Wednesday, May 24, 2006

An Even Bigger Bonds Scandal

Okay, nevermind the steroid allegations, the hostility toward the media, the questionable grand jury testimony, the alleged unreported income; now we've really got a scandal to talk about. That Bonds tied Ruth's hallowed mark of 714 is no disgrace - in and of itself - but he did it as a designated hitter. Ruth didn't have the luxury, Aaron didn't become a DH in the AL until after he broke Ruth's record. So there we have it. Bonds' homer came in Oakland as the Giants' DH. (Box score)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

714...And Sloooowly Counting

Wouldn't ya know it. I missed Bonds' 714th homer because I was at my church's family camp and wasn't listening to the radio. But at the rate he's hitting them, Friday might come and go before he hits 715. Friday is the next day we have tickets. His 713th came in Philly, and I wanted to buy single bleacher tickets to every game of the next homestand, and we had tickets for the following Saturday. Well, the entire homestand came and went, so did the next series in Houston, and he didn't hit 714 until Saturday in Oakland.

When he finished 2004 with 703 homers, it seemed most likely that he'd hit #715 in May of 2005. Over a year later, he's not there yet. Now I doubt he'll catch Aaron at all, even if he plays in the AL.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Worst Fans In Baseball - And Loving It!

The greatest satisfaction I could ever get from being a bleacher bum - or a heckler in the box seats for that matter - is the knowledge that our heckling has such a negative effect on the opposition as to give a home-field advantage to our team. In 1988 that knowledge was verified.

Authors Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo, who wrote the Baseball Hall of Shame series of books, came out with a book titled, Baseball Confidential, an inside scoop on almost every aspect of the game, in the players' own words. One of the regular bleacher bums, named Kevin, came running down the stairs one game and said, "Hey, everybody, you won't believe this new book! We're in it!" And right there on page 212, in a section that lists the worst fans in baseball, long-time heckling target Kirk Gibson is one of the players quoted as to how bad the A's bleacher bums really are. We were ranked as the third worst [behaving] fans, behind the Yankees and Mets, with the Giants (that's me again!) and Phillies as 4th and 5th. A small excerpt:

At the Oakland Coliseum, fans bombard visiting players with a constant barrage of verbal garbage. "You hear them no matter where you are on the field," says Mark Gubicza of the Royals... One of the players whom Athletics fans love to hate is Kirk Gibson of the Tigers. "They target not only me, but my mother, my wife, my grandmother, my city, my IQ. I think they pass a sheet of paper out at the beginning of the year so they can memorize 20 nasty things to say to ballplayers. You hear the same kind of thing every inning. One guy will stand up and shout, 'What's the matter with Gibson?' [none other than yours truly!] And then 50 people will stand up and yell, 'He's a bum!' It's all orchestrated. They know that we players hear them. I don't think they're the real career-oriented type of people out there because they're always there at night and during the day. I wonder what these people do for a living because they never seem to be working."

Thank you, Kirk, for the rave review. As to who these bleacher bums really are and what they really do for a living I'll discuss in the next few posts. I'm sure the answer would have shocked Kirk Gibson.

Deadbeat Lemon

Heckling a player for whatever reason is part of baseball. But when an in-law hands a bunch of bleacher bums the material, it can be a downright riot. That's what happened one night to Chet Lemon, centerfielder for the Detroit Tigers back in the mid 80's. Mike and I were there, along with the regular bums. Lemon was an easy heckling target because of his name. But this night it was his family life.

During the game a woman came down the aisle and stood against the rail down at the front row. She looked as if she really wasn't there to watch a game. Just standing there looking around at nothing discernible was a clue that she was out of place. We all noticed it. She then moved to the section on the other side of the rail, a bit closer to Lemon who was in centerfield. After a while, she began to call to him, trying to get his attention. It's quite obvious to any normal fan that you just don't walk into a ballpark and engage in a conversation with a professional athlete. Especially when he's on the field concentrating on the game.

I don't know whether Lemon heard her or not, but several of us asked this obviously confused woman if we could help her in some way. She asked us if that were Chet Lemon. Of course he was. "Yoo-hoo, Che-et" she called. We replied that she wasn't likely to get his attention that way; she wasn't yelling that loud anyway. So we called to him more loudly. "Hey, Chet, there's a woman here who wants to talk to you!" No reply from Lemon, of course. We realized that we still didn't know what she wanted, so we asked her. "Oh, I'm his sister-in-law." Okay, that helped us a bit. "Hey, Lemon, your sister-in-law wants to talk to you!" But for what reason? So we asked her. "Oh, he owes me $3000." The flood gates opened.

"Hey, Lemon, you owe your sister-in-law $3000! You're a deadbeat! Pay up, you bum!" We rode that precious gem the rest of the night.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Never Leave Early

We went to Saturday's Giants game. Barry Bonds didn't tie Ruth, and his last at bat in the 8th inning (and Ellison's subsequent trot out to left field) with the Giants down 3 runs to the Dodgers sent half the crowd home. But the Giants scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 9th to win. What a finish!

I've taken a life-long policy of never leaving a game early. These days with a family with small children, there may be an exception, and I've taken one, but the general rule stands. If you think about it, the further your team is behind, the greater a comeback you'll miss. I used to tell friends (if I was driving), that if the game goes 25 innings with several rain delays, and tomorrow is a work/school day and the game doesn't end until 4:30am, then I'm staying. Those games are the most fun anyway.

Monday, May 1, 2006

A Bleacher Bum Is Born

Today, May 1st, is the 25th anniversary of my first game in the bleachers. I remember some of that game well. What happened that night would shape my baseball spectating career in a huge way, lasting forever.

It was a Friday night Oakland A's game against the New York Yankees. Billy Martin was the manager, Billy Ball was promoted in ads, Rickey Henderson was an emerging star, and I loved the experience. I went with 12 other guys, mostly from a church group, but three were neighbors and longtime friends. I remember Ken and his brothers, and maybe two others.

We took the train (BART) to the game and sat in the left field bleachers. It was the second aisle from the foul pole, on the center field side of the aisle. This would not only be the section I would sit in for the remainder of my bleacher bumming life, but the same bench would be the usual parking space for my bum, so to speak. We yelled at the left fielder for the Yankees, and this would be the pattern forever. I also had my first beer that night (I was 17 - shhhhh) which would start a lifelong tradition, too.

Being "born" this way makes me wonder if it were always in the genes.