Friday, April 28, 2006

Yet Another Non-No-Hitter

I attended Monday night's Giants game vs. the Mets. Giants pitcher Matt Cain took a perfect game past one out in the sixth before Kaz Matsui squibbed an errant cue shot up the middle into center field. The one big event in my baseball spectating career I am lacking is the witness of a no-hitter. I feel its pain sometimes. For as many games as I've attended, I should probably have seen one by now. I'm past the odds.

My friend Mike, who I took in Monday's game with, has seen four in his life. One was Nolan Ryan's no-no back in the early 90's in Oakland. We were supposed to go to that game together - we were going to meet in the bleachers - but I ended my work day not feeling very well, so I went home and later became ill. My worst symptom by far was listening to the cursed thing on the radio. I also had tickets to Kevin Brown's no-no at the 'Stick in '97 while pitching with the Fish, but it was a day game and I had to work. My church pastor and his son were the beneficiaries.

I've flirted with seeing a no-no in person several times, including a perfect game with one out in the 9th by Eric Carmen of the Phils back in the mid 80's. Bob Brenly, of all goofs, had to hit a double to break it up. Well, I hope to see one, and soon, in my life, but I'd much prefer a Giants World Series victory.

No Celebration for Passing The Babe

Earlier today, Bud Selig announced that MLB would hold no official celebration for Barry Bonds' passing of Babe Ruth's home run mark of 714. This is as it should be. Babe Ruth doesn't hold the home run record. Although it is true that the number 714 is the greatest and most celebrated number in the history of baseball, and will probably be the record most admired for quite some time to come, it is no longer a record. Henry Aaron holds the record with 755.

When Bonds passes Ruth, he will take over second place on the all-time home run list. It will be a great cause for celebration to be sure, but not the ultimate celebration. I just hope I'm there.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Prom Night In the Bleachers

My high school prom night was a string of bad memories. But the kind of bad memories that make you laugh years later. I had dated a girl a few times, so without a steady or girlfriend I decided to ask her to my prom. She was a year behind me and went to a different school, but that shouldn't matter, right? So I asked her. She said yes!

Wow, that was great. Two of my best friends had dates as well. But then, just two weeks before the prom, my date bagged out. She made up excuses about not going to my school. "You should go with somebody from your school." Whatever. So, I asked another girl who was in my class who I heard didn't have a date yet. She said no, and that she was hoping a certain guy would ask her. I felt terrible. Then, some friends were naming off girls who had no dates yet. One friend suggested a certain girl and said I should ask her. I didn't want to, but his request turned into a rumor that was spread around school that she was going with me. She denied it and wanted no part of it. Okay, strike three.

With the prom fast approaching, and all of my friends going, I decided to go sit in the bleachers at an A's game. The prom was at a fancy hotel in downtown San Francisco, and my friends had limos and reservations at five-star restaurants. It was also prom night for many other schools in my area. I was resolute to not wallow in my rejectedness. Some other older friends that I had were going to the game so at least I would have some company. I took the train to the game.

But, the train runs down the middle of the freeway that leads toward SF. All I saw out the windows were limos and other cars with people dressed in tuxes and gowns. Oh, the reminder! Well, I made it to the game, and the A's were playing Cleveland, the worst team in baseball, now and all time. So what happens? Cleveland destroys the A's, scoring 15 runs (box score). My friends at the game decide to leave in the 7th inning. I was torn because of my never-leave-a-game-early policy. I would be left alone at the game. So, I made the guilty decision to leave with them.

So, the train breaks down in the middle of downtown Oakland (not a place you would want to be back then) and we're stuck for several hours. We finally arrived home at about 1:30 in the morning. This was a terrible night. But...

When I talked to all my friends about their prom experiences, wow. Their dates totally rejected them, were rude, didn't give them the time of day and made their nights miserable. They all spend hundreds of dollars for nothing. I only spent $2 on a bleacher ticket and train fare. I suddenly felt better.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bleacher - and BoxSeat - Memories

I've got so many memories of both the bleachers and box seats (not to mention trips to other ballparks) that I could most suredly write a book. I started a book some 20 years ago, but only got as far as a pile of stories and a few observations. My experiences are linear and continuous rather that random and detached, mostly because the cast of characters in my baseball life have been this way.

Season ticket holders have the same group of fans sitting around them for years. And the general admission bleachers allowed people to sit anywhere they wanted, which was usually the same place for every game.

One of my best friends, Mike, who I met in high school, is in his 25th season of that humorous co-conspiracy known as going to games together. My wife is now my co-season ticket holder of 7 years, and she went to some games with me over 20 years ago.

I'll hopefully be writing much more about the stories of my experiences fairly soon.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Opening Day

Every year, Opening Day erases the long, cold winter along with its anticipation, boredom and impatience. Once in my seat and the game starts, it's like the off-season never happened at all. Today's opening day at PacBell/SBC/AT&T/PacBell/MaysField/whatever Park seemed to be more special than most others. I don't know why given the circumstances, but I won't argue.

The items in the minus category are that 1) the signs didn't reflect the new name of the park, 2) the Giants opened against the Braves, a non-division opponent, who are making their last appearance of the year in the opening series, 3) the traditional military flyover during the national anthem was down to two planes performing no stunts at all, 4) Barry Bonds was not presented with his 5th consecutive MVP award.

On the other hand, this was the first partly sunny day in almost a month and a half in the Bay Area. We had an insane March with 28 days of rain, including much of February and all of April so far... until today. The forecast was for partly cloudy skies all week long. This in itself was a major anticipation. On the radio, SF rock station KFOG plays a daily dose of nostalgia with a set called "Ten at Ten", which is ten songs from a given year played at 10am. 1969, 1983, 1976, whatever. Today they played ten songs that had to do with sunshine.

Well, the Giants took care of the Braves 6-4, with the G-men plopping down a 6-spot in the 3rd. Starter Noah Lowry left the game in the early innings with what I heard was a strained oblique muscle, while Jeff Fasero got the win in looong relief, looking good without the Grecian Formula or Geritol. Bonds received two intentional walks and re-acquired Tim Worrell closed out the 9th with a save. The weather, 48 deg at game time warmed up to the low 60's by mid afternoon. The food and beer were great, as were the company of my wife, each of our best friends, and the pleasant family who always sits behind us. After three games, were tied for first place on a pace to win 108 games. Not bad for the boys in orange and black.

Somehow I think I'll like this season more than others.

The Newly Named AT & T Park?

Not according to the signs at the ballpark gates...

The new name took effect earlier this year and is on most everything else except the exterior signage at the yard. I wonder what gives.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Steroids, Schmeroids

Okay, I'm finally chiming in on the steroids issue. Let's see... Steroids have been an issue, and a publicly known issue at that, since the 80's. Canseco and McGwire have admitted it. It was an issue in McGwire and Sosa's home run chase. Canseco wrote a book about it. Two San Francisco Chronicle reporters gained leaked grand jury testimony implicating Barry Bonds. Bonds' ex-mistress squealed. Rafael Palmero is a laughingstock. Many players squealed. Squealing was publicized. The squealers backed off their squealing. Baseball acted surprised. Congress had a conniption fit. Baseball bent over and grabbed its ankles. Now it's investigating itself with charges of conflict of interest. Bonds' employer is the most silent of all. Bonds is chasing Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron and cries for his head, his retirement, an asterisk and even erasure of his statistics are everywhere. All of this begs the following question:

So what?


First, I'll start with steroids themselves. My view on drugs, "legal" or illicit or whatever term one wants to use, has changed over the years, and has a great impact on my view of the whole steroids issue. I don't care what the players are taking, simply put. Steroids are called "performance enhancing substances." But again, so what? There are many performance enhancing substances players are taking. With their fitness and training routines, myriads of protein powders, vitamins, medications, dietary supplements and the like are taken all the time. Few of which are "natural", that is not part of regular life like eating fruits and vegetables. What about Curt Schilling's bloody sock? What a national hero he was, taking on the Yankees on their way to a Boston World Series victory with a slap together surgery and a fat shot of cortisone. The picture of his bloody ankle was the picture of the year.

Cortisone, by the way, IS A STEROID! So what's the difference? Should Curt Schilling's ring be taken away? How many home runs did legendary drinker Mickey Mantle hit because he took aspirin to fight a hangover? Should he be removed from the hall of fame? And for fifty years we've been sold the idea that a freaking bowl of Wheaties is a performance enhancing substance, for crying out loud! Steroids are everywhere in our society, used by many of us to fight asthma, heal surgeries, you name it.


So steroids, or at least an ambiguous and ever-changing sub-category of them, are "illegal", either by dictates of baseball or civil law. If Barry Bonds is using a banned substance, then that's between him and his employer, the SF Giants. If the Giants want to overlook any contractual obligations Bonds has, then that's their business. The Giants have a silence policy on the whole issue. If baseball wants to enforce their rules, then oust Bonds. But if they want to overlook them for the betterment of the game, so what? Let them do so. Unwritten rules in life trump many of the written ones, and the fine print (letter of the law) is used mostly when the spirit of the law is broken. The issue of the "legality" of steroids just goes to show how desperately ill our society really is. Politicians write the laws, and our society looks to their laws as a standard of morality? How sick is that? The scum of the earth is our standard for morality?

Grand Jury Testimony and SF Chronicle Reporters

Isn't it interesting that two SF Chronicle reporters gained leaked grand jury testimony (leaking testimony is a felony) and are using it to implicate Bonds? How can their use of this testimony be justified? If it's a felony to leak this info in the first place, then it's also a felony for anybody to use testimony to confirm their claims. It's also interesting to realize that if the leak is false, it would also be a felony to use true testimony to refute their claims. The reporters have placed themselves in a pretty good position. Any legitimate criticism of their grand jury claims is a felony.

The US Congress

Okay, this pisses me off more than any other facet of the steroids issue. Since when does Congress put itself in the place of baseball's commissioner? Do these blowhard politicians have no shame? Talk about nosy busybodies. They threaten baseball with who knows what if they don't implement their own "voluntary" steroid policies. It's at this point that the policies fail to be voluntary. They are coerced, plain and simple. Written or unwritten, policy against steroid use becomes in a de facto sense US law. Many players are from foreign countries. When the Congressional hearings hit the news, our fearless media trekked to Latin countries with their cameras rolling to show us how easy it was for Latin players to obtain steroids over the counter. In effect, US law now applies to foreigners in their own countries! Not to mention to Canadian businesses. Let's see, a Dominican player who plays for the Toronto Blue Jays is subject to the US Congress? I should have been a high school civics teacher.

Baseball's Self-Investigation
Baseball is fooling nobody. I'm not naive enough to believe that baseball knew nothing of the last several decades of steroid use. I can't believe that they are that ignorant either. They had an image to recover after the strike in '94. Steroids were a welcome thing to overlook. So if baseball was content to let be what was, did it have a problem at all? If not, is it our business now? Baseball is sticking its finger into the wind of public opinion, and there's a storm out there. George Mitchell, who works for the Red Sox, an investigator? The tie to Congress looks good. But baseball should really tell Congress to go whiz up a rope.


Steroids, schmeroids. I've got Giants season tickets, and hope I'm there to see the home run record broken. If Bonds took steroids, it's not really my business. And it's not my business to make sure Bonds makes it other people's business. If you're upset at steroid use, then fine. You don't have to watch baseball.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Steroids Propaganda

I tuned in to ESPN Sunday night to watch the first regular season game between the White Sox and Indians. During the very first commercial break, a message was shown about how dangerous steroids were, and I noticed the little MLB logo at the end of the ad.

Doesn't take long, does it boys?

p.s. I'll be writing about the whole steroids issue fairly soon.

Baseball's "Opening Night"

It's great to see the regular season here at last. I'm not the biggest fan of the first game being the Sunday night game on ESPN, but it is the regular season. I prefer the traditional Cincinnati home opener as the first game, but that's gone by the wayside.

If I remember correctly, the first year of the Sunday night/ESPN kickoff was scheduled in Cincinnati, and then owner Marge Schott kept the traditional parade and ceremonies of Opening Day on Monday, which was actually their second game. Reds fans kept the tradition, too, buying only about 20,000 tickets for the artificial opener. Roundly criticized in the media, Schott defended her position of opening day ceremonies on Monday. True to form, the media were so used to bashing Schott for her actions and ideas that they couldn't recognize when she did something right.

The National League then kept the tradition of their opening game in Cincinnati on Monday, which I think is why the Sunday night game is always an American League game.