Thursday, December 29, 2005
Another thing not lost is that the Giants announcers are now without their one cutesy nickname in "Fonzie." I've always hated them using nicknames, a la the homer Braves announcers. So, long Edgardo, it's been fun and funk.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
What has brought this picture to mind more than just the memory, or its inclusion in many newspapers the following day, or the fact that I have it as a screensaver, is the Giants' subsequent acquiring of the Cards players in this picture. Before last season, the Giants acquired Mike Matheny, the Cards catcher with his face in the dirt. I thought that an interesting coincidence until last month when the Giants acquired Cards' relief pitcher Steve Kline. He's the pennant losing pitcher in the photo backing up the plate. I've given him a personal nickname, "the one pitch wonder," for throwing only one pitch in game 5, serving up the pennant losing pitch to Kenny Lofton. Upon his signing, he made a statement which I'll paraphrase as "I helped the Giants win the pennant once before, and I'm here to try it again."
I've often thought about getting all the players I can identify to autograph a copy of this picture. Upon Matheny's signing, I wondered if he would sign it, now being a Giant, but in obvious defeat in the picture. Next was Kline. Would he sign?
Now the Giants have extended things beyond the picture. Kline threw only one pitch but was one of only two Cards pitchers in that game. The other one, the one who set up the pennant clincher by giving up two two-out singles, the Giants signed last week. Matt Morris.
Pass me the Sharpie.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Then the big boppers stepped in. Now, 1986 was a crossover year in A's baseball. It was Dave Kingman's last year and also Jose Canseco's rookie year. And these two were paired in the cage... in the Kingdome, a.k.a. homerdome. First, Kingman. Knowing what an incredible BP this guy put on, I ran back about 15 rows up the steps. Not knowing what an incredible BP this guy put on, none of the Mariner fans did the same. His nickname being "Kong", I yelled out in a loud voice, "Koooooooooooooooong!"
If you've never been to the Kingdome, good for you, unless you're a ballpark tour fanatic. Since it was indoors and since the M's had no fans, and since even fewer than no fans showed up that early, it was dead quiet in there. There was a feeling I got that the fans dared not say anything above a soft word, lest the entire stadium hear, and with echo and reverb. They were inhibited by the roof. In future posts I'll tell stories about how a vocal visiting loudmouth used this to make an interesting series.
So, the entire stadium heard me yell Kong. Its echo didn't stop until the third inning. I also waved my arms wildly over my head as if to say, "hit it here." All the other fans looked at me like I was some kind of loonie. He took a couple half bunt swings, then let go. His first real swing ended up about 10 rows over my head. I yelled, "Kong" again. Another shot 10 rows behind me. The fans reacted like it was Christmas morning. Soon they ran up behind me because they figured out that was the only way to get a ball. But Kingman was only warming up.
Kingman out, Canseco in. Boom. Shot to center field. Boom, right center. Boom left. Four hundred feet, boom, four hundred fifty. Canseco out, Kingman in. Monster bomb, thirty rows deep. Then he bacame tired of the lower deck. He then started launching some Howitzer shots into the upper deck. Boom, upper deck 400 ft. 450 ft. 475 ft. Repeat. Suddenly the fans couldn't get any more balls. They started running upstairs. Kingman out, Canseco in. Right center, center. Fans ran to the other field. Both out, Lansford and Murphy in. Warning track, alley, alley, woo-hoo 2nd row HR. Them out, bombers in. Kong hit several upper deck shots that came just a few rows shy of the back wall of the stadium that cleared the speakers that hung from the roof, and Canseco hit one that easily cleared 500 ft. The fans were stunned.
I did bag a ball that day, but it was a Dwayne Murphy BP ground rule double. It was easily the best BP I've ever seen. The greatest BP in history is attributed to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig before game 1 of the 1927 World Series. The '27 Yanks are widely recognized as the greatest team ever. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who never saw these legends play because there was neither TV nor interleague play, lined up before the game to watch. Bomb after bomb landed in the bleachers. They were so shell-shocked at what they saw that it is said of them that they lost the World Series before it ever started. They were swept in four games. Man, I wish I were there.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
The 1950's, when arguably the greatest concentration of talent in the game occurred, is another. The population of the country had increased greatly since the turn of the century, black and Latin players were added to the pool in large numbers, while the number of teams and players remained constant. The depression of the 30's and the war of the 40's that decimated rosters through military service, were past. The three New York teams produced three hall-of-fame rookie outfielders simultaneously; Mays, Mantle and Snider. Many of the greatest of the all-time greats all played at the same time. The greatest pennant race ever occurred ('51 Giants/Dodgers), the storied Bums of '55 gave the little guy his day in the sun, another Yankee dynasty flourished, and television brought the images into America's living room.
Now, I believe we are in a third "golden era" of baseball. It started about a decade ago, in the mid 90's. A new group of superstars have shined, both on the mound and at the plate. These stars will go down as among the greatest of the greatest. Records have been broken and broken again. The dark streak of the strike of '94 was erased with the rays of excellence on the field. Advanced diet, medicine and training regimens have given us superior specimens of athletic performance. Glorious new ballparks have been built that rival the old gems of baseball lore. The talent pool was expanded again with an influx of players from Japan, Korea and Cuba. The best players have been nothing short of dominating. McGwire, Sosa, Bonds. The Big Unit, Pedro, the Rocket. A-Rod, Pujols, Maddux, Ichiro, Mariano Rivera. A new Yankee dynasty arose and the internet threw baseball stats and the fans that feed from them head first into the ocean of the information age.
I've noticed a similar pattern in each of these "golden eras." A dark period or blot is followed by a new wave of players playing great ball in a revolutionary way. The Yankees come to dominance and all of these things are accompanied by an explosion of a recent technology. It'll be interesting to read about this last decade 20 years from now. What will the historians write? Whatever it is, I will remember this time well.
Friday, November 4, 2005
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Conventional wisdom says the NL team has the advantage, but this is only so because it doesn't look at the DH rule from an objective point of view, but from a subjective point of view. Here's how it goes: When a game is played in the NL park, the AL team, which is used to having a DH in the lineup, is penalized by not being allowed to use the DH. This is an AL disadvantage. In the AL park the NL team, which is used to not having the DH, gets to add a bat to its lineup, which is an advantage for them. Some people even carry the argument further by pointing out that in the NL park, where both teams have to bat their pitchers, the NL pitchers have had the benefit of both hitting and taking batting practice during the year, giving the NL team the advantage. Some go even further and suggest that to rid this "unfair" NL advantage the DH rule should be changed to allow each team to use "what it used go get to the World Series." That is, the AL team should be allowed use the DH in all 7 games while the NL team shouldn't.
This view is prevalent throughout baseball. I've heard commentators, broadcasters, fans and even life long baseball people hold this view. But it's wrong. Why is it wrong? Because it looks at the argument in terms of hitting, which is a subjective thing as opposed to looking at it in terms of the designated hitter rule itself, which is an objective thing. It's easy for us Americans to look at things through the rose colored glasses of hitting, because we love offense, and especially the home run. This is so even though we know that pitching is 70% of the game. To show just how skewed the conventional wisdom is, let's now look at the DH rule from a different subjective point of view. The point of view of pitching. The resulting conclusion will be the exact opposite. Here it is:
When a game is played in the NL park, the AL team, which is used to facing a tough lineup with a DH in it, now has an advantage because it gets to face an easier lineup with a pitcher instead of a DH. This is an AL advantage. And in the AL park, the NL team which is used to facing a lineup of 8 position players and one pitcher is now facing a much tougher lineup. This is an NL disadvantage. Plus, in the AL park when both teams can use the DH, the AL team gets to use a specialized player who has spent all year hitting, and who is usually one of its best hitters, while the NL team has to scrape a utility player off the bench to use as a DH. This utility player has spent most of the year on the bench and isn't as good a hitter as any other of the players in its lineup. That's why he's on the bench to begin with! And to carry the argument the same further step as the conventional wisdom argument, maybe each team could have "what it had to get to the World Series." That is, the NL team should get to face a lineup with 8 players and a pitcher, while the AL team should get to face a lineup with a DH. Even with this the AL team would still have the advantage because the hitter an NL team could put in its lineup wouldn't be as good as the quality DH hitters the AL team is used to facing. Maybe to rid us of this "unfair" AL advantage, the NL team could have the option of drafting a player from another team. To be fair, this player could be limited to free agents who have just completed their contract with a non-contending team.
If this last view seems like nonsense to you, it's because it is. But, it's the same argument, point by point, as the argument from the hitting view. It's no more absurd as the conventional view. Now I'll look at the DH rule from an objective point of view and use actual history to prove my point. This view will look at the rule from the view of the DH itself.
In the AL park, both teams get to use the DH. Both of their lineups are made up of the same components. Eight position players plus a DH. In the NL park, both teams again have the same lineup. Eight position players plus a pitcher. Even though it's true that NL pitchers have batting practice and hitting experience during the year which would give them a slight advantage in games played in the NL park, this advantage is nowhere near the advantage the AL team has in using its own DH, while the NL team is limited to choosing bench players to use as a DH. If we look at history, AL teams that make it to the World Series usually have a very good to awesome DH in their lineup. This hitter is usually a huge part of its winning. He bats in the heart of the order. But in the NL, no team ever makes it to the Series because it has good hitting pitchers. They simply don't have the influence. They bat at the bottom of the order, and there's a different pitcher everyday. Collectively they don't hit very well at all. Consider also that in the NL park the AL team can insert their DH into the field to gain his bat or use him as a great pinch hitter off the bench. This is a liberty the NL team doesn't have. And if the NL team uses it's bench player as DH, if the player is a good late inning defensive replacement, the NL team can't use him in the field without losing the DH slot in the lineup.
The easiest way to make my point is to list the DH's that have been used by both leagues in the World Series. The AL teams have had used heavy sluggers, including four current and possibly two future hall of famers. Most of the hitters were at the tops of their careers when they made it to the Series. The NL teams have used nobodies that nobody remembers. Bench jockies that had a hard time even making a starting lineup. Most of the AL DH's are the likes of Lou Piniella, Reggie Jackson (Hall of Fame), Hal McRae, Don Baylor (twice), Dave Parker (twice), Harold Baines, Chili Davis (three times), Dave Winfield (HOF), Paul Molitor (HOF), Eddie Murray (HOF), Cecil Fielder, David Justice (twice), Darryl Strawberry, Jason Giambi and David Ortiz. Wow! These guys are awesome! And what about the NL pine riders? Dan Driessen, Lee Lacy, Vic Davalillo, Lonnie Smith (four times!), Keith Moreland, Garth Iorg, Kurt Bevacqua, Danny Heep, Terry Pendleton (twice), Mike Davis, Ernie Riles, Hal Morris, Brian Jordan, Jim Eisenreich, Jim Leyritz, Jose Hernandez, Keith Lockhart, Lenny Harris, Erubiel Durazo, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Shawon Dunston, Jeff Conine and Marlon Anderson. Who?
I think you get my point. How could anybody after looking at those lists even consider the NL to have an advantage? If you do you would have to take Lee Lacy over Reggie Jackson, Marlon Anderson over David Ortiz, Jeff Conine over Jason Giambi, Danny Heep over Don Baylor, Ernie Riles over Dave Parker, Lonnie Smith over Dave Winfield, and on and on. If you still think the DH rule gives the advantage to the NL, then I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. And if you act now, I'll throw in Ebbetts Field.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
The mundane in broadcasting is what constitutes the greatness of the broadcaster. Holy Toledo, Bill, I will miss you.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
The Astros were one strike away when Eckstein was at the plate. Each base runner then Pujols' homer quieted the frenzied crowd successively until it was dead silent. If the Cards pull this one off, the next home game for Houston will be opening day.... next year.
Monday, October 17, 2005
1908 Chicago Cubs
1917 Chicago White Sox
1948 Cleveland Indians
1954 San Francisco (1958) & New York Giants
(1961) Texas Rangers (1972) and Washington Senators
(1962) Houston Astros
(1969) San Diego Padres
(1969) Milwauke Brewers (1970) and Seattle Pilots
(1969) Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals (2005)
(1977) Seattle Mariners
1979 Pittsburgh Pirates
1980 Philadelphia Phillies
1982 St. Louis Cardinals
1983 Baltimore Orioles
1984 Detroit Tigers
1985 Kansas City Royals
1986 New York Mets
1988 Los Angeles Dodgers
1989 Oakland A's
1990 Cincinnati Reds
1991 Minnesota Twins
1993 Toronto Blue Jays
(1993) Colorado Rockies
1995 Atlanta Braves
(1998) Tampa Bay Devil Rays
2000 New York Yankees
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks
2002 Anaheim Angels or Los Angeles or whatever
2003 Florida Marlins
2004 Boston Red Sox
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Last year I was actually cheering for St. Louis to beat Boston, mostly out of jealousy for the Giants' long suffering, but also because I don't like the Red Sox. This year is different. The ChiSox have been so harmless over my lifetime, and even though they play in the 3rd largest market, the Cubs get all the ink. I might root for the NL team, but won't despair if the Sox take it all. I just wonder how the Cubs fans are taking all this.
Congrats to the Sox and their fans, you've waited several lifetimes. I just wish it were the Giants playing you.
Saturday, October 8, 2005
For instance, it's only five games. In 1985 after baseball realized that the 5 game LCS just wasn't doing it, it stretched it to 7 games. I know of nobody that disagrees with that move. Yet, we're back to a 5 game series. There are also too many of them. Four going on at once with odd playing times. The 2-2-1 format, while superior to the old 2-3 format that prevented the opening team from viewing the clinching game on their field, has that weird one game at the end. Some teams have to travel 3000 miles late at night just to immediately head back home again.
But the biggest reason it's not a hit is I believe is this: the winner of the division series doesn't win anything except being able to advance on to the LCS. When a team clinches first place it wins the division flag. Or crown or championship, or whatever you call it. It wins a title. It gets bragging rights over the other teams in the division. It gets to print up T-shirts and raise a flag on opening day. A big celebration takes place. The same with the pennant. Win the LCS and you win the league. Again, bragging rights and a title. A trip to the World Series. Raise a flag. With the World Series you get the biggest prize of all. The trophy, a ring, the title and a parade. With each clinching of the division, pennant and World Series, there are tangible rewards, something to play for, spoils, booty and take home.
Win the division series and there's nothing to take home. No flags, no bragging rights, no rings or titles. It doesn't even have an MVP award. It's also the biggest yawn of them all. I like the LCS the best.
Wednesday, October 5, 2005
The first idiocy is the homefield advantage brainchild. Another NFL lightbulb. The three division winners in each league are ranked or seeded for the playoffs based on their final records. Home field advantage for each series played is based on a combination of these records and the teams that are remaining (for the LCS). If two teams tie with the same record, NFL type tie-breakers are enforced.
The second idiocy is the TV ratings-based time slots for all playoff games. The top ratings draw team matchups are placed in the top TV time slots. Of course this just guarantees the Yankees the lion's share of prime time, and should I say, sensible, time slots. Eight-oh-five Eastern time is not too different from their normal 7:35 starts. The ratings bottom dwellers have to painfully endure late night games after early day games and West coast twighlight finishes. Not only that, but as each of the ongoing playoff series are concluded, time slots are re-shuffled based on the remaining matchups' ratings potentials. Teams may have no idea when they're playing their next games.
The results of all this? If a high seed TV slot series has a chance of finishing their series early due to a 3-0 sweep, the other series can move up only if that series actually ends. I remember a situation where the top TV seed had the prime time slot (late game, East Coast time) with a chance to end their series that night. Another team would play their game either at 1pm or 7pm the next day, depending on the outcome of the late game in the other league. The late game went extra innings and didn't end until after midnight. So the fans and teams in the time-to-be-announced game went to bed that night not even knowing the time of their game the next day. If you're a fan with a job and you have tickets, you're screwed. Just tell your boss you'll be taking the entire month of October on flex time.
With the homefield advantage pecking order combined with last-minute playoff spot clinches during the last weekend of the season (many times on the last day of the season), and all contending teams jockeying for position, ticket holding fans (season ticket holders are forced to buy tickets in "strip" format, that is, all possible games that can be played at the time of purchase) may not even know until Sunday afternoon who or even if they'll be playing on Tuesday, and even whether the game is at home or on the road, and even the time. The LCS is the same way. If you're a non-homefield advantage division winner, you'll either host games 3, 4 and 5 or 1, 2, 6 and 7 depending on whether the HFA or lower seed team wins.
In 2003, Giants fans found out at the last minute that they would host mid-week day games against Florida in games 1 and 2 of the division series. Not an easy ticket to use or sell even for a team that sells out its entire season. I remember seeing front row seats next to the 3rd base dugout for sale on eBay at face value on the day of the game... with NO offers. I woulda gone, cept'n I hadda work.
Baseball's nightmaringly complex playoff bowl of spaghetti makes it very difficult for fans to plan to go to games. No wonder few LDS games sell out. Baseball's post season used to be very simple and orderly. LCS series alternated home field advantage each year, East one year, West the next. The ALCS started on Tuesday one year, Wednesday the next with the NLCS the opposite. The World Series alternated from AL to NL, year to year. It used to be that a fan could say, "three years from now, game 3 of the NLCS will be in the Eastern city on Friday" or something similar. Now, only God knows.
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
Selig: "Well, actually since New York had the same record that Boston did, it wins the division. Of course the team that has a worse record against inferior teams wins the tie-breaker."
Baseball Fan: "Huh?"
Selig: "That's right. The team with the worst record against inferior teams wins."
Baseball Fan: "I don't get it. Huh?"
Selig: "It works like this. If you have a better head-to-head record against the team you're tied with by x number of games, since you have the same record it logicall follows that you have a worse record against other teams by the same x number of games. And since you're tied for first place, all other teams (which are NOT in first) have a worse record than the two teams that are tied. So, since the Yankees went 10-9 against the Red Sox, they had a 86-57 record against inferior teams, while the Red Sox had a 87-56 record against all other (inferior) teams. Since the Yankees had a worse record against inferior teams, they win the division."
Fan: "This is stupid!"
Selig: "Hey, don't blame me, we got this idea from the NFL. This way we don't have to have a playoff game that will make history, and instead the season finale can fade into a dud."
Fan: "I don't even want to watch football now."
What a waste. The Yankees "clinched" the division only to lose their one game lead on the final day and fall into a real tie with Boston. Baseball has adopted nonsense as rules with the NFL-ization of the national pastime. What's next, an "in-the-grasp" rule for collisions at home plate?
Baseball is the thinking man's game. Football is not, and never will be. Traditionally, baseball has resorted to settling differences (both teams' claim to a title despite having the same record, for example) via the playoff. Since baseball is an every day sport, it has that luxury. Football doesn't so it needs to resort to gimmicks not associated with a final showdown on the field. Instead it relies on a complex system of nonsense tie-breakers. Head-to-head records, records within division, against common opponents, point differentials, yardage differentials, coin tosses. These have nothing to do with who is the better team. One year, I remember the last week had some bizarre playoff spot twists. The Vikings were trying to make the playoffs, and the tie-breaker with another team was down to a point differential. They had to beat a team by 30+/- points more than another team's win. So, with a three touchdown lead and 4 minutes left, they were throwing 80 yard bombs instead of running out the clock, trying, not to beat their opponent, but, to beat the point differential. The opponent on the field was suddenly not the issue. How lame.
Baseball has adopted the wild-card and tie-breaking systems from the NFL and is the worse off for it. There's only one place anything should be settled at all. That's on the field. You listening, Mr. Selig?
Sunday, October 2, 2005
Ten straight, boys?
Thursday, September 29, 2005
It's a list of what ended the Atlanta Braves' season quest for a World Series title. Every year except 1995, of course. Fourteen consecutive division titles and only one ring to show for it. Not very good in the clutch. And of all the NL teams that still have playoff possibilities, each team (SD, StL, Hou and Phi) is already on The List.
Each year I root against the Braves winning a division title. "Why can't this be the year?" But then I realize it's more satisfying to see them lose in the post season. I'm hoping for nothing different this year. The only question remaining is wether they will sell out a playoff game.
Monday, September 26, 2005
We'll wait and see....
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Boston, Chicago, Oakland, Cleveland.
Philadelphia, St. Louis (they've clinched so I have to accept them), San Francisco, Houston.
Oakland over Cleveland, ChiSox over BoSox.
Philly over Houston, SF over StL.
Oak over Chi, SF over Philly
SF over A's in Bay Bridge Series.........
But in reality (my guess): Hou over Atl, StL over SD, Cle over NYY, LAA over Chi
StL over Hou, Cle over LAA
StL over Cle
Thursday, September 15, 2005
This from a team that is 13 games under .500 with 17 left to play, with two teams that they still need to pass, and a third that is only a half game behind them. But Barry is back in the lineup. I guess that makes magic happen.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Although it's still mathematically possible, it's quite improbable. One problem is that if any teams ahead of the Giants lose, other teams ahead of the Giants need to beat them. Eighty percent of the remaining NL West schedule is intra-division, with 60% being between the four "contending" teams, SD, AZ, LA and SF, and a whopping 40% between the teams ahead of the Giants. So, in reality the teams ahead of the Giants need to play combined .500 splits between them so that one team doesn't run away with it. The Giants need to catch and pass all three teams. Needless to say, in addition to winning, the Giants will need some big-time help. Consider this... if either AZ or LA play .500 ball the rest of the way, the Giants will need to go 19-14 just to stay in it. If the Padres play .500 ball, the Giants will need to go 24-9 just to tie! So just how will those teams lose enough other games to help the Giants out?
Well, of the 60% of games not played between the teams ahead of the Giants, a full third of them are against the Colorado Rockies, the worst team in the league. Combined with the need for the Giants to win (another third of their games are against the Giants), this would mean the Rockies will have to play Jeckyl & Hyde baseball. Skunk SD, AZ and LA and roll over against the Giants. The remaining third of the games are out-of division games against mostly (you could have guessed it) losing teams. Now, hold your hat, it gets worse.
In fact, with five weeks left for each of the three teams ahead of the Giants, a combined total of 15 weeks of baseball will be played by them. And out of those 15 weeks of baseball a grand total of THREE GAMES will be played (by the Padres) against ONE TEAM that is only FOUR GAMES above .500.
Of all the pennant races in history, this would be by far the biggest miracle ever if the Giants won it. Go Giants!?
Saturday, August 27, 2005
It's funny how the wild-card standings, which include all the teams in the league except three, start showing up in May. The Red Sox are only 1/2 game behind the Yankees on Memorial Day, but they're leading the wild-card race! Oh, boy! The standings won't show the Yankees, because by being 1/2 game better than the Sox they've played themselves out of the race, but they have as much chance of winning the wild-card. All they would need to do to get into the wild-card race would be to lose a few games.
Then there exists the confusing position of being in two races, the division race and the wild-card race. Your team is one game out in the division and one game out in the wild-card race, and the teams ahead of you in each race are playing each other. Who do you cheer for?
Just a few reasons I'm opposed to the three division plus wild-card format (and opposed to the overall NFL-ization in general) in baseball.
Monday, August 22, 2005
Then they could go 11-8 in the post season and take home the trophy. It would be kinda funny. I'm rooting for any non-Dodger NL West team to win it all.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
The Stockton Ports are the single-A California League affiliate of the Oakland A's. Stockton, as you might know, is the town known as Mudville in the classic piece of baseball literature Casey at the Bat, which first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1888.
Well, the quality of play certainly wasn't up to the big league standard. There were a few things I saw that you'd never see in the bigs. And there were many promotions and stunts between innings that you'd also never see in the bigs. Hokey, corny stuff... but it was fairly fun. There was the $2 Heiniken beer special, called "Beer Batter." The PA announced during a certain visiting player's at bat that if he struck out, Heinikens would be $2 for 10 minutes. We discovered that one by accident. Each half inning, the fans were included in stunts and contests. Trying to break the headlights of an El Camino pickup with a baseball, wins a prize. Kids racing around the bases in opposite directions. Golf chip shots from the top of the dugout into a hoop. Eating contests, three legged races, etc. One announcement went like this: "Attention please! Will the owner of a silver Toyota with license plate ABC123 please report to such and such. Your car is the dirtiest in the parking lot. You've won a free car wash compliments of Mike's Car Wash."
All in all, it was pretty good fun, but I still prefer the majors.
[Updated 08-07-09; updates in red]
- Attended nearly 1000 major league games in 18 ballparks (9 no longer in use).
- Attended 8 World Series games in 4 different World Series, '88, '89, '90, '02 (was one strike away from seeing '86 Series in Anaheim.)
- Attended every game of 1989 series, including earthquake game.
- Attended every post-season game played in Bay Area in 1989.
- Attended two All-Star Games - 1987 Oakland and 2007 in San Francisco
- Have caught 10 foul balls in 4 different ballparks.
- Have caught 8 home run balls in two different ballparks, including 3 in one game.
- Attended 173 regular season games in 1986 in 11 ballparks.
- Attended 165 regular season games in 1987 plus 11 spring training, 1 All Star and 3 post season for a total of 180 that year.
- Visited Wrigley Field (day) and Old Comiskey Park (night) both in one day, on two consecutive days. (which was part of a greater trip....)
- Did whirlwind tour: 8 games in 5 days in 5 different ballparks.
- Witnessed two triple plays (A's hit into one, Giants hit into one)
- Witnessed two inside-the-park gramd slams (A's gave one up, Giants gave one up)
- Witnessed Barry Bonds' 71st home run, Steve Carlton's 4000th strikeout, Mike Schmidt's last major league game, Bob Brenly's ML record 4 errors in one inning, Reggie Jackson hitting 3 HR's in one game, all time strikeout record in a game for both teams.
- Turned in, with friends, more All-Star ballots voting against Steve Sax (and for Ryne Sandberg) in 1982 than Sandberg's victory margin.
- Giants season ticket holder for, yes, it's true, 25 years now!
- Caught an A's home run in the bleachers - the game was on TV - and a friend working in the video truck tipped off the announcers as to my name, and they said my name over the TV
- I appear in the Giants' 1986 documentary "A Tale of Two Cities" about the Giants history. I'm shown holding a sign with a "no 100" universal symbol on the last game of the '85 season when the Giants had 99 losses.
"You went to the game with the players?" he asked in a way I could tell that he was asking if I used to play.
"Yes, I used to play baseball, and I missed the ball, too."
Knowing I didn't play anymore he said, "But now you're daddy."
Sunday, August 7, 2005
At 17, with a car and my playing days over (company softball excluded), I started regularly attending major league games in both SF and Oakland. Previously, my family made maybe one annual outing. Even though I loved being at the games, I wasn't content with being merely a spectator. My first game as an "adult" included fan participation along with the group I was with. Thanks, Ken, for the spark. We sat in the bleachers for an A's game in '81 (Billy Ball!) and heckled the other team's left fielder. It was great fun. I never looked back. If I couldn't affect the game by my playing in it, I discovered that I certainly could by interacting with the game from the stands. A life-long bleacher bum attitude was born. (Just last night, 24 years later, I heckled with my friend Mike, although somewhat weakly, the Astros bullpen pitchers while warming up from my 9th row Giants season tickets.)
Within only a few short years, I was attending a minimum of 60 games per year. Cat calls were common for me from the Candlestick box seats, but it was in the bleachers in Oakland that I excelled. From September of '85 to April of '88 I missed just one home A's game. I developed an enormously loud voice and learned to pace it over 9 innings every day for years. I've only heard two people my entire life that were louder. Every left and center fielder in the AL, whether starter or pine rider, knew me personally. But there were dozens of other like-minded bleacher bums in Oakland (in CF and RF too), and I was kinda the LF ring leader.
Some ballplayers took heckling with a grain of salt and interacted with me with a smile. These guys became friends of sorts. Others were visibly, and statistically, shaken. A few feared me as some kind of serial murderer. We all kept tabs on each visiting player's stats as well as juicy shortcomings in their personal lives. If a player were 0-for-his-last-15 coming into Oakland or caught being frisky with an under-aged girl (Luis Polonia), he was reminded all about it in the first inning. Once, I did a stats study and figured that visiting outfielders in Oakland had a larger drop in production than any other group of players or any other ballpark in the bigs. The A's consistently had one of the best home field advantages in baseball. We knew we were partly to blame, and we took tremendous pride in this.
Once, a rookie was so shaken by our heckling that he called time out, ran in to the 3rd base umpire, pointed out to us and complained. The ump gave him a brick of cheese to go with his whine by shrugging his shoulders as if to say, "welcome to the majors, rookie." Needless to say, the heckling got immediately worse. I've also had the pleasure to heckle one ballplayer, Phil Bradley, in five different ballparks around the majors. As a player with the M's, O's and Phils, I got his goat in Oakland, Milwaukee, Anaheim, Seattle and San Fran. Poor guy, he's the one that took it all the hardest. Also, in a just-so-happened night of drinking with George Brett, he confided that the Royals outfielders ranked the A's bleacher bums as the worst fans in the league, even worse than Yankee fans.
Last night at the Giants game Mike mentioned to me that if we yelled in today's yuppified ballpark atmosphere the same stuff we got away with in the 80's, we'd be hauled off to jail in no time. The 80's were so much fun. I just wished bleacher bums could be paid by the home team to rile the visitors. I woulda done it in a heartbeat. But it never happened, and now I'm an architect.
Saturday, August 6, 2005
For some reason this fact has gone exceedingly overlooked with Giants fans. In fact the Giants may have had the longest ace-less streak in the majors, about 35 years now. We tend to be so blinded by hitting that we lose sight of what the most important aspect of the game really is. We've had hitting's Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Hart, Kingman, Foster, Bonds, Clark, Clark, Mitchell, Williams, Bonds and Kent to pitching's Schmidt.
In my attempt to point this ace-less fact out to Giants fans over the last five years or so, the standard reply is, "What do you mean?" When I ask for proof to the contrary, the standard reply is, "what about Burkett and Swift?" Well, for one thing, they were two nobodys who each had one great year at the same time for a great team, then went back to being nobodies. I'm talking about an ACE, you know, Hall of Fame caliber pitching for a few years at least. Or maybe a Cy Young candidate. One-hit shutout kinda guys. You know, like Pedro Martinez. "Oh, come on. He's an exception that comes along once in a lifetime. You're dreaming, pal." Okay, how about Roger Clemens? "Same thing. Only a few teams ever get to have guys like him." Or what about Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling? There's two greats on one team. "Well, the Diamondbacks bought them with the big bucks." Okay, how about Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz? There's three on one team. Or Hudson, Mulder and Zito?
If Giants fans would look into baseball history backward from Schmidt to Marichal at all the studs other teams have had on the mound, they'd quickly realize what a fool's paradise we've been living in. Aside from the greats mentioned above I could quickly add vintage Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, Dave Steib, Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Fernando Valenzuela, Dwight Gooden, Jack Morris, Bert Blyleven, Frank Tannana. Even the lowly Houston-never-even-won-a-pennant Astros have had Clemens, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, JR Richard. How about Ron Guidry, Brett Saberhagen, Matt Morris, Orel Herscheiser, Jose Rijo? Even the lowly Cubs have had Kerry Wood and Fergie Jenkins. Steve Carlton, Catfish Hunter, vintage Vida Blue. What about Jim Plamer, Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar? Don Sutton, Tom Seaver, and if I've forgotten anybody, please forgive me.
If we had two more at the same level as Schmidt, we'd be talkin'.
Wednesday, August 3, 2005
As the warmups were complete and the Giants just about to take the field, Candlestick Park struck again, in typical Candlestick fashion. The power went out. It was dark. Of course the only man who knew how to fix the lights was at home in San Carlos, several dozen miles down the Peninsula. He had to drive all the way up and finally got the lights fixed. The game was delayed an hour. This meant a 9pm starting time. A three hour game would push the midnight mark. We had time, though. But fortunately for any loved ones who might have been worrying about us, the game was only slightly over two hours. We made it home in normal time. (Box Score)
This says a few things about the current division and schedule format. Since there are 3 divisions in each league plus interleague play, even an unbalanced schedule results in an overwhelming majority of games being played outside the division. As bad as the NL West is this year, I don't expect the winner to be under .500 because the end of the season is heavily weighted with divisional rivalries playing each other. When one team loses, another has to win. This ought to push somebody over the .500 mark by default. But stranger things could happen.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
As was common back then, children emulated the batting stances of their favorite players. My favorite was McCovey's. His slow, but deliberate chop motion of the bat across the plate, with a dragging return to the shoulder was classic. So was his securing of his batting helmet on his head, quite the opposite of Mays' almost deliberate losing of his.
My other favorite players were Johnny LeMaster (after McCovey's retirement), Alfredo Griffin while with the A's, and Barry Bonds in latter days. There was a period that I didn't have a favorite, but maybe Will Clark had an edge on others.
Tonight I saw the A's on TV play the Tigers. They showed Kirk Gibson as a coach with Detroit. In his playing days with the Tigers, he was a favorite heckling object of the left field bleacher bums. We were merciless toward him. In an 80's book, Baseball Confidential, surveyed players ranked A's fans as the third worst in baseball, behind the two New York teams, with Giants fans a close fourth. Of course, with hostility toward visiting players as the criteria, this made A's fans the third best in our view. Gibson was quoted as ranking the Oakland bleacher creatures as the worst. We had a hunch that this was so. He said that we ripped not only him, but his IQ, dog, mother, you name it. He wondered what we all did for a living since we were all there every day regardless of day/night, etc. He even quoted some of the chants we yelled at him. I think he would be surprised at what a cross section of society we bleacher bums were and at our creative ability to skip out of work to attend a game.
I'll never forget when one of the bleacher bums named Kevin showed up for one game with this book in his hand. We all loved the fact we were recognized as having an affect on the game for just a $2 bleacher ticket and some fit vocal chords.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
The biggest Dumb and Dumber I ever witnessed from those guys was during a Braves telecast during the last few weeks of 1993. I went over to my dad's house and we were watching the game on the tube, listening to those idiots ramble. If you remember '93, it was that great pennant race between the Giants and Braves, each team winning over 100 games and being decided on the last day of the season, and the great MVP race between players on each team.
Sometimes announcers will talk about something between pitches of interest to the fans, and they will continue the subject for several innings. Well, on this day they picked the National League MVP race as their subject. They went on for about five innings. This was Bonds' first year with SF and hands down winner of the MVP. Stats gurus later figured that Bonds' performance in'93 was one of the top ten seasons for a player in all of baseball history. Yet these clowns could only discuss which one of their home town chummy chums, Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine, should win the MVP. Inning after inning of "is it Maddux, or is it Glavine?" Stats and insight, back and forth. My dad and I were incredulous. "What about Bonds, you morons!"
For about five innings, not only didn't they discuss Bonds, they didn't even mention his name. Not once. Then, finally, at the very last minute, when their discussion was almost over, they realized their error. One of them said, "Hey, we've been talking about the MVP race for all of this time and we've only mentioned the two Braves pitchers." The other said, "Yeah, you're right. No discussion of the MVP would be complete without including [Phillies player] Lenny Dykstra!"
If Playtex made a bra to hold those boobs, it would be a world record for sure.
This game, May 25, 1984, was the Yanks' first game in Oakland for the season. During an at bat of the detestable Winfield, A's pitcher Steve McCatty threw a high ball, just out of the strike zone. Winfield's plate-crowding stance usually had his head directly on top of the plate. Although the ball was thrown directly at his head, the ball was clearly over the plate. Winfield ate the dirt in his effort to evade the near strike, then charged about 10 feet toward the mound, threatening McCatty. Both benches emptied, the crowd was frenzied, but no fight occurred.
When the Yanks took the field the next inning, a fan in our left field bleacher section stood up and said, "Everybody to right field!", where Winfield was playing, with obvious intentions to mass heckle. Several dozen of us headed out there and began the loudest, most energetic heckling of a visiting player I ever took part in. We hit him with chants so obnoxious and severe that the fans in the box seats several sections away complained to security. We heckled him about his mother, his IQ, his relationship with George Steinbrenner, you name it. He engaged us in return, which was pretty funny, sometimes flipping the bird to us behind his back while waiting on the next pitch. He covered his ears in mock insanity. He laughed and smiled.
But the best part was that, with the previous year's ecnounter in Toronto where he was arrested by Canadian police for accidentally killing a seagull, Canada's national bird, during warm-ups, still fresh in our minds, we had the entire right field bleachers flapping our arms up and down and chanting "Bird killer!, bird killer!, bird killer!" What a sight. "Hey, Winfield, does an American dime work in a Canadian payphone?", alluding to his one phone call in jail. "You're a murderer!" On and on.
We stayed out there the entire game and I'm sure nobody had a voice left the next morning. I also retrieved a home run hit by the Yanks' Oscar Gamble. The ball went under the bleachers, and I was first down the stairs and retrieved it with about a dozen others right behind me. (Box score)
Thursday, July 21, 2005
With the Cubs in the field, and their pitcher on the mound, a sudden gust of wind ripped his hat off his head. Now, it didn't just fall off because of a strong breeze. This was just like the old "B" westerns when a speeding bullet tore the ten gallon hat off a cowboy. In a matter of a few seconds, the hat was yanked off his head, then it bounced through the hole between short and third, evading the infielders, and hopped several feet off the ground on each bounce, tumbling through the gap in left center like a tumbleweed across the Texas desert, finally sticking permanently to the chain-link outfield fence about three feet off the ground. There it stayed, the force of the wind handily defeating the force of gravity until it was retrieved by an outfielder. A wild cheer erupted in the crowd.
Only at Candlestick.
The insanity is just what has helped keep my sanity. I'll write about many of these memories soon.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
It's the uncanny ability for Dodger fans to not be there most of the time. The only fans in baseball able to show up late for a game in the 6th inning and to simultaneously leave early in the 5th inning. All those years we've been told that the games were sold out, or had at least 45,000 fans, yet at no time were more than a third of the seats filled. The Giants camera crews would always show a shot of the parking lot exits in about the 7th inning. Brake lights for miles.
The score never mattered. I've been to numerous games in LA and I've witnessed it myself. Once, I was at a game in August in the middle of a pennant race and the score was 1-0. At the end of the sixth inning a group of people in the row in front of me stood up and said to their friends, "we'll see you tomorow" and headed for the exits. About a quarter of the fans that were there left as well. Totally unbelievable. Then, each succesive inning, another high percentage of fans left, until finally the game was over.
Is it la-la-laid-back LA attitude? Do you people need to go to the beach? If you need to leave that early to beat the traffic, why even go?
On Friday I taught him that the Giants, who he knows wears the black hats, were playing a team we wanted to beat. As I pointed out the team in the blue hats, and with no other input from me, he asked, "Are they the bad guys?" What music to the ears to a Giant fan father. I didn't need to explain. He already knows that there is a difference between good and evil. Today, as we watched, I explained again that the Giants were in gray with black hats and the Dodgers were in white with blue hats. He said, "the Dodgers are the bad guys." Then he told mommy his newly learned fact. For about an inning afterward, each camera segue prompted him to say either, "they're the good guys" if a Giant player was shown or "they're the bad guys" if a Dodger. He replied to one panorama of Dodger Stadium with, "Can you go there?" When I said we could go to Dodger Stadium someday, he said, "we better stay close together because of all the bad guys."
I just hope this keeps up.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
The workout and home run derby on Monday was spectacular. The bleachers were packed full of ball hounds. I was one of them. One player threw a ball up into the bleachers (Jack Clark, I think?) and I was at the bottom of the scrum, with my face in the standing puddle of beer, soda and I don't know what else, but I got the ball. It was an actual All-Star game ball, with its red lettering, as opposed to the standard American League extras that both teams used in batting practice. It didn't have the umpire's mud on it; it was extra white, but it's an All-Star ball.
The game itself was a non-hitters duel. With the west-coast twilight starting time and the weak hitting during that era of games, I predicted a 1-0 NL victory in 25 innings. I wasn't too far off as the NL won 2-0 in 13 innings. (box score) A full twelve with no scoring at all. Man, what a game. When you're there it doesn't matter as much, it's an exhibition worth just seeing all those players together at the same time.
Can't wait for 2007 when the game comes to SBC Park (or whatever it will be named then) in San Francisco. Bonds will either be retired or a DH in the AL.
If he pays his debt to the cameraman for any damage he caused, then his debt is paid. For anybody who doesn't want him at the All-Star game, what debt does he still owe you? What debt did he ever owe you? Do you own him? As your slave, did his actions bring a debt to your account as his owner? If so, then maybe you should make the legitimate case that he shouldn't have showed up in Detroit.
Monday, July 11, 2005
Barry used to get that many in a homestand.
Monday, July 4, 2005
The one thing that irks me about this stat is that Major League Baseball doesn't give attendance stats anymore. But they do something far worse than not give attendance stats. They give the "tickets sold" stat and call it attendance. Ever since I can remember, the American league has committed this abomination, but prior to about 1993, the National League gave us the truth: the number reported was the number of paid customers that actually went through the turnstyles. I think crummy small market NL teams were hurt late in the season by high no-show rates in road game gate cuts, and squawked about it, and the league responded by using tickets sold to figure in revenue sharing. Plus the tickets sold numbers (attendance figures on steroids) looked better, uplifting baseball's image.
Baseball has a not-so-well guarded well-guarded secret that on the average, any given game has a 10%-15% no-show rate. Some games are well above this clip. I knew that when the A's outdrew the Giants by 12%, they actually had the same attendance because of the two league's different counting schemes. The lowest attended game I ever saw was an A's game vs. Texas in '86, and I personally counted the attendance at 1,603, missing maybe a few in the restroom or grabbing a hot dog. The fan in the 3rd deck got a better seat in the 2nd inning, and because there were only 33 fans in the huge bleacher section, I got to take home three home run balls as souvenirs that day. Yet the next day's box score reported an "attendance" of more than three times the actual amount.
Recently, the Giants in a downward free-fall, hosted the worst team in baseball, the Kansas City Royals. They looked like the '27 Yanks in kicking our butts. High pre-season ticket sales bolstered by an expected passing of Babe Ruth by Barry Bonds and another pennant contending team, the game I attended had about a third of the upper deck completely empty, and about half of the remaining seats actually filled, thanks to Bonds' injury and a pathetic season. No more than about 20k were there, yet the "guess the attendance" quiz revealed over 37k, just a few k shy of "another SBC Park sellout" as they love to announce. The attendance figure was met with boos from fans who knew better.
Let's put this tired fraud to bed, swallow some pride, and announce the real attendance. I'm sick of the dog and pony show. Maybe Congress could intervene!
Thursday, June 30, 2005
A fond memory of childhood came to mind today. In the early mid 70's I was watching an A's game on the TV. It was summer and school was out. I was about 10 years old. It was in the late afternoon, and could have been a night game from back East. Anyway, the A's had a contest each game where, in a certain inning, if an A's player hit a home run, a contestant would win a certain amount in groceries from a supermarket chain. If they failed to hit a dinger, the amount would increase for the next game. Just send in a postcard with your name and address to enter the contest.
This particular home run inning, for a whopping $1400 in groceries, had a contestant, "Frank Wagner of Concord." Hey! He lives on my street! Oh, boy! Now, $1400 was a lot back in those days. Joe Rudi was as good a player to hit a homer as anybody. And he did just that. Elated, I leapt for joy, and immediately tore out the door and sprinted down to the end of the street to congratulate my neighbor. But an interesting thing happened. No sooner had I hit the edge of the driveway that I noticed about five other kids on our street ripping the doors off their hinges to head down to the Wagners' house. We had a virtual parade in no time. It seemed that everybody in the neighborhood was watching.
Anyway, we made it down to their house, and he still hadn't come home from work. His wife had no clue as to what we all were talking about. Then his truck came around the corner. A welcoming committee of giddy children blasted his senses with the news. He had completely forgotten that he sent in a postcard. I'm sure those groceries lasted quite a few months. The memory lasted a lifetime.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Pretty good memory, except that the score was actually 11-1. Here's the box score.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Thursday, June 16, 2005
In the late innings, after all the ticket stubs were counted, the quiz game "You guess the attendance" was played on the scoreboard. Four choices were listed by letter, and as the fans yelled out their guess, wrong totals were eliminated one by one until the true attendance figure was revealed. Several times, though, the choices looked like the following, with the odd one making it to the last two, with wild cheering until better judgment was dashed in favor of what would show up in the box score the next day.
Ahhhh, memories of Candlestick.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
With all the new ballpark construction the past few years, most of the NL's fake fields have disappeared, and with Opening Day 2005, it's all gone. With the elimination of Olympic Stadium it is now gone, but when Stade Olympique was built it put the NL over the top with a majority 7 of 12 parks with AstroTurf. The others were Candlestick Park (replaced with grass in '79), Busch Stadium (replaced with grass in about '95), the Astrodome (replaced with Enron Field in '00), Three Rivers Stadium (replaced with PNC Park in '01), Riverfront Stadium (replaced with Great America Park in '03), and Veterans Stadium (replaced with Citizens Bank Park in '04).
In the AL, Royals Stadium had grass put in in '95, and Old Comiskey had some funky combo of infield AstroTurf and outfield grass for a while back in the 70's, Safeco field replaced the Kingdome in '99. Things have come a long way in this regard.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Contrast that with the "foul-weather fan." This fan shows up no matter how badly his team is or is playing. Or how bad the weather is, for that matter. Unknown to fair-weather fans, the foul-weather fan receives many benefits. No lines for food or beer or restroom. No ballpark traffic. He virtually has his own personal vendors. Great seats bought at the last minute. He can wake up in the morning and say, "it's a great day for a ballgame" and then go. He gets to see a comedy of errors every day. Not only can the visiting left fielder hear his heckling from the bleachers behind him, but the crowd is so small he can hear him when he's in the dugout.
At the time of this post, the Giants and A's, in the midst of long losing streaks, have only about 4 teams worse than they. Attendance is already down, and I'm wondering if it might continue this way. It's been quite a few years since Bay Area baseball had two losers, but if we're heading toward the bottom of the barrel for a few years, I'm ready to have a different kind of fun that I haven't experienced in a long time.
Sunday, June 5, 2005
At Candlestick Park, the wind would blow in all 360 degrees at the same time, in 3D. Peanut shells, anyone?
Wednesday, June 1, 2005
I have a different point of view. I don't believe the pitching of today is worse than that of previous eras, but is in fact better. It's just that the appearance of today's pitching is worse. What has caused the appearance of pitching to be worse is a number of changes in the game, including to the rules, that have favored the hitter. Also, the talent pool of hitters has been "diluted" just as much as that of pitching.
To prove my point, I'd like to suggest that if baseball made the following changes, we would quickly find out just how good the pitching of today really is. I'm not suggesting that these all be implemented, just that if they were, my point would carry some weight.
- Eliminate the Designated Hitter Rule.
- Raise the height of the mound from 10" back to 15", as it was before 1969.
- Increase the size of the strike zone to what it used to be, knees to shoulders.
- Take all protective gear away from batters. This would include shin guards, elbow guards, batting gloves, sunglasses, and, yes, batting helmets. Make them wear their wool fielder's caps, just like it used to be.
- Number 5 is closely related to number 4. Give back to the pitchers the brushback, knockdown and beanball pitches, and take away the umpires' enforcement of these. Neither the pitcher or his manager would have the slightest fear of warning, ejection, suspension or fine for using these pitches. Just like it used to be. There might be a few more bench-clearing brawls, but boys will be boys.
- Eliminate the dark green batter's backgrounds in centerfield and open the bleachers up to shirt-sleeve crowds, like it used to be.
- Prohibit the new hardwood maple bats.
- Move the Rockies to sea level.
I don't believe, either, that expansion has diluted the overall talent pool. It does, relatively, each time baseball expands, but this has throughout history been more than compensated for by:
- The growth of the American population.
- The breaking of the color barrier and the inclusion of black and Latin players of color.
- Popularity of baseball in, and heavier scouting of, Latin countries.
- New available talent from foreign countries like Cuba, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and others.
Don't worry. The pitching is fine.
Friday, May 27, 2005
The next day's flight was so early that I decided to skip lodging and catch a few winks in the lounge at LaGuardia. So I went to place my bags in those airport lockers and catch a cab to the big stadium. Not so fast... There was that international terrorist bomb scare in '86, and LaGuardia decided to shut down their lockers until things cooled down. This meant having to take my luggage to Yankee Stadium. Arrrrgh! Okay, so I get in a cab and go to the yard. Upon arriving, I asked the cabbie where they picked up after the game. "Uhhhhm, we don't." "What!?" "Oh, Yellows don't run the Bronx after dark. You'll have to take the subway." Yeah, right!
Now, I was wearing an A's hat and shirt (I wore A's stuff to visit AL parks and Giants stuff in NL parks back then), carrying my own luggage, completely alone, never visited NY before, and I was pretty scared. The cabbie told me I could catch a gypsy cab, which didn't run on meters, so I had better negotiate before I got in, otherwise he'd tell the judge that he drove me all over Jersey and would win the case.
So I got to the park and was immediately hit with a tidal wave of scalpers, full of bull. I told them I was going to sit in the bleachers. Sold out, they said. Bull, I knew. I got in and took the sights in. I was in the house that Ruth built! I took my seat and had a beer. After a while I had to go to the restroom. So I took my luggage, and once in the door, there were about six mean looking characters standing right in the middle of the room smoking dope. If there ever was a time to choose a stall over a urinal, this was it. Once inside the stall with my luggage, these guys started yakking about Canseco sucks this, Oakland sucks that.... If there ever was a time to choose not to wash one's hands after going, this was it. Terrified, I decided to run by them. But they had me blocked in pretty good. They cornered me and started asking questions.
"Are you from Oakland?" "Well, uhm, yes." "Do you go to a lot of games?" "Well, uhm, yes." "Where do you sit?" "I sit in the bleachers." Six hands were immediately stretched out to shake mine. It was unwashed, but I didn't care. Bleacher bums have a large family, and these guys were no longer going to bury me next to Jimmy Hoffa. I love New York.
I also got to talk to Rickey Henderson between innings out in centerfield. Rickey will talk to anybody that will give him attention. I knew an A's fan from the bleachers in Oakland who knew Rickey personally, so I relayed greetings. And since I was in A's garb from head to toe, he ate it up. Also, I got to hear Bob Sheppard "Number thirty-one-one-one, Dave-ave-ave Winfield-field-field. Number thirty-one-one-one." Wow. In person. And a fight. Some 75 year old guy stole a boom box, so its owner beat up the 75 year old guy, cops everywhere. A guy with a Walkman full blast stared into space for 9 innings, drooling and occasionally laughing out loud for 10 seconds. The guy who promised to help me find a cab after the game split in the 8th inning. And a close call at first that went against the Yanks resulted in an instant, collective leap of every fan on the whole 1st base side of the stadium about 5 feet in the air with fists frantically flying in all directions. I mean in a fraction of a second.
Once outside, nobody, even the police, would help me find a gypsy cab. But I finally found one and $20 to the Nigerian soccer player driver got me a lift to LaGuardia. A few hours sleep in a lounge chair with my limbs locked through my baggage straps and I was good to go to see baseball in Montreal. My regret was not getting to see the great monuments in centerfield.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Billionaire owners, employing multi-millionaire players, lining up huge corporations for stadium naming revenue, advertising, corporate luxury boxes, millions coming in from TV and radio revenue, souvenirs and marketing, consessions, parking, and ticket sales, are so horribly entrenched in abject poverty that new stadiums must be paid for by the taxpayers. Right?
Here's a little lesson in economics. The last two privately financed ballparks, Dodger Stadium and Pac Bell/SBC Park have been known as the best parks of their construction eras. Dodger Stadium, in the "modern" park era (50's to 80's) was known as the Taj Mahal of baseball. SBC Park is widely viewed as the best of the new "retro" era parks. Coincidence?
Owners would rather resort to extortion of their fans (and even more non-fans, i.e. taxpayers) than put their money where their mouth is.
Monday, May 23, 2005
They've got huge rosters, with the expectation that every player will play. If they don't, fire is called down from heaven. Their management of other teams' pitchers is under a microscope, and any arm problems will be blamed on them. The stupid rule, IMHO, that requires one All-Star from each team should be done away with. If that team Royally sucks (pun intended), then maybe they don't deserve a player there. If their best is batting .270 with 12 homers, then he can go fishing with his buddies. The late innings of an ASG are filled with substitutions every few outs. Pinch hitters that get on base have a pinch runner. Defensive replacements every inning. A new pitcher every batter. Why not just pick the best nine and have a nine inning game? Play it like a normal game, which is to win!
The managers aren't allowed to try to win. The tie game a few years back proved this. I can't blame Bud Selig for his decision to call the game. There are too many ideals that contradict themselves for a perfect ending to always happen. Leave the World Series out of it.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
An example is the conventional wisdom that says that the way the DH is used in the World Series gives the National League team an advantage. Actually, it gives the AL team an advantage. It's just that so many people look at it in terms of hitting that they don't see the whole picture. I'll write a commentary sometime here that will prove my point.
Another example is the SF Giants' history of focusing on hitting, and not pitching. The Dodgers, meanwhile, have taken the opposite approach. The Giants have produced the most exciting sluggers in the history of the game, yet the LA Dodgers have won 5 World Series to the SF Giants' none.
I'll also tackle divisional play, balanced/unbalanced shcedules, tiebreaking schemes, home field advantage (both from best record and All-Star game victory), the wild card, All-Star game managerial strategy, expansion, tradition, changes in the game, rivalries, foreign players and baseball's future. Oh, boy, that's a lot to write. Stay tuned.....
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
The Coliseum bleachers with their wood benches, steel floor for great foot stomping, great view of the game, good weather, very knowledgeable fans, sense of community, cool security guards, non-reserved seating, fans' involvement in the game, made for just about the best place to sit in the majors... with maybe, maybe the exception of the bleachers at Wrigley Field.
They were one of my baseball's homes. They are sorely missed. They were the only place I'd sit for an A's game, and as a result, I'm no longer a die hard A's fan. I catch maybe one game every year, and I still cheer for them, but the team is no longer as dear to my heart. Maybe they'll get a new ballpark some day with real bleachers again. I'm not holding my breath.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Oakland Coliseum - Candlestick Park (several times)
Candlestick Park - Oakland Coliseum (several times)
Wrigley Field - "Old" Comiskey Park (twice on consecutive days)
Dodger Stadium - Jack Murphy Stadium (San Diego)
Jack Murphy Stadium - Anaheim Stadium
Pacific Bell Park - Oakland Coliseum
1970 - Oakland Coliseum, Oakland
1974 - Candlestick Park, San Francisco
1985 - Aug. 17 - Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim
1985 - Aug 18 - Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego
1986 - Apr 18 - Kingdome, Seattle
1986 - May 5 - County Stadium, Milwaukee
1986 - May 6 (day) - Wrigley Field, Chicago (box score)
1986 - May 6 (night) - "Old" Comiskey Park, Chicago (box score)
1986 - Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
1986 - Sept 29 - Yankee Stadium, New York
1986 - Olympic Stadium, Montreal
1987 - Royals Stadium, Kansas City
1987 - Busch Stadium, St. Louis
1993 - Mile High Stadium, Denver
1998 - Pro Player Stadium, Miami
2000 - Pacific Bell Park (SBC Park, AT&T Park), San Francisco
2001 - Bank One Ballpark, Phoenix
2004 - Petco Park, San Diego
I've been a baseball fan my whole life. I grew up with the Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants, and until the Raiders return to Oakland, when my bleachers were torn down to make way for Mt. Davis, I was a fairly equal fan of both teams. While a bleacher bum in Oakland, I've had season tickets with the Giants for 25 years. Bleachers and box seats. Not a bad combo.
I'm 45ish, married to a great wife (baseball fan, thank the Lord), and have three beautiful boys who I hope will like baseball.
As many games as I've attended in person, I've watched more games by far on the radio. It will always be the perfect background noise for so many activities.