Baseball On the Radio

It goes without saying that it has been a long, long winter, and yet I just said it.  There was a blizzard in my drive way, glaciers in the parking lots, fierce wind, bitter cold, short days, black ice, frozen lakes, rivers and harbors.  It finally ended on Monday, April 6th, at about four PM with Baseball On The Radio.  Yes, Baseball On The Radio is the wrap-up, the death knell, the climax, the grand finale of jumpin’ Jack Frost. Baseball On The Radio single-handedly, valiantly and discreetly ended winter.  It made the ice melt, the flowers bloom, it chased away the clouds, put smiles on grumpy children, turned on the sprinklers and even cued up that god-awful music that the ice cream trucks play.  Oh, yes.  Yes it did.

Today’s game happened to be the season opener between the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies, played in Philadelphia and won 8-0 by the Sox, but that really didn’t matter in the least.  Any two teams from any two cities would have sufficed; any stadium, any uniform, any pitchers, any final score.  After all, it wasn’t just baseball, it was Baseball On The Radio.

I don’t remember what what I got on my math final when I was twelve, or what little girl I had a crush on, or what was on TV on Friday nights back then, but I remember the tone and timbre of the voices of the announcers describing, yes, Baseball On The Radio.

Mel Allen— “Going, going, gone!!” or, “How about that.”

Phil Rizzuto — “Holy Cow.”

Red Barber —  “He’s sittin’ in the catbird seat.”

Bob Murphy — “Time for the happy recap.”

There was also Lindsey Nelson, Ralph Kiner, Bill White, Vin Scully, Jack Buck, Curt Gowdy, Tim McCarver.  Now, of course, there is John Sterling with his “It is high, it is far, it is gone!” and Gary Cohen for the Mets with his simpler “It’s outta here!”  The newer guys don’t quite have that panache, that brio of the golden age.  Perhaps my golden age.  But it seems to me that their curve balls don’t break across the plate, their fast balls don’t quite hop, their knuckleballs don’t really flutter.  But still, it’s baseball.  And not only that, it’s Baseball On The Radio.

 Here is a clip of Mel Allen calling a home run by Roger Maris in 1961.  Ironic, I know, that this is video and not audio, but close your eyes just for a minute and get a whole different feeling for a baseball game.  Shivers.  I get shivers.

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AHam/ Arod

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There seems to be an eerie connection between Bronx Bomber Alex Rodriguez (ARod) and Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (AHam).

Just consider these incredible coincidences:

-Both are named Alexander.  How often has that happened in history?

– AHam was born in Jamaica, an island in the Caribbean; ARod’s family is Dominican, and as a little boy he lived in the Dominican Republic, an island in the Caribbean.

– Both went to school, lived, and worked in New York.  How many people in history can say that?

– AHam was a ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’;  ARod was a Yankee.

– Aham established the Bank of the United States;  ARod’s last contract almost bankrupted it.

– ARod was fed popcorn at a Superbowl by Cameron Diaz;  There is video proof of this; AHam was fed mutton balls by Dolly Madison at the Philadelphia Comic Con in 1793.  (No proof exists.  Video tapes were not yet invented, and all the audio tapes were destroyed in a fire in 1821 when John Qunicy Adam’s head burst into flame during a debate with Martin Van Buren over who had the cooler name.  Adams won the debate when the majority of the audience responded “Ooh, flaming head.  Cool.”)

– AHam worked closely with George Washington, the President:  ARod worked closely with Derek Jeter, the Captain.

– AHam was plagued by a scandal involving infidelity with another man’s wife.; ARod was plagued with a scandal involving performance enhancing drugs, lying, possibly tampering with evidence, arrogant malfeasance, scowling without a license, chewing gum with violent intent, egregious use of sports cliches, and generally talking through his rear end.

– ARod has hit over 600 home runs in his career;  AHam hit the tree behind Aaron Burr during their duel.

Could there be some sinister cosmic confluence causing these strange parallels.  Or perhaps this is a case of reincarnation?  Or demonic possession?

I’m sorry, I just don’t know.

World Series 2012

The Giants beat the Tigers.

In a world without emblems, this would be quite dramatic, even cinematic.  In a literal world, this would bring to mind oversized men wielding clubs against large ferocious cats with black and orange bodies.  The giants would be muscular, square-jawed, beady eyed, merciless.  The tigers would have powerful limbs, sharp claws and elaborately camouflaged faces that disguised the dead, pitiless eyes.  There would be grunts of exertion, thuds and squeals, the stench of sweat and terror.  There would be a Hesiod or a Homer to record the action.  That’s in a world without emblems, a world that Thomas Hobbes would have called ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’.

But we do have emblems.  We have things that stand in for other things.  Representatives.  Metaphors. Images. Symbols.

The Giants I refer to are normal sized men, mostly, who play baseball for a team located in the city of San Francisco.  The Tigers are human, have, mostly, uni-colored faces, and play baseball for a team located in Detroit.

Or at least they did play in those cities.  Neither will play a meaningful game again until April of next year.  April.  Of next year.  Tomorrow is November 1st, which means there will be five months without baseball.

April.  Of next year.  Five months.  Without baseball.

Sigh.

I don’t blame the Giants.  Well, not much.  They played fairly and they played better than the Tigers.  Mostly, they pitched better.  The Tigers couldn’t hit jack squat if it meant a multi-year contract.

Mostly, I blame the Tigers.  Because, as I may have mentioned, the Tigers couldn’t hit jack squat if it meant a multi-year contract.  They couldn’t hit the parish if they were standing inside the church.  They couldn’t hit the moon if they were standing on a crater.  They couldn’t hit water if they were standing in the river.  Okay, okay, I’ll stop now.   Wait, just one more.  They couldn’t hit Pluto if he was orbiting Mickey Mouse.  Or whatever.

The Tigers beat the fekakta Yankees in four games.  Seven games would have been nice, but whatever it takes to beat the Yankees, I’m in favor of.  The Tigers had the best pitcher on the planet.  They had a triple crown winner, the first since 1967 (and just to mumble the names of the other Triple Crown winners brings momentary tranquility.  Try it: Carl Yastrzemski.  Frank Robinson.  Mickey Mantle.  Ted Williams.  Lou Gehrig.  Ahhhh.  I feel better already.) They had a bullpen, they had a steady, seasoned manager, they had momentum, they had god on their side.  And they got swept and we got to watch only four games in the World Series.

I’m not a Tigers fan, not really.  I’m a baseball fan, and a World Series fan.  I was hoping for some good games and hoping that the series would go at least six games, maybe a bonanza of seven.  A few extra innings contests, maybe a walk off or two, maybe an almost no-hitter.  You know, October baseball.

Didn’t happen.  The best pitcher on the planet got hammered in the first game, the Triple Crown winner watched helplessly as the final pitch of the series sailed across the plate, and the steady, seasoned manager managed to say, “I never thought we’d sweep the Yankees, and I never thought we’d get swept by the Giants.”

I am trying to curb my sarcasm here so let me just say this, “mmmmmggggllltytufoffffaaarforg”.  Yes. That sums it up exactly.

Just Something To Write About

       Since the financial boondoggle of the Dodger’s former owner Frank McCourt, the Los Angeles Dodgers (nee Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers) are up for sale.  Several “ownership groups” are vying to purchase this successful and very lucrative franchise:
A group including Joe Torre
A group including former Dodger players Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey
A group that includes Ervin “Magic” Johnson
A group that includes Larry King
Mark Cuban (Mark is not actually a group but probably has enough money to qualify as one).
      This seems like enough, but what the media, darn them, are not revealing is that there are several other groups interested in purchasing the Dodgers:
A group including Han Solo and Darth Vader (they made up after the whole ‘freezing in carbonite’ episode.  Vader said recently, “It’s tough to hear with this bulky helmet.  I thought they were just going to tease him on a dark night.”)
A group including Howdy Doody, Phineas T. Bluster and Paddle the Gnu.  Their show has been running in syndication since 1961, mostly in Indonesia and sections of Cleveland, and the puppet/stars have enough money to challenge for ownership.  Unfortunately, Buffalo Bob and Clarabell the Clown are not welcome in the ownership group, mostly because they are real.
A group including former U.S. presidents Carter, Ford, Bush 1, Bush 2, and Clinton (not necessarily in that order)
The citizens of Budapest, Hungary.  All of them.
The Justice League of America.
The Mormon Tabernacle choir, except the third woman from the left in the eighth row.  No one likes her.
The New York Yankees.  This is unusual for the Yankees, because they are used to buying a complete All-Star team, and the Dodgers are just not that good.
There are unconfirmed rumors about Kukla Fran and Ollie, and a group headed by the Geico gekko, but as this is a serious journalistic report, I won’t speculate on that until there is more evidence.
Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball has said publicly that every effort will be made to analyze the financial integrity and commercial viability of each of the groups, and then he will choose the one with the coolest logo.

Giveaways

I am a baseball fan, but not a fan of mass culture.  So, I am somewhat schizophrenic about the Babbitry connected with “giveaways”.  Baseball teams routinely hand out t-shirts, bobble-head dolls, calendars, bats, caps, key rings etc, etc, in order to bolster attendance.  I understand that baseball, like all sports, is a branch of the entertainment business, and it is great that it stirs up interest in a classy and classic game.  And as Calvin Coolidge said, “The business of America is business.” But are giveaways good business?

In the long run, doesn’t it raise the price of a ticket, meaning that you may not be getting something for nothing?  More like, “get now, have the inflated cost folded into your ticket price later.”  And what do you actually get?  You get what is called a “collectible”.  “Collectible” is a great word; flexible, accommodating and vague.  It does not mean, necessarily, a collectors item.  A “collector’s item”, according to the dictionary is “an article or object of particular interest because of its uniqueness or scarcity.”  Something handed to thousands at a turnstile is not of particular interest because of its uniqueness or scarcity.

So what then is a “Collectible”?  The dictionary, again, says “an object suitable for a collection, originally a work of fine art or an antique, now including also any of a wide variety of items collected as a hobby, for display, or as an investment whose value may appreciate.”  A bobble head doll, or a keychain, or a soup bowl (Yankees vs Rays, 9/09) is not fine art, nor an antique.  So, that leaves us with “display” or “hobby”.  Okay, those are two legitimate categories for the individually wrapped, assembly line gee-gaws consigned to the faithful at the turnstiles. And of course it is the inalienable right of every citizen to stockpile anything with a logo on it. Bobbing up and down at the rear window of a car, on the top shelf of a school locker, in the garage, next to the toolbox in the basement.  These are the places where “collectibles” do what they were really designed to do.  Collect dust.  Because in a few days or a month most of this stuff is old hat, yesterday’s news, relics of a bygone age.  Junk.  Its stuff we would never buy, but cherish deeply and sincerely for several minutes when it’s given away.  So there’s the problem.  Manufacturers sell it to corporations who sell it to baseball teams who sort of give it away to people who have no real use for it.

Certainly it’s counterproductive to just describe the problem without offering a solution, so I have one.  I think with a small adjustment in approach, this bag of lemons could be squeezed, iced and sweetened into lemonade.    Why not shift perspective a few degrees north by northwest, and think in terms of giveaway items that are a) biodegradable, b) digestible, or at the very least, c) durable.

Here, try these on for size:

Roofing Shingle Night!!! The first 250 trucks that back up to the stadium loading dock drive away with a hundred pounds of shingles!!  (Vs the Cubs, 9/14)

Rambunctious Ramen Riot!!  All fans entering the ball park with less than a 40 inch waist will receive a 10 pack of delicious, nutritious Ramen noodles. After all, everyone loves Ramen.  (Please note that hot water will not be provided). (Vs the Diamondbacks, 8/12)

Or, even more radical, and more earth friendly, how about an occasional intellectual give away, like:

Medieval Monday in Minnesota!  The first 10,000 paying customers will be escorted to a secluded portion of the stadium to listen to a lecture on the “Evils of the Renaissance” given by Girolomo Savanarola Gustavsen.  (Twins vs. Orioles, 9/1)

Balance Your Checkbook Bonanza!!! Scores of Certified Public Accounts will be on hand to help the first thousand fans justify their debits and credits. (Yankees vs. Red Sox 7/4)

I know that none of these ideas will ever really be taken seriously.  We are just not a culture geared to simple pleasures.  What we will do is keep on producing and accumulating “collectibles”.  The stuff is produced in some far off factory, probably not in this country, perhaps not in this hemisphere.  The collection process however, is a local phenomenon.  Mine is accomplished by a big green truck that clanks and groans down my street every Thursday morning.