contestants literally cram 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.

On a whimsy, I attended this event with my then bikini-clad girlfriend in the summer of 2006. She had short blond hair akin to cliche-80’s-movieruskie Brigitte Nielsen of Rocky 3 fame, and turned her nose up at the event. And I, like much of the crowd, was pleasantly buzzed and was absolutely tranquilized by the spectacle. This prototypical American shit-show was a much more desirable choice than loitering on a dusty and windy East Coast beach while old, perverted chess players eyeballed the thin, blonde California Girl. Ever the narcissist, she had been turning heads and inheriting carnal thoughts since she was a pre-teen princess growing up in a leafy-green small town tucked away in the north side of the Golden State. Soon thereafter, our relationship inevitably passed from this world as painlessly and quietly as a good death. 

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

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.

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.

Bill McNulty and the Summer of Flying ‘Taters

Got his only knock off Nolan Ryan

“Baseball is an orderly universe, and that appeals to people who see disorder in the universe.” –Bill James

Breezy night. Moths fluttered and slammed against a lonely streetlight in the massive, darkened parking lot next to an antiquated football stadium. Earlier in the evening I had attended a photo exhibition/art show which was a prelude to the sanctity of the parking lot to smoke a joint with my friend, Bret. We had been invited by an ex-girlfriend with emotional wreckage and psychological traumas  from places I would never go; or care to. Life is always a shifting cast it seems, and here she was again, always cold and ever-present with a blonde, sexually ambiguous haircut and a bouquet of ulterior motives. 

We gobbled up the free food and drinks eagerly. It all had the veneer of a high school graduation with proud parents hovering, shouting, drinking cheap wine and making congratulatory post-show dinner plans. These are the nights that crawl by at a snail’s pace. This being a community college–far from academia–there was the obvious “mystic chatter,” theatrical hand motions, and desperate attempts at narrative. Taking a break from this thing was imperative.

***

“Thanks for dragging me out of there. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.”
“No problem and no shit.”
“I suppose no man is impervious to the charms of a beautiful woman, despite their…fallbacks.”
“No judgement here, my friend,” said Bret as he spit out of a tiny bit of wayward reefer.
“This is Hughes Stadium, right? Didn’t the Sacramento Solons play here?”
“Yeah, 1974. They converted it into a baseball stadium and it was sort of a joke. I used to come here a lot with my dad…yeah, I’m old you sonnuvabitch.”
“You’re practically an antique,” I said jokingly. “Your only goal in life should be to outlive the national mortality rate.”
“Some guy hit a bunch of homers that year, over 50 I believe.”

***

When I’m stoned I tend to get bleary eyed, staring at everything but nothing, and here I was entering the wormhole and researching this mystic “50 homer guy.” Turns out his name was Bill McNulty and in 1974 he had an impressive 55 ‘taters, although most of them were “cheapies” because of the converted football stadium and the 233 foot left field line: perfect for a right-handed pull hitter. This wasn’t a “band box,” it was by my estimation a toddler’s crib. McNulty was also born in Sacramento, as I was, and writer Joan Didion before us. Interestingly enough, there was a also a stint in Hollywood as he had a bit part in a movie, 1985’s No Big Deal, starring Kevin Dillon, (Matt’s little brother) as typical of his brother in a “tough-guy with a heart of gold who got a bad rap” roll, playing a troublesome teen getting out of juvie and dealing with an alcoholic mother while trying desperately to get his shit together.

****

Mr. McNulty had exactly ONE major league hit: It was for the Oakland Athletics and it was off of some guy named Nolan Ryan–a soft single in which none other than Reggie Jackson was thrown out at the plate. And just like that, another ball-player is ripped from the “blanket of obscurity” and breezes into the catacombs of my mind as legend. There are so many beautiful things surrounding us if only we would take the time to look around every once in awhile.